After that, he called regularly and I soon knew that mad cow disease wasn't his only preoccupation. Every morning, he concocted sludge-like drinks, blending bran, pineapple, frozen broccoli and any other food or drink from the all-natural supermarket that were on his kitchen shelves. "Blech!" pretty much summarized my responses. My being a cook and food snob aside, this was not Julia Child creating an impromptu, sumptuous meal with food she had on hand. Gary believed that this beverage provided him with every nutrient he needed to stay fit, lean and healthy. I would question the nutritional soundness of this, and he'd counter that people are too fixated on food. He even suggested that our lives would be so much simpler if we didn't have to decide what to eat and, instead, drink sludge three times a day while standing in the kitchen. I asked if he'd heard of soylent green. He hadn't. For his layovers, he carried bags of bran and oatmeal, which he ate dry and uncooked each night. He told me his cholesterol level, blood pressure measurements, PSA number—the blood test that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer—his immunizations, weight, pulse, EKG, blood sugar. On one of his Boston trips, he brought the printout of the lab results to show me. Commercial pilots are required to pass a physical every six months; he had easily passed one that summer.
Mostly, we talked about science. Gary had a degree in engineering from Berkeley and loved physics and math. He also was obsessed with the stock market and spent his days off listening to business A.M. radio stations and calling his broker to buy or sell. He would ring me up usually after 3 o'clock when the stock market closed. I know next to nothing about the stock market nor am I interested in its ups and downs. So that obsession was rarely a centerpiece of our conversations. He did often ask me which biotech stocks to buy. I had no idea. He asked me about my work as a health writer and any recent journal articles that I had read.
Gary said he was bored with flying. "I'm nothing but a Greyhound bus driver, only the bus has wings and holds a few hundred passengers." He wanted to retire early and live in San Diego or Boston. He had met with realtors in both cities. He had grown up outside of San Francisco.
I was surprised at the frequency of his calls—every few days. He'd joke about this or that, quiz me on some scientific factoid, and give me shit for not knowing the answer. "And you call yourself a science writer? Ha!" and we'd both laugh. I in turn would give him a hard time.