Mama Said Knock You Out: The Alarm, The Scare, The Return

‘Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years!’
So rapped LL Cool J in that hit song of his,
Two last-minute speed bumps in my way, got through them anyway,
D-Day’s finally here,
Time to kick it into gear.


The end of October marked my return to the Wing Chun Academy after months of fighting and recuperating from ulcerative colitis. It had been a long time coming and once the 19th of October rolled around I woke up feeling like Buster Douglas when he beat Mike Tyson, a victory that, to this day, still stands as the biggest upset in boxing history. Ok, that was a very cheesy comparison but colitis (SEVERE pancolitis to be exact) was what Iron Mike had once been in and out of the boxing ring; an extremely violent and merciless prick that took no prisoners and I fought that thing and came out on top.
But first, I had to deal with two last-minute hiccups. Actually, scratch that – it was one little hiccup and followed by a massive scare that threatened to derail my progress.
Let me explain.
The little hiccup arrived in the form of an e-mail that I had received from Dr. B during one particular day in which he instructed me to increase my Imuran dosage from two tablets per day to three, apparently in order to speed up my recovery by further preventing that traitorous, vindictive motherfucker also known as my immune system from attacking my body. It seemed like a reasonable arrangement and the payoff was appealing but in the mind of a man recovering from a hellish disease it definitely raised some concern.

Oh no……is there a problem!?

I sat down and had a brief talk about it with my father, during which he reassured me that I should think of it as Dr. B urging me to get to the finish line faster, not a sign that I had regressed.
“Son, if it was bad news I’m pretty sure he would have summoned you to his clinic right away and booked another surgical procedure for you,” he reasoned.
Put that way it did take the edge off and once I increased the dosage it didn’t seem to have any serious side-effects

Ok, so all was good, right? Well, not quite. Let’s look at the shocker moment.

One day, as I was taking a walk around a shopping center I began to feel a familiar kind of discomfort, one that I hadn’t felt in quite some time. Initially, I tried to ignore it and kept walking without a care in the world but that’s when it decided to be more persuasive.
First, my stomach began to feel funny.
That funny feeling then began to feel quite painful.
That discomfort then made its way a little down south……


Yes, that was written – or rather, shouted – in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice.

I frantically searched for the nearest restroom on the ground floor that I was traipsing around in and while it didn’t take long to find it I was suddenly confronted by a sign that hung on the restroom door on which inscribed were the last words I wanted to read;
‘Under construction, sorry for the inconvenience.’
I thought bouts of sheer dumb bad luck such as this only occurred in TV sitcoms.
Cursing my luck and resisting the urge to kick that fucking door down, I turned tail and made my way to the nearest escalator to go up one level, practically bobbing, weaving, spinning and bulldozing my way up that conveyor through the line of people content to stand still like a rugby player evading on-coming players on the way to the try-line. I was in total panic mode and I swear I heard The Flight Of The Bumblebee ringing in my mind as I struggled to keep the bombs from dropping long before I’d reached the assigned target as my stomach continued to grumble. I never accidentally hit anyone on my way up that escalator but it must have shocked them to see a man zoom past them like The Flash.

Sorry, folks. It’s a matter of health and dignity!

I quickly scanned the first floor upon hopping off the escalator and found the restroom, thankfully just a few feet away. No ‘under construction’ signs here, I dashed straight in like a man caught under a sudden downpour looking for shelter, into an empty cubicle and did my business. I honestly believed that had I not reached the restroom when I did I would have messed myself right there in the mall, giving horrified and bewildered on-lookers a live re-enactment of THAT scene from the film Dumb and Dumber.
That surely would have been a shitty situation.
Sorry, Dear Readers, I couldn’t resist! Feel free to face-palm.
Once I had unloaded I decided that it would be a good idea to take a peek at the results. I hadn’t felt that dreaded ‘Oh shit!’ feeling since the height of my suffering a few months ago and was hopeful that everything was still normal as far ‘number twos’ were concerned and so I slowly took a glance, expecting no nasty surprises.

Oh, what’s that pinkish hue there? I know I didn’t eat any beetroot over the last few days.

I slowly looked up, blinked several times and took another look. Surely I was just seeing things.

Still there.

With fear now manifesting itself in the pit of my stomach I stood straight up and took another glance and at that moment the entire world ceased to exist and I found myself trapped once again in that agonizing envelope of deep, dark nothingness, similar to what I’d felt after I’d performed burpees during the height of my then-undiagnosed anaemia.

What the fuck is that pink doing there!!!???

Dr. B’s latest e-mail may have triggered alarm bells to my psyche but this was a catastrophic disaster on a similar scale to the eruption of Krakatoa. Resisting the urge to scream out in agony and treat the blue-grey cubicle walls as my personal punching bags, I slowly sat back down and cleaned myself up as the feelings of shock and disbelief washed over me before flushing the toilet and then washing my hands. I then left the restroom, completely dejected, dragging my feet as I slowly made my way to the parking lot like a man that had been robbed at gunpoint, a stark contrast to the spring in my step and the swagger that I had carried with me just ten minutes earlier. I was practically numb with anxiety for the remainder of the day as that familiar, sickening phobia of using the toilet once again set up camp in my mind, again accompanied by that fear of losing more blood the next time I went.

Man, I left this behind months ago! What the fuck happened!?

My mind immediately ran itself ragged wondering if my run of good fortune was only a mirage and that the Imuran and Mezavant had only served to temporarily halt the monster. Perhaps this was the part where colitis would suddenly return following a couple of months in the wilderness, revitalized and with revenge and mayhem in its mind. If that was the case then I would have to explore new treatment options – which meant that cutting out my bowels and walking around with a colostomy bag hanging off of my abdomen would once again become a possibility.

Urgh, pass me the bucket, I’m gonna be sick!

The thought of it made my skin crawl. My team of doctors, family and I had been doing everything we could to avoid that fate and to this day, we still are. No, no way. That will NEVER be an option as far as I’m concerned!
But then something happened to restore the peace. I felt another urge to ‘go’ later that night and upon relieving myself in the bathroom, I took a peek once again and everything seemed fine and it’s been fine ever since. I guess that scare must have been a minor flare-up and a response to the extra dose of Imuran.

Bullshit. Try again, bro.

Ok, fine. Maybe it was partially my fault, too.

While it might have been a response to the extra dose, it may have also been triggered by my allowing myself to slack off with my diet as of late, at times feasting like King Adolf Frederick of Sweden did during his last night of life. Despite my rather short stature I am a pretty big eater on a good day, although in my defense it’s because I am an active person, but I had been warned by Dr. B that I should not place too much strain on my bowels as I was still recovering. I listened to his advice and complied but every now and then I slipped up and literally bit off more than I can chew. The bowel, naturally, felt overwhelmed too soon and let me know about it in a rather frightening manner. It was one thing to be able to work out and leave the house, but I still needed to go easy on my digestive system and perhaps this little setback was the bowel’s way of saying, “slow down, jerk!!!! I ain’t 100% yet!”

Ok, you made your point clear. I’ll be good!

Anyway, my return to the Wing Chun Academy was scheduled for the 19th of October. Much to my disbelief and although I had anticipated it, my parents were a little uneasy, my mother in particular. She feared that participating in any athletic or strenuous endeavor would somehow ‘over-work’ me and that I’d get sick again or worse. Never mind the fact that I’ve been going there for more than five years and was aware that I had to exercise some caution for the time being but apparently, she’d prefer that I lived like an old man whose best days had passed him and accept that I was no longer built for any form of athletic endeavor or anything particularly adventurous all because of this damn disease whose ass I’d just stomped.
I could only shake my head and roll my eyes. I did not fight back hard just to spend the rest of my life ‘playing it safe’ and living like a reclusive hypochondriac. The prospect of being the very best version of myself again, which included being strong and athletic, was what had sustained me over these last few months and Dr. B had also made it his personal mission to get me back into ‘fighting shape’ and to be able to live a normal life again. Fuck colitis and its after effects, I will never submit to that motherfucker.

I repeat, FUCK colitis and its after-effects, I will NEVER, EVER submit to that motherfucker.

I stood my ground and calmly reminded her, and Dad too, for that matter, that I had made it clear as day that I would reclaim ‘the real me’ once I had defeated colitis, that I would never allow myself to live in fear of it for the rest of my life and that Dr. B had given me the green light and dismissed any notion that being active would cause a flare-up, and that it was the cause of the colitis in the first place, a proposition that Dr. G had literally laughed off too, by the way. But I guess it’s a typical case of a mother being worried for her kids and I understood that she believed that she was looking out for my best interests but trying to talk me into living a life that I would grow to hate?

Sorry, Mom, I appreciate the concern but I think I know what works best for me more than anyone and I’m going for it.

My parents eventually let me be, such was the conviction in my tone when I told them that I was not going to be denied, and once the 19th of October rolled around, I made my way to the Academy, excitement swimming through my system as I entered the building and climbed up the stairs leading to the entrance. I heard the familiar sound of bags and pads being pounded on my way up accompanied by the sound of students and instructors encouraging one another.I was quite impressed by the turn-out on this particular Friday evening as I entered, with students on just about every corner of the room. Physically, the interior remained the same, save for a bigger, newer shelf that had replaced the decaying one that previously – and barely – held various pads, gloves and protective gear. The giant red punching bag that hung close to the front desk nicknamed ‘Big Red’ remained, still bearing the scars from a lifetime spent absorbing countless kicks, palm strikes and punches.

Looks like the old boy’s still standing strong.

My presence was instantly noticed by one of my friends and the rest of the class seemed to quickly follow suit and what happened next was a pleasant surprise. The whole class, students, instructors and even the staff behind the front desk, literally stopped what they were doing and gave me a rousing round of applause. It was truly humbling and I waved to everyone and bowed in appreciation for their grand gesture, grinning from ear-to-ear.

I’m home, Fam. I’ve missed you all.

Once all greetings and exchanges of hugs, handshakes and fist-bumps were through it was back to business as usual with training before teaching a group of grade three students during the last scheduled class for the evening for yours truly. I was a little rusty and did my best not to push myself too hard as per Dr. B’s orders but I think it was a decent session.
I did the rounds and caught up with everyone in between and after classes and just as it was during my friend’s house party a few weeks earlier, I gave them a brief rundown of the last few months, confirming their suspicions before my absence that I had been battling a rather serious illness.
Well damn…..did I really look that bad!?
You most certainly did, Buddy.
Yep, it turned out that my training partners-slash-friends, bless them, had silently been concerned about my health the entire time but didn’t want to say it out loud, although some did tell me every once in a while shortly before the transfusion that I looked pale, thin and wasn’t my usual self. Meanwhile, I carried on pretending that all was well.

How thick can you get!? You looked like shit and they knew it but didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You weren’t fooling nobody!

Of those to whom that I shared my horror story there were some that were vaguely aware of what ulcerative colitis was. Many more, however, weren’t quite so sure and gasped when I described to them the symptoms and treatment.
How is this fucking evil disease not yet widely known!?
I had no firm grounds for outrage since I myself was ignorant of it until I was diagnosed. I guess what they say is true, you never know the severity and magnitude of a challenge unless it happens to you or someone you love and that anything can happen to anybody. And Dr. B had informed me, with a tone of resignation in his voice might I add, that there were still no real remedies available for this disease, nor have the true causes been identified and are, for now, largely speculative. Either the powers that be don’t know, are still in the process of finding a cure or, worse, they are not getting the help they need.
What a shame. I wouldn’t wish this shit upon my worst enemy.
But it was good vibes all around at the Academy, nothing awkward at all, and once I had filled everyone in on the reasons for my absence we quickly picked up right where we left off, in terms of training and what was happening in everyone else’s lives. Work lives, family lives, holidays, triumphs and troubles, congratulating students that have successfully climbed up the grades…… stone was left unturned. It truly felt great to be back.

An anecdote from another friend at the Academy on the following Tuesday truly brought home just how badly the colitis had ravaged me. This particular friend also practiced Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and a couple of weeks before my transfusion, shortly before a sparring class, he demonstrated a move on me that he had been working on that involved lifting me off the floor. He explained to me that he had braced himself prior to executing the move on me that day as he was expecting to lift a decent amount of weight off the floor but it turned out he needn’t had bothered since I was, apparently, light as a feather. Picking up a travel bag packed to bursting levels would have required more effort than my sick, underweight self.


Anyway, I’ve continued to train and teach at the Wing Chun Academy ever since in addition to continuing with my recovery. I know that returning to martial arts training didn’t really count for all that much in the grand scheme of things but for me it was a monumental achievement and that was why I had bristled at my mother’s suggestion to quit. Again, I understood where she was coming from and I guess I should consider myself fortunate that she cared enough for me to speak up but for me, life would have been meaningless if I didn’t allow myself to live it the way I wanted to and partake in activities that I enjoyed. By returning I had fulfilled both a personal goal and one part of Dr. B’s mission and also showed that fucking colitis that it couldn’t keep me down.
The next part? That’s the big one, Dear Reader – the complete remission of the colitis before completely weaning me off of my medication.
Things could only get better from here on out and I still had two more months before the year was over. Bring on November and December, looks like Christmas was going to be sweet!  

Suga Suga: Confessions of a former gamer

A rather catchy rap song with face palm-worthy lyrics,
Listen to it, you’ll hear it, the line that’s nothing short of cringy,
Somehow stormed through the charts way back in 2004,
Was riding high on the day I took a massive step forward,
A rather lengthy entry, another step back in time,
Here it comes, a glimpse into a past life.

I was never considered the ‘rebellious type’ as a kid. I never skipped class or vandalized a teacher’s house although I’d be lying if I said I’d never considered the latter. I got along well with my family and friends and didn’t engage in any form of delinquent behavior as a teenager with the intent of showing off to my friends how much of a ‘hard guy’ I was and all that nonsense.
You could say that I was a ‘good boy’ with no serious vices.
Well, almost.
I may not have been a wild child but I still drove my family up the wall in another way.
You see, I was also a gamer.
Nothing wrong with that, but I was a rather die-hard gamer. That was sometimes a problem.
Every weekend, and especially during school breaks, you would likely find me parked in front of the TV set, controller in hand, or in front of the computer, having completely shut myself away from the world like a hermit. For the most part it didn’t cause much conflict between my family and me but there were times when we’d bicker over little things caused by my gaming like a clash of TV schedules, arguing for a turn on the computer and the most exasperating of all, trying to get my attention while my mind was elsewhere. Lord knows there have been numerous times when my parents and sister have had to call my name several times before I finally snapped into action. They might as well have been talking to a stone statue of a boy seated.
I continued to play through my teenage years but once school was over, my gaming ‘career’ also came to an end. As I look back on it now, how I got to that point is quite an interesting tale.

During a family conversation a few years ago, my mother revealed that I was fascinated with cars as a young boy and it got to the point where one glimpse was all I needed to accurately name the make and model of a vehicle. I couldn’t do that now, not unless I see a logo and even then I wouldn’t know what model and year it was from. The four-year old version of me would have face-palmed himself and wondered how the hell he grew up to be a total loser before getting back to his toy vehicles and superheroes, the poor cars eventually reduced to rubble in the aftermath of a titanic fistfight between Batman and Superman that was as thrilling as The Thrilla In Manila.
I can also remember being fascinated by tall buildings, marveling at their sheer size and majesty whenever my parents took my sister and I on outings to the city and I can also recall a time where I was damn near obsessed with drawing clock faces and pie graphs on countless pieces of paper. Yup, somehow drawing circles with numbers and various arm positions was enough to keep me entertained for hours.
My parents should have seen that as an early sign of the rather weird kid that I would soon become.
My mother also added that I would also watch the wheels of another vehicle go round and round whenever we drove beside another car or truck on the highway. My sister took that as an opportunity to joke that I could have been an engineer or a scientist if only I didn’t get sidetracked by video games.

Me? A scientist or engineer? Good one, Sis. Surely you jest?

I can’t quite remember that either but if all of this is true then she might have been spot on about the video games. Whatever engineering or scientific potential I once had, it was obliterated by the time I was ten years old. I can’t speak for my parents but they probably would have agreed, though probably more out of blaming every shortcoming I had on something that they felt was mostly a negative influence on me (let’s be real, all parents do that!). While they did let me play, they probably would have preferred that I was physically more active and academically-conscious. Sure, I had other activities on the side but I can’t say that I attacked them with the same amount of enthusiasm and glee as gaming.

It all started innocently enough. I was introduced to gaming by some of my older cousins and it was love at first sight. We’d spend most family gatherings battling one another, with me frequently on the losing end as they would use every trick in the book against me without letting me in on their secrets, but it was fun. And since most of my friends and classmates at school were also gaming my parents somewhat reluctantly allowed me to play games on some of my dad’s computers and eventually bought me a few consoles so I wouldn’t feel left out and I dove in head-first.

Bye bye, world!

Talk about being caught hook, line and sinker.

But in my defense, while my folks might have felt that I was ‘obsessed’ with gaming, I wasn’t getting my fix nearly as many times as some of my peers. For a start, I wasn’t gaming every single day since I was only allowed to do so on weekends and during school holidays so as not to clash with my schoolwork, extracurricular activities and health and even then my parents allowed me only sixty minutes max per day of gaming time. That’s right, one hour maximum per gaming day. I could either break it down into two thirty-minute sessions or one sixty minute epic.

What a gyp! The other kids are so lucky.

Seeing as how I am the type to completely lose myself whenever my mind enters into another world, be it while reading a book or gaming, I would use up those sixty minutes in a single session. One hour would come and go quicker than I could believe and before I knew it, it was ‘see you next time, buddy’, much to the relief of my family who must’ve had to endure the longest hour of their lives whenever they wanted to watch TV in the living room or use the computer. That sixty-minute rule might have seemed archaic but somehow, I acclimatized to it very quickly. I guess it was better than zero hours and that’s probably what I would have been left with if I challenged my parents in family court with the odds stacked against me and with only my young dumbass self as my own attorney.
My parents also drilled it into my mind numerous times that I needed to put school ahead of gaming and that I would be banned from playing if my grades went to the dogs. It was a reasonable arrangement but for me it was equal parts fucking horse shit and a threat tantamount to being held at gunpoint. I hated school with a passion but I still put in as decent an effort as I could muster. Sure, the positive feedback from my teachers and the praise from my parents were sweet but truthfully, those good grades were merely my tickets to more gaming time. I couldn’t care less about being the top performer in my class.
I had also picked up some extracurricular activities throughout my elementary school years, starting with swimming and karate on Saturdays and Fridays, respectively, and then eventually guitar lessons on Tuesdays after I had dropped the swimming. I guess you could say that I had other ‘distractions’ in my life besides school that prevented me from becoming a full-blown gaming addict.

All up it seems that gaming didn’t leave me completely damaged, right? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. See, while I remained mentally and psychologically intact my physique certainly suffered. Being a growing boy with an enormous appetite and an aversion to any activity that required physical effort, my body soon crossed over into roly-poly territory and at times I heard it loud and clear from my leaner classmates.  Swimming lessons as a child certainly were a doozy. That I could swim faster than some of those little jerks and was learning karate on the side didn’t mean shit once they caught a glimpse of the wobbly gut and the man-titties and no amount of comebacks from me could put an end to their jabs.  
I also wear glasses now due to near-sightedness but I don’t recall being born with crappy vision. It’s rather difficult to point out when my eyesight went to shit but I would say that the teacher’s notes on the whiteboard began to look fuzzy once I had entered the seventh grade and it was downhill from there. I soon found myself frequently sitting at the front of the class against my will simply because it was the only way I could copy the notes on the board without bothering my seatmate until I finally swallowed my pride and got glasses as a seventeen-year old.

Looks like it wasn’t just any potential I ever had as a scientist or engineer that was torpedoed.

And finally, all that gaming made me rather oblivious in my youth to what was happening in ‘the outside world’ since most of my downtime was spent conjuring up a battle plan in my mind like some sort of army intelligence officer for my next gaming session. I even did that shit sometimes in the classroom when my brain switched off from the teacher’s incessant rambling. I wasn’t totally detached from reality, I was generally aware of what was happening around the world and within my family and social circles, but when it came to movies, music, TV, fashion trends and everything else one needed to know to be ‘cool’ or ‘hip’, there were definitely times where I would listen to my friends converse and nod along as though I thoroughly understood what they were discussing when nothing could be further from the truth, just like Joey Tribbiani from that TV show Friends. I could only respond with stone-cold silence when I was asked for my input and boy was that awkward as hell.

I dropped my extra-curricular activities as I entered high school due to the extra workload and the first salvo was fired when I started getting homework on Friday afternoons right in my very first week of seventh grade, which at first proved to be extremely difficult to accept but I quickly adjusted to, though that never made it any more fun despite my father encouraging me to try to enjoy it.

Geez, you try to enjoy having to do math equations on a Saturday!

Anyway, with the karate, swimming and guitar lessons now confined to the past I had more time for gaming away from my schoolwork, especially since my parents had slightly relaxed their sixty-minute limit as they felt that I was older and should be made more responsible for the way I managed my time. Or perhaps they wanted to test my ability to stay disciplined. If that was the case then I guess I passed with flying colors since I continued to earn good grades in school and never allowed my gaming sessions to take up too much of my time.

Rest easy, y’all. You taught your boy well.

And then came the year 2001, the beginning of the slow end of the gamer life.

I continued to play whenever I had the chance to but I no longer attacked those sessions with the same amount of zeal as I had as a child. Had I been a professional athlete this would be the year in which commentators would notice a dip in my form. It could have been due to an ever-increasing school workload since those merciless teachers began to dump assignments, exams and homework on us in stacks, but the real reason arrived on the day that my father gave me an old piece of exercise equipment that he encouraged me to try. He thought that since I was old enough to learn how to drive (though I would put that off until the following year) and no longer had extracurricular activities I might as well use that free time to get into shape.
I had to admit, as a rather skinny teenager and former chubby kid, the challenge was appealing.
At first I used this contraption more out of curiosity than anything, skeptical of its power to transform my skinny-soft body, but I felt so good and so strong afterwards that I used it again the next day and the day after that and so on and once I began to see and feel subtle but positive changes to my physique and overall well-being that was it. I had found my new home! The gaming gradually began to take a backseat in favor of chasing the good vibes and ‘the pump’ that I would get from training and somewhere deep inside, the chubby kid that I once was must have been sticking it to all the skinny twerps that had tormented him in school.

Check out these guns, assholes!

I was no Adonis but I was in much better shape than I had ever been.

This continued during my last two years as a high school student as the school work and assignments continued to pile up, all of which culminated in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) during my final semester in the twelfth grade. Free times were increasingly difficult to come by and so stress-relievers became a necessity. But what did I do when I wasn’t studying and wanted to blow off steam? I was listening to music and working out, further pushing gaming out of my life. Unlike my childhood years I no longer panicked whenever I missed a gaming session and the sight of me in front of a screen was no longer a regular occurrence. My family must have silently breathed a sigh of relief.

And then one day, it was all over.

Having received a DVD player a few Christmases ago (it was the early 2000’s, folks. Those things were still a big deal) the DVD collection had slowly been growing but in early 2004, we needed more space to house some of those discs since we had filled up a few small shelves already. The only option outside of building another DVD shelf and possibly congesting the living room was some space in the shelf that housed the DVD and VCR that were currently occupied.
What were the items that took up that space? You guessed it, my consoles. And one day, I found myself saddled with thoughts I daren’t have ever entertained ten years earlier. I looked at my consoles, all but forgotten and gathering dust, and took a deep breath.

It’s time to pull the plug.

It was for the best. They would have been doomed to a life of decay and neglect if they stayed in that shelf and given the fond childhood memories I have had as a gamer I couldn’t do that to my old electrical friends. They deserved far better than that. So one day, with some resignation but no regrets, I told my parents and sister that I would pack away my consoles and make some space for those DVDs. In a moment that was fairly reminiscent of that scene in Toy Story 3 during which a teenage Andy is shown playing with Woody and his other toys for the last time before leaving them with Bonnie, I played a game on the old Super Nintendo for the final time one morning while I was home alone (it was the first console I ever owned so I felt that it was kind of symbolic – and corny) for about an hour before spending the next hour unplugging, cleaning and storing my old friends back into their boxes and stuffing them into my wardrobe.

So long, guys. Thanks for everything, it was a blast.

As cheesy as it sounds I felt like a retiring athlete that had just finished their final game. No emotional final press conference and retirement ceremony here, though. I simply shut my wardrobe and got on with the rest of the day. I guess this marked the official end of my youth and the beginning of the adulthood. To borrow a lyric from a Blink-182 song, ‘well I guess this is growing up.’

The gaming landscape has changed dramatically over the years since I had ‘retired’ from that life. People can now make a living from being ‘professional’ gamers for a start, on their own or as part of a team to compete with other gamers in the country and around the world. That’s a gig that the young version of me surely would have loved to have been involved in.

Where the hell was this when I was still active!?

Before you ask, yes, I have considered ending my sabbatical and getting back ‘into the game’, so to speak. Some of my favorite games as a kid have marched on (The Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games were probably my all-time favorites) and watching clips of the gameplay on youtube, complete with insane graphics, sound and effects are enough to rekindle the old competitive juices within.

Damn, this is some next level stuff! I’ve got to try this!

Even taking a trip back down memory lane and watching youtube clips of some of the games that I used to kill time with has had the same effect.

But I never succumbed to the temptation. I remain retired.

Too many things have changed over time and I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. ‘Download this’, ‘download that’, ‘online this,’ ‘online that,’ ‘go live on this,’ ‘go live on that’…….and then you see more consoles being churned out faster than you can say ‘slow down!!!!’. Gameplay is no longer as straightforward as it used to be. It is too overwhelming and I would probably waste a ton of money on downloads and extra ‘accessories’ just trying to finish ONE particular game plus a hell of a lot of computer data in the process.

All of that aside, I just wouldn’t have time anymore and the desire is gone. Would you try to convince a retired athlete that no longer has the drive to train and compete in their chosen sport to make a comeback just for the sake of ego and chasing past glories? I’ve filled up my spare time with hobbies that are far healthier and more fulfilling for me, physically, mentally and spiritually, than gaming ever was. Learning a new exercise? That’s exciting. Exploring a new place? That’s exciting. Reading a new book? That’s exciting. Hanging out with family and friends? That’s fucking exciting! Writing another blog or poem that, hopefully, would entertain my readers? Hell yeah that’s exciting!

This is not to slight any gamers out there, everyone is entitled to their hobbies and interests and I will always say that gaming was one of the reasons why my childhood was so awesome. It may have killed my shot at being some kind of genius and wreaked havoc on my physique and social skills but I think it also helped me develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills as a kid although those skills inexplicably deserted me during math exams. I also have friends now that are gamers on the side and they are some of the coolest people I know and are the complete opposite of the nerdy, ill-disciplined, socially-maladjusted, psychopaths-in-the-making types often portrayed by the media. If people want to play games then they should be free to do so as long as they enjoy it at reasonable levels.

Which brings us to the other end of the spectrum and why, looking back, I should consider myself lucky that my parents had set rules for me as a child when it came to my gaming habits. I cringe whenever I see or hear news reports of kids and even some adults literally spending days at a time gaming non-stop, forgoing meals, work, school, sleep and even using the bathroom (adult diapers will take care of that), neglecting their families, friends and lives in the process. Two trains of thought immediately come to mind when I hear about that shit; what their caves must smell like and also how could people do that to themselves. Ok, there may be some out there that would praise these folks for their dedication and passion but man, I ain’t buying into that garbage. You know you need serious help when you’ve reduced yourself to wearing diapers beyond toddler age because you can’t get up long enough to take a shit or piss and are a slave to your machine.
Sadly, people have died doing that shit. Imagine the obituary; ‘Here lies so-and-so. Died by video gaming. He / she shat their drawers’. What a way to go, huh?
And then you also have gamers that respond violently when told to get the fuck up and rejoin the real world. Just like our shut-in from the previous paragraph this type of chump only feeds into that stereotype of the obsessed psychopath gamer image that level-headed gamers have had to put up with. I do sometimes wonder if I could have gone down that path had my parents not set limits to my gaming habits. Like I wrote earlier, I used up those sixty minutes in one sitting and if I had it my way I would have gone on and on until boredom finally got the better of me or I finished out of my own free will – and as a child I had no semblance of self-discipline and gaming was NEVER boring for me. So while that weekends-only, sixty minutes max rule was bullshit at the time, I guess in the long term it saved me from a much sadder – and disturbing – fate.

Thanks, Fam. I get it now.

If I ever have kids and they decide that they want to follow in daddy’s (childhood) footsteps they’d better be prepared to follow some rules and that shit will be non-negotiable. It’s my way or you don’t play, simple as that.
And if they want to go online before they are teenagers…..forget it. Not on my watch, no matter how many times I have to hear ‘I HATE you!’, ‘You’re ruining my life!’ and that old knee-slapper, ‘You NEVER let me do anything!’. Naw, Son-or-Daughter. None of that shit until you are old enough to grasp the responsibility and dangers associated with the Internet. You never know how many creeps out there are looking to prey on kids.

I sometimes stand before my open bedroom wardrobe staring at those boxes, allowing nostalgia to transport me back to my youth where I spent those sixty minutes in front of a screen, the outside world ceasing to exist as I had the time of my life in gaming heaven. Sometimes I can hear that young boy in my mind urging me to plug in and have one more go, just for old times’ sake.

Sorry, Kid. The fire is gone.

That gamer kid, chubby, hopeful and smiley, exists now only in my memory and in the various photo albums that my parents kept in their bedroom while the consoles that were his best friends and temporary escape from real life remain unused and untouched, sealed in their boxes, serving now only as a reminder to a past life.

Tender Love: House Party

Piano-flavored slow jam from the mid-80s by Force MD’s,
Heard this one during my return to social gatherings,
House party in mid-October hosted by a friend,
It’s a great feeling, to be out and about again,
Feeling good, bullet-proof like Sia,
So much energy, wanna  swing off that chandelier,
Another short entry, this one is,
But another fond reminder of my victory.


During early June of 2018, before the severe cramps, the blood transfusion and the colonoscopy, I had received an invitation on Facebook from a friend for a house party that she was planning to throw sometime in early October. Despite already experiencing subtle yet frightening symptoms and unsure about the near future, I accepted. You could say that my pride had kicked in and decided that these bloody stools and increasing anxiety weren’t going to get the better of me. They had faded during those two and a half weeks in the US and Canada during late April and early May, surely they weren’t going to last this time. But as we know now, I was so painfully wrong about that.
But as we also know now, yours truly fought back like a man possessed and won the war, with the help of some good doctors plus friends and family. I guess I didn’t have to call or text her about being a no-show to the soirée.

Ok, let’s fast-forward to the day of the party. I had earlier informed my friend that I would come over, right before accompanying my father to a nearby lights store to buy a replacement bulb for the overhead heating light in our bathroom. I was still on those three serves of Imuran and four serves of Mezavant and continued to feel better than the previous day and as I sat in the car with Dad during the drive back home, I decided in my mind that I maybe would be strong enough to return to the Wing Chun Academy within the next two weeks. My previous meeting with Dr. B had revealed that I was in pretty good shape and he had given me the green light to resume my normal activities and that was all I needed, especially since he had made it his personal mission to get me back into my teaching and training. Of course, I would have to ease myself back into it rather than go in guns blazing from the word ‘go’, but I was truly itching to get back into it.

More on that in another post, let’s get back on track. 

Following that trip to the lights store, a small, rather cramped shop that resembled a garden shed that was packed to the rafters with an assortment of lamps and lights at every corner and owned by a nice elderly Asian couple, I took it easy for the rest of the day although I did take some time to do some tidying up around the home, which mainly involved vacuuming the floor and straightening up some shelves. No Marie Kondo-style overhauls here, folks. I didn’t find anything that no longer sparked joy. I also took a mid-day nap shortly before joining my parents for lunch, a ritual that had been instrumental to my recovery that I still try to do whenever I can to this day. At the time of this writing (mid-2019), Spain had been deemed by the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index as the healthiest country in the world and I believe that their love for the siesta played a major role in their quality of life.

Later that night, I had dinner with my parents and rested for fifteen minutes before driving to my friend’s home. She lived around twenty minutes away from me and the drive to her place was rather challenging, made doubly so by some road repairs along the way plus the darkness of the night sky. The route featured some easy-to-miss turns and combining that with the road works plus the night sky, even with help from the GPS, made for quite an interesting trip. At one point I was forced to take an alternative route due to a wrong turn. But I made it to her home without any serious incidents after twenty-five minutes of driving, though there were already plenty of guests by the time I’d arrived and her driveway way already full.

Ok, I guess I’m sorta-kinda-fashionably-late.

I parked the car along the street before knocking on her door. She opened it and greeted me with a warm hug before asking me to come inside and have something to eat and drink. Having already had dinner beforehand (I wasn’t sure whether or not there would be food on hand) I poured myself a glass of water before making the rounds and looking for people I knew. It was a packed house and the scene played out like your typical house party, where people mostly hung around with those that they knew and spread out in little groups around the house though they would greet and make small talk with others once in a while before rejoining their tribes. My friend the hostess’ pet dog probably made the most rounds, as she did laps around the house and joined different tribes, looking for the best head and neck masseuse of the house to give her a good rub. But like a free-spirited wandering warrior in those old samurai films she didn’t stay with the same group for too long.

Sure enough I found a small group of friends I knew seated on the dining table and once I had exchanged greetings and hugs with them we spent most of the night together catching up while intermittently chatting to other guests within our vicinity that were willing to go beyond ‘hi’ and ‘what’s up?’. We covered the typical range of topics that one would normally bring up during a catch-up; war stories from work, travel stories, families, babies, life’s typical ups and downs…..we covered many topics. The state of my health eventually came up, mostly because I had been unable to attend one of their birthdays a month earlier due to a still-unacceptable haemoglobin count, and so I explained to them as gently as I could exactly what I had been battling for the better part of the year, keeping some of the nastier details in the dark as it’s not exactly the type of thing one would discuss at a social setting where eat, drink and be merry was the order of the day.
A mixture of horror and curiosity manifested on my friends’ faces as I recounted my battle and naturally, the very first question presented to me was what the hell ulcerative colitis was and what had caused my immune system and bowel to betray me the way they did.

If only I knew, my friends. If only I knew.

Those fucking Benedict Arnolds!

Thankfully my story didn’t take up the entire conversation and after a brief discussion and some words of encouragement we moved on.
The hostess eventually brought out a massive cake for the guests not long after and once she had distributed a generous slice to all who had room for dessert, she joined my little group to catch up. At this point, we were now seated on a sofa in the living room, the most popular seat in the house in front of a television set. I guess you could say that it was similar to that giant plush sofa at Central Perk from that TV show Friends and once it had become vacant we pounced on it. A large piano stood in the background, not far from the front door.
By this time, some of the other guests had left. I checked the time on my phone;

8:45, huh? Wow. Time sure flew by quickly. I guess I’ll be off in fifteen minutes.

My friends asked me around this time if I had resumed teaching at the martial arts academy. While I had decided earlier during the day that I would return in the next two weeks I hadn’t actually revealed that plan to anyone, not even to my father as we drove home from the lights store.
“I’ll be going back in two weeks,” I responded.

Ok, it’s out there in the open. No turning back now.

We spent the rest of the night talking and took a couple of group photos together (it’s 2018, people. Of course there was going to be a group snaps or four) before calling it a night.

I arrived home at half-past-nine, the journey and the traffic far more forgiving than it was when I left the house. I sat in the living room for a while to unwind before heading off to bed. As I lay in the dark waiting to nod off I reflected on some of my personal achievements since my last meetings with Dr. R and Dr. B. Started working out again? Check. Got back on the driver’s seat? Check. Gone on a road trip? Check. Attended a social event? Check.

Not bad!

And the next step was to return to the martial arts academy, my second home. The mixture of excitement and anticipation were the last emotions I felt as I drifted off into Dreamland, the perfect way to end a rather awesome day.