Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pissin' in the Wind

When I was a young man I used to be able to write my name by peeing in the dirt.  Sometimes my friends and I would have a contest to see whose stream could reach the highest point on a wall. The ability to piss higher, farther and longer was a sign of one's status in the teenage mafia. Even the girls learned a technique to pee while standing to show they were one of the boys. Holding one's pee would be a test of manhood.  "My teeth are floating" was a bit of braggadocio uttered while someone manfully delayed release.  A friend we all admired would hold the tip of his penis until it blew up like a balloon and then would let go his tsunami of pee.  Applause all around.

Urination and defecation may be the obligations that unite us as a species.  Asians are perhaps a little less uptight about it. In India and here I see men peeing often by the side of a road (I suppose women need a bush).  Although in Mexico I remember seeing an old lady spread her legs and her ankle-length dress to piss on the dirt of the alley where I was living. A recent YouTube video laughed at a mom for letting her young son pee into a plastic bag at a McDonald's.  Before I came to Bangkok I read that commuters here spent so much time in traffic that they needed portable potties. In Luis Bru├▒el's 1974 film "The Phantom of Liberty," people at a dinner party sit on toilets and occasionally retire to a small room to eat.  This reversal of habits is unsettling.

Old people think often about what goes in and comes out of the body, and how smoothly the process progresses.  In her last days my mother spoke of her need for a "stool softener," and when I visited her a couple of months before she died, she had an "accident" and refused to let me help her until after she cleaned the carpet.  A sign that my grandfather had to be moved into a retirement home was his inability to control his bowels.  For the young who poop and pee thoughtlessly, such attention to what should be natural is inexplicable.

The prostate gets in the way of a sleep-filled night.  This walnut-sized organ in males evolved to produce liquid to protect sperm, and like a donut it surrounds the urethra coming out of the bladder. In older men it becomes enlarged for various reasons and slows the stream of piss to a dribble.  Since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer eleven years ago, I have become an observer of the attenuated flow.  Lying down increases the need to get up and inhibits the bladder's ability to empty.  During the day however, I can almost pee normally (although I could only write the first letter of my name and not the whole kit and kaboodle).

I won't strain the reader's attention to mention the operation of my bowels, safe to say that "Bangkok Belly" from either tainted food or water can complicate the process.  When my stomach began to balloon with age, I determined that more regular elimination might keep the waist in check.  But this was a theory that never got off the ground.  At some point my innie became an outie and I found only drawstring pants would avoid the over-the-belt look.    If you Google my name you might find someone who won a beer belly contest with the look to go with it.

Jerry Jeff Walker wrote "Pissin' in the Wind" as a pessimistic antidote to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," the anthem of the 1960's antiwar movement.  For Jerry Jeff, the best intentions can lead to naught.  I think he's on to something with this thought.  As I survey the world scene today, an almost mindless exercise with a computer and wifi, I see few signs of hope.  The efforts of capitalists and well-meaning political and environmental activists alike lead to universal blowback, the unintended consequences of both imperialism and good deeds.  Blaming the other satisfies no one.  There are health faddists who believe that drinking one's own urine can counteract the carcinogens produced by our industrial way of life, but I won't go there.  "Piss on it" is a blunt put-down, but doing it might put out a fire (that is, if you're young and your stream rages like Niagara Falls).

(Yes, that is me in the photo above, peeing off a cliff in Wisconsin.)


Sam said...

Read the other day that prostate problems are exacerbated by fish oil tablets (EDA & RDA). Been taking cod liver oil tables for my joints for years. Stopped now.

Sam said...

Correction: it's the EPA and DHA fatty acids that cause the prostate problems in fish oil, not EDA and RDA.

Unknown said...

Who took the photo?