Deep Cuts: Steely Dan "Doctor Wu" (1975)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Wednesday night I noticed a tickle in my throat; it was sudden, unwelcome cascade of post-nasal drip. “I am not getting sick” I told myself and went to bed successfully ignoring this minor distraction.

Thursday night the symptom was still persisting, but I felt fine. As a precaution, I started taking Zicam. “I am NOT getting sick” I confidently reassured myself.

By Saturday morning, I had become a non-stop snot factory. But still, I was not going to let that intrude on my weekend. Not with my wife’s relatives all in town for the weekend. “I am NOT getting sick!” I growled between more persistent coughs. I bought some Claritin and Mucinex to relieve the symptoms, but that didn’t do diddly. Still, I managed to attend all the family functions without compelling anyone to treat me like a leper.

Saturday night I loudly snored when I wasn’t tossing and turning but my wife felt sympathetic more toward my plight than her resulting lack of sleep. In her words, it sounded as if I was “drowning in my own mucus.”

By Sunday morning I had a pounding headache, aches all over and my strength all sapped and replaced by green goo. Now my appearance at work the next morning was in serious jeopardy. Yup, it was time to make a trip to the doc-in-the-box. I was officially sick. Damn.

When I arrived at the doc-in-the-box I was lead into the examination room and lethargically sitting on the cot, I stumbled through a litany of basic questions asked by the nurse. After she left the room, I sat slumped over there for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, with a light rap on the door, the doctor arrived. The friendly, young physician of Asian descent extended his hand to greet me and he introduced himself with a name I didn’t catch, but that wasn’t important, anyway. I just wanted him to give me powerful meds to banish the crud out of my body.

He did all the usual stuff to check on my condition; felt around my throat and neck, had me draw deep breaths while put his stethoscope to my back and had me open up my mouth and say “ahhh.” In addition to finding a sore throat he also noticed wax buildup in my right ear (all this time I’ve been writing music reviews with one ear tied behind my back). He collected cultures by sticking q-tips way up my nose and down my throat…not fun. Then he leaves again.

More waiting. Nurse returns to flush out the wax. Then more waiting. Finally, the good doctor returns. The strep and flu tests come back negative. It was just a sinus infection or bronchitus. He proceeds to write up three (and as I later found out, very costly) scrips.

As the young physician gave me some parting words about the prescriptions he just wrote for me, I finally looked down at his identification badge. It read: “DR. WU“.

From that moment on throughout the rest of the week, my mind has been playing Phil Woods’ wonderfully lyrical tenor sax solo over and over again. Oh, and the prescription meds helped me to feel better, too.

Listen: Steely Dan “Doctor Wu”

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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