My internist, Dr. Steve, who has established a first-rate medical practice out of the trunk of an aging Cadillac Eldorado, now offers Happy Hour pricing. Which is fortunate. Noting that my mind is mush and that my heart pings like a glockenspiel, Dr. Steve insists that I always have a physician present on those rare occasions when I'm out on the town.
That's when his Happy Hour pricing comes in handy. I have a lot of shortcomings — I am almost exclusively shortcomings — but I'm proud to say that I'm good company in a dark saloon with lots of tacky surfaces. Overall, I am a decent dad, a lousy husband and a very committed chum. Not a bar tab passes that I don't make a halfhearted attempt to sort of reach for it.
'Tis the season for friends, of course. There is no better month than October. It is filled with cider, ballgames and Hail Mary passes. October is such a fun month that it blushes. I blush too — me, a 59-year-old man, which is probably why I feel such kinship to this ripened season. If October were a person, and had a little money, I would probably marry it.
As I was rehydrating with my doctor the other evening, we reviewed some of my recent symptoms. I was telling Dr. Steve how I needed to get my Camaro smogged but kept putting it off because I couldn't face the rejection if it didn't pass.
I've never tested particularly well anyway, and this happens to be the last coal-burning Camaro that GM ever made. You turn the ignition and it explodes, a giant votive candle, a big fiery ball of flub. Vroooooom…ka-booooooom…mazel tov!
After a bonfire like that, you can't even begin to bribe the smog tech. The two of you just stand around, warming your hands on what's left of the chassis and chatting about the Cubs and Dodgers.
"Don't you love October?" he says.
"I guess it's OK," I say.
So, as I was telling Dr. Steve, I couldn't face the rejection and found myself putting off the smog test for now. Eventually, I'll just give up on this old car and probably turn it into a studio apartment for my mother-in-law, who's going to need a place to stay soon. Nothing fancy, she says, "Don't go to a lot of trouble."
Trust me, Ma, we won't.
After a second (and last) round of watered-down American beer, Dr. Steve and I discussed my new novel, which I wrote when my coaching career abruptly ended after I got sick of all the fussy parents in our league. Dr. Steve insisted that he liked the book but pointed out that the first chapter is 600 pages long and suggested that I should maybe break it up a bit.
"Did Graham Greene use a lot of chapters?" I ask.
"You're not Graham Greene," he says.
"We don't know that for sure, do we?" I said, and I meant it cheekily, though from his sudsy spit-take, I think Dr. Steve thought I was completely serious.
Then we talked about my upcoming 60th birthday, which is still a ways off … weeks, in fact. I told him I'm planning a Batman-themed party for 1,000 friends at a restaurant that serves lots of soft food.
Lately, everywhere I go — the Starbucks, the gym — young guys address me as "sir," so I'm starting to come to terms with middle age. That's too bad, really; I was probably way more fun when I was in total denial.
If the Batman party goes well, I might even offer up a toast, though I usually receive a small fee for entertaining large groups like that.
Last week, at a high school boosters lunch, I gave an excellent speech that referenced marriage, middle age, the Mets, Phil Collins, Vin Scully, Cicero and global warming in one long, run-on sentence. Naturally, the speech was a big hit. I know this because when it was over they gave me a fine pen.
The audience was excellent. They glanced at their watches and phones the whole time, clapped politely at the wrong moments, yet laughed when I told the true story about a fella who crawled into bed late one night.
From the other side of the bed, he heard a woman's voice:
"You've been drinking again, haven't you?"
"How can you tell?" the man asked.
"Because you live next door," the woman said.
I blame Dr. Steve for that. And October, of course, a month of merriment and milestones.
"Sixty is the new 70," I always say. And I'm looking forward to a little rest.