Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This is not the title I originally wanted to use.  But I thought I would go the “euphemism” route, since today’s subject matter, well, it could definitely be cheerier.  Are you still with me?  I appreciate the loyalty, I really do.  And I shall endeavor to reward you for overlooking this somewhat funereal introduction. 

What I wanted to call this post was “Bookmark”, to designate the fact that if you are young, the following will be meaningless to you until later, my advice being therefore to “flag” it, like with a bookmark, to return to at some future date when you are closer to the age where it will actually make sense.

I understand this lack of identification, because it experienced it myself back in 1981 when I was a stripling thirty-six, and the same thoughts were meaningless to me. 

I was enmeshed in Best of the West at the time, and our cast included, playing the drunken town doctor, the remarkable Tom Ewell, whose most notable movie role was starring opposite Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (1955.)

One morning at work, I said to the polite but reserved then 72 year-old Mr. Ewell, “How’re ya doin’, Tom.”  To which he replied,

“Earl, do you know why old people are always grumpy?”

I said, “Why?”

He said,

“Because there is never a day when something doesn’t hurt.”

At age thirty-six, I was unable to empathize with that observation.  Though, being a writer and a therefore an accumulator of such nuggets, it has remained in my memory for thirty-two years.

And at 68, I now entirely know what he meant.

Here’s the thing.  When you’re young and you hurt yourself, you get better.  When you’re old and you hurt yourself, you invariably also get better. 

But not all the way.

A couple of years ago, I suffered a severe nerve compression in my upper back.  I incurred this injury at a yoga class, practicing the most benign form of yoga called Restorative Yoga.  Students are constantly falling asleep during Restorative Yoga.  Hence, the descriptive I applied to it: 

“Napping with strangers.”

That’s where I messed up my back.  At an activity where people snore.

How serious was the injury?  My head was pointed down to my feet, and when I tried to lift it, I felt a searing spasm in my neck.  Blessed with a “rich and fertile imagination”, the “Worst Case Scenario” immediately flashed to my mind, delivering to my consciousness such thought as

“Okay, this is me from now on – Quasimodo, walking the streets of Los Angeles, his downwardly-angled head staring inexorably at the sidewalk, while passing mothers admonish their gawking children, “Don’t stare!”

Aspiring writers take note:  There is inevitably a “Tails” side to having “a rich and fertile imagination.”  It is not simply “Look at that!  I just wrote a joke!”  It is also the involuntary conjuring of the doomiest, doom-doom-doom doomy, black, terrible, horrible and doomy again scenarios that only the possessor of “a rich and fertile imagination” can possibly come up with.

I immediately took my hideously contorted body (by cab, I could not raise my head high enough to see out the front window of my car) to my bodywork specialist, an amazing practitioner who works three days a week on people, and three days a week on horses.  I call him “The Horse Doctor.”  I don’t know what the horses call him.

After a series of treatments, the excruciation in my neck eventually receded, and my head was returned to its regular position.  I do not know what “The Horse Doctor” did to me, but I was now, miraculously, back to the way I was. 

Except that, as a residual consequence of my condition, the “Pointer Finger” of my left hand was left tinglingly numb. 

And it remains so to this very day.  (Although a chiropractor, supplementing the efforts of “The Horse Doctor” has rendered “Lefty Digit Number Two” substantially less tingly.)  My left elbow is also weak, due, I am told, to the same nerve compression issue that disabled my finger.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received what I can only describe as a “whiplash” to the base of my right thumb.  (Though I am unaware of how I did it.  It’s like it happened when I wasn’t looking.)  My reaction to my injury was immediate:

“This is it!  I will be suffering severe thumb pain forever!  My piano playing activities are now over, and I will have to retrain myself to hit the “space bar” on the computer keyboard with a different finger.  I will soon be addicted to painkillers, friends and family will shun me due to my unceasingly thunderous moods, and I will ultimately be left alone and abandoned, my only companion, the torturous throbbing of a deteriorating thumb join that will never improve. 

Are you sure you want “a rich and fertile imagination?”

Inevitably, however, after Tylenol, ice, and an application of “Sore Joint Medicine” that I purchased at an Indian Pow-Wow – as well as some inscrutable “Horse Doctor” manipulation – the situation did improve.  My thumb joint health, I am happy to report, has returned.

But I cannot say it is a hundred percent.

After a series of sequential injuries, my life today is a medley of preemptive accommodations – bypassing an elbow, avoiding a thumb.  It’s fine.  You get used to it.  And even I know, things could be considerably worse.  (“And most likely will be”, chimes in my hilarious imagination.)    

I have a car that is almost twenty-two years old.  Every couple of years – and I did this not long ago – I take it into the “Body Shop” and get the most recent dents hammered out of it and all the scratches repainted, splurging whatever it takes to get my car back to the way it was. 

Unfortunately, you cannot do the same thing with human bodies.

Leaving people – not mentioning any names but possibly, though not exclusively, the writer of this blog post

Permanently and irretrievably

The main reason I do not respond to many comments is that, though I appreciate all comments,  I do not believe I have anything valuable to say in response.  But maybe sometime I should gather a bunch of them together and reply, even if I have little newsworthy to report.  

Please do not think I am "above" any one or any comment.  I'm just people - flawed and fun.  ("Flawed and fun.  Would that be a successful match.com descriptive?)"  Do not ever hesitate to write in, unless you, like some people I know, - okay, me - are particularly sensitive to being, - at least seemingly - ignored.  I read all comments, and many of them hit home.  

I actually thought my "comments" accumulation was low because, after reading my posts, you found that I had said it all and there was simply nothing more to add.

But I could possibly be wrong about that.

As the Gene Hackman character said it "Hoosiers", I love you guys."  I am honored by even one second of your attention.  You read these meanderings.  And you don't have to.

Thank you whoever you are, and "Happy Motoring."



Wendy M. Grossman said...

A friend of mine said something about life over 60 being waking up in the morning and taking inventory: "What hurts today?" I'm 59 and 10 months, and I actually feel astonishingly good. (On the other hand, my mother, at this age, had three slipped discs and rheumatoid arthritis, and probably was in constant pain...but I do believe her difficult personality predated all that.)

Roger Ebert, who got millions of comments on his blog, used to moderate them all, and as part of that he'd write a sentence at the top in bold face if he had a response he wanted to make. That wouldn't work at Blogger. Ken Levine very occasionally will write a comment himself if he feels the need, but mostly just responds in postings, particularly the Friday Questions ones. Sometimes, when there's a real flurry, he'll write a follow-up posting responding to the main themes that emerge. In one case, in my memory, he posted a joke-writing exercise and then a follow-up post analyzing the ones he liked or didn't and why.

A TV show is a broadcast. Although some blogs are broadcasts (the blog where I write my net.wars columns unfortunately forces me in that direction by eating all non-spam comments in a way I can't figure out how to fix), ideally a blog is a conversation that becomes a community. (Trust me, I'm a journalist covering the Internet and related technologies since 1991!)


Frank said...

Errol since you are in California I can highly recommend medicinal cannabis as the best legal medicine around to ward off aging. Sad to report it doesn't make any of the current sitcoms funnier but it sure can improve piano playing.

Anonymous said...

Some bloggers have a lot of interaction with the people who leave comments, some not so much.
I thought, after a lifetime of network notes, you might regard the comment area in the same way.
I don't usually leave a comment because of the dreaded Captcha element, which I will try to conquer now.