I have this thing sometimes where I imagine some guy in a toga is miraculously transported into my living room and I have to find a way to make him understand the miracle of baking soda, or a stick shift, or pro hockey. Not that I understand any of those things. The fun would be in trying to communicate in a clever combination of badly remembered Latin, five words of German, and French, which I once read developed out of the slang of Roman soldiers who were occupying Gaul. So hopefully this would be a well-traveled guy in a toga, with an ear attuned to the ancient barbarian grunts in which my mother tongue is rooted.

So, yes, this morning I was washing dishes and trying to explain how a hot water faucet works to my imaginary friend. This is the point where the road forks and I have to choose between talking about how I have these imaginary friends or talking about how gruesome life must have been before penicillin.

Then I do this other thing where I'm Bill-and-Tedded back to ancient Rome, or the Dark Ages, and I have to be slick enough to find somebody who's sort of enlightened, because, you know, someone of my advanced age and towering stature with a slammin' bod who still has all her teeth? Here's a pyre with your name on it, missy. Witch. Obvs.

Then there's this other fun game where I think of all the things that would have killed me if I'd been born 300 years ago. My teeth, again. Terrible! Between the cavities (although 300 years ago I wouldn't have been able to spend my allowance on candy bars at 7-11) and the root canals, I have a filling in every tooth in my head. (And then I had all the metal fillings removed and replaced with porcelain, so some teeth got it twice.) So 300 years ago if I hadn't died of infection I'd be toothless by now. Maybe a little ether to dull the pain? Or just a flaming chunk of unconsciousness after a good blood-letting.

So, no, I don't romanticize life in the romantic, Arthurian past anymore, probably because I'm such a hypochondriac that I need instant 24-hour access to aspirin and acupuncture wherever I go or I have a panic attack.

I do wonder, though, how someone like Heather would have survived. Say you lived in (or were perhaps banished to) a nunnery and were so crippled by anxiety that you never slept, and you started hallucinating? But you're a nun, so you're having visions of Jesus beating Satan with a bowl of holy water, and everyone's jealous of this amazing gift you have. There's no Zoloft, there's no antipsychotic medication, there's just you in your burlap dress in an unheated cell praying night and day to God to let this cup pass from you.

I mean, I'm all for natural remedies, I'm all for toughing it out and turning your weaknesses into strengths, one! two! three! let's all shift the dominant paradigm, etc. (By the way, if you're that one guy who came into the bookstore that one time and told me about "paraDIGGEMS" and you're reading this right now? It's "paraDIMES" and I've been wanting to tell you that forever.) But there are some cases where I think we should let miserable people off the hook and for god's sake give them the drugs. Remember that part in East of Eden where the mom was a miserable bitch most of her life, and then when the kids are all grown up she starts drinking wine? And then she's like the happiest person on earth? Like that, except under a doctor's supervision.