- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever


Another torrent of acrid,

chemical smoke came raging past.


Fiery hot with toxins and poison gases,

it shot through every corridor,

searing everything in its path ---

a wispy trail of death snaking its way

through the nooks and crannies and craggies

of the once pink and pristine landscape.


Yeah, you could call it that.

I suppose it more accurately constitutes

a sort-of internal self-immolation.

Whatever the case, I exhaled.

I forced the ciggy smoke through

my nose as my man Al Lewis might

have done in a haywire dungeon

experiment on any given Munsters episode.

Glugging a Genneseo sippy in

the old dadly easy chair,

I'd take another deep, deep drag of the nail,

sending my hapless alveoli

into another spasmodic oxygen-deprivation

cig-smoking drill,

much like the one I've just described.

God, I could use a smoke

right about now, couldn't you?

Oh, don't give me that PC squeal

about the bad-bad-baddies of

secondary smoke, and,

"boo, hoo, HOO, my clothes

all smell like Parliaments!"

WHATEVER you do, DON'T show me

those sick-ass syphilitic photos

of some Cajun-blackened coal

miner lung intended to give

your old diddly dad such a shocker

of a nasty-wasty fright, that I

unconditionally surrender my Marlboros

and make a beeline for

the Birkenstock bunch outdoing one

another on the Stairmasters of

the strip mall gym ---

the reformed glow of a Moonie

serenely radiating

from my contented, smoke-free brow.

By now, you little creeps ought to know

your old dad just

a little better than all of that.

For I am admitting right here

and right now in front of all

of you --- on the very screen

through which you and your mousie scroll,

that I, too, joined the puling ranks

of the non-huffing weenies when I laid down

my cigs at the start of this godless decade.

And I still don't like it.

Maybe I should do the 90's thing,

and stand before you beating my

re-pinked breast, extolling my

newfound vim and vigor and vim

(not a typo --- just a small synaptic tic)

as I cradle my jelly belly in

nicotine-yallered paws,

inhaling and exhaling fresh

(monoxide) air in great greedy gulps

like nobody's business.

For me, it was a rocky start ---

but I was hellbent on addiction,

Having just turned teen, with no funds

and certainly no cojones to plug a

death machine for a box-o-butts,

I was forced to nurture my burgeoning

habit by smoking half-huffed

Eve ciggies my mom had snuffed.

Looked mean, indeed, assuming you

meticulously covered the

lovely floral graphic encircling the filter ---

the one for which you faced

a certain pummeling at the local Rec Center

if the jocko droogie boys caught a glimpse.

So I smoked, and smoked and smoked.

I'd light one off another,

grind ashes into the thigh of my jeans if

no ashtray was in sight, and

when I heard some Beatles doc

in which Ringo admitted to smoking

"....60 ciggies a day, ya know,"

I finally had a realistic goal.

I would smoke more than the

very chimbleys of LTV Steel, I would ---

and within a few short months,

and a few brand changes from a menthol

to a light to a hardcore and back

on to a flavorful low-tar Merit, I

was there, man. Ringo had NUTHIN' on me.

I'd smoke him and Maureen AND Zak,

by God, right outta Abbey Road and

straight into hell,

where Beatle Paul

(from the preponderance of clues),


I swore I'd quit when I got into high school.

I swore I'd quit before senior year.

I swore I'd snuff 'em come college.

But the monkey jones escalated.

It was the Dean of the College himself

who unwittingly gave yer old dad the

impetus to cleanse the old lunggers.

(Bloodrock's own Sgt. Pepper ----"D.O.A." ---

for those requiring historical context --- was

just out and banned from airplay

everywhere in the civilized world).

It happened at one of those heinous

suck-up college mixers where rat-fink

dormitory student advisors

bring the flotsam and jetsam living

on their floor to a soiree where

everyone has to gussy-up in their

Sunday-duds (I assure you, they were JUST that),

and actually, factually SOCIALIZE with

faculty and administrative droids.

As you might well imagine, it was a scene

that might even send Fellini

(perhaps even John Waters, though

hyperbole does have its limits)

off screaming into the night,

with the pre-med suckups working the

Chemistry faculty, the pre-law geeks

working the left-wing longhair poly-sci pundits,

the solipsist legacies being waited upon

by the administration who knew where

future endowment

(a.k.a. their pension funding)

would be coming from,

and, of course, the goober miscreant

grant-endowed crowd

(including None Other Than),

who stood unblinking and unmoving

at the appetizer table beachhead,

snarfing the fingie sangies

and slurping the fizzy sherbet punch.

I smoked artfully and with

the requisite authority; careful to snuff

my butts only in plastic cups already ringed with

ashen, punchy residue,

my leather elbow patches bearing testament

to my store-bought intellectual erudition.

"Which way is the punch table?"

one of the philosophy profs who

specialized in Kierkegaard queried.

"Oh, of course....right over THERE...."

I posited, pointing to my left with

the whole of my arm in a

sweeping histrionic arc,

burning ciggie in hand.


I felt the distinctly NON-Newtonian feeling

of my cig coming in contact with

something interrupting the

arc of my helpful arm gesture.

One of my eyes shut in a squinchy facial grimace.


Slowly, I turned

(now STOP that, you Niagra Falls people),

I moved my head toward the terminus of the

cig --- slowly --- teeth clenched,

brow in full furl, only to see

the business end of the Benson & Hedges

stuck in the upper arm of

our college's esteemed Dean,

a deluge of smoky sparks raining down the sleeve

of his custom-tailored suit coat,

a fiery hole, the size of a dime now,

growing like a miniature sun where

the cig found its quarry.

Sensing the fast-approaching end of

my grant-supported flirtation with

the liberal arts, and not yet being a

society enlightened with the useful

"stop-drop'n-roll" doctrine,

I did the only thing any hillbilly kid with

his eyes on the college prize WOULD do,

dear dads.

I jumped on the Dean.

I thrashed him, I did.

"Oh, Dean!"

I pounded on his fiery arm like

beach-blanket bongos as the

Pillars of Academe gazed on, brows raised,

their sherbet-punch mustachioed mugs

paralyzed in an erudite

and lemon-limey freeze.

"Oh, Dean! Oh, Dean!!"

I'd snuffed the fire, alright.

Just a wisp of smoke emanated from

his pin-striped Gucci now.

He glared at me over the upper part of

his silver bifocals,

yet strangely, seemed altogether unfazed.

Something was very, very wrong.

Instead of the sickly smell of singed flesh,

the air was filling with a distinctly

man-made aroma, like the

kind of smell you get when

you blow up your plastic model cars

with an M-80 and they flame-out

all wickedly cool on the driveway.


I looked down at the hand,

and there it was, my friends.

House of Wax.

All Vincent Pricey.

Michael Caine-ish, even.

I stopped beating on it,

and curious,

I rapped it with a polite little knock.

Freakin' fake arm!

Standard Geppetto-issue

(courtesy of Corregidor as I later learned).

I gave 'em up that very day, dear dads.

No Nicorette --- no patch --- no hypnosis

and no voodoo mumbo-jumbo.

For that very dadly day,

down in dadsville,

they say,

my dadly brain grew two sizes smaller,


The Dean conferred a diploma upon me

almost four years later himself,

right there on the dais, amidst the

baleful strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."

After a brief and fretful hand jive,

I finally shook his birth hand.

He squeezed down pretty good on my paw,

clenched his dentures, and spat

ventriloquist-like through his bonded ivories,

"...I think you know we're all so


Avenged, he sent me off, $15,000 in debt,

metacarpals crunched, into an

uncertain world that ultimately

made clear its disdain for any of

the expertise I could lend it ---

a world tolerant of my very presence only

because I had acceded to its

viperous PC demand that I cease the

ruination of lungs the Good Lord

himself gave me to destroy if I so chose.

So that is my story.

I'm clean, and I still don't like it.

But my day is coming.

I keep hearkening to a video outtake

I squirreled away from my days

producing T.V. news.

I don't think anyone has it anymore, except me.

I'll share it with you now, because you are

kind enough to keep coming around.

The tape starts with slurry chatter

over bars and tone, and when the

video finally snaps on, it is

baseball lengend Mickey Mantle,

maybe sometime in the early 80s,

clad in plaid and poolside.

He is slurring on and on, quite visibly tanked,

when the insipid local sports reporter

butts in with a highly original

interview question ---

one I'm certain Mr. Mantle had never, ever heard.

" would you do it all

over again if you had it to do differently?"

Mantle stopped and looked

confused for a millisecond,

then stared right down the barrel,

and unaware the whole boozy interview

would be forever scrapped on the edit

room floor, spoke directly to you

and me in TV-land.

"If I'd had it to do all over again,

"I'd a'taken it easy, kids!

"Don't draaank, and don't smoke,

"And then when you turn 50,

"THEN you can have some fffun.

"I'd a --- c-cooled it ---

"If I had it to do all over again."

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2003 Arhythmiacs

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