Oh, My Aching Back! (and the Subsequent Fallout)

John McEnroe said it best: “The older I get, the better I used to be.”

I’m 54 years old, and with every passing day that particular point seems to get driven further home.

Now that I’m semi-retired, I pictured a life where I got to the gym three or four times a week and I got to ride my mountain bike at least as often. These would serve as the lead-in to a busy day of music exploration and writing, be it books, reviews, or articles.

Fate, as they say, is a cruel mistress.

The move from St. Louis to Chicago was physically taxing, I admit. yet I didn’t fully realize how taxing it really until I started feeling pins and needles in my lower back that radiated down the back of my legs, causing occasional numbness. I did the typically “male” thing and did my best to ignore the pain. After all, I had a new city to explore!

Things came to a head during one of those explorations. I had just left a record store with a friend. We decided to walk the half mile or so to dinner. Not long into the walk, I realized my legs were starting to ignore the commands being sent by my brain. Something as simple as stepping off a curb suddenly became an adventure. The fact that snow surrounded us didn’t make things any easier. After a few more steps, my legs went completely on strike, leaving me to stand (and wobbly so) in place for several seconds at a time. A series of brain/leg reboots got us slowly to the restaurant. But I was done. Mass transit (my preferred method of travel) was out of the question. I had to take an Uber home, and further adventures were a no-go.

I HATE having to go to the doctor. Something has to be SERIOUSLY wrong for me to make an appointment. The fact I was on the phone first thing the next morning says something. And that I had to wait three agonizing days didn’t make things any better. Long story short, the answer seems to be Sciatica, which has proven to be the most maddening injury I have ever endured. And I’ve had EIGHT orthopedic operations!

Fortunately, physical therapy and deep-tissue massage (one of the most painful beneficial remedies I’ve ever endured) seem to be helping, though an MRI might be in my future. There are good days and bad days. As of this writing, I’ve had four straight fairly decent days. Who knows whether it will last? Time will tell.

What does ANY of this have to do with music? Well, PLENTY!

I’m sure there is worse pain in the world. But for me, back pain of this nature has been positively debilitating! Most of my energy pre-treatment was used to lie still and just focus on not hurting as much! It’s a pretty miserable day to spend the day, or days as the case has been. With every passing day was the reminder than NONE of my musical work — the Bernie Worrell book, reviews written and video, interview transcriptions and publication — was getting done. I’m a couple of months behind in all I wanted to have accomplished by now, including contributions to this site. The scramble has begun to catch up. The reality is I need to re-adjust my objectives.

So that’s where I am: scrambling to do some writing for a little bit of everything, and a more-than-moderate amount of Bernie. This is where being retired — and having a new chair with better lumbar support — should come in handy.

And maybe I can show Johnny Mac that it’s possible to catch just a bit of what we used to be.


You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell

If you’d like to have your record reviewed, contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

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