Years ago, through a peculiar chain of circumstances, I found myself reading Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry’s weekly humor columns (syndicated in the Winnipeg Free Press), and practicing as a family doctor in Emo, Ontario. (pop 1000). Note here that I’m referring to the population of Emo, not Ontario.
Emo is situated on the Rainy River, which is the boundary between part of northern Minnesota and part of northern Ontario. Whereas Minnesota is known for Jesse Ventura and large walleye statues, Emo gets honorable mention in a book by Alec Ross, entitled “Coke Stop in Emo: Adventures of a Long-Distance Paddler.” It’s about a guy who paddled across Canada and stopped in Emo one day because he was thirsty. He stopped for a beverage, not purified white powder, as far as I know.
Whilst in Emo I had the privilege of knowing and working with a canny Welsh MD by the name of John O’Sullivan. John probably forgot more Medicine than I ever learned; he also had a kind, generous spirit, and a wonderfully wacky sense of humor.
One day in 1994 John and I decided to start writing a humor column for some reason. (This was back before the word blog was invented.) The column appeared in the official newspaper of the town of Rainy River (population also 1,000), a few miles upstream of Emo.
We named the column/blog Emedics – short for Emo and Medics but also a pun on “emetics”- although I voted for calling it The Department of Lateral Thinking. (I lost.) Together John and I penned eighty or so Emedics columns before I moved away from Emo in 1996.
Sadly, John passed away in 2000. I kept reading Dave Barry and in 2015 I was seized by an uncontrollable urge to start writing again and the Lateral Thinking Department blog was born. I still think of John whenever I start typing. And I freely admit that I’ve borrowed heavily from Mr. Barry’s bag of literary tricks -probably less so as time goes on – but you know what they say: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So if you like his stuff you will probably like this blog.
If you were/are some combination of a Far Side fan, a Princess Bride fan or a Monty Python fan you will definitely like this blog.
If you’re curious, you might start with There and Back Again (With Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien) which details my 30-hour trip to shake Dave’s hand at a book signing in Coral Gables, Florida.
If I can get you to laugh out loud occasionally, that’s all I’m after.
-George Gillson MD PhD