The Price of Ego
Back at the turn of the century (that’s what I call early 1980's), this young writer was at the pinnacle of his physical condition. During that time, I had a job moving furniture and other large objects. To some, I might have looked like an ant moving five times my weight but unbeknownst to anyone I had a secret. I learned how to maneuver objects around (with a little help from my work partner, of course) and I soon understood that even with the heaviest pieces, there was always a way to get them into and out of buildings without hurting myself.
About a few months later, I was asked by my supervisor if I could make certain that a container of laundry detergent was taken up to the second floor. After all of my previous training, my ego quickly said yes and I rolled the somewhat heavy cylindrical container to the edge of the stairway. I peered up the twenty towering steps before me and reviewed my options. Without assistance, the best way to get this thing upstairs would have been to flip it over from one end to the other, that way, the bulk of the weight stayed on the steps and not me. Not wanting to damage the cardboard container, I opted to pick the thing up and carry it up the laborious incline. To this day, I can remember the stress and strain to my entire body, as I made the quest towards the far away landing at the top. Of all of the herculean stunts I had performed, none stands out more than the stupidity of that day. I mean, what was the problem? The container only weighed 100 lbs.! It might have been the accumulation of all the past exertions but I truly feel that this was the antic that pushed me towards the dreaded consequence called the HERNIA.
By the latter part of 1984, I was happily married. My wife and I had a bouncy baby girl who was a joy to keep up with. Along with the joys of fatherhood, there was another addition to my life. I began to feel a slight bump-type swelling between the lower left side of my abdomen and my upper thigh. It would come and go and I tried to not give it much thought. Isn't it grand how the male ego works when you feel that you are indestructible? What could possibly go wrong?
What was going wrong was that the swelling was becoming more regular and it seemed to occur mostly when I was standing.
My theory was that while in that position, the blood would rush to that area and not recede unless I lied down or used my finger to push the little lump back into it's little home. Odd as it sounds, I became a master at doing this unique maneuver through my pants pocket. I had decided not to share this embarrassment with anyone, hoping that this particular swelling in my groin area would just go away. This self-denial seemed to be working fine until that dreaded day in October when the hernia demons finally caught up with me.
I had gotten a job as a manager of a group home and I was determined to make a good impression even though I had to take three trains, a city bus and then walk ten blocks to get there. I'd just gotten off the D train at 59th Street and was standing on the subway platform waiting to take the #7 train to Queens. My left hand was in my trusty pocket, pressing the little bump but it didn't seem to make a difference. There was no denying it. I was beginning to be in a lot of pain. The windy rush of the arriving train cooled me as it pulled into the station and I said a silent prayer. This particular prayer was answered when I was able to quickly get a seat. I thought this would relieve some of the stress but as I sat there with my hand in pocket, sweat began to roll down my forehead. The biting agony would not recede. The pain was determined to follow me to the next train, the bumpy bus ride and then the long agonizing walk to my job. I suddenly had no choice. I got off the train at the next stop and began the excruciating trek to take the two trains necessary to get me back home.
This was in the days before the convenience of cell phones, so when my wife heard me come through the door she was more than a little curious about what I was doing home. I bypassed her and her questions and made a beeline for the bedroom. For the first time in a few hours, I lied in a supine position on the bed, with my knees up. It was only then that I finally felt some relief as the swelling slowly went away. Mr. Macho had no choice but to spill his guts about what I had been going through for the last few months. She called our family doctor who gave her the number of a specialist.
The doc said what I described sounded like an inguinal hernia. It was probably caused by strain on the groin. It seems that fat or a piece of small intestine pushes downward through a weakened space into the groin area. Inguinal hernias are often painful and could become strangulated (this is when blood flow to the affected area is compromised). That could be life threatening, so whether I liked it or not, surgery was in order. So much for the, “Don’t ask, I won’t tell," slogan of Mr. Macho.
To be continued..........
The Jazz of Physics - The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe.
Author: Stephon Alexander, Publisher: Basic Books
More than fifty years ago, John Coltrane drew the twelve musical notes in a circle and connected them by straight lines, forming a five-pointed star. Inspired by Einstein, Coltrane had put physics and geometry at the core of his music. Physicist and jazz musician Stephon Alexander returns the favor, using jazz to answer physics’ most vexing questions about the past and future of the universe.
Following the great minds that first drew the links between music and physics—a list including Pythagoras, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Rakim--The Jazz of Physics revisits the ancient realm where music, physics, and the cosmos were one. This cosmological journey accompanies Alexander’s own tale of struggling to reconcile his passion for music and physics, from taking music lessons as a boy in the Bronx to studying theoretical physics at Imperial College, London’s inner sanctum of string theory. Playing the saxophone and improvising with equations, Alexander uncovered the connection between the fundamental waves that make up sound and the fundamental waves that make up everything else. As he reveals, the ancient poetic idea of the “music of the spheres,” taken seriously, clarifies confounding issues in physics.
Whether you are more familiar with Brian Greene or Brian Eno, John Coltrane or John Wheeler, the Five Percent Nation or why the universe is less than five percent visible, there is a new discovery on every page. Covering the entire history of the universe from its birth to its fate, its structure on the smallest and largest scales, The Jazz of Physics will fascinate and inspire anyone interested in the mysteries of our universe, music, and life itself.
See more at:
Amazon.com, Youtube.com, Perseusacademic.com
October 1996 - Skating is Fun
It was not until 1996 that the wifey and I made the decision that the children needed to learn to skate in a real rink. The kids were young enough to run around and have a limitless amount of energy to burn (between eight and twelve years old) but not too old that they didn't want to be seen with their parents. Parents, I might add, who were acting just as crazy as the kids and enjoying every minute of it.
Luckily for me, the skates that the family all wore had four wheels, unlike the first skates invented in France during the beginning of the eighteenth century by M. Petitbled. I've never tried in-line skates before but the similarity to ice skates makes me feel uncomfortable just looking at them. Since these types of skates hurt my ankles, I will stick to my quad-skates no matter what the style or how fashionable they look.
By 1876, Williams Brown and Joseph Henry patented what continues to be known as the adjustable four-wheel skates that I roll and love.
Fast forward to 1996. The place was called Skate Key and it used to be located on 2424 White Plains Road, near Allerton Avenue in the Bronx. The Saturday 9:30 am - 12 Noon crowd was filled with a mixture of excited children and their patient parents. The hardcore skaters usually didn't arrive until the evenings. I guess it was too early in the morning for them to show off their unique moves. Even without the experts rushing by, it was hard for the less experienced crowd not to move to the beat of Donna Summer's Love To Love You Baby, KC & The Sunshine Band's Get Down Tonight, Vaughn Mason & Crew's Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll or the ever-famous Rock With You by Michael Jackson.
The big kid in me quickly got tired of rental skates and made certain that we all purchased a pair of our own skates. After many Saturdays and much practice, I finally approached something that looked like speed skating. I found that skating in a crowd was similar to driving a car. Right after I weaved between others, I would check to my left or right. I learned to check my blind spots the hard way after the number of times that I smashed into others. The ego tells you that you're the fastest until you make that unchecked swift move and find that someone else is already where you wanted to be and then, “POW,” you both fall to the floor.
At times, the DJ asked that everyone clear the floor so that only certain people got a chance to show their stuff (boys only, girls only and even fast skaters). It felt great sprinting around the rink and not worrying about the kids. Much to my own amazement, I even learned to skate backwards, which of course tickled my ego to no end.
Unfortunately, the Saturday morning fun ended as the kids got older and we all got different interests. It was time to hang up the old balled-bearing platforms.
Within a year or two the Skate Key Rink then moved to 138th Street in the South Bronx and became known for skating fun and fights. But that particular outlet closed March 2006 because there seemed to be more fighting there skating.
It's sad to see what the original Skate Key building has become on White Plains Road. It looks like a cut-rate clothing store has opened in its place.
Regardless, I'll always remember the family fun and the pounding beat of the music.
I love my New York home. Its diversity inspires me. I would not for the world trade my multitude of experiences there.