Yes. Tell it all it the title and then tell it again in the story. People love that. They go, “Didn’t we hear that already?” But they are just pretending to be grumpy, while offering a camouflaged a compliment. For which, by the way, you are very welcome, indeed. End of italicized foreword.) (The Eddie Izzard influence continues.)
There is a steep hill heading up from Rose Avenue on Fourth Street. (There is, of course, the same hill heading down, but since that’s much easier to negotiate, you – meaning me – somehow do not think of it as a hill. I wonder what actual hills think about that.
FOURTH STREET HILL: “It is only a hill going up.”
EAVESDROPPING NEIGHBORING HILL: “Hills are all over the map on this one.”
“Never get in a crossfire between disagreeing hills”… counsels the Wise Old Man, after numerous encounters with dueling elevated topography.
Okay, so there’s this nasty, big hill. And when I walk home from Groundwork, carrying my Venice Blend “Pour-Over” in a cup with a lid on it, it is, for a man of my age and relative fitness, no easy, “slam dunk” of an ascent. I can do it. But I am breathing heavily when I get to the summit. Which passing pedestrians frequently take note of as they are descending the hill, and maybe secretly feel sorry for “the old geezer.” I, however, feel sorry for them, because I’m standing at the top of the hill and they have to climb back up.
Ever since my heart-valve repair surgery… I will always remember that date… when was it again? Oh, I forgot. Not a joke, I actually forgot – sometime in late October of 2009. You think you will always remember… and then you don’t. Anyway…
At some point, I determined to use that daunting angular incline as kind of a cardiological barometer, to see if I could negotiate it with a reasonable amount of effort, or if I needed to call my heart specialist, Dr. W and say…
…. nothing. Because I am gasping desperately for air.
And she’ll say, “We are sending an ambulance. Who are you, and where are you
Note: Though all the relevant signals are positive, one thing is strangely different since my heart-valve repair surgery. When I am going to sleep, my heart beats concerningly loudly, though Dr. W reassures me, “It’s nothing.” Dr. W is incredible that way. After she talks to me my blood pressure goes down thirty points. That is not metaphorical. It actually does.
I go in for a check-up, they take my blood pressure, and they say, euphemistically so they won’t frighten the patient, “It’s a little high.” Dr. W comes in and chats for a while, and, when she re-measures my blood pressure, the number has plummeted thirty points. I want all my doctors to have that comforting effect on me. I don’t care if they know anything; they have to be able to calm me down. Although how calm would I be if they were incompetent idiots? So I guess they have to know something.
Despite hearing, “It’s nothing”, my noisy heart reminds me of 1950’s “Indian Pictures” where the townspeople are gathered in the adobe church, the Indian tom-toms beating relentlessly in the distance, driving the terrified townspeople crazy.
“Those infernal drums! Why won’t they stop?”
The thing is, the cavalry scout explains to them,
“When the drums stop, they attack.”
Suddenly, they are rooting for the drums not to stop. It’s the same thing with my heart. It sounds ominously scary, loudly “lub-dubbing” in my chest. But I vote for “Keep going.”
Okay, so it’s yesterday. I have purchased my Venice Blend “Pour-Over.” I am walking back home…
And there’s the hill.
The thing is…
It is an uncharacteristically – for Santa Monica – humid morning. It’s, like, “Florida” humid. I’m on the lookout for gators.
Plus, I am recovering from a cold, feeling still congested, borderline feverish, and substantially energy depleted.
Standing there at the bottom of the hill, I begin worrying – worriers inevitably worry ahead of time, ignoring the salient evidence – like the fact that I have had no serious difficulty climbing that hill for more than seven-and-a-half years. Totally meaningless. For chronic worriers, nothing impedes an incipient anxiety attack.
Standing down there at the bottom – stalling, because I am not ready to start up – but also seriously thinking,
“If I have an inordinate difficulty climbing this hill, will it be because of my cold, the excessive humidity… or my valve-repaired heart?
I inhale an energizing breath, and take my first steps up the hill. And, as I worryingly anticipated, the climb feels substantially harder than it usually does. When I thought I had made it to the top, I looked up… and I was still somewhere in the middle.
When I finally did slog my way to the summit, I felt – by my approximate calculation – fifteen percent more physically exhausted and out of breath than I generally was. That’s a lot, fifteen percent. Six and two-thirds more “fifteen percents” and I’m a goner. That’s not even seven “fifteen percents.”
It takes more than two blocks for me to regain regular breathing. I am understandably concerned. Fortunately, a trio of explanations are happily available to me – the real scary one, of course, but also my ongoing cold, the abnormal humidity or a combination thereof.
Reasonable Conclusion: Whoop-de-do! I am not dying for certain!
How fantastic it is to have two non-life-threatening possible alternatives. I am happily two-thirds in the clear. Of course, I know that it is not going to last. In time, my cold symptoms will recede and cooling ocean breezes will more typically return.
And I’ll be back again down to one factor.
For the moment, however, I do not know for sure why I’m exhausted.
And that’s exactly the way I like it.