The Beat Goes On

The threat of a massive heart attack always haunts me, as a recent trip to Paris proved. But with the help of my doctors—and a nurse named Lisa—I won’t go down without a fight.

I KNOW HEART ATTACKS, and this wasn’t a heart attack, even though a doctor back home in Austin later speculated that it was. It happened a few days before last Thanksgiving, as my wife, Phyllis, and I were walking from our hotel in Paris to the Musée d’Orsay, having just been rudely rebuffed by a cabdriver who apparently had more important things to do than drive us a mere twelve blocks. The French have a term for the growing resentment that was welling up in my chest: l’esprit de l’escalier. Roughly translated, it means discovering on your way down the stairs what you should have said or done in reply to an insult in the drawing room. It would be easy—oh, so easy—you miserable Frog mutant, to crush your windpipe with my thumb and be halfway to Marseille before they find your body. It was at that moment that I sensed that something else was wrong.

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