Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday.  Even if things like Wikipedia never existed, I would still know that December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday?  How?  He wrote a song about it.  His mom is even a narrator on that song.  December 4th, 2009, was Jay-Z’s 40th birthday so I decided to round up some friends and go do some Jay-Z karaoke in Hova’s honor.  We met up and had some Baileys and hot cocoa before we started, opposed to the usual rum and Slurpee since it was pretty cold (by Southern California standards).  We headed in, rocked the mic, had a good time, and everyone headed their separate ways.  Since none of know Jay-Z personally, I assumed at one point we would all forget about this “celebration” and that it’d just become one of the many fun events in our very full lives.  While it marked the end of Jay-Z’s 30s, it really held no personal significance to us, except for Sherlan, because little did he know, it was the end of an era for him as well.

The next day, Sherlan had started tweeting about his foot being in pain.  At first, I assumed he accidentally kicked something or that he dropped something on said foot, but after a couple of days, I decided to give him a call to see how he was doing.  His pain didn’t stem from any action he committed, it was something far more serious.  He hadn’t seen a doctor yet, but the unofficial verdict was that he had gout.  The initial diagnosis was made by his roommate who recalled a King of the Hill episode where Bobby gets gout from eating too much paté.  A board licensed physician later confirmed this diagnosis and Sherlan was given a list of foods that he could eat, and a list of foods that he should stay away from.  The list of “don’t eat” foods consisted of red meat, wheats, and beer, and while some fish and chicken was deemed as “okay”, he was discouraged from eating them often.

That week, I was supposed to hang out with with Sherlan along with my friends Mark and Susan, and we were supposed to eat burgers and drink beer.  Since beer and burgers were no longer an option for Sherlan, we slightly altered our plans to eat somewhere a little more “gout friendly”.  After dinner, we headed to the super market to get some drinks.  Mark and I wanted beer, Susan wanted some wine/champagne.  Sadly, Sherlan had to follow us around on crutches and grocery stores tend to have pretty slick floors.  When we got to the cashier, Mark and I paid for the beer, and as Susan was paying for her champagne, the cashier asked us a question:

“So are you guys christening a boat or something?”

“Huh?”

There was a pause.  Then I spoke.

“Yeah, we’re christening the S.S. Gout.”

The cashier looked confused, we took our belongings and left the market.  I was pretty amused at my quick witted joke and I knew that Sherlan took it in stride.  We talked about how regal his name sounded and we started calling him “Prince Sherlan” and talked about his ” royal yacht”, the S.S. Gout.  Throughout the following weeks, Mark and I started coming up with gout jokes, more specifically gout puns, such as “pigging gout”. “in-n-gout”, “you’re gout of line”, etc.  I know this sounds really mean, and at first Mark felt really guilty that he was participating and having a lot of fun.  He was scared that if Sherlan found out, that his feelings would be really hurt.

To assuage his fears, I told Sherlan.  I told him it was my idea, but like I predicted earlier, Sherlan didn’t care.  I wouldn’t make these jokes if I had any doubt that they would be bringing the guy down.  I especially wouldn’t drive up to LA on a weeknight to make sure to hang out and make sure he’s doing okay, only to turn around and say mean spirited things that would make him feel bad about himself.  Sherlan has even become the grader of jokes, telling me which ones are especially clever.

His foot is a lot better now, but he’s not reverting to his old diet, which I applaud him for.  Just because the gout is gone, it doesn’t mean that it won’t come back if he’s not careful about how he eats.  This has also given Mark and I permission to continue our onslaught of gout puns, not just to remind Sherlan of the pain, but to remind ourselves that we need to be smarter about our own lives and diets.  We’re not invincible and the things we eat and the physical activities we do have more apparent consequences than they did when we were younger. There’s also the ugly truth that the older we get, the harder the consequences are going to hit.  The way we’ve been dealing with this is with gallows humor; we’re not laughing at Sherlan, we’re realizing that this could’ve happened to any of us.  Sherlan’s fight with gout has led us all to take a serious look at our mortality and that is why Prince Sherlan is the captain of the S.S. Gout and we’re just members of his crew.

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