The King of the Congo

The King of the Congo 

As I got older, I became an animal rights advocate. My reasoning was a concern that human overpopulation was causing so much loss of natural habitats that many of nature’s wild creatures were being squeezed onto pathways that could only lead to extinction. I also had to make up for all the rotten things I has done as a child. This included shooting birds or mice with a B-B gun, making frogs into race car drivers and setting them on fire, sending Bumble bees on sub-orbital rocket rides, stoning dozens of Blue Claw or Horseshoe crabs to death and in general disrespecting most of nature. I don’t know when my attitude changed, but I eventually came to believe in preservation of the environment, coupled with a feeling that the only way to accomplish this would be to advocate for human zero population growth.

Being one of those people who has even gone overboard the other way, when I find them in my house, I will set spiders, bees and beetles free; much to the chagrin of my wife who prefers to handle issues like this more expediently with a fly swatter. She shows little or no interest at all when I chide her about the teachings of Buddha who said that all life is sacred.

We had this argument.

  • There is nothing sacred about a wasp, an ant, or a spider.
  • Then what about an Angel fish?

For certain areas of the planet it is already too late, but there is still a chance to save large tracts of nature in both the Amazon as well as in Africa. Two common African practices that are a horrifying waste of animal life are killing elephants or rhinos for the sole purpose of respectively harvesting their ivory tusks and their horns. It is sickening to see photographs of tusk-less or hornless carcasses left behind to rot after these trophies are removed. Ivory has value in the music industry or as jewelry, but even piano keys can now be made from more durable synthetic material. I have also seen women wearing ivory pins who should worry more about their elephantine weights than what they stick on their blouses to offset their dowdy or dumpy appearances. Despite the silk gown and the exotic baubles, they still look like the sow’s ear.

I also knew that rhino horns, like the lore about Grizzly Bear gallbladders, are taken because they are then ground into powder and sold as an aphrodisiac to reverse erectile dysfunction in human males. The primitive two step equation becomes: Horny animal = Horny man; which may sound logical enough; except for the non-sequester that the male rhino uses his horn to root around for food; not for diddling rhino pussy.

When Viagra came on the market, I contacted the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company to suggest that they could do a great deal to save the Rhino. The plan would be to grind their pills into powder with the same color and consistency as powdered horns― then supply it in bulk to African or Chinese apothecaries who could dispense it in naturopathic bags or pouches. In saturating the market, this would not only bring continuity to the culture and preserve whatever rituals might be involved but would also bring an end to the senseless slaughter of this magnificent primitive beast. I did receive a polite response from the company’s Medical Director that he would send my suggestion up the corporate ladder; but that was the last I ever heard from them. Years later, the decimation and near annihilation of the rhinoceros remains unchecked and the White Rhino is now extinct.

At one point I considered stockpiling the drug, going to Africa, and then distributing it as a wandering crusading merchant of human sexual satisfaction and savior of African wildlife. The fantasy went as far as becoming a great white witch doctor or medicine man; then made ruler of the tribe after saving the virility of all men both young and old alike. Placed on a throne, then fanned, fed by Nubians and having all the women I could possibly desire put at my disposal; I would be a veritable third world Hugh Heffner: Priapus 1st, House of Pfizer, his most revered and majestic: King of Eros.

I suppose the CEO of Pfizer did not like the idea because at $18 per erection, Viagra has made an enormous contribution to the corporate financial bottom line. A more likely explanation is that either he never got my letter; or if he did, dismissed it as only one more example of senseless ranting from yet another one of far too many misguided tree-hugging fools.

One day when the drug patent finally expires, the generic version will cost pennies a pill. The Rhinoceros, however, will always be proprietary; and when its patent expires, so does a species that will only then exist in photos or on a taxidermy display.




A Crown of Horns



Have a Mint

Have a Mint

When Michael and I moved out of the Brookline doghouse we found a rental apartment in a rundown tenement in Summerville, just over the town line from Cambridge. Local snobs not living there called it “Slummerville,” and our apartment was a pure monument to that truth. Housing quality diminished in direct proportion to rental pricing as one moved away from the trendy neighborhoods near Harvard and entered the working-class suburbs of Boston. It wasn’t that we wanted to live there. It was because we were on parental budgets that forced us to make do.

The place must have been made for midgets because every room in the apartment was about three fourths what would be considered normal. This included the height of the ceilings, all of which fostered a perpetual sense of claustrophobic containment. It gave new meaning to the terms ‘kitchenette’ or ‘dinette,’ with the entire layout being hardly big enough for one person let alone two. The interior was also so dark that the only plants we could hang in our windows that would remotely stand a chance to survive were mushrooms. Add in no air conditioning and the only way to stay cool was to go half-naked.

When my father saw it for the first and last time on his visit for my medical school graduation he was appalled.

  • I just can’t understand why you had to pick a place like this to live in.

What could I say? I had succeeded in coming in under a budget he had based on a 1941 rental pro forma.

Once again, like Big Funk, our décor was dismal and the furniture third or fourth hand. Then not being exactly the kind of place that fostered a keen desire to design or create a better interior in the first place, it was more like the kind of place that made one abandon all hope. The apartment did nothing to help our social lives either, as it was so embarrassing, we never brought dates home. The exception was the doped up Chinese girl, who was oblivious to her surroundings and barely knew if it was day or night anyway.


Myself and dog lover Bob― over for a visit, a drink and a spliff


The landlord/owners were an elderly Irish couple, Alice and Joe, who no longer had any desire, much less even the physical or mental capacities required to maintain the place. They could barely remember when it was time to collect the rent; or then tried to collect it twice when they forgot they already had. But what difference did it really make in the grand scheme of things? It was our last year of Medical School and there was finally a light at the end of the educational tunnel. Pretty soon we would be independent; starting to make lots of real money and would no longer have to live like lepers in a cold cellar.

We used an old packing trunk for a coffee table, covered it with a paisley print cloth, and in the middle of it had placed a small glass bowl filled with some gallstones that Michael had procured after a surgical case. Apparently, it was one of the worst gall bladder cases on record with the diseased sack containing at least twenty yellow-orange multifaceted perfectly smooth lustrous stones that looked like extra-large driveway pebbles.

In a fit of perverse and bored fun we had attached a little sign on the bowl that read: 

Fine Mint Candy. Have one!



Because of our decadently embarrassing dwelling we rarely if ever had any real guests over anyway and forgot about the inside joke of the gallstone candy dish. The dish had simply blended invisibly into the rest of the sordid background where it had become a fixture. We had so forgotten about it that we were paying virtually no attention to it the night my brother happened to visit, got very drunk, stoned on pot, and then got literally stoned as he began to chomp on the little yellow mints.

He had already consumed about three of them and was chewing on his chalky fourth before we realized it, then told him what they really were. Being four sheets to the wind and nearly in his cups, the only response he could mumble was:

  • God. No wonder these things are chewy and tasteless. I thought maybe you guys left the candy out so long that it got stale.

It wasn’t until the next day when he finally sobered up that the full realization of what he had done hit home, which made him sick and nauseated in retrospect.

  • Shit, I can’t believe you guys let me eat somebody’s gallstones.
  • Better than some other nasty things you can put in your mouth in a state of abject drunken waste, my brother.

Actually, in some primitive native cultures it is believed that if a man consumes pieces of desiccated grizzly bear gall bladders, he can prevent sexual impotency, or if already impotent, reverse the curse. Like some other men I have known, I guess these natives may have thought of their bear enhanced erections as somehow becoming ferocious wild beasts on the prowl for fresh meat.

But trust me―the last thing my brother got from his little debauched snack was a nice big hard on. Toward the end of our lease term, old Joe had a stroke and although we begged Alice to let us help, she refused to even take him to the hospital. He was paralyzed on his left side, aphasic and dribbling down his chin, but Alice said that he had a good life and that the hospital would kill him for sure. So, she put him in a lounge chair, stroked his motionless side several times a day in a fruitless effort to bring it back to life, and after a brief period of time let him die a natural and compassionate death.

Although it is probably true that old Joe would not have survived the hospital anyway, it was more likely that the food Alice attempted to stuff food down his throat every day and that subsequently trickled into his lungs instead of into his gullet was the more probable and proximate cause of his eventual demise: Aspiration pneumonia.


R.I.P. 1973

Old Joe

Killed with kindness




Myself and former rommate Bob/Personal photo
© Photo: Gallstones Deutche Welle
Source:Deutche Welle www.ccbolgroup.com/comp/calculosE.html