Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Sunday, December 12

Christmas in Avondale

I have been rather critical of this town lately, looking forward to June of 2006, when I finish my program and leave it. I want to like it here, I really do. So when my friend Robbie calls me and says he’s working the charity beer tent at the “Christmas in Avondale” block party and I should come, I agree.

I’m a fan of beer, tents, Christmas, and block parties, so this sounds like a particularly good idea. Avondale is the historic district. It’s a fairly nice area. Not too posh, just nice. When I get there, something bothers me about the crowd, but I am trying to have a good time, so I try not to think about it. Something’s old fashioned, like a Frank Capra movie, but it’s out of place, out of synch. Invisibly so, but still, its there. I try not to notice it. But this Christmas festival looks like the backdrop for a movie where a fiery disaster is about to strike and Ben Affleck or Bruce Willis need to move fast to save us all.

Preciously groomed children are listening to a Christmas poem. An acting troupe dressed in Victorian garb is singing carols. A horse and buggy is circling the block. A group of seventh-graders dressed in black with faces in white pancake makeup are miming, badly.

The mimes are an obvious choice for what’s bothering me, but that’s not it.

When I see one of the hospital administrators on stilts and the chief of surgery wearing tights and juggling, things get a bit more surreal.

I avert my eyes and try to find the beer tent. A disappointment: It’s not a tent, but a beer trailer, and the “Charity” is the Avondale Business Association. Since when is a business association a charity? But if you’d like to donate to the American Medical Association, every little bit does help. “Somewhere in the Lower Catskills there’s a doctor who cannot afford his golf dues. Won’t you please help?”

Miller Light on tap in big red plastic cups and we're back in the crowd. There are too many kids at this thing. Running and screaming, good lord they’re making a racket and one almost spills my beer. I try telling Alex that people shouldn’t bring their kids to these things, but he says they organize these things specifically for kids.

“I can’t even climb on the fire engine, it’s swarming with them,” I say, ignoring him.

We go to the R Roberts Gallery next door that has a recurrent exhibit called “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” that is interesting and fun. But I am incredulous of the myth they tell about it.

“Only he and his wife knew about these paintings and sculptures until after he had died.” The gallery lady says, while standing in front of a four-foot-tall professional magazine photo of him doing one of the paintings. His wife was apparently quite the photographer.

The non-Seuss paintings are—as usual—disappointing crap.

So we leave and are walking by The Brick and I see some of the oral-maxillofacial guys at the bar. I wonder in and say hello. From the bar, I see two guys from my department, The Marquee and Casanova, having drinks with Amy, a pharmacy student.

They call me over and buy me a Pinot Noir. I am not sure which one of them is with Amy, and their suggestive banter seems to obscure rather than illuminate who is coupling with whom. I lean in to Casanova and whisper, “Who is she here with?”

“We don’t know yet,” Casanova says.

I toast Amy’s glass.

Earlier in the day The Marquee and I took some prospective interns to lunch to tell them about the program, the hospital, and living in Jax. When they asked what I liked about living here, I had to pause.

After thinking about it quickly, I said that I really liked my neighborhood. I love my little brick bungalow house. I like that there is a creek that runs down the middle of my street. I love that the only bridge over the creek is in front of my house. And I love that the bridge being there means that all the people walking their dogs parade them by my home.

I love that I can walk to the area where I am now hanging out with my friends. I am warmed by the conversation, the wine, and the festive mood. I am thinking that I have been too hard on this town. That I could live here for a long time

So we start talking about how much we love our neighborhood. Casanova is already drunk, but pleasantly so, and he asks three well-dressed older ladies walking by what they like about the neighborhood.

“Evenings like this! The sense of community.” They say, walking to our table. They’re right. Everything is quite relaxed and comfortable. We start talking to them and everyone is warm and friendly. This town really is pleasant. These women are charming and lively.

“The other thing that is so nice,” one of the ladies adds, “You haven’t heard any Spanish tonight. And our neighborhood has hardly any black people, either.”

Neither Casanova nor I are sure we have heard her correctly, but in my mind I can feel Bruce Willis cutting the red wire, when he should have cut the blue one, and I can see myself leaping across the street, scanning the crowd in ultra slow-motion, shouting “Nooooo,” as the block party explodes into a moronic inferno.


Blogger Tara writes:

Hi from Iowa, Erik--your dad sent your blog-link along. Your post made me remember every one of the last 10 or so Christmases I have spent in Jax, in excruciating detail. It always starts out with me feeling doubtful that I can have anything in common with the people around me (sadly, including my parents and sister/brother-in-law), then finding common ground and settling into a general state of goodwill toward all (fueled, on occasion, by a drink or two), then overhearing some insane comment (or, often in my parents' house and among my parents' friends, an offensive joke), and wishing I could get out of Dodge. Fast.

I grew up there...I know these people. I want to like them. I want to like my town. But, damn it, I don't.

I'll be there next weekend.



Post a Comment


Medical Records

Season Three

Season Two

Season One