That's a question I hear from time to time when I run into folks who read this column once in awhile. In fact, I think it's the second-most common question I hear, right after "Does somebody actually pay you to write that nonsense?"
Well, obviously, a lot of my columns are based on what's going on when I write them. Ergo, I often talk about trips we take, places we see, people I spend time with and the homes where we live. And, of course, there's the fish-breathed attentions of my bad cat Max. But sometimes, there's not much going on and Max is asleep, so I'm actually forced to come up with some ideas on my own.
Often, my first step when struggling to find a topic is to scan the whole archive of columns I maintain on my laptop, especially the really dumb ones that never saw the light of day, thinking that maybe an old idea might be worth resurrecting during those times when I'm kind of stuck. I took a walk down memory lane the other day and discovered a veritable giant junk pile of discarded topics that failed to make the cut.
Back in the fall of 2008, not long after I started publishing this weekly opus, I was, apparently, all set to regale you with the history of certain colloquial catch-phrases that included the startling revelation that the expression "the greatest thing since sliced bread" had a sort of local connection in that the first bread slicing machine was invented by one Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa. I actually fell asleep while writing that one, so that column never reached fruition, along with one a few weeks later that shared a list of questions that apparently baffle us all, such as:
• "Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?"
• "Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'Lisp'?"
• "If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?"
Now, I've gotta admit that I think this is pretty funny stuff, which also leads me to believe I must have hijacked it somewhere on the internet and then decided I couldn't honestly claim it as my own. Too bad.
The next year saw me ready to proclaim my brainy idea regarding the U.S. Postal Service's Forever Stamps, whereby I would buy up a gazillion of them, then wait for the price of postage to rise and make me a fortune. How exactly that was going to happen still escapes me, and the column never flew.
A quick scan over the next few years showed a column idea about pop music and "b-side" recordings that might still be interesting some day, plus a series of one-word notations that were apparently supposed to remind me to write about such topics as Galva Day, my car door, the prom from hell, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, Uzbekistan, political misinformation, my summer reading list, and my all-time favorite worst topic ever...colonoscopies.
I've got to say, looking at this dreary list of mostly bad ideas make me glad I never finished them. And it also provided my best possible answer to that sticky little question about how I manage to think of all this stuff.
Because here's the thing: Who said I was thinking?
September is nearly over, and I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that it is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. This year has been especially poignant, as three of my nearest and dearest have been diagnosed with the disease. Early detection will likely mean a cure for one friend, while the other two will join me in treating a more-advanced form of the cancer, while hoping for a cure in the future. So here's a message for all you guys out there. PSA.
Thanks to the PSA test, prostate cancer is being detected and treated earlier than ever before. The earlier it’s detected, the more easily it can be treated.
Us TOO International Prostate Cancer Education & Support Network recommends that men have annual prostate examinations starting at the following ages:
• By age 40 if you are an African American man, or have a family history of prostate cancer (either are considered high-risk.)
• No later than age 45 for all other men. I, for one, would suggest starting even younger, especially if you are in a high-risk category.
But in any case, just remember, a PSA is a simple, once-a-year blood test that can save your life. And if “save your life” is a little too dramatic, consider this: Early detection of prostate cancer can give you a much wider range of treatment options and help you avoid a whole host of side effects that--believe me--you don’t want to experience.
Do it for yourself. Do it for the ones you love.