Phooey!

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Hanging out in the bamboo grass of Ashitaka Mountain near Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, 1992

Well, so much for my triumphant Rocky antics. The day following my euphoria and canine empathy session, I woke up to a blithering cold sweat and a stomach playing, “Pass the cheese, please.” I spent a lovely, sunny day staring into the toilet bowl and wishing gravity were on my side. I wore a down quilt about the apartment like a northern king and spent too much time genuflecting to the refrigerator, seeking something, anything that would not offend my oh-so-vapid nose. Nothing doing. The mere whiff of anything hinting of nutrients sent my inner space into earthquake musings, so I finally bowed to my body’s greater wisdom and lay for two days, fasting.

Just when I thought the storm had passed, the vile little space invaders decided to try WMD’s. My fever abandoned me to the exquisite world of pain, and after four weeks of working on my abs for that “leaner, straighter look”, found myself hobbling about the rooms bent over like a wizened old man. “Good evening, my dear,” I was forced to croak to my wife, “Would you be so kind as to help an old pretzel like me to lift a glass of water?” Needless-to-say, that night recounted, for my wife, the sheer joy of the nocturnal callings of wild creatures in the jungle… as she endured the grunting, oofing, moaning, snorting, panting exhortations of this fitful boar, awash in a high fever, beside her.

Yesterday she accompanied me to the hospital. The taxi driver kept flicking nervous glances in the rearview mirror as this foreigner in the back seat of his immaculate car made strange noises that didn’t quite sound like language. I must have looked like a none-too-distant relation of Mr. Hyde, with my dark, unshaven face, cactus hair, and smudged mascara-look under my eyes. The hospital had just opened and the young receptionists, clear-eyed and smiling (I was quite surprised when the entire front desk staff lined up and bowed a cheerful good morning to all and sundry… I breathed to my wife… some unconscious attempt to emulate Marlon Brando upriver, no doubt… oh, the horror, the horror… that I wondered if they were going to sing and dance a scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), greeted everyone with an enthusiasm that surely made the venetian blinds wink and the potted plants dance a jig.

Until one of the receptionists met me. She told us that, since this was our first time at this hospital and that we didn’t have a referral from my usual hospital, we would have to cough up Â¥2,000 (about $22.00). I was incensed (as much as I could be that wasn’t already pretty much up in smoke already) and must have slobbered on the counter or something, because she stopped talking and stared at me. Luckily my wife intervened and a rational progression of vocabulary ticked out of her mouth. Both of them didn’t say a word, just silently endured my presence and agreed on the inherent boorishness of men.

The doctor. too, couldn’t restore my lost Rocky Horror Picture show. He greeted me with a pale blue face mask obscuring his features (he did have nice eyes, I have to admit) and a habit of rearing back from me when I leaned in to make a comment. With the avian flu scare and mad cow disease and SARS and worldwide flu epidemic I guess he had every reason to suspect some foreigner who complained of “very painful intestines, possibly due to a semi-satisfying meal (though the company was wonderful) at a Mexican restaurant on Friday night”. He laughed, albeit somewhat with a hiccough, saying, “Ah, you can speak Japanese! That makes me feel much better!”

In the end, it was simply a stomach flu, nothing to notify Doctors Without Frontiers about, or the CIA, or Jean Luc Piccard. I am safely back in my cell, ready to stand up and sing, “The Boar’s Head”.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll give Rocky another go for his money.

16 Responses

  1. Ow. May your recovery be rapid, O northern king!

  2. ha, we mirror each other’s complaints this week. I’ve happily managed to move beyond rainbow sherbet to tentative forays with solid food again. I’m sorry you feel horrible, unfortunately I can all to easily identify altho mine didn’t get bad enuf to merit a trip to meet with the well starched crew. Take care Miguel! And don’t give up mexican food! it’s the best!

  3. ouchy-poo (all fun-puns intended)

    that doesn’t sound like the most fun way to spend the last few days, and I can only say that I’m pleased to hear you are becoming yourself once again, king miguel

    I can’t help wondering what the Japanese version of Mexican food tastes like (although the trip to the starchy folks gives me a clue). No, no … I jest! Being from Texas, I tend to think the only real Mexican food has to be eaten under a Texas sun (yes, I know this isn’t Mexico, but you’d have a hard time telling the difference sometimes). Anyway, guacamole and salsa to you my friend. May your chips be crispy, and your enchiladas spicy. On another day, of course.

  4. You’d be surprised. Japan, especially Tokyo, is full of world-class restaurants and the Japanese are very meticulous (as they are in so many things) about the authenticity of the international food that they eat. Japanese value quality over quantity and go to great lengths to ensure that they get it just right. Most of the best international restaurants are staffed by those native to the cuisine being served, but the restaurant I went to was completely staffed by Japanese, and, while authentic enough (truly Mexican, not Tex-Mex), they just didn’t have much imagination. And… the food was cold!

  5. An interesting insight into the health system in Japan. So you pay to attend the Casualty department of the hospital? Referral from one hospital to another? So different to our system – I’d like to learn more about it. Hope you are feeling better by the way!

  6. Please, explain “pass the cheese, please.” It’s a new one for me.

    p.s. how many languages do you have?

    Best wishes,
    Daniel

  7. Gawd (and here I am dancing in place and slapping my face like Curly), so someone actually did catch that! I was hoping no one would notice. When I wrote “Pass the cheese, please!” I was actually first thinking, “Pass the butter, please!” but felt it was just too polite and didn’t convey the image I was trying to achieve. “Cut the cheese, please!” didn’t quite do it for me either, so I had an epiphany! “Well, why not combine the two! Aha! Yes. That’ll do it, thank you very much!”. My wanting to remain outside the realm of convention might have had something to do with it, too. Though, Daniel, now that you’ve flushed the toilet into the open (ah, non-conformity repeats itself?) I’m wondering if “Pass the yeast, please.” might not do a better job.

    Really, blogging certainly reminds me of a big, genteel dinner gathering around a long table. All these manners and all this netiquette. Everyone thanking each other for every sentence uttered and nary a sneeze or sniffle to sully our napkins.

    I almost imagined you, Daniel, looking across the table at me through your hand-held spectacles and, in your Oxford English, querying (not asking, mind you, querying), “And how many languages do you have, pray tell?”

    And me lifting my proboscis and and wheezing a little under the powder of my wig, replying, “Good that you might ask, sir, for ’tis quite a question of the moment, would you not agree, sir?”

    “Quite so, quite so.”

    “Well, then, allow me to explain forthwith. My natal predispostion being of the rather more northern latitudes of the free state of Lower Saxony, in the country of Germany, one would assume, naturally, that the German tongue was of greater significance. ‘Tis true, I first mouthed German while still…”

    At this point there must have occurred some catastrophic event somewhere in the background, as the servants had begun to dash about the place in a mad flurry. Guests were standing up to take leave.

    “Pray go on, sir,” you urge. “But, perhaps, with a bit more alacrity.”

    “Er, right. Yeah, I speak three languages best, Best and foremost is English, though German was the language I spoke first. I learned to speak Japanese as I grew up here. I also learned to speak some French and Spanish (though not well) and have been learning some Portuguese from my wife. English is best, then Japanese (though I don’t read it very well), then German, which I read better than Japanese.”

    Ooop, better get out of here. I’ve lost my audience!

  8. There are writers–and then there are writers. Awful as it was for you to experience, it was a delight for me to read about because you have such a knack for words.

    Hope you are feeling better.

  9. oh my!
    i’m hoping you’re fully recovered.

  10. I failed to add, that is quite the amazing picture. Quite appropo when the stomach has turned upside down of its own accord.

  11. Oh dear. I hope you’re feeling better! And thanks for sharing the story – very funny, and more so since it was nothing serious.

  12. Yeah, hope you are recovering. Those things can make you feel quite weak afterwards. Were you throwing your guts up in the photo too back in ’92 or just looking for a contact lens?

  13. Hope you are feeling a bit better by now. I think this photo is fabulous.

  14. Yikes! When you can scare the doctor treating you, you know you’ve got something!

    I have vague memories of being appalling sick a few hours after a visit to a wonderful Mexican restaurant some years ago, and like this occasion, the sickness and the restaurant were completely unrelated. Though the excitement of going out perhaps triggered a dormant infection? I could not bring myself to go back there, even long after I’d recovered, and knowing that was silly of me.

    Glad you’re better; stomach flu is an exhausting complaint. Strenuous.

  15. Good lords. Anything that can scare a doctor is something. I hope you’ve recovered, and are feeling as dandy as can be, and yes, ready to give Rocky a run for his money!

    And yes, the picture is simply amazing.

  16. We’re nothing if not polite, dear sir. I have to agree that sometimes it feels a bit like a hug-fest, but I guess that’s where my street persona kicks in and I throw something ‘less than delicate’ out there into the mix.

    As far as the Japanese being meticulous about getting it right, I should have known that already (silly me). It only stands to reason that they would prepare Mexican food in the traditional way. Well, with the minor indiscretion of being served cold, of course.

    Truly glad you are recovered and back to being the WordMeister.

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