Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Can you make it all a little less old?

 Another rock legend has left the stage. I just learned that Meat Loaf passed away, probably from COVID-19 in combination with his already poor health, on January 20th. 

By coincidence and because of the time difference, that day marked three years since I broke my leg and was set onto a path of hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, and--in a head start on my colleagues just prior to the pandemic's effects--exclusively remote work. I had forgotten the anniversary, actually, until the sad news about Meat Loaf, and the mention that he was 74, brought the date, and the time, and the years, into sharper focus. I'll be 72 in a couple of months, and it hasn't been that long since my physique rather resembled Meat Loaf's in his--for want of a better term--prime. 

When closing time came for Leonard Cohen, he was 82...but I was only 66. When Charlie Watts  put his sticks down for the last time this past summer he was 80...but I was already 71. Meat Loaf was only a couple of years older than I am, and his passing was a stronger memento mori for me than I expected. Or needed, really.

Due to some lifestyle changes beginning in the late '70s, most of my initial exposures to new songs around then came by way of my car radio. I don't recall anymore exactly when it was, but when I heard "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for the first time, I had to pull the car over to the side of the street and listen, rapt and amazed and amused. No song before or since has elicited that response from me. "Let me sleep on it", indeed. I've since had to struggle several times to explain that phrase to Japanese friends, but it was always worth it when realization dawned.

Seeing it performed on TV video clips and more recently on the internet of course added a lot to the experience: Meat Loaf was a hell of an actor as well as  a powerful singer. He was certainly worth watching, whether he was playing a (long ago) "barely 17, and barely dressed" youth, or Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or the enigmatic Beast-like character from the music video for "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"

That last song contains the rather grim line "It'll all turn to dust and we'll all fall down". That does seem to be pretty much inescapable, but before that happens I'd like to live with the passion and energy that Meat Loaf put into his performances. The lyrics also include the "Can you make it all a little less old?" line, and I believe that he's done that, and it's worth emulating. He may seem to be an unusual role model, but  he's a worthy one in many ways. We're diminished by his loss, but enriched by his memory. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Brave, bold, and brash

I wish all of my relatives, friends, and other readers a very happy, healthy, exciting, and prosperous Year of the Tiger!

I was born in the Year of the Tiger, specifically in what's called a year of the Metal Tiger--I've also seen it called Gold Tiger--among the five elemental types, the others being Wood, Fire, Earth, and Water (this year's). 

While not a believer in astrology regardless of the culture, Oriental, Occidental, or otherwise, in which it's rooted, I do find the lore amusing and intriguing, and perhaps it is worthwhile to consider the supposed characteristics of the year's representative animal, with a view toward maximizing the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses which I do find in my own character. 

Not surprisingly given the model, people born in the Year of the Tiger are said to be courageous, competitive, and self-confident, but also to tend to be impetuous and overindulgent. Metal Tiger people are said often to display strong will power and endurance, to have a positive  and passionate approach to life, and to have unwavering faith in themselves, even to the extent of obstinacy.

As I progress in my current quest for a return to full mobility and unimpaired health, aiming at once again being fully functional and entirely self-reliant, I expect the frequent demands on my courage and confidence to continue. I don't believe that I have ever lacked passion or sheer will, but I'm sure that the rehabilitation professionals around me, therapists and care managers and medical staff alike, would--if they were disposed to be candid instead of discreet--express concern about my tendency to be a bit reckless, or at least insufficiently circumspect. 

I do often want to pounce when it would be more advisable to plod.

My care manager rolls her eyes and looks worried when I talk about riding a motorcycle again, and the therapists look pensive but no longer dubious. They do regularly counsel caution and a measured, low-risk approach. There appears to be consensus among them that it's something of which I have to be reminded rather frequently. I can't honestly disagree.

I am looking forward to more extensive driving, and use of public transportation more frequently and for longer distances. I am hoping in the relatively near future to be able to greet in person the doctors, nurses, and therapists who contributed to my recovery during my long hospitalization, to show them how well their efforts have succeeded. There is also a good chance that before too long I will again be able to commute physically to my employer's office in Tokyo, to join my colleagues in person even if it's only a couple of times weekly while the pandemic restrictions continue. I'm not going to be averse to a bit of carousal when the opportunity arises, either.

It's the first day of a new year, and too early to predict how things will turn out in the next few months. I have no doubt that dealing effectively with the coming months will require me to be brave and bold, and if at times I'm a bit too brash, doesn't often see blenching tigers.

May the coming year be a very safe, happy, prosperous, and exciting one for you and yours, and may it be a much, much better year than the ones that preceded it.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Moving Along

It has been a year marked by movement, often slower and sometimes more hesitant than I would prefer, but undeniably progressing movement.

From a wheelchair to a walker, thence to crutches, and driving, and moving along more or less steadily through shopping areas, pushing shopping carts through supermarkets, entering and exiting bars and restaurants, and accomplishing the surprisingly tricky task of taking out the trash, I've been doing more moving along than I usually realize at the time.

Switching from day care with rehabilitation to an entirely intensive rehabilitation mode in my daily routine had been a significant move, too, and appears to be showing good results. 

It hasn't been an easy year, but I didn't expect it to be. It has been a rather successful one, though, as far as progress in mobility is concerned. As the Year of the plodding, determined Ox ends, I'm looking forward to "my" year, the coming Year of the Tiger, with some expectation of at least some faster, more aggressive movement, but in any case, plodding or pouncing, continuing with moving along. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas

May all of my relatives, friends, and other visitors to the blog have a very Merry Christmas, or very enjoyable other holidays they might celebrate in this season, or just a very good time overall as the year winds down.

May peace and good will prevail, generosity and kindness carry the day, and the greedy and selfish be confounded. Even a single candle serves to diminish the darkness, but the more light and warmth, the better.

May all of you receive your heart's desire, achieve your goals, and grasp every possible opportunity for happiness in the holiday season. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Breathing Easier

 Back in early July when I got my second COVID-19 vaccination at a local clinic, I had them do a chest X-ray, too. That X-ray is part of the annual set of tests subsidized by the city, and the only one of the tests that I don't have done at my usual family doctor's clinic. Ironically, Dr. Nishida's love of the newest and best in medical equipment has rendered his X-ray results unacceptable to the city's system: he's gone digital while the city still requires analogue film. 

In any case, the clinic called me up the other day to let me know that the official results of the X-ray analysis were ready, and rather ominously said that I'd need to consult  with the doctor instead of just picking up the form or having them mail it to me. When I went and spoke to the clinic director, she told me that I'd need to have a CT scan done, to try to determine whether the cloudy spot on my lung is early stage lung cancer. They don't have the necessary equipment, so she gave me a referral to take to somewhere with a good CT scanner. Naturally, I arranged to have it done at the Nishida Clinic.

An incipient lung cancer diagnosis wouldn't be a great surprise, given that until a couple of years ago I'd been a very heavy smoker for several decades. On the other hand, except for one false alarm back in the '80s (it turned out to be the shadow of a rib), every year my chest X-rays have been so clear that numerous doctors have assumed that I was a non-smoker. Nevertheless, I awaited the CT scan results with some trepidation: I'm too busy to be dealing with lung cancer right now, but I'll do whatever I must.

I was pleased to get good news. It turns out that the small amount of haze in the lower right lobe of my lung isn't anything to worry about, and definitely does not appear to be cancer. Great, another bullet dodged. I got the distinct impression that Dr. Nishida was even happier about the diagnosis than I was.

So, it's back to the rehab routine, breathing a little easier now that I don't have to worry--at least for now-- about a new problem.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Alarums and Excursions

 It has been a month since I switched to full-on rehabilitation mode. A fairly intense and strenuous two and a half hours or so, each morning Tuesday through Friday, following the Monday morning home visit therapy session, and supplemented by several daily sessions at home of whatever exercises the therapists have recommended, seems to be about right. 

Occasional shopping trips, suitably masked and distanced, are practical opportunities to test the returning functions, and point up any real-life shortcomings that require more work. One quickly learns the limits of one's balancing skills, for instance, when carrying five or six kilogram shopping bags while using forearm crutches.

A shopping excursion last Sunday took me on a drive across town and gave me a chance along the way to check on the status of a restaurant and pub that I'm planning to visit again when the current pandemic countermeasure restrictions are lifted, or at least eased. For now, they've both decided to wait to reopen until they can do so under more viable conditions. The news today is that Saitama will be following Tokyo's lead closely, essentially allowing restaurants and bars to serve alcohol until eight in the evening and stay open until nine, starting  from October first. That's still very limiting, but even an eight o'clock last call is a considerable improvement. It appears that the forecast is for draft beer this coming weekend.

Autumn having arrived in the wake of the typhoon that pushed summer out, Sunday afternoon was cool, and cooled further once the sun set. I was happy about that, since Monday morning walking practice with the home visit physical therapist in the hottest days of summer had been a heat stroke risk. Later in the evening, however, I quickly went from pleasantly cool to shivering with chills, and donning a sweater and hooded sweatshirt didn't make much difference. A check showed that my temperature had rapidly risen to 38.5: not that high, but very sudden, and alarming in these pandemic times. Naturally,  COVID-19 came immediately to mind...not the most warming of thoughts.

So early Monday morning the PT visit was cancelled, as was the rehab session for the following morning,  and a reservation made for a COVID-19 test at the Nishida Clinic, where I've been a regular for a couple of decades. Their protocol for the test is to have the testees arrive shortly before noon and wait in their cars in the parking lot, to minimize contact with the other clinic patients and staff. I showed up early, called to let them know I'd arrived, and waited until a trio of nurses in PPE gear wheeled out some equipment and took up station behind the car. Dr. Nishida rushed out in a full protective suit, very different from his usual tie and casually worn lab coat image. The test was done quickly, and I then waited a little longer for the nearby pharmacy's gowned and masked staffer  to deliver some medicine to my car, with the remainder to be delivered to my home mailbox. Nobody was taking a chance of infection by having me inside their facility, and very justifiably so.

Then I returned home, to quarantine myself until Dr. Nishida reported the test results Tuesday evening. By this time my fever had already dropped somewhat, and I still didn't have any other remarkable symptoms aside from a mild runny nose. Having been vaccinated already, though, and being aware that some infected people are even entirely asymptomatic, I still couldn't dismiss the possibility that I had the virus. I really didn't look forward to the tracking and testing and general disruption that this would cause among the people with whom I've been in contact: mostly rehab-connected people and center staff and users. 

The announcement that the test results were negative came late Tuesday afternoon: a great relief, indeed, for me and--as I found out when I showed up at rehab Wednesday morning--for my Care Manager, and the therapists, nurses, and other medical staff who deal with me regularly. My attempts to apologize for causing concern with what turned out to be a false alarm were met with a clear and very gratifying consensus response that it's much better to be safe than sorry, and to err on the side of caution.

I would just as soon have October be a little less exciting, at least from a pandemic point of view.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Miss You

 I haven't been keeping up with the news sufficiently of late. There has been more work lately, and more physical activity, and more demands on my time to accomplish various tasks. The extra work and activity are beneficial and I am grateful, but there has been a cost, as there is for most things.

I've gotten even further behind with email correspondence, only occasionally able to rise above work-related stuff and communicate with friends. I've also become increasingly unable to keep well informed about current events: I miss a lot of news stories and sometimes only learn about them through others' discussions of the topics.

That's how I missed, and how I learned of, the sad news that Charlie Watts won't be drumming any more, at least not in any venues where I can attend. I just found out a few hours ago that he passed away, and it's hard not to find significance of a superstitious sort in my completely coincidental switch of my stereo playlists the other day from the likes of Dire Straits and Aerosmith to the Rolling Stones. I must have played "Satisfaction" and "Midnight Rambler" a dozen times each in the last week, after a hiatus on Stones music of maybe six months.

If memory serves, "Paint it Black" was the first 45 rpm record I ever bought myself, when I was 16 or 17, and it was either that or the Yardbirds'  "Shapes of Things" being played at excessive volume that damaged the speakers on my Dad's brand-new Magnavox stereo. 

The Rolling Stones provided a lot of the background music for my teen years, and a lot of my memories of those days--and many later years, too--strut and stretch and skip and swagger to the sound of Charlie's drumbeats and cymbal crashes. 

I'm going to miss you, Charlie Watts.