At the downtown corner of Grand River and Washington Boulevard on a recent Sunday morning, a guy, accompanied by an appreciative sidekick, held up a pack of Kools and announced to his sparse sidewalk audience: “This is an advertisement for death.”
We, at that moment, were taking a stroll, looking for beautiful buildings that showed signs of life. As our fellow pedestrians laughed about cancer sticks, we admired architectural skeletons that, despite such lovely assets as arched windows, sculptural ornamentation, carved granite, and panoramic views, exhibit too few vital signs.
Our skyscrapers and their mid-rise neighbors are in need of I.C.U. care in the form of occupants to resuscitate their emaciated states — people who could circulate through their corridors and stairwells like blood cells coursing through veins and arteries.
Unlike buildings, trees draw their lifeblood from nature — unless a human with a bulldozer severs the roots, that is. And we revere them when they’re old. Old buildings in this city, not so much. We bring structures into the world, lavish attention on them through their youth, and then abandon vintage edifices to wither.
Just down the block from where the pedestrian brandished his cigarettes stands a banner for life resurrected: The Westin Book Cadillac is bricks-and-mortar evidence that a precision trauma team can quell a death rattle.
In this, our annual medical issue, we highlight doctors deemed the best by their colleagues, specialists who can, among other things, sometimes bring us back from the brink.
Talented as they are, we have an obligation to help them fix us by not allowing our bodies to languish. That means doing at least three things: dumping that pack of Kools, exercising, and eating reasonably.
In the book Keeping the Feast, former international newspaper correspondent Paula Butturini writes about food — good-tasting, made-by-hand, grown-in-good-earth, soul-satisfying food — as the savory salve that heals.
She also writes about sterile sugar as a cure that can aid skilled surgeons by doing nature’s work, leeching toxins from a wound. It’s a technique that dates to the ancient Egyptians.
The simplest things can make all the difference, provided we also have access to first-class medical care.
Those basics apply across the board and across all ages, maybe most especially to the elderly among us, whether we’re talking trees, classic architecture from a bygone era, or the senior citizens who remember those buildings in their prime. Provide water, make a house call, and treat with respect.