Friday, May 30, 2008


Well, maybe. Somewhat. A little.

To be really candid: not much.

The MD was fairly pleased by my blood test results and other numbers. He did some tests and said he saw no particular medical cause for either the back pain or my sense that the ol' brain isn't working well enough.

I suppose I should feel reassured. Of course the feeling that only a full descent into gibbering idiothood would convince him that I was truly suffering some leftover results from my recent E.R. visit was not encouraging.

It's not so much that I want to convince him, you know. I simply want to find something I can do to make things better.

Since I have only been alive for three months -- as of yesterday -- this time around, I guess it's mainly a matter of waiting to see what happens in the way of improvement, stabilization or deterioration. I hate to wait.

He gave me some mild pain meds for the back and sent me on my way.

The chiropractor took a more active role, of course. His running commentary as he checked me out basically made me feel hideously deformed -- some ex-girlfriends might agree, but let's not discuss that -- and tight, twisted and generally all stove-in.

After that, he twisted, cracked and tugged.

End result: maybe a 30% reduction in the pain. Worthwhile, but far short of miracle status. I'll try as long a walk as I can manage later on.

Once the pain pill kicks in, that is.

PARENTHETICAL NOSTALGIC NO-PAIN-NO-GAIN THOUGHT: I wish circumstances were such as to let me "cure" my back ailment the way I did when it flared up some 20 years ago. At the time I was afflicted, I found myself at a race track in Wisconsin on a 100-plus-degree, intensely humid summer day. After a half-hour's high-speed driving -- in a car without air conditioning -- I emerged sweat-drenched but in no pain at all. I made some money, had some fun and healed my back all at once. It doesn't get much better than that....

Don't have to see the MD again for another month. I'll be back at the chiropractor's office on Tuesday.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rebirth... the "New Confidence" slips into the harbor after a voyage from its Chinese home port...

Every so often, I read -- or hear -- about someone proclaiming him- or herself a "new person." I understand the impulse to think so; with the third (month) anniversary of my own traumatic and near-fatal moment approaching, I've been pondering what "second chances" and "life changes" are really all about.

From my own experience, I'd say it's a bogus concept. Life may give you a second chance now and again, but you still have to play the cards you were dealt before whatever happened to change your outlook came along.

That's messing with my mind these days. Some people have been kind enough to give me a bit of rope considering what I went through, but the same old vampires are still out there, thirsty for blood.

My blood.

In short, the stress level remains far too high, and my new best efforts to simply take the various crises one at a time are foiled by the sheer volume of big and little hassles that are piling up.

Friday should be interesting: M.D. in the morning, chiropractor in the afternoon. I'm more than a little concerned about the medicines I'm being given; I have reason to think they have affected my ability to work, at least to some extent. I don't have the level of concentration I need to keep me focused on writing. Naturally, the longer this goes on, the more it makes me angry and frustrated.

Since nothing else has been going on, I'm thinking some of the pills may bear part of the responsibility.

The aching back doesn't help, particularly because the discomfort is inconsistent. I'm not sure from moment to moment whether I'll double over with pain because I've tried to sit down, stand up or stretch out. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But I can say with assurance that not being able to walk farther than a few blocks is not doing me much good.

So while I'd like to be a "New Me" -- and, in some ways, I think I am -- I'm still forced to pay the Old Me's debts and clean up after his screwups. Which means, in reality, I'm the same old fertilizer in a slightly different bag.

Doesn't seem entirely fair.

But for the moment, my outlook would be much improved if I could actually sit here without (a) having my mind wander off and (b) feeling a deep need to sever my spinal cord with the nearest chainsaw....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just hangin' around...

...which seems to be the story of my life these days...

Didn't see the doctor on Friday. Not because I messed up -- though that wouldn't have been a surprise -- but entirely due to a secretary's screwup. Somehow, she didn't enter the appointment into the computer, and I was basically told I could wait (just in case someone else didn't show) or come back next Friday.

I'm going back next Friday.

I didn't sleep last night. Not a wink. I've spent today trying not to simply jack it in and head for bed. That's how I know it rained here...when daylight came, the pavement was wet, but the precipitation had stopped.

The back still hurts. Oh, boy, does it. Driving over a speed bump or raising my head too high makes me pine for assuming a fetal position. I could still use those warm female hands rubbing my back, but they're in short supply in my world....

I'm facing two choices right now: one is to lay a bitter political rant for y'all based on things I've been reading/hearing; the other, a heavy dose of Old-Fartism and dreary reminiscences inspired by a DVD a friend sent that I have been watching.

I've decided on neither for the moment, though if my insomnia extends into a second night, I may well change my mind.

Right now, I'd gleefully change places with any of about 2,794,860,321 people in the world, Jim.

And I'm fairly certain none of them would want to deal with my current levels of stress, loneliness or pain.

But enough of that. Tomorrow, as Scarlett O'Hara once said, is Another Day.

What the hell did she know about it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Strange day..., within 75 miles of here, there was snow in the mountains plus hail, flash floods, mudslides and a tornado in the desert that overturned a truck and derailed four or five train cars. Some stretches of freeway were temporarily closed due to weather conditions.

Here? Sunny all day, with occasional clouds and plenty of humidity. No rain, no thunderstorms, no nothin'.

More of the same is forecast for tomorrow.

All I knew until the reports of weird weather started coming in was that the air felt distinctly odd, in a way I've felt prior to heavy weather in the Midwest. Vaguely disturbing, that, as if something catastrophic was on its way.

Nothing that bad happened, but nothing good came along either.

Tomorrow morning involves another doctor visit. I can hardly wait. I'm not totally convinced any solution to the back pain will come of it, but that's what I need, especially since I learned another couple of trips to Catalina Island are in the offing.

What I don't need is pain meds; the last time I got an Rx for them, they damn near made me try to twist my head off to see if I'd be happier without it.

Since I'm already feeling that way, I'm not in favor of making it worse if I can avoid it.

Morphine. That's the ticket. Or a pair of warm female hands rubbing the aches out of my unhappy muscles.

I sure as hell couldn't outrun a tornado right now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I've been told to write...

...even though I don't have much to say. Nothing that's good, anyway.

If you want to read whining and miserable stuff, y'all have come to the right place.

So, lemme see...what's been going on?

I picked up Photographer D. and his girlfriend at the airport last night at the conclusion of their trip to Italy. I knew they were returning, but hoped they'd call with some basic information. You know, like the flight number, arrival time, etc.

Late Sunday there was a message on my answering machine: "It's D. We'll be back Tuesday at 6:05. We land at Terminal "B."

Ummmm...a few unanswered questions there. Like: morning or night? And, since LAX has no "Terminal B" (they are numbered one through seven), was he landing somewhere else?

Okay. They left via United, so I guessed they'd come back the same way. I also guessed he meant 6:05 p.m. Checked with United's website and found a flight that fit the parameters. It would land at Terminal Seven. enough, I guess.

Checked the site one last time before driving over there and, aside from a 20-minute delay in landing, nothing changed.

Now, I've flown via United to Europe dozens of times. Despite the fact that LAX has a so-called "International" terminal, some of those flights did indeed park at United's own terminal.

This one did, too. But the passengers were then taken by bus to the "International" terminal. I was waiting at Terminal Seven, and my car was in the appropriate parking garage. The information screens showed the plane landing there.

But then, after landing, the screens changed, and showed the passengers debarking at the international terminal. Into car, leave lot, drive to the other terminal, park.

Of course it took them quite a while to get through customs. Since the preceding flights all seemed to be filled with "visitors" lugging all their worldly possessions with them from Asia and Mexico, D. and S. needed nearly a half-hour to get past those beady-eyed guardians of our territorial sovereignty and immigration laws.

It only took me three hours total to pick them up and take them home.

That's maybe the most productive thing I'll do this week. Today, I got a copy of a magazine I've been writing for; the current issue has nothing of mine in it, even though they have maybe five pieces I've written in hand right now. That means I won't get a check from them for another month. If they choose to use any of them then.

That always cheers me up.

My back hurts like hell, as it has for three weeks. The doctor's appointment I thought I thought was scheduled for last Friday is actually this Friday. I've considered going to a chiropractor, but have yet to hear back from the one recommended to me. He's a busy guy.

I may have to hunt up an attorney, which I can't afford. Someone is hassling me and I'm not sure I can fight it on my own. 'Nuff said.

I don't feel like working. I can't manage more than a mile or so on foot, and feel out of sorts about that.

I do feel like pouring myself a stiff shot of Adult Beverage. Maybe two. Or three.

Not doing that, though.

Yup. I'm in a bad mood.

Feel better knowing what's going on?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My hands start sweating...

...when I look at this photo. It's one of the ladders I had to ascend during the trip to Catalina.

PARENTHETICAL IT'S-WORSE-THAN-IT-LOOKS THOUGHT: Bear in mind that the photo was taken from nearly six feet above the (concrete) floor....

In fairness, I have to admit my friend J., who is in charge of this project and has been for some years -- and is, by the way, a couple years older than I am -- has no problem with it, and in fact is quite happy to scramble up it...

I made it on Sunday. I sure as hell couldn't today: currently, my back only hurts when I move or breathe. Or sit still.

I'll see the doctor on Friday. I just hope it doesn't lead to more pills instead of less. This is no fun.

Being immobile stinks, Jim.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are we having fun yet?

I have to admit that I had a pretty damn nice time over on Catalina.

What I didn't do, for a host of reasons, was take many photos this time. Mainly, I was pretty busy at times when I might have been feeling photographic, and I didn't see much that wasn't shown here when I went over a year ago.

If you're one of those who wonders about someone who finds getting dirty, sweat-soaked and sometimes bloody (it's amazing how many ways I can cut myself with ordinary hand tools) while laboring in awkward places "fun," you'll wonder about me. Most of my time on the island was spent here in the Casino -- which little notices assure the moralistic was never used for gambling -- building, perched on a little spit of land at the edge of town...

The decorations are wonderful. Art Deco chandeliers and giant fresco paintings tower over the main entrances...

Here's a better view of the main auditorium than I posted last year. I was working behind the (roughly) triangular openings above the movie screen, which required climbing rickety and unattached ladders. Getting access to the one on the right meant a 20-foot climb, followed by swinging one's self to one side to get through a door. The penalty for messing up would be a drop to a cement floor. Not nice. A couple of the meds I've been prescribed warn that dizziness can be a side effect; they were right in this case. But I did it anyway...

Venus arises from the sea above the middle of the screen. She, like the rest of the decorations in the theater, are painted and gold-leafed onto the ceiling, which is actually canvas...

So my concept of "fun" was all about spending hours in cramped circumstances making repairs to 80 year-old machinery. It feels pretty good to make such things work again, even when -- maybe especially when -- you have to deal with evidence of dubious engineering and horrible cheapness on the part of the thing's original builder.

It's a big change from what I ordinarily do, though, and I like that. Despite my ego, I don't even mind that it's the ultimate in "behind-the-scenes" labor which a vast majority of people will never notice, nor really understand if they do happen to notice. I know, and so do a few others, and that's reward enough.

In fact the only bad part of the trip was being forced to stop working and sit through the movie that was shown in the Casino Sunday night. I realize that both my age and IQ numbers are far too high to put me in the right demographic for "Speed Racer," but I still maintain that it's probably the worst movie made in the last 20 years or so. The audience -- local civilians -- seemed to think so, too.

I'll be going back again soon. Much more work to be done. All I have to do is get the doc to change my Rx so I don't get -- shall we say -- itchy about climbing those ladders!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just got back...

...from two days on Catalina Island, helping the same friend with the same project that drew me over there about a year ago.

It was a mixed blessing. I enjoyed the trip, the island, the work -- I always do -- but there were moments when I was a bit disgruntled. I get that way when I find that things I used to do without sparing them a thought now bug me and require extra willpower to accomplish.

Still, a nice time, and a welcome break from the normal.

And the mere fact that I needed that break is at the root of why I haven't been writing much. How many times can I describe the same old dung -- the work-hassles, the money-worries, the near-total shortage of the kind of human interaction that keeps a lot of people from going completely 'round the bend, to name a few examples -- without getting sick and tired of seeing the same words here? Do I really want to tell you that I'm in some physical pain -- which, for no reason, I suspect may have to do with a new medication the doctor prescribed, and has basically stopped my daily long walks -- and am quietly furious about it?

No, frankly, I don't.

There are times when "nothing bad happened" simply doesn't cut it. I need some good happenings and, try as I might, they seem to not swim into focus.

It's entirely possible I am simply doing the wrong things, or at least not the right ones, in attempts to get some positive action under way.

All of the above -- save the 24 hours on Catalina -- has brought certain aspects of my personality that I simply don't much like to the forefront.

When I cool myself down a bit I may have something to say.

I'd like to think so, anyway.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Jury doody...

...because I finally got the call last night. Or, more accurately, I dialed the Superior Court number and heard the artificial voice say "please report tomorrow at 7:45."

Okay, so I did.

It was much like last year's adventure into Good Citizenship: the same spiel about how to stay in line and keep the judges happy, the same type of video (with new, diversity-correct actors) in which former jurors extol the virtues of the experience.

But it was a strange day. The courthouse was quiet, relaxed and, seemingly, underpopulated. I guess the "day without Mexicans" protest (or whatever they called it this year) kept a lot of people at home.

There were fewer people splashing around in the jury pool, too. The room wasn't filled this time around.

We were released for lunch a half-hour early. That meant a two-hour break, time enough for me to head over to WallyMart for a much-needed pair of jeans.

And then it was 3:00, and we were told to go home. No jurors were called out.

Kind of a let-down, really. Though I didn't want to get stuck on a jury, I remembered finding the jury-selection process the most interesting part of the day last year. Real-life lawyers -- and judges -- simply ain't like they're portrayed on TV. The ones I encountered were a whole hell of a lot dumber than their scripted, made-up counterparts, and thus were far more amusing.

I was home by 3:30. A wasted day.

At least I don't have to do it again for another year.