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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ammi Midstokke: Magic and other desperate means of motivation

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I was in Germany and fighting a recurring bout of bronchitis. I knew because I had it earlier that season and I was brilliantly attempting to ignore it and run it out of me. I had a marathon coming up and no time for disease. I have since learned, this therapeutic approach does not work with bronchial infections or broken bones.

“Can you recommend a doctor that is also a little naturally minded?” I asked my insurance provider. They offered a list of covered modalities, ranging pretty much from witchcraft to homeopathy to chemotherapy. I picked some guy who was qualified to prescribe antibiotics but had a lot of other letters behind his name.

“You know you have a lazy eye,” he said as I came in feverish and raspy. “I can fix that.” Then he shot his hand out at my face in some sort of demon-seizing gesture that danced around my alarmed oculars in a mess of erratic fingers. I was trying not to laugh or have a seizure when he declared my eyeball much improved and asked how he might be of further help to me on that rainy afternoon.

“Can you listen to my lungs? I probably need something pharmaceutical grade, but maybe some potent hippie sauce will suffice?”

The kind doctor said that it was likely I just needed a little love, a little healing. I agreed with the latter. He poured me a plastic cup of tap water. I took a sip. “Notice you’re not any better?” he asked. Correct, genius, I am not mildly dehydrated, parched or emotionally devoid of Dixie cup relations.

He instructed me to close my eyes and I did so while he stepped across the room, made some squeaky noises, filled the cup again and held it to my lips. I took a sip, opened my eyes.

The good doctor was beaming at me with pride and kindness and perhaps a sense of self-satisfaction. The kind of professional joy a practitioner might feel when a client is healed and no longer needs their services. “See? You already look better!”

I coughed.

He handed me the cup, upon which he had written a few German words with a Sharpie: Liebe, Vertrauen, Gesundheit. Love, trust, health. “It’s all about the vibration,” he explained, as he wrote on a prescription pad the various medicinal words I might use on my water glass at home, pressed a few crystals into my hand, and sent me on my merry way.

I insisted on the script for some heavier artillery, which he obliged but said may really not be necessary if I can just drink enough juju water. I suspected he wasn’t talking about whiskey, but failed to clarify.

By the time I left, the pharmacy was closed. I took the subway from the port to my apartment in the old lake district of Hamburg, and poured myself a whiskey. Then I wrote some words on my glass with a dry-erase marker. Sleep. Run. Heal. Mark Wahlberg. Stop coughing. Exceed quarterly sales targets. I figured I might as well find the limit of this new omnipotence.

The next day, I woke up without a fever. My aches were gone. I was raspy but opted to not run, briefly considering putting some single malt in my coffee instead. I picked up some antibiotics, left them in the kitchen and rested. By Monday, I was running again.

This weekend, as I make my way up the Yakima Skyline in a 50-kilometer battle of suffer and suck (although I hear the views are at least wonderful and the trail epic), nursing an injury, questionably undertrained, emotionally unprepared, I recalled that Shaman Voodoo MD. It can’t hurt, I thought, as I pulled out a Sharpie and decorated my water bladder, but I probably shouldn’t fill it with whiskey.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at or perhaps telepathically if you have that sort of training.

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