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GOING THE DISTANCE
"MABEL WONG'S DOPPELGANGER"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
THE REAL MABEL: My Mabel
Once in a while in life, ya get a whopping dose of the 'ole Twilight Zone deal, replete with the "Doo...doo...doo...doooooooo" theme music playing softly in the background. I was treated to such a Rod Serling Moment almost twenty years ago, while I was at work. Most of you know that I manage an ophthalmology practice in NYC. We're a shop that repairs retinal detachments, treats macular degeneration, and removes those pesky little cataracts that make life so damned insufferable. One day about twenty years ago, a new patient named Jim Knipfel walked through the doors. Jim is a professional writer well-known for his "Slackjaw" columns that've been syndicated in numerous newspapers through the years, and continues online. You can find Jim's columns online
Jim also is the author of several fascinating books, including his latest, "These Children Who Come At You With Knives" which is a collection of short stories which validate Jim's well-deserved reputation as an extremely sick but creative bastard.
Among his other works have been autobiographical accounts of his experiences as a psycho ward detainee (really!), and his battle with blindness. It is this latter that brought Jim to my office. Ya see, Jim has retinitis pigmentosa, which is a progressive degenerative retinal disease which robs people of their vision, deteriorating insidiously from the periphery until the damage reaches the center of vision. When this eventuality occurs, one is left with a small island of central vision to deal with. Believe me, it ain't a piece of cake. Imagine riding a mororcycle without any side vision. It would be impossible.
I know that Jim doesn't mind my mentioning any of his medical problems, because he himself has shamelessly mined and exploited these very subjects to gain fame and riches, as a feted writer at publishing houses' wine and cheese parties. Actually, I'm just kiddin' ya. Jim hasn't changed since his lean days as a starving wordsmith artiste. He still skulks to his Brooklyn neighborhood bodega each morning, scrounging two six packs of cheap beer for the day's consumption. Anyway, I digest. Or is that digress?
Twenty years ago Jim arrived at my office with his now ex-wife, Laura. To be honest, I didn't form a good initial impression of Jim's wife. When Jim and I discovered our common ground of being columnists, I showed Jim and his wife a copy of Iron Horse magazine. Jim's wife looked at the magazine and made a disgusted looking face and said sarcastically....."Gee....that's great..." At least she didn't say...."EWWWWwwwwwwww..."
You'll find this next gem simultaneously interesting and repugnant. Jim had some neurological issues at that time, and was seeing a neurologist. I later found out that Jim's wife Laura, left Jim for his neurologist! Man, ya can't make it up!
I'll tell ya what. It all works out for the best. Jim's current old lady Morgan, is gold compared with her predecessor. Man, wotta bee-atch his ex is!
One part of my job is to interview new patients to see what exactly brings them to see us. In Jim's case, it was his developing retinitis pigmentosa, which was in a relatively early stage. As we were sitting in my office rappin', Jim noticed a picture of my Harley 74, "Mabel." Jim said....
"Nice bike. I have an old friend in Chicago who rides a Harley. His name is Grinch. He named his Harley Mabel."
Whaaa? I said, "Yer kiddin' me, right? Hey man, my bike's name is Mabel!" Over the years as I've seen Jim at the office, I asked about his friend Grinch and his Mabel. Now, Jim's no Harley expert, but from what I gathered from his desription of the other Mabel, she too was a shovelhead.
Recently, I learned that Grinch sold his Mabel, and acquired a V-Rod in her place. Oh well, there's no accounting for taste....bad taste. There you have it: my Twilight Zone Moment. It's fair to assume that Grinch's Mabel's new owner did not retain her name, which is appropriate, as there can only be one Harley shovelhead in the Universe named "Mabel." IT'S THE LAW! As far as the law of averages is concerned, what are the chances of finding other Harley shovels named Mabel? Slim to Slimfast, man.
We recently did cataract surgery on both of Jim's eyes, restoring his near vision to a status good enough so that he can check out Going The Distance columns on the 'net. Oh yeah, there is also the small matter of Jim's restored ability to write on his computer, which is merely Jim's livelihood. Man, ya gotta have your beer money.
The last thing Jim told me about Grinch was this:
"He wants to take me on a road trip on his V-Rod. That ain't happenin'..."
Smart man. Hey, check out Jim's writing. You'll dig it. Later.