Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, February 10, 2006

The G.P. 

I was going to link to a very nice story in the Metro section of the Times, but it turns out Clyde Haberman is one of the shadowy figures lurking behind the Times Select security wall. So, the hell with it.

It concerned Dr. Charles Vialotti who practiced medicine right off Carmine street in the Village from 1941 until a couple of days ago when he retired at the age of 96. Dr. Vialotti worked without a nurse or a receptionist, kept his records on index cards, did not accept insurance but charged little and sometimes nothing. He made house calls. Almost needless to say, his patients were fiercely loyal to him.

He practiced a kind of medicine that health insurance, liability insurance and government regulations make not only impossible, but unthinkable today. He pulled them and he planted them. And in between he knew all there was to know about you and your body. He was always there and he was personally concerned with your health. You trusted him.

As it happens, I've had two experiences with nonagenarian medicoes. The first was in college when I slithered downtown to Webster Groves, Missouri and slipped furtively into the first doctors office I saw. I was suffering from a social malady.

I don't remember his name, but he was a wee tiny little guy with a steady eye and a steady hand. As I stammered out my symptoms he fixed me with his bright little eyes and after I finished he just stared at me for what seemed like days. Then he shook his head and smiled. He gave me my medicine and had me come back for another dose. He charged me $5 which included a lecture. It was some of the most intelligent and insightful thoughts on sex I've ever heard from any source. Of course, I was seventeen and what I knew about sex would fit in a Trojan. But he treated me like an adult and I felt like one when I left his office.

The other occasion was when the Goddess and I needed a large battery of shots for our trip to China. Third world hell-holes are murder on your behind.

I have no idea why we went to this particular guy, but he was older than my college doctor and steady neither of hand or eye. In the six or eight times we had to see him there was never anybody else in the waiting room. Thankfully, he had a nurse who was not much younger, but much more -- how do I put it -- in the room. She always double checked the bottle he filled the syringe from, but when he got ready to stick us, she always had an anxious look on her face, along the lines of "Ohhhh, I hope this doesn't go horribly wrong."

It didn't and we came back microbe free, as far as I know. Our very last trip to him our shots were administered by a young man who had purchased the older doctor's practice. I have a feeling we were his very last patients. He and my college doctor are probably in the big waiting room in the sky, looking forward to meeting Dr. Violatti.

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