Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Making Spirits Bright

Slowly but surely, I seem to be coming back to myself.

It's not like I had much of a choice. There's just been too much to do. Work's been a bear for months now, and I'm beginning to realize it's been a hibernating bear all along that's only just now waking. This winter's work-load looks terrifying, but in a good way. I guess.

Of course, my recent injury has taken a huge toll. I have not been to the gym in over six weeks, and what muscles I have are melting away, only to be replaced by the fat caused by seasonal overeating. I am feeling much better, enjoying dope-free days, and am happy to report that I can actually move my hips independently of the rest of my torso again with a minimum of painful gasping. Tim's glad too. It was definitely touch and go for a while.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirl to teeters close to insanity. I returned to work the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and it's been a wild ride ever since. I'm glad to be the purveyor of ergonomic seating, because the lumbar support of my Knoll Life Chair has really been the only thing keeping me upright some days.

Forget about Christmas shopping. There hasn't been time. I've managed to walk into at least a dozen stores just as they were closing. Nothing suggests seasonal good cheer like a young sales clerk snarling at you when he's ready to go home. It's nice to see that so many of the angertwinks have found gainful employment for the holidays. Thank Christ for Internet shopping. And Fed Ex men! Now if someone would only come by and wrap Tim's gifts, I'd be in heaven. I'll supply the single malt scotch, along with the Scotch Tape. Really!

Two weeks ago, we had Tim's sister and husband, along with their children, aged 5 and 8 visit for the first time from snowy upstate. You haven't seen Manhattan until you tour the sites a 5 year old wants to see during the first weekend of December. There were lines everywhere. Thank Christ for the Central Park Zoo. Too many children were busy being dragged from toy store to Santa's lap to pay much attention to the monkeys and otters, who pretty saved the day for us. Not to mention the Zootique. Never was a drink so welcome as the one I had during our 5:00 PM dinner at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. By the way, come the Revolution, I will assume the dark mantle of executioner, beheading the very small, smug and self satisfied patrons of the cafe located within F.A.O. Schwartz. I will gleefully toss their ice-cream stained carcasses to the screaming, teeming rabble below. Watch this space.

On a more peaceful note, I spent last weekend at Tim's putting up the tree and doing all sorts of Christmas-y things. This year our tree arrived in a box. Normally, we buy a tree in Manhattan and haul it out to Jersey City on the PATH train. You can only imagine the looks we get. You try finding a live tree in Journal Square! This year we ordered a 7' Fraser Fir from Vermont, not really knowing what to expect. It arrived in a love narrow box. It is possibly the freshest, most beautiful tree we've had in years. And yes, Martha Stewart, it does smell like tangerines. Thank Christ for Internet shopping. We relaxed on Friday night and then dedicated Saturday to decorating. We've amassed quite a few ornaments in our travels, adding to Tim's burgeoning collection of hand-me-downs from grandparents, aunts, and ancient monastery cast-offs. All the while, we listened to an eclectic array of seasonal music, including offerings from Sufjan Stevens, Jo Stafford, Michael Martin Murphey, Fred Waring and Herb Alpert. In fact, we listened to all five jingling, whispering CDs of Sufjan's Christmas sing-a-long...or at least until Tim complained that I was consulting the notes, the chord progressions, the commentary and the stickers that came in the box way too much, not paying enough attention to the tasks at hand. We had several drinks and a lovely supper, and as is our wont to do, wound up on the floor under the tree. Some people get to wear special Christmas outfits on the big day...I typically sport rug burn.

Tomorrow, we are heading for M.'s house in the wilds of northern New Jersey. We'll help to decorate his trees, and bring him several more of the bear ornaments he collects. Just for me, we'll light Hanukkah candles and I'll even attempt to make latkes, because I'm just not fat enough. We're aiming to achieve food coma tomorrow night. If you see me waddling at the Dugout on Sunday, you'll understand why.

Come the Christmas day itself, we're having a group of people, yet to be finalized, over to dinner.
I've been planning the feast for weeks. I don't know how or when I'll have a chance to get all this done without a major breakdown, but I've got to get a move on.

I hope your December has been equally frustrating.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Perhaps you've been asking yourself:

"Where has that lazy Mark of Kane gone to? What's he been doing these days? We haven't heard from him in ages!"

Well, gentle readers, it is with regrets that I tell you how I was laid low (and not in a good way) these past weeks.

It seemed as if it was going to be a rather fun Thanksgiving weekend. We had all sorts of plans to drink with family and dine with friends on the day itself. Tim and I spent a lovely relaxing evening in anticipation of the long weekend. We awoke on Thursday morning to troubled skies.

Now I'd spent the month of November at doctors and specialists, being poked, prodded and generally annoyed. My primary care physician had noticed that I hadn't had a physical in a couple of years, and at my advanced age, apparently, one needs a monthly tune-up. He scheduled a round of electrocardiograms, colonoscopies and the like. To his apparent disappointment and my relief, everything turned out pretty much alright. There are a couple of issues with my legs and running, but that can basically be resolved by choosing a different cardio training method. And I'm eating a lot of bran.

I've also spent the past six months working with a trainer, who concentrated, as they all do now, on strengthening my core. We'd spend hours doing plank exercises, and crunches, and the dreaded mountain climbers. I was rewarded for all this with the actual almost-appearance of abdominal and oblique muscles and a somewhat trimmer waist. However, amidst the medical testing barrage, I'd not been to the gym for three weeks.

I awoke on Thanksgiving morning and installed myself on Tim's sofa to watch the parade, something I've done since I was a very small child, and for some reason still do, even though I find the corporate sponsorship completely odious now. It was teeming rain, and poor band children from all over the country were doing their level best to smile and twirl and blow their horns through the downpour. I was cozily ensconced with a cup of coffee when Tim called from the bedroom and asked me to help move the mattress. I hopped up, tipped the mattress on it's side with him and headed back to my coffee and the Rockettes.

The morning progressed with family phone calls and the appearance of Santa Claus, who we know as a fellow Dugout habitue. It is a small world, after all. Tim and I went out to the diner to grab some breakfast, when I became aware of some discomfort in my lower back. During the meal I started finding it impossible to get comfortable, squirming around in my seat. By the time we'd walked around the corner and back to Tim's house, my back was in spasms of agony.

I tried a very hot shower. I tried stretching. I asked Tim to massage it. Nothing helped. And it was getting progressively worse. I needed help getting into my jeans, and then we hobbled across the river back to my house. There, in agony, I changed into visiting clothes, struggled to pull on a pair of boots and headed off to my sister's house for drinks. I was mostly unable to sit comfortably at my sister's, moving from chair to chair as I chatted with family. We took our leave at 7:20, in time to walk across town and meet M., Joe, Ed and the Farmboyz, who were joining us for our annual Thanksgiving dinner at Keen's.

Now nothing says Thanksgiving more to me than a big mutton chop and a series of very dry martinis, and I had been looking forward to this for some time. We met at the bar, where I started a steady regimen of medicinal cocktails, that were to help me through the evening. The night was a great success, and I hope my friends will indulge me again next year, and the year after that, if they will. You can read about it here, and I'll let you guess who the priest and ex-monk are.

After many Martinis, a sip of Ed's sidecar and a glass of port with dessert, I was apparently feeling alright enough to head on up to the Townhouse, which was fairly sedate. We took a seat on the small settee that is ensconced between the front and back bars, and watched the crowd. Tony says that an evening at the Townhouse is akin to a bubbly wake, and he's right. We're firmly convinced that the little alcove we staked out would a perfect place to lay out the body. A few drinks later and we were home before midnight.

Suffice to say, the rest of the weekend went steadily downhill. Friday, we hobbled around town, running some errands and doing a little pre-season window shopping. I was in agony. I thought it might be a good idea to repair back to Tim's, and we did. We fixed a vat of chili, and stayed home all weekend. I even stayed home from the Dugout on Sunday, remaining immobile and miserable on the sofa until Tim came back from bartending, relayed the various greetings surprised friends had left for me at the bar, and put me to bed.

I was scheduled for a stress test at 8:15 Monday morning, but could barely walk by this time. Instead, I went over to my doctor's office and was sent, posthaste, to the Spine Institute where they told me I could make an appointment for December 20th. As I was insisting that someone from the office get me admitted to the emergency room (ah, the vagaries of HMO's!), a gentleman who turned out to be the director asked me what the problem was, and then saw me two hours later. After x-rays and assorted tests, it was determined that I had ruptured a disc, which I'd been treating with Advil for the past four days.

Dosed with steroids, hillbilly heroin and a sense of purpose, I went back to work Tuesday, and I've been spending 10 to 12 hour days here pretty much ever since. I've since discovered that my drugs do not mix with diet beer, causing me to slur my consonants much earlier than usual when I returned to my usual spot at the Dugout the following Sunday.

This is the holiday season! I have too many things to do for work, and that doesn't even begin to cover the holiday chores I have to complete in the next couple of weeks. I can't stop!

I start physical therapy next week with Lance and Eric. It sounds like an 80's porn video, and I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to it or not.

I asked my doctor what could have caused the rupture, as I felt nothing actually happen. He gently suggested that it might just be my age, and the fact that things like this can just happen when you're over 50.

I'm beginning to agree with Bette Davis. Old age is no place for sissies.