Thursday, December 29, 2005

Just what the doctor ordered

Dr. Michael Keating of MD Anderson is famous for writing out “prescriptions” for bottles of champagne for new CLL patients. There is a certain poetry in that message -- the joy of life does not end with diagnosis -- and I think the prescription is appropriate so long as patients follow their bubbly with a healthy dose of patient education.

For, alas, man and woman cannot live by champagne alone. But around this time of year they can sure as hell try.

After we graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Marilyn and I took a trip to Europe in the summer of 1980. We fell in love with France, and found the French to be, by and large, friendly and accommodating. Traveling on a frayed shoestring of a budget, we stayed at such places as the Grand Hotel de La Loire in Paris, which was anything but grand –- the hotel, I mean. Paris was wonderful –- romantic, beautiful, exemplary in every way but for the dog poop that littered the streets -- and our eyes still tear up at the thought of an artichoke in hollandaise sauce that we had at a café on the Ile St. Louis.

Being on a budget, we sometimes opted for an in-room dinner of cheese and wine. We discovered that cheap cheese is a good bet in France but that cheap wine is not. We did find bottles for $1, which may as well have been labeled “Apellation Merde Controlee.” A side trip to Rheims, in the heart of champagne country, confirmed that cheap champagne is not especially drinkable, either.

Alas, we could not afford the really good stuff, and a trip back to Champagne, with a jaunt over to Burgundy, is definitely in our plans (CLL and airborne infections be damned; to get to France I’ll wear a Darth Vader mask on the plane if I have to. When I deplane you can stick a straw in it, point me toward Mumm, and I'm good to go.)

In the meantime, we have enjoyed some excellent French champagne from afar, as well as California bubbly, including our favorite budget bottle, Korbel’s Blanc de Noirs. It’s available this time of year for under $10 a pop, and this is when I run out and buy a case to keep for special occasions for the year.

Those occasions occur whenever Marilyn and I decide there is need for one. There are worse vices, and, no, I don’t know if champagne has any synergy with Rituxan. But the placebo effect is well worth investigating.

Happy New Year!

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