The perils of praline |

The perils of praline

Dear Editor:

Have you ever noticed that life is full of little pitfalls? Soon as you think you have it made – wham – right between the eyes. Never saw it coming, crept up on you from behind, stabbed you in the back. Such is the story of the perils of the praline.

Now it may or may not have been an actual praline that we are talking about but for all intents and purposes it might as well have been. A praline is one of those butter, sugar and nut concoctions covered in chocolate. Sticky sweet and, oh, so good.

Last spring Mom and I went on a trip back East to New York state to visit the relatives and help clear out the old family house in this little town outside of Binghamton – but first let me give you a little bit of my background. I was born and raised (for the most part) and live here in Aspen but have always been more of a peanut-butter-and-jelly guy in a filet-mignon town. Let me put it this way – having a lot of extra cash on hand is not one of my strong suits. You may well imagine I’ve worked a lot of different jobs over the years, but lately things have been a tad slow, if you know what I mean. I’m always looking for ways to make a few extra bucks, and so when Auntie E. mentioned over the phone that I could maybe wash the windows in her house in upstate New York, the window washing gear got packed in the car.

Uncle Richard had just passed away and cousin Jennifer needed help to clean out and sell the old farm and house where Mom grew up. We hypermiled (look it up) it east along Interstate 70 arriving to sort the very last of the mementos and fill the giant dumpster with everything imaginable. It was sad but went well. I was tired but feeling pretty good since I had made some cash doing quite a bit of the hard labor, and so off we went to Auntie’s house to do more sorting and wash the windows. Several other small tasks were also found for me to accomplish, and so the paycheck kept growing. I used to have a window-washing business and am multitalented, so in a few days all was done and we were to leave the next morning.

Well, Auntie E is a bit of a gourmet and so as a special last night treat she decides “I want to make you my special homemade pralines.” So she does. We have an excellent dinner and then try Auntie’s confections. They are good – too good. Feeling great to be done working with some bucks in my pocket but a bit anxious to get back home, I can’t really relax and want to start packing and so go back to the kitchen for one last quick bite of praline and then it happens – wham. Swallowing a bit too fast the bite gets stuck about halfway down and I completely black out. The front of my head goes bashing off one counter, whiplashing my neck to hit the sink with the back of my head as I crumple to the floor. I wake up a few seconds later in a fog hearing myself instinctually yelling, “help … help.” Mom and Auntie rush to my aid and pick me up. I’m dazed and my right arm and hand are numb. I recover rather quickly, and although still physically hurting, my sheer befuddlement as to why this happened was possibly nagging me even more.

The Internet can be a great source of information and so I do my homework. There is a nerve called the vagus which runs down the front of your body relatively close to the surface which controls the speed of your heartbeats. Its job is to regulate your beats, keeping them slow and steady. Turns out that if this nerve is overstimulated it actually stops your heart from beating for a couple seconds – you pass out and are technically dead. This can easily happen when a large piece of food gets caught in just the right spot. It is just like Mom told you when you were a kid – always chew slowly and swallow carefully and … beware the pralines!

Boyd Billings


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