Thursday, January 12, 2023

Still I'm Sad

One of the very first records I ever bought, back when I was 16 or just about to be, was The Shapes of Things, by the Yardbirds.  It featured, prominently, their then-recent replacement for Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, whom they'd taken on board at the recommendation of Jimmy Page. 

Yes, that is a lot of  legendary guitarists for a singe sentence.

I've just learned that Jeff Beck has passed away, following several other iconic musicians who--to me, anyway--contributed significantly to the soundtrack of my life. Jeff Beck was an astoundingly good guitarist. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice (as one of the Yardbirds and as a solo act), he's been cited as one of the very first of the psychedelic rock musicians, but was undeniably skilled at blues, too, and has influenced countless other guitarists.

Although I might not have thought so when I was 16, now that I'm somewhat older I think that at 78 he was too young to go. I'm sorry that he's gone, as I'm sure many of my musician friends and other music lovers are, too. Jeff Beck had a remarkable life to go along with his remarkable talent, but Still I'm Sad to hear that he's gone. 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Peace and Wisdom


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

 With my usual disclaimer that I’m not a believer in astrology, Oriental, Occidental, or otherwise, nevertheless I do find the lore amusing and intriguing, and consider it perhaps worthwhile to consider the legendary characteristics of the year's representative animal, with a view toward emulating the strengths and avoiding the weaknesses with which it’s associated. 

 The rabbit is said to endow people born in its year with the traits of wisdom and caution, which might be mistaken for timidity but actually reflect careful consideration of options before jumping into a new situation. Rabbit people are also said to be good listeners and kind and sweet by nature, with appreciation for art and beauty.

 Appropriately for the current world situation, the rabbit is also said to impart calm and tact, being cool headed and slow to anger. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are likely, it is said, to be peacemakers.

 I fervently hope that the coming year brings peace where there has been strife, and justice where there has been iniquity.

 May the coming year be better by far than any that have preceded it, for each of you and for those you hold dear, and indeed for all of us. Happy New Year and joyous holidays!

(Image by on Freepik)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas et alia

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

As I write this, my sister-in-law is struggling with cancer and one of my oldest friends is hospitalized with COVID-19. For both of them to recover swiftly and completely would be the very best Christmas present ever. 

In this season, and indeed in all seasons and all locales, may peace and good will prevail, may generosity and kindness carry the day, and may 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, as well as in the year to come. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Where the Time Goes

 At the beginning of October, I went around to several of the people—therapists and other care givers—at the care center (called by the affectionate nickname of “Kumakoko”) where I have been a regular user since shortly after release from my long hospital stay. I thanked each for their support over the three years that I’ve been a patron, first in day care and now in half-day rehabilitation, and asked for their further cooperation in the coming year. Three years and starting on a fourth is a long time, but the medical and therapeutical consensus is evidently that my progress has been rather quick, not to mention more successful than originally expected. I certainly can’t dispute that I’m far from the permanently bed-ridden or wheelchair-restricted original prognosis.

 It has been longer than I’d prefer, but I can’t deny that I’ve come quite a long way, thanks to a lot of support and effort from those around me, pros, family, and friends, and, I suppose, to my obstinacy.

 I have of late settled into a routine of sorts, with each week differing only slightly from the one before or after. The focus is firmly on rehabilitation, aiming at an ideal of return to full mobility, and that requires an investment of will, of concentration, of energy, and of time.

 Most Monday mornings begin with a visit from physical therapist Takaoka-san. He makes suggestions, explains tactics, monitors progress, and guards against accidental injury in real-world activities such as using escalators, walking on uneven surfaces, climbing steps and slopes, and surprisingly tricky household tasks such as hanging out laundry or taking out the trash.

 Tuesday through Friday mornings I get up early, drive over to Kumakoko, and engage in activities involving a treadmill, stair climbing, several machines for leg and torso exercises, diverse walking techniques, various dumbbell exercises, and monitoring/planning discussions with the therapists and Aoki-san, my care manager. After two or two-and-a-half hours of that, I head for home, sometimes with a stop at the local bakery or the gas station.

 Weekday and some weekend afternoons are devoted to whatever work I might have, whether from my contract employer or from my various freelance clients. The computers and the smartphone get a lot of use, as do my webcam and recording software applications.

 If the weather permits it, very early Saturday mornings I drive over to the nearby Kumagaya Sports and Culture Park, and do a couple of round trips walking up and down the slopes of a bridge on the grounds near the rugby field, one of the relatively few slopes in this mostly flat alluvial plain town.

 Sundays I generally take it easy, try with very limited success to catch up on my email and other computer stuff, and so on.

 During the month there are a few other activities more or less beyond the routine. I do a lot of cooking, go out shopping, do a monthly doctor and pharmacy trip, and occasionally visit local restaurants or pubs.

 As usual toward the end of the year, I reflect on the passing of time, review a lot of memories, and make tentative plans for the future. “Who knows where the time goes?”, and variations on that theme, have been said by those around me, and by me as well, many times over the years. Right now I’ve got a fairly firm grip on that, because it’s easier when you have a mostly routine existence, but we’ll have to see what the future brings.

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.