Body and Mind
Helplessness makes monsters of people. He’s seen chairs thrown, exam tables kicked. The rooms pathologists speak to patients in now have everything bolted down.
This strange country of cancer, it turns out, is the true democracy — one more real than the nation that lies outside these walls and more authentic than the lofty statements of politicians; a democracy more incontrovertible than platitudes or aspiration.
In the country of cancer everyone is simultaneously a have and a have-not. In this land no citizens are protected by property, job description, prestige, and pretensions; they are not even protected by their prejudices. Neither money nor education, greed nor ambition, can alter the facts. You are all simply cancer citizens, bargaining for more life.
One can die in cleanliness, or one can die in filth. I’m not talking about your soul. At the Prince Hotel — an old Bowery flophouse — the men paid a few dollars a night to live in stalls, four feet wide and six feet deep, with chicken-wire ceilings.
Recently I was invited to give a special lecture at the university where I teach. I accepted the invitation though, contrary to what my sons might tell you, I don’t really like to lecture.
Throughout it all, I put one foot in front of the other, watching the gray ribbon of road unspool beneath me.
Rule #20: Never bring a book to work. It makes the customers think you’re better than them. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading. It doesn’t matter if you’ve finished cleaning all the glasses and it’s a quiet Monday afternoon — leave the book at home. You’ll know this when your father comes behind the bar looking pissed and tells you to come into his office.