The Highlight Reel
Looking back over four years of columns
By Walter Jowers
DECEMBER 28, 1999:
This being my last column of the year, and the century, I feel an urge
to reflect on some of the stuff I've covered here. First, some raw
First Helter Shelter appears: August 1995. Number of consecutive
columns: 205. Streak busted: August 1999. Total Helter Shelters: 221.
Recurring themes include:
My three three-nippled friends
Proving that aberrations are the
norm. I understand that three-nipplehood occurs in one out of every 200
people. I don't know 600 people, and I surely don't have 600 friends. I've
got no business knowing three tri-nips. Yet I do. So next time you think
you're safe from freakish things--like some dumb-ass burning down your
apartment complex by tossing a flaming log out on the balcony--I want you
to picture me lounging by the pool with Greg, Hop, and Bobbie Ann. Four
people, 11 nipples. Burn that into your memory.
Wife Brenda, daughter Jess, and co-inspector Rick
of the three-nipple conundrum. There's nothing I could've done to deserve
any one of 'em, let alone all three. I met wife Brenda at Myrtle Beach,
S.C. Meeting Brenda led to the birth of daughter Jess, who delights us
every day and makes me sorry I ever wished for an old hairy-legged boy
child. Co-inspector Rick worked 22 years at the L.A. Times, then
decided to move to Tennessee and be a home inspector. He literally showed
up on my porch one day, and we've worked together ever since. He's been the
best business partner and friend I can imagine.
My wretched pet luck
The yard of my old house in South Carolina
is littered with the bones of my ex-pets. Daisy the dog got snake-bit.
Nuisance the dog got intractable mange, and I had to put her down myself.
Martin the dog got run over but made it back to the house, so he could flop
over and die in front of me. Mess the cat got breast cancer. Right now,
I've got cat Sassy, who'll sit with me only if I hold my legs a certain
way. Cat Ivory will come near me only when I'm in the bathroom. Dog Stan is
useless; he won't play with any of us. The only good thing about him is
that his barking bothers the condo-dwelling art dealer two doors down.
My wretched immediate-family luck
My mother, Susie, woke up in
the middle of the night with chest pain and died on her way to the
hospital. She was 45. My father, Jabo, drank to excess, built illegal
liquor stills, and soldered new VIN numbers into stolen automobiles. But he
had a powerful love for me. In his own assbackwards way, Jabo was a perfect
role model. Anybody with a thimbleful of brains would've looked at Jabo and
thought, If a man could live the polar opposite of Jabo's life, but
still love his child like that, he'd be all right. That's the big
lesson I got from living with Jabo, up until he dropped dead while trying
to bugaloo at age 48.
Then there's my hearing-voices, seeing-Jesus schizophrenic sister Ann,
who's doing better these days with the new medication. Her husband, Vann,
has loved her and kept her safe for 35 years now. If anybody's going to
heaven, Vann's going. Finally, there's my redneck brother Geames, who was
shot by a jealous husband and died at age 31.
My great good fortune overall
I know my parents had warning signs
of the heart attacks that killed them, but they either ignored the signs or
misunderstood them. I paid attention to that little band of pain between my
armpits back in August, and I called my internist, John Gibson. He sent me
to Dr. Fredi, who did a fine job of reading the angiogram, and to Dr. Lea,
who did an excellent job of cutting and stitching.
But of all the docs, nurses, and techs who pulled my fanny out of the
flames, Gibson was the one who beat even Brenda to my side in the recovery
room after my bypass surgery. (He didn't have to wait for visiting hours.)
When you're stuck in intensive care with a tube down your throat, and your
internist shows up to squeeze your hand, you know you've got the right
doctor. Gibson tells me I should do fine for many a year, and I do believe
Let me offer this final end-of-year reflection: Once a surgeon's been
wrist-deep in your chest, once your heart's been stopped, replumbed, and
restarted, it becomes abundantly clear that just one sweet breath--the way
it goes in cool and comes out nice and warm--is worthy of much
appreciation. The prospect of many more years of breathing, and looking
into the beautiful faces of a loving wife and daughter, are beyond
priceless. Doing all that, and being invited to write these little
stories, and having the people who read 'em tell you they hope you
get well soon.... I can't even start to tell you how good that is.
I am well. I could go bear hunting with a switch. Thanks for asking.
Y'all enjoy the new year.