Notes From The Flip Side: 08.12.2007
"I'll fire up my cigarette and amplify all my regrets / It's time to let me out!"
I Barely Remember How To Begin.
And I barely remember what to do after coming up with a title. This is the part where I'm supposed to write something, right? This is the part where, two years or so ago, my fingers would have been dancing across the keyboard. Now ... I don't even know how to get started.
This is part of the downside of having a life that has, in many ways, been on hold - the constant uncertainty of visiting another specialist and leaving their office without a clear answer. Waiting for insurance companies to approve experimental or merely uncommon treatments. Still not knowing what caused all of this or what to expect with each passing day.
And yet while all this is going on, I'm still getting older. The sun rises and sets. Life continues around me, even though I'm temporarily unable to do a lot of the things I used to do, and even though I'll never be able to do some things again.
Here's all I know at this point:
- I've lost a few discs in my spine. They're gone, my doctors and I don't know when they went or why. My pain management doc and neurosurgeon recently implanted a spinal cord stimulator to block as much of the pain as it can manage, and at any given moment, I have seven milliamps running through my central nervous system and into my brain. This replaces pain with a tingling sensation not unlike the feeling of a foot falling asleep, but without the prickliness when circulation is restored. This usually blocks a good portion of the pain.
- It doesn't look like MS anymore - the plaques on the myelin which led to so many MRIs and so much worry last year appear to have been remyelinated or, to put it in simple English, the fuckers just disappeared. However, there still seems to be something else going on. The smart money at the moment is on fibromyalgia, which is usually rare in men, but also seems to have a genetic component. Since my mom suffered from it, that means the likelihood that I've developed it is significantly higher. And how strange is it that I can sit in a doctor's office, get more bad news about my health and still think of it as validation for my vasectomy? My initial reaction to all this news wasn't shock or sadness - it was relief because at least I didn't have to worry about having contributed DNA to someone else who might eventually suffer from any of the things I've endured.
- I've got a long, hard road to travel before I'm even halfway back from hell and there's a bloody trail behind me. Half the time, I'm leaning on a friend, limping along while taking aim using my free hand and trying to remember how it feels to run and gun. I've had this experience a few times before - trying to piece it all back together after everything fell apart ... hell, this site was born from such moments - but it's never been this hard before. In the past, I always stumbled out of emotional wreckage and my wounds and scars were metaphorical, no matter how they felt. This time around, I can touch the scars on my back. I can feel the physical effects as I learn how to walk again. And I'm still struggling to find out what being more active looks like for me these days.
And yeah, there are emotional effects to all of this too ... I spent about half of 2006 living with a diagnosis that, if it had turned out to be true, would have killed me sooner or later, and it was hard to tell whether faster or slower would have been more merciful. While I lived with that specter flipping through the pages of a magazine behind me, I made a list of the things I wanted to do, come hell or high water. I thought about all the things I had wanted to do but never had the time for or never completely committed to ... and suddenly, when it looked like I didn't have much time left, I didn't know if I could fit it all in. I didn't even think it was a particularly ambitious list. But here's the curious part of all of this - after spending a few minutes on that list, thinking of my own mortality and dwelling on the possibility of dying even sooner than I had thought I might, thinking of things that I wanted to do but had never gotten around to and was only considering now that I might be moving off this mortal coil at a pace slightly faster than a shuffle (although shuffling pretty accurately described how I was moving), I had the epiphany that anyone thinking like that should.
Simply put: if doing this shit means that much to you, why didn't you start before this and why the fuck aren't you doing it right now instead of listing it? Why are you waiting for a doctor to tell you what's happening? All you're doing is wasting the time you have left while waiting for a meaningless piece of information that really shouldn't have any bearing at all on what you do because all it does is establish a time frame and you've always ignored deadlines anyway.
That's when I stopped the list. I still want to do everything on it and, someday, I will.
Just for posterity's sake, here's as far as I got:
- Learn to quilt
- Learn to play at least one instrument
- Start a band and play at least one show
- Learn a new language
- Train for and complete a triathlon
- Compete in a WSOP event
- Finish law school
And the funny thing is, I taught myself how to quilt and how to do foundation piecing. It's been on a back burner lately because I've been bouncing in and out of hospitals, but I know what I'm doing with a sewing machine and a bunch of fabric scraps. And along the way, I decided that I didn't want to stop at quilting, so I started making plans to sew a skirt for Mellie just because I found a fabric that I couldn't use for quilting but couldn't leave on the bolt. If anyone's interested in seeing the progress, send me an email or an IM and I'll upload some pictures.
And back in 2006, I was accepted to Northern Illinois University's law school. I've had to defer admission twice because of surgery and disability, but I'm on my way. We'll see if my health actually lets me go back to school since sitting in any class for any length of time seems to be a problem, but at least I've gotten far enough to take the LSAT and send out applications.
And I've been working with a great physical therapist who combines pilates, yoga, cardiovascular and resistance training to help bang my body back into shape after being all but bedridden since January, 2006. I'm not nearly ready to start a triathlon, but - as long as my goal is just finishing the motherfucker - I know that I can do that too. I drafted my pal Shane to be my trainer for it, mostly because I know he'll push me to the finish line, cussing me all the way if he has to.
And far be it from me to turn into that rookie asshole who decides to throw down $10,000 to buy into the WSOP Main Event, but I seem to have developed a good feel for pot-limit O/8, mostly because I'm a perverse asshole who loves to play garbage and I can freeroll with a lousy hand just for shits and giggles, and it's a lot more realistic for me to pay $1,500 to throw my hat into that ring, so that ... well, it may be a while, but that's still in the works.
And as soon as I can sit up long enough, I think it's time for me to start learning how to play guitar. We'll see how forming a band goes, but it seems like Jared and I talk about recording an album every few months, always with some crazy new idea that we can't get out of our heads until we hear something new that fires our imaginations (hence, why we talk about recording an album about every three months). First, it was a rock and roll concept album about living in Central Illinois. Then, doom metal. Now ... well, I've got some weird mess of an idea in my head that will likely make the Polyphonic Spree sound like early Billy Bragg in simplicity (which means I don't have a shot in hell of executing it) and I need to make Jared a mix so he can get a vague idea of what I'm thinking about now ... never mind that he's probably thinking about the same thing.
Right now, the most important questions seem to be how permanently disabled I am (for fuck's sake, I've lost a decent percentage of the discs in my spine, so we've already determined the whether), whether I'll be able to work a normal job again, and what degree and type of work I might be able to do. As one example, this update has been in progress for a week. I've been working on it when I've felt alert enough to do so (which basically means when I'm close enough to the two hours of sleep I've been averaging each day during that time to not pass out on the keyboard). The only reason I'm working on it right now is that the combination of Lunesta and painkillers seem to encourage a full cycle of REM sleep which is the first truly restful bit of sleep I've had in days (while I'm still tired, at least I'm not seeing shit anymore). The long and short of it is that it takes me a lot longer to do things that hardly took any time at all two years ago. That doesn't bode well for future employment.
Mellie and I, despite some rough spots here and there, are adjusting. After all, neither of us had planned on this. We hadn't planned on much of anything, really, but this was a surprise not unlike stepping into a batter's box only to be blindsided by an entire defensive line. And that adjustment is expected. It's one of the things that my pain management counselor pointed out straight off the bat - dealing with unexpected injury or disability can put massive strain on a relationship. Keeping the wheels on, keeping that part of a life in order, can actually help with recovery and the struggle back to wellness.
There are still lots of questions with no clear answers, but I'm a little tired of waiting for uncertainty. And maybe today ... maybe this morning ... maybe my desire to get in the shower and go get a cup of freshly roasted coffee is where it all begins, at least for right now. There's no better place to start than here and no better time than now, right? Let's start today - that's what we've always said, right?
And since I know I always meant it, I foresee a double mocha in my very immediate future.
Barely Remembering How To Begin Didn't Stop Me From Fucking Things Up Straight Off; Or, Yeah, I Borked The Message Board - So What?
You may notice a couple of minor changes as you browse the site. First off, the forum is ... well, let's just say that it's temporarily offline (and to think that I actually considered NOT doing that backup). In the process of adding a mod to deal with all those spammers who keep registering and clogging my inbox ... well, a little of this happened and a little of that happened, and the next thing I know, I'm reinstalling phpBB from scratch which is not how I wanted to spend my Saturday morning. I'm sure the mod worked fine - this was all user error and sleep deprivation. I'll sure you'll all be bummed out considering that the most recent post was about six months old but hey ... at least I won't be getting hundreds of emails per week for fake users trying to improve their page rankings for this cream or that potion on Google. After all, my goal was dealing with these spammers once and for all ... I just took a road much less traveled.
And, after thinking about it for half a second, as long as I was removing the forum from all the pages, I also removed the store since I haven't had any t-shirts for sale in ages and most of the books were sold at the local indie record shop, so all things considered, this was really just a little bit of spring cleaning. The forum will be back. Eventually. As soon as I remember a thing or two about UNIX, php, MySQL ... you know, all the shit I've utterly forgotten over the past couple of years.
Maybe All I Need Is A Shot In The Arm.
Most days, I wake up - assuming I've slept - feeling ragged and worn out, tattered and torn. I feel like the last of the holdouts, a six-shooter on each hip and an old Spencer rifle in a scabbard, trying to get to my feet after sleeping on hard-packed ground and rocks, struggling to get back in the saddle after being shot in the gut, trying to make it home before I bleed out and die so that at least I fall down on my own doorstep. I'm always tired and trying to figure out whether I have anything meaningful to say about music that requires more than a paragraph; I'm always trying to figure out whether it's worth saying if I do. Being away from music for almost two years, save the odd special order here and there, has left me more cantankerous than ever. I have even less patience for boring records than I did before and I reserve even more hostility for those albums that are clear disappointments. And all this is merely to note that I have even less to say about the vast majority of shit thrown at me than I did before and the quixotic enterprise of lauding the handful of worthy albums seems to be even more like a dignified charge into overwhelming hostile fire than it did before, but I almost feel destined to do it anyway, futility be damned. I mean, it's not like we're punk for our health or desire to succeed in any of the ways that society usually defines it. And yeah, fate's fucking romantic if you can get off on failure.
I've Got All Five Senses And I Slept Last Night, That Puts Me Six Up On The Lot Of You.
But I'm still almost two years behind on record reviews, so that hasn't changed. Best of 2005? Best of 2006? I may throw together a couple of quick lists, but they won't be nearly as exhaustively annotated as they have been in the past. This is what being all but bed-ridden for about a year and a half does. There's no stereo. There aren't any headphones. There's silence, save for the murmurs of the television. Forget about being able to write ... I haven't been able to sit up long enough to listen to an album, form an opinion and document that opinion and my support for it.
And the links section ... well, that's been decimated by the ravages of time and bands deciding that hosting their songs and photos on MySpace is really where it's at ... not that I can disagree with the idea of someone else paying to host and serve your files, but I do miss the days of typing in www.renobs.com instead of having to search for a band on MySpace and see all sorts of godawful animated GIFs.
Last year, I wrote a few blog entries for Philip about the intersection of pain management and psych meds since the same drugs prescribed for mental health issues seem to be increasingly offered to people who suffer from chronic pain. I'll probably write a few more now that I'm going through the same withdrawal issues that people who have been taking SSRIs and SNRIs go through. The meds don't discriminate between reasons for taking them. They're quite equitable in fucking everyone up more or less to the same degree and without prejudice.
At any rate, if you're interested in reading those posts to date, you can click on them below:
A not-so-brief Introduction in which Our Hero describes His Journey to this Point.
A Pharmacological Phamily.
Back to the doc.
Pain Management, Cymbalta And Napping Every Three Hours.
Ode On American Bionics, Or, Oh Cymbalta Cyde Effekts, I <3 U LAWTZ.
Putting Together My Best of 2005 List On Friday, August 10, 2007 At 7:51 A.M. CDT.
I have to say, one unexpected benefit of all this is that I've had all of 2006 and most of 2007 to catch up on albums from 2005 that I might have missed when I was trying to put all this together the first time, as well as the distance and perspective necessary to say that it might have seemed like Ryan Adams was onto something when he decided to release three albums in 2005, but it really sounded better in theory than it did in practice, so instead of using lots of slashes, I'm able to say that "Cold Roses" was great, but the rest of it ... well. Prolific doesn't mean perfect, and Youth Group's "Skeleton Jar" was far more satisfying than anything else he put out, so there you go. As a result, it's likely than my list for 2005 will be much more solid and lasting than any other best of list I've done ... mostly because I had about two years to think about and work on it so I'm that much less likely to look back on it and wonder what I was thinking. Funny how things work like that.
Requiescat In Pace: Tony Wilson, 1950-2007
"It's the truth even if it didn't happen." - Ken Kesey
I usually could care less about musical passings. They don't affect me, except on rare occasions. Wolfman Jack. John Peel. A handful of DJs, industry wonks and people who made sure that I heard things that mattered.
If you don't like New Order, Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, et. al., you're on the wrong site. If you can appreciate bands like Interpol or I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness or damned near any other post-punk dark-wave ensemble that's come down the pike in the last five to 10 years but can't understand why Factory Records was so crucial to music, then you need to do some research ... which, honestly, won't do you any good because a lot of it is lies anyway, so just pick the story you like best and pretend it happened like that.
Tony Wilson was, by all available accounts, genius at picking bands and marketing them, but crap at things like contracts and the other dottings and crossings that occasionally need to occur when lawyers and other companies and people of interest like, say, agents or managers, might later become involved. When Factory was on the verge of failure in the early 1990s and London Records wanted to buy the label, the deal fell through because Tony had apparently done handshake deals with at least some of the artists. Contracts? "Well, see, the thing about contracts is that there were, really, few to speak of ... few meaning none, to be honest. It seemed a bit dodgy between mates, y'know?" Back catalogue? "Yeah, well, about that ... see, we were meaning to tell you ...". In the end, the label didn't actually own much except the logo and the name which is, if you think about it, an incredibly postmodern way to run a business, even if it is hard on the pocketbook.
It can be hard to separate truth from fact about Tony Wilson, Factory and the whole messy lot of anecdotes surrounding Manchester's music scene at the time, largely because the myths are ever so much better than the truth and there was usually someone willing to claim to be an eyewitness and testify to the veracity of the whole thing while snickering under their breath about the joke being played that would resonate for years to come. And like the man said, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." So Tony Wilson signed that contract in blood, because the story's better that way, and Factory imploded because paperwork was a bother and the music ...
Well, the music was greater than any of us had any right to hear and if you were anything like I was back then, Peter Hook's bass lines and Barney's plaintive voice and Ian ... how could anyone forget Ian ...
Well, all these things probably felt like they saved your life too.
It was the best party ... ever.
The Draft. Nothington. Fifth Hour Hero. Chuck Ragan. Bloc Party. Woody Guthrie. Year Of No Light. Isis. High On Fire. Sigur Ros. Jesu. Neurosis. The Hold Steady. Tim Armstrong. Youth Group. The Waco Brothers. Caspian. The Bomb. Loveninjas. Saxon Shore. Pela. Mogwai.
"Brick," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Thank You For Smoking"
John Barth, "Giles Goat-Boy"