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Columns

Take two friends and call me in the morning

I love modern pharmacology. Two Tylenol kills a headache. A couple ibuprofen palliates tendinitis. A daily statin reduces the fear of infarction.

Now non-pharmacological items, like alcohol, are being heralded as life-givers. Two fingers of gin or a fist of red wine, say, might lower your chance of cardiac arrest. Other age-extenders include dark chocolate (75% cacao or higher) and coffee—or decaf—up to like five cups. A day!

Moreover, new evidence suggests that health advantages accrue for people who spend time with other people. Bible study, book clubs, hard-of-hearing support groups. Hearing that, I got my will and last testament in order. It’s not that I don’t like being with people; it’s just that when I’m alone I set my own agenda and win all my arguments.

It ill profits your health, however, to hang out with people who, when they walk into a room, inspire escape. Like Uncle Avuncular who insists “Climate change will take care of itself.”

However, spend time with friends and relations you enjoy, and enjoy preventive medicine. This is difficult for me because I favor a 4:30 a.m. wakeup, a pot of coffee, writing desk, fountain pen, and absolute silence broken only by a few suburban birds catching the early Metra.

But science reveals that isolation is the Grim Reaper’s best ally. Avoid friends and relations and they’ll next be peering down at your ashen, powdered face and favorite dark suit, eyes closed, hands folded.

So, fearing the worst, I started my journey into camaraderie. First I contacted a man from my writers group whom I’ll call Ted who accepted my invitation to play tennis. We met at Geneva High School’s newly-surfaced courts that drew us in like a gleaming blue pool, but the surface deadened instead of livened a bouncing ball. That, along with Ted’s infallible drop shot, left me exhausted from limping after lost points.

Next I emailed a fellow writer I’ll call Sam. We met at Global Brew Tap House where I discovered Sam knew craft beers.

“I’ll have the Double Cherry Dublin Oxwood Bleached Ale,” Sam ordered.

“Good choice,” the bartender said.

“Whattaya have,” I asked, “that’s clear like Bud Lite but tastes more like a Stella or Heineken?”

“A Stella or Heineken,” he answered.

After ten sample tastings, feeling lightheaded, I decided on an unpronounceable, untranslatable foreign brew that tasted like Bud Lite. Then Sam and I tried to impress each other by citing obscure authors and titles we hoped the other hadn’t read, scoring the poseur a virtual literary point. As in tennis, I lost, Sam’s drop shots including Samuel Beckett’s unproduced “Meatloaf” plays and Dostoyevsky’s letters to his game warden.

I doubled the dosage by meeting with couples. When Mrs. Patella had knee surgery, I offered to bring over a picnic, greatly appreciated by Mr. Patella who for a week had answered his wife’s every beck and call (whatever a “beck” is).

When seated watching a Dark Ages torture device raise and lower Mrs. P.’s leg while Mr. P. sat nearby, his straight jacket restraining him from grabbing anything pointed, I confessed, “You think I’m here to give solace and comfort, but I’m here to stall Alzheimer’s and outfox cancer.”

“Huh?” they choired.

“You’re like a protein shake power boost.”

Watch your email inbox. I might invite you for coffee. If I’m late, order me a Macho Latte Caramel Whipped Espresso. With extra heavy cream. Thanks to you, my heart can afford it.

•áRick Holinger lives in Geneva, teaches at Marmion Academy, and facilitates Geneva library’s writing workshop. A collection of his columns, “Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences,” is forthcoming. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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