Jack Ohman

A man, a sofa, martinis and Pall Malls, no salt

People my age (54.26, but who’s clock-watching?) become familiar with trips to the doctor.

I am a fairly attentive doctor-visitor myself, and have the normal fear of death that anyone my age has, particularly since my grandfather died at 54.26. When my dad turned 54 (not sure of the exact decimal), he spent the next 365 days lying on the sofa smoking Pall Malls and drinking martinis in which vermouth was a rumor. The morning he turned 55, he got up, quit smoking and lived to be 80 and change.

So I went to the doctor the other day here in Sacramento, having been a longtime patient of a doc in Portland who basically waved his hand around me and said I was fine. He was great, and I miss him, mostly because when he would inquire about my diet, I would tell him, and he would say, “Hey! You gotta eat, right?”

Not, “You gotta eat right.”

A few years ago, days before my dad died, I went to a company health screening. The nurse took my blood pressure, looked up at me and said, “You don’t have to go to the doctor today.”


“You have to go to the doctor first thing in the morning.” As my BP added up to 303, and possessing only a liberal arts degree (in Honors), who was I to disagree with her scientific assessment?

The Sacramento doctor was very nice and very, very thin. He lightly inquired about my diet, and I assured him that I enjoyed tasty food, myself. He wrinkled his nose and allowed as how he didn’t like pork, red meat, salt, sugar, or anything that came in a can or a package.

As many of you know, this allows you to eat the following diet:

▪ Brown paper bags (unsalted).

▪ Kale puffs.

▪ Pea gravel.

▪ Any non-GMO vegetable beginning with “A.”

▪ Two (2) cups of lemon peel.

▪ Nothing currently available in restaurants.

I viewed this advice as highly inconvenient, as I had already lost 30 pounds since my near-explosive blood pressure of three years ago. My old doctor informed me that I should even put on a little weight, as I looked “ a bit haggard.”

Thanks for the motivation.

Once we had the diet chat, we moved on to my actual blood pressure, which was still a bit high.

“Shouldn’t we kick up the dosage?” I asked.

“No, you’ll just pass out,” Doc said, more or less. “I’d like you to get back on your bike, not be around salt or any salted bicycles, and try to relax. Do you have stress in your life?”

“Not at all,” I answered. “I draw five cartoons a week, write a column, a few editorials, am president of the editorial cartoonist group in the United States, send thousands of dollars to three college-age children, try to keep my yard and bathroom clean, think about how I am several million dollars short of my retirement goal savings, think about international affairs more than most people in the State Department, and am a member of a profession recently targeted by al-Qaida. Life is great.”

“Huh. Well, at least there’s no salt in there.”

So now I have an appointment for a colonoscopy. That apparently entails starving for 24 hours, pouring radioactive syrup into yourself, and then letting someone run the Hubble Space Telescope on the end of a garden hose up your wazoo.

Anyway, I am sure it’ll all be fine. I hear the drugs they give you are quite pleasant. Afterward, I’ll find a nice sofa, light up a saltless Pall Mall, and have an extraordinarily dry martini, without salt, for nine months. Then, I will arise to live 25 more years.

It worked for my dad.