Better with bacon

by Randall Beaird and Debra Petri  – 1998

subwaySubway punched Burger King in the belly and ran. You’veburgerking probably seen their commercial laughing at the whopper’s 39 grams of fat. I know both of them well. Subway busted me out of 32’s in college; their cold-cut combos still keep me warm at night.

It’s true that Subway cuts Burger King no slack for their contribution to society’s poor eating choices. However, while Randall ate his way out of size 32 years ago, Subway is now helping me find my way back to a size 6.

Burger King was there for me as a kid. One of my earliest memories is a whopper I could barely hold, four giggling sisters, a baby brother, all gathered around my parents wearing crowns and smiles.

debrapI have haunting childhood memories of Burger King as well. One fateful youth group outing initiated me into the world of the whopper. My ride home, sick in the floor of the van, was also very memorable. Okay, so it turned out to be the mumps, but my Burger King days were over!

I met Debra at Burger King for some comparison dining. My healthy eye spotted the broiled chicken salad with just ten grams of fat. After adding a little low-cal dressing and croutons, I felt my heart quiver with joy.

All I can say is, it’s a good thing I was there. Randall needed some guidance in selecting a healthy meal. I could tell right away this was uncharted territory for him. He was headed for the BK Broiler Chicken sandwich with 29 fat g’s–don’t let the words “flame-broiled” mislead you into thinking it’s actually better for you. I suggested the broiled chicken salad as an alternative. He moaned when I told him the ranch dressing contained 19 grams of fat.

Burger King manager, Tim Mullings, greeted us with keen insights on nutrition, and stood as rock solid testimony. He had the tri-athlete look after three years of leading the burger hounds to victory. Tim said, “I eat the BK Broiler and fries all the time.”

The assistant manager actually greeted our initial inquiries with shrugs and “I don’t know.” He did finally produce Randall beloved pamphlet. America, don’t send Mr. Beaird’s version of tri-athlete to the Olympics–we’d lose!

After arriving at Subway, something smelled fishy. Burger King listed every entree in a handy pamphlet. They even had the backbone to proudly weigh in their big daddy, Double Whopper with Cheese, with 63 grams of fat. Yet Subway couldn’t even tell me how loaded their four biggest torpedoes were. I called the owner; even he didn’t know, nor did he ever know.

Pamphlet–shmamphlet! Anyone can get pamphlets printed but only those restaurants offering plenty of heart healthy menu choices get to proudly display the Mother Francis Heart’s D’Lite member sticker. We’re talking the approval of the medical community! Subway lists ten menu items with 6 fat grams or less compared to Burger King’s three salad choices at 10 g’s or less. And as Subway says, “If you can’t count the fat grams on two hands, don’t pick it up!”

Sure, crucify the whopper and don’t even list or know stats for your heart stoppers. Also intriguing was Subway’s menu directions. “It’s Better with Bacon!” and “PILE IT ON! ASK FOR DOUBLE MEAT!” It should also read, “If you can count the fat grams on one hand, then PILE ON THE BACON BABY!”

Of course Subway, while remaining the health guru of the fast food community, caters to a wide variety of clientele. Choice is the key word in business today and Subway offers the less health conscious consumer some bang for their buck as well.

Burger King’s chicken salad really hit the spot, but after seeing “PILE IT ON!,” my knees got weak, fingers trembled and I pointed to the foot-long seafood and crab.

Wobbly knees and trembling fingers are sure signs of hunger. I’m sure Randy longed for more satisfying fare as indicated by his pitiful comment on his meager salad, “They sure are skimpy on the chicken.”

Actually, I was adjusting my crown and saying who cares if they think it’s wimpy.burgerkingcrown

There’s just something about dining with a grown man wearing a Burger King crown! After many adjustments Randall finally found a comfortable fit. My husband, with his meatball sandwich, perhaps did not appreciate Randall’s sense of loyalty and whimsy. I found it rather amusing myself.

Debra kept shooting my hoagie jealous looks. I knew she wouldn’t ask, but figured she’d move in on her husbands’ chips. She did. My fat gram inquiry was greeted with, “I didn’t eat those, he did.”

Give a girl a break! Anyone who understands the unwritten code of wedlock knows that the wife cannot eat out with her man without nibbling from his plate. So I had one chip! I had to–it’s just one way the male knows everything is okay with his mate. If he were really in trouble she’d never touch his food!

Everyone knows it’s better with bacon, and that the whopper has 39 fat grams. Someone forgot to tell Subway they have about four of their own whoppers.

Offshore fishing

by Randall Beaird

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Doug, Randall, Pat

Every summer I go offshore fishing with childhood friends. Freeport and “Captain Elliot’s Party Boats” welcomed Pat, Doug, forty other anglers and myself. Until my family moved to the farm in 8th grade, we grew up in Houston; Pat lived next door, Doug a few houses down. We met in ’66 at age three, hit kindergarten running, and have ran together ever since.  Reunited for various events, usually fishing,  the same stories are told –some things never get old.dougpat

Forty miles and four hours later, the two detroit engines slid to a crawl. Eighty eager hands quivered to attention over buckets of slippery squid portions. After a few “looptyloops” on the hooks, we couldn’t wait to hear the captain signal when the anchor was set, “Let’s go get ‘em.” Anxious twenty ounce weights plummeted 125 feet.

Waxed burlap bags tied to the rail began to fill slowly. The red snapper had to be at least 15 inches long to keep, and everyone caught their fair share of kiddies.  A sprinkling of amberjack, angelfish, triggerfish, and ling were also brought in.
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A seventy year old man was once yanked in by a thirty pound amberjack. The current and fish pulled him under the boat while a deckhand dove in for the save; they both popped out on the other side. After being plucked from the water,his pole was caught by a fellow angler. They yelled for the old man and he was strapped to the deck. Tied up and soaking wet, he was handed the pole as cheers thundered all around. Dinner was extra special that night, considering it almost killed him.

Once on a weekend trip with my Uncle Bill and cousin Mike, I couldn’t leave the fish alone.  billmike (Thanks to my dad, I caught the fishing bug at an early age; he would wake me at four for Galveston or Freeport, and sometimes before midnight.)

While Bill and Mike retired to the lakeside cabin, I stumbled down to the pier with seven fishing poles. One by one, baited with minnows and worms, the poles lay strewn across the bulkhead like a line of bazookas. I never will forget holding my minnow up to the moon to frame it on the hook. When I wasn’t bounding from pole to pole arranging bait, I was in a lawn chair with a pole under each arm. If it was toothy grin night, I would’ve won.

After catching a crappie and turtle, I dozed off until around 3am  I caught movement out of my right eye. This was more than a nibble as the pole began a slow slide to the water. I just froze. The rod’s steady retreat was so intoxicating I couldn’t move. Even worse, it was Uncle Bill’s best zebco splashing into the lake.

Four hours of sleep later I was back down at the water fishing for the pole. With a party of hooks and weights tied to a nylon line, I drug the cove. Mike and Bill soon joined my side. Mike was trying hard not to laugh–Bill, trying hard to soften my defeat.

I felt so bad and was trying so hard, gauging my long tosses to cover every angle. Bill decided to help by holding the end of the line. Knowing of his firm grip, I slung the weighted hooks as far as I could. The line snaked out over the cove forty yards and more. It didn’t stop. Bill thought he was helping, but was only holding a separate eight foot piece. The actual end floated out over the water. Seeing Bill holding the short impostor string, and the surprised looks on all our faces, bounced us on the grass with laughter. Bill was laughing so hard, and turning so red, I thought he would pass out.

Back to the snapper conclusion.
As the day wore on I kept thinking, “Just a few more minutes!” I kept mumbling, “one more baby, just one more.” After catching several “just one mores”, the signal was given to head to shore. My last “one more” was in the bag on ice for ten seconds as the anchor rattled onto the boat.Then something sentimental hit my squid streaked frame. I grabbed that last snapper, popped his ballooned bladder (necessary for it to live) and set it free. We all like to play the good guy, especially in the middle of a great day.

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Rangers   1972

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My Gallbladder Saga — what’s your story?

by Randall Beaird

One Sunday afternoon a few months ago I polished off a half jar of crunchy peanut butter while watching a little golf. I’ve always been a bit of a binge eater, but this time my body went on strike. Later that evening I felt a dull pain growing in my upper abdomen as well as some serious gas. Tums were no help, and then I broke into a cold sweat, followed by an upset stomach. I thought something must have ruptured. After about an hour of agony I felt I was probably dying, but jumped in the shower. I didn’t want to be too smelly on the ER table.

Twenty minutes later I was in Lufkin at the hospital, though I thought I was going to pass out from the pain en route. After limping in and telling the nurse my symptoms I actually felt an ounce better, waved off the paperwork and took a seat to see if I was really dying (my deductible is too high for anything else.) Ten minutes later, the pain was almost gone so I sheepishly waved goodbye. Little did I know I’d be back.img_gall_bladder_ill

A couple weeks later, after sampling the new Chinese buffet two days in a row, my gallbladder started hollering that evening. It was not happy,(though I still didn’t know it was my GB at that time.) After being drenched with sweat and throwing up,   I showered again before my wild ride to the hospital (stopping twice to roar at the unlucky roadside pebbles.)

There was no doubt I needed to see a doctor this time, and I wasn’t too proud to moan on the stretcher, in the hallway, while I waited my turn. They told me it was my gallbladder, gave me some meds, and took some pictures. It had sludge, no stones, and was slightly inflamed.  (I learned later the best test for gallbladder problems is the HIDA scan.  It shows how well your GB is contracting to release bile.  Make sure they give you the CCK injection.)  I was there from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.. The emergency room bill was about $15,000! (of which I had to pay about $1,200.  But then I found out later my insurance company had a discount deal with the hospital and the insurance only had to pay about $3,000 of the $15,000.

I started googling gallbladders every night, and was amazed at how many people had their own similar story. Some people said a GB attack can be more painful than childbirth. A common thought was that most people have to learn the hard way how not to have another attack. I have since learned I can’t eat several slices of bacon followed by a tall glass of very cold water. And I can’t eat a whole sleeve of ritz crackers. But more than anything I can’t eat what would feed 2 or 3 people. The only thing that saved me from these attacks was a 20mg pill of Dicyclomine after it started (took 30 minutes to kick in.) If it was really bad, I would take a 25mg tablet of Promethazine for nausea. (The doctor also gave me an antibiotic prescription to take care of the inflamation.)  (I learned later with my second prescription of Dicyclomine that you should take a pill before you eat a big meal, and not wait until you start feeling the attack.  This simple tip would have saved me from having many of my attacks.)

It is amazing how divided the GB attackees are on whether to keep it or lose it. I decided for the time being I’m going to try and eat like a normal person and keep mine. I have found the “straw that broke the camels back” is definitely in play after your gallbladder first acts up. If you eat too much fat 2 or 3 days in a row, you are asking for trouble. But if you have just one high-fat day, you might be okay.  One time I had a big fajita dinner with the works, and would’ve been fine, but I was on vacation, figured I deserved a large ice cream snickers bar at midnight.  That was the straw, and around 4 a.m. the camel was not happy.

So tell me about yours…..now I love gallbladder stories (especially about the sludge part.)  I have an apple juice cocktail and some cranberry pills…..trying to slay the sludge. And if it helps…data at time of first attack, 50 years old, 5’10″, 215 pounds (down to 175.)  (You can email me your story and I’ll try to post them.  I had to turn off the comments–too much spam!)

Update after my first Thanksgiving since the attacks: I was very curious to see how my gallbladder would hold up during the holidays, with all the various goodies whispering my name.  I entered that arena at 172, having lost 43 pounds since the peanut butter took my GB hostage back in April.   Well,  I waddled back home at 176.  I ate everything, and never heard a whisper from my gallbladder.  I ate lots of turkey, ham, dressing, corn casserole, potatoes, cranberries, key lime pie, banana cream pie and fancy caramel pecan clusters.

MAJOR UPDATE

I made it through the Christmas holidays fine and my weight was back down to 170.  But then I went out to eat one night in late December, and added cherry cheesecake with ice cream at the end of a large meal.  Two hours later I was sweating and throwing up with tremendous gallbladder pain.  Fortunately it only lasted one hour, surprisingly short because I didn’t have any dicyclomine with me at the time.  Then this past Thursday I was starving by dinner time, a mistake, and ate a big burrito and quesadilla.  I should have known better.  While driving one hour later I had a very fast acting gallbladder attack.  Within two minutes I was sweating with tremendous GB pain.  I was swimming with nausea and felt like I might faint. Three seconds later right as I was telling myself I should pull over, I fainted.  The car behind me said I was down in the right ditch for about 150 yards before I shot across the road and barreled thru a barbed wire fence, went forty yards before hitting a big rotten tree.  (a large limb fell off the tree and landed on the trunk.)  I remember none of this.  I was doing about 60 when I left the roadway and I was very lucky in several ways.  I didn’t hit a tree on the right side of the road, nor a car when I crossed back over thru the left ditch.  I narrowly missed a very stout steel bar part of the fence next to the pasture gate, and then I hit a rotten tree versus a harder one.  The first thing I remember was seeing white and feeling like I was trying to wake up from a deep sleep, a sleep that lasted several hours.  I was so surprised, when the man that stopped kept asking me if I was alright.  I kept saying, “Man, I fainted. I can’t believe that happened.”  The pain in my gallbladder was quickly replaced by the pain in my sternum (though I think the dicyclomine pill I had taken just minutes before helped.)  I was able to walk to the ambulance and I talked them out of taking me to the hospital because I felt my sternum was just bruised from the airbag.  (The airbag around my feet also deployed which I think helped a lot too.)  But three days later my sternum was still pretty sore so I went and had it xrayed and they showed it to be fractured, but nothing could be done about it.  Today it’s feeling a little better.  Coughing/sneezing is very painful! I have an appointment with a gallbladder surgeon tomorrow morning and hopefully I can get it removed soon.  I’ve had about ten attacks since last April.  I’m taking all the tests they ran yesterday and in April to hopefully cut down on the bill.  (I have to pay 20 percent.)  I thanked the cops for not writing me a ticket–they said they could tell my story was legit and that I wasn’t on anything (other than being hopelessly addicted to food and stupid.)

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 Surgery Scheduled:

My gallbladder surgery is Tuesday, January 28.  The doctor decided there was enough evidence present to remove it without further testing!  The hospital’s estimated bill is $2,300 of which I have to pay $2,100 (to meet my deductible and then I pay 20%.)  The doctor’s estimated portion is only $1,000 ($200 that I pay) and the anesthesiologist portion will be $3,000 ($300 that I pay) which doesn’t add up so I will call back tomorrow to get a more accurate estimate.  When the doctor said it was time to remove it I was a little emotional….it just hit me, that maybe, just maybe, life would get a little less complicated.

Surgery Completed

So far so good after my gallbladder surgery.  It was a little nerve-wracking driving to the hospital at 5 a.m., as it was sleeting/snowing and mom’s windshield had a thick coat of ice on it before we started.  I ate my first meal with trepidation, about 30 minutes ago, though I let the first few bites settle for about 15 minutes before finishing.  The lap. procedure left four holes in my stomach, but the pain pills seem to be handling that well.  Dr. Cole said my gallbladder was inflamed and he noticed a couple pebble sized stones on the perimeter, but he didn’t open it up.  I told him to save the stones for me for my follow-up visit, at which time they will remove a staple in one of my incisions, though maybe I have a staple in each one, not sure.

Feb. 3, 2014 — Staples Removed and Gallstones picked up

I had seven staples removed from my stomach (the four holes from lap. surgery) and Dr. Cole said I could pick up my gallstones at the lab.  I was surprised to find a bag full of them at the lab….135 of them. I guess they didn’t show up on the scan last Spring because there were so many packed tightly that they looked like “sludge,” the diagnosis at the time.  I guess the ER doctor wasn’t that good at diagnosing gallstones and I should have seen the specialist, but after the $15,000 ER bill I was a little too wary.  You will find a lot of horror stories on the internet, of complications after your gallbladder is removed, but I have had zero problems.  I think the complications occur in less than 10 percent of the GB removals, but they are a very vocal group (and I don’t blame them!) I can eat anything I want without fear, though I’m trying to keep my weight at 170.  (Some people say the main reason I had so many stones is I wasn’t drinking enough water.)

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June 5, 2014 —  It’s been 4 months since my GB removal–still no complications with diet, other than I’m up to 190.  It’s so nice not having to worry about what I eat, but I really should.

July 10, 2014 – I heard that some people had less control of their bowel movements after GB surgery, and that reality seems to have kicked in this past month.  Where before I might have a twenty minute warning, it has now sometimes been whittled down to a three minute warning, to “go time,” and I mean “go time” in a scary way.  The kind where I see myself telling the officer one day, as I sheepishly come back out from behind the tree, “Uhh, well, you see, I had my gallbladder removed a few months ago, and, well, uh….I’m sorry…this is kind of embarrassing…..there’s no way I could have made it to the next gas station.”

August 19, 2015 – The “go time” issue is not that bad anymore, though it does come knockin’ once or twice/month…..more often if I’m eating more than I should.

So, in the end, this is what I learned….

Foods to limit/avoid when your gallbladder goes on strike. (when attacks are due to too much fat…..There is a different approach to take if your attacks are caused by having too much of a low-fat diet.)

  • overeating in general
  • eggs
  • fried foods
  • dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream)
  • mayonnaise
  • peanut butter
  • fatty foods

Different foods are triggers for different people.  My biggest trigger is eggs.  I can eat normal amounts of everything on the list, but when I eat overly generous portions, I am playing with fire.  For example, I’ve been hooked on this nacho cheddar sprinkle for popcorn lately.  It’s not the cheese sprinkle that gets me, it’s the big glob of margerine (probably 4 tablespoons) I melt to put on it as well (air popped so salt/sprinkle won’t stick.)  After about 10 days of this heavenly treat, my gallbladder had a painful flare-up.   Likewise, while on vacation, I ate two sausage egg mcmuffins for breakfast two days in a row, and on the 3rd day, with the same breakfast, I had a GB attack.  Again, the ol’ straw/camel’s back thing.

I think people have gallbladder attacks for two reasons.

1. They overload it too much with high fat foods (my case.)

2. They under-work it with a low-fat diet, and the gallbladder gets clogged up with stones/sludge because it’s not being given enough fat to go to work on, and flush the bile out of it.  It stagnates.

Update on my favorite popcorn snack: I still use that Nacho Cheddar sprinkle (by Kernel Seasons) but I get it to stick by spraying the air popped corn, as it comes out into the bowl, with no-fat canola oil cooking spray.

 

Sixty feet deep

by Randall Beaird

randallanne2In 1989, one of my sisters talked me into moving to San Diego. For Texans, San Diego is scuba diving paradise. Certified in Nacogdoches while in College, I found a scuba club in the shoreline city. On Easter weekend I attended a bizarre “Easter rock hunt.” Three hundred multicolored two pound rocks were scattered in six to twenty feet of water. Only snorkelers were allowed outfitted with nylon mesh lobster bags to collect the rocks.

My first trip past the breaking waves had me tasting the Pacific–the excitement produced some untimely breaths. My mind drifted back to a Houston backyard and a kid charging around like a boiled egg addict. Now, the ocean was boiling. Dozens of bobbing wet-suits disappeared, madly searching for colored rocks. Thirteen stones later I was about ready to sink.

Teary eyed, I swam over countless others going back to shore. I knew one more duck divelimemouthpiece to the sandy bottom would be all she wrote. Afterwards, I laid under a twisting pine, thankful my belching was about over and for not drowning. Each rock represented a raffle ticket for assorted scuba gear. I walked away with a dinky lime flavored mouthpiece.

My first real dive in the Pacific found seven of us sixty feet deep, circling a sunken steel tower. Quite a variety of fish hovered around the tangled beams. My dive buddy led the way, slowly weaving through the rusty derrick. At one point, with my head turned, I floated too close and his frog kick slammed a fin into my face-mask. Freezing water instantly filled my mask. Sixty feet deep, it was a surprising and deadly situation.

Some divers panic and drown. I considered cashing things in with a dramatic series of convulsions, but my mind flashed back to practicing in the pool. I looked up, took a deep breath and inched my mask open. With nostrils flared like a scared sheriff’s pony, a deliberate stream of air purged the wet death out the cracks. The thread of life grew to a cable; I was going to live. But, salty eyelids ripped any comfort apart as they begged for the back of my hand. As a good-will gesture, I rubbed the tempered glass.
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While in San Diego, I worked in Micrographics with a second job on a San Diego Bay boat line. As a bow-tied waiter, I began working the dinner cruises. Wanting more than one night/week (overstaffed), I switched to the deckhand position and became the back-up tour guide.

With minimal deckhand hours, I talked my boss into letting me fill the dishwasher opening. It was humble pie defined but six days of pay. The debonair diners danced the night away as I purged their dishes in a cloud of steam below.

After a month of washing down porcelain mountains there was an opening for assistant cook. I got the job! I couldn’t wait to wear the cool chef’s hat. ChefHatI was now working for the grand master of edibles and orders. The head chef had his own TV show and barked out commands like a drill sergeant. My frantic dish washer shuffle turned into a proud gallop; I was running with the big dogs now. I eagerly slid cold steel through hills of vegetables, striving for the same impressive head chef stroke.

Toward the end of the dinner cruise the wait-staff would often dance with each other. All the cooks were guys and my hat embarrassed the waitresses, so I looked on content but hopeful. I’m not too shy but it was too much to ask of a dinner guest, considering my giant hat and I smelled like the main course.

The band began “Lady in Red,” the last song of the cruise, when this lovely woman approached. Shuffling across the hardwood floor, I felt on top of the world. Maybe it was her compliment on my hat, the conversation, or maybe her shiny red dress. Whatever it was, life was firing on all cylinders. I smelled like dinner but danced like dessert.

K.T. Oslin

by Randall Beaird

A few years ago (1998), Country Music Singer K.T. Oslin was at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville to be honored as a Distinguished Alumna. I was invited to cover the event by a local newspaper. I fell in love with country music in 1976 while listening to Eddie Rabbit sing “Two Dollars in The Jukebox.” I was thirteen. Eleven years later K.T. began her triple Grammy run. Probably known best for “Eighty’s Ladies” and “I’ll Always Come Back,” Oslin sang “Hold Me” with such emotion in 1988 the chills came in waves the first time I heard it.
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Born in Arkansas in 1942, K.T. was known as Kay in 1960 as a drama major at Lon Morris College. She chose Jacksonville in large part due to the reputation of legendary drama professor Zula Pearson. Oslin was also famous then, being “Class Favorite” and playing many leads. She has never married.

Freshman classmate Richard Dixon said, “She was the most congenial and accommodating person you’d ever meet.” By the time K.T. hit Nashville in the mid 80′s, legendary songwriter Bob McDill said she had the most outstanding talent of anyone he’d ever seen.

I couldn’t make the press conference at 1:30 on Friday, though someone said I could interview K.T. after the banquet. I know the happy, naive fool and play it well–I told everyone. Loose lips spread the jinx seed, and some people burn their bridge before they get there.

The sun fell into whispering oaks as I showered under cloud nine. My suit was perfect, my shoes dry and thirsty. Desperate, with no polish in sight, I whipped out the pam vegetable spray. One whiff of the buttery aroma and I was ready for something special. That kind of shine deserves a commercial.

After arriving and meeting Oslin’s agent, Stan Moress, I was tagged the “very nice fax man” and put in line to meet KT I shook the hand of a living legend and sat through dinner on the edge of my seat. If someone shot a starter pistol, I would have been nothing but a blur hurdling tables. Tributes were paid to Oslin in a frenzy of remembering, laughter and tears. The rafters shook as K.T. reminisced.

Afterwards, I stood on the fringe of the panting fans and classmates. I was happy for them–eyes fixed, teeth blazing, shoulders twitching with pens in hand, but I still thought my selfish please hurry prayer. I felt like a snow cone juiced with zeal, but starting to melt.
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They could have been turtles circling the last leaf of lettuce. I could have been the kid staggering toward the last popsicle. My own little world was melting right before my eyes. There were just too many people and not enough time–a sad reality surrounding celebrities. Stan hovered like a guardian angel and informed me nicely, the interview would have to be postponed. It was only near midnight.

I left a note hoping I could be squeezed in on Saturday and staggered away a sad stack of bones. Saturday came along with K.T.’s condolences–she was too tired. After numerous meetings with faculty, alumni, and students, it was easy to understand why.

So if you come over for dinner, dust off your stories, trot out a few jokes–just don’t tell me you’re too beat to answer a few questions about your first hit single. And there’s got to be some singing, maybe even a duet. Because late at night, in my dreams, I’m still living that loss. K.T. Oslin, the one that got away.