I’ve narrowly cheated death yet again

My tombstone

There are many downsides to being a hypochondriac … but it does have its benefits. Take yesterday, for example.

Yesterday, I headed to my doctor’s office for the third time in about two weeks … which, for me, is unfuckingprecedented, since my immune system is basically on par with Wolverine’s. And yet, despite my mutant healing powers, I’ve had a persistent cough for, like, a month now.

During my first doctor’s visit, he prescribed an albuterol inhaler and a codeine-based cough suppressant. After a week, the inhaler had accomplished roughly jack shit, and I’m pretty sure I was downing the cough medicine only because the idea of legally ingesting an opiate before bed each night seemed appealing.

In addition to my ongoing cough and blossoming drug habit, I then developed a reddish, dime-sized, welt-like thing on my face, just slightly below and to the right of my nose … which, really, is exactly where you want to develop a reddish, dime-sized, welt-like thing, because at least then it’s not very noticeable.

I literally watched this thing spontaneously appear on my face while washing up after doing some work on our porch, and I tried to convince myself that perhaps I’d been bitten by a spider while tending to that chore … but being bitten on the face by a spider seems like the kind of thing a guy would notice while it was happening, so I wasn’t fully buying my own theory.

Last Thursday, still coughing and sporting my attractive face welt, I returned to the doctor, who subsequently prescribed an antibiotic for the cough and a topical ointment for the face welt, about which he said: “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

Four days into my antibiotic-and-topical-ointment regimen, not only was I was still coughing like a barking seal and sporting my ever-snazzy face welt, but also I was experiencing a chronic headache and some general sensitivity and discomfort on most of the right side of my face, head, neck, throat and right ear. Clearly, it was time to do what any respectable, modern-day hypochondriac does to diagnose what ails him: check the Internet.

A brief Google search later, I reached the conclusion I always reach when I use the Internet to diagnose an unexplained ailment: I had cancer. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to be exact.

Certain that my children soon would be fatherless and my wife a widow, I decided I should at least let the doctor confirm my imminent death before getting my affairs in order. Thus, I called his office Monday evening, scheduled an appointment for yesterday morning, and spent the interim upsetting myself with thoughts of leaving my kids behind at such a young age, and of not seeing them grow into adulthood.

And I wish I was kidding, believe me … because I know that some people — “the sane,” you might call them — can’t imagine being so unbelievably fucked in the head …. but I am absolutely terrified of disease and death and my own mortality in general … to the point that it is a full-blown phobia. (This dovetails nicely with my hypochondria, which causes me to immediately assume anything more serious than a brief head cold is terminal.)

As I got out of my car and headed into the medical building for my appointment yesterday morning, I heard someone yell “Dead man walking!” Probably it was me who yelled it, but still … not a good sign either way.

“You don’t have non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” my doctor lied while examining me. “The discomfort you’re having is only on one side of your head?”


“Is your scalp sensitive right here?” he asked while touching a newly sensitive region of scalp on the top-right side of my head.

“Yes,” I replied, impressed that he had predicted that … so much so that I was willing to entertain the possibility he might not be lying about the you-don’t-have-cancer thing after all.

“I know what you have now,” he said. I assumed his next words would be “Terminal [something].” I was wrong. Go figure.

“You have shingles.”

Shingles? Motherfucking shingles? Who the fuck gets shingles? Isn’t shingles something people got in the 1600s after spending a month in a cargo hold while crossing the Atlantic? Or maybe that was scurvy. Either way, I’m pretty sure you have to be a special kind of basket case to contract shingles in 2014.

But anyway … on the one hand, I was all, “Boo! Shingles!” … but, on the other hand, I was all, “Yay! Totally not cancer!”

And so, “Yay! Shingles!” I said.

“You’re probably the first patient I’ve heard say ‘Yay! Shingles!'” replied my doc, who clearly has no idea just how deep my neuroses run.

“So I don’t need chemotherapy?”

“No. I mean, I could give you chemotherapy, but it won’t do anything beneficial for you.”

I decided to skip the unnecessary chemo and instead received a prescription for Valacyclovir HCL 1, which comes in the form of an enormous, blue pill roughly the size of a whitewater raft. With any luck, it will clear up this shingles thing in the next week or two. I hope. Because my fucking head is killing me … which bums me out until I remind myself that I don’t have terminal cancer.

Which brings us to: You non-hypochondriacs are missing out on the incredible flood of headache-minimizing relief you could be feeling every time you learn that you don’t have terminal cancer. And, yes, you might argue that the burden of needlessly worrying that you’re about to die a horrible and premature death offsets the benefits of subsequently finding out you’re OK … but that’s only because you don’t know how great it feels to experience the illusion of getting a second chance at life!

In related news: It’s exhausting to be me.

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And then I bought a spaceship!

And then I bought a spaceship!
Click the image above to view full-size photo.

In the midst of all this madness, I realized I was a 44-year-old man driving an econo-car that I bought when I was 29. … [read the rest]

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I’m basically replacing Howard Stern … except for the “replacing Howard Stern” part.


Testing, testing … one, two … mic check … is this thing on? It is? OK, good.


Listen, you might find this hard to believe, but things went so well for me at Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash that Howard himself gave me a job. In fact, he said he’s grooming me to take over the show after he retires. My first move? Fire Benjy.

Of course, the reason you might find that hard to believe is that it’s, well, total bullshit. Completely made up. Nothing more than a figment of my imagination. HOWEVER … I did get to appear on one of Howard’s SiriusXM channels the night before his Birthday Bash. Granted, not quite as exciting as landing a multi-million-dollar radio gig, but still … a way-cool adventure that made my trip to NYC that much more awesome.

Here’s how it all went down.

After I won tickets to the Birthday Bash, Mutt — the dude who runs SternFanNetwork.com and hosts the “Super Fan Roundtable” radio program on SiriusXM’s “Howard 101” channel — pretty much begged me to appear on his Birthday Bash Eve show … and by “pretty much begged me,” I mean “had no idea who I was, but was kind enough to invite me up after I relentlessly hounded him like an annoying douche.” Same thing.

And so it was that I boarded a train to Manhattan a day earlier than originally expected, checked into my swank digs at the Cassa hotel, and headed over to the SiriusXM studios, a sprawling complex located on the 36th floor of the McGraw-Hill Building in Midtown.


They forgot to put up the “…welcomes Daddy Scratches!” banner. An innocent and deeply regretted oversight on their part, I’m sure.

Shortly after my arrival, I met my fellow panelists and our gracious host:


From left to right: Zachary (a.k.a. winner of the Most Beautiful Penis Contest … a 2013 “Howard Stern Show” segment that I’m happy to say I didn’t witness); moi; Drew; the previously mentioned Mutt; Joseph Mooski (proprietor of SuperFanWorld.com); Erin; Jesse from San Diego; and Dan, who is from Boston, has two kids and is mental about Howard Stern and Van Halen. Hmmmm. That sounds familiar…

Before hitting the air live for “Super Fan Roundtable,” we all went into a studio and took turns voicing intros that may be used during replays of classic “Howard Stern Show” segments … so if someday you hear “Jon from Philly” introducing a segment during which former “Stern Show” sidekick Artie Lange talks about snorting cocaine through a prosthetic pig snout while stopped at a traffic light wearing a half-man/half-pig costume? That’ll be me.

Once we finished with that, it was showtime … and, clearly sensing that I was radio gold, Mutt hit me up first.


We professional radio types often keep one ear free from the “cans” (« that’s radio lingo right there) so we can hear sounds in the studio that aren’t captured by the microphone. It’s a tricky concept that I don’t expect you civilians to fully understand, but don’t feel bad; as you may recall, I had a tiny bit of college-radio experience back in the early ’90s, so, you know … I’m kind of an expert.

Upon Mutt’s prompting, I regaled the surely captivated audience with my fascinating tale of how I almost won tickets to Howard’s Birthday Bash … and then how I actually won tickets to Howard’s Birthday Bash. There was heartache. There was triumph. Tears followed by joyful laughter. It was some of the most riveting radio in the history of broadcasting. Which was impressive, since I spoke for all of about a minute and a half.


Stern Show Trivia: That dude in the black shirt and glasses? Producer/board operator Al Ragone. You’re welcome.

The thing is, it was a larger-than-usual panel and a shorter-than-usual episode, and the agenda was packed tight with coverage of the impending Birthday Bash — none of which was a surprise, as Mutt had advised us well in advance that the modified format would mean very little airtime for each of us. I could not have cared less; I was happy just to be there and to have such a unique experience.

My son texted me the following critique while I was still in the studio:

Zan calls me out for dropping F-bombs.

In my defense, I didn’t know my wife was going to let the kids listen. Imagine my surprise. And then imagine my horror when I thought they might still be listening during another panelist’s graphic description of a sexual act. (They weren’t … thank GAWD … which was a relief, because I’m pretty sure I don’t want my kids learning about sex from anything having to do with Ronnie the Limo Driver‘s deviant behavior. I’ll spare you the details … and you should thank me profusely for doing so.)

After the show, we took advantage of our surroundings for some unique photo ops.


I’ve been telling people I got my picture taken with Howard. This counts, right?


The cover of my forthcoming book, “When Wrinkles Attack: What to do when your 44-year-old face looks 80.” But I’m not Photoshopping it. Because I don’t care. Nope, doesn’t bother me at all. Clearly. You what? You think I’m “obsessing”? I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you? Just because I keep talking about it and can’t seem to let it go doesn’t mean I’m … OK, I’ll stop now.

When they finally pushed us out of the building, all of us who were spending the night in New York grabbed a couple beers … but I kept it mellow and turned in early so I could rest up for the next night’s festivities — which, as previously reported, were epic. But getting to visit the SiriusXM studios and appearing on “Super Fan Roundtable” the night before? That made the trip exponentially more special and memorable than it otherwise would have been.

Hopefully, Mutt will have me up again sometime … and then I’ll land that multi-million-dollar contract. No doubt about it.

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It’s very important that one of you buy me a house on Florida’s Gulf Coast, because fuck this

And you thought I was having fun last week! Well, just look at how much fun I’m having this week!


Yes, we got positively hammered with snow this past Monday … and because I was determined to finish my “Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash” wrap-up before doing anything else, I didn’t get outside with a shovel in my hand until around 8:30 p.m. … and I didn’t finish shoveling the foot-or-so of wet, heavy snow until around 11:30 p.m.

The late-night shoveling excursion probably explains why I’m now battling a cold … an ailment that arrived in the wake of Tuesday night’s freezing-rain storm, which showered down upon the snow that already had blanked the earth. And I will readily admit that the aftermath looked kind of cool:


Visual aesthetics notwithstanding, however, this particular weather phenomenon sucked harder than a Shop Vac thanks to the massive quantities of limbs and trees it brought down … which not only further decimated the already fucked-up trees in my yard


… but also tore down power lines all over southeastern Pennsylvania. More than 715,000 customers were without power … including — you guessed it! — us.


The scene I captured above is actually the least devastating example I saw during my drive to work yesterday … but, after taking that particular photo and then pulling into an adjacent driveway so I could turn my car around, I promptly got stuck in the snow and ice. Fortunately, as I mentioned in a previous shitty-winter-weather-related entry, I’m a self-taught snow-and-ice stunt driver, so I was able to redneck my 15-year-old Ford Ice Skate back onto the road … but once I freed myself I decided to pull the plug on my storm-chaser photo essay and instead concentrated on navigating the winter war zone.

There’s nothing like a mass power outage to make you realize just how quickly society will fall apart if something more serious should happen … because, within hours of losing power, it felt like we were in an episode of “The Walking Dead.” Except, instead of surviving a life-and-death struggle in the midst of a global zombie apocalypse, we were faced with far dire horrors … like no Internet, no cell signal and no way to recharge our quickly dying gaggle of iPhones, iPads and Kindles.

We survived by fleeing to my brother-in-law’s home, where he and his family kindly took us in. Then, like the modern-day warrior I am, I braved the night in search of dinner. The traffic lights were out, the storefront lights were out and I was beginning to doubt my chances of success when, suddenly, like the Star of Christ, a lone, bright glow cut through the darkness.

All hail the mighty Wawa.

In the years that have passed since my unfortunate first encounter with the sandwich-ordering machine at southeastern Pennsylvania’s favorite convenient store, I’ve become a full-blown Wawa convert … and my fellow worshipers were out in full force on Wednesday night, thanks to what I can only assume was the divine intervention that powered the Wawa with the energy of a thousand suns while everything around it lay shrouded in darkness. Either that, or they have a generator.

At any rate, it was like Wawawoodstock in that place … and I could feel bearing down upon me the collective stares of the ever-growing line that was forming behind me while I navigated my way through the touchscreen ordering system. Thankfully, I was a sandwich-ordering ninja on this occasion, masterfully tapping out instructions for more than a half-dozen sandwiches of all shapes, sizes and varieties. The manager awarded me a Master’s of Sandwich-Ordering degree. I framed it. And put a chain on it. I’m wearing it around my neck right now. Pretty sure I get a free sandwich the next time I drop in.

By yesterday afternoon, with power still not restored to our home and power-company estimates indicating that we’d probably be waiting until Sunday, I decided to unburden my brother-in-law’s family by booking a non-refundable hotel room. My brother-in-law’s family, however, did not want to be unburdened, and subsequently invited us to spend a second night in their home … an offer the kids eagerly accepted, as they were having fun spending time with their cousins … which is how I almost ended up getting a night alone at the Sheraton Suites.


After leaving work, I decided to stop by the house to grab a photo-card reader so I could download the pictures above and do some blogging from the hotel … and discovered upon my arrival that the power was back on.

I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t hesitate for a moment or two — OK, definitely two — before calling my wife to tell her that she and the kids could return home for the night.

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A fan’s-eye view of Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash

If you’re still suffering from the heartbreak of not scoring tickets to Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash, I am warning you with peace and love to close this browser window immediately after you read the following tweet (please ignore the hashtags) … because nothing else I’m about to say is going to make you feel any better about not being there.

You’ve been warned, my friends. Proceed at your own peril.

* * *

I had braced myself for the possibility that my Howard Stern Birthday Bash experience might fall well short of all the hype and anticipation … because that’s just the kind of neurotic killjoy I am. Turns out I had nothing to fear; from beginning to end, it was everything a hardcore Stern fan could have hoped for.

For starters, this happened less than 30 seconds after my wife and I stepped out of our car in front of the Hammerstein Ballroom:

Two seconds after that, this happened:

For those of you scratching your heads: I could explain to you who those folks are with whom I’m posing, but if you need such an explanation, learning their identities would mean nothing to you. If, however, you do know who they are, then you will likely get a kick out of hearing that some of them knew who I was. (There are few things more surreal than receiving a warm and friendly greeting upon being recognized by High Pitch Eric.)

After our Wack Pack encounter, my wife and I joined the ever-growing line forming along 34th Street … and then we waited (and waited … and waited) for the gatekeepers to let us in. Fortunately, the time was broken up by various meetings and greetings with some of the new friends I made during my appearance on the previous night’s edition of “Howard Stern’s Super Fan Roundtable” (an experience deserving of it’s own separate, soon-to-come blog entry), as well as some fellow contest winners I’d “met” on Facebook in the days leading up to the event. (Hi guys!)

The previously announced 4:30 entry time came and went. The line didn’t move. Darkness began to fall on the city. My wife’s feet began to freeze (which was for the best, really, since the shoes she was wearing were torturously painful).


Seconds after receiving my tweet, Howard dropped what he was doing, came outside, found my wife and me, and personally escorted us to a table on the floor, where we were seated next to Robert Downey Jr., who asked if I’d be willing to do a cameo in “Avengers 2.” (I told him to call my people.)


OK, not so much … but the line did eventually start moving, and we were among the first folks to enter the check-in tent, whereupon we each received our golden ticket:


We also each were given one of these:


This device was a stroke of genius, and whomever at Sirius came up with the idea of giving one to every partygoer deserves a raise, because having the ability to, for example, clearly hear Howard’s interview with David Letterman over the drunken shouts of the ignoramuses in attendance who couldn’t handle having access to an open bar was a major plus.

And speaking of the open bar: There was an open bar! Several of them, in fact … so my wife and I quickly secured our first of several margaritas made with [Steve Grillo voice] “top shelve ligor” and then struck a pose in front of this amazing backdrop:

Not long after that, the show began the only proper way it could have: With Rob Zombie and his bandmates delivering a kick-ass rendition of “American Nightmare,” the studio version of which has for years signaled the start of Howard’s morning-radio program.

For every Super Fan in attendance, the message was clear: This was “The Howard Stern Show” on steroids. If the show’s average morning edition is Bruce Banner, then the program we were about to experience was the motherfucking Hulk. (Shout out to My Geektime.)

From that point on, it was like a four-hour highlight reel. I managed to do a bit of live-tweeting, during which I captured the following random moments:

Please note that I have never been a huge Maroon 5 fan … and, while I’ve always enjoyed Adam Levine’s appearances on Howard’s radio show, I wasn’t exactly pining away for him to appear at the Birthday Bash … and I certainly wasn’t pining away for him to show up and do a cover version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” … which is why it is with no small degree of surprise that I tell you Adam Levine’s rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain” was one of the night’s most unexpectedly amazing musical moments. Even if he hadn’t nailed the vocal (he did), it would have been unforgettable just for the way he positively shredded the guitar solo. (Adam Levine plays guitar? Who knew?)

That’s right, bitch: Heisenberg crashed the bash.

Two words: Dave. Grohl. ’nuff said.

* * *

Listen, no laundry list of celebrity moments I provide here will do it justice … and god knows there are more than enough write-ups floating around the Internet already (like this particularly well done piece that Andy Greene wrote for Rolling Stone). Suffice to say that this four-plus-hour show flew by, and my wife and I spent the entire time oscillating between total enjoyment and total amazement at how lucky we were to be there.

Sure, it would have been nice to be seated on the floor with the tsunami (pronounce the “t,” please) of celebrity VIPs … but, hey, not everybody got an up-close-and-personal encounter with a seemingly annihilated Tan Mom, now, did they?


My wife also had the pleasure of running into Tan Mom in the bathroom, where she overheard this scintillating conversation:

Random Woman: “Hey, Tan Mom! How’s your daughter?”

Tan Mom: “Pale!”

No, I’m not even kidding.

Shortly thereafter, we watched Tan Mom get ushered out of the venue by some of New York’s finest … which inspired this exchange on Saturday:

So, no, we didn’t exactly rub elbows with the stars … but we did experience firsthand the greatest event in Stern Show history … and came away with some great stories to boot.

The massive “Walk This Way” jam at the end of the night — complete with Steven Tyler and Train’s Pat Monahan on vocals, Slash on guitar and Dave Grohl pounding the drums like his life depended on it — was incredible, as were dozens of other moments from throughout the star-studded program … but I can say without hesitation that the best part of attending “Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash” was watching (and listening) to Howard Stern do “The Howard Stern Show.” The man is a living legend and a broadcasting pioneer who deserves every accolade that was showered upon him during Friday night’s mind-blowingly epic show … and I will be forever thankful that I was one of the lucky few who were there to see it.

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