Tuesday, September 29, 2020


 I sure do miss being able to wake up feeling fresh and rested, which apparently is a thing of the past. Every day now, I wake up early in the morning feeling like I've been run over by a truck. I try to rest for a little longer but soon must drag myself to my feet and get the aching parts moving. The pain in general extends from my right lower back to the right side of my neck. Walking at first is a bit of a challenge, as both legs have gone stiff and unwilling to function. 

I noted the other day, from an old Facebook entry, that this is something that started more than four years ago! How time flies when you're having fun, or otherwise, right? I noted that back then, in August of 2016, the pain was restricted to my right neck and shoulder. Some time before that August, it had begun as an extremely sharp pain behind my right shoulder blade. Thankfully, it became less terribly intense over time and spread in a milder fashion downwards into my flank and back. The only thing I've found to help it in all this time is a hot shower--and even then only temporarily, of course. 

Making things worse yet this morning was an accompanying feeling of dizziness which caused in turn a mild nausea. So I continued to wobble about my usual morning activities and now I've wobbled out to Starbucks for my morning coffee. Usually, I would have preferred to wobble to the beach on a Tuesday, this being a day the maid will be at the house, but I just felt too lazy for that. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Great Uphill Battle

 I was listening to a Trump rally this morning, just to remind myself, I guess, of how terribly perilous our national situation has become, but what impressed me even more than the usual flood of lies and vulgarities was Trump's increasingly confused mental wanderings. 

At one point, Trump declared, seemingly out of the blue, that Robert E. Lee was probably one of the greatest generals in history. He won many battles, Trump said, one after another, and probably would have won the Civil War had he not lost at Gettysburg. This loss, Trump went on, occurred because the general in charge had died which in turn caused Lee to fight uphill. "Never fight a battle uphill," Trump advised in a sage, curiously Scottish accent, as if quoting some great unnamed Scot of the past. 

How does one unravel this foolishness? Who was this general in charge, and why was he in charge rather than Lee? If Lee's previous victories had been dependent upon the prowess of this dead unnamed general, how is it that Lee was the best general ever? And how had the death of this mysterious general in charge come to cause Lee to 'attack uphill'? Why would he attack uphill if he was probably the greatest general ever and everyone knows that you never attack uphill? 

Well, it's certainly puzzling, but I finally decided that regarding the general in charge who had died, Trump must have been thinking of Stonewall Jackson, who, though never in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia, had died some two months before Gettysburg at the battle of Chancellorsville. 

It would have been difficult not to attack uphill at the battle of Gettysburg because the defenders were entrenched on a series of hills and ridges (something defenders tend to do as a matter of course). The uphill battle that Trump must be speaking of would be the assault on the Union center during the third day of the battle, I presume. During the second day, Lee had assaulted the hills on the north and south ends of the position. In the center was not a hill but a long, very gradual slope. The problem was not in attacking uphill, but in attacking across this wide open field in the range of frontal and flanking artillery fire. A pretty stupid move for the greatest general ever. 

So why was Trump, who clearly knows nothing about this battle or about General Lee, even mentioning the thing? Well, it's an old question. Why do the most ignorant people insist on being the most vocal people? I can only guess that Trump was trying to plug into the issue of the removal of statues that we have recently seen across the country, for this is the subject that he proceeded to, declaring that he had stopped all that with a presidential order. Strange, in that case, that just two or three days ago, a statue of Lee was removed from a Richmond, Virginia street. 

Nonetheless, his point cannot succeed in being clear when presented through a narrative that is either hopelessly confused or patently false. Unless, that is, his audience is as confused and as uninformed as he. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Restoration or Chaos?

To me, it feels creepy when my blog gets visits from the Russian Federation. Can't help but envision busy little hackers and trolls seeing what sorts of things they might misuse. Hopefully, they will just realize straightaway that my blog is of no importance whatsoever and move on. Or perhaps the visits are perfectly innocent. Unfair, I suppose, to view the whole world of Rusksies with suspicion. 

I was reading in an international forum on Facebook of the general fear among non-Americans, and especially Europeans and Australians, for America and the American people. They are shocked by all that has happened to our country over the past four years, and of course even more helpless than we as we all watch it unfold. At least we can vote. 

But voting this time around, and the results of the vote, comes with it's own horror scenarios, given that our president has said that he may not accept the result of the election. If he loses, that is. In short, it will not be valid because too many people have voted against him.

I do believe that too many people will have voted against him to make this assertion sensible in the least. In fact, I think that he will lose the election outright on election night. It is thought by many that Trump may be either been winning or very close on election night, given the assumption that more Republicans than Democrats will vote in person on election day. I could be so, but I just have the gut feeling that it won't be. 

If this is the case, however, Trump will turn the table on the predicted scenario and claim that all his votes are coming in through mail-in ballots (exactly the issue that he has been haranguing against in the run-up to the vote). As the mail-in votes are tallied and continue to show a Trump loss, he will then revert to the old scenario, insisting that millions have voted illegally. 

Here, in my mind, is the real danger facing us, because during this long delay, serious unrest may arise throughout the country, militiamen may decide that their hour has come, clashes between citizens will follow, as will lethal clashes with the police, the national guard, and the military--all this leading to a general national chaos. In short, civil war. 

And what then? Who knows? This is where chaos takes a path of its own and leads all by the nose. 

I read an analysis recently by a wargame designer (of all things) wherein four outcomes were laid out, none of which were pleasant. The most hopeful scenario was of an overwhelming Biden win. In this case, there would still be trouble in the months following the election such as we have never seen, but eventually power would be transferred and life would go on. I tend to agree that this will be the case--that as weak and frayed as our institutions have become, they will bring us through nonetheless. I do hope that America and the values of democracy are still that strong. I hope so, I say, and yet I must admit that such extreme dissolution as has happened over the past four years once seemed impossible to me. 

I hope that we can get a grip. I really do. The world depends upon it. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Just Flip It

 Last week when I went to my favorite beach spot the surf was right in close to the wall, quite deep and swift, and I thought 'Well, I'm glad I didn't bother to wear my swimsuit.' This week I found the surf far out and good for nothing but a child's wading pool, and so I thought 'Well, I'm glad I didn't bother to wear my swimsuit.' Real life seems to be conspiring with my innate laziness to derail the idea that I ought to swim, saying 'See, you were quite right to be lazy.' So I just sipped my cappuccino instead and read my book and watched the boats bobbing at anchor and was fairly perfectly happy without going to the trouble to get wet and sandy.


I came home before the maid had left the house--she was just finishing up--and she said "Om" (uncle), "one side of your bed is higher than the other."

"Yeah, I guess that's because I sleep just on the one side. I need to find a wife, right? A fat one."

After all, in order to even the mattress out, we would need a roughly equal weight, which is something that would likely require a fat wife.

"You can just sleep on the other side," the maid observed, while at the same time laughing.

Later on that day, I told the same joke to my ex-wife.

"That's stupid," she said. "Just sleep on the other side."

"Umm, yeah, I just thought it was kind of funny."

"What's funny? A wife would be too expensive. You don't need a wife."

"I know, but--"

"Just tell the maid to flip the mattress!"


When I arrived at Starbucks this morning, a bride and groom were sitting at my usual table--he in his black tuxedo, she in a classic white wedding dress with a veil. I'm assuming that the wedding was over because her veil was pulled aside and that's not supposed to happen until the ceremony is concluded, right? I don't know. I've never married a wife in a veil, although I had three tries. I've never even married a wife in a white dress, for goodness sake.

Anyway, after they left my table, I occupied it and found that the air where she had been sitting was filled with a sweet, clean, flowery fragrance, and this persisted throughout my stay. I felt, curiously, that I had taken part in some way, or at least had been an uninvited guest.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Windup Bird Chronicle

 Finally, I've finished reading Haruki Murakami's Kronik Burung Pegas (The Windup Bird Chronicle), a thousand page tome that I've been working on over the past year and more, with admittedly many breaks taken during the process. It did not strike me at any point that there was any hurry or necessity to get to the end of this long and wandering road, and certainly one does not feel pressed by the narrative itself. Rather, one does better to check in every now and then, spend some quality time with Murakami (or rather with Toru Okada, his main character in this novel), and then let it rest for a while. He'll be there when we get back, and in pretty much the same place we left him. 

This is not to say that the novel is not engaging, but only that it is not urgent. I am reminded of what an old college professor of mine once said about Henry James' The Turn of the Screw--that it is a ghost story wherein nothing happens and there is no ghost. Yet the atmosphere, the artistry, the voice, the details, the multitude of small epiphanies irresistibly attract. 

There is something about reading Murakami, for me anyway, that is like an easygoing, genial friendship. It's great just to sit back and listen, enjoy the unusual deck of characters he deals from, observe the interactions and study the meaning of the results. I often found myself drawn back to an extended period of reading by one particular character, Mei Kasahara, a bright, quirky, decidedly troubled, wholly delightful teen girl who strikes up a friendship with Okada, taking a keen interest in his history and in the mission he has set for himself. It is these everyday connections, and their own stories, that both move the novel along and expand its focus ever more widely--which may, often enough, leave the reader with a 'Wait, where were we?' feeling. But that's okay, because, after all, we are just living alongside Okada. That's where we are. There is a goal, yes. At first it is just to find a pet cat that has disappeared. Over time, things become much more complex indeed, much more confusing. The irony is that the more obscure the picture becomes, the more tangled the events, the more clearly focused and purposeful Okada's goal becomes within his own mind and soul. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Go Cowboys!

 I've been a Dallas Cowboys fan since somewhere in my mid-teens. I don't even know why, really. I just remember watching a game between the Cowboys and the Detroit Lions and deciding that the Cowboys were my team. The final score in that ultimate defensive contest, if I recall rightly, was 3-2, with the Cowboys coming out on top. In those days, Craig Morton was quarterbacking the Cowboys, and then a little later on Coach Landry began to shuttle Morton and Roger Staubach on alternating plays, each quarterback bringing the call to the field. Ultimately, Staubach took the starting position permanently until his retirement. 

I still follow the Cowboys here in Indonesia, even though I am unable to watch their games. I guess I could if I were willing to pay for some expensive online service, but of course I'm not. I follow the scores, watch them in post-game clips, and follow their Facebook page.  

It is in following them on Facebook that I have become aware of the absurd intrusion of politics into football fandom, as there are those who have a major problem not with the team's performance or coaching but with the decision of some players to kneel during the national anthem. 

Say what? 

Yes, that's right. One will regularly see comments expressing anger at this unforgivable act of kneeling, oaths from this or that dumbbell that he will never watch the team again. I mean, in the first place who even watches the national anthem portion of a game? And what can possibly be so offensive to a viewer about seeing a player kneel? 

I do have to say though that so far such objections as I have seen have been roundly rejected by the majority of the team's followers, who tend to be either whole-heartedly supportive of the players or just sick and tired of hearing about politics and culture wars wherever they go. It's football, man! Can we just enjoy life for a couple hours on Sunday? 

Go Cowboys!

Saturday, September 19, 2020


 Having a lot of trouble over the past few days with sudden shooting pains in my limbs, fingers, toes, and even in my head. These were accompanied last night by a return of some serious RLS. The pains are lightning bolt sensations, as if one had just been stung by a bee or stepped on a nail, occurring in the toes, fingers, wrists, elbows, calves. My legs feel hot and irresistibly compelled to jump about in the bed. Instead of sleeping, I spend my night seeking an elusive position of comfort, some position which will allow my body to rest. And then sometime in the wee small hours, still dark outside, I began to experience knife-like pains in one side of my face, from the top of my head to just behind my eye. This morning, the flash pains in my limbs persist and my neck is stiff and aching, finding no position of relief and no comfort with massage. Oh, and then there are the muscle twitches. Forgot to mention those. Isolated muscles, especially in my right arm, twitch and flutter with a mind of their own. All of this I suppose, or most of it anyway, can be ascribed to acute on chronic neuropathic pain and dysesthesias associated with MS, and it has all steadily progressed over the last four years ago. It is the same with the intense heat sensation that I suffer in my upper torso, from the shoulders and neck to the top of my head. The pregabalin I take is supposed to address all of this, and does to at least to some extent. Come to think of it, I did not take any pregabalin at all yesterday--the stuff is damnably expensive--so maybe that was part of the problem. Who knows? In any case, I had hoped to go to the beach this morning, maybe even swim, but after a night typified more by wakefulness and torment than by rest, I feel exhausted and listless. Once I finish my coffee, I'll probably just go back home and lie down.