Well, here we are, in the year 2006 at last.

Iím still recovering from this little flu bug I came down with Christmas Day but really hit me hard the day after. I suffered through all of last week and worst of all through New Yearís weekend. Itís no fun being sick on New Yearís weekend because it really puts a cramp in your party plans.

I believe I now hold the distinction of having tried every cold medicine on the shelf. Nothing, I mean nothing, would combat this thing. I started really fearing I had contracted the dreaded Captain Tripps superflu of Stephen Kingís The Stand or something like the Michael Crichtonís Andromeda Strain.

Of course, I hate taking medicine in the first place, and hate going to doctor even worse. Nothing against doctors as people, mind you, I know quite a few of them and theyíre really quite decent folks. I just have this thing because I spent the first two years of my life in hospitals surrounded by doctors due to various ailments at birth. So while I am quite comfortable with doctors at any given time at a restaurant, fishing, grilling on the back porch, whatever, the sight of a white lab coat, stethoscope or those silver, round things with the hole in the middle they used to wear strapped to their heads (what the devil were those things, anyway?) still evokes childhood hysteria.

Over the course of this bugís natural lifespan, I have come to believe that the most significant advancement in the medical sciences since penicillin must certainly be cherry-flavored cough syrup. I remember when I was very young cough syrup was not flavored and tasted suspiciously like one would imagine mustard gas would taste. Like the legendary castor oil treatment, even if it didnít cure you, you got better because you dang sure didnít want to take any more. My mother, thank goodness, never gave me castor oil, and for that I am eternally grateful.

This little bug has been odd in that I started feeling fairly good Sunday, and was down again by Monday (Monday was a day off here at work so please keep any of your wisecracks about "Sure, you get sick when you have to go back to work," and blow them out your nose, okay?) as if that train had backed up to hit me again.

Why is a cough or cold or flu always worse at night? I think itís because of gravity. No, Iím serious. I really believe that congestion gets worse because of the effects of the moonís gravity on our bodies. In fact, I have been intending to do a scientific analysis in which Iíll bet you increases in chest and nasal congestion, coughing and sinus drip are in sync with high tides. However, I have not actually conducted this analysis yet because when itís time I feel too yucky to mess with it.

I also suspect that the degree of sickness you feel is proportional to the weather. You see, if the sun is shining and blue skies sparkle overhead, you feel sick as a dog. If itís gray, overcast and raining, you feel just hunky-dory. On the other hand, this might just be a fishermanís perspective, I donít know.

During one evening of my convalescence, I decided it was time for a hot toddy, that age-old and time-honored cure-all. My grandmother never drank, but when I moved into the old house I would find three-quarter-full half-pint bottles of Old Grandad hidden in the medicine cabinet, or a high kitchen covey hole. My dad assured me she wasnít nipping at the bottle, she was saving such stashes for hot toddies.

Well, if it was good enough for my Granny, itís good enough for me. A shot of Bushmillís Black Irish Whiskey, a squeezed lemon, honey and a little water as a thinner, in a coffee cup warmed in the microwave. Man, Iím a-gonna told you, cher, that was beaucoup good! And it wasnít even cherry-flavored!

I think the problem with the cold and flu industry is that itís gotten to ritzy. You got all these designer drugs out there, with names like dextromethorphan or guaifenesin which really donít do much except sound important. These they package in liquids, powders, tablets, gelcaps and caplets, boxed, bottled or bagged in flashy colors with stunning claims of effectiveness. Some of them require you to give your thumbprint and pass an FBI background check at the cashier checkout and still donít help you feel a bit better.

All this and when you get right down to it, a hot toddy, bag of Halls cough drops and a jar of Vickís is really as good for a cold and cough as any of Ďem.