(This column was first published June 13, 1987.)
Despite a long list of bad, reckless and downright dumb habits — including a general reluctance to go see a doctor — I’ve just had the happy experience of returning from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, with a clean bill of health. Of course, there were a few exotic parasites making a home in my stomach — the result of eating at the kind of puestos I invariably tell gringo friends to pass by, on the street and in many market places. But the sawbones that inspected most of the functioning parts declared “I feel that your general health is excellent.”
This clinical conclusion was something of a surprise to some long-time friends, for like so many people in this world, I’ve happily abused my health for most of my life. The idea, as I and my friends entered adolescence and young adulthood was to GO! — to have as much fun and do as many things as intensely and often, for as long a period as stamina, circumstances, money and orderly society would allow.
In high school this meant little sleep, lots of fighting, contact sports, drinking, girls, exploring the wild edges of the adult world and engaging in as many hair-raising stunts as a bunch of hooky-playing, smart-ass teenagers could think of, with summers of rodeoing and winters of hunting, all leading to bloodied noses and limbs, broken bones, skull fractures, brain-concussions, various illnesses and fevers, and every bit of it unrelentingly fueled by a diet that would make an alley cat sick.
College in Los Angeles meant a concentration of certain of these heedless habits, and service in the U.S. Army upped the physical recklessness as the quality of diet plummeted.