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AFTERWORD Heal Thyself! BY KAREN OLSSON \(Editor’s Note: In February of 1997, a group of Republican congressmen were lunching at a Washington restaurant, nibbling on crostini and hashing out the details of proposed legislation to ban toothbrush sales to immigrants \(“They should remember to pack one before they come over here,” commented one of the bill’s lights dimmed and the Vivaldi came to a halt. Moments later, when the lights came back on, the lunchers had all come to a horrible realization: they were employed by the very same federal government they’d been railing against for years. Confused and disgusted, they all resigned and went off to seek jobs in the private sector. Our reporter caught up with one of EALTH DEPOT” reads the sign above the entrance, “Your One-Stop Do-It-Your self Medical Super store,” and below that is a red banner: “GRAND OPENING.” Just inside the automatic doors, next to the gumball machines and the line of shopping carts, stands Health Depot founder Salamander Grimm, who has agreed to give me a tour of the store. Mr. Grimm rubs his hands together as he greets me. “Welcome to the revolution,” he says, gesturing behind him to the rows of surgical tools and rubber gloves stacked eight feet high. “What you are about to see is the future of medicine.” Mr. Grimm grabs me by the wrist and leads me into the store. “You know, the first time I tried to build this store, they turned me down,” he says, but before I can ask who “they” are he hands me an advertising \( circular. Rubella shots, eye drops, fullbody casts all on sale this week. “And you get a free Physicians Desk Reference with the home urinalysis sets,” says Mr. Grimm, pointing to the next page. We speed past the customer welcome patrol and on toward the towering aisles of medical supplies. Despite his considerable girth Mr. Grimm is remarkably nimble shades of Rush Limbaugh and Willy Wonka bothand I have trouble keeping up with him. “Too many people rely on the government for health care,” Grimm is say ing as he leads me down aisle 3 \(spinal “Government-funded public hospitals, private care facilities receiving government grants, government funding for medical schools…do I detect a pattern here? The plain truth of the matter, the truth that has been kept hidden from regular folks like you and me, is that you don’t need to go to a doctor for most of this stuff! No! What has been created in this country is a massive culture of dependency funded by the government!” Mr. Grimm, whose speech has been accelerating rapidly, reaches into his pants pocket, swallows a couple of transparent capsules, takes a deep breath and continues in a calmer tone. “This store is all about restoring a sense of self-worth to the people. A spirit of ‘Yes-I-Can!'” “But it’s more than a store,” he says, and stops in front of a MRI machine cordoned off by thick red ropes. “It’s a place where people can empower themselves, medically speaking. Instead of having some doctor order a lot of expensive tests for you, here you can get them yourself on a pay-as-you-go basis,” says Mr. Grimm. “And you get to keep the pictures.” Seated next to the machine is a blonde woman wearing a nightie who, according to Grimm, is the recently-crowned Miss Alabama. “We got her for the opening,” he says. “She fits right into our image. We want to create an all-American, upbeat kind of atmosphere here. You’ll notice our staff people are friendly, our lighting is bright, our music is good….” He pauses a moment and then sings along, nodding to each beat: “Help me Rhonda, yeah!” We move on to a row of what look like bulk-food bins. “Now this is what I call Mr. Grimm’s Pills by the Gram,” says Mr. Grimm. “From antibiotics to Zoloft, we’ve got it. Just serve yourself.” Mr. Grimm shows no sign of slowing down. He takes me past the Seniors Department, with its arthritis medications and Hip-In-Place! repair kits; the Bandage and Cast center; the cappuccino bar. I am starting to feel overwhelmed. At last we stop at Customer Service, and Mr. Grimm explains that Health Depot also provides free health counseling services. He picks up a brochure. “Now this is one of the programs that our health counselors can help get you started on. It’s called a Managed Breath-Savings Account,” he says. “You see, people don’t realize this, but just by breathing a little less you can get a lot more mileage out of your lungs. And then when some Washington politician tells you he wants to spend a bunch of your tax money on reducing air pollution, you can tell him you aren’t worried because you are taking care of the problem yourself: by breathing in less air, and by breathing out less carbon dioxide. It’s so simple!” As if on cue, I start to have a hard time breathing. I thank Mr. Grimm for the tour and walk quickly toward the exit, skirting two women who are fighting over the last Nicotine Patch Kid. As I leave I can still hear the music playing: help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda…. Following her vision of the freemarket medical future, Observer intern Karen Olsson is planning on not getting sick anytime soon. AUGUST 30, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31