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The Rant (April 9, 2015) ...

On Memphis’ annual plague of allergy-inducing oak catkins and pollen.


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You can tell it's springtime in Memphis when all the cars turn green — and everything else for that matter. It's not the welcome green of seasonal renewal, but those damn fuzzy worm-like things that cling to every thing they touch. If you cross a parking lot, you have to make a break for shelter before they cover you like something from a horror movie. When you return, your car is blanketed in a layer of dust. There's no point washing it because it will just be filthy the next day. And it seems like it happens so all of a sudden. One day you're outside taking your first deep breath of fresh spring air, and the next day you can't breathe at all. It reached inside my house indirectly through my wife. She had lunch with a friend and it was such a nice day, they sat on the patio of a local eatery. Four hours later, she sounded like a lifetime whiskey-drinking, chain-smoker. I thought I was sleeping with Clint Eastwood.

Then the symptoms hit hard — sore throat, burning congestion, sneezing, and a head that felt like it weighed 50 pounds. We had suffered horribly through flu season, even though we both had the shots. (Thanks, Obama!) But since my wife and I pass illnesses back and forth like hippies pass a blunt, I woke up only to find I couldn't swallow. She said it was allergies, but how do you catch an allergy?

When Melody asked on social media if anyone else was sick, her phone nearly blew up. It seems like everyone else is sick. Pardon me, I had to step away to get a hit of Afrin. I don't care, I snort Afrin like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. And I insist on the menthol kind, not that lame beginners' stuff for people with their sinuses still intact.

But back to the city-wide plague — our metropolitan nightmare is pollen. There, I said the p-word. Especially tree pollen from oak, birch, and willow trees. You know that song "Willow Weep For Me?" The lyrics say, "Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me." That pretty much sums up what's going on around here. Memphis is a city of trees, particularly oaks, which are the main culprit. Those furry green strings on your patio furniture are called oak catkins, in case you were curious.

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The foliage may be lovely in May, but according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's annual list of the 10 worst U.S. cities for allergy sufferers, Memphis ranks #8. We're #8! We rank just lower than Knoxville and Louisville, but higher than Baton Rouge. You'd think all that Spanish Moss would have kicked them up a notch, but I've heard Cajuns are made of alligator hide. Memphis is the perfect incubator for pollen: lots of trees, warm temperatures, gusting winds. We should all start wearing those surgical masks like the Japanese — and Michael Jackson.

Since we've just been sitting around wheezing, I've had the chance to watch a lot of television — a whole lot — and I noticed that the airwaves are filled with so many commercials for Claritin or Zyrtec, or any of the 100 more remedies on your pharmacist's shelf, there's hardly any room left for programming. The drug companies tell you in their ads that their concoctions will relieve the symptoms, so you know they're bound to be right. Pardon me, I need a tissue.

We've been going with Claritin, but the directions say to just take one pill a day. I eat a fistful of pills every day anyway. What's some microscopic tablet going to do for me? The only thing to do is tough it out for the next two months, stay indoors and watch TV, applying periodic doses of Visine.

Watch that Scientology expose on HBO. That will take your mind off of your nasal cavities. Melody also has me hooked on a show called, Chrisley Knows Best, about a Georgia family where everyone is a laugh riot. I find that watching too many news programs provokes wracking fits of violent coughing, so I've taken to a steady diet of Netflix revenge-fantasy movies where the protagonist hunts down and kills the people who wronged him in some grotesque way.

The earthquake was interesting. Not the one along the New Madrid Fault, but the Memphis quake when Kentucky lost to Wisconsin. I haven't seen so much schadenfreude since the Watergate hearings.

The bad news is that it's going to get worse. According to the experts over at Pollen.com, the forecast for Memphis indicates pollen levels in "the extremely high range." This means if you're one of the 50 million people suffering from seasonal allergies, it will be "difficult outdoors." So bust out the Benadryl and suffer along with the rest of us. There's lots of rain in the forecast. Some people believe that when rain pours down on the tree pollen, it somehow lessens the effects. It doesn't. It's allergy season and rain can't stop it, so get used to breathing through your mouth. Buy tissues in gross since you'll need them, and try not to shout at the TV every time Ted Cruz appears on the news.

Come back outside at the end of April and enjoy the trees in bloom, shed of their fuzzy creatures. It's been said that from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow. I think we've got about all the oak trees we can take. Maybe Ronald Reagan was right when he said that trees cause pollution. Those killer oak catkins are messing up the paint job on my car. You'll have to excuse me now. It's time for another Afrin hit.

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