Monday, April 30, 2007

A Bad, Bad Sign

In my all-too-distant last installment, we learned once again the irritating lesson that one must be careful when having fun.

I don't remember any of us asking to be taught the lesson again, let alone me.

The good news is, the operation went exceedingly well, and let me just say that the people at Coastal Orthopedics are the best. Here's a place that's everything you want a medical practice to be. They got me prepped, and only used a local anesthetic (thank goodness), so I was able to sit up & watch the whole thing on the same monitor the surgeon was using.

For those of you who were just sent cringing at the mere thought of it, don't be such a bunch of wimps. It's really cool! Then again, as a former pre-med major, I suppose my point of view isn't typical. Surprise.

In order to create a sterile area, they did have to screen the knee itself out of my field of vision, so I didn't get to see the doctor actually sticking the scope into my leg and moving it around and all that. Sure, I'd have watched that, too. Dammit, a lot of money was being paid for this deal, and every bit of entertainment should possible should be had out of it. However, since the insurance company was footing the knee bill, I had a real leg up on enjoying the whole thing.

I deeply apologize for that last sentence.

OK, no, I don't. Let's not digress.

So, here's what the damaged cartilage looked like:

You can see where the surgeon has conveniently labeled the tear, which is the fluffy-looking part. Everything you see that looks like that is supposed to be nice & smooth, like this:

So, in goes the various cutting tools (that's right, cutting tools! And indeed, there are sounds akin to those of a power drill) to cut, snip and smooth the torn area out. Yes, I'm now missing some cartilage, but after this procedure, it will heal much, much faster and do so much more cleanly. In the old days before "scoping" joints, it would've taken a nasty incision and a lot of time to heal, not to mention the physical therapy. Here's the result after the repairs were made:

Much better. Reasonably speaking, I think anyone can see how much easier it will be for the joint to work until it fully regenerates.

How much easier? Lemme tell ya!

I was left with exactly two, one-loop stitches. Granted that I was on painkillers for a while, but I was able to get up & move on it that night. In a couple of days, I could walk somewhat normally, without a brace, and without other assistance much of the time. In a week, I'm walking pretty well. Phase down off the painkillers (and honestly, I don't know why people like them so much. Other than doing their job, I find the side effects very unpleasant), and continue to improve.

So, today, a mere thirteen days after surgery, I went for my follow-up visit. I walked in quite comfortably, had my stitches removed, and everything was as it should be. Out I walked again, NO physical therapy needed. I'm told that in another two weeks, I'll hardly know that it ever happened. At this point, kids, I'm a believer.

It was doing so well last Saturday night, that I freely participated in the ritual Shed Bashing. Yep, we really did invite a bunch of people over for a party, during which we took turns destroying the shed with various and sundry instruments of mess destruction. I put my knee brace on just in case (as swinging a sixteen-pound sledgehammer does involve a lateral sway), and bashed to my heart's content. The Bashing will be the subject of the next post, complete with pictures.

So, after such a glowing report, what's the bad part? Well, many of the party guests weren't aware that I'd even hurt myself (thanks for staying in touch, guys), so I was compelled by circumstance to tell the story several times. Here's the catch: I caught myself referring to it as "my latest operation".


According to the stereotype, only old people go around telling people about their latest operation. It isn't a horrible thing that I've had enough operations to refer to my "latest" (I'm very fortunate; I got the care I needed when many cannot); it's just that actually doing so is a flaw in my mentality. Didn't I just go through an entire play and a lot of keen rationalization in recent posts to prove that I'm not "too old"?? I don't know what to say about it, except.

Ouch. Again.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thems Are the Breaks

One of the thrills of live performance is, of course, not knowing exactly what's going to happen next. Ideally, it's the audience that gets surprised, not you.

However, that bastard Murphy has been everywhere, including the world of theatre, where he is no more welcome than Don Imus is on the Rutgers campus.

Now, Godspell is a very active show, even athletic at times. The cast is practically always on the move, and energetically so. You can't schlep your way through it. I'm happy to say that ours was a schlepless production. In very few shows have I gotten to act, sing, dance, play guitar, do a few impressions and assorted odd voices. I had a great time. But....

Why does there always have to be a "But...."?

All that moving around was just fine in rehearsal, but when you get to dress rehearsals & performances, things change. A couple of these may be, for instance, the surface you're working on and the shoes you're wearing. This is where I ran into trouble. On a number of places, I was blocked (the theatre term for "where in the zark am I supposed to be right now?") to be off the front of the stage in the space in front of the audience. All well and good, I've had my shots. Ah, but an important difference: the stage was a wooden floor, whereas the front area was carpet.

The thing about wearing athletic shoes as part of your costume is that while they're comfortable and give you a great deal of control on the wood floor, they behave a lot differently on carpet. In the heat of the battle, when once more going into the breach, it's easy to overlook little things like that.

On the Tuesday before our Thursday opening, I was stepping off of an 18 inch cube in the front area, with the intention of going over to the place I was supposed to be next ("You're zarking well supposed to be over here!"). I meant to pivot on my right foot as I swung my left down to follow. No deal; my right foot, at the moment bearing all my weight, didn't pivot. It stuck in place on the carpet. As a result, my right knee got twisted in a way it's not designed to. Knees, in fact, in the event that you hadn't noticed nor read in the manual, aren't intended to twist at all. Thus did I pick up a nasty sprain, but one cannot let such things keep the show from going on. We have a cliche to uphold.

OK, so the stupid thing hurt, but I resolved to be more careful, and I succeeded admirably. Until opening night. Since I was playing Judas, at some point you just know that I have to run out and do some betraying. You can't rewrite stuff like that. Well, my blocking called for me to jump off the stage and run the zark out the back of the auditorium via an aisle. The jump? No problem. Starting to run? Hey, I was on the carpet by then, and as had been previously proven, the traction was almost unholy. A tad ironic when doing Godspell, but let that pass. I had to go around the same cube I'd injured myself on before, and cut about a 20-degree-angled turn to the right to zip my way up the aisle.

I used to be on the track team & ran cross-country, I know darn well how to avoid an obstacle and execute a turn while running: You come down on the foot that's to the side you're turning to, pivot on it while the other foot comes down, then push off of the first foot to move in the new direction. As a matter of unhappy circumstance, this was the same foot that had caused me to injure my knee before, on the grounds that it loved the carpet so very well, it couldn't bring itself to move and allow me to.... pivot.

At a dead run, it didn't prove to be any different.

So, when I went to make the turn, my momentum carried my body weight to the left, and severely bent my poor right knee in that direction. In that moment, I knew that I had zarking well zarked the zark out of that knee, but I managed to get out the back anyway. I hope nobody noticed the limp when I came back in to do the actual betraying. Listen, if I'm portraying Judas in the very moment of betraying Jesus and you're noticing the way I walk, I'm doing something very, very wrong.

Pain. Pain became known to me in a very personal way. The next day, I bought one of those really beastly knee braces that has metal hinges on the sides, so I wouldn't do it again. Or, if I did, the forces of nature would have to get past cold, hard steel. That worked OK, and while it didn't relieve the pain, it allowed me to get through the business of the rest of the performances on the main run. Great. We had a two week break before the last, special performance (that's very unusual). In this two weeks, did the knee get any better, like a sprain should? Nope, not one little bit. However, I got through the last performance without too much difficulty. It hurt, though.

Now, by an incredible coincidence, I had an appointment with my orthopedist the next day. Why? To follow up on the problem with my shoulder. I'd been through physical therapy, trying to stave off surgery which we'll eventually have to do, due to joint impingement. This, we accomplished, and jointly decided that although it's not 100%, it's livable for now. The next time it locks up, we operate. Fine. Cool. Then I pointed to the brace on my leg, and said "Could we talk about this knee?" I related my tragic story, and while it didn't move him to tears, he showed adequate concern. We did an X-ray. "Hmmm, that doesn't look particularly good. We'd better get an MRI done." We set it up for the very next day (amazing, ain't it?), and he promised to call me himself with the results, and we'd go from there.

This is all very swank, since this practice is well known as the best in the area. My knee's in good hands.

My orthopedist did call (No, really!), and it figures that the news isn't especially good. I have a pretty significant tear of the meniscus cartilage in my right knee, so guess who's headed to surgery? So, April 17 it is (again, unbelievably quickly). The good news is, I can put weight on it quite soon afterwards, be significantly better in a week, and supposedly completely normal in a month. That's just in time for my high school reunion, although "completely normal" isn't a phrase you normally associate with me. This is arthroscopic surgery, so relatively simple & non-traumatic. In some ways, it beats the other theory, which was a severe sprain; those can take forever to normalize. Nah, gimme the quick fix. Then it'll probably be back for my third round of physical therapy inside the last 10 months. Fortunately, they're fairly jolly people, even if they do wear so much black studded leather.

Not for the first time, I wished I'd taken the extended warranty on this stupid body.

Initially, I'd worried that perhaps I was a bit too old to be doing Godspell. As it turns out, I was not too old. At least, most of me. Apparently, my right knee was too old, and now I shall have to pay the price. All I can say now is:


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Problem With Adding Comments

Thanks to you who've written me saying nice things about my posts. Several said they would have added it as a comment, but it didn't work.

There IS a problem there, and this is what it is:

Microsoft Internet Explorer, any version, does not get along with the updated Blogger program.

Oh, it'll bring the box up & let you think you'll be able to add a comment to the blog here, but when you hit "Publish your comment", it goes awry and never posts, no matter what you do. Even if YOU have a blogger ID and sign in with it, Internet Explorer will simply not process it right.

In fact, I can't do anything on nor to my blog with going through another browser. To be able to interact with "Blogger" blog pages (by the way, Google/Gmail operates them), I recommend Firefox. That's what I use, and I have no problems. Netscape works fine, too.

"But then I have more than one browser!" you say. "Won't that screw up my main Internet program?"

Nope. Your computer identifies, via your choice, which browser is the default. Your Internet service program will always go to it, and having any of the others won't interfere at all. I have Firefox and Netscape (If one goes down, I have options); to activate them, I click on those icons, and it opens right up. It doesn't interfere at all with my open Internet service program. Each are good back-ups for different reasons. Firefox has a pile of add-ons & ancillary services. Netscape, while having a great search engine, IS owned by AOL, and that makes me wary right there.

Anyway, there you go. I hope I'll see some comments actually popping up on the page, now that I've cleared up the problem that a lot of you may have encountered.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Don't Call Me "Two Sheds"

A photo essay.

This is the Eye Wit's new shed.

Steel. 10 feet by twelve feet. That'll hold a LOT of bodies.

Anchored against hurricanes, and theoretically can stand up to 100 mph winds. I'd rather not test that feature.

Nice to have, yeah. The best part: I wasn't the one who assembled the darn thing. That part of the operation was a gift from my father-in-law, who is, by any account, a swell guy.

However, if there's a new one, that means there needs must be an old one. Oh, yeah.... let's take a look, shall we?

This, by any account, is a POS. If you don't know what that means, then you're a more genteel person than I.

Note the door off its rusted hinges, the quaint plywood nailed over a long-gone window, and the general presence of rotting wood and decay.

I think this picture may be art, because it well expresses how I feel in the morning before that precious fourth cup of coffee.

Here we have a bit of a better view of the side.

Note the shadows from the utility cables, which may be one of the few magical things still holding this piece of junk up.

The vertical white pieces, a stupid idea in the first place (hey, they were there when we bought the house, don't blame me), are particularly rotten.

This is a part of the back, where my neighbor's tree has provided extra dampness to help weaken the molecular structure of the wood.

The hole & warped plywood at the bottom has allowed several small animals to get in and set up housekeeping. I had to get rid of them, of course, but I admit that they were better interior decorators than I.

Did I mention the termite damage to the frame? No? It's merely a bonus that comes with the package.

Termites are, naturally, a great thing to have present when your pathetic excuse for a shed is within twenty feet of your house, which, although primarily concrete block, still has trivial things like the entire roofing structure made of wood.

This is the Eye Wit's fist, which punched this hole with disturbing ease through the side of the shed.

No, wearing the glove was not chickening out. First off, it's not "manly" to bash your fist through something bare-knuckled. Do I need the potential splinters? No, I'm a musician, I need my hands unscathed. Further, there are rusty nails involved, and I can't remember when I last had a tetanus shot.

What's the point to all this? What have we learned?

Not a hell of a lot.

Perhaps we should go with the obvious: That the Eye Wit must be a bit daft to have let his old shed get into that kind of condition before doing something about it.

I counter that I'm an artist, and I didn't have the freaking money.

Getting out of assembling a steel building when it's already 85 degrees outside? That's a sign of wisdom. At least, that's how I'm calling it, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't mess with my delusions.

Something plain and simple: Don't go around punching through things, even if you're pretty sure it's going to work. This is especially true of other people. They tend to hit back.

Well, having learned all these valuable lessons, the last thing to think about is, not surprisingly, the wager.

I bet my wife that I can make the entire thing collapse with exactly three smites with a sledgehammer. The problem with the wager is that I made it such an embarassingly long time ago, I don't remember what it is. Neither does my wife. Therein lays the advantage!

I can therefore "remind" her of the stakes, and arrange it so that I "win" no matter what happens.

Mama didn't raise no fool.