The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar: Ana and The Brain Scan

I’m a creative guy immersed in what has become the square peg world of the Internet academiasphere. I mean, most of us still have not moved beyond being enthralled with the fact that we can essentially look like three shades of hell and teach while pulling down a nice associate professor salary and almost never leave the bedroom.

If, of course, that’s where your server is at its best.

Anyway, the point is even I the self-described, self-anointed creative being, purveyor of more original ideas than all of the denizens of Silicon Valley and for a small fraction of the cost, completely missed on the idea of subjecting my noggin to a brain scan while reading some of my text messages, mundane as they are.

Yet, here I am, a volunteer laboratory animal, once again. It’s crazy, yet consistent with how I roll, always reaching, exploring, peering around the next corner just to see what’s up.

A tight cranial cover-all, not unlike the hair nets those in food service wear, has been placed over my head, complete with electrodes spaced around the hair net. The electrodes are connected by wires to a bank of laptops; other wires also stream from my chest and left index finger to the computers. Otherwise, I’m dressed in a light blue polo shirt, blue Levi’s 505s, and Weejuns with no socks like my buddy Don and I are headed for a West Virginia Power game.

Looking like Medusa, but going to a baseball game nonetheless.

The researcher is Lydia Johnson, Ph. D., of Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Division, a highly respected expert in the physiology and science of human emotion. May as well mention here that Dr. Johnson can also make the electrodes fry her laptops, in an acutely hot librarian way only an overly fervent yet aging fellow Doctor of Philosophy such as I can appreciate. Gray flecks color her dark locks, as the bangs with a flip tell the truth that a tallish, lean attractive woman with deep brown eyes, a smart set, and a wise grin is well into her fifth decade on the planet and loving every minute of it.

That’s late forties for the uninitiated among us.

“Dr. Bricker!” Dr. Johnson exclaims. “Your hippocampus tells me you want me right now on this examination table! Is that true?” She’s laughing.

“Dr. Johnson, in a seventies sense, yes. We, however, are years into the twenty-first century, and sex in a seventies sense is both foolhardy as well as a myth.”

“Actually,” Dr. Johnson says, “your reaction indicates you will be an awesome subject for my ongoing study, that of course being the human brain’s role in a man’s quest for the reasons he falls in love.”

“Well, may I call you Lydia?”

“Be my guest,” Lydia says. “Interestingly, your hippocampus tells me the use of my first name calms your libidinous urges. Is that true, Mason?”

“If you say so…Lydia. You are, after all, Doctor Love.”

“Okay. Find your iPad in that hip J. Crew man bag.”

Wow. She’s playful.

Calm the hell down, Dr. Bricker.

I fetch the iPad. With the cover lifted from the screen of the device, I punch in my four-digit passcode. It’s 8825 for the inquisitive, which is 2 to the power of Pi.

Go figure that one.

“Now, pull up your texts.”

“The texts are pulled up,” I say.

“With whom are the two most recent texts?”

“Rhoda, a woman whom I call Peaches — ”

“Wait,” Lydia says. “That’s a cute pet name. How did you come up wi — oh. I see.” Her cheeks turn rosy. Never would have thought that would happen to Doctor Love.

“She’s in her late sixties with a cute little frame and implants. Peaches wears them well.”

“The screens confirm she does wear them well,” Lydia says as her eyes flitter among the laptops. “But, unusually, your raphe nucleus is checking in. That’s the region of your brain that’s associated with, with longtime lovers! Mason. When did you meet Peaches, if you don’t mind me using the pet name.”

“I met her Saturday night.”

“That’s five days. But, the raphe nucleus is indeed active.” Lydia is deep in thought.

I’m still thinking about Peaches.

“You know?” she finally says. “The raphe nucleus is also associated with a sense of calm. Interesting.”

“Yes. Very.”

“Mason, your brain signals are scrambling. What are you thinking about?”

“I don’t know, Lydia. Peaches, still, I guess.”

“Yes.” Lydia says. “Something tells me something happened with Peaches that pisses you off.”

It hits me. “Oh, yes, Doctor Love. Yes. Yes. Yes, I had a breakup with a longtime lover. She began dating – I hate the simplistic, mindless usage of that word – anyway, began dating a guy whom I, well, you know, loathe.”

“I’m sorry, Mason,” Lydia says. “That can be brutal, especially if you’ve been replaced by someone you don’t like, but really, anytime.”

“Worse, still, the woman is younger. Well, young. Like 24 young. Like I had no business lov — ”

“It’s okay. Okay, do this. Think about Peaches. Think about her.” Doctor Love watches the screens. She does that closed-lip long-faced head nod signifying the discovery of something — interesting. At least.

“Peaches sparks activity in the raphe nucleus again. Longtime lovers is typically the call here, even though you’re a couple of days from your one week anniversary. But — wow. Mason, this could be it. Longtime lovers provide a sense of calm…much like Peaches is apparently doing for you. Activity in the raphe nucleus combined with Peaches indicates you are being held to her bosom — ”

“Oh, yeah. Spot on diagnosis, Doctor Love.”

Lydia turns rosy again. “You know what I mean, Dr. Bricker!” She reaches out and squeezes my upper right arm. Fortunately, I work out.

“Uh, oh! There goes the hippocampus one more time, Dr. Johnson!”

“And, Mason,” a crimson-faced Lydia says as she watches the screens, “you’re firing your brain’s ventral tegmental temporal regions. That’s the new love, passionate love segment. Why, I did not know you cared!”

“I fall in love once daily, Lydia,” I say with gravel in my voice. “Today, it’s you. Tomorrow? Who’s to say?”

She looks at me with a researcher’s smile, whatever that is, nodding in approval.

I guess.

“My God, your brain is an open book,” Lydia says. “Everyone’s is, to a point. Yet, you’re easy, Mason. Easy. Now, who’s the other woman you’ve been texting?”

“Ana. An old high school friend. We’ve been in touch since just before Thanksgiving last year. Don’t tell me I just blew out your computers.”

“Almost,” says Doctor Love. “That’s the strongest signal from the ventral temporal I’ve seen in a long while. What did Ana do to you? Or, not do to you?”

I squirm nervously, trying to avoid any answer because I don’t have a good answer.

“Actually, Lydia, I haven’t seen Ana in 40 years. We had high school romantic encounters. I dumped her once for no reason except I was becoming as frightened as a red-blooded American 17 year old can get. You know, commitment.

“So, she found me on Facebook and we used Messenger until Facebook made me angry. That’s when she sent me her cell number. We don’t talk, though, for some strange reason. I mean, we’re both widowed and not involved with any others.”

Dr. Johnson is silent, mesmerized by the screens. I decide to stop talking.

“Mason, my friend,” she says. “Your ventral temporal is about to blow out of your head. Keep talking. Or, better still, read aloud some of Ana’s texts. Go.”

I scroll through to find one recent text.

“Here’s one, Doc. Our last text, from Good Friday. Ana says, ‘It’s okay.’ Ana’s texts are almost always brief. When she texts multi-lines, it’s usually after an epiphany. Once she texted, ‘You know me all too well. Of course I grew silent. March is not a good month for me. Thanks sincerely for bringing that out in me. You know me too well.'”

“That was an epiphany,” says Lydia. “How are your texts to her?”

“Multisyllabic. Lots of words. I’m a philosophy professor. Brevity is not my strong suit. In the beginning, her texts were funny and rapid-fire. Lately, however…”

“Something’s changed, Mason,” Lydia says with a concerned tone. “And, it’s not you. How does that make you feel?”

“Like…lousy. My ventral tegmental area or whatever is break dancing in my skull. All the while, Ana’s interest is waning, if there was any interest at all.”

“Your ventral tegmental temporal is still firing on all neurons, Professor. Even though Ana is not reciprocating, you’re still indicating passionate love.” Lydia punches on the keyboard as she concludes the sentence.

“Passion, sure,” I say with disdain. “Ana and I never were passionate. We’d fool around, but we were teens. We all fooled around. Her name wasn’t even Ana then. She was Deborah . She hated Deborah, I discovered at Thanksgiving.”

“Deborah. Ana. Doesn’t matter. The ventral tegmental is smoking hot,” says Lydia. “You’re packing a moon-sized jones for this woman, Mason. Like, right now, it’s screaming, just screaming, ‘Deliver Ana! Give me Ana!'”

“I like Ana with one ‘n’, like Ana Ivanovic, the Serbian tennis player. Won the French Open once. Easy on the eyes.”

“What about Deborah/Ana?” Lydia asks. “Is she easy on the eyes, as you are wont to say?”

“Deborah was pretty, albeit with very low meat mass on her bones,” I reply. “Ana tells me she’s fat. Difficult to say, Doc. Most women think they’re fat.”

“Whoa!” Lydia says. “Your brain got a charge out of the ‘fat’ remark! Now, that’s interesting!”

“Yeah. Nothing is going according to the book today, Dr. Johnson.”

“Hippocampus, Mason,” she says with a laugh.

“Well, at least something is working correctly,” I say. “After all this, Lydia,” I say with a pause, “after all I’ve told you, then combine it exponentially by your electrical data, what do you think?”

Lydia takes time to think as she records data in her iPhone 6. She stops punching on the device, then places an ink pen ink first between her lips and rolls it around. Right about the time I’m ready to emit a mad shriek, Doctor Love prepares to deliver her prognosis. Something tells me I’m not going to like it.

“Mason, you are a troubled spirit, and Ana has picked up on that, and that has scared her silent. Like when you were seventeen. Trouble is, this brain scan of yours today tells me in your heart of hearts that you have placed Peaches on the bench and will play Ana until it all explodes in your face. I would tell you to forget Ana and continue your relationship with Peaches, but you risk burning out Peaches all the while because your body says Peaches, but your heart will jump on a grenade for Ana.

“My prescription for this mess your brain has gotten you into? Cold turkey. Forget Ana. Make passionate love with Peaches, this afternoon. Weekday afternoon sex, Mason. Make Peaches the new love, the passionate love. Your iPhone is in your hip J. Crew man bag. I hear the timbas. Maybe Peaches is calling you!”

I grab my iPhone in mid-vibrate.

Damn.

“What do I do now, Lydia? It’s Ana.”

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Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar: Peaches and Her Legendary, Incredible Sense of Timing

I just completed this morning’s Existentialism class on the Web. Reams of paper pertinent to my classes are in my office at The 25 Sports Garden, but I haven’t screwed up the courage required to march into Edith’s bar and fetch the files.

Internet college is supposed to be paperless.

Yeah. Right.

Just for fun, my students issued a bet last week: teach Monday’s class wearing nothing but a bathrobe. And, bed head. So, I took them up on it this morning. I wrapped myself in my shin-length, thick terry, navy L. L. Bean uber robe. My hair looked as if I had spent all morning crawling on my head. The wager? I win a 25 dollar Apple gift card. They would have won one less lecture.

I had to do it. So, I did it. Felt weird addressing a college class while in the buff under a bathrobe. But, hey.

I push my bedroom door slightly ajar to check on Peaches. Peacefully asleep she is. I hate to disturb her, but it’s ten o’clock in the morning. We need to learn more about one another, so let’s get back to it.

“Rhoda,” I whisper from the door. She stirs, kicking off the cotton blankets. Wearing nothing but a bed sheet — and that’s okay with me — Peaches opens her eyes.

“Wow, Sweetness!” she says. “You are a handsome sight to wake up to. Come here, hand me the water, let me drink some of it, crawl into your bed with me, and kiss me silly! You can do that for your Peaches, am I right?”

“Absolutely,” I say as I reach for the water.

******

I’m propped up on my left arm, elbow on the bed, left side of my face buried into the palm of my hand, feeling pretty good about keeping Peaches around. She’s talking more about herself and less about marrying me.

That’s good news.

“I also profited from the crash of 1987, Peaches. Didn’t make forty million. I could only pull off six million. Must have been more risk averse than you.”

“What does that mean, Sweetness?”

“It means your Christopher took a bigger gamble than I did. With the market in an unprecedented free fall, his gamble paid off rather nicely. Don’t you think?”

“That’s the way I recall it,” Peaches says. “Christopher, what do the young people say nowadays? Christopher made bank. Thing is, he did it, let’s see…”

She looks into space and counts on her fingers. “Uh, sold out when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait when the market fell like it did in 1987. I’m not good with percentages, Sweetness. Christopher bought back in the day before we saved Kuwait and stayed in until February 2000 when everyone was spooked by Y2K. We made like ten times on our money — after taxes — when Christopher turned it all to cash. You can’t eat stocks, Sweetness.

“We, what you call, short? You know, sell someone short because they have little value? Sell the stock market short because it shows much more value than it really has? Anyway, Christopher and I what you call shorted stocks to like August 2002.

“Christopher loved to make money while everyone else is wrong. He was kind of an ass that way. A real ass he turned out to be when I caught him cheating on me in 2005. On my fifty eighth birthday. Caught him in the act in our bed, as you could say. With a college co-ed. He was forty six, Christopher was. I chalked it up to a mid-life crisis. I divorced him like right now. I drained him of a lot of cash. Now, it’s my cash. I won’t tell you how much, but think about it the next time you see what you could call my ‘contours’ when I’m lying here in just your sheet. Okay? Anyhoo, roll over here, Sweetness, and let’s just forget about my dollars and cents.

“And, oh, if you’re wondering? The year 2006. The year of my implants.”

“That answers that question, Peaches,” I say.

“Then,” Peaches says, “come over here and stay though the afternoon.”

******

It’s three o’clock, halfway through the afternoon. I need to go to Boot Camp in two hours, but Peaches is asleep on my arm and she’s too peaceful to awaken.

I guess some women are just attractive, no matter their accumulated years on the planet. She’d be a pretty sixty eight year old even without the Botox that spins her back into her fifties. Maybe early fifties. The frame is tight; Peaches lifts weights and eats protein, correctly buying in to the correct theory that old folks like Peaches and me need to concentrate on strength training, building muscle mass and preserving what we have.

So, she’s sleek, with implants.

Yes.

The only tell-tale sign of Peaches’ aging is on her hands. The palms are smooth, but her large veins and unevenly colored skin on the flip side give it away.

Yet, you know? What the hell.

******

“I missed WOW! this morning, just being with you,” Peaches says.

I know my Boot Camp Leader Ty has a workout class called WOW! or Women On Weights. You’d think I’d recognize Rhoda; I’m in my fourth year of Boot Camp, but I guess Peaches is at the Y mid-morning whereas I’m there finishing up at seven AM or cranking it up at five thirty PM.

“It was worth it, Sweetness. Wonder what Ty will say when he finds out you have the hots for me,” she says with a smile.

“Well, Peaches, the same thing he’ll say when he finds out you cut WOW because I’m so irresistible.”

She sits up in my sleep number bed and leans back against the wall. The bedsheet covers her awesome nudity. When you consider us, wire-to-wire, from one o’clock Sunday afternoon to now, three in the afternoon today on Monday, Peaches and I have been disrobed for well over twenty four hours. No food. Plenty of water. No clothes. No showers.

I have to be getting a little ripe by now.

“Sweetness?” she asks. “I have a question.”

“Ask away, Peaches.”

“Have you thought about my incredible sense of timing?”

I sit up on the sleep number bed. Lost the sleep number controllers at around sunset Sunday. Haven’t tried to find them. The bedsheet covers me from the waist down.

“Yes, I have,” I say. “Right when you were talking about shorting the market 2000 through 2002, I thought you had a bead on the bogey.”

“What the hell is that?” she asks.

“You always knew the target, or the ‘bogey,’ and you always ‘drew a bead’ on that target, as in aiming a gun at the bogey. Fighter pilots call the fighter jet in target a ‘bogey.'”

“That’s me,” Peaches says. “A fighter pilot that’s never been shot down. Even Christopher had me in his sights, but I rolled out and got him in my sights. I shot him down and I’ve been better off everyday since then.”

Peaches’ posture straightens with pride. “Now, about you, Sweetness. My timing with you was, what you might call, impeccable. Isn’t your Peaches right in the money? Yes is the answer. Your lover jilted you. You meet up with me in the first balcony at The Clay Center. I could see the pain in your eyes, because I have incredible timing and I know what to look for.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, Sweetness. You were just hurting, but you were not in any way pathetic. You seemed in control and positive and strong. It’s just that I just knew. I would not have gone for you if you were, how do you say, pining for your old lover. No. You seemed like you were ready to move on, and, boy, did you ever move on!

“So, Sweetness, my lover, let’s roll out of bed, grab a shower, you go to Boot Camp, and let’s continue this Playtime this evening. Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you like your young lover. Let’s take this one hour at a time and have some fun with it. Okay?”

Okay!

Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar: Dr. Bricker, Rhoda, Discoveries, and Epiphanies

(Thank you for reading my posts.)

I grab the water bottle resting on my night stand and down a huge swig. The digital clock reads 4:54 AM. My leather tongue is quenched. I’m awake for the duration.

“Good morning, Sweetness,” Rhoda says with a sleepy voice.

“Good morning, Rhoda.”

“You need a pet name for me,” she says as she stretches. “Like Sweetness, only different. That one’s taken.”

“Okay. Let me think. Got it. Peaches. Good morning, Peaches.”

I have a buxom ex-girlfriend from 1999 whom I called Peaches. Well, she broke it off with me, so that officially frees up that pet name.

“Peaches it is, Sweetness!” Rhoda says. “Just one thing: what does Peaches mean?”

“Think about it,” I say. I switch on the television with the remote and mute the sound so Peaches and I can see each other as we talk.

“Today’s Decision Day, Sweetness,” Rhoda says. “You remember what we were talking about, my lover?”

“Oh, yes,” I say. “We were talking about wedding bells. That’s exciting, yet I think we need to talk about a lot more about you and me. I don’t really know much about you, except you have a Symphony season subscription, Row A, Seat 105 in the First Balcony at The Clay Center, and you drive a gold antique twelve-cylinder Jaguar, and you can’t wait for the Symphony’s Home For The Holidays, and, Peaches, there is much to discover about me.”

“Oh, I agree, Sweetness. I have lots to say, and I want to hear what you have to say. And, I just figured out what Peaches means!” she exclaims. “You’re a smart, creative devil, aren’t you!”

Holy Saved By The Bell, Batman! I cannot believe I let Peaches think I want her as my lawfully-wedded wife, like, today! This is a way out!”

Rhoda rolls onto my body and kisses me big. “Now, don’t you think this is a way out, Sweetness. We have lots of catching up before we do anything rash seat-of-the-pants. By the way, Sweetness, Peaches just loves doing things rash seat-of-the-pants. It’s so exciting that way!”

“I just need to know more about you so I can introduce you my friends,” I say. “I need an elevator speech on Rhoda, uh, uh, here’s something I that’s good to know: what’s your full name?”

Jeez Louise! Don’t tell Mick a hot sixty eight year old woman woke up in my bed and I do not know her — ”

“Johnson is my maiden name. Rhoda Mary Johnson is my name right now. I’ve been married three times before, and after each divorce I switched to my maiden name. So, I’m divorced now, have been for ten years. First got married just out of high school. Charleston High, 1965. Robert Swift. Went to Vietnam, two tours of duty, won the Silver Star for valor in combat, and came home with a Vietnamese girlfriend and a little baby.

“That was 1969. I was twenty-two with a wrecked marriage and a dead-end job. The next year, 1970, I was hired as the private secretary for the director of engineering at Union Carbide, Walter Frasher. He was not your typical engineer; Walter was dashing and handsome, looked like that guy on TV, Don Draper. I started in June. We had an affair on Christmas Day, you know, Sweetness, Home For The Holidays. Well, I’m pregnant, you know, season’s greetings, and Walter immediately leaves his wife and three daughters and marries me.

“Well, it’s 1971. He’s forty two. I’m a baby at twenty four, and we have a daughter, Vanessa. Vanessa Frasher, born September 3rd, 1971. Beautiful child, dark eyes, dark hair; I’m mostly French, by the way.”

“That explains it all, Peaches. Your heat comes from France. I’m impressed.”

“Thank you, Sweetness,” she says. “I’m hot in my late sixties. Glad to have met you. Now, I have more story. Walter and I are happy in holy matrimony. He’s making lots of money, so I’m Walter’s housewife homemaker baby maker. Another girl is born. Madeline, July 28th, 1974. Dark hair, dark eyes, like her sister. Our girls look like me. That’s good, don’t you think, Sweetness?”

“Absolutely, Peaches,” I say.

“Well, yes, Walter and I, his trophy wife, are Carbide’s Couple. He did not retire until he had put in thirty six years. That was spring 1987. That was also the year Walter ran off with his private secretary, leaving Vanessa, Madeline, and me alone with only a settlement, alimony and some child support.

“Well, I was pissed, Sweetness. Felt trapped. It was the second weekend of October. 1987. That’s when I made a rash, seat-of-the-pants decision. I took off for New York City to spend a week there in search of a wealthy man. The stock market was hot, and so were stockbrokers. I found one that afternoon. I was forty then and had been around, and could still attract a lot of attention, Sweetness. Like now, you think?”

“Yes, Peaches. Just like now,” I say, completely enthralled with her story. And, I think it will get better.

“My broker was incredibly handsome, tall and slender and fit and young, like twenty eight, and confident? Oh, wow. He was so handsome and young and fit and confident, he bucked the trend. He thought, well, his name was Christopher Reynolds, and was a broker for money manager Martin Zweig, anyway, he thought the market was going to collapse, while all the other brokers were buying, full steam ahead!

“Christopher had me in bed at his penthouse suite at the top of Rockefeller Center that Tuesday afternoon and talked me into betting on a collapse. I still don’t know what we did exactly, but I was so wild I took s big chunk of my divorce cash settlement, like six hundred thousand, and gave it to Christopher and told him to roll with it and bet six hundred grand on what he called a crash.

“By late Friday afternoon, we were back in the penthouse. Christopher called his office for the news. The market had dropped so much Christopher told me the good news: I had made five times my money. I asked him to explain that in American dollars. He said, “Rhoda, you have three million dollars!” I asked him if I could get my money out right now. He told me we had spent all afternoon in bed and the market had closed for the week. But, don’t worry, Rhoda, he said. The market will be worse on Monday.

“Well, all Christopher did was get his American Express card out all weekend. We hit the town, Sweetness! All other brokers were confused; Christopher was handsome and young and brash in a good way, and confident and was spending money like there was no tomorrow.

“We had partied so much that weekend, we were exhausted on Monday morning. That’s when the news came across: Reagan bombed an Iranian oil platform in the ocean as a payback for Iran attacking an American ship on Friday. Christopher looked at me, smiled through his white teeth, and said, ‘That’s it, Rhoda. We’re going to make a pile of money!’

“We stayed in bed in the penthouse all day Monday and kept up with the market on CNN. Right about 3:30 that afternoon, Christopher stood up, fetched his cordless phone, and called his office. ‘Cover them all, Susan. Let me know the results.’ Whatever that meant. I do know what it meant an hour later. Sweetness, Susan counted the money, and on a day when the market dropped 500 points and everyone was shocked, Susan told me, ‘Mrs. Johnson, you began the day with three million dollars. You finished the day with fifty million dollars, before income taxes. For you, that’s about forty million dollars after income taxes. Congratulations, Mrs. Johnson. You made a lot of money on a day when many others lost a lot of money.’ That’s the truth, Sweetness. That’s how I started out as a millionaire, and, you know, Sweetness, I have a lot more now.

“I was excited. I could send my daughters to the best colleges, and I had more money than Walter Frasher. He did not take that very well, I was told. He even tried to win me back, but Christopher Reynolds came to my rescue. We were married on December 22 of that year. What do you think of your Peaches now, Sweetness?”

“Completely awesome, Rhoda Mary Johnson, aka Peaches. Let’s talk more after my class.”

Completely awesome.

Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar: The Professor Revisits Philosophical Punting

“What are you working on now, Doc?” Rhoda asks the ceiling.

“Well, Rhoda, an old professor, teacher, and eventually a colleague died recently — ”

“Oh, Mason! I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

“Yes, Rhoda, thanks, I’m good. He was in his nineties, and of poor health, so it was not a shock. John Carter Photos, Ph. D. So, what am I working on?” I reply to the ceiling. “The most interesting work Professor Photos did involved, oddly, coaching punters on football teams. I was playing for Marshall when Doctor — ”

“Oh, wow,” Rhoda coos. “You’re a college athlete! I can tell. You’ve kept the muscle. You have enough muscle to play now, Mason. Oh my God! You’re well put together.” Rhoda rolls over on me and plants a wet kiss on my mouth.

“Okay, Rhoda,” I say. “I’ve lost where I was headed.”

“You played college football at Marshall, you hottie!”

“You keep talking, Rhoda, and I’m going to begin to believe you. Now, Dr. Photos was an artillery Marine non-com in the South Pacific war with Japan. He learned very much about the range and trajectory of artillery shells, all these things he thought he could apply to punting a football. Dr. Photos found a college football player at Marshall who could punt boomers, high and far, but Dr. Photos saw this player as a raw punter who had a lot to learn — ”

“You are really interesting, Professor Michael Mason Bricker, Doctor of Philosophy, Duquesne,” Rhoda says. “I’m reading out loud from your diploma on the wall. How many guys have Ph. D. diplomas on their bedroom walls, honey?”

“Thank you for your kind comments, Rhoda. Now, about being interesting. I must admit, there are folks who will disagree with you.”

Rhoda turns onto her right side, facing me, with the sheets under her left arm, covering her shapeliness. Curves form under the bed linens. Wow. The wheat germ hotcakes were so good she insisted we adjourn to my condo at noon and consummate our sixteen hour relationship.

She heard no arguments from me.

“Oh, punkinhead,” I say. “Students, colleagues, old girlfriends — ”

“I hope you’re talking about ex-girlfriends, Doctor,” she says with a grin.

“Yeah. Ex as hell,” I reply.

“Well, good,” Rhoda says with finality. “I’m too old for competition!” She punctuates the punchline with a gravelly snicker. Rhoda must be a former smoker; no woman with her fresh scent and minty breath can laugh through that much phlegm without having spent a couple of decades burning her share of Virginia Slims. The edges of Rhoda’s mouth even have those tell-tale lines from pinching her lips and drawing a lungful of women’s lib, tar-laden, nicotine-stoked filtered flue gas several hundred thousand times during a thirty-year smoking career.

But, you know? That’s her past. I have a past that involves respectable yet copious quantities of marijuana. Rhoda and I have taken many, many laps, most tough, a few victorious. She, however, has been at it several more years than me; her eagerness to jump into my sleep number bed without dialing in her info says Old Rhoda has had an interesting love life.

Here are the wagers: a) who will profess love first and b) how many hours and minutes will have elapsed from our five ’til eight pm Saturday 24 October 2015 meeting minute?

“I’m sixty eight years old, Mason,” Rhoda blurts out. “My time on this planet is ticking away quickly. How old are you?”

Wagers: a) Rhoda will nail me to the oak tree first with her romantic admission, and b) it’s going to happen this hour, precisely ten ’til two this afternoon, seventeen hours and fifty five minutes from her pre-concert, nascent, “You gotta be in your forties, sweet thing. Do you have a name?”

Go ahead, Rhoda. Let me have it. I love you, too.

“Let’s fall in love, Professor,” Rhoda says. “C’mon! Time is melting away. Let’s fall in love, sweet thing. New love is such a thrill! The clock gets faster and faster every day, Mason. I love you! Fall in love with me. Like, right now!”

“Okay, you got it,” I say. “I love you, Rhoda.”

“Love me like you mean it, Doc,” she pleads. “Say it like you know it’s the last sentence you will speak on earth. Go ahead, my darling! Love me! Oh, just love me, Mason!”

“Rhoda! I do love you!” I within my brain just know how precarious this is, but Rhoda is sooo very persuasive and I have this vacuum Edith evacuated out of my soul and Rhoda has been sucked into it and I’ll just have to love this woman until the cigarettes kill her. Hell, Mason, why not?

“Hell, Mason! Why not? Let’s be like wolves, like penguins, and sign on for life! I mean, what else are you doing? Who else are you doing?”

“Rhoda? Are you talking…” Holy sha-nay-nay! What am I doing?

“Mason!” exclaims Rhoda. “Calm down. You have not even waken up with me. Let’s talk marriage tomorrow morning!”

Jeez Louise! I’m going to do this! I’m going to take as my wife for life a sexagenarian woman named Rhoda, last name unknown. I like the idea.

Wow.

Lean Muscle – The Professor, Experiencing an Existential Crisis, Reduces Body Fat Percentage and Loves Every Minute of It

(This is another episode in the serial The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar, during which Professor Bricker attempts to navigate his newly discovered existential crisis.)

Raw spinach, tomatoes, carrots, grilled chicken, ground turkey, eggs, a gallon of water, a quart of unsweetened iced green tea, a banana or two, and protein supplements.

It’s not the food of a man on a diet.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s a lifestyle with the aforementioned food.

It’s also a lifestyle:

* with alcohol on special occasions only, cutting out my daily three tall Smithwick’s Irish Ale, poured exclusively by Edith. Should be easy. Yeah. Right.

* without a clue as to how any woman would be able to keep my new lifestyle on track

* with a winning attitude, damnit, about alcohol on special occasions only.

* without blonde Oreo double-stuff cookies and chocolate milk for breakfast. Don’t tell Ty the Boot Camp Leader.

* with a breakfast including eggs, spinach and tomatoes, and protein supplements in skim milk.

* without bitching about breakfast of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and hotcakes served at Hangover Easy in Columbus, Ohio, on special occasions only; but wait, it’s always a special occasion when I visit my long-time good friend Burt, so Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and hotcakes are always within the lifestyle legal limits. Yes.

* with myself deep in the midst of the third existential crisis of my life, a) number one in 1982 after my older-than-me wife Joan ran off with the younger-than-me attorney, b) number two in 2002 when my beloved wife Edie perished with five others in a bizjet crash on approach at Pittsburgh International Airport, and c) this month, 2015, after Edith insulted me by sticking on me the You Are Self-Possessed, Mason! tag then purportedly had dinner with The Quiet Guy in Her Sports Bar. Note the involvement of a female at each turn.

* without knowing how I’m going to pull out of this spinning power dive of a life before I auger in.

I began October 2015 with my typical, standard peace-of-mind. I was satisfied with the directions in which I have traveled in all phases of my life.

Academically, I was proud of being an integral part of philosophy education through the Internet medium, as established by Dartmouth College.

Professionally, I derived more pride receiving in the mail my “check stub” outlining pay and withholdings by an Ivy League university; I had hit The Big Time, baby!

Physically, all my blood numbers are in the “normal” zones, and those that are not, namely testosterone and thyroid, are being treated successfully by pharmaceuticals. Physically, again, I’m in decent shape, strong and conditioned enough to take part in Boot Camp three times weekly. I could stand to lose some fat from my belly and from the lower back. Note: the lower back fat drives me batty; it’s gotta go.

Romantically, Edith and I had a great relationship. I was happy to be her lover, and there was no other woman I loved more.

Then, that went to hell in a hand basket.

I’m astonished how hard my world has been rocked by a female who by her admission has had a number of man friends in the seven years of her adult life. She’s so transient, so, so, such a loose rock to which I anchored. A man at my station in life needs more substance. I guess I erroneously gave a beautiful countenance and long legs a substantial triple A rating.

I’m writing this near midnight. A night with the West Virginia Symphony lifted my spirits. I made a trade with Nancy the Symphony development director. Edith didn’t want our tickets tonight since she and Donald The Quiet Guy in Her Sports Bar had other plans, so I gave them to Nancy, who in turn seated me in the first balcony. How nice, Nancy, because you sat me, in an act of complete and total fortuity, beside Rhoda, a short yet shapely brunette whose voice with a rasp informed me that she held out as long as she could for full Social Security benefits — putting her several years my senior, making Rhoda this weekend’s screaming white hot switch-flicker — well, wow, Nancy.

Rhoda and I visited Starbucks for coffee with caffeine until eleven pm. I walked her to her car. She told me it had been years since she had made-out with a man while leaning against the hood of her twelve-cylinder gold Jaguar, so I capitulated. Make-out we did. Across the street from The Clay Center. Shadowed from a street light. As Nancy walked by, smiling at my good fortune.

Upon resurfacing for air, Rhoda asked me to join her for wheat germ hotcakes at First Watch. I accepted.

I lie in bed in the dark, trying to recall when my existence had been so incredibly and pleasingly random.

Distractions help a man experiencing an existential crisis shake it off. Old Rhoda with the cute curves and scratchy alto is doing that well.

Extremely well.

Mick and Mason, Losers at Love, Work Out Diligently To Regain Past Virility

(This is another episode of the serial The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar in which we find Mick and Dr. Bricker working out assiduously to counter “advancing age” and “decline of virility” in response to their perceptions that undue attention is being paid by women to The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar and other younger, more attractive men.)

Wednesdays are conditioning days in the YMCA’s Boot Camp. Fifty five minutes ago the command by Boot Camp Leader Ty Hinnen was ‘Up against the wall!’
Now, it’s Mick and me, collapsed at the bottom of that wall, chests heaving for oxygen, muscles depleted.

“Good work, men,” Ty says. A lean mass of muscle he is. Ty was born without body fat.

I nod and salute Ty since I am unable to get my diaphragm to operate and force air through my larynx to form the word ‘Thanks.’

“You know you two are the oldest and heaviest Boots in my afternoon class,” Ty says, “and only one guy is bigger in the morning and one woman in the morning is older.”

“I wondered what was making me drag butt,” says Mick, still breathless.

“Well, no sha-nay-nay, Mick,” I say.

“But, that all does not matter,” Ty says. “No excuses. Ages and body types are no excuses.”

“Thanks, Coach,” I say with a hint of sarcasm.

“One more thing,” Ty says. “No one gets after it harder than you two.”

“Thanks, Coach,” I say. “Sincerely.”

“See you Friday. Six am,” says Ty. He issues fist bumps to us and walks.

“It just occurred to me, Mick.”

“What.”

“Edith is in that Friday six am class.”

“All the more reason to be there,” Mick says. “And, I’ll be there, too, my friend.”

“Well,” I say. “That leaves only one question unanswered.”

“What’s that?”

“Who between us is going to get up first so he can help the other guy up.”

“I think we’re stuck here, Professor.”

******

Friday afternoon at 3:30 was the only time Mick and I could break away together for our respective body fat measurements. I wear Under Armor shorts and a loose Under Armor sleeveless workout shirt so Ty has free access to the dreaded massive gathering of fat on the small of my back. Pinch away, Coach!

Mick is also dressed to work out. One good look at him and it becomes obvious that he’s built to rip a corner of the building from its foundation.

“Mick,” Ty says, “you clocked in at 17.6 percent body fat with your height at six one and your weight at 240 pounds. And, Mason, since you two are competing for everything up to and including…well, everything, your body fat percentage is 18.2 percent. You’re five feet eleven and you tip the scales at 220. So, you two are essentially clones. Mason, you’re the shorter clone.”

“What can I do to cut body fat and how much is enough and what does that all mean?” I ask Ty. He should know. His body fat at 7.7 percent is legendary among men in the mid forties.

“Mick,” begins Ty, “your lean body mass is still predominantly the biker/weightlifter. Mason, your lean body mass is more sleek with faster foot speed. Both of you are athletes, but you both need to lose body fat to regain an athlete’s body. Target 13 to 15 percent body fat.”

“How do we do that?” Mick asks.

“One,” says Ty, “eat protein and vegetables with some fruit. Two: cut out processed foods and sugar and even complex carbs. Three: you need to attend the three Boot Camps during the week. Four: exercise 30 to 45 minutes on the other four days of the week. And, five, the toughest: give up alcohol. Difficult for you, Doctor, since you work in a bar.”

“That’s becoming less of a problem as the days progress,” I say.

“Ooooo,” Ty says, “Sorry.”

“I’ll let you know about that sorry part,” I say. “Still, you’ve got a commitment from me on all the above, including and especially alcohol.”

“I’m in,” says Mick. “I’m too old for a hangover, anyway.”

The Mysterious Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar and Why Women Should Date Him

“Yesterday afternoon I glanced at your laptop screen, babe, and read the title ‘Seven Reasons Why a Woman Should Date a Quiet Guy.’ Later, I searched Quiet Guy on my laptop and found that article. Tell me, what number are you on? I’m at number five: quiet guys are more interesting.”

Edith stares at me wide-eyed in silence. Fortunately for her, three lady patrons walk through the door and approach the bar. The Bar Keep turns her attention to them, giving her enough time to respond to my query.

This situation goes beyond Coach E and his charm, and even supersedes Edith’s comments yesterday about The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar. ‘Cute and mysterious’ she said.

I don’t believe this is petty jealousy. I believe I deserve a reply. It’s not asking too much. Whether that reply is an answer remains to be seen.

It’s taking a while to get the late lunch orders defined and in the computer. No discussion will take place with the women present. I take this opportunity to leave the bar and go to my office. My Logic class begins in fifteen minutes and Edith knows that, so the article will not be addressed for at least a couple of hours.

Perhaps not even today.

Edith works late this Wednesday evening. I’m not going to force-fit an answer to my question tonight. She’ll have to pick the time and place for that.

******

Today’s Logic class and the subsequent after-class Q and A have drawn to a close. It’s 3:30 pm. I’m going to stay here and do something, balance my checkbook, write a letter to myself, anything to give Edith a chance to talk with me in here on her terms.

The door creaks open. I hear a tap. Then a double tap.

“Yes.”

Edith enters my office. She’s absolutely fabulous today with an autumn orange sweater and the black skinny denims. Too pretty to stay mad at for any length of time, I remind myself I deserve to listen to what she has to say.

I don’t think it’s going to be good.

“Mason?”

“Come on in. Class is over.”

Edith enters, arms crossed over her breasts. “Why were you looking at my computer screen?” she asks.

“Edith, I could not help it. It was there, on the bar, well-lit. 7 Reasons To date A Quiet Guy, or whatever. You should do better at hiding your privacy. I mean, if you had a do-over, I’m sure you’d close your screen.”

Silence. A lot of looking around and down then up then back to me.

“Well, you may as well know — ”

“Don’t say his name,” I say sharply. “I want to always refer to him always as The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar.”

“Donald.”

“Thank you for honoring my request. Now, what do you and Quiet Guy want to do?”

“It’s Donald Baker,” Edith says. “Donald has asked me out to dinner.”

I feel if I grow silent, my anger will get the best of me. Conterintuitive, but, hey!

“When did that happen?” I ask.

More silence.

“Last week. Monday. Actually, two Mondays ago.”

“So, you had approached the asking-out point of a new relationship two weeks before I saw him. Is that correct?”

“I don’t understand why in hell that makes any difference whatsoever!” Edith exclaims.

“I do,” I say, calmly. “Edith, during those fourteen days, we made love three times.”

Lots of silence.

“Not bad for an old guy,” I say.

“Damnit, Mason!” she shouts. “You see there! You make it all about you! Even our most intimate moments are all about you!”

This is the angriest I have been in a long time. I have to muster the experience I’ve gained in all of my fifty nine years to keep from blowing a gasket.

“Wow, Edith,” I say, still keeping my cool. “That surfaced quickly, like a nuclear submarine crashing through the waves in the deep ocean. So, here’s my suggestion: you and Donald go to dinner and I’ll work on not being so self-absorbed. Did any one of your quiet guy articles address that?”

“I’ve already accepted his request, just so you’ll know, Professor Bricker!”

“So, I’ll drop by in an hour to get some things I might need when I stay at the Four Points. Enjoy your date. Please leave my office. I’ll be out of here in twenty minutes. I’ll leave the keys on the hallway credenza.”

Edith is ticked off as she turns and exits my office.

She’s ticked off? She?

Damn.

******

I examine the three empty bottles of Smithwick’s Irish Ale resting in a neat triangle on the desk. It’s eight o’clock in the evening here in room 725 at Four Points. Great reno on this building by local financier James Jones, by the way. He did his best to turn a twelve story brick from the seventies into a hip third millennium hotel right at the entertainment center of Charleston West Virginia. My kudos to that Gen X multi-millionaire.

Stop stalling, Brick. You’re one beer away from being drunk enough to make a drunk cell phone call.

One thing, however: you’re almost sixty years old and you therefore must conduct yourself with respect to yourself or you’ll just look like a pathetic old man.

I take the final swig from the fourth bottle of Smithwick’s, which I place behind the triangle to form a diamond. Bad move, Professor; now all you’ll think about is the tastefully-sized one-carat engagement ring you recently purchased.

Yesterday.

******

When I go to bed drunk, it’s guaranteed I will wake up six hours later. The time on the clock is precisely four o’clock and I won’t be able to sleep again until tonight. So, not only am I old, I’m sporting a decent hangover, begging to puke and purge my body of the alcohol it is not able to handle well.

Not able to handle well at all.

I turn the Sirius XM radio to channel 78, Symphony Hall. Cacophonous noise is bleeding from the speakers. In no time, I diagnose the problem: Gustav Mahler. I’ve been a West Virginia Symphony season ticket subscriber for a couple decades. Mason knows Mahler. Change the channel.

It’s channel 34, Lithium, the station for grunge and alternative rock of the nineties. The Seattle Sound, as it is called. Nirvana is presenting Smells Like a Teen Spirit, the anthem of the misunderstood, often insufferable Generation X. My generation, The Baby Boomers, the ruling class, for which Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven represents all that is right, is defined by Woodstock. A few hundred thousand seeking free love attended Woodstock, yet millions and millions and more millions say they were there. That summarizes how I feel about my fellow Baby Boomers.

Well, now that I’m up at four o’clock in the morning, I’ve been presented with a fine opportunity to reevaluate my life, the one and only life during which I will soon celebrate the end of my sixtieth year. Actuaries tell me I have around nineteen years tops remaining on this planet, so I’d better get it right.

Here goes:

a) No more Edith. Why did I even think I could make romance work out with a woman who will be in her mid-forties when my ticket to the afterlife is punched. And, how lamentable can my life be today if I’m in a hotel room, a nice hotel room nonetheless, just because Edith went to dinner with the heretofore christened Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar, née Donald Baker.

b) Maybe Edith is correct. I possibly could be a person who thinks it’s all about me. It ticked her off when I introduced the subject, but I’m proud of the fact I take low-dose Cialis and can be ready for my lover three times in fourteen days! Many men, and some women, would kill me for such a medical diagnosis. I’m fortunate, very lucky.

c) Edith is correct. I do think it’s all about me. I’m self-absorbed. How can I change? Do I want to change? And, if I do change and become less ego-driven and more caring for other people, why should I waste my new life on a woman who is thirty four years younger than me? Maybe an older woman — like sixty eight? — would appreciate me more. Wow. Sixty eight. That’s kind of sexy.

d) My words in c) turned into a diatribe against everything I said I should change. The words reveal me to be a mysogynist; I look at a woman through the filter of what she can do for me.

The tears I now shed are not for a loss of Edith. They drip down my cheeks because I just realized I’m a jerk.

Damn.