Category Archives: Stories from Steve

STORIES FROM STEVE: I QUIT

I QUIT

By Steve Goldfinger

“Giving up smoking is easy,” Mark Twain said.  “I’ve done it hundreds of times”  

My tally is a lot lower, perhaps ten or twelve times.  My fervent intentions were almost always foiled after I drank a little alcohol with a pal who was lighting up. “Can I have one?” invariably led to more.

At one point, I was seeing a patient who flaunted a pack of Lucky Strikes in his front shirt pocket. How I craved one, and my ensuing strategy was craven. He was in for a routine health check up, and I strongly urged him to quit smoking. The best way, I assured him, was to go cold turkey. “Toss that pack into that waste basket. Right now,” I implored.  He did.  I went for that waste basket as soon he was out the door.

That was 50 years ago, and I’ve been clean for about that long now.

It wasn’t so easy when it came to golf.   I can think of dozens of occasions when, driving home from a horrendous round with my golf buddy, I assured him that the end had come.  Never again.  Why torture myself?  Why destroy a perfectly gorgeous Sunday morning by hitting one wretched shot after another, succumbing to outbursts of temper, and cursing–so unlike me during the rest of my week. He would smile and remind me of the two good shots I had made that day.  And, sure enough, during the week, I thought about those shots, remembered how many wonderful ones I had hit in my prime.  Just recapture the rhythm, the mind set, the joy of being out in nature, the camaraderie, I said to myself.  And the next Sunday, I was out there with him again.  And the ride back was no different.

There was only one way to truly quit, and I proceeded to do it. Last year, I prepared a professional looking affadavit entitled Goldfinger’s Last Round of Golf and in it, detailed all my foozled and otherwise mis-hit shots, hole by hole. I sent it out to all my golfing friends– recent ones and others from years ago.

So far, this has worked.  I even gave my clubs to one of my sons. But I had this dream last night: I was out on the course with a player who was hitting magnificent shots with a set of curious-looking clubs, a recent breakthrough innovation by a club manufacturer who was advertising them widely.

I asked if I could swing one. When  I did,  the ball soared high and far, in a trajectory that would have made me proud even at my golfing peak.

These clubs can be purchased online or at a nearby golf store. They are handsome and affordable.

Tune in next month.

 

Memoir Writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI a few years ago after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.  

ON M.L.K. DAY: Steve Goldfinger Remembers…

Shame

By Steve Goldfinger

It was a poker game we were really looking forward to.  Sure, we had had a few during the year, but this one was to be special. It would be just like the games we had been able to arrange when we were medical residents because Lloyd was coming to town.  And Lloyd never missed a game.

Lloyd was exceptional in many ways.  Not the least was his becoming the first African American to be appointed to the house staff at the MGH.  Lloyd was a superb doctor and human being, and he survived with dignity in a city rife with racism. This was probably no different than in his native Chicago, but, at least, there, he was at home.  There, he had brothers with whom he could endure and aspire.  Boston had to have been different. He must have had his share of diversions when away from the ordeal of residency. The only two I remember were his zeal for the Cleveland Browns (he would drive 650 miles to that city for a game) and for poker.

We were not card sharpies, only five or six guys at it for beers, laughs, and low- stake betting. We invented our own versions of poker with wild cards galore and betting sequences unheard of.

And so, all was ready that day,  April 4, 1968. The game was to be at my house in the evening, and the beer was cooling in the refrigerator.

At 7:05 that night, Martin Luther King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis, and the infamous shooting forever earmarked the nearby Lorraine Motel for its place in history.

So there we were, five of us assembling for the poker game, Lloyd included.

And what did we do?

Played poker.

What did we say?

Lots of trivial things that I cannot remember. But not a word about what had to be cemented in our individual and group consciousness that night, to the exclusion of anything else.

Not a word.

Why?

How could this be?

Were we trying to brave through the game we had so looked forward to, not wanting to spoil it (as though it hadn’t already been utterly ruined)?

Were we reluctant to talk about racial hatred when we were so embodying a kind of camaraderie that we mistakenly thought absolved us from having to face reality?

Were we just too damn young, and despite our growth in another world, too totally inept at being able to reach out when that reality screamed at us?

We have no good answers, only shame.

Memoir Writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.  

STORIES FROM STEVE: BILL RUSSELL

BILL RUSSELL

by Steve Goldfinger

As a medical intern, I helped care for a man who was the professional at a nearby golf course., and when he learned of my passion for the game, he invited me to come and play there. I did.

When you finish your round,”  he said as he escorted me to the first tee, “come to the clubhouse for beer with some friends of mine.”  So, after my usual mediocre round of golf, I trudged up  the hill to the white-framed building where the dining area was empty save for four laughing guys sitting at nearby table: my host and his friends–Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, and Bill Russell’s brother.  With my dropped jaw, I could only mumble  a few words in response to their hearty welcome.

Although not a rabid basketball fan, I did tend to follow the Celtics on a near-daily basis, and I was eager to hear them talk, to glean the kind of inside information I could gloatingly share with friends. And yet, they suddenly centered on me, the doctor.  I was asked about the treatment Russell had been receiving for his ankle sprain.  I was told about the games K.C. missed because of appendicitis when they both played college basketball for USF.  We also joked about golf, how the water holes had overflowed their banks after we were done with them.

It was one of those “experiences of a lifetime.”  And yet, I thought later, we had enjoyed  ourselves at what was really a rather second rate club.  Unfortunately, the Russells and K.C. Jones were unlikely to ever be invited to any of Boston’s elite clubs. That was the way it was in those days.  Color colored a lot of attitudes.  Russell made little effort to disguise his feelings about how shabbily he was treated by Boston fans. Their hero, for sure–that black guy, for certain.  His sometimes unsuppressed insolence didn’t help.

Years later, I found myself sitting first class on a trans-continental flight, thanks to an upgrade. The compartment was almost empty. When I glanced across the aisle, there, believe it or not, was the impossibly long frame and unmistakable face of Bill Russell.  My immediate instinct was to go over and sit next to him, to remind him of the beers and jokes we had shared at that golf course so long ago,  to immediately recapture the kind of kinship one can slide into so easily over drinks at the 19th hole.

But a rush of propriety (or was it reality?) overcame me.  Why do a thing like that?  Would he even remember that remote, trivial, 40 minute episode in his life?  And If by any chance he did, would it trigger a memory of the bitterness that permeated his Boston years?  And who is this asshole, anyway, to  want to strike up a conversation?

I returned to my book.  Best to settle for one experience of a lifetime than to try to create another that could go horribly wrong.

Our “BOLLI Matters” feature writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.  

 

 

STORIES FROM STEVE: ON MIRACLES

On…

by Steve Goldfinger

“A miracle is a violation of nature,” wrote David Hume, the dour 18th century Scot philosopher.  He virtually demolished the possibility of a miracle ever happening by posing the following question double-edged question.  Which is more likely–that the event took place, or that the testimony describing it was fallacious?

It is easy to dismiss Jonah and the whale, but it may not be so easy to dismiss the Hanukah story of an oil lamp of burning for eight days rather than one.  But if archeologists could somehow recover a like oil, give it to scientists who could then identify an ingredient that increased burning longevity, would we still think of it as a miracle?  I don’t know.

Anyway, I began to think about Hume’s argument, asking whether his logic was too dismissive of those who believe in divine intervention, too oblivious of the realm of faith and hope in our lives.This was all occasioned by learning of a recent experience of a close friend.

Late in life, she struggled with advanced renal failure, the possibility of going on hemodialysis hinging on a blood test drawn each week. Then, completely unexpectably, a donor kidney became available, one that was extremely well-matched to her immune system.

Following its engraftment within her body, a couple of remarkable things happened. Her high blood pressure–which had required five drugs, around the clock, to obtain some semblance of control–settled into the normal range without any.  But the second remarkable thing, the one that defied belief, was this: her hair–which had long been colored by a beautician–began to grow out in its natural shade.  Yes, there it was–as auburn as when she was in her twenties!

No one could explain it.  Experts in developmental biology, immunology, dermatology and all other relevant fields were at a loss. Nor, I discovered,  had such a phenomenon ever been observed by others.

So, as banal as her hair story might be when compared to Jonah and the whale, was this a miracle?  Did my eyes deceive me when I sat across from her at dinner? Did she really sneak off to her colorist on the sly after she had her new kidney? Am I, in writing this, giving false testimony?  I know her well and cannot believe she would do such a thing.

When she and her husband describe the blessing that has enfolded for them during the past few months, they are not loathe to speak of a miracle in their lives.  No, not the hair.  The successful transplant, the avoidance of impending dialysis, the cure of her hypertension.

So where does this leave David Hume?

In the 18th century, in musty philosophy books, and in my own ruminations.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.  

STORIES FROM STEVE: AT THE MOVIES

As Steve Goldfinger has been one of our most prolific BOLLI Matters writers, we thought it only fitting that we give him his own feature for his blend of memoir and creative nonfiction writing.  Welcome to the stable, Steve!

AT THE MOVIES

by Steve Goldfinger

My fright alarm went off for the first time when I was three years old.   It was my first movie, and the picture, my parents later told me, was Pinocchio.  It was Stromboli who caused me to shriek and them to carry me out to the lobby and then home.

Little has changed since then when it comes to my shriek alarm.  I left The Deer Hunter when  the Russian roulette scene had the soldier pointing a gun to his temple. I knew enough to never even try to watch Jaws or Psycho. If I had known about the bathtub scene at the end of Diabolique, I would have been spared that episode of chest pain and tachycardia. I was brave enough to join friends to see Fatal Attraction–but not without a blue woolen sweater to cover my eyes at the scene they warned  me would be coming. I adjusted the pull length on the sweater to obtain a suitably gauzy image, but this maneuver prevented me from stuffing my ears to quench the music as it amped and crescendoed at the same time.

Much as I would try to imagine an orchestra on the set (ridiculous!) or a director in a chair in front of the actors and a hanging microphone just above their heads but cut away, it never worked . I just got too rapt up and would totally suspend any whiff of disbelief.

A sequel to the Saw series, a horror movie for the the films’ avid followers, will be released just before Halloween–concocted by none other than my own Peter Goldfinger and his writing partner, Josh Stohlberg.  How could such a thing happen?

It is not Pete’s first venture into the horror genre.  He is married to Jen Jostyn who had a lead role in House of a Thousand Corpses; and  yes, its producer, named Rob Zombie, remains one of their close friends.  A while back, the Pete and Josh duo wrote Sorority Row and Pirhana-3D which outdid Jaws by about a hundred mutilations, most of them attractive coeds being plucked from a lake and halved by huge scaly carnivores. The lake gradually reddened as the action progressed.

When I arrived to visit Pete in Los Angeles, he told me it was my lucky day–I could come on the set when they were filming Sorority Row.   The nude scene.  Well, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.   I discovered that viewing a horror movie in the flesh, so to speak, wasn’t really that upsetting.  Not at all horrible.

So I await the pre-Halloween event. The title of this one is Jig Saw. I’ve seen a few trailers on my iPad.  And I’m saving my blue woolen sweater for the real thing.

Frequent BOLLI Matters writer Steve Goldfinge

Since joining BOLLI nearly three years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has taken writing classes and participated in the Writers Guild throughout but has also taken part in CAST and the Book Group.