|Normally I don’t get sick. I get sick every 10
years. There was a kidney problem at 33, a
venereal disease at 43, the chicken pox at 53.
The kidney problem was brutal. The pain was
deep. I was suicidal. I was sure it was a stone. I
called Dr Reiner for an appt. Dr Reiner is my
internist. He is also the internist for Ted Turner.
I said to my friend: “What do Ted Turner and
myself have in common?”
My friend didn’t know
I said: We have both had the same persons
finger up our kazoo.
I went in and he took some tests and said there
was no stone. Possibly it was a little gravel. He
gave me a prescription and said to try it and if it
didnt work we would try something else.
It was the old process of elimination routine—
like auto repair. I filled the prescription and took
the pills and got some sleep and the next day
took a very painful piss and that was that.
I never forgot this.
The chicken pox was laughs. I got it from the
daughter of a friend. The daughter was 8 and
snapped back in 10 days. I was in bed for 5
The chicken pox is like being dead except you
are still breathing. There is no energy. You have
the energy of a piece of pocket lint. I had no
desire to eat, read, write or watch videos on TV.
I could do one thing and that only which was to
lay there in bed staring feebly into space. From
time to time I would
sit in a chair and stare feebly into space. I know
I am sick when I lose the desire for coffee.
I began to understand why old people suffer
from malnutrition. They have no appetite and
the thought of the preparation of food is too
enfeebling. Each night I would drift off and
visualize waking up the next morning in a
formidable way 100% my old self.
This failed to occur. I woke up in the morning
feeling as wasted as ever. I felt like garbage.
I had a lawyer who was an amateur physician
who said I didn’t have chicken pox. I had
shingles. The symptoms were the same as
chicken pox. the difference was: shingles
attacked the nervous system and was incurable.
I called Dr Reiner. I said: What about this
You don’t have shingles. You have chicken pox.
At your age it attacks the system much more
tenaciously. The cure is rest. There is no other.
Go back to bed and stay there until you feel
Is there a pill for this?
There is no pill.
I like Dr Reiner because I can talk to him. He
takes an interest in his patients. He does it
because 1) they are his patients and 2) the
mind and the body are connected. He was an
admirer of Sir William Osler who said: “The
patient is the physicians best text”.
Dr Reiner said: Good genes and safe driving
habits will take you a long way.
Dr Wolfe is a dermatologist. I had a mole on my
foot. It appeared one day and had skin cancer
written all over it.
I got a referral to Dr Wolfe.
I sat in reception thumbing through a copy of
Readers Digest featuring an article about a
woman whose baby was born with severe birth
defects and six months of operations to no
purpose followed and the bill came to
I read the article and eavesdropped on a
telephone conversation between the nurse and
a patient on the other end—-Mrs Berkow.
The nurse: He cant see you Mrs Berkow. He’s
booked for the day and tomorrow he leaves for a
much needed vacation. He will be gone for three
weeks. If its an emergency we are referring all
patients to DR Feldstein.
The nurse said: I understand Mrs Berkow.
The nurse repeated, in the exact same words,
what she had just finished saying-—about DR
wolfe and his vacation.
A rejoinder from Mrs Berkow.
They went back and forth. The nurse said no,
Mrs Berkow said yes.
Mrs Berkow was tenacious. She was more than
tenacious; she was a ballbuster. The
conversation became quite heated. Mrs. B
refused to be denied the extraordinary medical
gifts of DR Wolfe.
At some point the nurse caved in. She said: I’ll
speak to Dr Wolfe and call you back.
She hung up and gave me a haggard look.
She said: This happens all the time.
I entered DR Wolfes office and we shook hands.
Some people have a quality. It cannot be
explained. They give you a boost. They are
feelgood types. They are happy and in their
presence you become happy. It’s a useful asset
for a physician. The telephone conversation
between the nurse and Mrs. Berkow
immediately clarified itself.
He was a small man and quite old, pushing 70.
He had a large head with a large pair of ears to
go with. The face was kind. He had wonderful
eyes. There was wisdom here and a forceful
spirit and infinite patience of manner
He spoke with a German accent and his first
words to me were: Did you see the man who
He is a hypochondriac. He drives me crazy. He
has every disease known to man. And do you
know why? Because he doesn’t work. He has
money. His father gives it to him. His father
supports him. He is pissing—forgive the
expression—his life away.
DR Wolfe continued: That’s why he comes here.
He is bored. I have explained all this to him. I
said you need to do something—it called
working. You need a job.
He said to me: what kind of job?
I said: any kind of job! That isnt the issue! Work
in a gas station!
But people don’t listen. they hear what they
want. Now what about you?
I showed him the mole.
He looked at the mole and said: this is nothing. I
know exactly what this is. You may relax your
And I did. My mind relaxed—immediately.
He described the growth and fired up a small
surgical device that produced a tiny electric arc
at the tip and he applied the device to my mole
and burned it off and it was painless nor was
their blood. A small bruise remained.
He applied a salve and bid me a warm goodbye
and on my way out I paid the bill--$35.
That was the first visit. I was back a few years
later with a dose of poison ivy. There are some
unspeakable diseases out there and poison ivy
is near the top of the list. There are two
reasons: 1) it is revolting visually, and 2) the
intensity of the itch is indescribable. A kidney
stone produces the urge to drive your head thru
a plate glass window and a tasty case of poison
ivy inspires thoughts of attacking yourself with
a wire brush. Plus it was summer. We were in
the middle of a heat wave combined with high
humidity. I lived in a non-air conditioned apt
and sat around in my shorts covered from head
to foot with this hideous oozing rash. I looked
like a German Expressionist painting.
I went to see Dr Wolfe.
I stripped and he said: I can see you are in
He took a packet of blue powder and mixed with
water and began to swab the oozing boils.
There was a another patient story, a hideous
story, recounting a visit to a plastic surgeon, an
operation, penile enlargement, followed by a
Dr Wolfe said: Sex is overrated. Its much less
important than defecation. You can live a
lifetime without having sex but two weeks
without a bowel movement will kill you.
Time passed. Dr wolfe was old and got older.
With each visit he appeared more bent and
deliberate in his movements but the one thing
that didn’t change was the formidable defiant
ebullience of his spirit.
I got another itch—jock itch. I was spared the
hideous oozing rash symptoms--a la poison ivy—
but the intensity of the itch was similar--
ferocious. There I was at a party or some social
function and this sudden desperate urge to claw
my privates would overpower me.
I went to see Dr Wolfe who dosed me with
another application of the magic blue powder
formula and he said: I have known you for 20
I said: I don’t enjoy these problems Dr Wolfe
but they give me a chance to visit with you.
That was the truth.
I got gout. Gout is a disease that generates zero
sympathy. It generates a reaction in the
opposite direction—-the humorous direction. It’s
a funny disease—like chicken pox. Meanwhile I
hadnt slept in 4 days and they could have taken
the big toe of my right foot and installed it over
the door of a recording studio to indicate a
session in progress.
I visited DR Reiner.
He confirmed the suspicions of gout and wrote
out a prescription. We chatted for a bit. I was
writing a movie--about a hypochondriac. The
main character was a doctor--a surgeon. The
doctor was the hypochondriac. He was based on
DR Reiner, DR Wolfe and my father.
Dr Reiner said: I briefly toyed with the idea of
being a surgeon but I have a limited capacity for
That was the last visit. I joined a company that
provided health coverage and this ended a
doctor/patient relationship of 25 years.
Dr Wolf died. I missed the funeral. Too bad. I
could have made a speech. I would have spoken
of his extraordinary healing gift and recalled
my last visit, another rash, this one covering
my back, that derived from an encounter with
the vermin-infested Jacuzzi of a health club that
was having cash flow problems and the first
payroll cuts occurred in the direction of the guy
who swabbed out the Jacuzzi.
Dr Wolfe tended to the rash and said: did you
see that story in People magazine about
The name rang a bell. Maguerite Piazza was an
aging singer of the light opera type winding up
her career doing roadshow musicals in the
Oklahoma and Paint Your Wagon vein.
DR Wolfe said: Marguerite Piazza awoke one
morning to find small blemish on her face, a
pink blemish, nothing sinister, but she went to
the doctor and it turned out to be a rare form of
There was a pause and he said: Jack—I want
you to tell me what occurred next.
I said: You got 50 calls from women who
insisted they had The Marguerite Piazza cancer.
No—I got 150 calls. It was the worst week in my
life. I had to see all these women, erase their
fears, and leave them with the best possible
piece of advice a doctor can give to a patient.
Here there was a pause and I said: What advice
is that, DR Wolfe?
He said: Stay away from doctors!