Thornton Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Coached Victor
by, September 12th, 2010 at 12:21 PM (6758 Views)
We last left me one week ago today (at pretty close to exactly the same time of the day as I am right now penning these words), emerging victorious from the 2 x 5K swim in the chill air of Monroeville, PA.
(If this municipality has a faintly familiar ring to you movie buffs in vlogland, it is almost assuredly due to the work of Pittsburgh film director, George Romaro, who staged the second of his Dead trilogy --Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead -- at the Monroeville Mall.
Your humble narrator was actually a zombie Extra in this wonderful gem of a film, and moreover, I actually received some personal direction from Mr. Romaro himself, or as friends call him, Mr. Romaro, Sir! Specifically, he instructed me to "bump into that stop sign, find out what it's about." I could go on at very great length about my experiences in the film industry, but for now, I think it best to return to the topic at hand and save my critically acclaimed acting as a zombie for future discussion.)
My film mentor, George Romaro, Pittsburgh-based auteur whose signature work, Night of the Living Dead, provoked an orgasm of contempt by Reader's Digest writer, O.K. Armstrong. If only I could come close to such execration by the nation's leading moral arbiters!
Just to refresh your memory, Bill and I decisively won the 2 x 5k, humbling--oh, what a weak word this is for what we did to them!--castrating?--perhaps this is too much, particularly for the distaff member of the losing team--anyhow, somewhere in between humbling and castrating the competition in what would inaugurate a still uninterrupted string of victories in any and all sports with no end in sight.
After winning, Jim signals the local press photographers where to shoot next. Contrary to a rumor that circulated widely in the immediate aftermath of this photo's publication, Jim is not indicating he needs Cialis.
He does, but that's not really the point.
Note the bandaged-by-duct-tape fourth digit of Jim's left foot. This conceals a truly hideous injury (really, so much more than a garden variety boo boo) that makes his and Bill's swimming victory all the more remarkable.
If you could peel off the duct tape now--and I would recommend adopting some kind of mask to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by the gasses of decomposition should you choose such an unwise maneuver--you would find a blister of the most advanced condition imaginable. I have wracked my mind for just the right way to describe this blister and have concluded that it is impossible to do it justice. The closest I have come is this:
- Accidentally hit a pregnant opossum with your car.
- Exit your car, make sure the mother opossum is dead and not just playing opossum (you may well have to run over it again to make sure), then scoop up one of the mewling fetal Easter-candy like pink creatures that have spilled out on the highway.
- Brush off any road detritus that has managed to gather on its inflamed skin. If grime is deeply ingrained, use a little turpentine or mineral spirits to thoroughly clean the area.
- Put on noise-canceling ear phones if the mewling becomes too disturbing.
- And finally--this is the important part--spank it gently but repeatedly till the thin skin begins to sweat blood.
- This is as close as I have managed to come to describing the flesh of my own blister after the callous had fallen off.
You may recall from the previous posting that Bill and my chief adversaries in the world of tennis doubles are two fellows named Mark and John. Mark is a hulking Wall Streeter who stands just under 9' and has a wingspan of 14' and a vertical leap of nearly two inches. He is the only Republican in our foursome. He understands that his well-heeled bread is buttered by the same tax cuts that would so greatly benefit the infamous Koch brothers, those rapacious billionaires from Texas who have secretly funded the "grass roots" tea party movement.
Mark is, in other words, not a true Koch Sucker, i.e., one of those redneck dupes tricked into voting against his self interest by the Plutocratic class. Mark is a Plutocrat Lite, and you have to admire him for it: pure, naked, unadulterated, fiscal Darwinistic greed!
Just joking, Mark!
John, on the other hand, is an Irish immigrant to our fair shores, a liberal Democratic enthusiast like myself, and the most frugal person (other than my twin brother, the pathological miser) that I know.
John can afford to be frugal, in part, because he can fix anything. He is the only amateur tinkerer I have ever met who can, for example, take the screen off an iPod and fix whatever is wrong with its internal workings, put everything back together, and have it actually work as good as new.
I mention all this partly to paint a picture of our doubles adversaries, and partly to explain how they operate. To wit, John--the frugal Irishman--told me about a great deal on tennis shoes: a brand new pair of Head shoes, on sale at TennisWarehouse, for only $39.99. They had one small flaw in the way the shoelaces are constructed, but other than that, these shoes--which once sold for nearly $100 a pair--were a great bargain, he assured me.
Mark even offered to loan me money to buy a pair.
Here is the bargain Head tennis shoe that has figured prominently in my undoing.
Like a poor man's Travis McGee, a rangy, muscular Jim bids The Deep Blue Good-by to the JCC pool as he heads towards a rendezvous with destiny on the tennis courts the next day. His crouched and hunched over gait, meant at the time to simulate the pre-pouncing posture of a magnificent carnivorous jungle cat, prefigures a different kind of hunched over gait soon to come.
On Labor Day Monday, September 6th, Jimbo and Billbo arose early at their respective abodes and scootered and Stealth-Dodged, respectively, their way to the Sewickley YMCA tennis courts.
Bill was in fine shape; Jim thought he was too, the twinges of back pain experienced towards the end of the 2 x 5K having all but disappeared during the healing rest of the previous night.
John, the affable Irishman, was not so lucky. He had some kind of wound on his tennis gripping hand, ostensibly caused by a drill bit but quite possibly caused by a stigmata. He gamely tried to warm up, but you could hear him mewling ever so slightly under his breath, like a fetal opossum when you have noise-canceling ear phones on. Since I live precisely six-tenths of a mile from the Sewickley YMCA tennis courts, and since I wanted to have no asterisks on today's avenging match, I offered to scooter home and get John a bandaid and some duct tape for his modest gouge wound, which I must say was no match whatsoever for the Geneva-Convention-Outlawed kind of blister I was suffering from on my left fourth toe digit.
I raced home on the scooter, bounded the steps two at a time, dug through my medicine drawer where I keep band-aids, 17-year-old Flexerils, and the like, bounded down the stairs again, scootered full-throttle back to the courts, handed the stuff over to John. It was time to start this revenge beat-down!
As he played around with the band aid, I leaned forward to search through my swim and tennis bolsa for some Gu.
Note: the Bolsa--a reusable plastic Mexican shopping bag after which they named their Stock Market--is the absolutely perfect swimming tote bag for guys who are confident enough in their masculinity that they do not mind being mistaken for bag ladies.
This is when it happened: a massive seizing up of my lower back muscles that drove me to my knees and caused moisture of some sort to leak from my eyes.
It was horrible!
Somehow, I managed to right myself and gingerly moved around the court, mewling involuntarily.
Mew! Mew-mew-mew! ****! Mew!
Over the next 3 hours and 45 minutes, we played the series of sequential matches outlined earlier. The results:
- Indicator point: Jim and Bill.
- Jr. Misses match: Jim and Bill.
- Women's Championship: Jim and Bill.
- Men's Championship: Jim and Bill.
- Supermen's Championship: Jim and Bill.
Somewhere between 3 and 4 and 5, my toe began to throb. It was but one of many discomforts in a symphony of pain that included the throbbing spasms of my lower back and the hard-to-describe agonies that come from a vagina sealing itself off and sprouting first a normal then a frighteningly robust XYY, Scottish-prison-caliber penis in its evacuated wake.
If there is one good thing about these Head tennis shoes, it's that the blisters they induce can serve as a de facto timing device to tell you when it's time to quit.
But in the exuberance of such a victory, which leaves the victor with only rapacious hunger for more, more, more victory (not unlike a Koch brother and his mountain of gilt), I ignored my toe timer and played longer than I should have.
A close-up of the blister. Note how earlier layers of skin have peeled away, been replaced by fetal opossum-like pinked tissues, which themselves have been peeled away, over and over again, in a process of such frequent multiple cell replication that one wonders if toe cancer might be triggered by all this sloughing and rebuilding, rebuilding and soughing?
That afternoon, I could not walk.
That night, I could not move in my beddy bye.
The next morning, I could not feed the pugs.
A friend of my brothers recommended surgery, which he said had helped his neck vertebrae. He sent me a picture to reassure me that the cosmetic results of modern surgery are remarkable.
Joco Cohen's post surgical neck. My lower back, he assured me, could look every bit as handsome after the knife.
Instead of therapeutic blood letting, I decided to take the advice of a kindly reader, SCYFreestyler, who in the previous vlog left me the following sagacious advice:
"As an experienced back spasm patient, I've found the best remedy is activity. Rest provides me no benefit. Chiropractic or DO adjustments provide me no benefit. Prescription muscle relaxers provide me no benefit. Full disclosure, I'm not a physician. Hell, I didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Best of luck with your recovery."
His advice was not entirely unfamiliar to me. In a Men's Health article of mine, which I must sheepishly admit was a finalist for the National Magazine Awards, I had examined the trend by sports medicine practitioners towards an "active recovery" mindset when treating sports injuries--one whereby yesteryear's namby pamby exhortations for lengthy bed rest and the like are now recognized as chief hindrances to recovery.
You can learn more about the "rest is rust" philosophy by reading my entire article, The Indestructible Man, by clicking here: http://www.menshealth.com/men/fitnes...100000cfe793cd
So anyhoo, Tuesday afternoon, I scootered down to the Y, took a Jacuzzi, swam 225 yards with open turns, took another Jacuzzi, went home and continued on the regimen of generic Naproxen and 17-year-old Flexeril that I started popping like Skittles the day before.
On Wednesday, I forced myself to go to swimming practice and went last in B lane, doing all open turns but actually swimming the whole 2750 yards.
On Friday, our normal practice was canceled because of Pirate Night at the pool, so I went to swim by myself before this started. By the time I managed to hobble over, I had only had 30 minutes to swim before the little mateys and assorted blackguards were using the diving board to walk the plank, their corpulent young bodies no doubt targeted like missiles at the lower backs of unsuspecting swimmers like me.
I did 2100 yards continuously, using old-man-decrepitude flip turns the whole way. Not great, but on the road to recovery. I got out before any little blackguard could jump on me.
This morning, I was able to reach down and get the pugs' dog food bowls off the ground and feed them.
I am still a pathetic husk of my former uninterruptedly undefeated glory.
But I have survived worse conditions than this in the past.
After you've had the experience of being dead, you come to realize that blisters and a bad back don't have to hold you back. All I need do now is find somebody's mother to munch on, and I will be good as new.
My back will be back!