John Boston | On Open ‘Fart’ Surgery & the Laughing Heart

John Boston
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DEAR WORLD’S BEST FRIEND PHILLIP ALLEN LANIER, 

Your Things To Do List tomorrow is short, but a doozy. The first item is Open Heart Surgery. By the time this letter reaches Chicago, you’re probably out playing tennis, which I’d advise against because you’re horrible at tennis and not even an exorcism transplanting Serena Williams Herself into your body would help your game. 

Sorry. Didn’t mean to use the word, “transplant.” Unintentional. (:- ). 

I’m writing you, o mighty best friend since we were, if not infants, then certainly infantile, to offer a robust “atta boy.” May all your nurses moonlight as wanton, go-go dancing, Hawaiian Tropic swimsuit models, have warm hands, speak fluent baby talk, and, for your No. 1 & 2 traits in a woman, be gullible and nearsighted. Selfishly, I’m rooting for a quick recovery. I don’t want to shop for an inferior aftermarket best friend. 

Where would I find a co-conspirator, equal to you? What if I got married and needed — for like the 27th time — a Best Man? Do I instruct the dolt on altar etiquette? “Stand there. Don’t drool. Hands stay on THE OUTSIDE of your pants. When the padre asks, “John, do you …” this time, grab me by the lapels and scream: “DON’T YOU DO IT!!!’” 

I’ve a question. How many hours post-surgery before you can eat hot dogs? Nachos? Beer? Cigars? Ice cream?  

Chum? 

Second question? If the surgeon sneezes at an inopportune time, can I have your really cool vintage World War II leather bomber jacket with the sheepskin collar? Don’t you worry about me, Philly. My tailor can take it in the six sizes. 

Around the waistline. 

I wish I could visit. Can’t. You’re in Chicago and Tuesday Taco Night is around the corner here in Santa Clarita. Plus, there’s that bothersome American Medical Association Edict No. 53217 that commands neither one can visit the other until four months post-op. We tend to make the other laugh. Little kid laugh. Stitches get popped. 

I recall an episode from our teendom. In white lab coat and clipboard, you burst into my ICU room. I was dying. You yelled: “Nurses! Quick!! Bring this man two pole dancers and a glass of water!!” 

Years later, I never got the water and, damn it, Henry “Hold The” Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital billed me $1,160 for 3 ounces of H20, no ice. 

Flipside? Once, you went under for a “Deviated Septum” operation, which I referred to as a, “Deviated Scrotum.” I shared with staff that “Deviated Scrotum” would be a good band name, then, asked how long you’d be in a cast.  

You blew out about 20 miles of gauze. 

Did you ever go back for the second scrotum? Actually, Philly Con Carne, I think I like “New Scrotum” even better as a band name. Wholesome. More head-bouncing, Peter, Paul & Mary-ish. 

Sigh. In a life’s introspection, we do tend to bring out the worst in one another, don’t we? That’s a gift upon which one cannot staple a monetary price tag. 

I’m wincing. “Staple.” Indelicate choice of words. Sorry. 

Sixty years. While I’ve gotten used to you, behind your back, friends and family whisper that you’re an “acquired taste” and wish you’d stop referring to your operation as, “…Open-Fart Surgery.” It was funny the first 600 times, yet, timeless if you’re an impaired fourth-grade boy on the dark end of the spectrum. 

It’s probably too late to lobby, but, if you get the full valve replacement, don’t be your usual cheapskate self. Forget the Costco Pig Plan, the Shot-While-Escaping Death Row Prisoner Organ Salvaged Under Dubious Circumstances or the sole of a smelly Converse basketball shoe. 

Get a chimpanzee heart valve.  

A female chimpanzee valve, Phil.  

That way, in these woke hepcat daddy political climes, you can shower with the girls. Unlike the previous five times, there’s nothing they can legally do about it.  

Have you checked with your insurance provider about leasing a tuba valve? That route, with your addiction to intestinal methane humor, every time your heart beats, it sounds like Whoopee Cushion going off under a morbidly obese person, 185 times a minute. Want to lift your spirits and entertain hospital staff? Make robust raspberry noises three times every second. Like the president. 

Can’t be done without laughing. I know. I’ve tried. 

Heavens. Seems like 20 minutes ago we were skinny kids, climbing over the fence at Placerita Junior High and throwing the football around for hours, hopeful, immortal and ferocious in youth. Now, we’re repositories for Newhall Hardware and Radio Shack, resplendent with plastic and metal — titanium hips, contact lenses, dental fillings, graphite knees and a mouse condom Crazy Glued to our thumper, keeping the beat. Tres robotic. 

Weddings, funerals, high mass, the birth of our children, convenience store hold-ups, pulling people from burning cars, we just seem to bring out the worst in one another (and the best), by laughing at the wrong moments — probably including a few hundred previous lives. No offense, but I’d hate to be standing next to you during the Crucifixion.  

Lanier. You heal well from this operation. There’ve been too many phone calls, too many “we gottas,” too many excuses and not enough actual road trips the past several years. 

Seriously. Remember driving to San Francisco just to see the original “King Kong” in a coffee house? Dancing in a lesbian bar all night in Santa Fe? Circumnavigating Florida? And, refresh my memory. What in heaven’s name were we doing wandering around Wisconsin in the dead of winter? I know all Newhall’s grocery stores carried cheese. 

As soon as you return to being your shadow-boxing self and can put together sentences more complex than “…fire BAD!!!” let’s plan an adventure. I promise to not take along a garage door opener or wave a burning torch in front of you. 

Phillip Lanier. You heal well. Remember. It’s not so much about you. It’s about me. We seem to share the same, laughing heart. 

John Boston is a local writer.

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