On The Road To Find Out

I lived and worked for 6 years in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, which is a beautiful part of the United States. That is, if you like fragrant forests, unpolluted streams, and 150 miles of often spectacular Lake Superior shoreline. When I moved there to the town of Hancock, there were 9 physicians working at the local hospital. Well, actually only 8, because one general practitioner had just died as a direct result of his alcoholism and multiple drug addictions. He had finally been removed from the medical staff a short time before his death after he passed out while performing an appendectomy and fell face forward into the operative site. The preceding year another alcoholic G.P. had died when he sailed from an elevated bench seat in his sauna at home and broke his crown on the unyielding floor. Of the remaining eight, three had active substance abuse problems at the time of my arrival.

For some reason, the physician recruitment committee had never mentioned any of the details in the preceding paragraph, and I was left to find that out on my own. As yet I hadn’t developed my own problems with demon rum, and so my basic Protestant indignation and intolerance flowered and I became the crusader-in-residence trying to get the impaired physicians either into rehab or removed from the medical staff. I was supported in this by only one of the other doctors, an internist who had come to town at the same time that I did. No matter, off I went like Jon of Arc to do battle with the forces of evil and inebriation. The only things missing were the horse and suit of armor.

The results after nearly six years of gathering evidence, notifying state agencies, and often tumultuous medical staff meetings were that I achieved exactly nothing. When I left Hancock, the drunks were still practicing and the addict still had those odd-looking pupils. But it was a learning experience for me. For one thing, initially I had thought that surely all I had to do was to tell the sober part of the medical staff what the offender had done, and they would immediately see the necessity for action. That turned out to be nearly 100% wishful thinking.

So when I was thinking of moving my family to South Dakota, one of the things I did was to check out as diplomatically as possible how many addicts there were in the medical community. I got the right answers back, and those answers were proven accurate over the years to come. Later on, when I found that my own use of alcohol had become unhealthy, I received complete support from my colleagues in attending rehab classes while continuing to work.

So if I could go way, way back in my life and be given a list of experiences to choose from for the years ahead, I would absolutely not check the “I’d like to have an addiction” box. But, on the other hand, each of the doors that I would walk through on my way to sobriety took me to good places that I might not otherwise have gone. To knowledge that I might not have otherwise acquired.


On the Road to Find Out, by Cat Stevens


From The New Yorker (to Bill H.)

Our home has three bedrooms, two of which are now called our “offices.” Each of these rooms is the province and under the direction of its occupant, although there are times when the boundaries become unclear. An example of this occurred on Friday afternoon, when I found that the vacuum cleaner had been placed in the doorway of my office.

At first I walked around it repeatedly, thinking that Robin had left it there only briefly on its way to the usual parking spot for this appliance. But two hours later it was still there. I walked around it again and was sitting at my table when Robin appeared at the door.

R: I left the vacuum cleaner there for you.

J: Thanks but I don’t have any need for it. You can take it away now.

R: I thought that you might want it because it was looking a little … seedy … in here.

J: Really, to me it was finally acquiring that lived-in look that I have been seeking.

R: Does that require that we not disturb those clumps of cat hair all over the room?

J: Now that you mention …

R: And there is the matter of those bits of straw under your desk, enough for a condor to use as nesting material

J: Hold on there, I like those agricultural touches.

R: Well, of course it’s up to you, it’s your room after all, but …

J: There is such a thing as being too fastidious, you know

R: … did you notice the dust layer on your bookcase? Do you even remember what color that bookcase is? And that shirt tossed in the corner weeks ago, are we now to conclude that it is furniture rather than clothing?

J: Urk. (Sound of vacuum running)

In just these ways a fragile but surprisingly durable peace is maintained.


From The New Yorker


Quote du Jour

Some of our younger readers may not remember that Giuliani was Time’s Person of the Year in 2001 for his leadership after the attacks of Sept. 11. His fall from grace has been like a bungee jump minus the bungee.

Mike Pence Was of Two Minds: Bret Stephens, NY Times Op-Ed, June 21


I alluded earlier in this post to a strong Puritanical streak in my makeup. I wish that I could say that I have swept it out of all the corners of that shrinking gray pudding I was given to think with, but I haven’t. When it is in control I rival good old John Winthrop from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he is considered by historians to have been a downright whiz at being a provincial pain in the posterior.

In its defense, my personal Winthrop hasn’t had an easy time of it, what with my forays into misbehaviors which in 1640 might have got me a day in the stocks, if not at the stake. But I digress.

Where my streak reveals itself is in this very frequent dichotomy that arises: to every question there is a right and a wrong answer. Through some cosmic plan which I thoroughly applaud, the right answer and my own are always the same.

I never joined the debate team because why would I? What a waste of time that would be, facing some earnest loser-to-be who was in trouble even before they opened their mouth and doomed to be soon drowned in a river of unassailable logic.

I have learned to keep my Winthrop under wraps most of the time, to avoid some of those Massachusetts Bay-style penalties which I suspect still linger in the breasts of magistrates across this land. (Why, can you imagine the fun that good ol’ Clarence Thomas would have in sentencing witches to some colorful remedy?)

Here are some phrases that I use instead of what I am actually thinking, which is usually in the nature of: Oh please, Lord, strike this sinner mute and take them to be with you sooner rather than later.

  • That’s very interesting.
  • You know, except for this one little item I basically agree with you entirely.
  • Mmmmmmmm. (accompanied by nodding)
  • I love the way you say intergalactic. I really do.

So beware if we talking and are moving toward differing points of view. Suddenly you look across the table and see something maniacal brewing in my eyes. I will also have drawn myself up to my full height, even as far as hovering an inch or so above the floor. Best at those times to think you hear your momma calling and take off.


Ever have a moment or a day or a month when you wondered whether you were speaking a forgotten language? Whether anyone else out there felt the way that you do about whatever is on your mind at the time? I think that Jason Isbell must have had some of those days, or he couldn’t have written this wistful song.

Last Of My Kind, by Jason Isbell


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