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Oct 26, 2018

  I’ve got problems just like everybody else. I know it’s sort of a sham hiding them all behind a barricade of laughter and merriment the likes rarely seen beyond newborn babies who think a dirty diaper is funny and really old people who think a dirty diaper is funny, but it’s the way I cope. My aunt Janet likes to call me Chandler Bing - the guy from FRIENDS - because no matter what’s going on and even when things get serious, I’ll sometimes break the monotony with a sarcastic or off-the-wall (often not well though out) comment. That’s why I feel like I have license to discuss and laugh about the next three topics. Why I hate the sun (I get skin cancers). I have type 2 diabetes, and I used to be a terribly insecure child. With that, I’m Michael Blackston. Let’s huddle up together - Eskimo style -  because where I’m from, it’s getting colder outside, and let’s roast marshmallows over some stories from my funny, messy, life.


 There was one year that I got a tan. One. My mom used to have a picture of it somewhere, but I’m thinking the sun sent an agent to destroy it so there would be no record because I haven’t seen it in years. Otherwise, I burn and peel, burn and peel, burn and peel, and then see a skin specialist. Why? Because ...


 The hot, steamy, stupid sun is hot.

  My sister is sad because it’s fall and we’re finally getting some relief from the heat.

  I know some people like her prefer it – people who enjoy the feeling of the skin melting right off their bones like there was an atomic explosion in their back yard and they neither ducked nor covered. And if that’s you, fine. Don’t worry about my opinion. You go enjoy being a cupcake in God’s Easy Bake Oven.

  The misery of stepping outside during summer is hard to put into words that will help you to understand just how big a deal this is for me as one of the true white people of the world. I’m not caucasian - that’s too tan. I’m a snow man. Camera men stand me in front of their lenses to balance the light.

  And as to what the sun does to me when I creep from my shadowy depths into the sting of its shine? Well, have you seen the end of the first Indiana Jones movie? It’s like that, except not as delightful. The way I’m built, it’s as if I’m opening the Ark of the Covenant while wearing an Ozzy Ozborne mask made by Marilyn Manson, and signed by Richard Dawkins. It burns.

  Not to mention that the sun and I don’t get along for other reasons. You might tolerate the heat to enjoy the beautiful bronze color that your skin inherits from the cancerous rays of the sun, but not me. The sun has a different gift in store if I bask more than approximately 10.62 seconds. I get to unwrap a big ol’ box of Basal Cell Carcinoma – the sort of skin cancers my doctor commented, “They’re the kind you WANT to get if you’re gonna get skin cancers. Hahahaha.”

  Well it ain’t funny.

  I don’t WANT to get ANY skin cancers, but nature has resolved that they pair nicely with the skin tags under my arms and so I’m  with them. I know it could be worse. My family has dealt with the scare of Melanoma first hand, but even the carcinomas can be bad if you let them go. So my skin doctor tells me to never fear. All I have to do is grease myself down with sunscreen from head to toe every day for the rest of my life and make sure the SPF protection is no lower than 7,948.

  “And wear long sleeves if you can, unless you get wet. Once your clothing is wet, it offers little protection from the sun,” he says. “In that case, Mr. Blackston, you should make sure your sunscreen is in place and also carry a spare suit of armor with you at all times. In fact, just to be safe and to ensure that you enjoy a happy life under the sun, you just go ahead and put on that suit of armor first thing every morning and wear it all day no matter how much it chafes your nipples and makes your skin tags sore.”

  No big deal, right?

  Forget it. Next year, I’m dressing as cool as I can, which may or may not include full public nudity when the temperature rises above 70. You won’t be able to recognize me anyway – my face will be in a puddle around my feet.

 Because the stupid hot, steamy sun is stupid.

 And hot.


 My wife sent me a photo from Facebook the other day that showed a billboard stating that “This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness.” Under the printed message was a spray painted note. “No we won’t.” It’s a solid statement about men all around the world and the fact that we hate to be told what to do. It also reminded me of how ...


 Diabetes Ruined My Day

  I have a hard time dealing with nagging. Actually, hard time is putting it mildly. I should probably be honest with you and say that if I feel like I’m being harped on, I turn into an incoherent caveman, one nag away from peeing on stuff to mark my territory. And from stories I’ve heard over the dinner table on Sundays, I think I might get it honest.

  I guess that’s why Kayla was surprised when, after several mentions of going to the doctor and getting my medications in order, I said, “Yeah - you’re probably right,” instead of “OG NO GO TO DOCTOR - OG FEEL FINE!” and I didn’t even pee on anything. I did try to argue that maybe I should be a good Christian and let The Great Physician sort it out, but that went over about as well as I expected it to.

  I didn’t make an appointment - that would have made too much sense. No, I opted for the walk-in maneuver at the Medical Center, which meant that I wouldn’t see my family doctor, who had a full slate of appointments to examine people who had better planning skills than me or probably the specialist I’d seen in the first place about my diabetes. She wouldn’t be happy at all that I’d not followed her instructions. It also meant I would be waiting in the room of waiting longer than I wanted to. We all know that when you make an appointment, you have to wait anyway, so now that I was being “squeezed in”, I expected to exceed the daily recommended dosage of waiting room while I was in there with sick people and reading magazines that crawled with sick people funk.

  The wait was long enough, but not as long as I’d thought it’s be. The only problem was the lady sitting next to me who ...




  She talked about her brother who was in jail because he’d been falsly blamed for a crime he didn’t commit - RAWNG ACCUSED, she called it, and just because he had outstanding warrants and was driving a car with no license plates and no insurance. “They’s jest lookin’ fer sumbody t’harr-ICE. Ain ‘t got nuthin’ better to do!”

  Of course, that bled into how his no good girlfriend was pregnant with a baby that wasn’t his, but he was still gonna stay with her when he got out because she got a good check every month and everybody else was tired of buying his cigarettes and booze. And Preacher Billy said he couldn’t wait to take him out witnessin’ again once’d he done his time.

  It might have been the first time you could actually SEE the IQ level of people dropping. Thankfully, my name was called just in time to keep me from looking up sexy pictures of my cousin Lulabell on Facebook.

  I’d been on medication for Type 2 diabetes for a year already, but it only took giving out of my prescriptions and not renewing them once before I was on a downward spiral that mixed it all up. Blood pressure meds out? No problem. I’ll get around to filling that right after I finish this salt lick. Diabetes meds are all gone? Whatever. They gave me an upset stomach and so does Ex-Lax. At least Ex-Lax tastes like chocolate and I ... like ... chocolate.

  Then there was the diet plan ... and the cheating on the diet plan. What started out as a random hiccup every once in a while turned into an all out frat party in my refrigerator, except that I was chugging Yoo-Hoos and Mountain Dew.

  So there I was face to face with my doctor - the irritated, steaming specialist who I’d promised I’d take my diabetes seriously. She started in like a mother who you’d promised to take cleaning your room seriously, but has found eight dirty plates with silverware, four half-eaten bags of Funyuns and the block of cheese that went missing three weeks ago.

  “What did I tell about taking your meds?”

  “You said to take my meds as prescribed.”

  “Why haven’t you done that?”

  I just shrugged and counted the counted the long Q-Tips in one of the jars on the counter. There were ten.

  “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

  I thought about telling her she wasn’t the boss of me, but then I remembered she is the boss of my diabetes.

  “Have you been keeping a check on your blood sugar twice a day and logging the numbers?”

  “Define logging.”

  “Writing them down. Have you been checking your blood sugar or not?”

  “Define checking.”

  “Obviously not.”

  “I have been using the little needle lancer thingies, if that what you’re asking.”

  “Alright. How so?”

  “Blow darts.”

  “Do you think this is funny, Mr. Blackston? Diabetes is nothing to laugh at!”

  “Well, if you give it giant shoes and a rubber chicken, it might be funny.”

  She threw her hands in the air, yelled, “I give up!” and stormed out of the examination room. A few minutes later, my family doctor came in and sat down in front of me. He has a much nicer bedside manner.

  “Your specialist has thrown her hands in the air and screamed, “I give up.”

  “I know. I think it was the Funyuns that upset her. Or the block of cheese.”



  “We’re going to start from scratch, Mr. Blackston, and this time you’re going to do this the right way. You got it?”


  I ended up getting three gallons of blood sucked out of me to see where I was at, diabetically and cholestoralicallty, and was given so many prescriptions that the doctor had to put on a hand brace.

  “Can I still have bread?”

  “Some, but small amounts of it.”

  “Can I have Coke?”

  “Not with sugar. Diet Coke or Coke Zero, although I’d prefer you cut out colas altogether.”

  “What about a little candy?”

  “How much is a little?”

  “A party bag of  peanut butter M&M’s.”


  “I’m also going to insist you check you blood sugar regularly and not use the needles as darts. Can you promise me you’ll do that?”

  “My ninja training is gonna suffer, but I guess so.”

   In other words, I can eat grass and drink water. That’s how I took it. Diabetes had turned me into a cow. My wife tried to talk some sense into me and tell me that all they’re saying is to put on my big boy pants and be smart. If I have candy, eat a couple of pieces and be done. Watch my carbs and learn to enjoy more cleansing beverages. she told me. .

  It would be an adventure alright - the Temple of Doom - because they’d ripped my heart right out of my chest.

   I wonder if I could dip green beans in a chocolate fondue?


 I lived a pretty charmed life as a kid. My complaints were about things that would get me slapped by children less privileged than me, so I didn’t say a lot. My problems were more of the mental kind. I was small and weak and bad at sports. I could use my imagination, though. There was just one problem. I spent a lot of time with my cousin and he was strong and great at sports, so I defaulted to him in almost everything. It’s time I came forward about ...


 The Acceptable Mulk And Other Semi-Heroes

  There’s a reason behind my hard-headedness and insistence on being in control of my own life, which, by the way, I refuse to apologize for and you can’t make me. Until adulthood, I never felt like I had control of anything. And that didn’t last long because I got married when I was 21, so by law, all control of my life was ceded to my wife. Growing up, I was always a pushover and I wouldn’t stand up for myself. I went along with whatever I was told to do by whoever told me to do it. Part of that was being a scaredy cat and part of it was hating any kind of confrontation.

  Enter the relationship between me and my first cousin - the one you’ll probably hear plenty about throughout the life of this podcast - the one that did the stupidly stupid things with me I mentioned in episode 2.

  He had no trouble taking the lead. He was a lot tougher than me and seemed to enjoy a little confrontation because he knew he’d usually win. He’s also five months older than me, so in our childhood minds, his nearly half a year of extra life experience gave him the power by default. We were inseparable as kids, so there was a whole bunch of playing to be done, and I let him dictate what shape that would take. We might create elaborate booby traps in grandma’s back yard to foil trespassers, then laugh at ourselves for making something that started with the word "booby". Or, as in some of my earliest memories, we might defend the city as superheroes.

  It was the mid to late 70’s and Batman and Robin came on every afternoon. I remember wanting to get into the tv with the dynamic duo so bad that I seriously considered putting a chair through the screen to get to them. Back in those days, grandma let us stay inside the house while she was keeping us for exactly three reasons: Sesame Street, lunch, and Batman. Other than that it was, “Go play outside!”

  Looking back, I think I understand the logic that us being outside was better than her having to keep us from trying to get to grandpa’s .22 rifle or putting chairs through the tv.

  We didn’t mind, though. A couple of towels for capes and we were good to go! It didn’t matter that we didn’t have masks, either. We made up for that by starting every new mission with the theme music.

  My cousin got to be Batman. Every. Single. Time.

  I always had to be Robin and there would not be any sharing the roles. Whenever I asked to be Batman, he told me I couldn’t because he was stronger and he was the one who had the Batmobile Big Wheel. That made sense and I didn’t argue. Plus he had to admit that I did a better Robin than he did.


  Then there were opportunities to save the world as other superheroes, like when we’d ride 865 miles out in the country to go to the private pool my mom was a member of. It was called the Fish and Game Club. The bathrooms at the place crawled with spiders and mosquitoes and smelled like fish. And game.

  Obviously, I never got to be Aquaman because I wasn’t as strong as my cousin and besides, he was the one who slept in Aquaman Underoos. We didn’t know enough about comic books to realize there was such a thing as The Sub-Mariner and even if we had, my cousin would’ve, being so much older and wiser than me, proclaimed him not as good as Aquaman. So I got to be the sidekicks, like Robin again or Float Boy or a dolphin. Maybe if we’d grown up in a later decade I would’ve gotten to be Spongebob, but I doubt it. If we were pretending to be in Bikini Bottom, I’m sure I’d have been relegated to Patrick or the Pirate face that sings the theme song with the funky lips. Even as we got a little older, he got to be He-Man and I had to be Orko - the little bumbling ghost guy that provided comic relief and always had to be saved.

  He did throw me one tiny bone in the early eighties when we discovered what would become his all-time favorite superhero, The Incredible Hulk.

  Our world changed immediately once we got our first glimpse of David Banner going all “OH NO YOU DIT-INT!” on some bad guys and flashing those bright green rage eyes. Suddenly, Lou Ferrigno is ripping out of Bill Bixby’s clothes and it was ON like Donkey Kong (Another childhood thing he was better at than me)! My cousin got in trouble because he kept cutting up his good shirts so it’d look like he’d turned into the Hulk and burst out of them.

  The problem was, there was only one Hulk and he was a loner. Banner walked sadly from town to town under haunting piano music and nobody followed except for teams of rednecks and oil tycoons bent on terrorizing the neighborhood. The Hulk didn’t have any sidekick. He didn’t need one. That meant there wasn’t much for me to do other than play  and cheer on The Hulk as he brought havoc upon unsuspecting back yard hooligans.

  We had an idea. We’d make one up for me. I sure wasn’t going to get to be the Hulk, but what if there was another hero that worked with him.

  Thank goodness, my cousin came up with a character and our playtime was saved.

  I would be the Hulk’s less impressive cousin who turned purple and caused the bad guys unbridled pestering when he got mad. I would be ... The Mulk.

That’s right, !

The sad thing is, I embraced it. Just to be considered at least somewhat useful, I was elated and I owned the role of the Mulk. I even cut up a couple of shirts for myself, so you can imagine my surprise recently when I googled images of the Hulk and found a still from The Simpsons showing a comic book of The Formidable Mulk.


  There were plenty of other times I took second fiddle, too.

  He got to be Dracula, I got to be Count Spatula - Dracula’s cousin from New Jersey who worked in an Italian restaurant and drank red Cool-Aid.

  He was The Wolf Man - I was his cousin, The Labrador Man - a mild mannered, but still doglike being that was frightening with my fierce loyalty and skill at fetching anything my cousin threw in the yard.

  Since then I’ve learned to stand up for myself and be who I want to be, without asking permission. Well, I do try to let God tell me who He wants me to be and I’m okay with that, but nobody else is the boss of me. Well, my mom has some pull. But other than God and mom, nobody tells me what to do except when my daughter flashes her eyes and begs for something.

  So God, mama, and my daughter are the only ones who can tug at my reigns.

And my wife, of course.

“Mulk coming, honey!”