Archive for the ‘Coffee Break Entertainment’ Category

 

This post is a rather short and sweet explanation for why I’ve taken a hiatus over the last few weeks. First, some background details:

In August, 2012, during a training ride on my bike in Superior, Colorado, I was involved in an accident. As I rode downhill at a pretty good clip, a driver, apparently mesmerized by his GPS, cell phone, tablet, Bluetooth, laptop, desktop, and everything else, was too busy to watch where he was going. He pulled his car out directly in front of me and stopped. I was suddenly faced with the decision to steer my bike in front of him – and into oncoming traffic – or to steer my bike behind his Jeep Grand Cherokee. I chose to ride behind him.

I probably would’ve crashed into the bushes and possibly sustained some broken bones and some pretty awful road rash. However, that did not happen. At the last second, the driver saw me coming and, evidently in a panic, backed up his Jeep to get out of my way. Of course, he backed directly into my path and the last thing I remember is hitting the front left side of his car.

The next thing I remember is lying on the pavement, thinking that it really should be painfully hot, given the heat of the day. Of course, I was in shock, and had I been able to feel the pain of what had really happened to me, I probably would’ve croaked right there. But it wasn’t meant to be, I suppose.

My injuries were many, and very severe. The paramedics arrived and did their thing, then carted me off to Boulder Community Hospital. By the time evening came around, I was pretty doped up and not feeling a thing. My only recollection of the time is a surreal memory of two men in dark flight suits and helmets loading me into a helicopter for a quick flight to the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. Happily, I have no recollection of that flight whatsoever, nor of anything else for the next two weeks.

At the time of the accident, I had been in strongest shape of my life. In an instant, I was nearly dead. One surgery followed another. Rebuilding my broken jaw and my shattered hand were among them. My punctured lungs and broken neck bones, of course, required considerable attention as well. Still on morphine, I was feeling no pain. It thankfully postponed the physical agony I’d soon have to live with for the next two years.

Thankfully, the excellent physical condition I was in kept me from dying at the scene of the accident. However, it didn’t come without a cost: I sustained what’s known as a brachial plexus injury, meaning that the nerve in my left shoulder – the point of impact with the vehicle – was stretched beyond its breaking point, to where it could never heal.

In plain English, it meant that I could no longer use my left arm again. Eventually, after some negotiation with hospital staff, I was discharged from the hospital. I could barely walk, but I had to prove it to those in charge so they’d know I could take care of myself at home. So, I took what may have been the most painful walk of my life. With the assistance of a physical therapist, a young woman who I could tell even then really cared about my well-being, I successfully navigated one lap around the courtyard in front of the hospital.

Since being discharged, I’ve yet to feel any sensation in that arm other than pain; numbness in it was the best I could hope for, since it muffled the pain, even if only briefly. All I remember is that everything hurt more than I’d ever known, and each day seemed to last forever. Suddenly, I felt stuck in my own body, with no possible escape the pain, ever. In a very real sense, I was.

Friends and family all rose to the occasion to help my wife, Kami, get through it all. She, by the way, didn’t find out about the accident until hours later when, using the information on my Wrist ID, someone from the hospital telephoned her. All she knew up to then was that I was not home, and she had no idea what may have happened.

The ordeal she was about to experience from all of this was different, though no less serious. What she experienced with me as a result of my accident – my pain, my lack of mobility, my sudden inability to do even the simplest things, etc. – are things that no married couple should ever have to endure.

But enough of those dramatic days. Over time, I’ve come to see there remains much to be thankful for, and there always has been. I have long since adapted to my condition, and have spent the last few months working my way out from under the nagging feeling that I was at the mercy of the world. Opening or closing doors, for example, or getting into and out of the car on my way to appointments with every imaginable kind of doctor, etc. are no longer the daunting challenges they once were.

Certain things, however, are gone for good. Tucking a dress shirt into my slacks? Tying my shoes? Tying a tie? That, and so many other things, are a thing of the past. By necessity, I’ve revamped many aspects of my appearance. Friends who knew me before the accident may not have immediately recognized me.

Adaptation has become my middle name, and I can do things now with only my right hand that I would never have imagined possible. Zipping zippers, for example, and buttoning buttons, and so much more. If you still live in a two-handed world – as I once did – and have ever wondered just how much you rely on them both to get things done, tie one hand behind your back and get on with life as usual. It’s really the best, and only, way I can think of explaining it. Incidentally, I’ve grown so used to just using my right hand that, if my left hand were to suddenly start working, it would just be in the way. Interesting, eh?

For the record, Sophie, my four-legged service doggie/friend, has been a Silent Angel to Kami and I both. She clearly watches out for us and I, after all this downtime following my crash, feel naked without her. Happily, between Kami, family and friends, and Sophie, I’ve had no shortage of love and positive energy sent my way, and I am grateful for every bit of it.

Alas, the end of this painful chapter is in sight. Just yesterday, I attended a Preoperative Procedure at the same hospital where they’d put me back together after the crash, like Humpty Dumpty, as they’ve reportedly said. Essentially, a nurse briefed me on an upcoming surgery next Tuesday, at which time my left arm will be amputated from the elbow down.

Hopefully, this will be the last accident-related procedure I’ll have to endure. Aside from the procedure’s obvious gruesomeness, however, the removal of that damned dead weight that’s been hanging from my shoulder since the accident will be an amazing relief.

Thankfully, I did not lose the use of my dominant, right hand, and it’s made adapting to life as a one-handed person much easier. This firsthand knowledge of learning to live with only one hand, however, makes me feel confident that I’d have adapted no matter which arm I’d have lost. When you think about it, people in this situation have no choice, right?

There is, however, a lighter side to all this which has created many funny moments. For example, when people ask “How are you?” I typically respond “I’m all right, thank you.” Most people don’t get the joke, of course, though it’s something that often makes Kami and I smile. “Can I give you a hand with that?” and “I love to help you now but my hand is full…” Perhaps it’s a reminder to us both that even though I’m living in a different body now, I’m still the same person underneath. And, following the amputation, I literally may be able to give someone a hand… and part of an arm, too!

At any rate, while I haven’t spent much time on a bicycle since the accident, I still plan to resume my training and, eventually, competing again. I don’t feel I’m getting ahead of myself, as I believe the excellent physical fitness that save my life two years ago will also help me heal that much faster today. Actually, I know it will, and that knowledge gives me all the power I need to keep going.

There will come a day, I’m sure, when I’ll be out on the road once again, riding with teammates with whom I’d once raced only two years ago. But I have found many new doors to open that I’d thought had once been closed, and I’ve found myself in many wonderful, new places I couldn’t have conceived of before the accident.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will update this blog as things unfold. For now, I will leave you with this tongue-in-cheek thought:

Amputation truly is one quick way to lose weight fast..!

Good morning? Yes, it is. It’s Sunday morning, not quite seven o’clock. The sky is turning pink over the open space behind our home as the sun begins its slow rise. I’ve been up since five or so, to let the dogs out and then to have breakfast. Kami’s still sleeping; she’s agreed to go in to work today to let one of her workers have the day off.

Despite Kami’s absence today, I’ll likely always remember Sunday mornings here in Colorado as my most favorite for a similar reason; it’s most everyone’s day off. Here, about ten miles east of Boulder, the town of Lafayette is still asleep.

There’s a conspicuous absence of traffic, and the noise and the fumes it brings, lending a strong sense of peacefulness outside. That will soon change as locals rise to attend church, go shopping, or do whatever it is they do on Sundays. For now, however, Mother Nature is still free to set the scene.

I have always felt close to the special feeling mornings bring, when everything is either still asleep or just beginning to stir. For many of my grade school years back in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I delivered the morning paper. In those days, kids my age still delivered newspapers, as we wanted to make some money yet we weren’t quite old enough to work at the corner store.

Though we didn’t work structured jobs, there was still an unofficial hierarchy to our work. Some kids, like me, delivered the morning newspaper while others delivered the evening newspaper. Delivering the morning newspaper brought with it certain responsibilities – such as timeliness – that were more than offset by the rewards.

For example, I was privy to the news of the day before almost anyone else, save those who wrote the stories. I read the headlines over breakfast, while everyone in the house was still asleep. On summer mornings, just as I was just finishing my work, the heat and humidity of the day began to take over. Only the 24-hour convenience stores were open for business at that early hour, so it was there I often went to buy gobs of what I now refer to as “…sugary garbage that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend for paying off their six-figure, dental school loans…”

But my introduction as a newspaper carrier had an inauspicious beginning. My first morning is one I’ll likely never forget. It was a cold, dark February morning when I stepped outside to the end of the driveway pick up the bundle of papers that the truck had dropped off earlier. I tried not to wake up everyone in the house, which was also still dark. I loaded up my newspaper bag, then headed off to a neighborhood several blocks away.

All along the way I wondered just what in the hell had I gotten myself into. It was easy to see why the kid who had done this route before me had quit. I came to know it not as “Holiday Tradition,” but “Holiday Attrition. It was simple; customers left a Christmas bonus for their carrier. And, like clockwork, many carriers quit their jobs just afterwards, as if they’d anxiously waited for their ten dollar bonus so they could retire in Boca Raton. The reality of it, however, was that some poor, unwary sucker like me got to cut his teeth in the cold blackness/ black coldness of January.

Those first few mornings of my first week I was woefully underdressed and mentally unprepared for the job. I was even a little scared. But the princely earnings were important enough to keep me going, so I rose to the challenge. Eventually, I developed a routine that adequately addressed every possible obstacle that might arise, and it became the foundation of the self-sufficiency I currently enjoy today.

Not all carriers, I noticed then, got that. Some, whose parents wanted them to “learn the value of a dollar,” drove them around their paper routes on days they felt it was too cold for their kid to go out alone. But I had three much younger siblings at home and parents who worked hard to make a living so, like most carriers, we were on our own to work things out. Given the autonomy I felt for the first time in my young life, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I quickly learned to work smarter, not harder. By attaching my papers onto my bike’s spring-loaded rear rack, I put an end to the drudgery of walking my route forever, even in ice and snow. Not only was it easier, but more fun, and much faster, too. It left me with a great deal more time – and energy – to spend all that money I earned. It was almost too easy.

Over the years, I must’ve put hundreds of miles on that bike and, though I didn’t know it then, early morning bike rides became a lifelong tradition. They were – and still are – a quiet, even sacred time that belonged only to me.

It was the one place I could count on to be left alone, with only my thoughts for company. That peaceful environment I enjoyed six mornings a week allowed me to discover an esoteric and introspective side of myself I never knew I had.

Besides the usual kinds of thoughts guys my age had, e.g. girls, the mall, and Pac-Man, for the first time, I had thoughts that went way beyond that. Issues such as my future and what I would do and where I might go once I was old enough were often among them. Alone on my bike, I could wonder about whatever I wanted, however I wanted, something I couldn’t always do at home.

Summer vacation in particular brought even better opportunities to ponder my future. I had a favorite overlook, where I’d sit and watch the sunrise, and just think. I recall wondering on more than one occasion “What if this is as good as it gets?” as Jack Nicholson asked in the movie of the same name.

But I really did. I wondered how, things could ever get any better than they already were at that moment. Despite all the model airplanes, rockets, and trains, record albums, black light posters, and junk food my newspaper carrier’ s income afforded me, I recognized that time I spent alone, immersed in thought, was priceless.

What I took most from that experience was that things ultimately had little value to me. In fact, the desire to have things was strongest for me when I was a kid. After being in a position where I could buy for myself anything I wanted, I exhausted my Christmas list as it were, only to find that things weren’t at all what I wanted. It was possibly one of the first basic adult values I developed as a kid, and it’s one I retain today.

Further, I came to see other kids my age through a newer, different lens. While I wasn’t the model of maturity, I noticed the majority of other kids didn’t see things the way I did. In time, I began to feel increasingly estranged from most of them, and the autonomy I developed from having a newspaper route was likely the reason; I didn’t require much from anyone –an allowance, a ride somewhere, or even parents’ permission for many things.

My buddy Dave, who lived about a block away and also delivered the morning paper, also shared this privilege. We were largely inseparable throughout the naïveté of our early teen years. I inherited his paper route when the time came for him to finally relinquish it in favor of a “real” job, then college.
Even though this now meant I could just about roll out of bed and begin delivering papers, I nonetheless felt a sense of loss from the absence of my first paper route. My new responsibilities, I suppose, weren’t nearly as challenging and, therefore, the rewards didn’t feel nearly as great.

Unfortunately, newspaper carriers today are rapidly becoming extinct. Many folks get their news online, and hard-copy newspapers are disappearing – or changing their formats – to keep up. Newspapers that are still delivered by hand are usually wrapped in a plastic sleeve and tossed out a car window.

As they pile up like so much litter, the dry, yellowing pages indicate just how unwelcome they are. After all, it’s far easier to log in to a PC and peruse the headlines than it is to go to the front door, open it, bend over and pick up the paper, and fumble through the pages over breakfast in the kitchen, right?

This thought makes me all the more grateful for my experience delivering the morning paper. It was a phase of life that brought me immense personal growth and carried with it many healthy habits I still observe today. I came to see my customers as friends, at least to the extent a person can befriend somebody by visiting their front step for a few seconds every morning, six days a week. In turn, I’d like to believe I made a similarly positive impact on their lives as well, if for no other reason than to show that not all teenagers are unmotivated slackers.

All that took place over thirty years ago. Even still, when I’m out on my bike early in the morning in the middle of nowhere, I find myself wondering about my old customers, where they might be, and how many of them may still even be alive. I wonder if they ever had any idea about the wonderful contribution they made to my life just by being there, and I wonder if they ever wondered about me, as well.

Though I’ll never know for sure, it’d be nice to somehow let them know they cross my mind from time to time. It was an immensely valuable experience for me, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Sadly, young people today are largely missing out on overcoming the challenges, and enjoying the benefits, of delivering the morning paper.

jimi hendrix voodoo childThis afternoon, I was sitting downstairs at my usual spot-the dining room table overlooking our backyard-when I suddenly heard a loud crash upstairs. It sounded as if someone fell out of a passing airplane and tried to break their fall by grabbing our gutter. Hey, it could happen –the airport is only a few minutes away and, if someone’s going to fall out of one it’d probably happen sooner rather than later, right?
Anyway, almost immediately I saw something drop to the ground just outside the sliding glass door. Then I saw Sophie, our terribly bored doggie who’s been healing from an injured paw-enough for the past ten days drag her drowsy self up from the cool grass and walk cautiously toward the door, her nose up as she sniffed the air. For a dog literally scraping for things to do, this must’ve been a bonanza for her.
I realized then that it must’ve been a bird that hit the window before falling like a wet washrag, straight to the ground. Carefully, I slid the glass doors curtain aside to peek out at the scene; I wasn’t sure what I’d find. Would it be okay? Would it be injured? Would it be so angry that my house got in its way that it would lunge at my face and try to peck out my eyes? Thoughts of Ozzy Osbourne quickly crossed my mind, then flitted away just as fast.
Sure enough, there was a little bird lying there. Sophie cautiously tiptoed toward the bird as if walking through a minefield. She stood as far from the bird as possible while still being able to effectively point-and wiggle-her wet little nose at it. “Poor little guy,” I thought, “what can I do to help him?”
I remembered the popularity birdbaths enjoyed in the neighborhood in which I grew up – keep in mind, it was during the ‘70s – so the first thing I thought of was to get him a little water. So I ran to the garage and grabbed a large plastic lid from the recycle bin. I filled it up with water, and set it outside right next to the bird. If reusing is recycling, I figured this one couldn’t have been reused for a better purpose.
Not to sound heartless, but little did I know then I was about to learn more about birds than I’d ever care to know. And even though I didn’t really know what to do at the time, I figured a little water could never hurt any injured animal. If I were an injured animal, I reasoned, it certainly wouldn’t hurt me to have a swig or two. But I was at a loss as to what to do next. “I know,” I thought, “I’ll Google it and find out – I can’t be the only person who found himself in this position.”
As it happened, I was right; page after bloody page of responses came up on my laptop’s screen. So I selected the first one on the list, and the detailed education I was about to get on injured birds began. Long story short, I had been on the right track in offering it water. The only other recommendation that caught my eye suggested I “keep the injured bird in a safe place, away from any animals that might eat it.” Well, despite Sophie’s seemingly limitless appetite for mice and rabbits, this unfortunate little bird didn’t seem to be on her menu, at least not today.
I then got up and peeked out the window again. When I first saw it the bird moments earlier, it just sat there looking stunned, and I vaguely saw in it an image of myself, late on a Friday night during my freshman year of college. The bird looked fine, except for its right-wing, which extended outward, as if still in flight.
Now, however, the birds beak was wide open, as if it was winded, and trying hard to catch its breath. It made sense, I guess-I’d probably feel the same way if I flew full speed into a window. This time, however, the bird had moved over to the lid where it had clearly been drinking the water. Even more encouraging was that the bird seemed to have been gathering its wits a little. It had shut its beak and was looking around, blinking now and then. It had its bell rung, all right, and was just trying hard to recover. I’ve been there myself, and I know the feeling.
By this time, the bird had been there for about an hour or so. Google indicated that I should give the bird anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple of hours to regain its sense of-I don’t know what to call it- Birdieness, maybe? As if it, too, had read the Google posting, the bird seemed to be getting better by the minute, although it seemed a little embarrassed.
But after the bird moved an inch or two away from where it had hit, the moist, little white puddle it left behind made it obvious that the impact had knocked the poop right out of it. That feeling, I’m sure, could not be a good one. I imagine it’s hard for any animal, wild bird or otherwise, to maintain some sense of dignity after something like that happens, even if it was for a good reason. There’s simply no way it could keep an “I’m okay, everything’s cool” attitude before proudly flying off once again.
So, I gave it a little privacy for the next hour or so, and when I looked again an hour later, it was gone. I suppose that, other than a splitting headache, things could’ve been worse for it.
Anyway, that’s my good deed for the day. And, though I didn’t help this little bird with the expectation of anything in return, I nonetheless hope it will only visit my yard from now only to peck at worms and to sing happy little songs.

free public noncopyrighted Christie BrinkleyRemember those crop circles that became famous in England back in the 80’s? You know, the ones that had all those neat round and square geometric designs that were visible from the air? The ones which, when asked, all the locals could say was “I dunno, maybe alien spaceship landing strips, p’raps?” And do you also remember how, in the end, it all turned out to be a hoax, perpetrated by those same locals who really just didn’t get enough attention when they were growing up? Some prime-time network “news magazine,” in typical sensationalist fashion, exposed it all, and also exactly how it had been done. Through the use of only three items: a 4-5 ft. piece of wood, a piece of rope attached to either end of that wood, and a great deal more backbreaking hard work than (I believe) it was worth, some humble villagers outwitted the world, even if only for a few days.

Coincidentally, the exact same thing occurred here in my own neighborhood and, interestingly enough, it happened to be me who created it. But instead of wood and rope, I used an electric lawnmower and an extension cord in creating my crop circles. In fact, about the only thing the job I did had in common with that of the English villagers was the not-worthwhile, backbreaking hard work. Have I got your interest now? I hope not. But, just for kicks, here’s the story:

Last week, I set about organizing the garage, something that needed to be done since last October, when I first moved into this house. It was a mess, with stuff stacked and strewn hither, tither, and yon, as real men never say. Then again, real men place more of a priority on having a neatly organized garage. Hell, I don’t even have a poster of Sports Illustrated’s 1985 Swimsuit Edition poster girl on the wall in there. Do you think my wife would allow that? Well, let me tell you, real womanly wives wouldn’t care. Actually, I think they would, but no real man would ever admit that.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever organized a garage in August anywhere (even in South America, where it’s winter), but all I can say is that it’s hot, sweaty, thankless work. At some point, probably when I was really too tired and long past the point of where I should have stopped, I hurt my back doing the third or fourth “one last thing” before I called it quits for the day. I had been trying to hang up a bicycle-one that I used to be able to ride for hours and hours (and I called it fun, too)-on some hooks I just installed in the garage rafters. At the time, I thought it would be easy. But, as I told my chiropractor the next day “I twisted my back in a funny way as I held up the bicycle, which was much heavier than I remembered. Then, I felt something in my mid-back pop, and I had to let go of it.” After chortling a bit under his breath, my chiropractor restored my spine to its previous, correctly aligned condition.

Here’s the part where the aliens come in: two days later, I was out mowing our front yard with our electric mower. It’s hot, sweaty, thankless work too. On top of that, my throat was parched, and my feet were burning hot, almost enough to melt the rubber tread on my shoes from the inside out. In other words, I felt as if I were walking around on two well done, New York strip steaks instead of human feet. All I could think of was how good some cold water would taste once I finally was done with the gruesome task of mowing the lawn. Why gruesome? Well, it never was before, at least until last week, when I ran over a mouse. Enough said.

Perhaps it was the thought of that poor little mouse and what it endured in its final few seconds of life that gave me the inspiration to keep going, I don’t know. But I do know that I suddenly looked down at the extension cord and realized I was about to run it over. And, as anyone who has ever worked with anything electric at all, ever, cutting the cord means at least two things. First, nothing further gets done. Second, the cut cord either means that it must be fixed or (as I don’t mind admitting, having run over the cord once already this year) it must be replaced with a new one.

So, even though I don’t believe I think very well on my feet, especially when they feel like well-done New York strip steaks, I thought I was making a real genius move when I quickly snatched up the extension cord and, with a sudden flick of my wrist, twirled it out of the way just before running it over.

However, I just as suddenly felt that familiar pop in my mid back and, with half the yard still to mow, I now had to complete the job with a spine that now felt more like Jell-O than bone. Between that and the heat, and the swollen feet, I began to get pretty ticked off. What’s worse, the most difficult part of the lawn to mow-the one that had been taken over by a particularly evil and moist weed which never failed to clog the mower-still remained to be cut.

True to my experience, the mower clogged time and again. Growing angrier with each pass of the mower, I began to bounce the mower front-to-rear to loosen up the sloppy, guacamole-like wet grass underneath. The strategy worked, and left behind greenish piles of sloppy stuff that truly was nightmarish. “Martian guts,” I think I began calling it. I don’t know, I was so hot and out of sorts by this time.

But to my credit, I trudged on until the job was done, though I was thoroughly spent by that time. Down and defeated, I reeled up the extension cord that had been used for the job, cussing at every turn of the crank. Then I went up to the house and unplugged the cord from the wall outlet, then stood upright and proudly marched into the garage where, after closing the door, I nearly collapsed onto the floor in pain.

Instead, though, I stumbled into the living room, my face covered with salty sweat that dripped down my nose and onto my shoes. Little pieces of neatly cut green mulch defiantly stuck to my face, as if daring me to wipe them off with my sleeve-which I did. Then, as I was beginning to feel truly manic, the pain reasserted itself, and I realized that no amount of Tylenol could ever help me then. So, I choked a bottle of vitamin water, and pathetically lay down in a heap on the living room floor, begging forgiveness for all the wrongs I’ve ever done to anyone ever in my entire life. But my beseeching brought me no pity; only after about twenty minutes-as the label on the Tylenol bottle indicated-did my pain eventually begin to subside.

It wasn’t until the following morning, after some sleep and a chance to gather my wits, did I realize what I’d done: looking down onto the lawn from the upstairs window, the way I had bounced the mower back and forth to loosen the wet grass left circular divots on the lawn where the blades had cut more closely than anywhere else. Further, the 21”-width blades-which left corresponding 21” wide lines back and forth across the yard immediately reminded me of the English crop circles. And while maybe my yard didn’t nearly demonstrate the complexity of design those clever English villagers created, it certainly did resemble an alien landing strip more so than could be found in any of my neighbors’ yards.

For some reason, all this alien mumbo-jumbo became a backhanded point of pride for me. I mean, come on – I wasn’t trying to be clever. It’s obvious this was only a lawn mower… Isn’t it? Could my neighbors really be thick as a brick? At least those English villagers created special tools to perpetrate their little hoax. They earned their five minutes of fame-and they bloody well deserved it, too. As for me, I think what I accomplished that day is something only a real man could do. That’s why I’ve decided to order the back issue of 1985’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Perhaps, under Christie Brinkley’s watchful eye, a hoax of this proportion will never happen again. For now, though, all I know is that I’m the only one who seems to have noticed.

I’ve always thought things to be a bit trite when the conversation turns to the weather. I am, however, discounting the fact that here in Colorado, the weather can be a very dynamic subject indeed. To refer to the weather here as “trite,” especially this time of year when it doesn’t seem as if winter is done yet could be fatal. I loosely think of this as the “Donner Effect.” It could mean the difference between getting somewhere safely and getting stuck in mountain snow several feet deep and changing the way you look at food forever. There, despite your better judgment, you may nonetheless find yourself hungrily eyeballing people around you and wondering how they might taste on a bed of lettuce with a little salsa verde spread on top…

Even the dogs in the backseat would start to feel a little fear as their hackles mysteriously begin to rise despite the absence of a cat, or another girl dog. Then, they realize you’ve been looking at them in the rearview mirror and, intuitive creatures that they are, can just tell you are thinking “Hmm, that old gal over there looks like she’d taste pretty leathery, but that young pup’ll do in a pinch…”

Anyway, drama aside, any skier or snowboarder can tell you that some of the best snow often falls this time of year, or at least they’d like to think so, given the need to justify the high cost of season lift passes-which is a drama in itself. But that’s up in the high country.

Here in the low country-the Denver Metro, that is-snowfalls this time of year typically mean muddy shoes and wet socks (or a muddy shoe and a wet sock, for those missing a foot or more off one leg), and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet of earthworms for any red breasted robin. All they have to do is roll out of the nest, down the tree, and onto the street, where they can happily hop around from puddle to puddle, suckin’ ’em up like so many al dente spaghetti noodles. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite…”
Kidding aside, my neighbors and I woke up two mornings ago to a nice, white blanket of snow which, though it looked nice, we all knew would turn to slush in only about fifteen minutes. And though it was great for the grass and great for the birds-terrible for the earthworms, though, in a Darwin Awards sort of way-it was likely to leave an indelible mark upon linoleum kitchens and carpeted living rooms alike throughout the neighborhood.

You’ve heard of house proud? Well, how about truck proud? In this neighborhood, the men are very proud of their “four-by’s,” to a point where I sometimes believe they’d sooner take off their muddy boots and put pink, fluffy slippers on instead before risking getting the interior dirty on sloppy days like yesterday. Mud belongs on the outside, don’tcha know?

But ask their wives, and I bet they’ll tell you the same thing: These are the same guys that won’t think twice about wearing those same muddy boots into the house. But, if you think about it, it makes sense, as no man wants his wife or kids to see him wearing pink fuzzy slippers around the house. In the truck it’s okay, though, ’cause only the dog will see him there and he ain’t talkin’ anyway. It’s enough to make me wonder what, if anything, the neighborhood women who drive trucks might put on their feet on muddy days. Heck, life’s confusing enough as it is; it makes me glad we drive a brown Subaru wagon (but not glad enough to put down my street address, just in case any of the neighbors are reading…).
See? Talking about the weather isn’t always bad, especially when it’s me doing the talking. I’ve hardly mentioned the weather at all, and even when I did, I really didn’t. So, in case you haven’t had enough yet, all I really meant to say was that yesterday, after it warmed up, I drove Sophie down to the nearby bushes she loves to run around in. Just as I thought, mosquitoes had been busy breeding-as if they were confident malaria had no known medical remedy and that causing another outbreak would be a matter of community pride.

As I’d expected, many of the newborn mosquitoes, a.k.a. six-hour-olds, clung to the windows, daring me to come out so they could suck a little blood and take it back to feed their two-day-old parents. And, if there was enough left over and the old sods were still alive, their elderly three-day-old grandparents would get some, too.

This in mind, I hit the gas pedal and, at around 15 mph, even the heartiest of the bugs blew off the windows. The windshield wiper took care of the rest in a cold-hearted, uncaring, Darwin Awards kind of way, but this time for mosquitoes. Then I rolled down the windows so Sophie could stick her nose out and feel the wind rushing between her ears and up her little doggie nostrils too.

I was a little hesitant to do it, even though I know how much she loves it, because every now and then a rogue breeze finds its way up her nose and causes her to sneeze. It usually creates a simultaneous whiplash effect for her, which usually abruptly and violently ends with a sharp “thunk” on the car door window frame as well as an ejection of a generous portion of doggy-snot. It’s the sort of thing that could draw applause from even the most stoic of cats, though it typically only causes a grimace of empathic pain to cross my face because, let’s face it, cats are smart enough to not stick their heads out of moving car door windows and, whenever possible, avoid being in moving cars at all.

So off we went, riding along with the car windows down, and Sophie’s head sticking out of one window. I could hear the gentle, scrunching sound of the gravel underneath the car tires. Then, to my amazement, I had a fleeting sensation of sitting in the bedroom, first thing in the morning! “What’s happening,” I wonder, “this has to be a dream!”

Actually, I wasn’t dreaming at all. In fact, I was completely lucid. What fooled me, however, was that the local frogs were also in their beginning throes of breeding season, gettin’ down and dirty makin’ tadpoles. It was the sound of that racket that took me back to the bedroom, where my multi–adjustable white noise machine had been making that same sound since Christmas. Ha! I had grown so used to hearing the machine version of The Amphibian Dating Game that I didn’t recognize it in nature! Well, there you have it, the reason for the seasons, at least as far as I can tell.

And, if you are as confused by these reasons as I am-and I bet you could be if you really tried-then you can understand why I chose communications as my college curriculum and not biology. What’s more, just as I began this posting by stating my belief that talking about the weather is among the lowest, least creative forms of conversation, I haven’t really said anything about the weather at all. That said, if I could suddenly combine this with the odd skill of pointing at things that aren’t really there in a TV studio-but are plainly visible to viewers at home-I guess I have the right stuff to be a TV weatherman! Think Brick What’s-His-Name from the movie Anchorman, and you’ll know what I mean. Now, where did I leave my slippers?

For a guy who hasn’t been on a bike in over twenty months, I’ve been on a heckuva ride. Ups, downs, and everything in between has been the norm, and is still something I’m not used to-maybe I never will be. All that aside, I am finally reaching a point in my recovery where I can speak freely about this here on this blog, and also have consistent energy with which to make fairly regular postings. Yes, pain has been a mainstay of my life since then. More pain, in fact, than I could ever have imagined, and for longer than I’d ever thought possible. However, that’s how it went, and that sometimes how it still goes. And while I’ve yet to sleep a full night-a chunk of 2-3 hours is a lot for me-I somehow managed to stay on this side of psychotic. Understandably, my energy levels-and my corresponding sanity-has long felt pretty sketchy.

In his book It’s Not about the Bike, Lance Armstrong details his victorious battle with cancer, among other things. When I first read that book 5 or so years ago, I was pretty sure that its title had something to do with the kind of bike he was riding. A pro racer like Armstrong, I figured, could get his hands on pretty much any bike he wanted, no matter it’s cost, or the exotic composites used to make it, or whatever. Therefore, I took the book’s title as implying something along the lines that “Lance is so great it doesn’t matter what bike he is on…”

But now, I understand what the title really means, and it has nothing to do with a bicycle at all. After all, when it comes to life-and-death issues-like cancer, or car accidents, for example-material things like bicycles don’t matter one bit. In fact, no amount of money or pile of material goods matters at all when you’re lying in an ER, drugged up on painkillers with your life completely out of your control and in the hands someone whose face is hidden behind a white mask. Whether you realize it at the time or not-I sure didn’t-there can be nothing quite like that, nothing at all, and no matter who you are, sooner or later you can’t help but realize there’s a lesson to be learned from it. And it’s not a lesson that comes from the pain; rather it’s because of the pain.

In my case, I have learned from this experience both sooner and later, though the lessons I’ve learned have been very different. Early on, my lessons were more physical in nature; I couldn’t believe that within just a few days of my accident, I had been in my best physical condition ever, able to ride for hours on end and to conquer 14,000 foot plus mountain peaks on my bike. Clearly, my definition of “pain” before the crash was very different than afterward, the only similarities being that they both involved a bike and a cuss word at the moment of impact!

But seriously, although I was afraid to let it come to the forefront of my mind at the time, I had an uneasy feeling that I would spend much of the foreseeable future watching all that muscle and aerobic capacity winnow away while my body fought to regain a foothold on my injuries. Eventually, though, my body prevailed, and overcame each injury little by little, and one by one. Now, I am left with one remaining injury-nerve damage to my left arm that renders it unusable. It will take some time, I’m sure, before the final judgment will be made as to whether or not-or how much-I will get back. As the title of Armstrong’s book might’ve read if he were in my shoes, It’s Not About the Arm. But this is the place where my adventure really begins…

For some time, I have been able to actually enjoy my physical predicament by making jokes about it, sometimes unbeknownst to strangers, and sometimes unbeknownst even to me. For example, someone once asked me how I was doing, and I replied “I’m all right…” “Ha, ha, ha, that’s very funny, I get it,” he said. And I said “You know what, I get it too, and it is pretty funny!” Ever since then, silly puns like that (and much, much worse!) have come and gone, offering a little comic relief when I probably would’ve needed it anyways, no matter how many usable arms I had. “Can you give me a hand,” and “I’m feeling left out” are a couple of my other favorites.

But make no mistake-before running out and inflicting terrible pain upon yourself and rendering one of your arms or legs useless, keep in mind that it isn’t the laugh party that I am making it out to be; fun and games, maybe, but laugh party? No way. At least not yet!