Monday, March 25, 2019

Beans on Toast

I see the old man in the easy chair, two o'clock in the morning, listlessly, mechanically consuming a plate of beans on toast. One thinks there must be something more to the man, but in fact there is not. There is only the man and the chair and beans and the toast, and outside the window the violent though superfluous cannonade of thunder and lightening. A quiet little song drips from the unsearchable depths of the ceiling just over his head and gathers like cold sweat on his brow. 

If that's all there is,
if that's all there is, 
If that's all there is, my friend, 
then let's start dancing. 
Let's bring out the booze
and have a ball … 
If that's all ….

I can tell you a story of passions and grand pursuits; of desperate love and throbbing heartache; of struggle and victory and joy and grief--but none of these things would have anything to do with the man and the chair and the beans and the toast. For this is, he is, all that there is. 

Cowboy Country

You know,  I just realized last night, instead of sleeping, that the long illness I've been having may be partly due to a general inability of my respiratory system to handle the weather we've been having during this latter part of the rainy season in Bali. You have every day extreme humidity during the day, and then violent storms of rain, thunder and lightening at nighttime. One can only imagine the barometric chaos in all this. 

I remember that even back in Portland, I very often had trouble with respiratory infections during the springtime--throat, nose, lung problems--and I remember that a doctor once told me that I should move to Nevada for a dryer, more stable climate.

Hmmm. Plan for the future? Cowboy country? Finally learn to rope a wild stallion. (I tried that, actually, for some thirteen years in the past, but the venture eventually ended up in divorce. But, of course, that had nothing to do with the weather, nor Bali, nor Nevada neither :) ) 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Mistaken Message

Any among y'all ever self-inflicted one of these incidents where you're chatting with a couple people on a message app (WhatsApp, Messenger, Whatever) and you accidentally send the exact wrong message to the exact wrong person, and it's really, really not a message you would have sent under any circumstances outside of catastrophic accident? 

Well, I seem to have an unnatural talent for doing this. Really, I ought to be barred from all such apps, maybe from the internet itself, for the sake of my own well-being. 

I was actually chatting with Louis last night, or thought I was, about the difficulties westerners have with adapting to typical Indonesian chaos. This is a country trying very hard to enter the modern age, with all its modern conveniences and streamlined systems in any number of areas, but doing a lot of stumbling along the way. They have the picture right, but the reality is just not yet in step with the ideal. 

Along these lines, I had mentioned that my friend Chris, a new expatriate in the country, tended to do a lot of complaining when experiencing the friction between what ought to be (and is elsewhere in the world) and the struggling efforts of Indonesia to attain to the more perfect systems perfected in the west. 

This bit of the conversation, seemingly rude and unkind when fully taken out of the context, was sent not to Louis but to Chris. 

Talk about imperfect systems! My brain is the prime example. 

So, despite profuse apologies and offerings to the offended gods, the upshot is that Chris is no longer my friend. No apology is sufficient, no explanation acceptable. He will not speak. 

Sad, really. He's a fine young man, a sole fellow MS-er in Bali, and we had begun a rewarding relationship. Nipped in the bud, I guess. Really, with this incurable flu and its brain-numbing manifestations, I should not be attempting to function in the real world at all! Who knows what troubles I might invent for myself tomorrow? 

A Piece of Familiar Advice

I had written yesterday of my dawning realization that my days in Bali may be numbered due to poor health and a weak to nonexistent local healthcare system. 

As often happens, my friend Vyt, a fellow expatriate in Bali roughly as long as I, pitched in with a counterpoint to my conclusions. 

I quote him verbatim: 

Once the fever subsides, things may feel different. I too have balanced the medical "benefits" of returning to what was once 'home' against the benefits of my happy home life here. The reality is, I could not afford to live back in the Antipodes, in fact, I could not afford to exist. The superior medical care I would receive would be counterbalanced by a long stint on a waiting list, during which time I could well cark it anyway. Quality urgent care is available here, although the local policies towards importation and use of pharmaceuticals do make treatment problematic. In short, for me, better the devil I know than the devils I don't.

As always, Vyt has a poinit. He has reiterated an argument, really, which I have always been well aware of. There is no perfect solution, no magic fix. One merely replaces some pluses with minuses and some minuses with pluses. The outcome is the same. Sometimes life is great. Sometimes life sucks. 


There comes a point in the course of the super-flu where one kind of just throws up his hands and surrenders. From here on out, he says, I am The Amazing Super Flu Man. Three doctors, three courses of medication, no improvement. One despairs of the idea of seeing yet another doctor, taking yet another course of meds. What's the point? I have, apparently, a new disease, based on the story by Stephen King, the Stand. Life consists of feeling lousy and trying to sleep. And then you either go on to die, or to fight the great Adversary himself. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019


During my month and a half of super-flu (or is it bubonic plague?), I have entertained many and various conceits and deliriums ranging from obsessive examinations of the past to doubtful narratives of the future, and of course everything in between. Among my more cogent thoughts has been the realization that Indonesia is probably not the best place for a man who is increasingly tending toward illness and has no health insurance. It occurred to me that a knowledgeable, functioning health system becomes a thing of increasing importance (understatement). 

This is no fun, obviously. I would prefer to be active, able, and healthy for the remainder of my life, up to the point where I just peacefully die in my sleep--an unreasonable expectation if ever there was one. (My father always said that I am not a reasonable person). 

I love Indonesia. I love Bali. I love this congenial society. I love living in a nice place with beautiful surroundings and a pool. I do not like the idea of living in a closet in a cold and dingy part of Portland (or wherever), eking out an existence on government assistance so that I can "enjoy" the benefits of seeing competent doctors.

But when you are ill (as I still am ill), the mask of stubbornness, gradually peeled away, begins to show madness beneath. 

There are those here, for whom I am forever grateful, who do their best to be helpful. And yet, they are not doctors, they are not caregivers, and some are not even often available. They have, after all, their own lives. When contracting an illness in Indonesia, one is fairly likely to grow more ill yet in the course of his efforts to try to do something about it. (A motorbike is not an ambulance, common alleviating medicines, antiquated now in the West, are not cutting edge measures). 

In short, marshalling my meager resources for good reasoning, I cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that my days here in paradise are numbered. Enjoy them while I can, to the extent that I can? I guess that's what I will do--if I can ever manage to get over this flu, that is. 

Friday, March 22, 2019


Another day, another doctor. 

Although I felt fairly well the night before last--no fever, throat stuffy but not sore--I woke up the next morning running the rapids in a river of sweat, and the sore throat had returned as well. 

Luckily, I was able to get Louis and her boyfriend to drive me to the hospital. Really don't know whether I could have made it on the scooter. After dropping me off to face the interminable waiting period alone, they went off to look for a new phone to replace my lost iPhone. There were, I was told, nineteen patients in front of me. 

So anyway, I eventually saw an internist, who determined that the infection was 'all in the head' (physically, not mentally), and prescribed a combination course of antibiotics and antivirals along with the chalk that people call aspirin here. 

Take the medicine, rest, and eat bergizi

"Bergizi." I had never heard of this food before. What could it be? Fish? Poultry? Vegetables? 

"What is bergizi, I asked. I've never heard of it." 

"Oh! Bergizi. That means healthy, ya. Healthy food. Never heard of healthy food? Maybe that why you sick, mister." 

Ah well, a little humor even in illness. 

Day one now of new medicine and bergizi food. So far, low level fever, stuffy but not very painfully sore throat. Fatigue. (I guess that's where the rest part comes in). Give it five days, the man said. 

And so I will.