Thursdays have been bad luck for Big Al lately.
      It was on Thursday that my bike got stolen (after that lousy ride on Wednesday). And this last Thursday, at approximately two o'clock in the afternoon as I sat in my chair typing, doing nothing at all strenuous, I reached back and thought, "Hmm, something's wrong with my back."
      And indeed it was. Down in the left hand side something had inexplicably tightened up and I could barely get out of the chair, let alone get out of bed on Friday morning. I walked around work on Friday like some weakened old man. Brad joked that I was walking around like Fred Sanford. Watch out Lamont, this is the big one!
      Ramona recommended a massage therapist. I was thinking more chiropractor. I've never been to a chiropractor, nor a massage therapist for that matter, and indeed was raised to cast a dubious eye on the whole profession, but this seemed like an obvious choice. As I told one of my friends, "I obviously don't have a freaking pathogen. This has to be some structural problem that came on to me."
      As I went on to the same friend in the same vein, I generally treat my body like a truck. You get a dent in your truck, you take it into the mechanic, he bangs the dent out, and you go home. I'm not interested in "opening the chakras" on my truck, or on deeply connecting to the truck, I just want it fixed. This is what I expected from the visit: some guy would whack around on my back, it would hurt quite a bit, but then it would be fixed. "If I go in and there's a come-along strapped to the wall, I'll be happy," I said. "Hook me up and yank me well."
I was sitting there looking ugly
Looking ugly and mean
You were sitting there talking
You were talking to me
Baby's got some new rules-
Baby says she's had it with me.
-- REM, Me and Baby

      Well, it turns out that the massage therapist was exactly as I was worried about. She had herbal books, and dream books, and "An Encyclopedia of Women's Secrets" scattered around the little massage cell. There was flute music and candles, and she insisted on speaking in a breathy whisper that I suppose was meant to be soothing. I got naked and under the sheet and kept thinking, "Where the heck is the crow bar to yank my spine back into alignment? Don't give me this gentle treatment. WHALE ON ME, DANG YOU."
      She asked me what was wrong, and actually had pretty good insight into what I had done to myself. I had been riding my bike around for a week with only one toe clip, and this was causing me to exert differing forces between my legs. Recipe for back pain, I've found out now.
      She starts out with a normal massage, which when you come down to it isn't too bad, but I was wondering when she was going to fix up my back. She asked me to roll on my side and I was aghast at how difficult it was. My back was screaming, I was grunting and cursing, and she was whispering in her soothing, breathy voice, "Take a deeeeeep breath Alan, and now... let it gooooo..."
      She rolls me onto my back, with more muted cursing on my part, and stretches my legs forward onto my chest. She's standing over me, holding onto my leg, stretching the hamstring, and asks me to push against her as hard as I can. What she can't realize is that this is the position, pivoted by ninety degrees, of my strongest tae kwon do kick, chigo cha'gi, hammer kick. I remember old Master Yun screaming at me as I hammer kicked over and over again, and I think to myself, "I can knock you down, lady, can you really want this?" So I push only half-heartedly and still knock her back down the table. I look at her inquisitively and she says, "No, good, good!" When she gets to the other side, she tells me push again, so I figure what the heck and push her across to the other side of the room.
Out of site, but not out of mind:

Leslie, who changes domains like some people change bad habits. Box doesn't seem very accessible right now, so you might give her a shot here. Or here.
Cantone (who's been reading too much superbad)
Scream Design, which provided the great spinning ying/yang on the home page
Jennifer, my reunion escort
• And someone I work with asked me to plug our site, garden.com

      She recovers herself and comes back to the massage table, only to jam a knuckle into that fold where your leg meets your body. She has me bend and straighten my leg, and she's now pressing really hard. It's downright painful, and I think, "Oh yeah, let the healing begin."
      She gets done with the knuckel treatment and then she tells me casually that there's a back muscle, the psoa, that you can only get to by going through the front of the body. This is while she is drilling two fingers straight through my gut to my spine, and indeed I can feel it shooting all up and down my back. Something's going on in that injured left side, and I think to myself, "At last."

      The best piece of advice my Dad has given me in the past twenty-eight years was in an email he sent me back in the Spring. Among other things, it said, "Do not feel sorry for yourself." Which is one of those things that sounds very obvious, but it's human, all too human, to slip into self pity from time to time, and I find myself reminding myself of the old man's advice several times a week. I have to remind myself when I'm riding home from Club DeVille and I feel that urge to stop at the LBJ fountain and moan over my misspent youth. I have to remind myself when I'm whining about my back and wondering if I'm going to be curled up like a question mark the rest of my life. And I have to remind myself when my bike gets stolen, or the scale is tipping inexorably heavier, or things aren't going so great in the personal life.
      Every year, I try to make a New Year's resolution that I feel like I can I can stick to and be proud of. A few years ago, it was simply "Pay my bills on time." A year after that, it was the much more aggressive, "Give up contempt of other people" (this one has been hard to keep, but you know I try.) This year, I think I will "Give up self pity."

      I think another New Year's resolution is going to be retool the site a bit. I just started a new bookshelf to keep y'all appraised of what I'm reading. While uploading the index.html, I blew away the second oldest index I had on the site. Since it wasn't normally accessible, I didn't sweat it too much, but it was still a bummer.
      I also wrote some more about the big road trip.
      This site was last updated on 12/19/99.

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