Monday, October 29, 2012


"So do you understand what these numbers mean?"

"Clearly doctor," I replied. "Cairo is now officially killing me."

It is no longer simply a metaphor. I knew Cairo was frustrating, annoying, often agitating - but deadly?

I went to see the school nurse two weeks ago. My daughter had contracted a strange, but not particularly dangerous virus called hand, foot, and mouth disease (not the cow one). She had a sore throat, low fever, and a nasty rash on her hands and feet. The disease is quite contagious. So she was at home, supposedly resting while the virus ran its course. I went to work, but I wasn't feeling so hot myself - run down, depressed, exhausted. The nurse looked at me and told me to sit down. She wanted to take my blood pressure. It was high. She told me to come back and have it checked the next day.

The next day it was still high. And the next. Appointments were made. Blood work was ordered. Damn, I hate needles.

 She sent me to the doctor; the same doctor who nine months ago told me that I was surprisingly healthy and would be even healthier if I drank red wine, cooked with olive oil, exercised more, and dropped a few kilos. I have been remarkably compliant in matters of red wine and olive oil consumption.

Apparently that wasn't enough.

It seems that both my blood pressure and cholesterol have moved up the charts from, "Drink red wine and try to get a little more exercise," to, "Take these pills every day for the rest of your life and dramatically change your lifestyle." 

"So, have you been eating a large amount of beef?"

"No. Not really. I do eat entirely too much bread." Ironically, my pork consumption has also increased while living in Egypt. There is this great little Coptic store nearby that sells hand cut bacon. Also, I tend to binge on sausage and ham when we go for Friday morning brunches at the US embassy club house. It has been a delicious way to feel slightly subversive, a scrumptious and subtle protest against my life in Cairo. Now my bad cholesterol is up, good cholesterol down. I suppose Allah always gets the last laugh.

"What do you do to relax? Do you exercise much?"

"Mostly I brood and sweat as if I were exercising without actually doing any excercise. Do those count?"

It is hard for me to relax here, hard to exercise. My favorite things to do are to walk and swim. The streets are loud and chaotic, a little dangerous and uncomfortable for strolling. Swimming, the kind I like to do, is out of the question. Though I feel a sense of peace when I am near the Nile, I am rarely tempted to jump in for a swim.

In Texas I was stressed. My job was actually more insane and I was a regular at at least half a dozen local TexMex joints. I probably should have been in much worse shape than I am now. But in Texas I had outlets. I could walk for hours without hearing a single car horn, without quickly jumping out of the way of a careening taxi.

But things are looking up. Perhaps I needed a jolt to help me break some of my bad habits. I have replaced the daily lemon squishies and thick, melted mozerella sandwiches with raw veggies and cool, refreshing water. Breakfast now consists of only one (albeit large and strong) cup of coffee and a small bowl of muesli with honey. I am taking my pills. The doctor says that if I can get this under control quickly, I may not even need to take the dreaded pills forever. I have already lost some weight, my pants loosening after just two weeks.

But I know what really kept me relatively sane and healthy before I came to Cairo, and what will restore me upon my return home. It was the river that washed away the daily madness. I realize now that I am destined to be one of those crazy old people who wake up at the crack of dawn in any kind of weather, pull my swim trunks up too high, mount an old cruiser bike, and peddle down to the place where water magically pours from the ground. I will pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and serenly dive into the cold, inviting river that seems to make everything in this crazy life just a little better.


  1. One word....triathlon. You need to start running today. When you get home you need to get a decent bike and start riding. And don't get a beach cruiser either. There are plenty of great hills to climb around San Marcos, so you'll be in shape in no time. You could make doing the Martindale Triathlon your goal. 7 mile run, 16 mile bike, 5 mile canoe. It's one year from now.

    Start right now. Go run a mile. Work up to 20 miles/week.

  2. The river and me are awaiting your return.


  3. Are you sure 'triathalon' is just one word? It seems more like at least 2, maybe 3 words. If I run here, I'll fill up my lungs with smog and wont have any lung capacity left for smoking sheesha with my new bedoin homies.

    1. One word, three parts. Think catechism class. Actually, I never thought about it before, but there may be other similarities to catholicism. It can certainly involve some suffering. Also, a good dose of guilt over not working out can help motivate the triathlon infidel.

  4. And weights. You need to be lifting weights. And you need to stop eating bacon. You need to get back to being mostly vegetarian. You need to get off your ass and start working out and stop complaining about how bad the air is in Cairo. Start fucking running and quite yer goddamn bitch'n.

    Where do you want to be when your daughters are in their teens and need a father to protect them from all of the older guys that prey on women half their age? In the ground feeding worms? You're on the Vermiculture Express, my friend. You're on the fast track to the Organ Donor Hall of Fucking Fame. All they have to do is burn off the alcohol and your white flaccid skin might be worth a couple of chickens on the organ black market.

    It's never too late. Start running. Do it. Now.

    1. Jeez, that was harsh. The poor guy just wanted to vent about his high blood pressure and the fact that he might not live to know his grandchildren and you go all crazy on his ass. You're a douchebag!

    2. F. U. Anon.

      This guy needs to understand that it is not too late. He can get off his lazy fat ass and start making a change for the better. Sure, he's got layers of blubber that would make a sea lion jealous, but he can fix that.

      Yes, it will take hours and hours of hard work. Waking up two hours earlier than normal to get to the gym helps. Running and cycling to get places helps enormously. Anyway, this guy doesn't need to be driving a car like he has anyway. This guy has a car that sucks. It has a bind spot so huge that I'd bet that if his nephew took the keys to it to go drinking with his friends on 6th street he'd only have 37.786% chance of not getting into a wreck on the way home.

      But never mind what the demon liquor might do, the real question is what our man in the land of the Pharoes will do to sort out his broken life.

    3. Good question. What will he do? I'm going to hope he get's serious about his health, but at the same time I'm going to bet he goes right on out and buys a big greasy pork sandwich.

      We'll, hopefully he'll look as good in his casket as did on his wedding.

    4. His old man looked pretty good in the box at the ripe old age of 64. Let's pray to the gods that at least this one doesn't get buried wearing that plaid tuxedo he was married in. Sure, they'd have to alter it, expand it some around the middle, but maybe a niece with some sewing skills could come to the rescue. Sure, his wife is an excellent seamstress, but she'll be too distraught. She's a good woman that deserves better than to be a widow at such a young age.

    5. Yep, it's a fact I can agree with. His wife is smart, sexy and intelligent. Shoot, when this clown bite the big greasy burrito for the last time she'll be left all alone to raise those two girls. Not that a woman can't do it alone, but having a man around to teach girls sure would sure help. Oh well.

    6. What a waste of potential. How sad that someone would value a bunch of cholesterol over his own daughters.

  5. Sad, very very sad.

    1. Yes, it's sad. Paul could probably learn a few things from his older brother. The guy's in his fifties, but he's a lean mean fighting machine. They say his goal is to always be able to wake up on any given morning and either run a marathon or knock out a century ride. Apparently, he's had some medical problems and even had to have surgery, but he bounces right back. Six months after surgery for plantar fascitis he pulled off a personal best in a sprint triathlon.

      And now I hear he's going to ride 700 miles across Texas from the beach at Port Aransas to the Guadalupe Mountains. When he gets there they say he's going to run to the top so he will have crossed Texas from the sea to the highest point.

    2. Agh, maybe so, but the guy's a pervy wanker with a girlfriend half his age. Shoot, she barely older than his daughter. Sounds like a real sick bastard...but he IS in shape. I'll give him that. The guy will probably be around for quite some time. Long enough to see his family grow up anyway.

  6. I am just happy to know that I can always count on the calm and supportive world wide web to help me through difficult times. Thanks for your love without judgement.