Notes From The Flip Side: 08.03.2006
"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."
"White, white walls. Hospitals. All of us feel trivial. Relative, tentative and waiting."
This update is necessarily brief. The site is not dead, but it has been and will continue to be on hiatus for some time due to health issues. I caught pneumonia in January, developed back spasms in February, dealt with side effects from the medications to deal with the back spasms in March and have been on disability since April due to three acutely herniated discs in my lower back and what my neurosurgeon and pain management doctor have diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. While my neurologist has yet to confirm their preliminary diagnoses and ordered a significant number of tests to rule out a wide range of conditions, what I do know is that my ability to sit at the computer has been very limited this year. Unfortunately, updating the site has fallen to the wayside, as has listening to or writing about music in any significant way.
This whole experience has been enlightening. I've had to learn how to accept help from others since the medication I'm taking to mitigate the pain prevents me from driving, since the pain I'm in prevents me from doing something as simple as carrying a bag of groceries. I was on vicoprofen for almost 11 weeks; I came off it cold turkey and am more lucid but in more pain than I was when I was on it. There's irony there - the guy who never did anything but drink and smoke every so often had to go through withdrawal from painkillers. Now I'm trying to deal with the same pain using medications that are less effective, that leave me more coherent but less functional, less able to do simple things like walk to a car without hurting. I'm not sure the trade-off was worth it, but I don't much want to go back to painkillers. I'm also practicing yoga with a local instructor, learning how to use it to help mitigate the pain. It isn't easy, but not much in my life is right now.
Perhaps I took things for granted too much and perhaps this is my wake up call. Being all but shut in and nearly completely disabled since April hasn't changed my outlook on life so much as it has clarified it - with all the time I've spent in bed, I've been able to read up on Buddhism and apply some of those ideas to my current situation. While it doesn't relieve the pain, it helps me think about what I'm going through in a different way and see lessons I can learn from it while they're happening. I don't know what lies ahead but I've spent enough time thinking about possibilities that I'm relaxed and still, ready for anything.
I don't know when I'll be back to regular updates, but you can email me (check the contact page for information) and I'll try to respond. You can also check the forum for more up-to-date information - Mellie sometimes posts updates about my condition there and I try to check it when I can sit up for a bit.
I had written quite a bit for the last update and while all of it still applies and is relevant, none of it was completed. However, I wanted to share one story from last year that I haven't forgotten yet ... I doubt I ever will.
Last November, Pegboy - one of my favorite bands and a band responsible for releasing one of the greatest punk albums that we as a culture have ever had the privilege of hearing ("Strong Reaction" in case you want to check it out) - played the Metro. Pegboy, a band that rarely plays, in their hometown? I bought my tickets when they went on sale. Friends of mine were checking prices on flights. Finally, the day of the show came and Mellie and I made an event of it - vegan food at the Chicago Diner and, since the restaurant was crowded and the line was long, we invited a nice couple who had just moved from the Northeast to share our table and had a great conversation. Then it was time for the show - going in early to get a good space in front. Waiting through an unimpressive opening band. Cheering on The Arrivals. And then Pegboy started.
I hadn't seen them in 7 years. They were better than I remembered and, once again, it was basically the Larry Damore show as he jumped into the crowd, threw the mike down to the kids, walked on people's hands and so forth. You could barely hear him because everyone at the show was singing every word to every song. And then they covered "Treason." I didn't think it was possible for the place to get any more nuts, have any more people trying to stage dive past Metro security, but it all happened.
While that is likely to be the closest I'll get to seeing Naked Raygun, that wasn't my favorite moment of the night.
My favorite moment of the night was when Larry lost his balance and I caught him, making sure he didn't fall, and held him up until he regained his balance. He looked down, grinned and ruffled my hair. All of a sudden, I was 16 again and ready to start screaming things like "I'll never wash my head again!" I was stupidly giddy.
I've spent years interviewing musicians, actors, authors and so forth. I can go anywhere and relate to anyone without getting star-struck.
This is not to say that Larry Damore is a star but for a moment or so, I was utterly star-struck for the first time in ages and turned back into the pure fan I am at heart. I felt like the kid who caught a drumstick or guitar pick from their favorite band. I remembered how much fun I've had, how many times I've spent the night climbing over close friends and utter strangers, rabble-rousing goodnaturedly and making new acquaintances through sharing a joyous experience. All of that came back with that smile and ruffled hair and, for the first time in a long time, my years melted away and I was just a rock 'n' roll fan all over again, a face in the crowd going utterly berserk and having the best night of my life (or at least it seemed that way). Even now, I can remember it and smile. It doesn't make the pain hurt any less, but it takes my mind off it for a moment.
I hope you all get to have moments like that, moments that allow you to let everything go and let your heart be what it will. I hope you have more of them rather than less, and have them more frequently rather than less often. We could all use a little more joy in our lives, no?
One last note.
Wes recently published a book of poetry and prose with Charles Rowland from The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower (a band you really should check out) and, as anyone who read his lyrics or earlier work can already guess, it's fucking fantastic. You can order it from their Web site, The Heartworm. If it isn't listed, check back often to see when a new printing is available.
Television. Movies when I can change the DVD.
Everything I had been lagging on reading.