Dr. David Rizzo's love affair with Los Angeles was rock solid for decades. The first sign of trouble came last year, when the house-call foot doctor finally grew tired of logging so many hours in his car and decided to break off the relationship.
Rizzo, 62, thought he was ready for semi-retirement, and he loves infernal heat. So he moved to Phoenix.
"The sky at night is a celestial event," Rizzo said of his new metropolitan mistress.
But the sun kept coming up, shining brightly on a man who cast a long, lonely shadow in the Arizona desert.
"It's paradise," Rizzo said of Phoenix. "But I wasn't ready to die."
And so on Jan. 9, he motored west on the highway that's the best, moving back home for a second-chance romance.
"I missed the energy of Los Angeles. Here, you feel like you're alive," Rizzo said as he made his foot-mending rounds Monday in a Mercury the size of the Queen Mary. "You think of L.A. as barren, but au contraire. It's a garden of Eden. I didn't realize how many trees we have until I left the state."
And Rizzo has been embraced by grateful patients, all of them senior citizens and many of them in hospice care.
"I like old people," he said. "I learn from them. They have interesting stories to tell."
Rizzo cures bunions in Burbank.
In-growns in Irvine.
Fungus in Fullerton.
"It's not glamorous work," Rizzo acknowledged, and I can offer a first-person confirmation.
I saw toenails flying in Redondo Beach, Woodland Hills, Baldwin Park, Covina and Lakewood, as Rizzo wielded a tool that looked like a cable cutter, following up with an electric grinder that looked like a drill.
"I bought it at Home Depot," he said.
Who knew there was such a demand for toenail service?
Rizzo said that as people age, their nails become long and discolored and too thick to trim, harboring fungus and courting infection. He knocks on doors with an old-fashioned black leather medical bag and charges just $45 per visit.
"I'm not trying to get rich."
He does not accept credit cards or insurance, and doesn't have medical insurance himself. Rizzo thinks we'd all be better off with a national healthcare program modeled after Kaiser.