Four months ago today, I unexpectedly had to have three metal stents placed in two major coronary arteries descending from my heart to avoid potential, um, disaster.
Shortly thereafter, my cardiologists gently suggested that I change some of my dining habits ("do it or die!" — well, not really, but kind of).
No more big bowl of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream with semisweet chocolate syrup poured over it just before bedtime. No more three-plate specials at my favorite TexMex diners. No more "Loaded Potatoes" with double sour cream, real bacon bits and shredded cheddar at the lovely riverside restaurant. No more heavily marbled T-bone steaks, breaded and fried eggplant parmigiana, or grilled cheese sandwiches with chips on the side.
In other words, my favorite foods.
Instead, I'm eating pears, avocados, almonds, once-a-week tenderloin steaks the size of a deck of cards (and that doesn't mean a double canasta deck), lots of salads, salmon, tilapia, asparagus and all the other stuff that's on the perimeter shelves of my favorite grocers.
One reward is that when I breathe, I can actually feel it, and when I tackle the weeds in my front yard for two solid hours, I don't have to crawl back into the house in total, sheer exhaustion. Now it's just plain, simple tired as a sled dog.
An unexpected by-product of this food change is that I've also painlessly and inadvertently dropped 14 pounds, which is a lot for a person a little more than 5 feet tall.
One unfortunate thing I've learned is that good food is a lot more expensive than bad. To equal the nice, full, satisfied feeling I get from a $1 burger at the drive-through window, I must spend at least $3 to $5 on fruits, nuts and vegetables to munch all day.
But if it keeps the ol' ticker going a few more weeks, months or years, it's all worth it.
And slipping into a size 8P again ain't bad either.
Fans of actor Candler Budd (Mr. Cellophane in Chicago, multiple roles in Greater Tuna) will be delighted to hear that he's coming back to join Matthew McGee in Red, White and Tuna at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre June 18-July 18.
In it, Budd and McGee will each play about a dozen characters — men, women and children — in the mythical town of Tuna, Texas, the third smallest town in the state.
Budd lives in New York City now, where he continues to be on stage in various plays and musicals. He recently married, and everyone wondered if he would leave his new bride to come back to Florida for that show. That's been worked out, so local folks will get to see Budd again.
Budd and McGee set box office records with A Tuna Christmas at American Stage, not once, but twice. They set a time slot record at the Show Palace when they did Greater Tuna in 2007, drawing more than 1,000 patrons a week in the dead of summer.
The upcoming comedy hasn't been produced in the Tampa Bay area as far as I can determine, so devoted Tuna fans will be coming from near and far for a chance to see it — and to see their favorite actors, Budd and McGee.
Me? I bought my ticket a year ago.
I went back to see the musical Evita at Richey Suncoast Theatre a week ago (just wish I'd gone back a few more times — it was awesome and then some) and got a little surprise.
When the scene featuring Juan Peron's mistress came along, the actor playing that role, Molly Nugent, was nowhere in sight.
Instead, young Caitlin Ramirez was in the spotlight.
Turns out that Ms. Nugent was suddenly taken ill on Friday and someone had to step into that role on a moment's notice.
Caitlin quickly memorized the words to the poignant Another Suitcase in Another Hall and sang it as though she had been doing the role all her life. Her treatment of the song was sweet and tremulous and very effective.
I've been watching Caitlin at Richey Suncoast for at least a decade, as she has grown from a tiny girl into a lovely young woman. She was always a standout, expressive and involved in whatever she was doing. In a line of singers or dancers, my eyes were always drawn to her because she really gets into her roles.
It's fun to watch her and others, such as her tango dance partner Jeff Oles, grow up on stage and to wonder if they will go on to professional acting as so many others at Richey Suncoast have — Justin Sargent, Michael Ursua, Shanna Ursua, Jimmy Ferraro and James Kelly, to name a few.
Kelly, by the way, played the role of Magaldi when Richey Suncoast did Evita in 1994. Back then, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He and his family moved to Hollywood a couple of years after Evita, and he's been doing movies and television since then.
Watch for him playing Chuck in the upcoming movie Due Date with Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis and Jamie Foxx, the police clerk in The Hangover and a mine safety expert in All About Steve.
On TV, he has a recurring role as Cliff Angell in CSI: NY and was Chief Duffy in NYPD Blue, Commander Fisk in The District, Capt. Del Gato in Ocean Avenue and Billy Bob Jackson in Walker, Texas Ranger (until Walker shot him dead).
His list of credits is three pages long (see www.imdb.com). If you're a longtime Richey Suncoast patron, you'll recognize him immediately.