Brief Announcement of Little Interest

I have posted neither column nor comment since August 1.  This slacking is not due to heat.  People say it has been in the very low 80's here in  Rockford.  Nor am I annoyed with  anyone or anything.  I should have suspected something.  I don't write much poetry any more, and when I do--as at the end of last week--I can only concentrate on verse, it is because more prosaic rational thought is being undermined.

It started on Saturday.  I'd spent much of  friday eating out, smoking a cigar, and talking for hours with an occasional glass of wine and was not surprised to find I had a minor sore throat and a feeling that it was time to get back to some kind of workout routine.  But we went to a later Mass on Sunday--rather a good sermon--and, although I was tempted all day to back out, I promised to grill a 2 inch ribeye and make perfect French fries.

When the children arrived, I had a drink or two of Maryland bourbon brought as a gift by a friend who came to Summer Seminar.  My son-in-law informed me that the bottle was opened because an older gentleman came into the house and asked, on my instructions, for a drink.  My son-in-law tried to suggest that he shouldn't open a gift.  The man said, "IT will be all right," without revealing that he was the giver of the gift.  Thanks, Bruce.  It's drier than a lot of bourbon.

The steak was good, French fries were perfect, and my daughter brought a dessert.  They left by 9:30, but going to bed early does not guarantee a good night's sleep.  Next morning, the throat tickle was getting ominously like a sore throat, and I had a hangover I had not earned.

I wondered about simply resting all Monday but I had  several errands and appointments, By lunch time, I felt the throat soreness was increasing and fatigue had been added to my very minor irritations.  I lay down for a  late afternoon nap, and things get hazy after that.  I slept away the better part of two and a half days, sometimes in near-delerium, though thermometers did not detect a fever.  I had eaten a light breakfast and light lunch on Monday, but when dinner came I could not eat, partly because of appetite and partly because the throat was closing up to the point I could scarcely take in water, much any other liquid, much less a dose of aspirin, which usually works.

Not being a physician or an anatomist, I can't tell you which part of the throat is causing the most trouble, but my conservative pediatrician refused to  yank my tonsils out, when I was a boy, even though I had several severe bouts of tonsilitis.  Since there is no fever, it is most likely not bacterial tonsillitis, which can be knocked out today with antibiotics.  The the intensity of my fatigue is something I have only experienced once, about 10 years ago, when I was sick for months with what I thought was influenza but which a little checking revealed to be probably of a class of cold viruses with which the world is currently obsessed.

So, COVID19 or Not COVID 19, that is the question.

On the one side of the equation:  extreme fatigue (check), bad sore throat (check), loss of appetite (check), some discomfort in muscles (check),  difficulty concentrating (check).

On the other side:  Two Moderna jabs, a reclusive existence.

With the question formulated, I decided to look into credible medical reports on vaccinated people who have  been fully vaccinated.  I learned, first, that this may be more common with the Delta variant moving into Northern Illinois from the wildernesses of Saint Louis, and second, that the vaccine is effective in putting up resistance to attacks of Delta variant on the respiratory system--nose, throat, etc.  But that the vaccinated who do succumb suffer less intense symptoms and for a shorter time.

Wednesday morning I was troubled to discover that my throat was perhaps 95% sealed and breathing  was becoming complicated.  I had lost my voice, mostly, but the virus was trying to get into the bronchial tubes and lungs.  I have always believed one should not make the devil or microbes comfortable, so I took a standard dose of pseudephhed--the little red pills, I could just squeeze through if I sprayed the throat with chloroseptic and chiseled away the growing pile of muck left behind in the war between the virus and the antibodies. This helped but I quit mid-afternoon, because pseudephed keeps me awake.

Things got dicey about 2 AM.  I couldn't sleep because every time I passed out for a moment, my ghastly snoring and growling awakened me.  I was trying to keep my throat a bit open by taken baby ibuprofen in a disgusting liquid, but it took all day to get down one and a half adult doses.

In my semi-delirium, I keep hearing on a feedback loop Marty Robbins singing, Bob Nolan's "Cool Water": "All day I faced the burning waste without a trace of water, cool clear water."  Alas I know the whole song, and it never lets go, and the occasional drops in the mouth did little to appease the thirst.  When I did try to bolt down a half teaspoon, the water went down pulling barbed wire in its wake.  I was barking and screaming like a rabid dog.

Finally at about four I realized I was drowning in my own saliva and mucus and had to get up to expectorate about every five minutes. Sleep was impossible.  I threw in the towel and took more pseudephed and maintained the once every two hour spray of chloroseptic.  I slept for perhaps 10 minutes but felt a good deal better.

I had not eaten since Monday at noon, and since  then I had drunk perhaps a half glass of water. For dinner on Monday my wife  made what should have been the perfect dish, vichyssoise, but, although it was less salty than most, it set the throat on fire.  Family members were quick to suggest a doctors's visit or a trip to the emergency room.  My four days last September were enough for one year, enough for a lifetime.

Spending time with doctors and nurses is a risky business.  They are always asking you if you check your blood pressure, heart beat, temperature.  After the Rockford Chainsaw Massacre last September, I even had to keep a log for over a month.   My soul had been scarred with the lust for forbidden knowledge, and I was still curious enough to want to check how  much weight I had dropped in 3 and a half days.  9 pounds.

Why do people make such a big deal about diets?  I have the perfect diet.  Eat and drink nothing and you are guaranteed to lose over 15 pounds a week. Please don't steal my idea and sell it to Hollywood or Madison Avenue.  This is my only chance for a life of dignified comfort!

I am at the point of  achieving the American dream--stardom among the diet quacks.  I am already sketching out my infomercial for late night Cable TV:

Friends, do you want to lose weight but just can't seem to do it?  Tried the Paleo Diet and got a heart attack?  Don't give up.  Years ago Doctor Tom was researching arcane literature produced by a bizarre sect known as Benedictine Monks.  (Note:  They're called Benedictines because they were always high on the stuff).  These Benedictines carried on a sacred tradition involved work, prayer and fasting.  Yes, my friends, FASTING!  In this godless world of sin, ruled by a Masonic conspiracy in the Vatican, there once were spiritual masters who knew it was important, once in a while, to say no to all your vices.  Because, now pay close attention here, because when you go back to eating rich foods, drinking whiskey, and chasing women, you will get more out of it.  Friends, with Dr Tom's Ancient Benedictine Diet Plan©, you won't have to follow any elaborate diet plan or make lists of good and bad foods.  Eat, and drink like hogs all your long, and then just find someone to lock you up for three days with a cup of water you have to ration.  In fact, I am adding a room onto my house, where you can come and stay for $2000 a day.  There's no charge for meals... 

I sent my wife out for Aspergum chewable aspirin, but this wonderful medical product for those who suffer throat pain is no longer made.  So I reverted to my mother's technique.  In a mortar and pestle I ground 4 aspirin very fine, adeded perhaps a half teaspoon sugar--Solace wanted, no Mary Poppins imitators need apply--to which I added perhaps a tablespoon of water.

Since the first test was bound to be excruciating, I did what I could to maximize the opening--chloroseptic,  hot water gargles, and managed on the first try to get about a third down, and over the next few hours finished the lot.

Over the morning I drank nearly an entire cup of cool clear water (ru through a Camelbak filter) and for lunch had two tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with honey, followed by a tiny slice of watermelon.  If I did not take time to chew each morsel thoroughly, the water melon pulp backed up at the barrier, but with only discomfort and no real pain.

I am still plainly witless, as you can see,  with no strength in my limbs, but you probably cannot imagine the blessing I have in drinking ice water in my hospital mug,  I'll try the vichyssoise, and if the salt still stings, ice cream awaits me.

I'll know I am well when I can turn to serious reading.  During this episode, I managed to reread Bulldog Drummond and the Black Gang, on the whole better structured than the first, Joseph Wambaugh's New Centurions--didn't like it any better the second time--and this afternoon, moving up a notch, Cyril Hare's "An English Murder."

Oh, and I almost forgot.  I can take a sip of water any time I want.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

44 Responses

  1. andrei navrozov says:

    Tom, we worried. Feel better soon!

  2. David says:

    Mega doses of vit c
    Grams upon grams on the hour
    Titrate to bowel tolerance
    Thank L Pauling later…yes?

  3. David says:

    …very worried indeed

  4. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    First, I am glad that you are recovering.

    Second, large doses of vitamin C are a good idea, as well as vitamin D3, quercetin, and zinc. (Check out Eastern Virginia Medical School plans for preventing and treating COVID.)

    Third, when I take aspirin I crush it and mix it in yogurt.

    Finally, what is the name of that Maryland bourbon? I am going to need some soon as I recently opened my last bottle.

  5. Dot says:

    Wishing you well quickly.

  6. Gregory Fogg says:

    I’m happy to hear that you’re beginning to recover. I used to go 5 days with nothing but water at least once a year. I think the last time I did that was 2009. My most successful weight loss programs were (3) a bad case of influenza in 2008 (2) 3 severe cases of tonsillitis in 1975, 1977 and 1994 and (1) abject poverty while in grad school at USC (the Carolina one) in 1982.

  7. Gregory Fogg says:

    That first tonsillitis case was 1971, not 1975.

  8. James D. says:

    Goody’s makes an aspirin/caffeine powder and an acetaminophen/aspirin/caffeine powder. On the rare occasion that I have a splitting headache, I know of no other OTC medicine which works as well or as quickly.

  9. David says:

    James D., a truck driver invented that one 😉 on the PA Turnpike no less

  10. Gregory Fogg says:

    Goody’s, BC and Stanback.

  11. Michael Strenk says:

    They did a similar diet in the Soviet world (the devil has his own ascetics, except that they hate creation). I caught the end of that show in Poland. Lost a lot of weight that I could ill afford to lose at the time. Just about made it home under my own power with a systemic staph infection. Of course staph is always with us. These things are opportunistic. Skip the aspirin. A great many of the casualties of the “Spanish” influenza were killed by aspirin overdoses as was my wife’s grandfather and almost mine. Vit. C is a good idea and zinc, best had from shellfish. If nothing else Vit. C shrinks inflammation, but you must drink water because it is diuretic. This is a good product: .

    Hope to have you back among us soon.

    So the other Bulldog books are worth reading? I was under the impression that they went downhill from the first one.

  12. Sherwood Jones says:

    Best wishes to Dr. Fleming for a speedy and complete recovery. As I mentioned in an email to the Foundation just now, I am hoping that somewhere in a file cabinet is a set of the first “Living Well in a Dying Age” tapes, from 2002, that can be made available to us, as well as the Part II symposium which I presume was just completed. All the best to everyone.

  13. Dot says:

    I think one must be careful about giving some advice on products.
    I’m surprised that tonsils aren’t removed anymore. I had mine out when I was 5.

  14. Vince Cornell says:

    Sounds like it’s been a wretched few days, but I’m thankful it appears a corner has been turned. We will continue to pray for you and Gail in our family’s evening prayers.

  15. Vince Cornell says:

    I do regret that this incident apparently upends my theory that a steady supply of bourbon will keep the viruses at bay. Back to the drawing board. Perhaps Scotch . . .

  16. Dom says:

    Much as I love Scotch, stick with the natural order of things: as long as the cicadas, katydids, and bullfrogs are playing, then bourbon!

    Please get well.

  17. Dom says:

    But perhaps this is minutia between vitamin B and vitamin S. . .

  18. Raymond Olson says:

    Sorry to hear of your discomfort. I’m chuckling, nevertheless, at your reporting of it. Exasperation is a fine mode for humor.

    I can tepidly second many of the suggestions made to suppress or mitigate your suffering via pills and powders. My experience is that the vitamin C and zinc regimen is effective for nipping symptoms in the bud only. Water fasting is also good.

    A light reading suggestion: the novels and stories of Walter Tevis. His first and best book (of those I’ve read) is The Hustler, basis of the rather miraculous 1961 movie, whose screenplay is in some respects superior to the book. His science fiction stories are humorous in the manner of. say, Fredric Brown, and his novel Mockingbird portrays a dystopian future that got that way by suppression of the family, trivialization of religion, universal contraception, deliberate illiteracy, mandatory “politeness”, and enforced individualism. In that world, one man teaches himself to read.

  19. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    While I appreciate all this expert opinion, I recall the Aesop fable of the crane who invited the fox to dinner and served him food in a tall jug from which he could not eat. When the throat is raw and closed, vitamin C is a horror, no matter how finely ground. The classic redneck headache potions almost all contain caffeine, which is exactly what one does not need at night. The particles are also two large and rough to slide easily over the slit opening of the throat. As for tonsils, I think I have suffered from recurring infections all my life without connecting them with my childhood bouts of tonsillitis. It seems not entirely a good idea to yank an organ whose function was not fully understood. While it is said that tonsilects are not more susceptible of infection, that is not the only issue. Some researchers believe, with my pediatrician, that the tonsils can act as a trap, attracting microbes to the very spot that is rich in antibodies, where they are ambushed. Obviously this is not an either/or decision, since a child beset by tonsillitis may not grow up healthy and happy.

    The theory that many victims of Spanish Influenza died from aspirin poisoning has some merit since patients were routinely taking 30 grams a day. The current recommended maximum is 4, which comes out to one aspirin an hour for 12 hours. However places where aspirin was not very available had equally high death rates. Since no one in his right mind is taking more than 5 grams–one sixth the routine number during Spanish Flu–the argument is irrelevant. If I could not use aspirin or acetaminophen or ibuprofen, I’d either have to go to the hospital or die in bed. Let us beware of turning cases of relative advantage/disadvantage into absolute extremes.

    Thanks again to all.

  20. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Check out the EVMS protocols for prevention (when you use daily doses of Vitamin C and D3, Quercetin, and zinc) and treatment.

  21. JD Salyer says:

    Get well soon!

  22. Michael Strenk says:

    I apologize if my above comment was a bit too brief. My warning, basically, is that aspirin is not the harmless remedy that it is widely purported to be. To be more specific, my grandfather almost died when his idiot doctors added aspirin to his regular medications. He was a heart patient and, like most cardiac patients these days, he was already on coumadin. What he in fact almost died of was a cumulative overdose of blood thinners of which the added aspirin was the push over the top. The scene in his house was quite helter-skelter that night and I wished to spare you the experience if you are on the same medications.

    My wife and I wish you a rapid recovery.

  23. Allen Wilson says:

    The only thing I can recommend may or may not be useful for you. I use it to combat sinus headaches and meth makers use it to make meth.They are not so easy to get anymore in this state thanks to the meth makers. This is the over the counter sinus congestion pills which contain 400mg of guaifenesin and 10mg Phenylephrine HCl. One thins and loosens mucus while the other shrinks swollen membranes. I have had them put an end to sinus headaches as soon as they absorb into my system, but other times, not so much. I think Sudaphed PE used top contain both ingredients, but not anymore. Whether these pills would do you any good with the swelling and mucus is anyone’s guess. But anyway, get well soon.

  24. Steven Lakoff says:

    I’ve been away from the internet for a long while and return to discover this. I do hope you get well.

  25. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    AW, we have some but it will be days before I can swallow so large a capsule.

    MS. Thanks. Yes, I regard aspirin as a powerful drug. Daily excess dosages can lead to nerve damage and death.

  26. Dot says:

    Re: tonsillectomy at a young age: that was a very long time ago and further research always continues.

    Re: aspirin: I assume your referring to full dosage aspirin of 325 mg. The 81 mg is what is recommended for things related to heart. I take 81 mg only four times a week and a cardio selective beta blocker to prevent irregular beats. I found the 81 mg per day was too much for me and that’s why I take it only 4 times per week. I also take an ACE inhibitor which is also heart and blood pressure related. I have taken meds for so long that I forget when it was when I took nothing. I probably am older than all of you, but it makes no difference. I began having heart trouble when I was only 52. The good thing is that I have no physical limitations at all. So physically, I’m in very good shape. The only limitation is that I can’t enjoy a glass of wine now and then.

  27. Kurt Kronfuss says:

    I have no remedies to help with your condition. I do know that with regular ingestion of fermented foods I do not get sick. The only times I have had flu symptoms, a cold, or sore throat in the last 20 years is when I have neglected to eat fermented foods, (usually while eating a poor diet along with an overuse of bourbon). I also eat flax meal along with it as it is food for the microbes provided by my homemade sauerkraut.

  28. Josh Doggrell says:

    Prayers for a continuing recovery.

  29. David says:

    And now I have rocking chair money but I got it the hard hard way I fought in every battle from the start to the vj day soon I’ll get my big check baby and then we’ll have some fun this rocking chair honey is better than toting a gun

  30. David says:

    He spreads the burning sand with water

    In an effort to combat sore throats, we ought to partake in Comments Karaoke at the top of out kovided lungs
    Lets hear it
    And a 1 and a 2…

    Lets hear it

  31. David says:


    … been singing Hank all day today…missing the notes…sorry

    Hang tough DrTJF

  32. Dom says:

    Hopefully 160 acres full of sunshine return soon enough.

  33. Robert Reavis says:

    Dear Tom,
    Hope you are beating it back a bit by now but you will still remain in our prayers.

  34. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks Robert. Swelling keeps going down and last night, over the course of the evening, I managed to at almost half of a 3 oz knockwurst with on third cup potato puree and as much as 4 oz of watered win. More food than I’d had all week in total.

  35. Mark Atkins says:

    Get well Tom. My father who is now 82 says ‘Mark, getting old stinks. Avoid it if you can.’ He failed to and thus fights a never ending running battle with his temple. Hang in there.

  36. Dot says:

    Wish you continued recovery.

  37. Harry Colin says:

    Prayers have been and will continue to be offered for you, Dr. Fleming. Good to hear that you are taking nourishment; I pray that that process will accelerate and you will return to full strength tout de suite. At least in a wurst case scenario you are tolerating something already. (Sorry…horrid puns are irresistible to me).

    As for old age, both of my folks turned 86 this summer and as my Pop says the only benefit is the ability to sleep anywhere and anytime without guilt or explanation.

  38. Dot says:

    As for old age, I turned 85 last month and am still going full throttle and I don’t need a sit down mower to mow my lawn like 99.9% of men. I live by myself and my children live in a different county. Quite frankly, I’m glad.

  39. Dot says:

    P.S. My home sits on 3/4 acre of sloped land. I do have someone mow it. However, I will start to mow it if he is not going to be available. It takes me 4 days to do the yard. I use a reel mower. In the fall, I have the pleasure of raking the leaves onto a sheet and dumping them in my wooded area. I stay out of there when the temps get over 70 degrees because I am afraid of snakes. The neighbors might think I nuts. I think I’m tough.

  40. Dot says:

    PPS: I don’t want to sound as though I am harsh or unyielding. The age group I am in is the most diverse of all regarding people’s abilities – mental and physical.

    I fervently wish Dr. Fleming a full and speedy recovery.

  41. William Shofner says:

    I attended and somehow graduated from Harvard almost 50 years ago. I knew while there many extraordinarily bright and tough minded folks, but none brighter or tougher than Tom. Tom will figure out this latest conundrum. He always does.

  42. andrei navrozov says:

    TF: “It seems not entirely a good idea to yank an organ whose function was not fully understood.” My mother agreed, so when, as was the fashion in the 1960’s, our doctor declared that I was to be deprived of my tonsils, she went off in search of a “second opinion.” This meant that she visited doctor after doctor after doctor until she found one who had similar misgivings. My tonsils were saved.

  43. Patrick Kinnell says:

    I was deprived of mine at age 6 or 7. There was pain and some blood, but ice cream to compensate. Do you think a reality show is in order?

  44. David says:

    Update please?