Thursday, December 8, 2016

Four Months

Well, I've had the opportunity over these past four months to see some of the damage that MS can do if it really puts its mind to it. This all started on August 10th with what I thought was a pinched nerve in my neck. Although I had done nothing in particular that would have caused this, the problem was sudden and came with all the classic signs of cervical radiculopathy - intense pain in the shoulder and arm, spasms of the muscles, and numbness in the fingers. The pain was nearly unbearable for a full two weeks, during which time I was able to sleep no more than two hours a night, along with catnaps during the day. In time, and with the help of lots of aspirin, methylpredisolone and clonamzepam, the worst of the pain abated and turned into more of a daily aching and stiffness, with numbness persisting in the wrist and hand. Four months later, my shoulder is still stiff and there's this irritating sensation of something being loose in my back, kind of floating around like an unhinged bone. What I've come to realize is that this was not a pinched nerve at all, but a nerve that has been completely demyelinated and destroyed, causung the muscles to freeze in a protective mode (which thus caused the worst of the pain). Nerve impulses have endeavored to find ways around this burned bridge on the normal highway, regaining control of the muscles through alternate means and sort of retraining them to function as they should, or as nearly as possible. The sort of clicking and snapping in my shoulder, often attended by an aching sensation, is the result of an unusual application of muscle - not quite right, but better than paralysis. I'm still on 16 mg of methylpredisolone every other day, but at least I am able to sleep comfortably and move about more or less comfortably during the day.

It is scary to see what MS can suddenly do, just because, and without warning. I remember feeling just fine back in early August - even energetic - and then suddenly this, and four months and counting of suffering. And as one recovers and finally gets on top of the problem, one can't help but wonder, what next? What part of my body, what function, how serious, how long? And when does it strike a fatal blow? Yes, you think of this, too.

And then, at the same time, as your body recovers, as your function returns, leaving finally but a reminder, a twitch, an ache, a spasm, you feel immensely blessed in each moment of good health,
quietly, deliriously joyful for the presense of an unknowable, indeterminant period of comfort. Is each day like this not blessed beyond all measure? Can we ever afford to take a single moment for granted?

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Some people see them. Some people hear them. Some people both see them and hear them. They appear when you look not. They speak only when you do not listen. They are many and always and always rare though ever present.

I knew of a man who shot himself in the head. High in the mountains, near a rustic resort, at the intersection of one dirt road and another. At that point, that meeting of roads, little more than paths, he died forever. I could not walk in that place, especially at night, for sight is most finely focussed when you cannot see. I would cut through the woods, careful not to touch foot to this living death. Nonetheless, it reached out, beyond itself, both trapped and free. It sought me, seeks all. Some know, some know not, yet all are touched.

The night after this man shot himself, I was walking from a cabin down to the boat dock to help fishermen coming in from the lake, and a voice came from behind me, from behind my left ear.

Where can I get some water?

My first thought was that this was an odd question indeed. Right before us was a lake full of water, three miles in length.

I had no thought that this was him, nor that he both was and was not there.

And this was the first time that I had ever been aware of the unseen.

These are ghosts. They are one type of a thing. Others are demons, small and large, weak and strong. And still others are angels – which are the hardest of all to see.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


So I'm at the new mall in Denpasar this morning and, remembering that we are out of eggs, I decide to stop by the little market inside before heading home. I can't find the eggs, so I ask.

"Mbak, mana telur?"


"Ya, telur."



"Apa itu, telur?"

"Well, you know, telur. Eggs."


"No agz. Eggs. Telur."

Suddenly, I spot them myself, in a refrigerated section to my left.

"Ini dia!"

"Ohhh!" the woman exclaims. "Te-LOOR!"

Iya.  😂😂

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bottoms Up

On stopping by the neighborhood Circle K this afternoon, I met two young men sitting at a table with 12 empty bottles of Bintang, large. They were the happiest Balinese dudes I have ever seen, and Balinese dudes are generally pretty happy to begin with. After learning all of the usual details about me - where am I going, where am I from, how long have I been here - both insisted on shaking my hand at great length - molesting it, really - and wondered if I would share the next 2 bottles with them (making the count 14 for them). No, my drinking days are over, I explained; at which point they explained that they are brothers, although I'm not sure how the one thing relates to the other. In any case, they decided that I could be their brother as well. A rare honor, I suspect. After a pleasant, hilarious conversation, very little of which I understood, I took my leave, warning them beforehand not to drive after 14 bottles of beer. No, they certainly would not, they promised, glancing sideways at their nearby motorbikes. Riiiight.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Fifth Wave

I'm not a big fan of science fiction novels. And I'm definitely not a big fan of teen dystopian novels. But, having read and very much enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, I was tempted to pick up his novel The Fifth Wave - and I'm glad I did.  This novel was so well done, with such fine plot and character development, that it was a pure pleasure to read. Basically, aliens from a faraway planet have launched a five phase invasion of the earth - not with giant spaceships, or lazer-firing robots or armies of monstrous creatures. No, Yancey has come up with a wonderfully inventive invasion scheme - and I'm not gonna tell you what it is 😅. What I will say is Don't see the movie. Read the book. It is a fairly long book, some 500 pages in my Indonesian language version, and the careful development of characters and methodical arrangement of plot elements just doesn't work in a 2 hour film fomat. I did watch the film, after reading the book, and found that it just had to cut too many corners and skip over important developments. No fun.

A Chance Meeting

Felt cheered this morning by the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, playing at Starbucks. Brought a smile to my face, lifted my dark mood, so long oppressed by fucking Donald Trump. While enjoying my coffee, I happened to meet a Canadian tourist. She was having trouble connecting to the internet and wondered whether I could help. After sharing the full extent of my knowledge of these sorts of things, which took perhaps 4 minutes, we proceeded to talk about all sorts of other things, and her husband also showed up and joined us. They live in British Columbia (I knew it had to be west, because their accents were no different than mine), and their son, coincidentally enough, lives in Portland, Oregon, my home town, where my son also lives. And so we talked about Portland, and about the riots, which the son had told them about. They shared about how shocked, how stunned they were with the election of this un-American sort of President, and seemed to expect, or at least hope, that I could somehow say what had gone wrong. What could I do? I apologized. What else can I do? So we switched to the weather back home, which would be cold and rainy by now, and their family, and my family, and Bali, and so on. My goodness, what a delightful old couple they were. This sort of music has a way of showing up just when you need it most.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

It Could be Worse

For those of my fellow Americans suffering from the general malaise of this election season (which would be pretty much all of you, I would guess), allow me to offer some relief (perhaps), although only of the misery loves company sort. In Indonesia, where I live, religious extremists from all over the country are converging on Jakarta to demand the removal and arrest of the governor there, a Christian of Chinese/Indonesian descent. His crime? Well, in criticising the violent misuse of certain verses from the Koran, it is said that he has blasphemed against and insulted Islam. Do they really believe this? Probably not. Does it have more to do with a longstanding predjudice against the Chinese and a religious intolerance of Christians? You bet it does. So, the Indonesian Army is on alert, awaiting the arrival of this army of extremists on November 4th. An ugly situation indeed, and maybe, just maybe, hopefully, uglier than that which faces America.