CLEAN MY SPLEEN - Shari Elliker UNPLUGGED

My friend Donna put the idea in my head. Donna is one of those people who claims to hate "western medicine". I always wonder if these folks are going to a primary care doctor in an old saloon and being treated by a guy who wears chaps and a lab coat. Anyway, she had the diagnosis for my malaise --it was my spleen. Now, I have no idea what a spleen does, but I imagine it is the underemployed, upstairs neighbor to that lazy, deadbeat appendix. It skates by doing practically nothing for years, but then manages to nearly kill you when it goes bad. Like an old jar of mayonnaise in the back of the refrigerator. Or, my ex-mother in law. Donna was taking some kind of herbal supplements and playing her sitar in a certain key to get her smug spleen back in order. She offered to make me a white sage smoothie to help my deranged chakras. Instead, I figured it was time to head to the old west.

Last time I went to the doctor, I was certain that my brain had frozen after eating a banana Italian ice. I told the doctor that after one bite of the ice, I had such severe brain freeze that I was doubled over and moving around like I was doing a tribal war dance. It drew a crowd. I had memory loss. And a deep dent in my forehead where I had tried to push away the pain. The doctor said I was overreacting and that brain freeze was totally harmless. But, if I really were concerned about neurological damage, she would be happy to do a cat scan or a pet scan or something involving a domestic animal. I still wonder if she had to consult with one of her opthamologist friends to get her eyes unstuck from rolling them so far back in her head.

OK, I'm a hypochondriac. Even when I was a child, I was certain I had every disease I heard about. I told my kindergarten teacher that I had gout after watching some celebrity talk about it on "The Mike Douglas Show." Unfortunately, I said "goat," so she thought my parents were farmers.

I made the appointment and a resolution: this time I was going to be totally honest. You see, I've been lying to doctors all my life. I want their approval. And, if they really knew about all my bad habits they would take away my organ donor card. Keith Richards and Courtney Love would be better donors than me.

But if I want that sinister spleen evicted I have to be honest. I will tell him the truth about how many beers a week I drink even though the numbers may not go up that high on the form (p.s. my nickname in college was Oktoberfest). I will admit that my work out routine is centered around opening the beers. I will confess how long it's been since I've had blood drawn and not count the last time I cut myself shaving my legs. I'll tell him about my diet and how most children get more nutrition from a day of carnival food than I get in a week, that the only fruit I eat is blended into a cocktail, and that vegetables are like a some strange delicacy I see other people eat but just "don't get". Kind of like blowfish or monkey brains.

The doctor didn't bat an eye at all of my bad habits. Then he asked me about my hobbies. I admitted that my favorite thing to do was to drink beer (go figure), watch Dateline and make fun of the way correspondent Keith Morrison talks- like he's narrating a Dr. Seuss book. I just love his sing songy cadence and how he stretches out words for emphasis. He'll say "It's a FUNNNNY thing about LITTTTLE towns with BiiiiiiiiiiiiG secrets." The doctor laughed. I was on a roll, so I told him that due to my marathon beer drinking, I thought my liver was growing and I might be tasting it in the back of my throat. I didn't really know if a liver could grow, but figured if Elvis's colon weighed 40 pounds when he died, my liver was certainly headed for Jenny Craig. Oh, and let's get that soul sucking spleen out of me. He laughed again. I should sell tickets. I can't wait to come back.

For the follow up visit (and performance), I wanted to tell him that I was certain that I had come down with leukemia because of the blood work he had ordered but decided to break the ice with another round of Keith Morrison, "Sooo does God want me baaaaaaack doctor??" I got nothing. Morrison either had jumped the shark or I really was dying.

The doctor told me that he was mostly concerned about my obsession with my health. He suggested that I create more of a personal "community" to get my mind off of myself. Doctor McSuddenly Freud explained that, by surrounding myself with friends and hobbies, I would mitigate some of my hypochondria. He, for example, belongs to a blue grass music club and rescues cats. I asked Dr. Doolittle who was in charge of rescuing the cats from the bluegrass music. He smiled in that, "we mock what we don't understand you pitiful, lonely, non-community having loser" kind of way.

"Well, I have a community", I declared. "I have an excellent pair of black boots I got last year on sale at Marshalls and my beer." This time, I got the condescending half smile. Do they teach that in med school? "Ok. Ok, I'll cut back on the vitamin ME," I quipped. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis. The show was definitely over.

He tried again. Did I at least have a spiritual life? What did I believe in? Hmm. What. Do. I. Believe?

That wind chimes and children make entirely too much noise, that cruise ships are basically Denny's at sea, that even on skinny people skinny jeans are horrible, that men should never, ever show their bare feet in public, that chicken breast is rarely moist and I don't know why anyone orders it at a restaurant, that rust should have never been considered a color, that vanity plates need to come with a glossary of terms or not be allowed, and that older women wear their hair much too short during a time in their life when they are looking more like men than ever.

He just stared at me. I was getting nervous so I bargained. I asked him if I had to have a "community," because that just felt too overwhelming. Communities are filled with minivans and kids smoking pot behind the high school. Like Hillary Clinton, I want to start with a "village". With a walkable Main Street and adorable shops. There I could develop a community with my hair stylist, my manicurist and the guy who takes my groceries to my car. Once that's successful, I could work my way up to a small island off the pacific and eventually an undiscovered continent near the Orient. The world would be my oyster – as long as it came with a draft.

Oh, and by the way, my cholesterol was a little high. Stupid spleen.