Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The 12th Man

I was scrolling through the online movie site last night for a film I might watch and happened upon one called "The 12th Man". This is the true story of an undercover Norwegian operation during World War II, and it is a harrowing story indeed. 

The mission, which was to sabotage Nazi installations in Norway, went south from the beginning. The commandos were discovered as they approached land in their fishing boat and 11 of the 12 were either captured or killed. From that point on, the story is about the 12th man's desperate attempt to escape to Sweden. 

And I'll tell you what, if you think you're having a bad day (or a bad half year), think again! Injury and gangrene and starvation and subzero temperatures and avalanches and constant fear and compulsive pursuit by the German's make this man's existence a living hell such as none of us will ever know. As the commando flees the Germans, every day brings him closer to death, and yet he struggles on with what seems superhuman strength, crawling just one more foot. 

This is a story, and a very well acted and filmed one, that grows ever more intense, and includes the sorts of scenes that you don't want to see, but can't help watching--you know? Honestly, I would rather suffer from MS every day of the week forever than to endure one day of this man's struggle. 

And ultimately, it is about the will to live, to take one more step, to overcome one more horror, to cling to life in the tightening grip of death. Truly an amazing and an emotionally immersing story. 

Monday, May 21, 2018


I've begun to read a novel called Brothers, by Chinese author Yu Hua (2005). This is a hell of a thick book--much thicker than I thought when I bought it; for, you see, books in Indonesian stores are sold wrapped in plastic, such that one cannot examine the text or sample the material before purchasing. Given the mere size of the book, I figured that the inside print would be large. Wrong. The print on these 700+ pages is tiny, and fills the page from top to bottom. The book itself is heavy enough to build muscles. 

That said, I will say as well that I am enjoying this story immensely, having gnawed through the first 100 pages or so. It is a comic, picaresque novel  in the classic style, rather like Dickens' Pickwick papers or Fielding's Tom Jones. I'm reading it in Indonesian, and I suspect (though I don't know any Chinese) that the language retains a certain eastern character that may not come across in English, which, for all its complexity and nuance, sometimes comes out blunt and overly direct in turn of phrase. In other words, there is an Asian manner of speaking that is most faithfully rendered in an Asian language. Of course, it would be best of all to read the thing in Chinese, but, as I say, I know no Chinese whatsoever. 

This is one of those books that you kind of live over the extended time it takes to read it. You get to know the characters, carry them along with you, wonder what they will do next--the same sort of feeling you have when you are reading something like David Copperfield or War and Peace or Les Miserables. 

So this will be part of my life for some time to come. 


This little guy picked up with me about halfway through my morning walk and followed me the rest of the way home. Upon arriving there, and receiving a sausage, he decided that this is where he lives. The big fat brown dog, however, soon showed up and "escorted" him off the property. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018


With the publication yesterday of Healthline's list of best MS blogs, I was reading through a number of entries from the various winners, feeling less and less 'alone' as I did so, more connected, more knowledgeable, more distinctly aware both mentally and emotionally. I am thankful for so many who are able to express themselves so well about the many facets of the disease and the many sides of dealing with the disease. Whether what is offered is information or encouragement or advice or simply companionship, it is most importantly all first-hand from people who know because they are there--and, moreover, because they are there, what they know is often what cannot be attained through any means other than hardship, disappointment, suffering. Three words came to mind over and over again. Perspective. Growth. Love.

Especially entertaining, as well as intellectually engaging, was an entry entitled "15 Years a Progressive MSer", from a blog called Wheelchair Kamikaze. Here, the author looks back on his years with progressive MS, and on his years before the diagnosis. He addresses the most essential challenges and questions that we all face in the quiet of our own particular prison cells, and he does so with razor-sharp intelligence, eloquence and, yes, humor. 

"Time and time again," the blogger writes, "you ask yourself and the universe, 'what’s the point?', until you finally realize that the real question is “what’s the point of asking what’s the point?” You decide that if there are any answers, they are beyond the scope of your comprehension, and then you turn on the latest episode of The Walking Dead and start asking the really important questions, like how in the world you would charge your electric wheelchair during a zombie apocalypse? And, if you were to become a zombie, would you suddenly be able to walk? Or would you be one of The Rolling Dead?

I must say that I found the author's sudden transition from suffering and searching where MS and our sad fate is concerned to the "really important questions" surrounding zombies and zombification absolutely delightful--for here is the sort of lively intelligence and active spirit that will not be locked away nor stifled nor compromised by any fate or disease, nor even by the self that suffers and regrets and questions and curses. And this is called Victory.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Best Blogs

I was pleased to learn this morning that Everyone Here Is Jim Dandy has been included in Healthline's best blogs of 2018. 

In the last year, I have probably written more about MS than previously, given that over the past year MS has become increasingly intrusive in my daily life. In the past, I have dealt mainly with cognitive deficits, confusion, numbness, fatigue. Now I am dealing mainly with pain--unrelenting, occasionally debilitating pain. Even as I write this, I am finding it difficult to sit forward and to use my right arm. I have written of sleepless nights and attempts at exercise and massage therapy and I have written of my search for medications that might interrupt or dull the pain. 

In addition to the infliction of physical pain, MS has also been largely responsible, over the last couple years, for bringing my marriage to an end. The worse my condition became, the more unable I became, the farther away my wife drew from our relationship. It became a burden to her, and it was not something she had signed up for 11 years ago (at which time, I did not have MS). She saw no light at the end of her own tunnel, no future but one of deterioration, limitation, and hardship. And so she found her way out. On the one hand, I feel sorry to be so alone; but on the other, I feel relieved to no longer be a burden to her.

So, as you can see, MS has been taking a leading role in my life on a number of levels.

Nonetheless, I try to stay active and divert myself through meeting new people, learning new things, engaging in a world that is becoming ever more precious as one begins to see the dusk falling. Every morning, I arise at about 6 and take a long walk around the neighborhood, freshly amazed at the common things that I see. In the evening, I take a second walk, usually on the beach, and that, too, is somehow always new. 

In quiet times, I reflect on my life, remember things as best as I can, regret what is needful of regret, revisit what has been joyful, peaceful. 

And I write. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Then and Now

Y'all know how Facebook generates these reminders of times in the past, right? Here's what you were doing four years ago! Many of mine, however, may as well say, "Here's a photo from four years ago. What the hell happened to you after that?"


Although Jalan Danau Poso used to be familiar stomping grounds for me, time and circumstance have intervened such that I rarely see the area these days. Some seven years ago, my wife ran an ill-conceived, doomed-from-the-outset salon on Poso. I advised her against entering this business because 1) she knew nothing about running a salon, 2) she knew no one else who knew anything about running a salon or really even working in a salon, and 3) Sanur, even seven years ago, was already crowded with basically deserted salons, as redundant as Waffle House in the State of Georgia. But oh well, she had never been in the habit of listening to my advice, preferring to learn the hard (and the expensive) way.

Nonetheless, we had a pleasant time in the old Poso salon, which she named “Lavender”. There were not many customers, but we (the management) had fun hanging out and eating lunch together and so on. It also served as a convenient base for me from which to go swimming down at the beach and enjoy a shower in the salon when I returned.

Back then, there was not much else on Jalan Danau Poso except for little local warungs and a few bars and a convenience store. Therefore, it is quite a shock to see the place now all built up with new restaurants and various other businesses (including salons). The old Poso is buried somewhere beneath all this, like ancient ruins.

And so yesterday I kind of toured the area and ended up at a new restaurant/community center called Rumah Sanur. It is a spacious, open-air establishment offering multiple communal areas, depending upon what you are communing for, and multiple wifi stations such that no area will end up with a weak signal. My interest was, of course, in the coffee cafĂ© area, called Kadai Kopi Kultur, where one may order freshly ground coffee drinks of many kinds (and for a reasonable price, too). There is also a bar area, and, in the evening, there is live music. While I was there, at around 6 pm, the place was practically deserted, but I was assured that people would show up later for the music and the beer—which is not to complain, because, frankly, I prefer ‘deserted’, with as little music as possible. The place has a nice ambiance, a cozy, natural feeling. The chairs, however, are unbearable; but then again, most chairs are unbearable to me, given the nature of my shoulder and back pain. It’s just a short drive to the nearest beach, where one can take a nice evening walk after his coffee.