Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekends on Death Row

Okay, excessively dramatic. Still, a week from Friday is my date to have the crud taken out of my shoulder, which will result in a stretch of rehab that will make me more sympathetic to ballplayers with sprained pinkies. I've also spent way to much time responding to other peoples' blogs when I should be tending my own garden.


Last weekend I did a summer archery tournament: the only one this year, thanks to the operation. My score sucked, chiefly because I expected that the rules would be the same as last year's. Nope. Now I know that the winner gets to make the rules for the next year's event. Lesson: be ready for anything.

This weekend we cashed in Christmas gift certificates for Plum Island Kayak. This was very interesting for several reasons. Name notwithstanding, this establishment is in downtown Newburyport. Them as have not gone to Newburyport for nearly any reason have missed a serious treat. Next, when you sign up for the basic tour, you go where the tide directs. In our case, it directed that we be driven up the Merrimack to Amesbury to launch.

If you didn't grow up along the Merrimack, you can't really appreciate what a trip it is to launch a kayak on it. In my corrupt youth, most of the Merrimack was so polluted that you did not want to put so much as a finger in it.

I would not drink it today, untreated, but I would kayak on it and at least take a dip in it. This was also my first experience at serious river navigation: quite different from what I've done before, very challenging, very absorbing.

For the uninitiated, I'll say that the average, competent, flatwater kayaker at cruising speed, not trying to make any sort of point, moves at about two knots "over the ground:" that is, your speed over the bottom in still water. Sunday morning, we launched on an ebb tide at maximum current, onto a tidal river filled with evidence of a very rainy July. The current, plus the ebb tide, plus normal cruising speed, gave a speed over the ground of about eight knots...about, say, above-average marathon runner speed. Wheeeya!! BTW, this is a very beginner-friendly bunch of people, and there were no casualties.

If I have to spend the rest of the summer on the DL, that was a great way to finish.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One more reason to move west

The Red Sox are going to Anaheim to play the Angels weekend after this.

My daughter, who still never misses a chance to mock the old man, told me last night that she has seats for all three games: "only" bleacher seats, she says. They cost $18.50 a game.

Recently, she bought the parental units a pair of bleacher seats for one game at Fenway. She spent a good deal more for one of those seats than she did for the entire Angels series. I'm not sure I can buy a hot dog at Fenway for $18.50.

So I'm living here why, again? Oh right, Kelly's fried clams.

Never short of topics

Getting old sucks because you're falling apart. On the other hand, you're never short of topics.

Sometime between now and the first snowflake, I'll be having shoulder surgery to "clean up" (an exact medical quote) the ruins left by my long-ago bike accident.

Oddly enough, my rotator cuff is more or less intact. Everything around it turns out to be a disaster. There's the famous golf-ball size wad of something. Whatever it first was, it's now a calcified arthritic mass, perched amid the pointy fragments of some badly battered cartilage, with little pointy bits digging into muscle tissue. The joint has more fluid leaks than the 1969 Fury I once owned, and lots of little opportunistic arthritis colonies scattered here and there.

What got me to "yes" very fast on surgery was hearing that the upper biceps attachment is in rags.

I saw someone blow out their biceps once, doing weight training. When it detached, the muscle rolled up under the skin exactly like a windowshade. Clinicians like to ask patients in these situations if they are "experiencing any discomfort." You betcha dupa this guy had discomfort. I remember it was sort of a struggle to get him to lie still until the EMTs got there. Yes indeed, people do writhe in pain.

The discussion of the week, then, is whether to wait until we have some summer activity under our belts, or to get the thing hosed out soonest even if it blows the rest of the summer. The jury is still out, but the memory of that blown bicep sort of biases the decision. It's judgment vs. stupidity.

When I get back to work, I think I can finally code the Dx for "what a mess."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Invisiblity cloaks

It's sardonically amusing to see society lurching and staggering toward the realisation that they don't have to swoon exclusively over today's wounded and veterans. Why, my goodness! There are other veterans still alive in the tens of thousands!

One can have a self-righteous swoon over some poor bastard with various visible body parts missing. I have long wondered whether anyone would swoon over those whose wounds were invisible in street clothes.

Like the Corpsman a bed or two away from me in ICU, who spent most of the first night I was there bleeding out faster than they could pump blood into him. Bleeding out because he'd had most of his intestines removed along with the claymore mine bits. Toward dawn the input got ahead of the output and stayed there, and he lived. You wouldn't know about his wound today if you met him on the street.

Mine's a little one by comparison but you won't see it, either. It was merely a mistake by a hurried (charitable) or incompetent (more likely) Navy surgeon. I got opened oblique to a feature of muscle tissue known as lines of cleavage. If I spent eight hours a day in the gym for the rest of my life, I would never have six-pack abs. The surgeon ruined that side of my abdominal muscles, and myofascial tissue, beyond repair.

Not a very grand and glorious war souvenir, is it? Yet there are more of that sort of wound around than most people suspect. There is this idiotic obsession in some quarters with lionising only combat veterans, and beyond that the ones with visible wounds.

OK, fools: if you mean to treat veterans decently, treat all of them decently. Don't parse and qualify and this and that. I can only fall back on a cliche that is probably as old as war itself:

How do you know? You weren't there. How can I make you understand?

Lyrics in real life

Well it's a strange old game you learn it slow
One step forward and it's back you go
You're standing on the throttle
You're standing on the brake
In the groove 'til you make a mistake

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

You gotta know happy - you gotta know glad
Because you're gonna know lonely
And you're gonna know sad
When you're rippin' and you're ridin'
And you're coming on strong
You start slippin' and slidin'
And it all goes wrong because

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

One day you got the glory and then you got none
One day you're a diamond and then you're a stone
Everything can change in the blink of an eye
So let the good times roll before we say goodbye because

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love

--Mary Chapin Carpenter*

Sometimes, you're both. In days of yore, when I was a bicycle commuter, I had changing facilities at work and the ability to stretch a three-mile trip one way into six. Now it's a trip under two miles, I usually go straight there, and since I don't have a place to change, I go in work clothes.

Let us all be grateful for casual dress.

However, cyclists in the early morning can be both bug and windshield, and arrive decorated with mud (if lucky) or insect remains (if not). Thus a quick rinse-off in the tightly-designed john has become part of my morning ritual. (Maybe I should take up Hawaiian shirts.)

* Some readers of this blog may be deeply concerned by the thought that I might be a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan. Relax: it's only a situational interest.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Long weekend

Along with several thousand other people in or close to my line of work, my three days off were clouded by the decision of our favourite Federal agency to release an important document the afternoon of July 3. I managed to keep my mind mostly off it, so spent my kind of Monday (busy as hell) doing what I had to do with the information.

What I did *not* do over the weekend was go to Beverly Fahms for their horribles parade. Ours is a kid's event. The Fahms' is typically PG as I understand it. (Beverly Farms is a very rich enclave of a more diverse city, and is practically a town in its own right.) The float mocking pregnant Gloucester girls and its accessories reached an R rating very easily, and has now reached a national audience, thanks to the blunted judgment of pack journalism.

Listen: spoiled rich kids have been ridiculing poor kids with crude, tasteless humour since the beginning of time. and that's all this was. It merits no further attention and I won't supply any links for those who don't know what I'm talking about.

What I *did* do was go kayaking on fresh water for a change. Motivated in part by a body of water filled with loud (absolutely), drunken (possibly) people in rented canoes, we took an actual, liquid, road not taken.

Marvelous. At our starting point, the boors were making so much noise that they failed to notice how they frightened all the local wildlife into silent invisibility. Within a few minutes, we had red-wing blackbirds for company, then a pair of cormorants and a great blue heron. The latter is always a treat, but that day was outshone.

We saw great white egrets: they're a rare site most places, but especially in New England, at the extreme northern end of their range. They are large birds, nearly as large as the blue herons, which stand four feet high. While discretion moved them away from people--even kayakers carefully shifting to the other side of the waterway--they were quite calm around quiet people in quiet boats. They were content to fly briefly away, then circle back to water they rightly called their own.

The canoe clowns don't come this way, perhaps because it's a dead end that leads away from the place they rent the canoes. The wildlife does, perhaps on account of the clowns. It was a pleasure to share the water with them for a couple of hours.

From what I saw of the other animals, I hope the canoe rental shop has good liability insurance.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Another trip through the warp

Just back from my third MRI, this time for the decrepit shoulder. Meditations are:
  • You get the sound effects whether they're zapping your head or not. They are just not as loud when it's some other body part.
  • Why is it that no two machines have the same sound track? This one sounded like callouts from the original Star Trek during a rippin' good space battle with the Klingons.
  • Either the operator's choice of music was guided by serendipity, or he had a sense of the appropriate as twisted as mine. First choice was Les Patineurs, which absolutely could not complete with the Klingons. But then, we moved on to selections from Act One of Die Gotterdammerung. Now there is a bit of music that can hold its own with an interstellar conflict. Next time, I'll compile my own Wagner selection. Maybe I should also audition the machine.
  • Sidebar for the curious. Tonight's tech was an ex submariner, who mentioned in passing that the inside of an MRI machine is just slightly wider than a torpedo tube. He could attest to this by having been inside both. I find the environs soothing, but it's not for the claustrophobic.
I decided the experience justified a visit to the reborn Chandler's Ice Cream: about time.