The New Draft Lottery of 1969

The New Draft 

When I went to school in 1965, college students were exempt from Selective Service draft status. Everyone else age 18 or older could be randomly called up for active duty because at that time there was no volunteer army. If you were expelled from college or if you flunked out, the SS (Selective Service) was notified immediately, would then swoop down like its Nazi Party namesake and cart you off to a barrack; then ship you over to Viet Nam. The only other exempt categories were Medical Students and Chicken Farmers because future doctors, eggs and poultry were considered vital to the American economy.

Sometimes I think this must have been prophetic to the future plight of many primary care physicians in the twenty-first century: No better off than being a plucked hen.

However, the later news was not very good, because once graduated from Medical School, the SS could then draft any new physician based first on age, then on marital status, and then on whether or not there were dependents. Since I was single and had no children, I prayed nightly that the Viet Nam war would finally be over before June of 1973.

At that time, it looked as though the war was going to last forever and that I might wind end up like Howard Levy; being assigned as some physician hacksaw quack in a tropical mosquito infested Green Beret camp. Levy, was a Psychiatrist who was told when he was drafted that he was now a Surgeon. He said he did “on the job training.”

But in 1969 a miracle occurred. The rules were changed as an effort to mollify critics who felt that draft eligibility was statistically skewed against the poor, the blacks and the economically disadvantaged. The solution to the problem was brilliant in its simplicity: Create a lottery system based on a person’s eighteenth birth date, then draw 366 calendar dates from a hat and assign the number 1 to 366 in sequence as each date is drawn.

The first number drawn was 258, which attached to September 14th, and which also corresponded to incredibly bad luck. Anyone born on September 14th was at the top of the draft list. And so on.

My brother’s date corresponded to number 17, while mine corresponded to 320.

This was the only lottery I have ever won, which is perfectly fine considering the stakes were life and death as opposed to lump-sum cash.

The bad news was that my brother’s number did come up. It was predictable. The good news was that years before, he had sustained an ankle fracture that healed, leaving his right leg slightly shorter than his left one.

The injury occurred when he and I were fighting and he fell down a small hill. I felt guilty after the fact because I was still so mad at him I made him walk home on it for about half a mile. Knowing that he had the devious Evetts gene, I thought he was faking the injury so that my mother would later blame me for the entire episode. While she never did blame me because it was an accident, what she did take out on me was my callous disregard for my brother’s well being; and as usual, my father could just “not understand” how the whole thing could have happened in the first place.

When my brother’s number came up, we thought he would be drafted and sent off to Viet Nam. My mother and I were beside ourselves with angst, but my father’s reaction was one of patriotic indifference.

  • So what? Serving your country is a high honor and a sacred patriotic duty.

My mother and I both verbally assaulted him.

I came at him from the war protestor’s point of view, about the lack of a moral validity to even be in Viet Nam, and my mother attacked him from the point of view of a mother’s love along with a hysterical foreboding premonition that her son might come home in a black body bag.

  • Dad. It isn’t the same as World War II.
  • And why not?

The circular argument ended when my mother proactively took my brother to the Orthopedic Surgeon who had set his fracture and who produced enough documentation to get my brother a 4-F draft exemption.

My mother and I were elated.

My father believed my brother to be a coward.

What everyone seemed to forget was that if the cause had been a good one, and if the nation’s security had been held at the same risk threatened by Hitler and Tojo, everyone would have signed up to go.

The final irony:

There is no time limit on draft status for a physician. There is also no limit on how many physicians can be drafted at any given time. I never served, so I am still eligible. Luckily, however, the doctor lottery goes by age:  Youngest first. Then by marital status and dependents. Then by status of health.

Thankfully, I finally got old. I eventually got married. I have step-children and I also have a bad arthritic back with bulging lumbar discs.

Unfortunately, any of my contemporaries who already had served, can be also be called up again; one of the great attributes of military conduct being that the rules can always be changed to suit the circumstances because war itself changes everything.

Hopefully, the next war will not be one of global annihilation because if so, there will not be anyone left to treat. But then again there will not be anyone left to shoot at me, either. After the war, being completely out of patients would certainly make for a strange condition of forced retirement.

One can only imagine the look on the face of a welfare screener if any modern-day physician applied for unemployment benefits?

  • Let me get this straight. You are a doctor and you are unemployed?
  • Yes ma’am. We finally cured death.

Except for the fact that some Four-Star General, holing up in the bunker at the Greenbrier with the President and the Congress, would probably then order me to immediately change hats, like they did to Howard Levy, and to expeditiously become a coroner.

  • Yes sir. Definitely radiation poisoning, sir and definitely not terrorism, sir. I am very certain of that, sir. Trust me on this one, sir. Just a mass extinction event. There are simply far too many nuclear bomb crater holes out here. Oh, and how are you and the Congress holding up in your bunker? Are you sure you are all right in there, sir? And by the way sir… who won?”
Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters




Kent State 1970

Kent State 

When I was a freshman in Medical School, fortune smiled on me again. One of the freshman students in my dorm and I decided to go to Harvard Square where we heard there was going to be an Viet-Nam antiwar protest.

The demonstration took place one or two days after an Earth Day demonstration on the Boston Common, which we had also attended. You would think we would have better things to do with our time, but our sincere dislike for Richard Nixon and our sense of moral outrage about Viet Nam continued to seem to get the better of us. We wanted to be a part of it all. We just wanted to help.

The scenario at Harvard Square was eerily similar to the one at Duke, except for the fact that it took place at night, and the authorities were extremely well prepared for potential violence.

In addition, the National Guard had been mobilized and was actually sent in to assist the local police. At Duke, the guard never had to show up.

The odd thing about it all was that the whole thing seemed to have a carnival atmosphere about it, and many of us casually joked with guard members as we walked by. But the tension was still palpable, and as more demonstrators began to show up the radical elements began to polarize the situation by hurling nasty epithets at the police and guard members.

Not a few unpleasant but predictable epithets got hurled back.

  • Hippie, freak, Commie bastard.

The one thing I was particularly bothered by was the obvious fact that the authorities had spotters and armed individuals on the roofs of some of the buildings. They held the high ground. They had the weapons. They had the obvious upper hand. They were also undoubtedly photographing faces in the crowd. Everything was peaceful until some idiot decided to set a newspaper kiosk on fire at which point some people then started to throw rocks through store windows which was the only cue needed to prompt the police and the troops into the action needed to clear out the Square. They were pissed off, not inclined to put up with any more bullshit and acted both swiftly and efficiently.

I knew I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when I saw the police suit up with gas masks, Kevlar armor, riot helmets, Billy clubs, full riot shields, side arms, and worst of all then they brought out the dogs.

My friend and I wasted no time getting out of Dodge when the police formed complete shoulder to shoulder regimental lines across the streets that fanned out from the square and being accompanied by their German Shepherds, formed flying wedges that pushed everyone outward from the middle, as if the streets were spokes on a wheel.

I found myself running across one of the Charles River bridges as fast as I could possibly go while all the time wondering if I was about to be bitten on the ass by some snarling police pet. It was so frightening I never even turned around while the stupidly naïve part of my brain did not even think for one single moment that the police would actually ever open fire.

You would have thought I had learned my lesson at Duke. Police do not cotton well to civil violence or civil disobedience and even though most of us who protested thought we were exercising a right to free speech and public gathering, illegal trespass and destruction of private property takes all bets off the table.

The Harvard Square “riot” took place on September 15th in 1970.

On September 20th Richard Nixon announced the U.S. bombing of Cambodia. This escalation of the war smoldered for a while and then triggered a particularly nasty student riot at Kent State in Ohio that occurred during the first week in May.

The governor sent in the National Guard after a building was burned down by the more radical elements on campus or perhaps even by outside professional communist agitators.

Two mistakes were made at Kent State. One was not arming the guard with plastic bullets. The second was that by not having brought in the local police, who knew the lay of the land, the guard accidentally pushed the main body of protestors up against a fence. The guard was armed, but not with a map of the battleground.

Unlike at Harvard Square or at Duke, the protestors were then trapped and cornered; and there is not a single living animal on earth that reacts well to being trapped or cornered. The situation rapidly deteriorated into chaos. Also apparently some members of the guard either feeling extremely personally threatened themselves, or in simply fully expressing their hatred for anti-war demonstrators, lost control and opened fire.

Four students died that day.

So did America.




Armband distributed at the 1970 Duke protest after the Kent State murders



 Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’

They’re finally in our town.

This summer I hear the drummin.’

Four dead in Ohio

(Four Dead in Ohio: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)






Legalized Drugs: An editorial essay

Legalized Drugs 

When I became a Cardiology Fellow in 1976 I stopped smoking tobacco. Like most bad habits, I never should have started smoking in the first place.

The first time I ever smoked was in the woods with my kleptomaniac high school friend Timmy who  swiped a pack from a stationery store along with some chewing gum that was designed to hide the smell from our parents. Lucky for us our parents smoked too, so we got away with it. However, the effects on my lungs and my body were horrible, making me feel sick for days. One might then ask: “So why did you ever try it again?”

But like any intoxicating habit when I went to Duke I picked up the habit for real by hard-core smoking unfiltered cigarettes for about three years. Thinking it to be a rationalized lesser of two evils, I then started using a pipe. Interestingly enough, aromatic pipe tobacco was more highly addictive than regular cigarette tobacco. Because of its more flavorful taste, the chemical enhancers made it extremely difficult to quit. I told people I didn’t really want to smoke tobacco, only doing it to keep my lungs in shape for marijuana. Ha, ha.

Then when I finally went to medical school and later became a Cardiology Fellow in 1976, I stopped smoking for good.

The epiphany for smoking cessation should have occurred in Medical School six years earlier. In a Surgery rotation I stood on my feet for an eight-hour operation while half of a smoker’s jaw was removed for tongue cancer only to then discover that tumor cells still lurked in the surgical margin. However, I needed the reinforcement later by going into a Catheterization Lab day after day for two years only to see one rotten coronary artery after the next.

I also stopped smoking pot at or about the same time because it stopped being enjoyable and because I did not care for its harsh effects on my respiratory system. One joint could make me cough for weeks or occasionally precipitate an episode of acute bronchitis that required treatment with antibiotics. Marijuana also made me eat more than usual and caused episodic paranoia while under its influence. On one occasion when I got ‘the munchies’ and drove to a Deli for a snack, I couldn’t even get out of the car because I thought everyone would be able to tell I was stoned and might call the police. Basically it just stopped being fun.

Over a long period of time I then became a lightweight social drinker shifting from beer when I was in my twenties to Vodka as an adult. In fact, I do not think I even drank at all until I was about twenty-six years old. Once again, I probably should have stopped right there when I overdosed on beer and puked all over my parent’s front yard late one Sunday afternoon. That display garnered no sympathy form my father as he made me hose off the mess because it would make a brown patch on his otherwise perfect lawn.

However, being one of those fortunate individuals who can stop after one drink, as opposed to nursing a miserable hangover that would make me basically useless for doing anything constructive, I would rather be able to function at work or better yet, on the first golf tee at 9 a.m. the next day.

There are other reasons.

Having a career in medicine prohibits substance abuse in general; and drinking while being responsible for patient care is not only derelict negligence, but is also a sure way to lose a medical license. Although I came to loath the responsibilities attendant with night call, principally because I had to do so much of it when I went through training and then later on in private practice, I suppose the advantage was that the forced sobriety may have saved my liver from a cirrhotic fate similar to that of Mickey Mantles’.

There is periodically a great national debate about the merits of legalizing certain drugs such as marijuana and heroin. Included in the arguments are that people will use the drugs anyway, so why not be able to control and tax them? The argument also goes that supplying people with standardized doses and clean needles will prevent lethal overdosing, or transmission of disease like HIV and hepatitis. In the case of marijuana, I am sure that a pot smokers dream come true would be to have regular access to a pack of R.J Reynolds quality ensured “Rolled Gold.”

I do not have an opinion on the subject other than to point out the hypocrisies of the debate’s opponents.

Everyone knows about the great failure of prohibition against alcohol. People wanted it anyway and nothing good came out of it, including the fact that bootlegging and clandestine distillation gave organized crime the monetary base it needed to gain what resulted in incredible social and political power. In fact, their power base was actually enhanced to megalithic levels when prohibition was repealed, forcing gangsters toward the importation or the sale of illegal drugs.

The hypocrisy comes with the fact that the United States Government actually sanctions alcohol and tobacco, two of the most dangerously lethal drugs that have ever been produced by mankind, and that these two drugs are the most widely used across the country.

There is even a Federal Agency, the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) that regulates these “drugs,” and prevents private entrepreneurs from cashing in on the profits; ergo the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1800s or the all out attempt to stop boot legging home distilleries. If people make their own booze and cigarettes; the government is shit out of luck on the tax revenues.

Illegal drug use pales in comparison, which makes the so-called “War on Drugs” a distracting, hypocritical myth. There is no war, because too many people, including politicians get kickbacks to keep it going. The only effective war is the one currently being waged by the Philippine President who is summarily shooting all the drug dealers.  The first effective war occurred when Mao Zedong closed down the Opium dens that had been maliciously facilitated by the British Empire’s drug trade that made it wealthy at the expense of the Chinese peasant. Mao knew that nation building was predetermined by getting China off dope.

Statistics vary on use of alcohol and tobacco, but taken together they account for being the most serious two drug problems facing the country. It is probable that two thirds of all adult American use alcohol socially. Approximately 54 million Americans take part in binge drinking, while about 16 million are heavy drinkers.

Alcohol use contributes to: accidents of all sorts, lost productivity, workforce absenteeism, crime, death, damaged health, wasted lives, physical and verbal spousal abuse, broken homes, and generalized human misery.

Drunk drivers kill 40 to 50 thousand people per year whereas in the thirteen or so years we have been fighting in Iraq, our country has lost only a few thousand lives.

In the early 1990s a snapshot of alcohol related costs to society were as follows:

  1. Health care expenditures: $18.8 billion.
  2. Premature death: $31.3 billion
  3. Motor vehicle accidents: $24.7 billion of which $11.1 billion relates to premature mortality.
  4. Crime: $59.1 billion.
  5. Social welfare programs: $10.4 billion.
  6. The total cost for all categories was $148 billion.

In 1995 the total was $166.5 billion with drug abuse related costs coming in at $108.9 billion. I don’t know what it is now, but can only guess it has escalated.

This economic cost is borne by the entire U.S. population, including those who do not drink and includes: State and Federal governments, private insurers, victims, and family members of alcoholics.

Twenty-three percent of Americans or about 51 million people smoke tobacco, which translates to an annual smoker per capita use rate of approximately 2069 cigarettes for each smoker. That translates to about 105 billion cigarettes and does not even account for worldwide tobacco exports, which are enormous.

When tobacco is burned its smoke liberates almost 4000 chemical compounds, which include its addictive component, nicotine.  These compounds, including the residual tars are atherogenic, carcinogenic and locally toxic to lung tissues. Passive environmental smoking also puts nonsmokers at risk, while pregnant women who smoke have higher rates of fetal deaths, smaller babies and SIDS.

In 1999, tobacco related illness consumed 6% of the total health care budget or approximately $76 billion.

Tobacco kills more people in the US than alcohol, cocaine, crack heroin, homicide, suicide, motor vehicle accidents, fires and AIDS combined.

At a little over 400,000 deaths per year this is equal to about the number of U.S. lives lost in WW II alone or the U.S. death rate combined for WWI, Korea and Viet Nam.

Smokers miss 2.3 more days of work per year than nonsmokers and smoking reduces life expectancy by about 5 years compared to nonsmokers.

Smoking related illness accounts for 20% of all cardiovascular problems and 30% of all cancer related illnesses.

24 million Americans have the chronic lung disease of COPD or emphysema, while smoking account for 25% of all residential fires.

As an indirect but nevertheless important cost, cigarette butts account for 20% of all carted U.S. trash. Think about how many are not even carted but simply get thrown on the ground.Also think about the fact that they are biologically inert and last for fifty years.

Other drug use statistics include about 14.6 million marijuana users. One third of these are addicts who smoke it 20 or more days a month. Unfortunately, marijuana smoke is equally as lethal as tobacco smoke in its risk to potentially cause COPD, emphysema, or cancer with an as yet undetermined risk of causing atherosclerosis. The problem is that the smoke is not filtered which therefore makes each joint equivalent in toxicity to about three filtered cigarettes. It also causes cognitive dysfunction and lowered IQ scores over time.

Non-medical use of prescription drugs such as narcotics and sedatives include about 6.2 million persons. Interestingly, although narcotics are one of the few addictive substances that someone can use on a daily basis and still function as a useful element in the workforce, they are still highly addictive. Users also develop tolerance, which requires increasingly higher doses to maintain a drug effect, followed by the horrific temporary illness associated with attempted withdrawal.

In 2002, two million Americans used cocaine, 1.2 million used hallucinogens, and 166,000 used heroin.

America’s hypocrisy, and in particular American Governmental hypocrisy, derives from the relative negative importance each category of substance abuse, other than alcohol and tobacco, has on society as a whole. Alcohol and tobacco represent a mountain, while the other categories in comparison represent miniscule anthills.

The fact that two of the worst offenders are either government approved or government sanctioned and that the tobacco industry is actually protected by government subsidies and tariffs makes any propaganda effort supporting a war against drugs laughably ludicrous. The overall adverse impact of drugs other than tobacco and alcohol pales in comparison to the combined poisonous and secondary cost effects of these two products.

If the Federal Government wanted to be even-handed about a drug policy it should ban all drugs. Since it cannot, or will not, as learned by the lessons of alcohol prohibition in 1919, it would be wiser if the government would at least legalize marijuana, require it to be a filtered product and impose similar laws to those related to alcohol when a person drives while impaired.

Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drug use cannot be stopped. Because it cannot be stopped, it should then be regulated and highly taxed. Additionally, tax deductions and tax shelters for tobacco and alcohol companies should be eliminated while advertising their products should be outlawed. It is also time to stop suggesting to our children that there is anything glamorous, seductive or even humorous about using alcohol or tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco are slow poisons. They take a long time to kill you; but unfortunately will never be removed from mainstream culture or subculture.

Marijuana, if unfiltered, has the equivalent lung cancer or COPD risk as cigarettes. It also makes people brain dead zombies and can cause breast development in men because of secondary increased estrogen effects. So what’s wrong with having a society of alcoholic, cigarette and marijuana smoking cirrhotic, lung diseased, brain dead, big boobed zombies?

On the other hand, because Cocaine or stimulants like amphetamine and Ecstasy, or intravenous drugs like heroin are so highly toxic and acutely dangerous, these products should all remain criminally banned. Heroin addicts could be allowed easy access to methadone to get them out of needle parks, but controlling prescription drug abuse is a hopeless cause at best. There are too many well-stocked medicine cabinets in the home, as children take their cues from parents who are overly prone to pill-popping instant cures for whatever ails them physically or emotionally.

Because of the significant health care and other societal costs linked to alcohol and tobacco, the tax base generated on these products as well as on any other potentially legalized drugs could be put into a liability fund created to offset those costs. The tax rate could be based on the number of users factored against the cost to society because God knows that under-funded hospitals could certainly use the cash.

This fund could also include an automatic, immediate reimbursement to any person hurt or maimed in a drug or alcohol related incident and an automatic disbursement to any family or spouse who has had a loved one die in a drug or alcohol related incident. Why should the rest of society suffer because someone else wants to drink or to smoke himself to death? Or worse yet, why should society suffer because someone else wants to drive himself into your car after drinking his judgment into oblivion?

And if society is not willing to execute a drunk driver who kills someone else, which in reality is a form of premeditated homicide, then there should be a heavy price to pay for it otherwise. Life in prison would be an alternative except then we as a society would still have to pay for room and board.

It is not infrequently when I take a medical history and ask people if they drink alcohol that they will answer in complete candor: “No. I only drink beer.”

Many other patients, in reference to smoking, will say that they light them up, but for the most part then only let them burn out.

I take it all with a grain of salt. After all, I think most people know that beer is not really alcohol and that President Clinton did not really inhale pot smoke or have sex “with that woman Monica Lewinsky”, either.                     



 “Doctor. I don’t drink alcohol. I only drink beer. And when I light a cigarette, I just let it burn out in an ashtray”



Oh demon alcohol

Sad memories I cannot recall

Who thought I would say,

Damn it all and blow it all,

Oh demon alcohol

Memories I cannot recall

Who thought I would fall

A slave to demon alcohol

(Ray Davies and the Kinks)


Statistics on tobacco, drugs and alcohol are derived form data generated by: The CDC, U.S Government Information
Resources, Goodman and Gillman’s Textbook of Pharmacology, The National Institute on Drug Abuse,
Dr. Robert Shubinki’s//wolfweb.unr.eduand ‘In Defense of Smokers’ by Dr. Lauren N. Colby, The WHO Tobacco Atlas

The Cocaine Courier

Eight Miles High

The best story I ever heard about drug smuggling was that of a young female South American courier, or “pony,” and who was bringing cocaine into the United States in glassine pouches that she swallowed; which were then retrieved later when she defecated.

Her mode of transport was commercial air flight.

The scheme worked well for a while until one day while in transit, she developed an acute psychotic reaction that was also accompanied by horrific abdominal pain. She was taken urgently to a hospital as soon as the plane landed. Her blood pressure and pulse were off the roof, she was incoherently screaming, while at the same time was also doubled up by unrelenting abdominal cramps and muscle fasiculations.

This type of presentation creates a certain diagnostic dilemma, because even with trivial disorders, for some reason female Hispanics are often prone to overly exaggerated, hyperventilating histrionics. (Italian women are also good at hysteria; or if hysterically angry sometimes plate smashing.) These theatrics sometimes makes it difficult to quickly separate the wheat from chaff before a definitive treatment is offered.

In the course of being worked up in the emergency room it became apparent on a routine abdominal scout X-ray that she had a colon full of little opaque densities, the cocaine pouches, one of which had burst open. Being absorbed systemically the drug was making her dangerously intoxicated. Who knows, perhaps the tightly packed bag bursting was related to the high altitude barometric pressure drop in the cabin.

Mathematically stated this would be:

P (a ≤ x ≤ b) = ∫ f (x) dx.

Or to simplify

Tbp + ↓ Bp = ≥ f (x) inside bag pressure to seek equilibration.

Or to translate further: Tight inside bag pack pressure + low outside barometric pressure = greater probability for bag to burst.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the little parcels were urgently retrieved by colonoscopy forceps and the woman’s life was literally saved by astute, expeditious recognition of her problem. She still went to jail, but the doctors involved never tired of telling the story about the time they had made that huge drug score in the Emergency Room on some “really good shit.”


Eight miles high and when you touchdown

You’ll find that it’s stranger than known

Signs in the street that say where you’re going

Are somewhere just being their own

(The Byrds)


Room mates and Neighbors

Off Campus 1967-1968 

In 1967 Arthur decided to leave school to pursue his California dream. He wanted to be a hippie; his imaginative mind having been saturated not only by his renegade, runaway friend Randy, but also by the likes of Jack Kerouac, as he obsessively decided to pursue his dream of becoming a Dharma Bum. This was a good thing for me because I needed to get away from his liberal influences anyway.

Life on the road was not a good thing however for Randy who was eventually killed when he was hit by an eighteen-wheeler in the dessert southwest while hitchhiking back to New Jersey. It was a situation never determined to be just an unlucky accident or an intentional suicide.

Prior to that I had been in a personal quandary because having had enough of Southern hospitality I could not decide if I should transfer to Georgetown University in Washington DC. I was also indecisive about really wanting to go on to medical school or persuing marine biology because of my love for the sea. Future vocational dilemmas tend to be commonplace for college sophomores, and I only wish now that someone had the foresight to steer me in the direction of investment banking or a career on Wall Street. Several of my classmates, who I tended to pity for being so droll, had predetermined they would make their careers in the financial sector. After all, everyone knew that doctors made a fortune, but how many stock brokers could say the same for themselves? At that point in time a ten-cent rise in a stock price was cause for jubilation.

Because Duke had a top flight Marine Biology school along with the basic sciences program I was enrolled in; would potentially qualify me for admission, so I decided to stay. On a more mundane level, I also still wanted to be with my girlfriend.

My friend Bill who had loaned me the money to go to Mexico for the abortion was dating a woman who claimed to be a cousin of the movie actress Stella Stevens. She was a very nice girl, but the resemblance to star quality looks had not crossed over into her own gene pool. In fact, there was no resemblance at all as well as unfortunately for her she also had to struggle with a proclivity to a horrible perniciously aggressive acne problem. But she made up for it by her own admission of being a nymphomaniac.

This was when I finally modify Aunt Jeannie’s premise that if lack of sex and a resulting sperm back-up is what caused acne in boys, then logic should dictate the opposite for women. One should clearly be able to tell a loose woman by a complexion that gives away the fact she may actually be sperm repository. It was a completely absurd thought, but childhood brainwashing can leave anyone with ridiculous adulthood ideas. And although parental or role model influences can certainly create a fine line when it comes to perverse as opposed to rational ideation, at least I was only being imaginative but not yet crossed into the domain of becoming a serial killer.

For example, it may have only been Mrs. Berkowitz endless and repetitive preservations of: “Wash your hands after you play with the dog, David,” that eventually caused his mind to snap and to hear the murderous directives that came to him from his neighbor Sam’s dog, Harvey.

Over the summer, Bill and Courtney convinced my girlfriend and me that we should get an apartment and live off campus together. It was not a bad idea because of economies of scale but also because it would be a quieter, more private life than living back at Canterbury House. Bill was also a very serious pre-law student and I thought his ambitious study habits would be a good influence.

We found a two family house in what we thought would be quiet neighborhood and moved into the top floor together.

This being the first time I had ever lived with a woman, the domestic tranquility also provided a certain emotional stability that took me off the party circuit.

It was not to say that the four of us would not continue to smoke pot for example, but in this particular circumstance the use of drugs was truly recreational and considered to be a reward reserved only for weekends or for when major school assignments had been completed. It was also a time when I discovered the peace and tranquility of the University Library where I finally broke a lifetime bad habit of trying to study with the television on. I was amazed at the turnaround in my grades.

The downside of living with another couple was that it compounded certain issues such as bathroom congestion, what to watch on TV or unanimity in deciding what to eat for dinner.

The upside was that familiarity bred familiarity and it was not long before Bill and Courtney proposed four-way sex and couple swapping. I did not have a problem with this, thinking it would make for a little excitement in our lives, but my girlfriend was not up for it at all so the idea died a quiet death. Too bad, because in any relationship boring familiarity can also breed ennui, and ennui can then breed either contempt, or even worse, bland indifference.

As it turned out the neighborhood was anything but quiet because there was a local redneck living next door with a wife whom he beat up on a regular basis. Especially in good whether, with the windows open we could hear the verbal fights escalate, after which the walls would start to reverberate as the bodies were slammed around and the baby started to cry. The pattern was always the same. After the physical abuse the wife beater would usually drive away leaving skid marks on the road, then not show up for several days. He would come back, she would take him in, and then the ugly cycle would repeat itself.

We thought about confronting him, so one-day Bill rang the doorbell and spoke to the wife, but she refused to even think about letting us help her. This was followed several days later by a very angry redneck threatening us all with bodily harm or even death if we tried to interfere in his business again. Knowing that he probably had a group of friends who would be more than happy to find any excuse to inflict a few scars on some nosy little rich Duke kids, we politely retreated. That was certainly an eye opener about spousal loyalty and the silence attendant to many wives who not only endure physical or verbal abuse, but who also seem to think that somehow they deserve it. I was astonished.

We thought about calling the police a few times, but our fear of reprisals overcame our desire to do the right thing. We should have known better.

This self-serving, self-protective logic backfired one Saturday night when we were sitting around smoking hashish. It was winter and the windows were shut so there was no way of us knowing what was going on next door. Suddenly, the street was ablaze with police lights and sirens. Three ‘black and whites’ were clustered outside our house and cops were running everywhere.

Aside from making a person irrationally silly as well as provoking incredible hunger, hashish and marijuana can make a person totally paranoid and idiotically stupid. We were high as kites as all the elements of the drug effect were operative when the cops showed up. We were high, stupidly goofy and stuffing our faces when paranoia and fear took hold with a vengeance.

When we saw the cops swarming the neighborhood, our natural inclination was to believe we were being busted. Assuming that the redneck next door had probably turned us in to exact his revenge, we scrambled around like disorganized cats to cover everything up, not only cursing out our neighbor the entire time, but also cursing out ourselves for trying to have been good Samaritans in the first place. After all, no good deed ever goes unpunished.

This is one case where mathematics applies but also where mathematical principles become somewhat impractical as well. The riddle becomes: how much drugs and drug paraphernalia can one get down a toilet bowl, what is actually flushable, and how many flushes will it take in the time it takes a cop to climb one flight of stairs?

We had no clue to the answer because we had never practiced for a raid. Also, in addition to flushing the software one then has to figure out the hardware factor: what to do with pipes or bongs because drug residues and paraphernalia make a person equally culpable as having the bulk product.

I thought we were doomed. All I could see was a prison term, a black and white striped jump suit, a tour on a southern chain gang and a rap sheet that would preclude graduation, much less ever being able to get a medical license. Even though being a felon then would preclude a trip to Viet Nam, it was a small consolation.We must have looked like idiots as we pulled down the blinds, turned out the lights and then tried to flush down hashish while holding onto flashlights for guidance.

The cover up was a fiasco. Pot floats on top, where it then sticks to the side of the bowl. Hash sinks to the bottom. Rolling papers do not at all have the same soluble characteristics as toilet paper, so they float too. The paper sleeves have to go out the back window with the pipes and bongs, not to mention that as this evidence then rains down all over the cops heads, added to the equal stupidity of not thinking that the cops would be in the back yard anyway to prevent our escape.

Bill even tried to eat some of the marijuana, but finely chopped dried leaves were not really designed for easy esophageal transit and much of it to ends up in a sheepishly guilty intra-tooth smile that would test negative for pistachio nut particles or broccoli bits. If you ever want to practice for this, try eating a small jar of dried Oregano.

As the scene unwound we began to realize that there was an eerie silence going on. The stairs were quiet. There were no bullhorns. The front door had not been battered in. There was very little commotion on the street and all the action was being played out next door.

It seems that someone else had called the police on the wife beater who he was in the process of being quietly arrested and hauled off to jail. Although we then immediately lamented the loss of our expensive stash, nevertheless we stayed clean for the rest of the school term and fell back on the legal stuff for recreational fun.

After all, beer and wine as everyone knows, because they are not really drugs, are completely harmless.



Candy is dandy

But Liquor is quicker

(Ogden Nash)



Ben Hogan and Work Ethics

Work Ethics

The corollary issue of households being run by children, back-sliding educational standards and the acceptance of mediocrity at all levels, is the fact that far too many Americans have lost a sense of work ethics. There is a huge cadre of people who not only do not take pride in what they do, but also passionately hate what they do for a living.

While simultaneously complaining about their careers, many of them will not invest the time or effort it might take to do something to improve their plights, such as going to night school, or simply quitting the job that makes them so miserable to go out and find something else they might really enjoy.

Many students, having already been spoiled at home, come out of college or graduate schools expecting immediate placement into executive positions with unrealistic starting salaries because they honestly believe that their degree counts for more on their resumes than possibly having had actual hands on experience.

Nobody wants to start at the bottom. Nobody wants to be the “Pencil Sharpener” or the “Mailroom Clerk” and even if they are, they want to be called something that makes their job sound more important than it really is, such as “Literary Assistant” or “Communications Coordinator.”

Some workers no longer want to put in extra time or effort on their jobs even if they are paid overtime; while simultaneously bitching about the opportunity to make some extra money. Nobody wants to go the extra mile, minimalism runs rampant, and so-called customer service is either non-existent, sloppy, excessively time consuming or totally inadequate.

At least when I worked summer jobs I realized two things. First, that I didn’t want to do any of them for a lifetime career and secondly that no matter what one does, one should always attempt to do the job at his absolute best. This generates personal pride, an intangible that can make people feel good about themselves, which seems to be just another thing that has gone by the wayside in America.

Today’s work mantra is often: Just let me put in my time, hand me my paycheck, don’t forget my benefits and now I’m one day closer to my retirement.

Ben Hogan is one of my work ethic inspirational heroes, as well as a sport’s icon with a true heart and spirit, and also a person who did not let success go to his head or throw it all away on alcohol or dope. He was a self-taught grinder who decided that golf was his passion in life, proving it by once saying something to the effect that the only reason he knew how to correctly hit a golf ball was because he had tried and failed at every conceivable incorrect way.

An example of his dedication occurred when he was once witnessed going into a practice bunker and coming out of it eight hours later with his hands bleeding. The only thing he worked on that day was bunker shots. He also used a corollary argument in reference to people making excuses about their mediocre skill levels by stating that there is always enough sunlight in each day to practice every shot one needs to have in his bag, that practice makes perfect and that for every day one misses playing or practicing is one day longer it will take to become any good.

He was very intensely self-focused, tuned out his playing environment, and only played within himself. This was epitomized when playing a round with someone who made a hole-in-one on a par three before he had teed off, didn’t say one word congratulatory or otherwise, stiffed his own shot, putted in for a two, walked off the green, turned to his caddy and said:

  • Great. That’s the first time I ever birdied the hole.

He was also acerbically heartless to the point that when as an elder statesman of the game, when seen sitting outside the clubhouse at a U.S. Open practice round, one of the up and coming pros approached him. After lauding Hogan as having been one of his childhood idols, the relative neophyte asked him if he would be so kind as to share with him the secret to winning a golf major tournament.

Hogan looked up and dryly quipped:

  • It’s simple. Make fewer shots than anyone else.

In reference to playing one’s own game, he advised staying within oneself while tuning out the rest of the field:

  • In any golf major, don’t ever forget that sometimes making par is good enough to win.

Hogan was often criticized for being standoffish, a bit grumpy and also a man of few words. But there were other good reasons to account for that; he was in chromic intense physical pain. Eschewing interviews with the press, he kept his ego to himself and not like Tiger Woods who always seems to be in front of the camera analyzing his rounds even when he loses, misses a cut or comes in third.

A reporter once approached Jimmie Demaret, who was frequently paired with Hogan in tournaments. He asked Demeret if it was true that Hogan hardly ever spoke, swore, complained or even gloated. Demaret said:

  • No, not at all. In fact, he usually spoke to me every time we walked up to a green.
  • Really? That often?
  • Yes, he would turn his head a bit sideways and say: “I think you’re away Jimmie.”

But perhaps his greatest example of inspirational achievement came after nearly dying in a car accident in 1948. Because of multiple fractures, including his pelvis and his legs, then being told he would never be able to walk again he went on after that to win 12 PGA events including 6 Majors. Golf pros on tour are not allowed to use carts, and after his recovery Hogan could sometimes be seen hobbling as he navigated the courses.

In fact, if he had not selflessly thrown himself over the front seat across his wife in order to protect her from the direct collision with the bus that hit them head-on, he might have been crushed to death by the steering wheel. 

There are many stories of courage, self-sacrifice, dedication, hard work and overcoming handicap barriers in this country.

Unfortunately, instead of being an everyday thing, in today’s news we only hear about them every now and then; in fewer and extremely rare circumstances.

At present, it seems the more dysfunctional one might be, the more likely he or she will get a book deal, a movie, or a reality television series.



New York City ticker tape parade for Hogan after he won the British Open



Ben Hogan Photo from Wikipedia


Dumb and Dumber

Summer Friends and Summer Not

This incident falls into the category of extremely dumb lack of judgement. It was told by my Aunt Jean from Texas visiting Southampton one summer. She observed that when my friends and I water-skied, we would slalom from a standing start in about two feet of water. This avoids having to be pulled up out of deep water with one ski which causes wobbling and significant water drag. It also obviates having to use two skis and then dropping one off.

The trick is to balance on the back foot with several coils of rope in one hand and the tow bar in the other, then while holding the single ski up with the front foot as the boat throttle is gunned. The slack gets taken up and one is catapulted immediately to the surface. Engine speed and the amount of coil are critical to success and prevention of upper extremity dislocations. It is also of critical importance that one actually knows how to slalom-ski.

The routine reminded her of an incident she had witnessed involving two idiotic  black men she had been watching on the beach at Corpus Christi, Texas. They were water skiing with a high-powered inboard Chris Craft. One of the men had never water skied, but was being tutored by the friend in the boat, who had a predetermined idea on how to ensure instant results.

After several failed attempts at the conventional method of being pulled up out of the water, he decided to start his friend on the beach instead, by having his buddy stand in the skis, on the sand, with his hands rope-tied to the towline at his wrists.

The driver yelled back:

  • Are ya ready ski cat?

The bold reply being;

  • Let er go daddy-o.

With that the man was launched off the beach into the water, then dragged long enough to fracture one of his ankles, both of his wrists and to dislocate both of his shoulders.

Luckily his friend stopped the boat before he drowned or received half an ocean’s worth of a super sized saltwater enema up another vulnerable orifice.


With friends like that, who needs friends?


Not Really Sex

Not Really Sex

When Bill Clinton was called on the carpet for the Monica Lewinsky caper, he actually had the audacity to tell the American public that oral sex was not really sex in the true sense of the word.

This eventually filtered down to the high school level in which a survey indicated that so many teen-age girls believed their Commander in Chief that they felt as though they had been given a green light to give mouth service to their adolescent male boy friends. As a result, the rate of high school blowjobs immediately increased by an estimated 25-50%, as did the rate of oro-pharyngeal gonorrhea.

This was not as transparent however as a story once told to me by a woman who said that when she was a young teenager her 90-year-old grandmother took her aside one day to offer the following advice about life, love, men and dating.

  • Honey. Every man alive wants to marry a virgin. So if you’re smart about having sex you’ll save it up until you get married. If you don’t, that man you got your eye on might think you’re some tramp, or worse he might get you with child and either way just walk away on you. Now let me tell you how I handled your grandfather. You know I told you I met him when I was eighteen and we courted for two years before we took our vows. So when he started courting me, he would pick me up every Saturday night in his horse and buggy to take me out dancing. Then on every one of those date nights when he took me home, before I went inside I always made sure I gave him a nice good old fashioned blowjob. You see honey child, that way I always managed to keep my virginity but also made sure at the same time he wouldn’t be losing interest in me and go sneaking around behind my back looking for somebody else.

The Dumbing of America

The Dumbing of America

America’s school systems are in a sad state of neglect. Teacher’s salaries pitifully average about $45,000 nationwide, inspiration is generally lacking, tenure assures that mediocre teachers remain that way, while school authorities, being handcuffed, are no longer respected and can no longer stand in as ‘locum parentis’.

This is an extension of the fact that many homes are controlled, not by parents, but by children who can no longer be subjected to traditional methods of discipline because they might be emotionally scarred by over use of the word ‘no.’ This is not to mention the fact that a child can no longer be slapped, punished, scolded or taught reasonable manners. In many households the tail wags the dog.

Poor students are promoted through each grade simply to get them out of school; whereas at the same time their peers ridicule the National Honor Society students.

Mediocrity is accepted as a new scholastic standard and some schools have abandoned advanced classes because the other students who do not qualify to be in them might feel emotionally diminished. Common Core is a mockery of real education; and a system in which students can even opt out of taking tests.

Guns, knives and drugs are typical playground fare and teenaged girls give blowjobs to their boyfriends because they learned from President Clinton that this does not really count as being “Sex.”

Several years ago (1990s) the United States was almost forced to allow work visas for up to 75,000 foreign computer technicians because internally our own citizens could not supply the demand. Some of these entry-level jobs had starting salaries as high as $90,000 per year. The workers came from India, Pakistan, Japan and Korea; countries where academic excellence is lauded and where summer vacations usually do not exist. These countries believe that school, like real life, is a year-round job. This is not to mention the fact that these immigrants are fluent in English; whereas our illegal Hispanic immigrants are pandered to in their native language making for  yet just one more classroom distraction.

U.S. inner city ghetto schools suffer the most because of poor infrastructure, poor facilities and hostile environments both for serious students as well as for their teachers.

America’s high school drop out rates run as high as 32 % with a rate as high as 50% for pockets of certain black and Hispanic populations. The national illiteracy rate, as defined by the ability to read and comprehend at a sixth grade level varies from 18% to as high as 42%.

College Board scores have shown a recent trend to drop. Many after-school athletic programs have either been abandoned because of potential legal liabilities and the cost to cover it, or because they can simply no longer be supported financially.

When my stepson, now a College graduate, was in tenth grade, he had to pay for intramural Junior varsity tennis while her daughter had to endure being in a class with an ADD child, who had to go to school accompanied by an attendant. Instead of being farmed out to a special needs school the child constantly disrupted the class with inane outbursts that destroyed the learning experience for the rest of the normal children.

You see, “everybody is somebody.” Everybody gets a prize or a medal. The problem is that everybody is simply just not the same.

Then god forbid we might risk the learning disabled becoming more “stigmatized” by being placed in a special education environment where they really belong and can actually be significantly helped.

Both of my wife’s children also had to pay a fee to ride on the big orange school busses, all of which makes one wonder where the exorbitant property taxes, supposedly earmarked primarily for schools really goes. So much for taxes; and so much for getting an education along with the opportunity to become a better, more well-rounded citizen.

The blue-collar workforce becomes infused with such mediocre talent that even. Store tellers cannot make change unless it is automatically done on a register. They seem completely baffled if you pay for a $10.32 item by handing over $21.00, cannot do the mental math, and sometimes do not even know how to enter it so that the mini artificial brain can do it for them.

The radio host rush Limbaugh is right when he states that in reference to undergraduate schools we have chosen to lower the level of the water rather than to raise the height of the bridge.

Unfortunately, America is supporting an intellectual vacuum for its children. There is no excuse for this and reflects poorly on governmental agency’s inability to prioritize its spending. The country can spend billions on wars and foreign aid that is hardly justified, while the rotting educational and transportation infrastructure languishes. On a small scale, there are about 16 million students going to college annually in the United States. The average cost of tuition to a State school is about 17 to 25 thousand dollars. The average cost of one nuclear powered aircraft carrier is 762 million dollars. This means that for the cost of just one big boat alone, all the children currently in state colleges could be supported for 2.8 years of education.

Imagine then what could be done with just a fraction of the total U.S. defense spending.

Along with this if there was anything of real value that minority leaders in this country could do for their constituents, it would be to absolutely ensure that the people they purport to represent at least graduate high school, stop speaking Ebonics and dress in a way that would make a corporate executive be proud to interview them.

Then at the next level, besides funneling ignorance out of the high schools and into the general population base, some adults have become adept at internet based knowledge, which only makes them masters at inductive reasoning. This is the proverbial “know it all” that epitomizes the proverb: A little knowledge can truly be a dangerous thing. Unfortunately, there seems to be one in every crowd. Rote inaccuracy often becomes quoted as irrefutable truth, while at the same time the equally ignorant company that it keeps, tends to stupidly agree.

Bill Clinton states on national television that:

  • I never had sex with that woman… Monica Lewinsky.

The overweight, redneck beer guzzler watching an NFL game with his friends says:

  • Same thing happened to me once. I stuck it in her. Then I moved it back and forth a few times. But I never really fucked her.

The redneck was referring to a one-night stand. What he failed to realize was that Bill Clinton, in furtively speaking directly to Monica, was referring to his own wife, Hillary.

Another typical example would be that if you have an ache in your chest, you can dial up Web MD and give yourself any diagnosis from a heart attack to heart burn. Then depending on your personal interpretation of the facts and symptoms you can either be self cured or risk dropping dead. A housewife, cum registered nurse, could either take her husband to an emergency room or just give him a slug of Maalox. Aside from her deduced Internet based opinion, her treatment may also depend then on either how smart or cunning she really is; which then entirely defaults to how much she actually likes him. A sad little Maalox widow indeed.

I have had patients tell me in all sincerity that it is the glue in cigarette paper that causes lung cancer and that pasteurized milk is a government conspiracy because the pasteurization process is what makes the milk cause hardening of the arteries. In the latter case I was informed that only un-pasteurized milk could safely be consumed, which this person did by the gallon, and then went on several years later to die prematurely of a massive heart attack. Forget the calcium and fat problem in whole milk. What about the myriad bacteria, including the bovine tuberculosis organism that thrive in milk, but can be attenuated by simple mild heating.

The process was not invented because someone was bored and liked to boil milk for kicks. People actually used to get sick and then die from drinking raw milk.

Yet another great modern phenomenon is that of the unqualified person of little or no experience or talent who wants to join an organization or a corporation, but believes he should start at the top. This is the person who honestly has such a high self-opinion, that he should be exempted from climbing the ordinary “reward for performance” organizational corporate ladder: The proverbial “legend in his own mind.”

  • Yeah. If I was the CEO of General Motors, I’d know how to fix that bankruptcy problem.

Want ad: GM Position: CEO. Apply here. Absolutely no experience needed

Then lest we forget the so called ‘news analyst,’ better defined as being a person who knows nothing about everything. I wonder why night after night this country has to be subjected to the monologues of individuals who come without credentials or portfolio but who feel compelled to tell us the truth about news and world affairs; only as they happen to see it. One man’s opinion of moonlight becomes labeled as daily media gospel.

It is only regretful that all my relatives who sat around the Christmas table debating the merits of pricking a roast or not to see if it was medium-rare, did not have access to Google. They could have easily resolved the dilemma and then moved on to yet another mindless argument about yet some more trivial nonsense such as the great debate about whether lettuce tastes better if it is pulled apart with the fingers as opposed to cutting it up with a knife.

John Lawton was correct when he stated that; “the irony of the information age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion.”

In the current information/ technology era we have become a nation of armchair experts, unqualified want-to-bes, and partially literate yet authoritative half educated nitwits.

Here are just a few inane quotes I picked up here and there

  • “If I was not entirely tone deaf, then I would have perfect pitch;” said the contestant on American Idol.
  • “I thought Europe was a country;” said Kellie Pickler on the TV show, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader.
  • “Don’t go into the woods next to the driveway. You might get poison ivory or poison shumack;” said my wildlife expert, Aunt Rose.
  • “Don’t swim in the ocean right after you eat, or you might sink to the bottom and drown in the under-toad,” said my scientifically sophisticated cousin.
  • “Yuhs two should stop buggin’ me and don’t aks me no more questions. Your refund is a mute point anyways,” said the irritated counter clerk.
  • “Waiter, could you please bring me a schtraw,” said my thirsty English language murdering first wife.
  • “I got kicked so hard in my groan, I can’t stand up,” moaned the NFL tackle.
  • “My momma got die-a-betes so bad the doctah sayed it was almos tri-a-betes,” said the concerned ghetto dwelling son.
  • “That’s a violation of my Silver rights,” said the freedom marcher.
  • “My Florida Gators team is superb to yours,” said Congresswoman Corrine Brown
  • “In retro-respect, I was wrong.” Said the Black State Missouri Representative.
  • “I would be King, too. If I had balls;” said the Queen.



Ignorance is bliss.

But only if you keep it to yourself.



Postcard produced for by


America: The Decline

The Five Percent Phenomenon


See the big fat man and the monkey girl

Come see the big fat lady

Gator slim with the alligator skin

Come see the Devil Baby

(Mark Knoffler)

These summer jobs taught me great respect for how difficult the dining and restaurant business is, along with an absolute certainty it was an industry I would never work in when I became an adult. The hours are long, the pace is fast and because when people go out to dine they expect prompt service along with good food. TIPS, in fact is shorthand for: To Insure Prompt Service, a term that some modern day waiters and waitresses should revisit as not necessarily meaning DTRMG: Destined to Receive a Mandatory Gratuity.

Alternatively, it is not uncommon for me to go to a restaurant only to be immediately assaulted by a waiter or waitress who says:

“Can I bring you a drink? Do you know what you want? Can I put your appetizer and food order in? Do you know what you want for dessert?”

I say:

“No thanks. Just bring me the bill and I’ll be on my way.”

Having to wait on people also taught me early in life the polar extremes that human behavior can exhibit as it falls between the broad range of absolute pleasantry to utterly obnoxious. Dealing with the general public is the most difficult job of all, no matter what you do.

It is axiomatic in Medical Management that 5 % of the physicians on any given medical staff cause 95% of the quality or behavioral problems. This is probably a blessing considering that this statistic undoubtedly falls far below the same ratio existing in the general public. But then again, we hold professionals to higher standards than we hold ourselves.

I cannot even guess what the general public’s substandard quality or obnoxious behavioral ratios might be, but I have reason to believe that year after year in the United States they seem to be growing exponentially. It seems that as our society has become more affluent we have become a nation of people that at the same time not only has failed to become smarter but rather in conjunction with this fact of intellectual mediocrity have become a nation of greedy pseudo-sophisticates.

We have also become a nation of individuals who excel at performing substandard work, with a penchant at best to only pay  jobs lip service to their jobs, not to mention a laconic distaste for adding  any effort to address customer service issues.

We all seem to want more and more materialistically, while in a convoluted way think we deserve more and more as we simultaneously eschew giving anything back. We have become individually very self-centered selfish, uncompassionate, and seem to be on a mission to seek perfection where none can ever exist. In general Americans have become a people excelling in rudeness, lacking in manners and are passing this torch to a generation of children who in taking our lead on both counts are becoming even better at it than we are.

We also seem to excel in pretending to know a great deal more than we really do, and have no problem demonstrating our stupidity to others. Half the people interviewed on the street who consider themselves to be savvy would not even be able to tell you who the current U.S. Vice President might happen to be or who think that Abraham Lincoln was our first President.

Then there are those who excel in steadfastly or purposefully remaining ignorant while, alas, being even proud of that fact. There is nothing worse than having to listen to someone mispronounce words, use words out of context, use an incorrect word, use a word that does not exist, misquote facts and figures, or vehemently argue a point that has no basis.

We also are beginning to excel in the domain of unreasonable expectations, which then lead to disappointing outcomes, and disappointing outcomes in our society has been translated into exacting revenge by excessive litigation.

We have become a society continuously plagued by personal injury suits while in becoming a people who never give a second thought to taking any responsibility for our own actions have sadly entered the golden era of the get rich quick schemes attached to the “legal lottery system.”

If you trip, fall and hurt yourself, the man whose business is located on that section of sidewalk must be to blame but not your own personal clumsiness or the fact of the distraction of talking on your cell phone causing you to not to pay attention to an irregular piece of brick or concrete.

If you spill hot McDonald’s coffee while holding it in your lap, it becomes a corporate liability for not specifically, and in bold print, warning you that boiling hot coffee could actually burn you if you let it spill on your crotch. It has nothing to do at all with your innate stupidity or your careless clumsiness.

One of the most inane cases I read about concerned a man who broke into a vacationer’s house, ransacked the place, filled up his rucksack with valuables and then got stuck in the garage in his attempt to exit. The door to the house had locked behind him and the garage door opener failed to work. He was forced to survive on a bag of dog food until the owners arrived several days later and then had him arrested. He successfully sued the homeowner for mental anguish and won $500,000 on the ruling that there should have been a better food selection and a better means of facilitating an escape. After all, he might have died in there.

Another case involved a burglar who was wounded in an entrance hallway by a homeowner who blasted him with a shotgun as he came through the door. The burglar succeeded in winning a lawsuit because the homeowner had not shouted a warning that he was armed. I suppose there should have been a sign outside stating: Beware of shotgun if you try to steal any of my shit.

Tell that one to the survivors of a home invasion victim who has been knifed to death.

My Loan Shark friend always cautioned me that if you have to actually shoot and kill a home intruder, be sure you not only finish him off, but also be sure you leave the body somewhere in the house. If you shoot him in the driveway for example, drag the body back inside or you might be arrested and convicted for a random homicide. Also never leave him wounded. That way; not only will he never come back for revenge or even sue you; but he cannot ever tell his side of the story. Everyone knows that live men often lie but dead men tell no tales. He also added  in the unlikely event of such occurrence:
“Just call me. I’ll send my kids over and we’ll  bury him in the woods.”

The best one of all is the case of the woman, who bought a brand new 32-foot Winnebago, set the cruise control for 70 mph on the Interstate and went in the back to the kitchen to make a sandwich. She survived the accident and won not only a brand new replacement vehicle, but also $1,750,000 in damages. The owner’s manual was not explicit enough about the true meaning of ‘auto-pilot.’

When I became a physician there was no real difference in the human behavioral patterns I had seen as a waiter, but at least at that point having to put up with it was far more lucrative than getting ten percent of a waitress’ tips. It’s just too bad there cannot be extra billable co-pays allowed for the diagnoses of “Chronic Nasty,” ‘Malignant Obnoxious,” or “Limitless Unreasonable Expectations.”

After thirty years of forced diplomacy and interpersonal burn-out I came to believe that, in theory, the best patient would be an orphan, presenting in a coma before any required personal interview would have to be extracted, who would then also would be intubated on a ventilator, unable to speak, heavily sedated, and by definition would have no family around to harass or make unreasonable demands. At least then I could actually get the work done required to save his life.

In a similar vein, the most fascinating thing in actually dealing with a nameless comatose patient becomes watching the person’s true personality emerge as he/she comes out of artificially induced maximum sedation while slowly transitioning from a completely dependent inert entity back to his/her original animated and uniquely independent personality. It is like watching an insect emerge from a cocoon, which always culminates as an unpredictable surprise. Sometimes you get a Monarch Butterfly, sometimes you get a Gypsy Moth, but then again sometimes you might even get a Scorpion or a Rattlesnake.

I have heard the philosophical line stated that; “When a doctor sees a man he does not see good or evil, but only sick or well.” That is only partially true. I have seen many sick people who I would still label as being really evil.

Then throw in the arena of Medical Malpractice where the sky becomes the ultimate limit.

Orthopedic surgeons get sued because they cannot re-make a shattered bone conform to God’s original blueprint.

Obstetricians get sued for birth trauma 18 years later because a child has a poor IQ. Not because the parents are mental midgets and the child by definition inherited an absence of cerebral cortex.

In fact, I was once sued because I could not save a mother who died giving birth because her lungs were suddenly filled with amniotic fluid. She died instantly of internal asphyxiation. Her fate was out of my control and although only God may have been able to save her, he was not in her room on that fateful day. Although the case was certainly tragic; it also happens to be a very rare but known natural complication of pregnancy; leaving me to doubt the husband would not even remotely think that he might be more to blame than me because he unknowingly had sent her to her doom the very instant he had inseminated her. ‘You pay your money and you take your chances.’

Making matters even worse, no one ever once said thanks for rescuing a viable baby who had no residual brain damage despite the fact that the mother was cold, blue and virtually un-oxygenated.

A malpractice defense attorney once told one of my colleagues that the only mistake he had made in dealing with what turned out later to be a thankless litigant; was not to have saved his life.

The attorney said he would have been better off just having let the ungrateful bastard die instead of getting him through his heart attack and back on his disabled feet again. One of the particulars of the case was that the victim was not able to get an erection anymore after his heart went sour. Wrongful death, you see, has less monetary value than “loss of conjugal company,” “loss of future income,” “pain and suffering,” or “emotional distress.” Dead is dead. But it is the intangibles in life that really count in court.

In retrospect, choosing a career that required no or little interpersonal interaction at all would probably have been best.

Anesthesia fits this description to a tee being a branch of medicine that is ninety-nine percent boredom, and one percent panicked crisis, but is at the same time an incredibly one hundred percent lucrative. One of my colleagues once facetiously stated, in mimed foreign dialect, that you also only have to know two key phrases in doing the job:

First before intuabtion:

  • Open your mouse. Open your mouse.

Then in the recovery room:

  • Vake up, vake up.

Obviously part of the job description is “No English required.”

I used to ask friends who were not physicians when they complained about business customers or clients and their various behaviors, how they would like to take care of these same people if they happened to be ill. The response would usually be the unmitigated sympathetic equivalent of “Oy vey.”

I failed to tell them that when people are really sick and know they are completely dependent on you for the safety and preservation of their lives that for the most part this dependence forces them to be fairly nice.

However, once the crisis is over and the lipstick, powder and rouge come out, all bets are then completely off as it then becomes time to run for the exits. In Medicine, we call this indicator of full recovery and o further necessity for hospital discharge, the “Lipstick sign.” On the contrary we were always wary of any patient presenting to the hospital carrying an overnight bag because in knowing they would say or do anything to be admitted, were revealing their intention with the” Suitcase sign.”

At this point in my life, after four unjustified malpractice lawsuits and over three decades of having to prostitute my personality, I truly envy anyone who has a job that only requires dealing with paper, ether, and the ether-net or with inanimate objects.

Investment Banking may have been the career suiting that bill. Not only is it a vocation that is relatively inert on requirements for intimate personal interactions, but it also tends to involve substantial financial rewards. The best of all, because of its intangible nature, nobody in truth seems to have a full grasp on what it actually is.

P.T. Barnum made a fortune by charging people twenty-five cents each to:



Thinking it to be some previously unknown exotic animal or sideshow freak, circus customers were led into then through an empty corridor and then out its back end. They could not litigate a refund. The sign was clear and truthful.

He also made a greater fortune by exhibiting Zip the Pinhead, an Afro-American with a congenitally odd shaped head, who was put in the freak sideshow where he was advertized as “the missing link.” William Henry Johnson, billed to the public as a dumb wild half-man found in the African jungle, was smart enough to play along as he made the equivalent of 3.2 million dollars for himself before he died.

His final words to his sister were:

  • Well we fooled ‘em for a long time, didn’t we?

The collective IQ of America’s general public has not really improved a great deal since the 1880s. Neither has its proclivity toward sloth, greed, ignorance, personal indifference or a mindset aimed at winning the lottery of your own personal choice.



“As soon as I get my moves more fluent; I’ll really be in the spice of things. But that’s a whole nother thing.”

(Quote from a college scholarship basketball player after having an “off” night. He will eventually go on to enjoy a multi-million dollar NBA contract.)

Lawsuits: ‘Stuck in the Garage’ and the ‘Winnebago:’ from the 2005 Stella Awards
Factual information on Zip the Pinhead taken from Wikipedia
© Basketball Players