The Time I Had Botulism, Sort Of … Okay, Not Really

So botulism is this super scary disease caused by Clostridium botulinum spores that create a toxin when exposed to a low oxygen environment. When eaten, the toxin can cause blurred vision, weakness and paralysis, which can affect the respiratory muscles and result in death. It also has been known, in at least one case (mine), to cause an unprecedented level of paranoia. Here are the facts of my case:

A 37 y.o. female was exposed to a puffy pouch of Friskies Gravy Sensations on 11/13/14 at approximately 8:25 a.m.

Cat food

I think the food was tainted when MoJo got into the cupboard and bit through some of the pouches. I thought I threw them all away, but obviously not.

 

She reports that the pouch seemed a little puffier than normal, but proceeded to open it anyway because she likes to live with one toe on the wild side. Upon opening it, she noted the meaty chunks of chicken (read: all the less desirable parts of the chicken, and maybe a few bits of mouse too) appeared to be a little off, meaning the chunks were a paler version of the chunks poured from the non-puffy pouch, and they exuded a malodorous, well, odor.

Being the slightly paranoid individual that she is, she was already aware of the dangers of eating food from puffy and leaking cans. Sadly, before opening this pouch, she had not applied what she knew about cans to pouches. Now, the pouch was open, with undeniable evidence that it had been tainted.

Half of the pouch’s contents had already been poured into one of the cat’s bowls, mixing with the normal, untainted chunks of food (read: still filled with the sketchy parts of the chicken and probably peppered with bits of mouse, but slightly less malodorous and the chunks were still dyed to appear like real pieces of meat).

Being the very caring cat owner that she is, she immediately dumped the contents in the trash and gave the bowl a quick wipe down. A new, non-puffy, pouch was pulled from the cupboard and the cats were fed their breakfast.

That’s when things went terribly wrong. The woman proceeded to situate herself in front of the computer, with the internet browser open and ready to locate any and all articles that would evoke the level of fear and paranoia, that only sites like WebMD can evoke.

Today’s culprit turned out not to be WebMD, but the CDC. Now we all have been quite aware of the recent Ebola outbreak and the corresponding push by the CDC and other government agencies to quell any fear or panic that might erupt in the general population. Interestingly, the CDC has chosen a different route when it comes to the handling of food potentially contaminated with Botulism.

As example:

On the Consumer Information and Resources page, the CDC says Foodborne botulism is a rare, but serious illness.

Okay, rare was good. The woman could handle rare. But then the CDC took it to the next level.

“Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.”

Hmmm. That sounded worse. Even a small taste can cause infection. Well, the woman knew she hadn’t eaten any of the cat food. She just dumped it in the trash, ran the bowl under the faucet and dried it with a paper towel. That couldn’t be a big deal, right?

To dispose of potentially contaminated foods, the CDC recommends the following:

“Put on rubber or latex gloves before handling open containers of food that you think might be contaminated.”

What???? Gloves? The woman was now in a state of panic. She didn’t wear gloves!

“Avoid splashing the contaminated food on your skin.”

Her mind flashed back to her sloppiness when doling out the food. The “gravy” dripping down the spoon, onto her fingers and landing on the counter. Then a quick wipe with a paper towel to clean it up. She was certain she hadn’t even washed her hands. Impending doom consumed her soul.

The CDC then says to “place the food or can in a sealable bag. Wrap another plastic bag around the sealable bag. Tape the bags shut tightly … Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes after handling food or containers that may be contaminated.”

Um, does it sound like touching contaminated food is like coming in contact with nuclear waste?

The CDC also includes a very detailed process for cleaning potentially contaminated counter tops, which involves bleach, 5-10 paper towels, soap and water, and at least 15 minutes of processing time for the decontamination to be complete.

Holy cow, the woman thought. Gloves, bleach, double bagging, a full two minutes of hand washing! All for slightly off cat food chunks. Of course, the woman had done none of these things prior to opening, handling and discarding the pouch of certain death.

A cleansing spree ensued, and the woman bleached everything including her cat’s tongues (not really, but it was considered), the trash was removed from the house, and she scrubbed her hands and face for four minutes each just to be safe.

And then the countdown began: 18 – 36 hours for the symptoms to appear. 18 – 36 hours of utter paranoia. Every itch, twitch, weird swallow meant the beginning of the end, or at least a trip to the ICU for a little time on the ventilator. A vigil was held for the cats as well. Were they walking normally? Scratching the couch with full gusto? Did one of them puke on the floor and not directly in her shoe? A little more research on the internet showed that for the most part cats were pretty much immune to botulism.

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Celebrating her immunity by sitting in a box.

At midnight that night, the woman woke herself to ensure she was still alive. When morning came she tested her cranial nerves.

As the day progressed, the paranoia lessened. The woman even forgot about her impending doom long enough to write a few thousand words. The next day she only thought about her botulism infection 20 or 30 times. And now a full week later it seems the botulism only infected her brain, causing great anxiety and mental paralysis, but never fully resulting in any muscular paralysis. And sadly, none of it made it to her face, where her crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles could use a little smoothing out.


By the way, I “won” NaNoWriMo. Over 52,000 words in 30 days!

Grocery Shopping: Why I need a magic calculator and the patience of a saint

Groceries in transit

Groceries in Transit” by qmnonic via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0

Going to the grocery store is like going to the airport. You know it’s going to be unpleasant and it’s going to challenge you mentally, emotionally and physically.

-The mental challenge: This pack of toilet paper has a million cubic metric inches squared of paper and it’s triple ply with a really cute koala bear. Ooh, but this one is 50 gallons when unrolled and swirled into a 6-foot pyramid. But it’s only double ply. Let me take out the magical calculator I bought at Diagon Alley and do the math here. Screw it. Of course I’m buying the one with the cute koala bear.

Koala toilet paper

Because he looks so super snuggly! (“Lovely koala with Cushelle toilet paper” – SCA by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

-The physical challenge: The other shoppers are there to test your agility. They place their carts, bodies, children, anything they can to stop your forward motion and prevent you from obtaining that pack of gummy worms that you need so badly.

T Rex tomatoes

I guess I should just be happy they’re aren’t  dinosaurs lurking in my store’s produce department. (“T-Rex sighted in the Grocery Store” by katerha via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

-The emotional challenge: The checkout line is intended to wear down what remains of your patience.

Of course only one register is open. And there are three people in front of you.

1st person in line – Seriously? You’re going to pay in all pennies?

2nd person in line – Say what? You’re going to buy twenty tubes of toothpaste using twenty separate transactions?

3rd person in line – Of course you have fifteen things in your cart that all need a price check. And now you’ve waited until the clerk tells you your total to start filling out your check. Really? You can’t write the date and sign the check until you know the total??

But what annoys me the most???? The shopping carts. I’ve been working on a very scientific study about shopping carts and how they’re conspiring against me. I’ll have the results for you one day. Right now I have to go to the grocery store. I was so confused by the toilet paper pricing last week, I forgot to buy some. Wish me luck!

The Evolution of a Blog Post

Today we are going to discuss how three seemingly unrelated items influence the progression of a blog post from a simple discussion about keys, to another exploration of my bad habits: procrastination, laziness, messiness.

The three items:

1. A set of keys

2. A collection of lovely purses

3. Food that is, um, well past its prime

The progression:

I often write blog posts about random, everyday things and I use my experiences and surroundings as inspiration. Example: The Would You Like Your Receipt? post.

My keys were the initial inspiration for this post. See how many there are:

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Now, it’s not an exorbitant amount of keys; however, the ratio of used keys to unused keys is a problem. There are a total of eleven keys. Five of them I use all the time. Two belong to doors I should no longer be opening, and four are mystery keys.

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This one belongs to my husband’s old condo.

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This one belongs to my mom’s old Subaru.

I was thinking I should get rid of the keys I don’t need, so that I don’t have to try to squish so many keys into my smallish purse. My blog post was going to be about why I hold on to all these unnecessary keys.

Here is where we have our first divergence: now I began to think about my purse.

Perhaps my purse was the problem and I should blog about that? I have a lovely collection of purses that I never use. When I was younger, I used to change my purse all the time, usually to match my outfit. Now it’s always the black one. Have I gotten so lazy that I can’t move my wallet from one purse to another?

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The only purse I seem to carry now.

I gathered my purses to take the picture below and pondered the red one in the back. Now, that’s a much bigger purse. I could keep all my extraneous keys and have room more. Why get rid of keys, when I can make room for more?

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Now, to the next divergence: I started looking through the purse for clues as to when it was last used and found something startling – food that was well past its prime. And so now my blog post is about what happens to food when left in a purse too long.

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Very stale pumpkin bread, a bag of almonds and walnuts, and two unidentifiable pieces of fruit.

I really can’t say how long it has been since I used this purse, but judging from the fruit it’s been more than a couple of days. The pumpkin bread is homemade, dating back to fall 2012.

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After close inspection, this was identified as an apple. The sticker tells me it was a honey crisp apple. If you look closely, you can see the tip of the stem in the top right corner.

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I wanted to call this a strawberry, based on its size. However, strawberries usually don’t come with a sticker on them. And I would never just carry a loose strawberry in my purse. That would be gross. So, I’m pretty sure this is another petrified, rotten, moldy apple.

So, similar to many of my other posts, this post has dissolved into another example of my lack of organization, cleanliness and motivation.  Anyone want some almonds?

 

Using my Superpowers for Good (Or Rescuing a Stray Cat)

The first time I heard it, I thought it was the cry of an injured animal. The next time, I thought it might be the wail of a small child. Unable to take it any longer, I yanked the curtains open to see what was making such a dreadful sound.

I expected to see a grotesque mythological creature whose limbs had been torn off and was bleeding from the mouth, but instead it was just a cat. And it looked okay. Fine really. So, why was it screaming like a small child who just got their iPod taken away?

A few days later the cat was hanging out in my backyard, and I got a glimpse of his backside. Oh, that’s why. He wasn’t neutered. An unneutered stray cat. Great.

Using the special sense that allows animals to identify me as a sucker for their cute little faces, he quickly realized that my backyard was a good place to take up residence. He proceeded to spend his days eating the food I put out for him and either lounging in the sun or yowling as he paced around the house. Obviously, I’m the encourager of bad behavior.

stray cat

Here he is lounging with my cat.

This began in August and didn’t stop until February. By then I couldn’t take it any more. The temperatures had been dipping well below freezing and he began crying at the door, desperate to come inside. So, this is what I did:

1. I waited for my husband to be out of town to take action. This would have been much easier to handle with his help, so naturally I tackled it on my own.

2. I got my trap and set it right by the window so I could watch the events unfold, aka stare at the trap all day, using my telepathic powers of suggestion to get him to go in it.

Flashback: I tried to trap a yellow-bellied marmot two years ago, which conveniently led to me having the perfect sized trap to catch the cat. See, things do happen for a reason. Or perhaps I have precognitive superpowers, as well.

3. Like I said, I patiently waited for him to cross the yard and, well, walk right into my trap. He he.

4. After almost catching two squirrels and my own cat, he finally went for the bait. The trap didn’t trigger, though. I knew from my marmot trapping experience that this was a problem. If he got full without triggering the trap, I’d have to try again another day. Or worse, if the trap was triggered but he managed to get out, I may never be able to lure him in again.

5. I tried to use my telekinetic abilities to trigger the trap, but I was having an off day. So, I opened the back door and startled him into triggering the trap–just as I had planned, or so I told myself.

cat in trap

Here he is in the trap. I don’t think he was very happy with me at this moment.

6. I celebrated for a second and went into full animal rescue mode. (Yes, in addition to procrastination-panic mode and spousal-manipulation mode, I also have animal rescue mode. I’m quite versatile). So, I prepped my car and donned my non-regulation animal trapping gloves.

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My husband’s snowboarding gloves. I’m sure the people at the animal shelter were impressed.

7. Then I was forced to use my superhuman strength to carry the cat. The cat weighed strikingly more than my cats and was thrashing about in the cage. Certain I would be scratched and die from some rare cat borne illness, I held the cage as far from my body as I could and set him in the back seat of my car. Don’t worry; my use of superhuman strength was discreet so that I didn’t call attention to myself. The last thing I need is to end up helping people move.

8. I wasn’t sure what kind of music he enjoyed, so I kept the radio down and talked in that soft, calm voice that lulls all animals into a state of relaxation. You know the one I mean.

9. At the intake center of the Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL), I explained our situation. This time I used my verbal powers of suggestion to sell all his good qualities and explain how he would make a wonderful pet. I did so well, I almost walked out with a new cat.

10. The man explained the process and reassured me that they would do their best to get him adopted. He also said they might be able to do a TNR (trap, neuter, return) if he wasn’t a candidate for adoption. I made it quite clear that I would be happy to take him back and let him live in my yard. I entered spousal manipulation mode as I pondered the cute little cat house my husband would be encouraged to build for the backyard.

11. For the next month, I used by ability to obsess over things to check the DDFL  website at least daily, sometimes hourly, to see if he was on there. With each day I began losing hope. His little face never appeared on the adoptable cats page and I hadn’t gotten a phone call asking if he could be returned to my yard. I tried to convince myself that they were busy socializing him. Who knew how long he’d been living on the streets? But I had a terrible feeling that he might have been euthanized.

I began to question whether I did the right thing. My superpowers were only supposed to be used for good. What had I done?

I’ve wanted to write about this experience for some time, but I didn’t want to do it unless I knew there was a happy ending. I was perusing the Internet yesterday (instead of writing this post) and that’s when I found him. He’s up for adoption!

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His adoption bio. It compares his life to a book, which is strange because I’m a writer. Cue mysterious music.

I will now use my telepathic powers of suggestion to persuade someone who lives in the Denver Metro area to take a trip to the DDFL. Everyone reading this: you’re getting sleepy, very sleepy. (Wait – that’s hypnotism. Oh, well. It could still work.) You’re on a beach, with the sun shining down. Then a cute brown tabby jumps in your lap. You fall in love instantly and begin filling out the adoption papers…

The law of diminishing returns as it applies to bed making

There is something magical about a made bed. It creates a sense of accomplishment, tidiness, and organization. It means that you are a doer, an achiever, someone who knows how to tuck in the sheets and fluff the pillows.

Then, there are those who argue that it’s a waste of time. This is because (unless something goes terribly wrong … or maybe right), you will just unmake it again at night when you go to bed. So what’s the point?

For most my life, I’ve identified with both sides of the debate. I love it when the bed is made. It’s like the whole room sparkles.

bedroom

Imagine fancy sparkles all around the bed.

Of course, this requires effort and motivation, both things I don’t always have a lot of.

Sometimes, I rationalize that I shouldn’t waste precious hours (okay, minutes) on something so fleeting and meaningless (in the overall scheme of things). I could spend those minutes editing my book, or posting comments on Art’s epic comment thread. (As an aside, Art from Pouring My Art Out has been working tirelessly to break the record of number of comments on a blog post. I’ve spent a fair amount of time over there in my kitty cat pajamas and zebra slippers. As of now, his post has over 15,000 comments. You should check it out).

So, on these days, I leave the bed as is: no tucking, no straightening, and no folding.

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Day 1 of no bed making. (Don’t mind the cat, she’s always looking for attention)

Sometimes the bed goes unmade for days and it begins to look like we sleep in a vortex of sorts.

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You can see the mattress pad has slipped off the corner – this always happens on my husband’s side. I think it’s because he spins like a hotdog on one of those roller things. I, on the other hand, am the blanket stealer.

Then after a few more days it looks like this:

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Now, this is after about a week of no bed making. The mattress pad is off both corners, the comforter is completely sideways, and after a little digging I found the book I lost two days ago.

So, you might start to think that I just randomly decide whether or not to make the bed, depending on my mood, or very busy blogging schedule. Well, it’s not really true. I’m about to confess to something big here: I use bed making to keep my husband’s expectations low. And it’s a very calculated process.

You see, I work from home on a very part time basis and my husband works full time at an office job.  We haven’t set any expectations about who is responsible for what around the house, but I like to do a little cleaning here and there, so the house isn’t a disaster when he comes home.

And, as I pointed out the beginning of the post, there is something magical about a made bed. And when he comes home and sees the bed is made, it looks like I did something with my day. I was accomplished and organized. I achieved something amazing, even if the rest of the house is still in ruins. I can say, “Look, honey, I made the bed.” And his eyes light up and he lavishes me with various sentiments of approval, “it looks amazing” or “yes! I love it when the bed is made.”

Now, the one caveat with this is you can’t go and make the bed every day. More bed making does not equal more awe and praise. It is the law of diminishing returns. More bed making will eventually result in diminished wonder and awe. Worse, bed making will no longer be seen as an amazing accomplishment. It will no longer be seen as special. It will become the expectation.

So, if you ever come to my house and see the bed is unmade, you now know why.

And if you come by tomorrow, the bed will be made. Because, based on my calculations, tomorrow might be bed making day.

Would you like your receipt?

I remember the days when you could go into a store and order a cup of coffee or buy a pack of gum and the clerk would just hand you a receipt.

But sadly, the world has changed. Now, many establishments offer you a choice, a decision to make. It seems simple enough. It’s a yes or no question.

“Do you want your receipt?”

I don’t know why this is so hard for me. I’m prepared for the paper versus plastic debate. I know whether I’m paying cash or credit. I’m ready to answer “no” when they try to sign me up for their rewards program.

But for some reason I can’t decide if I need that little piece of paper. I stand there, with my mouth hung open, “uh…. yes … no, wait.” I look to the other customers for a signal. What do you guys think? “Um.. No. Hold on. Yes, I want it.”

It’s even worse than the “would you like the receipt with you or in the bag” question. I don’t know. Either hand it to me or stuff it in the bag. I really don’t care. And maybe that’s why I have such a problem with the question. I guess I really don’t care. It’s usually asked by a fast food type restaurant and I know I’m not planning to return the veggie burrito I just scarfed down. Therefore, do I need the receipt? I still don’t know.

So, I make random, haphazard decisions, clearly based on whim. Sometimes, it’s a yes. Sometimes it’s a no. But, I can’t say that I’m comfortable with the decisions I’m making.

See, this is what happens when I say no: I watch as the receipt is ripped from the register, crumpled in the hand of cashier and then tossed into the trash beside them. I stifle a gasp. Fear runs down my spine. What if I really do need that receipt? How will I know they didn’t over charge me? What if there is super-secret information on that receipt that can now be harvested and used against me by the coffee making people?

But then this is what happens when I say yes: Receipts upon receipts pile up around me.

Now, instead of sitting in the trash at the local Starbucks, they’re lingering in my purse.

They take up residence in purses I haven’t used in years.

There’s even more in this purse, than in my current purse.

According to the plethora of receipts, I haven’t used this purse since June, 2011.

Some of them even get to live in this ceramic pot.

I don’t know why some grocery store and coffee receipts are more special than others, but they are. That is why they get crammed in the ceramic pot with the coupons I may or may not use and a birthday card from 3 years ago.

So, I fee like I need a plan, a strategy. Should I answer “yes” across the board? Or give a “no” if it’s less than $10? Less than $20? Maybe a “yes” for all goods from Starbucks, so they can’t harvest that super-secret information about me?

Or, I can just continue what I’m doing.

I don’t know. It’s just too stressful. Retailers, please, just make the decision for me. Just give me the receipt. And don’t you dare ask me if I want it printed or emailed.

What does getting older have to do with Top Gun?

deadline

Image courtesy Kalexander2010 via flickr.

I’ve known for a while that I’ve gotten old. I call it Old Age Awareness and there are obvious clues…

–When I go out, everything and everyone seems too loud. But at home the TV is never loud enough.

–Then there’s this scenario:

My husband: Do you want to watch a movie?

Me: Looks at the clock and realizes this must be a joke. It’s already 9:00 p.m.!

–And this happens more often than it should: Wait, how do you spell ‘hello’ again? No, that can’t be right.

At least one of these little reminders pops up on a daily or weekly basis.

Then there are other clues. The ones that crop up when you are in the presence of someone much younger than you, who by the way is very adept at pointing out how old you are.

Example:

Much younger cousin: We’re going to see Macklemore tonight.

Me: What’s a Macklemore?

Much younger cousin: He’s a singer.

Macklemore

Yep. This is him. I hear he likes to go thrift store shopping. (Image courtesy San Francisco Foghorn via Flickr CC 2.0)

Me: Oh. Never heard of him.

Much younger cousin: Yeah. *Giggles and points at me* It’s because you’re old.

Me: Sighs and decides to Google Mackelmore when I get home. A few minutes later I can’t remember what I was supposed to Google. An hour later I remember and decide to write it down, but I can’t find my quill and parchment.

Well, the latest clue that jumped up and smacked me in the face had to do with movies. Sure, I already knew I was out of touch with most of the new movies out there. The only reason I’ve seen Bridesmaids and The Hangover is because my younger cousin bought me a DVD player (Ha! I almost typed VCR) and then gave me her movies.

And I have a problem with most big budget action movies made today. Hold on, let me go get my cane so I can wave it in the air all angry like. This is what I’m thinking when I watch these movies: This movie relies too heavily on special effects. Where is the character development? I don’t even care about these characters. The computer animation is too much. It’s taking away from the story. Remember when the movie had a plot? It wasn’t just about the computer animated three-headed, mind reading, furry but also scaly, snail who types 80 words per minute. Ugh. How am I supposed to believe any of this is happening if the graphics are too real?

But this latest whack with the “you’re old stick” came from my much younger cousin’s failure to have seen, and subsequently fallen in love with, the movie Top Gun. Wait, what??

Nope, he’s never seen it. I know, I know. It’s like saying you’ve never seen Casa Blanca or Gone With the Wind. (They’re both on my to be watched list)

I was gutted. How can someone not have seen a movie that was so iconic? So brilliant? A movie that factored so significantly in my life. I don’t care that it was made almost a decade before he was born.

Top Gun

Image courtesy pculter via Flickr CC SA 2.0)

It’s the movie that gave us Maverick and Goose. Oh, Goose. I still weep for you.

The movie that gave us lines like:

“I feel the need… the need for speed.”

Sheer poetry, I say.

AND

“You can be my wingman any time.”

“Bulls**t! You can be mine.”

Hold on, let me wipe the single tear from my eye.

AND

“Talk to me Goose.”

The simplicity of the line is what gets me. It says so little, yet says so much.

The movie also gave us Kenny Loggins’s Danger Zone. A shiver runs up my spine when the opening sequence of the movie plays.

Yes, I’ve been known to act out the flight deck signals as the opening credits roll. Or when Danger Zone happens to find itself on my iTunes playlist. How can you not?

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The signal to launch. (Image courtesy the US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

Jennifer Windram recreating top gun

My re-enactment. It’s probably not regulation, but it’s the only yellow top I had.

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The signal to hold position. (Image courtesy the US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, we have a lot of hot sauce in the house. My husband loves the stuff.

Navy aircraft carrier

The signal it’s okay to launch. (Image courtesy US Navy via defense.gov)

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This one just reminded me (again) how old I was.

But alas, my dear, sweet, much younger cousin has never experienced the cinematic wonder that is Top Gun. And I wonder how many other young people are out there, walking the city streets, with no understanding of what it truly means to be the best of the best.

I might be old, and unable to remember where I put my keys, but to me Top Gun will always be about more than fighter planes.