Archive for October, 2011


I am called Pookie and although I am an American citizen, I currently live as an expatriate in Thailand at a beach resort city named Jomtien Beach where I rent an apartment in a large complex I dubbed “Paradise at the Beach.” Every day, I walk along the strand or swim in the pool, eat at one or another nearby restaurants and more or less blissfully enjoy doing the nothing that I had been looking forward to for many years.

One day a Thai woman I have known for a long time but had not seen for a while called and suggested we have dinner at a nice little Italian-Thai restaurant located adjacent to my apartment complex. I arrived early, sat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic.

As expected, she arrived late.

She explained that she had just come from divorce court where she finalized her divorce from her Australian Husband. We sat down at the table and ordered dinner. She told me about her domestic travails as we ate. She said that she was feeling sad and to demonstrate the veracity of that statement she periodically teared up and cried. Eventually, she mumbled that she felt she needed to get away from it all for a while. She then brightly suggested we drive togeather up to Chiang Mai, that wonderful ancient walled city situated in the foothills of northern Thailand where I lived for a few months before moving to the sea-shore.

I thought it was a good idea since, being a bit bored myself, a trip up-country with an attractive woman would cure me of any creeping ennui I may have been experiencing. We agreed to leave in a few days.

I called some friends in Chiang Mai to arrange to visit them during my stay. Unfortunately, my intended traveling companion then disappeared. When I tried her telephone number, the recording indicated that the phone had been disconnected. So, I had to call my friends again and cancel the visit.

About two weeks or so later, she called me explaining that she had been in the hospital and could not contact me. Whether she was there to cure some malady or to dry out from drinking too heavily, I never got straight. Nevertheless, she again suggested that we go away together for a few days; this time not to Chiang Mai but to the nearby Island of Koh Samet where she and I had spent a lovely weekend a few years back.

Since my usual weekly massage was to be on Thursday rather than my normal Friday that week, we agreed to leave at 8 AM Friday morning. I planned to spend a day or two with her on Koh Samet then move on to Koh Chang or one of the other islands the area I had never visited but always wanted to.

On Friday at eight thirty in the morning she called and said she would arrive by about 9:30. There being no sign of her at that time, I took my suitcase and went to breakfast to await developments.

At about 10:15 she arrived. I invited her to join me at breakfast. She said she had already eaten and was not hungry and took my luggage to her car. When she returned, she told me that some friends and family would be going with us. I was annoyed because when a Thai woman tells a Farang (“Foreigner” in Thai) that friends and family will join them, it usually only means one thing, the Farang pays for all.

When we got to the car I discovered three young men in the back seat. Being Thai young men, to my Western eyes, they could have been anywhere from 17 to 35 years old or more.

One, seated in the back to the far left, clutched what appeared to be a well-worn large orange teddy bear. I was later to realize instead of a teddy bear it was a stuffed ox or water buffalo complete with large horns, but it was too late. Having failed to catch his name, I already started calling him Teddy Bear Boy in my mind.

The second, who spoke English fairly well and was sitting in the middle, I recognized. He  worked in a local upscale restaurant called Mata Hari as a waiter or bartender. He I named Mata Hari.

The third was a sullen-looking young man wearing a “S.W.A.T” T-shirt who said little during the entire trip.  I called him the Sullen One.

I got the impression that the Mata Hari and Teddy Bear Boy were gay. It would be a mistake however for a foreigner to take anything about a Thai at face value. This is not because it is the so-called inscrutable orient, but just that different cultures give off their own cultural signals. I learned this in Italy when I lived there during the late 60’s. What I thought were facial and gesture signals that would signify no in America, actually to my great embarrassment indicated consent among the Italians. But, that is another story.

Now with the three young men sitting behind me and being annoyed already, I became even more annoyed and a bit uncomfortable as we took off, not down the coast as I expected, but into the rural areas behind Paradise by the Beach where, for long stretches, the paved roads disappeared and every now and then a new subdivision named something like Grand View or Hillside suddenly loomed out of the jungle vegetation. For some reason, I pictured in my mind that scene in Godfather II where Clemenza sat in the back seat of the automobile behind Michael’s sister’s errant husband as they drove into the Meadowlands.

Finally, we came to a large barn-like building that in the US would be called a Roadhouse. We pulled into the gravel parking lot.  My friend drove to the far end of the lot and  backed up to the edge and parked so that we faced the entrance to the building looming in the distance black, shadowy and wavering in the heated air that rose from the parking lot.

She then reached down into that space separating the front seats where usually the change and cup holder reside. Instead of coins, she picked up a handful of large bullets that I had not noticed before. The casings were shiny brass and the blunt points, bright copper.

My first  thought was that since I recalled that she often engaged in producing crafts that she would then sell, she had acquired these to make some sort of strange jewelry.  As a little child, she would make those flower arrangements that are sold on just about every street corner in Thailand.

The image of the little 5-year-old flower girl quickly dissipated, however, when she then reached down  beside  her seat next to the door and pulled up a very large and very mean looking 45 caliber pistol. While admittedly it was not yet a Holy Shit moment, there was a sharp intake of breath on my part.

Then, with the gun placed next to her ear and pointing straight up towards the roof of the car, she shouldered the car door open and got out with what appeared to me to be a look of grim determination on her face. At the same moment, the rear doors flew open and the boys in the back scrambled  out and disappeared somewhere behind the vehicle.

I did not look for where they went because I was too fixed on watching her stride resolutely, gun in hand, now down by her thigh, across the gravel parking lot, up the two wooden stairs leading to the entrance of the building and then disappearing into the darkness.

I thought, “for a morning that started out so unpromising, it may turn out to be an  interesting day after all.”

Stay tuned…….

Read Full Post »




I post the following as a tribute to my good friend Irwin Schatzman. It was his last blog in his unsuccessful battle with cancer. We miss you cuz!


SAY WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT OLD BRAIN OF MINE? I don’t suppose you could refer to it as a “long-lost pal” or the former owner of “a saber-sharp wit”, but there was something there. It got me through quite a few years making things up so I could impress my colleagues and bring home a few farthings. But, I never really won any awards of note with it. In fact, now that I think about it, something seemed to hold back its promise of a larger potential. I just always assumed that greater things were not meant to be, but I suspect it was laziness and trying to enjoy the good life which stifled my growth as a person of some uniqueness.

The Glowing Man got his start in 2009 with the advent of a radiation program consisting of some thirty-three sessions intended to irradiate a tumor that had grown on the left Parotid Gland of yours truly. Actually, the bugger had been inside my neck for over thirty years but I had never taken steps to have it removed owing to vanity and it was only when the pain set in that I decided it was time to go and maybe after the operation I might not be uglier than I have always been; One wag suggested that I could claim the scar as being the result of a bad duck in a fencing master’s class.

Being “cancer-free” has had its appealing aspects (although that meant I had no spooky condition to talk about and while away the hours with my drunken friends). So I went back to a life of boredom, which included no drinking at all and with no drinking comes thinking.

Last month I was shoved into one of those scanning machines for a test or two and guess what?! I was no longer alone in my skull. The picture of my brain which developed suggested to me that it was almost to be considered as hiding. so ( music roll please) now I glow once more.

Every Monday through Friday morning at 8:15 AM I hop a shuttle bus in Garden Grove and am carried out to Ontario, California where I proceed to get zapped. Only this time it’s a different course and only ten sessions are imposed, at least initially. You see unlike cancer cells not normally visible to the naked eye, the cancerous growths are most visible to the scanning equipment. One large tumor on the back of my brain and smaller ones on the sides of my brain. Not to be outdone, the rest of my body decided to add-on a tumor and installed it in my right lung. There goes any chance I will be able to sneak that cigar after thirty-five years of not smoking (cough cough). On the shuttle bus, each cancer patient tells their story and my telling has resulted in the appellation which I am currently being referred to by my fellow passengers as, “Mr. Tumor Head” – I don’t know how much that beats being called “Mr. Potato Head” but it’s a start.

From 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM we are in treatment flirting with the lady radiation technicians who have to move my stiff tired old body about and grasp me to help me up (i caught on quick)and then it’s back on the bus for the return trip arriving at the starting point about 11:30AM. Not bad timing and while maybe the activity does suck, the time spent doesn’t seem to be enough to consider as having ruined the whole day except for the concept of having to find myself in lovely Garden Grove, and twice in one day.

The radiation is intended to shrink the tumors. Once that is over if it works, it looks like a morning cup of chemo for as long as I want to try to hold the growth of cancer in check so that it doesn’t spread including to other parts of my body aside from my brain and lung. I should still be able to brush my teeth and walk around the block (a final indignity for an aging male – the doctors fearing seizures and lawsuits took away my car keys, so no more driving). If the radiation doesn’t work, well then right now it looks like the party is over; however accomplished, the imbibing of chemo does not sound very appetizing to be sure but I guess it’s something to do in the interest of living better through chemistry, or just living.

Lifespan, shmife span. Don’t know for sure how long I will be around, although soon some ongoing investigation and reports by doctors will be finished and we may have a better idea. Maybe just months. Though 2011? Maybe not. My suspicions are on the short side. But If the chemo doesn’t do the job then the coming months will definitely bring on some changes. But don’t be concerned for me even if your name isn’t “Argentina”. Owing to how I have lived my life, and observations I have made about my existence, even with the threat of cancer hanging over my nose mean that I now strangely find myself content I do not worry. And if the inevitable should appear to be but a few steps or hours away, based upon my experience I am firmly convinced I can make the best of my last days if I want to. After all, I know by now, kid, that dying is easy, it’s living that’s hard.

Read Full Post »

treatment planning

MON, JUNE 01, 2009
3:00 PM

[Note: I have my first visit with a doctor since the end of radiation treatments.]

Doctor:… How ya’ doing Sir?


Doctor:… You are Mr. Schatzman?

Me:……….Yes. I be he.

Doctor:… You finished treatment about a month ago.


Doctor:… Any problems since we saw you last?

Me:……….Uh, problems. Let’s see. I still haven’t recovered my sense of taste but then again people use to say I really didn’t have any anyway, I can’t pay this month’s bills, and how come you don’t validate parking for appointments with a doctor?

Doctor:… Dunno’ about the parking. It’s gonna’ take, I’d say, maybe three months before your taste buds are back to normal.

Me:……….How exciting! Hope I last that long.

Doctor:… It should get better gradually.

Me:……….And the other physical “problem” is my left ear. It feels as if there is something in there. Maybe a Zenomorph. Feels clogged and sometimes wet. I was losing my hearing before and the radiation seems to have made my condition worse.

Doctor:… Lets take a look into your good ear first. Now let’s check the bad one. By the way, are you able to eat alright? Hmmn. Your left ear drum doesn’t look as good as the other ear, maybe swollen, but it should get better with some time.

Me:……….Well I eat, but not through my ear. I force myself to eat. I lost about eleven pounds. I thought I was gaining it back but according to the scale in the exam room, where the nurse took my blood pressure but didn’t give it back, I haven’t gained any weight yet.

Doctor:… Did you have much peeling of the skin?

Me:……….Yes. Quite a lot. It was the darkest tan I ever had, maybe even darker than George Hamilton. The dead skin finally all came off and I looked like a baby’s butt. Pink and smooth.

Doctor:… Some hair loss here behind your ear.

Me:……….As long as it’s not my ear that I lose. By the way, my beard hasn’t grown back.

Doctor:… No. It may not.

Me:……….It won’t? No more beard huh? That is emasculating news.

Doctor:… Probably a 50/50 chance your beard will grow. You weren’t planning on growing a beard were you?

Me:……….Sure I was. I had one for decades until I had to shave it off for the surgery. Say, if I rub the left side of my face with Viagra will that help my beard grow?

Doctor:… Open up. Did you have much mucousitis inside the cheek?

Me:……….Uh uh.

Doctor:… Let me have your tongue.

Me:………. O.K. But give it back. Sometimes I get little bumps in my mouth but they go away.

Doctor:… On the side where you received the radiation?


Me:……….What happens now?

Doctor:… We just see you every few months.

Me:……… Every two months?

Doctor:… Maybe three months.

Doctor:… Do you also see another doctor?

Me:……….Someone else? Yes. I understand that I will be seeing the chief of head and neck surgery in Orange County on a regular basis. In fact I have an appointment to see him in a little over a week. I think he is to monitor me for the rest of my life to see if tests show any spread of the cancer and whether to schedule me for more surgery if another tumor shows up on what is left of my parotid gland. You know it’s taken me longer to get over the radiation side effects than it took me to get over the surgery.

Me:……….You just check to see the effects of the radiation?

Doctor:… Yes. You know there are some side effects which can happen later on.

Me:………. Like what?

Doctor:… A fibrosis…a toughening of the tissues on your face and/or neck.

Doctor:… Why don’t you come back and see us in about four months?

Me:……….Send me an invitation and I’ll be here.

Doctor:… Let’s go out to the nurse’s station and she will take care of it. Come.

Doctor:… Schedule him for four months.

Doctor:… That’s a nice ring.


Doctor:… Your wedding ring. It’s nice. What does it say?

Me:……….It say’s “I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me” or if you are a Hebrew language freak it can also mean “I am to my uncle as my uncle is to me”. However, all of my uncles are dead and my wife is alive so the first interpretation is the most fitting.

Doctor:… How long have you been married?

Me:……….45 years. What’s your prognosis? Will it last?

Doctor:… Well you must be doing something right. Take care.

Me:……….O.k. Thanks Doc. Happy radiating. Bye Bye.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: