Work of Art: Where's the, er, euphemism?

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By Art Trujillo

There’s a line in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in which George, the host, asks his wife Martha to show their guest “to the ‘euphemism.’”

The guest in this play by Edward Albee needed to visit the bathroom after having consumed several too many drinks.

Euphemism: a mild or indirect word substituted for one considered blunt. It’s the policy of using “bathroom,” “lounge,” “restroom” or “loo” in lieu of “toilet.” The Europeans almost always use “toilet.”

But let’s get to the point: Monday I underwent a mild surgical procedure at Alta Vista, as part of a yearly process for many men my age. If I’d had my appendix removed, I’d say so — no euphemism needed. This — er — procedure is of a more private nature, simply something that required a pauper’s diet, a 30-hour regimen of coffee, Jell-O, clear juices and broth.

Well, a man weighing more than 200 pounds gets accustomed to larger portions, but this Spartan regimen forbade anything solid. And the night before, I even dreamed about swallowing an entire side of beef, with a dozen tamales as a chaser. I even imagined that consuming a bowlful of menudo and a side of squash would be salubrious. Actually, I prevaricate. I could never be that hungry.

Monday morning’s minor surgery, which involved putting me to sleep while undergoing a bit of prodding and poking, went surprisingly well. Although they’re professional and dedicated, Dr. Sandy Brown’s crew, Janet, Nicole, Veronica and Lynn, not only withstood my attempts at humor but also provided some of their own.

Now let’s back up a little. A few days ago, Karyl Lyne and June King gave me a tiny bag of raw rice. Fully cooked, it would take up more volume. The suggestion was to cook it, eat it, and realize that that minuscule amount represented the total daily nutrition of some people in underdeveloped countries.

And that’s roughly how I felt Sunday when my family almost cancelled their planned after-church lunch because I would be unable to eat, unless Jell-O and broth were on the menu. We went ahead. It wasn’t easy watching the family consume hot sopaipillas at La Cocina de los Aragones while I sipped unsweetened tea.

Meanwhile, the contrast, at the recent Health Fair at the city recreation center, was with the bags of popcorn given away by Victory Home Health, one of a few dozen booths at the fair. Some people grabbed a bag of popcorn just for a snack, or in my case, just because it was there. People spilled it too. How much of that corn would it take to feed starving people?

We eat out a lot and are amazed that huge amounts of food — food that could feed many — simply get left on the plates of those with eyes bigger than their stomachs. We waste things. And notice how things and people have become super-sized over the last couple of decades. Though I don’t by any means qualify as an exemplar of a lean and mean diet or physique, I still believe we’re a wasteful society.

In October you’ll be reading and hearing about the annual CROP Walk, a function involving volunteers who walk a prescribed course and distance as a way of raising funds to help feed the hungry. It’s a great program. The tiny bags of rice Karyl Lyne and June King handed out graphically demonstrate the need for programs like CROP Walk.

• • •

Saying goodbye to a friend is difficult. Many of us were greatly affected at the death of Clarence Falvey, husband to Faye, father to Ruby and grandfather to Hollyanne.

My acquaintance with Clarence goes back more than 50 years, when he began work at the Optic, where he remained for 40 years. All there loved him. All communicated with him — whether by written notes, gestures or lip-reading. He taught me to fingerspell. Many times my family would join his to play Scrabble or Crazy 8s. As sports editor at the time, I often took Clarence to out-of-town football games.

Clarence, born deaf, enjoyed watching the games. At the same time, I had invited Harold Martinez, a student at Highlands, to join me as well. Harold had become blind during childhood. As I introduced the two, Harold put out his hand, which Clarence shook. The drive to Springer, where the Dons were playing against the Red Devils, was, well, different.

As I drove, chatting with Harold was easy; with Clarence, I needed to see his hands to understand. At the game, it was easy to describe the play-by-play to Harold; Clarence, however, caught all the action on his own. Later, over coffee at the Stockmen’s Café, my friends naturally were curious about one another: Where are you from? How do you like Las Vegas? How did you lose your hearing? How did you become blind?

In a word, attempting to serve as an intermediary was a challenge. Both remembered that outing well. And once at work, Clarence told me that as he drove by Highlands, he’d seen Harold, white cane in hand, walking to class. “I honked at him, but he ignored me,” Clarence said. I got back to Harold with Clarence’s feigned concern over being snubbed, and Harold answered with, “Well, Clarence should’ve spoken to me first.”

Over five decades, Clarence invariably reminded me about how his and my friendship included so much banter. He couldn’t visit me without taking some dig at my weight or my haircut or my appearance; I’d tease him about some silly thing he’d done during a game of Scrabble, such as a creative way of spelling words.

I loved the incessant badinage and I believe he did too.

We miss you, Clarence.

Thanks for having come our way.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.