Friday, February 22, 2008


Everyone has their strengths, and everyone has their weaknesses. Sometimes, these pluses and minuses are mental. Other times, they are spiritual. Sometimes (perhaps those most visible) they are even physical. For example, although I’ve never been the biggest or strongest guy around (perceived weakness for some), I do seem to possess certain abilities in the “aerobic” department (perceived strength for others). And, although the ol' lungs probably won’t do much for my placing in the 2008 WORLD Strongman Competition, they DID help significantly in the VAIL 100 (100 mile mountain bike race) a few years back.
Another, more subtle physical strength I seem to possess is what I call “the iron stomach”. Again, it’s not going to win me any accolades, and you certainly won’t find any trophies or plaques on the wall with small, yet very detailed, bowels etched ever so delicately into the cheap gold-colored plastic. But that’s OK, because when I eat strange foods at exotic restaurants, I NEVER have a problem. When I get sick with a bacterial infection, virus, etc., I NEVER get any of the “GI symptoms” that commonly accompany such illnesses. In fact, until that fateful “costal cruise” in Hawaii a few years ago, I even had Jerry Seinfeld BEAT—HANDS DOWN!!!--with my 14-year “NO-VOMIT” streak (anyone out there able beat THAT record?)! And finally, whether it be Latin America, Europe, Middle East, or even Africa, I’ve NEVER gotten sick after sampling the local fare…….never, that is, until last night.
It could have been the octopus. That’s my FIRST theory. But the octopus had only been in the refrigerator for a couple of days. And it was SO good in that pasta dish prepared by the Argentineans (remember, I’m living in a hostel…….people come….people go) the other night. It also could have been the tamale. That’s my SECOND theory. And even though the tamale was a couple of weeks old, I’m pretty sure it was frozen for most of that time. It looked OK. It smelled OK. It even tasted OK. And it just seemed so cute and perfect wrapped in that banana leaf with the string tied into a bow. So innocent……so harmless……so inviting…… difficult to pass up.
Maybe it was one. Maybe it was the other. Maybe it was a combination of the two. Maybe it was something different altogether. We’ll just never know. Whatever it was though, it fought back with a vengence!
After my big meal, I felt pretty good….full…..but good. You see, in addition to the octopus pasta and the tamale, there had been the salad, the three bowls of cereal (that would be the dessert), AND the high-quality Swiss chocolate (uh….second dessert). In fact who WOULDN’T feel full (a little rumbling in the stomach, a little gas… big deal) after such a dining experience? But after an hour or two, things began to change.

In the beginning, I thought I would just take a small break from my reading in order to to “lie down for a moment”. “I’m sure I’ll feel fine in a couple of minutes”, I said, as I placed the book to the side, cleared a space on the bed, and attempted the “left lateral recumbent” position to relieve a little pressure down below. That was about 8PM. Around 8:30PM, I had another thought. “hmmmm…..this increasingly uncomfortable feeling doesn’t seem to be going away”. “In fact, I’m feeling a bit WORSE than before…….better try a different position before getting back to the rest of the evening”.

9PM—“Something could be slightly amiss……I really don’t feel so good”.

9:30PM--I think I’ll skip the lunar eclipse outside……I ‘m not sure I possess the ability to get up at this point in my life…….besides those eclipses happen all the time, don’t they?”.

10PM—“Oh Sweet Maria!……that “something that could be slightly amiss” is now officially “something that HAS GONE HORRIBLY AWRY”!!!!!”

11PM—“Holy Cow! I had no idea that the human stomach could actually swell to 76 times its normal size!.........I mean seriously!……one way or another, something has GOT TO GIVE!”

12AM—“Please God….I’ll do anything!......ANYTHING!…..JUST MAKE IT STOP! TAKE AWAY THE PAIN!!!”

1AM—“I wonder how long I’ve been…..AAAAOOOOOUUUUUUUHHHHHH………..lying in bed now?” “Maybe I…….OOHHHHH…..could turn this………HHHHHEEEEEEEE……….into a……….OOOOO MYYYYYYY………..Blog entry”…………………and by the way, this lamas stuff doesn’t work!!!!!

1:30AM—“Wait a minute! The pharmacy at Romero is open 24 hours…..maybe there is way…a light at the end of the tunnel….there could be HOPE!!!!.....if I could only extricate myself from the fetal position!!!

2AM—“You know, I can honestly say that I’ve NEVER actually fantasized about diarrhea before this very moment……..but sure enough, there’s the beach, there’s the crystal blue water, there are the palm trees swaying ever so gently in the Southern breezes……..and there I am, right there in the shade of the palm trees…..pooping my brains out. It’s all just so beautiful! (may have actually cried at that point)

3AM—“I’m SO COLD!”

0-Dark-30—“Hey, I just remembered that I have some ibuprofen in my bag! At this point, I’ll try ANYTHING!”

……….and with that, except for the faint memory of hearing the rooster’s crow in the early morning hours, I don’t remember much after the Vitamin I.
The good news was that at 10AM, when I awoke, I found that my stomach was only swollen to 7 or 8 times its normal size. The bad news was that my stomach was still 7 to 8 times its normal size. So I pretty much took the day off……from food, that is. I had a little coffee in the AM, a banana around noon, and a couple of small pieces of bread later in the day. Other than that, it’s been a day of fasting (hey, can I still get spiritual credit for that?). I also ventured out to the local pharmacy and picked up a common pink cocktail.
Right now, as I type this entry, it’s about 10PM, just 24 hours from the early stages of the big event. I’m back in my room, I haven’t taken the pink stuff, and the stomach is only feeling “uncomfortable”. Maybe it’s not fair to associate my last 24 hours with any specific country or “local fare”. Maybe I just happened to be in Panama when this gastronomical event took place. Perhaps it was just coincidence, as ALL THINGS MUST COME TO AN END. At this point though, that’s neither here nor there. At THIS point, I’m banking on another old cliché, because like all things, THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

………and with any luck, this shall “pass” in the morning.

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