Quick trip to the market tickles the pleasure centers

A.M. Costa Ric file photo Vendor at central market offers up a 12-pound snapper.

I have been feeling really punky for a couple of weeks now. No energy and not being able to imagine myself doing much but get out of bed to make my espresso that at least helps me to get started.

Thanks to a lift from James, I finally got to San Juan de Dios to make an appointment with a specialist that the internist at my clinic said I needed to do. (Note to all members of Caja: have all of your necessary papers with you, including proof of payment and appointment card for the right hospital before you try to make an appointment). This time I had everything but my receipt and went to another office to certify that I was a member in good standing.

By the time my turn at the appointment window came, I was worn out. The girl behind the window stamped a few papers and handed them back. When I asked when the appointment was for, she told me a date in September. Surprised, I said, “I’ll be dead by then.” She shrugged as if to say, “That’s what they all say.” And some of them are probably right, I muttered to myself.

Outside I wanted to catch a taxi and go home immediately. I crossed the street, but Paseo Colon was still one way headed for town at that hour, and my frugality won out. By walking just a block and a half (down an incline) I could catch a taxi headed in the right direction and save a few colons.

I walked to Avenida Central and found myself going past the smaller Central Market. It has been ages since I have wandered through the maze that is the market, so I went in. After looking at the vegetables, the fish and the meat, I asked where the spice and herb kiosk was, and actually found it. There I bought cinnamon and black pepper in bulk. Another day I shall ask what those brightly colored piles are. On the way out I bought three pieces of chicheron, (deep fried pieces of pork), knowing their questionable health benefits. Then I wandered some more, aware that I was feeling very capable of doing so. My exhaustion was gone. Instead of a taxi, I caught a bus back to Sabana Norte.

That was all I needed – a dose of downtown and the Central Market. Once home, I eyed my office/bedroom and groaned. The mess was still there and Nina is still coming. A phone call from Carol changed that, too. She reminded me (in response to last week’s complaint about the chaos in the room) that she was in the business of helping people to organize. I made an appointment immediately. And this week I am sitting in a pristinely neat office, with a cleared bed, and where I actually have things I need, if not at my fingertips, at least where I can see them. What a pleasure.

Now if every day could be like that, I would be one happy camper. I realize that we all need exercise, but the little exercise I get in my neighborhood or walking around my large apartment doesn’t make me feel full of energy.

Downtown San José and the Central Market have always been a lure to me and a pleasure to walk around in, so I think there must be pleasure involved.

In fact there is evidence that this is true in both science and literature. Years ago when I was doing research on aggression and social deprivation, I came across “The Pleasure Areas” by British physiologist, H.G. Campbell. Curious, I checked it out. A researcher had discovered by accident, that right next to the pain centers of the brain are the pleasure areas. Zapping the pleasure areas in lab animals had them pushing the lever for new zaps, ignoring food or sleep, until they dropped with exhaustion. Campbell’s theory is that seeking pleasure was not just in the service of survival and reproduction, but was an end in itself. According to him, “There is reason to believe that the driving force in the whole of the animal kingdom is the pursuit of pleasure . . . .”

It has made me curious about the current experimentation with depression — if the part of the brain they are stimulating are in the pleasure areas.

One depressed patient said that stimulating her brain triggered pleasant memories of the past, which simply made her happy.

Proust discovered this when he tasted a madeleine in “Remembrance of Things Past.” I never thought I would say that Proust and I had anything in common, but obviously the Mercado is my madeleine.

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