Image by Frances Gunn, c/o

I’ve been pretty sick since my return from Minneapolis last Thursday. It started with congestion in my chest Friday morning, enough to keep me home from work. I figured I must have picked a bug up on the airplane rides. We had this tiny regional jet for the way back, which made a stop in Raleigh, and where we spent an extra couple of hours waiting on tarmacs, first to take off from Minneapolis, and then again getting out of Raleigh. My seat coming out of Raleigh was crammed way in the back of the plane, where we were all squished together like sardines. Not a pleasant leg of the trip.

I tried to apply the lesson learned from the last time I flew out there and back, when I followed that trip with another one up to Connecticut and back on President’s Day weekend, then spent President’s Day running around doing entirely too much all day.

A Shot I took from Deception Pass, Whitby Island, in the Peugeot Sound, 2013

I wound up paying the price for all that running around later in the week, when I got whammed over the head (actually, inside the head) with the double-whammy of vestibular migraines, followed by vertigo. It was my first vertigo episode since September.

It brought back to me how very much that vertigo, which I’d been dealing with on a monthly episode basis before that, truly sucked. A year before that, it was even worse, coming on every 10 days or so. So, my general health has improved quite a bit, since September. However, now I feel like I’ve taken a major step backwards.

Billy Onjeal, c/o

Between then and now, 2 1/2 weeks ago, I had my follow-up visit to the V.A., where my good friend Dr. Hoa proposed a couple of procedures to improve my inner ear health. He called the one tympanoplasty, and the other eustachion tube balloon inflation. All basically designed to improve how my inner ear reacts to its challenges, like air pressure differentials when I fly.

That’s going to happen in a couple of weeks, on April 21st. They’ll knock me out, then knock both procedures out at the same time. At this point, I honestly can’t wait. There’s a battle raging inside my head, and it’s not pretty, right now.

You see, even though I took it easy after my trip this time, I brought this cold back with me. It has taken over my world for the past four days. Not to be outdone, the vestibular migraines and vertigo have both decided to weigh in with a vengeance, which all converged on my head yesterday. I was down for the count most of the day. It’s the worst I’ve felt since the cold that landed me in the Emergency Room on New Year’s Day, 2015. I, of course, stayed home from work again, second day in a row. I rarely miss two days in a row.

Waimeah Canyon, Hawaii, photo by author, 2012

I slept most of the morning. Sleeping seems to help more than anything. When I woke up close to noon, I felt a little better, though my head was still a mess, I was blowing my nose constantly, hacking up a lung, and wobbling around with the vertigo effects causing things to spin a lot, and the migraines throbbing in my head. This was what feeling a little better looked like, so you can imagine how I’d felt, earlier!

But, since I was up, I decided to call in for an afternoon meeting my deputy had with the front office. I needed to feel somewhat useful, and it was good for that, but not good for the migraines. They hurt more every time someone talked, including me. I took it real easy the rest of the afternoon, watching some of the Robert Osborne programs I had recorded a couple weeks ago, when TCM (Turner Classic Movies) ran a bunch of his programs after he died.

Shot taken by author, from our Jeep tour of the Yukon Wilderness in 2013, our one-armed tour guide shown to the left. Quite a character, he was.

I was feeling the best I’d felt all day, bolstered by the chicken noodle soup Kathy brought home for me for dinner, when I had my scheduled phone interview with Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman at 7 last night. She had a lot of great questions about my Cowbird experience, and about the experience in general. That went on for an hour and a half. It brought me back to life, for that period of time. Her questions were about how I found it, what the experience of it was like, how I felt when I learned it was going into an archive-only mode, what I’m doing now since it shut down (Story Hall on Medium), and what the plans are for future development of a comparable site.

I told her everything I could think of, and enjoyed the interview quite a lot. She would be interested in talking to anyone else who would like to share their experience with Cowbird, answering similar questions as what I’ve mentioned above. If you are interested, please reach out to her, sooner than later, at Her paper is due 4/21, so if you want to do this, reach out to her now. She’ll be happy to share the finished paper with anyone who wants to see it.

Another Yukon Wilderness shot, taken by me

Of course, after that hour and a half, I was quite spent, and turned in shortly thereafter. The migraines came back in the middle of the night, and pounded much worse when laying down than sitting up, so here I sit, more than likely facing another day at home, just me and my completely messed up head, and way too much time on my hands. I keep hoping that the migraine lets up enough to allow me some more sleep, and I awaken ready and roaring to go.

I just don’t do sick, well. Leaning into it isn’t a problem — with the vertigo, I’m leaning every which way, including in. Writing this has certainly helped a lot, because I wasn’t fighting it — just writing it — a little trick I once learned at a mythical place I once knew, long ago and far away, where the light was always on, the fire was always burning, and stories were always being told, or waiting to be told — a place we knew as Cowbirdalot. (ref: Camelot)

Man, I do miss that place. But, so, so grateful that we have Medium and Story Hall, and have continued our connection. It means the world to me.

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