Sharing a connection to kings

Joe Pisani Web sig

Joe Pisani Web sig

Staff / Hearst Connecticut Media

I just learned I have something in common with Louie XVIII, and probably Louie XIV, not to mention Louie XVII, along with Henry VIII, IX and X, Napoleon III, Kim Jong-un and a few other kings and tyrants.

You must be thinking, “It’s their lack of hair or heirs, their love of yard-work or their high levels of testosterone.” You’re getting warmer — we suffer from gout.

Let me explain to those of you who don’t spend hours on the Internet, looking up illnesses you imagine you have. Gout, which is not to be confused with grout or gouda, is often called, “the disease of kings,” “the rich man’s disease,” “the rich Republican’s disease,” “the limousine liberal’s disease,” and more descriptively, “the big toe torture.”

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood and is associated with a lavish diet of foie gras, cream sauces, filet mignon, seafood, fine wines, booze and just about everything else you worked all your life to enjoy.

A form of inflammatory arthritis, gout can lead to excruciating joint pain and a swollen big toe, fit for a king or a Kardashian. Gout has been around since the ancient Egyptians, who cured it by embalming the patient. More than 6 million people suffer from gout, which is thought to be a condition that geezers get.

This theory goes back to the 17th century, when English physician Thomas Sydenham wrote: “Gouty patients are either old men or men who have so worn themselves out in youth as to have brought on a premature old age — of such dissolute habits, none being more common than the premature and excessive indulgence in venery and exhausting passions.”

I’m not entirely sure what “venery” is; however, I can safely say I NEVER did it, and if I did do it, I can’t remember doing it.

Because of my swollen toe, I’ve been limping all over town. I don’t want to see my doctor, or I’ll have to listen to a lecture about my diet, which resembles what Dr. Oz and Ronald McDonald would eat if they went to dinner together at IHOP.

I blame my 3-year-old grandsons. Over the weekend, we had pepperoni pizza and hot fudge sundaes. (They made me do it.) All day, they were whining “WE WANT PIZZA! WE WANT ICE CREAM!” As their grandfather, was I supposed to say, “Shut up, you little roaches, you’re getting hummus and steamed prunes!” Instead, I said, “OK boys, pepperoni pizza it is! Do you have your father’s credit card?”

As you can see, gout is a family disease. It’s also a disease of denial because in modern America no one wants to admit they have a rich man’s ailment. The first thing the doctor does to make a diagnosis is check your tax returns.

Now that our country is turning to socialism, I don’t want to be labeled an upper-crust elitist who devours duck livers, pate and French pastries. I want to end the stigma surrounding gout before political zealots pass a law requiring the registrar of voters to check everyone’s big toe. (During the French Revolution, they hunted down aristocrats by checking their toes. “Mon Dieu! Look at this man’s toe! Take him to the guillotine. Cut off his toe and his head!”)

Actually, my wife claims she’s to blame for this state of affairs. As part of her crusade to keep me going another 50 years, she took control of my diet. No red meat, no saturated fat (except when she’s not looking), no booze, no nothing. I’m like one of those fatted calves on an organic farm that’s grass fed and never sees preservatives, nitrates, antibiotics, GMOs or gluten.

So how did I get gout? She starts my day with a health shake that includes spinach, kale, beets, berries, and fruits and vegetables I can’t even name. BUT all these greens are high in uric acid. It’s too much of a good thing, and the only cure is for me to hobble down the street to The Greek’s for a chili dog or two.

Joe Pisani can be reached at