When I was young I could eat or drink pretty much anything I wanted.
I can still eat or drink just about anything. The only difference is today there are consequences and repercussions.
The magnitude of this change was brought home to me in dramatic fashion recently when I sampled a new brand of salsa.
I have always enjoyed spicy foods. Not the tongue-scorching bio-hazard kind of hot foods that require consent forms and permits from the nuclear regulatory agency, but foods with a bit of zip to them.
There was a time when I consumed spicy foods without a second thought. If I do that today, nature has a way of reminding me I am no longer in the first blush of youth.
I spied this new brand of salsa in the produce section when I was in a grocery emporium recently, gathering the weekly stock of comestibles. It was loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and all sorts of good things.
The doc has been telling me to eat more vegetables, so I decided to buy some.
The salsa came in two varieties, mild and hot.
This was an easy choice. In my vocabulary, mild equals boring. I chose the hot version, hoping it had a bit of zing to it.
I added some tortilla chips to my cart, and I was in business.
Later that evening, when I returned to the bachelor pad and had time to watch some television before retiring with an improving book, I sampled the salsa.
It was fresh, zesty, and quite tasty. While spicy, it was neither too hot nor too bland. I scarfed down a fair amount of it before calling it a day.
Because I am not a complete idiot, I took the precaution of slamming down a beaker of the middle-aged person’s secret weapon a fizzy antacid beverage, in the lemon-lime flavor, prepared by dropping two tablets in water. This is usually sufficient to ward off any ill-effects of careless consumption.
I read a couple chapters of my book, and turned out the lights on another day.
The bomb went off about 2:30 a.m., when I was awakened by an acute pain in the mid-section.
I felt unusually warm, and I experienced the sensation of a seething cauldron of liquid fire in the pit of my stomach.
Visions of lava flows oozing down mountains, incinerating everything in their path, and creating clouds of steam as they met the sea danced before my eyes.
I dragged myself to the galley, conscious that if I tried, I could have breathed fire like a disgruntled dragon.
I mixed up another beaker of the lenitive liquid, put a cold compress on my forehead, and returned to bed to wait for the internal inferno to subside.
As I lay in the darkness, I thought bitterly about the cruel nature of time.
I have said for years youth is wasted on the young, and this is yet another illustration of why I believe that is so.
When my pals and I were young, we sometimes engaged in what might be construed as over-enthusiastic consumption of adult beverages, and I confess that in those days, we were more concerned about quantity and price than we were about quality.
If we acquired a case of two dozen longnecks at the reasonable price of $2.35, as we often did, we were happy as clams.
After consuming said beverages, it was often our practice to round out the evening by stopping at the local taco establishment at about 2 a.m. and devouring a couple of burritos with hot sauce to slake the appetite aroused by all the merrymaking.
After this peculiar behavior, I was able to turn in and sleep like a baby until I awakened the next morning, refreshed and ready to take on the new day.
I fear if I were to try something as reckless as that today, the consequences would be much different.
I am neither a physician nor a scientist, but I have a theory about why problems like the one I have described take place.
I believe when we are young, our digestive system is lined with a magical secret coating that protects us from harm.
That is why we can eat and drink just about anything without experiencing any detrimental effects.
As the years go by, however, the ravages of time, accelerated by the constant abuse of our bodies, take their toll.
We begin to lose our tolerance to more exotic or adventurous foods and beverages.
Our weakness increases, until even the aroma of a good pot of chili can send us running for the antacid.
There are days when I wish medical researchers could find a way to restore the magical layer of protection to its earlier effectiveness.
I suppose, however, that as much as I dislike the aging process, our bodies are probably designed this way for a reason.
Since some of us are not bright enough to learn our lessons as we grow older, this is nature’s way of reminding us to slow down.
If it weren’t for the evolving frailty of our digestive systems, some of us would go on raising Cain and living large our entire lives.
As things stand, if we try to relive the halcyon days of our youth, nature steps in with a brisk and painful reminder that we aren’t as young as we were.
I suppose, at least as far as our menu is concerned, that is probably a good thing for us to remember.