Birthmas ride

December 25, 2015 § 20 Comments

I drove over to Manslaughter’s house this morning. He had one of his $20k mountain bikes ready, one with the little seat lever thingy that lets the saddle go way down. I needed that to get my leg up and over so I could sit on the bike.

Riding on a trainer isn’t like riding on a bicycle. For one, riding is a lot harder. For another, the wind was blowing at 20 mph. And there were huge piles of sand on the bike path. And my legs had no strength after five weeks of couch flopping and two weeks of trainer spinning.

Plus, on the bike path I had to climb a giant hill. After the ride, sitting around at Starbucks with Manslaughter and Jeff the Runner, we gave this massive hill a name. Jeff christened it “The Widowmaker.”

It is located about 27th Street and you have to wonder how the bike path engineers got the design approved. It is a killer and I barely made it up and over. Here’s a picture of me hammering it like a beast about 100 feet before I crest the top.

sob

“Do you need a push?” Manslaughter asked.

“I can make it,” I gasped. I dug deep, real deep. As Prez would say, “This is where the gains are made.”

Once we got to the top I rested to catch my breath, legs burning like crazy. Then we turned around and rode about four miles in the other direction. Then we turned around and rode about three miles in the other direction, which put us back at Manslaughter’s.

I was wiped and would have put it on Strava except it would have gotten flagged by everyone. Anyway, my work for the day is done, and I’m worked.

Best Birthmas present ever, Manslaughter. Thanks.

END

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The world through broken glasses

December 19, 2015 § 24 Comments

Since November 21, 2015, I’ve been disabled. Unable to walk at all, then only able to walk with crutches, and now able to walk with one crutch and even take a few unaided baby steps. The mind-bending pain has transformed into very endurable severe discomfort, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

My disability is of course minor for a couple of reasons. First, the discomfort is only going to last a short time. Second, the injury will heal up completely. I’ll be as good as new, overlooking for now that “new” wasn’t all that great to start with.

But still, the world looks different. From the minute I had to go in a wheelchair from the hospital bed to the car, everything shifted.

“Wow. So this is how some people spend months, years, or their entire lives?” It’s a dumbfounding realization. No matter how aware I was of people who are paralyzed, missing a limb, walking with a bad limp, I simply wasn’t, until I had hobbled my first few yards in their shoes.

Curbs become a part of your life. A big part. Clothes and books and stuff on the floor of the apartment become lethal. Step-ups into homes. The width of doors. And the devil’s henchman, stairs. Who invented them? And can we kill him?

Toilets and beds, formerly two of life’s most pleasurable places to be, are transformed into hell holes that hurt almost every way, from sitting down to standing up to rolling over to just lying there as a board, your ass tense and sore but too afraid to move because the fracture is going to hurt a thousand times worse.

Things up high, things down low, chairs that roll when you grab them for stability, rickety handrails, narrow corridors, you name it. The world simply wasn’t made for you, it’s a trap, and it wants you in it.

The simplest thing that promises the greatest pleasure, lifting your leg over the top tube, is nothing but a hope. “I guess if I can’t lift my foot more than six inches off the ground, I’m probably not going to be able to lift my leg over the saddle tomorrow. Or the next day.” That is a heavy piece of gloom. How does it compare with “My right leg is gone?”

But it’s not all bad. You go slower, so you see more. And a lot of what you see are other people, and how they see you. The people who look right through you, the people who avert their eyes, the people who look and smile, the people who look, grin, and greet, and the people who slow down and hold a door, pull out a chair, and wish you a merry Christmas.

Which I’ll now pass on, and in my atheistic and grateful way, will also wish to you.

END

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Who’s got your back?

December 17, 2015 § 31 Comments

One of the happiest days in my life was yesterday, when I went to court with my daughter. It was something of an impossible case with little hope of success. She had briefed the motion, and when the court saw it her way it was an amazing thing.

It used to be common for kids to grow up and then work side by side with their parents in the family business. But now there are so many other opportunities out there for talented kids, and the constraints of working for or with a parent make those other opportunities even more alluring.

When I try to put my finger on it, a lot of things come to mind. The happiness at seeing a child hoe a tough row and get her law license in the country’s toughest jurisdiction is part of it. The happiness at having her decide that working with Dad is better than working for The Man is another part of it. The ease of communication and absence of all pretense is another part, as is the thing that has been part of humanity since we were humanity: Passing on knowledge to a child so that she can survive, and thrive.

But there’s something else. It’s profoundly the feeling that someone has your back, not because they’re paid but because they’re your flesh and blood. That when the chips are down you’ll never have to ask for help or wonder whether you’ll fall, unaided. The knowledge that no one will ever fight for you with the intensity and utter devotion of a child.

As all those things were occurring to me, I thought about my friend Marvin, who was hit in a catastrophic collision while riding on Tuesday. Marvin’s son Price is a college freshman and was home on winter break. The way this young man has been there for his father is beyond any words. At his bedside constantly, managing the stress of well-meaning friends and their constant inquiries, being his mom’s right- and left-hand man, always smiling, never letting the seriousness of the situation get him down: This is the child who is a man, the staff that his parents can lean on in their unspeakable time of need.

It’s an amazing and humbling and beautiful thing to see. It transcends the troubles of the day, affirms our faith in people, puts us to bed at night so that we can sleep, soundly.

END

One of a kind

December 12, 2015 § 32 Comments

A buddy came by to help me drown my recovery sorrows in cookies and ice cream, and talk eventually turned, as all conversations about Cycling in the South Bay eventually to, to Certain Friend.

“You know,” he said, “Certain Friend was one of a kind.”

“Yes, he was.”

“Certain Friend was the only guy with whom you could be riding, or a couple of times it happened walking down the street, and someone would just appear from nowhere, a stranger, and start screaming at Certain Friend.”

“Those tales are epic.”

“They’d totally go off on him. ‘You are a complete asshole!’ and ‘I know you, you are the biggest jerk!’ And you know what was amazing? Certain Friend never even knew who they were.”

“Yep.”

“He’d offended and insulted so many people that the South Bay was literally teeming with enemies, the vast majority of whom he’d only vaguely known and completely forgotten.”

“Certain Friend was a legend.”

“One of a kind. Certain Friend made people hate his fucking guts just by opening his mouth. And you know what?”

“What?”

“We have fewer and fewer one of a kind characters like Certain Friend. Things have gotten more homogenized. Polite. No one wants to offend. Certain Friend had ‘IDGAF’ on his birth certificate. I miss that dude.”

I kind of agreed. “Yeah, I do, too. But he really was an asshole.”

The next day I went to my first physical therapy session. For three weeks now my recovery regimen has been this:

  1. Lie in bed.
  2. Sit in desk chair.
  3. Sit on couch.
  4. Sit at dinner table.
  5. Lie in bed.

Casey, my buddy the PT who runs Independent Physical Therapy just around the corner, helped me onto the bed. He’s a super guy and a great physical therapist. He started to check my range of whimpering. “How does this feel?”

“Ouch!” I snorted.

“But I’m not touching anything yet.”

“I’m a big believer in prophylactic whimpering.”

After doing a thorough once-over to make sure my ROW was sufficient to allow me to pedal, I got on the recumbent bike.

I pedaled slowly, expecting shooting pains in my leg. There were none. I pedaled a little faster. Nothing but the stretching of muscles and tendons and ligaments that had shrunken up like dry rubber bands. Then I felt blood rushing into my legs. It was the most amazing and beautiful feeling I’ve ever had.

seth_and_casey

seth_rehab

After an hour I went home. I’d been invited to a party that evening but had decided not to go unless my leg felt really good, which it did. This would be the fifth time I’d been outdoors in the last three weeks.

I got to the party and immediately began talking with my friends. Everyone was super kind and solicitous and I got to give the organ recital over from scratch each time someone asked how I was doing. No one seemed bored, and I loved wallowing in my own trough of stoic-but-pitiful-but-on-the-mend-but-in-pain-and-yes-thanks-I’ll-have-another-slice-of-pie.

The time flew. And then, just as I’d texted Mrs. WM to come pick me up, a woman walked up to me, scowling and mad.

“I know you,” she snapped. “You’re the blogger.”

I was seated with a cracked pelvis, my crutches were out of reach, I didn’t carry a concealed weapon, and this clearly wasn’t going to be good. “Yes?” I said.

“Well, I’ve read your stuff and you know what?”

“What?”

“You’re an ARROGANT ASSHOLE! That’s right, you’re an asshole. A big, ugly, stupid, blathering, rude, arrogant asshole. And I want you to know that.” Then she crossed her arms defiantly and awaited my reply.

I glanced over at the crutches and wondered how far I could get before she tripped me and pushed me down the stairs.

“Thanks,” I said, “and Merry Christmas to you, too.”

Ms. WM picked me up curbside a few minutes later. “How was the party?”

“I learned something about myself.”

“Really?”

“Yep. I’m one of a kind.”

END

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The (bad) Dream Team nails it

December 8, 2015 § 54 Comments

Who would have thought that a graphic artist, a retired soldier, a fitness trainer, and a real estate mogul who shuts down farmers’ markets in El Segundo would have better diagnostic capabilities than a modern emergency room? A few days ago they had accurately dx-ed my injury as a cracked pelvis rather than a strained ballsack, but just to be safe I went to the doctor yesterday.

I still remember Dr. Kim from the emergency room, after she had readjusted my ballsack wearing asbestos gloves, telling me my hip wasn’t broken. “Stand up,” she had ordered, with that quiet authoritative command more commonly found in a back room with leather straps, whips, muzzles, and handcuffs hanging on the wall.

“Do I have to?” I had asked. “It really fuggin’ hurts.”

“Of course it hurts, but if you can stand up there’s nothing broken. You can’t stand on a broken hip.”

Just before standing, my son Woodrow had placed his hand in mine for support. I struggled to my feet and crushed several bones in his hand. “This … really … hurts.”

“Of course it does but it’s not broken. The x-rays don’t show anything either. You can sit down.”

I collapsed.

Almost three weeks later I hobbled into the Torrance office of Dr. Peter Borden, Bone Dude, but not without incident. My wife was with me, having driven me there.

I was about to sit down when a woman jumped up from across the room. “Seth!” she hollered. The room, which was mostly full, turned to watch.

“Hi,” I said, uncertainly. Everyone looks different without their cycling clothes on, and if she were a reader of my blog I knew she might be armed and seeking revenge.

“What are you doing here?” the nice lady asked.

I pointed to the crutches. “Bit of a strain or perhaps a break.”

By now she had walked over, beaming and staring at my wife. The whole room was watching, still as a photograph. She had that look of a fan who has finally cornered Tom Cruise and is about to tell him that she too was beamed down by aliens.

“And I’m so happy to finally meet you, MRS. WANKER!!!”

The room erupted. Mrs. WM gritted her teeth and smiled politely. Oh, the price of fame.

Soon enough we were in the examining room. “These doctor calling me onna Mrs. Wanker you gonna need surgical other leg too,” she said.

There was a computer in the room where the nurse had downloaded the x-ray from Torrance Memorial Hospital, which was right across the street. Dr. Borden strode in, shook hands, and asked me what had happened. Before I got very far he glanced over at the computer monitor. “You can stop,” he said. “You have a cracked pelvis.”

“Really? The ER doc said the x-ray was fine.”

Dr. Borden pointed to a rather obvious place next to my lower trochanter, just above the pincus bone and off to the left of my zygomatic arch. “Right here, about a 1mm displacement.”

“Why didn’t the radiologist catch it? I can see how Dr. Kim was distracted by my ballsack, but … ”

Dr. Borden shrugged. “I don’t know. But that’s what it is. You’ll be fine in eight weeks. Four to heal, four to rehab.”

“She said if I could stand then I didn’t have a broken hip.”

“You don’t have a broken hip. You have a cracked pelvis.”

“Is this x-ray a really tricky read? Something that even a radiologist wouldn’t catch? I mean, you just glanced at the screen for one second, halfway across the room and you saw it.”

“ER’s patch people up. They don’t catch everything.”

“Is it patching someone up to tell them they don’t have a broken pelvis after taking conclusively diagnostic x-rays?”

I could tell the MD Bro Code was at work. “Well, I’m a specialist, and you’re going to heal up just fine. See you back here in four weeks. And lose the crutches as soon as you can.”

“Thanks, Doc. Guess I have to buy the Bad Dream Team a beer.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” I said, and hobbled out.

END

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The (bad) Dream Team

December 5, 2015 § 18 Comments

My friend Michael once described me as someone who followed the “method acting” method of writing. “You live it, then you write about it,” he explained.

He’s kind of right: It’s all true except for the parts I make up.

In that vein I’m hoping to assist those who have suffered a bad groin injury while cycling. After getting hurt, getting x-rayed (“Nothing broken!”), getting diagnosed (“Groin pull; will heal in two weeks”), doing vulvular stretches, and failing to get even the least bit better, I decided I’d better get some professional help.

As cyclists we think we can self-diagnose, or figure it out with the help of Dr. Google, or make a phone call to a pal who knows someone whose buddy is an orthopedist. But that’s foolish.

In the end, our bodies are delicate mechanisms, and it takes a trained expert to figure out what’s wrong, how to fix it, and most importantly, to lay out the course of care that is unique for you–because no matter how many generic Taiwanese bikes you own, you really are unique.

It was Friday morning when I met with the Super Medical Dream Team. They were finishing up their coffee cruise and had swung by my apartment to drop off coffee medication and some sugar-encrusted prescription apple fritters.

I stumped down the five flights of stairs, each step a hammer blow to my ballsack, to meet them where they convened at the pool. Fortunately, cyclists are a diverse group and there are quite a few who have expertise in medicine. Here was the team I assembled:

Junkyard: Occupation, graphic artist. Medical specialty, broken shit. Recent publications, “How I Ran into a Crack on the Sidewalk on Skinny Tires where I Shouldn’t Have Been in the First Place and Broke Three Vertebrae,” “Compound Elbow Fractures,” “Broken Wrists and the Velodrome,” “Post-care for Compound Femur Fractures,” and “Metal Detector Avoidance at Airports and Other Security Entrances.”

Major Bob: Occupation, retired military. Medical specialty, visiting injured friends in the hospital, listening to their organ recital. Recent publications, “STFU Already,” “It’s Your Front Wheel, not Mine,” “Cry Me a River,” and “If it Hurts, Stop Doing It.”

Hockeystick: Occupation, real estate development. Medical specialty, blood sugar levels. Recent publications, “Collarbone Fractures on the Velodrome,” “Socio-Medical Effects of Closing Down Local Farmer’s Markets,” “Beer: Does it Solve Everything?” and “Your Stupid NRA Shit Makes Me Sick.”

Punkin: Occupation, fitness trainer. Medical specialty, ballsacks. Recent publications, “Quit Whining,” “It’s Supposed to Hurt,” “I Can Fix That,” and “How Does THIS Feel?”

After an apple fritter apiece, the dream team went over my symptoms.

Hockeystick: Can you still get a boner?

Me: Yep.

Hockeystick: Then it can’t be your groin. And even if it is, who cares?

Punkin: Let me press it with my thumbs.

Major Bob: Is there any more coffee?

Junkyard: Is there any swelling in the pelvic area?

Me: Only when there’s a boner.

Junkyard: I mean the muscle and the area around the inner thigh.

Punkin: If you have a torn muscle you will feel a lump where the muscle has torn away. Here, let me press on it for you.

Me: Get your fuggin’ thumbs away from me!

Junkyard: Hurt when you walk?

Me: Eye-watering.

Junkyard: Hurt when you lie on your side?

Me: Eye-watering.

Junkyard: Hurt when you sit?

Me: Eye-watering.

Major Bob: At least you don’t need eyedrops.

Junkyard: Dude, you have a cracked pelvis.

Then the Dream Team took a vote and concluded that that was the proper diagnosis.

Me: Do I still need to go to the other doctor for the MRI?

Dream Team: Naaaaaaah.

Hockeystick: Just give us each fifty bucks and we’ll call it good. Hella cheaper than an MRI.

Me: Done.

[To be continued … ]

END

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Get thee to an orthopedery

December 3, 2015 § 37 Comments

Reader of this blog may know that I am cheap, so when the cute ER doc fondled my ballsack with thick rubber gloves and enough disinfectant to sanitize the Rio Doce, and told me that if it “still hurt after two weeks” I should see an orthopedist, I could only snicker to myself.

“Wanky ain’t spendin’ no money on no damn doctor.”

I came by my medskepticisum honestly. My mother, who is a doctor, taught me early not to trust MD’s. “Don’t ever go to a doctor unless you’re on death’s door,” she used to whisper, “and when you do, only go to the very best.”

My Grandpa Jim hated doctors, all of them, except my mom, but she didn’t really count because she was a psychiatrist anyway. “Sumbitches,” he called them.

One night he had his third heart attack and they took him to the ER at Lake O’ the Pines Hospital and Used Carburetors in Daingerfield, Texas. We sped up from Houston, six hours distant, to find Grandpa lying on a gurney in a hallway, in a rage.

“Oh my god, Daddy, are you okay?” Mom asked.

“Hell no I’m not okay!” he roared.

“What are you doing in the hallway?” she asked.

The flustered doctor came over. “He won’t let us check him in.”

“Get away from me, you sumbitch!” Grandpa roared, his fourth heart attack not far off. My grandmother, Estelle, stood there wringing her hands.

Grandpa, who couldn’t move his head because he’d also broken his neck when he fell out of the bed, roared at the top of his lungs. “STELLA! GODDAMIT, GET ME SOME GODDAMN WHISKEY!”

Even at the age of six I knew that whiskey was good, Grandpa was great, hospitals were terrible, and doctors were sumbitches.

So each day at home with my strained ballsack I’ve been watching the incremental improvement and getting treatment from a combination of efficiently using Google Chrome and a straw poll among fellow idiots.

It turns out that the strained ballsack, a/k/a pulled groin, is common. Everyone has either had three, or knows someone who has. My problem is that since I began cycling in 1982 and racing in 1984, I’ve never been injured. Scraped, banged, pushed around, spit on, laughed at, dropped, and knocked over? Yes.

Injured? Never. As Daniel Holloway put it, “Man that’s the most incredible run of luck for a bike racer ever.”

I thought about his statement, which was itself amazing, as no one has actually called me a bike racer before.

But the straw poll was starting to look like this:

  1. 76% of respondents said that strained ballsack hurt worse than a bunch of bad words said quickly in a loud voice, repeatedly.
  2. 27% of respondents said that it takes 3-4 months to heal.
  3. 44% of respondents said that it takes 1-2 months to heal.
  4. Smasher said to “quit being a puss” and “get back on your fuggin’ bike.”
  5. 12% recommended surgery.
  6. 87% recommended deep tissue massage.
  7. 99% of the 87% who recommended massage said it was the most horribly painful thing they’d ever done, worse than the injury. So I scratched that off the list.
  8. 35% said that it will become chronic if you don’t let it heal.
  9. 78% said that they had a friend who knew somebody whose uncle could get me in at a chiro/acupuncture/medical marijuana shop.
  10. 54% asked for my leftover pain meds.
  11. Derek the Destroyer told me to fork over the money and go to a real doctor.

No one suggested self-rehab, so that’s the course I embarked on three days ago. I began by lying on my back and gently stretching the injured ballsack muscle. Huge spears of intense pain shot up into my nuts and from there to my abdomen, pancreas, duodenum, eyes, and back to my urethra.

After that 2-mm movement I stretched a bit further. This time the searing, tearing, ripping, rending feeling was so intense that it felt like sitting on Smasher’s wheel after getting dropped by Derek, mutilated by G$, and then having the whole thing analyzed by Dr. Whaaaaat? after he draggled up to the Domes five minutes later. It fuggin’ hurt.

The rest of the day my stretching regimen made itself known because the tiny improvements I’d made in the last ten days were all completely erased. Stabbing pain with every motion, swollen feet, bleeding eyes, and an aching spine accompanied me until bedtime, so I knew I was on the right track.

Yesterday I upped the rehab intervals so that the pain color flashes looked like the worst of Prez’s outfits and hi-viz orange. By mid-afternoon I couldn’t even sit and the torn ballsack felt worse than it did the day of the bicycle falling off incident. That’s how I knew it was progress.

Proudly I called Derek the Destroyer to let him know that with a combination of my straw poll and a careful reading of the medical articles surrounded by ads for tummy-fat reduction, I had managed to make the pain worse than it originally was.

“Dude,” he said. “You were hurt two weeks ago and you still can’t walk, right?”

“Right!” I said.

“Go see a doctor, okay?”

I thought about it for a second. “Okay,” I said. And then I sang the grandbaby to sleep.

END

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