Last week I had a tough string of days.
The first was a very bad Wednesday of pool. I started out well enough, strutting to the table and running a couple of racks, but somehow I lost it. I started missing and sank into a funk. I was really indulging in feeling sorry for myself. Wallowing in it and for the better part of an hour never managed to string more than a couple of balls together. I was angry, just seething, and had no idea why. I was angry at everyone making noise.. I was angry at everyone walking by.. Finding excuses in every tiny distraction. (meanwhile, when I’m shooting well, the two guys at the next table could climb up on top of it and start having sex, and I wouldn’t even notice). I had a realization that one of the few things that’s making me really happy these days is to be AT the table shooting well. It is a meditation for me. I can get lost in it. But only when I’m playing well. When I’m playing badly, it is the worse sort of torture.
Jeremiah felt so bad for me at the end of the day that he payed for the table (we were playing at his pool hall.. not mine). I stayed on to see if I could work out the kinks. The dysfunctional older couple at the table next to me, (Him trying to give her lessons on how to shoot pool.. like an EMU or some other flightless bird trying to teach a pig how to fly), had been replaced by a young Chinese guy.
“are you playing straight pool?”
“why don’t you come over here and join me..”
It turned out that he hadn’t been playing straight pool.. didn’t know what it was.. But I taught him the rules and beat the hell out of him for 45 minutes or so just to get the bad taste out of my mouth. (He turned out to be a nice guy.)
“What do you do,” he asked.
“Well.. I’m retired. I used to build custom bicycles.”
“Um.. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m terminally ill. So I’ve decided to retire.”
He was a little stunned. Where did I live? Could he please give me a ride home? Did I mind talking about it? How did I know I was sick?
A few minutes later I found myself in the passenger seat of a Maserati doing 65 miles an hour between red lights.
“Let me ask you something.. Do you know God?”
The next day James Swan came and picked me and Matthew up to take us to visit J.P.Weigle in his shop up in Connecticut. Peter is one of the old guard of American bike building. He and Richie Sachs went over to England and learned the trade when they were kids back in the 1900s. Peter’s shop is wonderful. It is the accumulation of 40 years of building bikes. Bits and pieces of bicycle history and ephemera lying all over the place. Shelves and drawers full of items that would make most bike geeks weak in the knees. More importantly, though, it is a shop with windows, and a wood stove.. like the wood shop that I grew up in. It’s the kind of shop that I’ve always dreamed of ending up in. I’m so attached to NYC that I think mine would be in the city, not the country. Maybe on the second floor so that I could do some good people watching but maintain a level of privacy. I had a warehouse space in the Bronx lined up at one point. A wall of factory windows and 18 foot ceilings. I was going to build an open storage loft in the back third of the space.. and a slightly raised office area where I could sit and survey the shop. That was before the FIRST recurrence. I spent much of my second year of treatment scheming and planning.. Figuring out how to make my basement space work better for me, realizing that with the looming threat of recurrence, I really couldn’t afford to take on overhead.. a lease that would continue to need to be payed even if I stopped being able to show up for work. What I’ve ended up with is a very nice shop. But I don’t have windows.. or a wood stove. Visiting Peter’s shop, I was reminded that I never will.
It was a melancholy visit. Peter recently got a beautiful Linley jig borer. A gorgeous old machine just like one that I was about to buy before this recent recurrence and prognosis. The excitement of a new machine. I wandered around his shop taking pictures, and thinking about how I won’t be getting any new machines.. Instead I’ll be deciding what happens to the machines I already have after I’m dead. Fuck. Depressing.
On Friday I went mountain biking. I thought I’d test out the knee before a weekend of riding with my brother and Todd and Amy and Sam. St. George picked me up from the train and we went up to Blue. We started out nice and slow, but it was pretty clear to me that the knee was problematic. Click click, grind grind. I was so nervous about falling to the left and having to catch myself on the bad leg, that I ended up doing a lot of preemptive falling to the right. A lot more falling in general than I’m used to. Eventually I fell neither left nor right, but directly forward.. and hard. The bike landed on my head. My head broke the bike.. The ride was over. FUCK FUCK. It’s nothing that I won’t be able to fix. A few broken spokes. But it’s pretty clear that my knee isn’t ready to be out riding. I’ve been through this plenty. This same knee has already had an ACL replacement and TWO subsequent surgeries to clean up torn meniscus. So I know what it all feels like. I’m afraid that on top of the newly torn ACL, there might be some meniscus damage as well. An ACL replacement is not a surgery that is worth doing.. If I can be frankly dark about it, I wouldn’t be likely to fully recover from the surgery before I DIE. No point. A little scope to clean up an irritating flap of meniscus might be worth while, though. BUT it means waiting for an appointment with an orthopedic doc. Getting an MRI scheduled and waiting for the results. Getting a surgery scheduled and waiting for that. A lot of waiting. (I don’t have time for this shit.. it’s like a mantra..)
That’s a depressing post. It was a rough patch leading into a weekend of friends and relatives in town for Easter (and a voice recital by my cousin Gracie.. My GOD what a voice). I’m really tired in the evenings these days. Having a hard time finding the energy to cook dinner (something that I’ve always been able to do on auto pilot), and an even harder time sitting through the meal once it’s on the table. Clearly something isn’t right. I am counting on this process being a roller coaster ride and not just a steady decline. If it’s a steady decline, I’m in trouble.
Here’s what I’m going to do about it. Today.
I’m going to head in to the pool hall and see if I can put my head down and focus. Block out the rest and just run some balls. Maybe I can play some decent pool and trigger an upswing here!
I’m going to be in touch with my doc and see if there’s a way to streamline the MRI process so that I can go to an orthopedist already armed with the films.
I’m going to order up the bits and pieces that I need to fix up that rear wheel, AND to get the back up wheels from Bobby Earle up and running so that if it happens again it won’t mean any down time.
Finally. I’m going to get a hair cut. Even if nothing else works, THAT should change everything.