New Recipe: Phil Hugo: Armchair philosopher reflects on the side effects of life

It’s 11:45 p.m. and I’m winding down my day watching “Gunsmoke” starring James Arness as Matt Dillon, US Marshal. If you watch the show you know the distinctive sound of the announcer’s voice. Shall we say a voice of authority, like that of the show’s star when he has to get tough with a gunslinger: “Hold it! Drop the gun!”

I know — many people my age have no doubt wrapped their day with a tidy bow and are pretty close to being in dreamland. There are a few minutes until the end of this episode, then I’ll decide whether I’ll stick around for the midnight show to see if Chester or Festus shows up. Those two characters usually offer up a good laugh.

Sometimes I read or work on an essay during the commercial breaks, while taking notice of products that are being hawked. Prescription meds for any number of conditions e.g. atrial fibrillation, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. You name it. More on that last item in a minute.

What I do take notice of are the side effects for all the prescribed meds. Don’t take if you have this or that condition. May cause headaches or excessive bleeding. Talk to your doctor to see if this product is right for you.

Medical side effects aside, I’ve been pondering what I call the side effects of life — everyday life. Things that happen unexpectedly. And it could be a very long list.

But before we begin we need to define what we are talking about. In my Webster’s dictionary, it is listed as an adjective meaning made, done, happening on the side or incidentally (a side effect). Let’s see if my examples fit the definition.

I’ve been going up and down the basement stairs in my home since 1976 and to my knowledge I’ve taken no falls — until March of 2020. While in an unhurried descent mode, a foot slid off the bottom step, resulting in a hard hit on my left side. Ouch! I uttered words not fit for polite company, dusted myself off and headed upstairs, apparently no worse for the wear. I gave my wife Karen a full report when she returned home. One can’t plan for the unexpected but it might be best to take a hard fall when you can summon aid.

After a few weeks of discomfort I decided to get it checked out. X-rays and an MRI revealed compression fractures of three vertebrae. A bone scan showed severe osteoporosis in the spine and trunk region, putting me at high risk for injury. I didn’t see that one coming. I may have thick skin but now I’ve got thin bones.

To make a long story short, the vertebrae healed, I’ve begun a regimen of injections to strengthen the bones (I see a commercial for the med on TV) and I’ve just completed a round of physical therapy. To add insult to injury I’m shrinking in stature having lost 2-3 inches in height over who knows how long a period.

Is it related to osteoporosis, the normal aging process or a combination of the two? What I do know is I can look up to more people or more people can look down on me. Such is life.

Have I mentioned side effects here? Not only the physical as a result of the fall, but also the medicinal side effects.

Those of us who spend time in the kitchen cooking and baking hope our efforts end in success, as in tasty, edible comestibles. But, we’ve all had episodes where well-intentioned efforts end up with pasta water boiling over or a cake that flopped because we forgot or added too much of an ingredient. Incidental results.

As the story goes, my 10-year-old niece Julia Rose wanted to bake a birthday cake using a recipe out of her own cookbook for her mother Alexis. Ingredients were mixed, poured into a cake pan and placed into the oven. So far so good or so it appeared. While monitoring the progress of the cake, they noticed what was described to me by an inside source as a lava-like flow of batter coming out of the pan, spilling onto the baking sheet beneath it. Uh, oh!

Wondering what went wrong the experienced baker queried the novice as to what she did. Checking the recipe Julia responded: “I used two cups of milk instead of one cup and a half cup of baking soda instead of one teaspoon.” Talk about a side effect. Or a science experiment she didn’t know she was conducting.

In the end Mom got two cakes as Julia’s second effort was a success and her older brother Victor also baked a cake — with no side effects. Hey kids, after all these years Uncle Phil still experiences a few missteps in the kitchen. Keep at it and have fun!

The side effects in life also show up in the laundry room, especially when we don’t read the instructions.

I tossed a throw into the wash machine, along with a couple of serapes. When I opened the lid to remove said items to the dryer I couldn’t believe what I saw. Large globs of mauve fabric littered the tub. “What?!” It was a mess. I shook the pieces, put them in the dryer and removed the globs. I used my small Shop Vac to remove the remaining bits of fabric once they dried and chased dust bunnies with the broom.

So why did this happen? Because a post-event reading of the instructions said the throw was made of rayon chenille and should be washed by hand and laid flat to dry. Way to go bozo!

Well folks, the list of daily events we engage in and that end up with side effects tacked on could be a long one, comprised of things like a fender bender on the way to work, dropping a phone in the tub while bathing and smashing a thumb with a hammer. We all have our stories.

Speaking of stories, the next time I watch “Gunsmoke” I’ll pay attention to see if Marshall Dillon takes a bullet while trying to stop a gunslinger.

Phil Hugo lives in Lima.

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