July 2, 2014 —
My mother was a bit of a hypochondriac. Although she moaned a lot, most of her grousing turned out to be nothing more than anxiety, and as a result, I grew up with a confused sense of what actually constitutes illness. I’ve never been a fan of doctors (in the professional sense) and in fact, took the opposite approach as an adult. Where Mom might have panicked over an attack of the sniffles, running off to her physician for every ache and pain, I took most things in stride, loathe to complain (hard to believe, right?) and keeping concerns about my general well-being to myself. That philosophy served me well for decades, and until my 40s, I enjoyed pretty good health. That’s when I met Dr. Jason Blitz. Actually, he wasn’t an MD when we met, but a Navy man, traveling the world while serving his country, determined to see the world.
Being a homebody and “nester” extraordinaire, I had a hard time identifying with the good doctor’s desire to roam, but always enjoyed our visits, when he would regale me with stories about his travels to exotic locales scattered about the globe. While he was stationed in Hawaii and I was living in LA, our visits were fairly regular, but over time, he began his medical studies, I moved home to New York, and our time together became rare. We’ve kept up, of course, and like any close friendship, the miles melt away when we have an occasion to catch up, which occurred this past week.
“Where have you been?” I inquired, hearing his voice on the other end of the phone. “Djibouti,” he replied, “with a quick stop in Venice. But I’m in D.C. now, may I come visit?” Typing “do you booty” into the Google yielded results that made no sense, and I was forced to ask. “Africa,” he said, “doing a study on diarrhea.”
“Sure,” I answered. “That sounds great. The visit, I mean, not the diarrhea.”
After exchanging pleasantries upon his arrival (“it’s been too long” and “you look great!”), we got down to business as I reviewed my weekend schedule of arts and leisure destinations that he understood would occupy some of my time during our reunion. First up was “Radius 12748,” which was described as a “pop-up” gallery show sponsored by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (www.artsalliancesite.org ) and taking place in Jeffersonville, NY. Celebrating artists who live and work within a five-mile radius of the town, this first-time effort on the part of the DVAA attracted more than 30 painters, sculptors, potters and mixed-media practitioners, all residents of the same neck of the woods. Board members addressed the huge crowd that showed up for the reception, thanking everyone for their continued support of the arts and explaining how the concept works, not just to bring art to the public, but also to help fuel interest in sustaining a community.
Out of his element, Jason was intrigued. A conversation with Anne Hart (www.thecuttinggarden.org ) reflected not only her thoughts, but expressed a communal thought process. “The arts are economic development,” Hart explained, citing interesting statistics from a study conducted in 2011 (www.americansforthearts.org ). “Attendance at arts events generates income for local business,” according to the study, “including restaurants and retail stores in the area,” going on to say that “when a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards.” Hart followed up by stating that RADIUS was “a rousing success.” and the DVAA hopes to duplicate the pop-up concept in other neighborhoods. Dr. Blitz loved Jeff and (as predicted) we dropped some dollars in one of the local eateries, while planning our next stop. Having promised a great bonfire and equally impressive music, we cruised into Bethel, NY to hear the amazing Slam Allen singing the blues at the Catskill Distilling Co. (www.dancingcatsaloon.com ), where Jason met many of my friends and fellow fans of the man (www.slamallen.com ), who was born and raised in Sullivan County. Slam’s show was (IMHO) fantastic, and the enthusiastic crowd encouraged the band to play late into the night.
Arriving home exhausted, I flew into a panic hearing a voice-mail message informing me that my landlord’s son wants to move into my home, and that I have to relocate. Again. “I’m having a heart attack!” I cried, grateful that that was a doctor in the house. “What on earth am I going to do? Where will I go?” After pretending to check my vitals, the doc assured me that I would live. “You’ve been touring me around this gorgeous region for days,” he intoned. “My professional advice? Make lemonade.” Since I don’t care for the stuff, it took a moment to realize that he was speaking metaphorically and I groaned.
Reviewing our visit, my pal made a list. “You have scads of friends,” he said. “Start by putting the word out. I’m pretty sure that your vast network can help you find a permanent place to rest your weary bones. Aside from that, each town you took me to, every hamlet that you love, has a hidden gem that is just waiting for you and the Wonder Dog to call home.
“Write about it,” he said. “You don’t need a doctor, you just need a house call.”