Sunday, May 26, 2013

Walk This Way

I have to watch my step—literally.

My left knee has become the latest part of my body to go the fritz, joining my lower back and my left shoulder. I’m starting to feel like a rundown old Buick.

This most recent aggravation started a few weeks ago when I ran to catch a bus and apparently twisted my knee.

The pain flared up a short time later and I immediately switched into denial mode, hoping the discomfort would magically disappear one morning without any effort on my part.

This has been my standard approach to just about all my problems and, as usual, it didn’t work.

I finally gave into reality and acknowledged the pain, which comes and goes without any apparent provocation. Since I’ve been going to physical therapy for the back and the shoulder for the last several weeks, I figured I’d add the bum knee to my list of woes.

Cathy, my physical therapist, immediately diagnosed my problem.

“You don’t walk right,” she said. “I noticed that when you first walked in here.”

“I’ve been walking for over 50 years,” I said. “And now you telling me I’m doing it wrong?”

“You walk with your feet pointing out,” she said.

“Charlie Chaplin made a career out of walking like that,” I whined.

Cathy—who should consider becoming a cage fighter—laughed heartily and proceeded to crank my leg up toward the ceiling while digging her fingers along the length of my thigh.

This experience started off as uncomfortable and quickly worked its way up to agonizing. It felt like she was trying to pull the skin off the bone. I tried to keep the noise level down, but the pain got so bad that I finally had to let out a string of grunts and moans.

“You’re doing good,” Cathy said in the midst of my torment.

“I’m lying on my back writhing in pain,” I wailed. “I’m not doing anything!

Step By Step

Cathy chuckled and continued with her tortuous task. When she finally finished she gave me some stretches to do at home and then actually showed me how to walk properly.

“Keep your feet pointed straight,” she said, “and walk heel-to-toe.”

This instruction was almost as painful as the treatment. Next she was going to tell me how to breathe.

I mean, if I’m going to have an injury, I’d like to have some exciting, manly story to go with it—like I hurt my knee playing football, or I twisted my leg fighting off a marauding grizzly. I’d rather not tell people that my knee hurts because I walk like a pregnant merganser.


My knee trouble is yet another reminder that I'm not as young as I used to be and that my body is staring to wear down.

I feel strange having to remind myself to walk properly every time I leave my house—heel to toe, with my feet pointing straight ahead. Anyone watching me must think I’m possessed.

The only good thing that I can say about this situation is that it’s forcing me to be more mindful. I’ve heard about walking meditations for years but I never really took the idea seriously.

I always believed that you couldn’t really be meditating unless you were all twisted up into a lotus position. But I have to say that nothing focuses you more on the present moment than having to watch each and every step you take.

I’m scheduled to go another round with Cathy this week and I’m hoping it’ll be a little less painful. I’d like to get this walking thing down while I still have a few good years left.

But until that time I’m going to keep on walking, heel to toe, with my feet pointing straight ahead.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bright With Glory

The name Robert comes from Old High German word Hruodberht meaning “bright with glory.”

I’m trying to focus on that little tidbit today as I mark my 56th birthday. I’m not feeling terribly bright and I’m a little short on glory right at the moment, but I’ve decided to enjoy this day nevertheless.


I’m doing my best to banish all negative thoughts and self-criticism today. There’s plenty of time to be miserable some other day.

I’m finally feeling better after suffering from some nasty cold for the last two weeks, but the weather has decided to crap out here in the Northeast with temperatures predicted to slip into the forties tonight.

It’s been a relatively quite day. I went to work, enjoyed the good wishes of friends and loved ones, and went home. Tomorrow I’ll be having a birthday dinner with my dear sister and auntie.

I can remember what a big deal my birthday used to be when I was kid, how my mother always put together these great parties. She made me feel like my birthday was some kind of national holiday.

Reality has since muscled into the picture and I’m forced to admit that this day is not the world-stopping event I once believed it to be. But I am grateful for those beautiful memories.

Speaking of reality, I finally cracked down and signed up for a long-term care insurance program at work this week. I hemmed and hawed because I wasn’t anxious to take on yet another expense. And I would really rather not think about such cheerful topics as broken bones, Alzheimer’s, and strokes.

The Long Haul

I know aging is a part of life; I’m just having trouble accepting it as part of my life.

But my company had mailed me a booklet on the program that advised me to “help protect your future from one of life’s uncertainties” and I started thinking that maybe I should acknowledge the passage of time instead of pretending that things will never change.

Living Longer Has Its Own Set of Challenges,” the brochure proclaims.

It’s own set of challenges? I got news for you, pal—living longer is the challenge.

I was thinking of letting this offer lapse and putting off the long-term care business to…whenever. That’s my usual approach with just about everything in my life.

But the other day I saw two elderly women with walkers standing outside a local diner. One was speaking while the other leaned in closely to hear what her companion was saying.

These women were once young, vibrant and healthy, I thought, and now look at them.

But I have to give them credit, they were going out; they were socializing, despite their physical difficulties.

I’m in better shape than they are, but how often to I sit on my rear end watching the TV when I should out in the world doing things? How many big projects and great ideas have I started yet failed to finish? There’s a set of challenges right there that I should be facing.

I don’t like getting older, but I realize that I’m lucky to have come this far. Every day is another chance to make great things happen, another opportunity to burn bright with glory.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Runaway Train

It’s cold and rainy in Brooklyn today, but it’s bright and sunny in Colorado. Or so I’m told.

I’m supposed to be in Denver right now—along with my sister and auntie—visiting my brother and his family. But we never left town because I got sick just days before we were scheduled to take off.

And for the record, I still feel like five cents’ worth of God-Help-Us.

My nose is bruised from all the honking and sneezing. I have no energy, no drive, no desire to do anything beyond picking up the remote and staring at whatever bilge floats across the TV screen.

What would Bob Beamon say?

In my New Year’s Day post I cited a 2013 horoscope that advised me to emulate the track and field athlete who shattered the world long jump record in the 1968 Olympics so decisively that it led to the coining of the word “Beamonesque.”

I made a single resolution that day: to be more mindful. Now, with the New Year nearly half over, I’m sorry to say I’ve fallen abysmally short of that goal. My mind still easily slips into the ugly past or the dire future with barely a wink at the pressing present.

And I’m so hostile. I don’t like admitting this, but after watching myself over the last few weeks I can’t help but come to the conclusion that I’m one angry little bugger. I'm impatient, short-tempered, and, at times, quite bitter.

I'm turning into Grumpy Cat.

No Brakes

I went to Park Slope one recent evening to check out a vintage poster display. The event wrapped up early—there wasn’t much to see—and I decided to go home even though it was early on a Friday night.

As I waited on the subway platform for the train to show up, I could feel the anger rising up in me and I’m not sure why. I had no place to go, I wasn't in a hurry, and I didn't have to get up early the next morning. But I really wanted to get on the goddamn train.

I have a tendency to unload all of my accumulated frustration into one event or incident, thus making them far worse than they really are.

All I know is that while the train was somewhere down the track, I had gone completely off the rails.

Beamonesque, it wasn’t.

When the train finally did show up, I got on board and realized too late that I was heading in the wrong direction and that I’d have to get off at the next stop and grab a train going in the opposite way. By then I was pretty much out of rage and I sat quietly in the station. A short time later I got sick.

I’m not saying that I automatically caught a cold because I blew my stack on a train platform. If that were true, half the city would be in the ER. But this kind of self-abuse is most definitely bad for my health. And it’s just no way to live.

I’m happiest when I reign in my temper and resist the urge to rage. I just don’t do it often enough.

My most recent horoscope says its time for a deep cleansing, washing not
just my brain, but my “wild heart and funky soul as well.”

It’s time for me to hit the spiritual showers and come clean.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mile Low

Maybe next year I should just skip straight to June.

Last May, I got some horrendous bug that refused to go away for the longest time. I figured that was just an aberration and that I couldn’t possibly get sick again at this lovely time of year. And certainly not two years in a row.

I’m glad I didn't put money down on that bet because right now I’m suffering through a perfectly wicked cold.

It started off yesterday afternoon as a little tickle in my throat, which I barely noticed but it quickly blossomed into a full-blown upper respiratory nightmare.

I’m coughing, sneezing, and dragging myself around the house like an extra from The Walking Dead. I thought May was all about rebirth and new beginnings, but so far the only thing merry about the month of May is that it’s playing merry hell with my nerves.

This is Mother’s Day and my sister’s birthday and instead of being out with my family, I’m home vegetating in front of the tube watching “Bar Rescue” and other, equally stimulating fare.

To make matters much worse, we were supposed to fly out to Denver on Tuesday to visit our brother and his family for 10 days. But this morning we decided to scrub those plans until a later date when, God willing, we’ll all be in better shape.

Bust A Cap

I don’t want to get any sicker nor do I want to infect my loved ones. And I don’t relish the idea of seeing all the sites through wincing, watery eyes.

I hate having to reschedule the trip. My niece sent me a cap bearing the Colorado flag a few months ago and every time someone asked me if I came from the Centennial State, I’d smile and say no, but I’m on my way.

God help the next loser who asks me about that cap.

I’ve never been to Denver before and I was admittedly nervous about going to some place new—as opposed to being excited the way a normal person would be.

But I know it would do me a lot of good to shake up my routine a little bit and do something different. Well, right now my routine is shaking like a James Bond martini.

Mother’s Day just makes everything more depressing. I dragged myself out to the supermarket to get some food and I started to tear up on the checkout line as I thought of my mother, who’s been gone close to 11 years now.

It’s still hard seeing all the Mother’s Day ads, and watching people walk by holding bouquets. And my mother used to take such great care of us when we were sick.

A little while ago my brother called me and I told him my sad story. It turns out my niece has not been feeling well either.

In addition, my brother and his wife will be closing on a house during the time we were supposed to be out there so it would have been difficult to see them. He suggested that we stay at their new home when we actually do visit.

So maybe this little disaster worked out for the best. I’ll rest up, get well, and get ready for a successful trip. I’m going to earn the right to wear that Colorado cap.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Mug Shot

I’ve never been a particularly handy guy.

Whenever any device or object I own breaks down my first thoughts are either “who do I call to fix it?” or “where can I get a new one?”

I’ve never crawled under the sink to fix a pipe, lifted a car hood to tinker with the engine, or opened up the back of radio except to change the batteries.

I don’t paint, plaster, spackle, varnish, scrape, file or saw. I don’t wear overalls, safety glasses, workman’s boots, or tool belts.

Many people live for a do-it-yourself project, God bless them, and I’m sure they’re saving money and feeling pretty good about themselves for taking matters into their own hands. Me, I just reach for the phone.

My last repair job was about a year ago when I glued the handle back on to a coffee mug my company had given out for Earth Day.

I had managed to break the thing in under a month and while I don’t drink coffee, I do guzzle gallons of tea during the day, so going mugless was not an option. I could’ve asked for a new cup, but I decided that no, damn it, I was going to fix this thing myself.

I got some industrial strength glue and did the job in a snap. I was so proud of myself you would’ve thought I’d overhauled a jet engine, but I couldn’t help it.

Every time I looked at that tiny crack on the handle I’d smile and think yeah, I fixed that.

Then one day not too long ago I look at my mug and noticed the crack wasn’t there. I had done a respectable job repairing the thing, but it certainly wasn’t that good. What could be the explanation for this? It took me a few seconds, but then I got it.

I had somebody else’s mug.

The only way this could have happened is when I stopped at the men’s room on the way to get more tea.

I leave the mug on a shelf outside the lavatory, like a lot of other guys do, and I must’ve picked up the wrong mug on the way out. Or someone had picked up mine.

Cup Yours

My first impulse was to gag at the thought of ingesting somebody else’s germs and dunk my head into a bucket of rubbing alcohol for some serious disinfecting.

But then I realized that I’ve been filling the cup with boiling water every day and zapping it in the microwave—I like my tea hot—so any microscopic marauders must have been long since vaporized.

The mugs all look the same, of course, since it’s company issue. Still, this isn’t my mug. It doesn’t have the scar, the mileage, the memories that we shared over the last year or so.

But my cup could be with any one of the men on my floor and I wasn’t about to do a cube-by-cube search just to find the correct clone.


I had just about forgotten this tempest in teacup when I walked into the company kitchen last week and saw one of my co-workers making a cup of coffee.

He’s one of the many people I’ve seen every day for years without speaking to or even acknowledging. I don’t know his name or what he does, but it’s not out of animosity. It’s just a gap that neither one of us ever tried to bridge.

I was stepping around this man went something told me to check out his cup and there it was—the tiny crack around the handle. This mug had my mug!

But what do I do? Say something like, excuse me, I know we’ve never spoken to each other once in the last five years, but I took your coffee mug outside the can and I’d like mine back? It just didn’t sound right.

So I kept my mouth shut and walked out of the kitchen. I’m not sure what to do now. I can wait until the next time this guy gets a refill and tell him the story. Maybe I could hang around after work one night and sneak into his office to make the switch.

Or I can just let it go. My mug has a new owner now and they seem quite happy together. The guy hasn’t noticed the change, which means I did a pretty good repair job. Maybe I can be a handy guy after all.

I think I’ll try some sandblasting.