by Bill Monson


This is not the column I planned to write. Originally, I intended to do an analysis of Arnold Schwarzenegger's first hundred days as California Governor, which culminated in the successful passage March 2 of two crucial ballot propositions to help the State's financial crisis.

But that was before I rode eight hours to Los Angeles and back aboard a tour bus with forty people, two of whom were coughing

carriers of contagion.

Our destination was the new Walt Disney

Concert Hall in the Music Center of L.A. The Frank Gehry design was a fantastic concoction of wood and glass and stainless steel ; but we weren't allowed into the performance area itself--a great disappointment to my musician- wife Polly--and within 72 hours, I began to cough with what proved to be a devastating

respiratory illness.

At my age, bronchitis is serious business. In fact, it's been the bane of my life ever since I was a child in Knoxville. This past week, I flashed back to those hellish nights of fever and hacking. Mom used to bring me some

kind of medicine in a spoonful of sugar. "Oh, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down..." Thank you, Mary Poppins. Still, those childhood episodes scarred my lungs to the point where I was nearly rejected by Navy O.C.S.

Other episodes, these triggered by allergies in the befouled air of the San Joaquin Valley, hampered me during my thirty years as a

teacher at Fresno State.

I hoped they were behind me once I moved to the bracing salt air of the coast--but no, here I am again, stirrup to stirrup with the Third Horseman of the Apocalypse.

I'm past the peak of coughing but still

phlegmy as an oyster. My eyes ooze gummy tears. Spread into webs, this ocular mucus would make a spider envious. I could trap a HumVee. I dread to look at the sputum I

hawk up.

And yet my nose hasn't run at all. It's as if I went from a throat tickle to walking pneumonia with no stops in between. The

Chestwrack Express.

My wife sleeps on the couch and avoids

me like I'm radio-active. She washes her hands two dozen times a day. She's sympathetic and caring but cautious. She

can see how miserable I am, how long it

takes me to dig open my rheumy eyes every morning. She wants no part of this illness, however, not with her asthma.

The past week is a fever dream, flowing

by in distorted bits and pieces. The trial is finally scheduled for the man whose decrepit trailer dropped a horse onto Freeway 101 and killed three people in the car following. Six young men are charged with serious felonies in San Luis Obispo's Mardi Grass Riot. Martha Stewart becomes a "convicted felon," as the media tell us over and over. I get a two-week notice summoning me for jury duty. The

Central California Coast basks in sunny, 80-degree weather. The beaches are jammed. I should be out walking or working on my golf game. But I sit in my chair and doze and read and eat and nap and hawk up phlegm

and try to watch TV with gummy, defocused eyes and wonder when the hell this old body will overcome this damned virus!

Why oh why do people have so little concern for others that they will go out in crowds to spread their germs and spoil other lives?


I've belabored you long enough with my


My loving wife is fixing me a peach pie for dessert. The smell itself raises my spirits.

Think I'll take a nap until she calls me.