Friday, October 3, 2003

'Porching' alternative to life of silly exercise

Doctor 'advises' readers to forego workouts and take it easy

By Mark Coomes
Louisville Courier-Journal

[IMAGE] Dr. John Buchino relaxing on Jim and Marilyn Lehrer's porch in Louisville.
(Gannett News Service photo)
| ZOOM |
One day Dr. John Buchino was huffing and puffing his way along on a lengthy bicycle ride.

Along the way he spied an old couple enjoying a cup of coffee on the front porch of their country home, serenely watching the world go by.

Between labored breaths, Buchino says to his riding partner, "I bet they're up there looking at us and thinking, 'Look at those two fools riding their bikes.' "

Then, an epiphany.

"We should be up there porching!" Buchino declared, inventing a word that inspired a book in which the good doctor extols the virtues of sedentary sightseeing.

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Buchino, chief of pathology at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky., discards centuries of sound medical advice to advocate a brash new branch of alternative medicine.

"The theory, which has become quite faddish recently, is that we should engage in regular aerobic exercise," Buchino writes in Porching: A Humorous Look at America's Favorite Pastime (Minerva Books; $19.95). "The theory that most porchers subscribe to, however, is radically different.

Only so many heartbeats

"Simply stated, it's based on the belief that, 'God only gives you so many heartbeats and it's up to you how you want to use them.' ... From a porcher's viewpoint, it makes a whole lot more sense to conserve those heartbeats through quiet porching than a lot of nonproductive aerobic exercise like jogging."

He's only half-kidding. The impetus for Porching lies partly in the famous invocation recorded in Luke 4:23 - "Physician, heal thyself."

After 15 years of pursuing the grail of physical fitness through tennis, cycling and jogging, Buchino, 55, writes that "I find myself still overweight, out of shape and having more T-shirts than I or my kids will ever use. Finally, after one particularly long cycle trip, I came to grips with reality and decided that an alternative, socially acceptable activity was in order."

Thus was scribbled a new prescription: Rest thy sore knees and burning lungs upon the wicker seats and creaking swings of thy humble portico.

The good doctor invites you to pull up a rocker and join him, noting that "early Romans incorporated porching into their philosophy on life characterized by their simple statement, 'Porchare humanum est.' "

That's Latin for "To porch is human."

To forgive, of course, is divine. Buchino can't help turning erudite puns rooted in nearly 50 years of advanced education that began in the private Catholic schools of Bridgeport, Conn., august academies that belie Buchino's blue-collar origins.

After graduating from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire in 1970, Buchino was accepted into the University of Louisville medical school and, excepting two years in Cincinnati as a pediatrics resident, has lived in Louisville ever since.

While raising five children with his wife, Kathie, Buchino managed a distinguished medical career. A past president of the Society of Pediatric Pathology, Buchino is among a handful of doctors nationwide to be board-certified in pediatrics and three pathology specialties: clinical, anatomical and pediatric.

'It's all in fun'

He is, in short, hardly the kind of fellow you'd expect to write a book endorsing a philosophy that states, "I'd rather live two years less and relax on my porch than add two years by tormenting myself through daily exercise.

"It's all in fun, you know," Buchino says. "You do know that, right?"

As if to prove he has not abandoned science entirely, Buchino assembled his heretical tract so that morphology follows physiology. That is to say, in Porching, form follows function. With 20 color photos and 14 sketches occupying nearly half of the slender, 80-page tome, it is an easy read perfectly suited to a take-it-easy pastime.

Apropos of his indolent enterprise, Buchino hardly broke his back recruiting the disparate talents required to publish his book. His 23-year-old son, Michael, designed the book; his brother, Dr. Joseph Buchino, took the photographs; and Michael's grade school art teacher, Kathy Finnegan, did the sketches.

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