Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Beat down

Sitting at my desk in the quiet morning dark I'm having two conversations: one with you on the keyboard, the other inside, with my body.

One of the irritating things about aging is that your own body begins to betray you.

For forty years I thought of my body - when I thought of it at all; I've always found more than wry humor in the expression "If I'd have known I would live so long I'd have taken better care of myself" - it was as a reliable machine that slept easily, woke early, ate any junk I stoked it with and predictably ran, walked, played...it was just there. I took care of it, in a sort of offhand way, but I never really had to think about it.

Now the machine parts are starting to wear out.

My knees are a factory defect; I have something called "congenital patellar subluxation". Basically, my kneecap doesn't sit on the front of my leg but off to the outside. This causes it to grind on the condyle of the femur and both the lower leg bones, and over time it has worn away the bursa that pads the joint and has caused a great deal of degenerative arthritis, as well. Add to this twenty years of stuff like humping a rucksack, parachute jumping and endless miles of PT runs.

Translation: I have a fairly constant, low-grade knee and lower leg pain.

When I work, as I did yesterday, on a difficult site with bad access that requires lots of lifting and carrying heavy drilling tools, the soreness goes from mildly irritating to really unpleasant. It's talking to me right now, reminding me to go carefully up the stairs. To ensure I don't put too much weight on one leg or lift my little boy when he gets up without bracing my knees. Warning me that one of my knees might give out, lock up, and force me into 800mg of Motrin QID and a knee brace for a week or more. It didn't help that I dropped the Dames & Moore sampler - 30 pounds of unforgiving steel - on my leg. Twice! Wrestling with it. I reeeeeeally hate that big bastard.

And all of this intrastate conversation is inaudible, like a dog-whistle, to little peepers and peepettes. They think of me as so sort of big indestructible mobile toy to be jumped on, climbed and hammered on. All of this is great fun, mind you, and I enjoy it (far more than their mother, whose soft and/or dangly bits are vulnerable to kid elbows and feet and avoids roughhousing for that very reason) but it raises holy hell with the knees.

Anyway, I'm moving very slowly this morning. And that's why; I'm feeling a little beat down.

Didn't help that I woke up yesterday and saw that McSame had jumped out 4 points over Obama in the Gallup poll. WTF, people? McSame suddenly become 20% less Republican? Renounced his allegiance to the Bushie tax giveaways to the ten-house families? Dumped his Christopathic, abortion-is-not-for-you-proles, let's-drill-for-oil-in-Arlington-National-Cemetery veep? Distanced himself IN ANY WAY from the policies and people of the past eight years, whose author languishes in the Outer Darkness of 22% approval?


Then what the holy Baby Jesus On A Stick is wrong with us?

Beat down. Just feelin' beat way down.


sheerahkahn said...

I know how you feel Chief!

I had the same problem except with me it was four years of high school football, one partial season of college football, and then a fateful fall from grace on the obstacle course in the Corps...both knees, bilateral chronic subluxation of the patella.
Cure, and the first of surgeries, on both left and right, micro slice on the tendon to allow the knee cap to move easily, and wear a brace, and strengthen the hamstring and quads.
Check, and check.
Fast forward, to defense courier job, on my knees in a van, off loading boxes, both knees inbetween the corregation on the floor, when {{{{GRIND}}}} pain on top of pain, on top of pain...torn cartiledge and another surgery on right knee.
Fast forward to scouting, stepped off a small cliff in the dark using a cell phone as a flashlight...not the brightest thing I've ever done, but quite possibly close to being the dumbest, and thats when I discover....MRI time.
"You have a partially...holy shit...how were you able to walk?"
"Dunno doc, talk to me."
"Well, you have a old injury that shows a torn ACL, and now from what I can tell, you have a partially detached ACL."
"So...what does that mean?"
"Well, complete ACL replacement."
And so, third surgery on the right knee, and now, I can walk, I can run, I can do a lot of things I couldn't do.
You should get your knee looked at Chief, you may have something else going on.
BTW, I hated the locking...trying to walk and suddenly feeling like I'm on a teeter-totter on the one leg as the other one says, "yep, I'm done."
Get it checked out Chief, no reason for you to go through life like your on your last leg.

FDChief said...

Sheerah: Knee replacement.


The knee problem got so bad that I finally had to go to the doc and get a permanent "L3" profile. I had a great orthopod at the Knee Clinic here in Portland who, after making a couple of snide remarks about Army docs who never should have accepted me for an infantry-type MOS, informed me that I was looking at bilateral knee replacements.

"You mean, now?" I asked (kinda shocked...)

"No", he said, "You've probably got another decade in your original knees, more or less depending on how you treat them. During that time you'll live with increasing discomfort until the combination of pain and problems with them will make you WANT to get new knees."

OK, I say, but if that's the case, why wait?

Because, says the doc, first, if you get replacements now (I was then in my forties) you'll need them again in 20 years, and you're going to recover a LOT more slowly at 60 than at 40. Plus, if you wait the technology and techniques are going to improve, so the knees you get a 55 you'll take to the grave.

I've been thinking I can wait until 60, but time and two kids are making me think that 55 might not be a bad idea.

But rueful salutations from one gimpy bastard to a (former) nother.

You Know Where You Are With said...

Just inset "hip" where you've got "knee" and we'd be discussing my better half. R. is a few years older than you, is grinding bone-on-bone in both hips, and needs full replacements. He's trying to negotiate when, so it's just once. Meanwhile, he limps around here and tries to teach the girl soccer and rock climbing. Um, yeah. Not so much.

FDChief said...

YK: That's the real hardship, to my mind; that I can't run with and play with little peeps the way I'd like to. I've gotten used to the stiffness and soreness, but when my little girl dashes past me and I can't even begin to catch up, or when I have to sit down after ten minutes of kicking the soccer abll with the Peeper...that's hard.

pluto said...

I've got the same problem, Chief. Which was aggrevated by growing 9 inches in a year when I was a teen and the usual physical abuse from my fellow male teens. And that wasn't nearly the worst of my physical problems but that's another story...

Anyway, after I got the surgery (six months before the arthroscopic version so I've got this big old scar) the doctor pulled me aside and gave me the best medical advice I've every received. He advised me to go see the Physical Therapists for life-long exercises to help me avoid further injuries. PT experts are TRULY of the no-pain-no-gain theory of life but the results can be amazing if you religeously do what they tell you.

Fifteen years after that I was laying computer cable, much of it on concrete with no pads and I experienced QUITE a lot of pain. Went to the doc and he prescribed immediate surgery and possible knee replacement.

I asked about PT and he said, sure why not, but it wouldn't change the outcome. He was amazed (and more than a little irritated, he was that kind of doc) when the PT people devised a routine that repaired most of the damage and I didn't need the operation.

Moral of the story: You may be too gone for them to help you immediately but get thee to a Physical Therapist ASAP and see wha they can do for you. Keeping the original knees is FAR superior to the new model, no matter how much chrome they put on the new models.

FDChief said...

Pluto: That's good advice - I had terrific care from the PT folks after my right pinkie got shattered (one of my own defenders hoofed me as I was going for a loose ball in my own six yard box screaming "KEEPER! KEEPER!" [jackass!]). I spent half a year unable to bend it past 10 degrees until they got me on a very counter-intuitive program of stretching and hand exercizes that had me back to 90 percent by the end of the year.

Still have the four screws in the pinkie, tho. Hurts like the devil in the cold.

Hey! How did this turn into a "let's complain about our injuries" thread? We sound like a bunch of old farts rocking on the porch at the Old Soldier's Home!

And you little bastards get the hell off of my lawn!!

sheerahkahn said...

Well, Chief, it happens when the old guys get together with their old wounds recounting the days of yesteryear...often times thought I agree with the bard...

"Youth is wasted on the young."

pluto said...

Turning the blog briefly back to the Chief's earlier question, why are McCain and Palin doing so well in the polls?

I've given this a lot of thought and have some answers but am sure I'm missing at least a few points.

1. Palin - She's new, good looking, articulate, and sounds and looks like a reformer but is attractive to the Republican base in ways that McCain never could be. In many ways, I think McCain's campaign (and perhaps his future administration) is now dependent on Palin's support from the hard-core Bushies to get anything done. I can imagine McCain announcing his plan to reform Medicare and a right-wing Fox News anchor asking, "But what does Palin think of this plan?"

2. The Republicans have done their usual outstanding job of building a narrative around Palin (and, to a less extent, McCain) that the knee-jerk American public can really identify with. The so-called "Walmart Republican" and the wounded old war vet loyally giving his last measure for the country.

3. The Democrats have been strangely quiet as the Republicans have launched wave after wave of advertising attacks. Yes, they've responded to individual attacks but so far they haven't given evidence of a master plan to deal with the now-predictable Republican smear campaign. Since Obama and his staff have been proven to be smart campaign strategists, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that this is part of their master plan.

Does anybody have anything to add?

FDChief said...

Pluto: Nope. I think you've nailed it.

What's infuriating to me is that McSame's campaign manager said this last week - that the GOP was going to build its campaign around "the narrative" rather than ANY kind of issues. And so far, it's working like a Swiss watch.

I don't know whether this is because the Obama people just can't (or don't) want to get down and roll around in the swill with the Repubs or whether the American people are Just That Stupid. Maybe both. But, as I said over at JD's blog - I have a Bad Feeling about this November. With everything that's wrong about the Republican Party 2008, I have a sneaky suspicion that they're gonna win this.



Lisa said...


So sorry to hear of your knee/lower leg pain. Let us say, I deeply commiserate, on the back end of things. Lower back. I, too, must find a good p.t., and basically learn some regimentation skills to implement what I already know I ought to be doing.

That is the most frustrating thing when the body is no longer at one's beck and call. It can lead to feeling beat down, but there are usually options, at least to ameliorate matters. I wish you luck in finding a good p.t., if you go that route.

Lisa said...

p.s.--I think Pluto has much of it right, but I have been thinking a bit on the democratic end: Why are they not a shoo-in?

I think I'll write something on it soon.

rangeragainstwar said...


We have past and present. Our pasts have broken us down and we can't change that. We can only wonder why we were so stupid.

I personally have exactly no physical problems EXCEPT those incurred thru playing soldier. What a dumbass -- why didn't I wear the Shield Of Shame? The pay was the same and the hours and working conditions vastly superior. We didn't go that route, so now we suck it in.

Now for the present, it's all we have. But if you notice neither O or McC address this issue -- everything is now about change. My ass! They have no clue.

I'm glad you wrote this piece- it gave me an excuse to whine a bit. These chances don't come often. Lisa beats me when I do it on my own.


FDChief said...

Lisa: I'm sorry to hear about the back. That's a stone cold bastard; there's just not much to do other than stay on it constantly, doing your stomach and lateral/oblique exercizes to keep your spinal column straight!

In truth, I find that if I can get a day in the office and a good night's sleep I usually feel a little perkier, as I do this morning. But it can be frustrating to realize that the days of taking for granted that my body would slay any germ it encountered, work all day, party all night and be ready to wash, rinse, repeat the next morning are gone forever...that's a hard Suck to Embrace.

Jim: de nada. One of the more fun things of being a late-middle-aged-curmudgeon is the freedom to snarl crankily. Change? Yeah, I got yer change...I wish I had a nickel for every muttonhead I'e heard flannelmouthing about change.

I'll believe "change" when I see the CEO of ENRON's body hanging from a lampost and the heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac driven naked down a gauntlet of federal regulators armed with whips and chains. Both parties are so bloody bought-and-sold it's hard to see now where the cash ends and the politics begins. The Democratic politics are less loathesome than the Repugs, but the difference is mostly in scale rather than in substance. Neither party will tell the truth to an American public that doesn't want to hear the truth: that we are a fairly bloated, economically unhealthy, politically unsound, poorly-thought-out-would-be-hegemon jacked up on Chinese cash and leveraged fiscal hi-jinks. That a prolonged course of fiscal conservatism, internal investment, foreign policy humility and realism and painful economic retrenchment will be the only way we will proceed into the 21st Century without an even longer, even more painful slide into desuetude and postimperial dereliction.

Hey! Not only am I a creaky old bastard, I'm just a little ray of sunshine this morning, too! Must be having to get up at 4:30 for work. Oh, well. Love ya' - new post later.

pluto said...

I've been predicting that McCain would win since the bruising Primary battle between Hillary and Obama. Near as I can tell, Palin's VP nomination was the icing on the cake.

It appears that our fellow Americans recognize that something critical has gone wrong but are unable to recognize that hitting the same button time after time isn't going to give us different results.

Now all McCain has to do is figure out how to make a hostile and fractured Congress get anything done. Any bets on how long it takes his Rove-oriented staff to start using Bush's political methods?

FDChief said...

"Any bets on how long it takes his Rove-oriented staff to start using Bush's political methods?"

You mean they aren't?

Coulda fooled me. The McSame playbook seems to follow the Bush governing style perfectly. I remember reading this in a novel about lawyers. The cunning old trial lawyer is quoted as saying "When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When nothing is on your side, pound on the table."

McSame's got nothing. His foreign policy people are the very idiots now considered too nuts FOR THE BUSHIES and would involve even more fun war in central Asia. His domestic policy, where he even has a domestic policy, had more tax cuts for the rich, more profits for every corporate donor from Big Oil through Big Pharma to Big Jesus and less of everything else for everyone else. How this is good for the nation I have no idea and, I assume, neither do his partisans. But it doesn't matter. He pounds on the table and people seem to want it.

And the frustrating thing is that no effort to expose his GOP brand of Rovian spin and bullshit to the searing light of fact seems to matter.

sheerahkahn said...

Old curmudgeons unite!

Sorry, my tolerance for stupidity is about the same as my father, and my grandfathers...which I find surprising in myself.
Which brings me to the topic of McPain (I've opted to simplify the candidates by combining their names) and Obiden...why is it that our politics now have become one of using one party to beat the other party down?
Why can't one just come out and say, "Brothers and sisters in America, we need to come together to do the right thing."
And then list out the right things with cogent arguments, and concise examples that highlight/illustrate/avoid emotionalism>
Health care?
My father-in-law a couple months back gave my wifes family the shits when they discovered that he had a life-threatening brain tumor which had to come out NOW...NOW...NOW!
Voila, it was out, but holy cheese and crackers with all the costs of pretreatment, surgery, posttreatment, hospitilization, cute nurses, caring doctors, funny emergency room attendants, one very, omg hot doctor (I did not know women doctors could look like that), pills, drugs, fluids, and what not for about three week period was worth more than their house in the SF/Bayarea.
(Which btw, their house is in the 400k range).
And if it weren't for their meager health insurance which absorbed about 90% of the costs they be moving in with me (not that I don't mind that...just...you know...inlaws and stuff...kinda puts a damper on the romance if you get my meaning.).
So, if my inlaws went through that, and this is a common occurence across the nation, some with insurance, others...not so much...I can see why a lot of people go to the poor house after a catastrophic illness.
When peoples lives are turned inside out, and they go deep in debt to pay a medical bill up to, and including having to cashier their 401k's, stocks, house, and what not to pay off the hospital, and then afterwards they are B-R-O-K-E, and on the public dole...well, ladies and gentlemen, I'd say that Universal healthcare is no longer a "nicety" for the "disadvantage" this is a necessity for anyone and everyone.
I would dare to call it an issue of National Security.
but do we hear that from McPain or Obiden?
Hell no..."He said, she said, they said" I don't give a rip for the MsM's pandering to the American publics desire to be entertained...someone be a freaking adult and start talking serious issues please!
Sorry, rant off.

pluto said...

Sheera, my last comment started off very similar to yours (without the clever names) and I decided erase it because the message was getting too long without saying anything useful.

To answer your questions: The Chief has already answered your question about reason why we are discussing "narrative" instead of issues in his lawyer story.

The facts support the Dems (somewhat, most of themvoted for a lot of what's wrong) but they'd have to explain what they will do to fix the problems and none of the fixes are a) politically acceptable AND b) fiscally possible. Since there are no solutions, best not to bring up the facts.

Furthermore, sometime ago, probably in 1994 with the "Contract with America," politics became exclusively a zero sum game. The only way to increase your support is to chop somebody else down. The easiest way to do this is to avoid the issues (they always have two sides) and stick with slamming your opponent on character.

Rove has carried this to its evil extreme where you keep your own hands clean and have "volunteers" with buckets of cash smear your opponent until even his best friends begin to wonder why they like him. All you need to win is 50.1% of the vote and if you can alienate more voters from your opponent than from you, you'll probably win.

The big problem with this approach is that it builds alliances of distrust (we all have to band together against candidate X because he's bad) instead of trust (we all have to band together for candidates X because he is the best person for the job).

Over time the natural distrust between groups that are allied by distrust builds to the point where they fear each other more than they fear the opponent and they stop cooperating and nothing gets done. This is essentially the position that Congress finds itself in right now. To make matters worse, the legacy of distrust takes a long time to dispell and can poison later administration's efforts.

In short, considering what the last administration did, anybody who actually lusts after the job of President should be labelled as clinically insane.

sheerahkahn said...

I want to say your wrong, but I would be wrong, so all I can do is cry...dam, I have to wait another 7 hours before I can have beer to cry into.

FDChief said...

"Over time the natural distrust between groups that are allied by distrust builds to the point where they fear each other more than they fear the opponent and they stop cooperating and nothing gets done."


Pluto has just won the "Revolting Gracchi" Award for Figuring Out Why I Always Bring Up The Fall Of Republican Rome when I talk about the U.S., circa 2008. Because it was JUST this problem that choked the life out of the old Res Publica. The proles were disenfranchised and didn't care and the very people who SHOULD have been circling around the republican institutions like slavering guard dogs, the senatorial and equestrian classes, were divided and paralyzed by internal division and partisan rancor. The state was decaying, or at least that's how it seemed to many of the Roman citizens, and finally they were just sick of the mindless, meaningless Senatorial chatter. They wanted a Man on Horseback and, boy howdy, did they fucking get him.

I don't think we'll see that: our fundamental distrust of each other is such that not even a military hero would be capable of uniting the nation behind him. At least, not now. Mind you, let the current economic doldrums slide into true Depression, and kick in something like a 1970's "Oil Crisis"...well, maybe you've got something there.

Nope. I predict that each successive Administration will grow progressively less capable of addressing the fundamental contradictions within the system, each will become less effective, more fractious and more strident. Our end won't come with a Caesarian bang but with a Castilian whimper. We'll slowly fall behind polities like China and the EU and Russia that have spent the early and will spend the middle 21st Century fighting, not fabulous wars with inflated Islamic boogeymen, but rural poverty, infrastructure shortcomings and economic improvements. Finally we'll look around and see ourselves the 2050 equivalent of the impoverished, clapped-out Aragonese peasants, exhausted by wars, bankrupted and screwed by our own rentier classes, benighted by religious ignorance and beset by a host of troubles spawned by a decaying national hardscape and a fraying social fabric.

But at least we'll have 245 channels on cable!