Well, I’ve officially entered a new phase of my life… the ‘old’ phase. I recall many years ago a man who was a decade or so older than me but younger than I am now, bemoan what he called the ‘graceless slide into decrepitude’. I remember thinking at the time, “Well, it doesn’t have to be graceless.”
Maybe not…the jury is still out on that one…but there is no doubt about the decrepitude part…I suppose we can still choose the attitude in which we live out the gradual breakdown of our bodies, but there are going to be grouchy days no matter how stoic and ‘mature’ we attempt to be.
I’m a bit grouchy today. Can you tell?
I played a gig last weekend with an extremely sore and swollen right foot. I just woke up with it one morning…as my foot hit the floor a howling pain shot through it all the way to my knee. WTF! OW OW!
Right away a couple of big questions flashed on my screen: first- OMG I’ve got a flight in 20 hours and a gig in 48…I can barely walk to my chair…how am I going to get around the airport? Secondly, even if I make it to the stage how in hell am I going to stand the pain of stomping on my bass drum for 90 minutes?
THIS IS SERIOUS! Over my fifty plus year career I have performed on no sleep, with the flu, with a screaming headache and any number of scrapes, scratches, cramps and contusions but I really didn’t know if I could take this pain. I hit the bass drum a thousand times over the course of a show (give or take a few hundred) and given the state of my foot, each hit would feel like a stomp on a rusty four inch spike.
What to do? Any thought of cancelling and foregoing the loot is forbidden entrance to my consciousness so I never considered it. What I thought was, “How do I get some serious pain meds?” Years ago my drummer friend Gibby had broken his big toe by ramming it into a door jamb on a midnight ramble through his apartment. He got some percodan and grinned his way through an entire evening of stomping on four inch spikes. “That’s what I need,” I thought. Now, I don’t actually know any licensed drug dispensers… let alone possessing one of my very own…so off to the hobble-in clinic I go, all the while preparing my story so they won’t think I’m just another addict looking for a legal fix. I think I’ve got it down; they can find my picture online, look up the tour schedule…in other words my story is totally verifiable…and I only want a couple of these precious little babies.
OK, seems reasonable.
But the first thing I see upon entering the waiting room is a large sign telling me that under NO circumstances are the doctors permitted to prescribe opioids or any ‘narcotic’ drug. Once again WTF. I know anything less than serious narcotic is not going to reduce the four inch spikes to anything resembling a manageable level. Still, I’ve hobbled across the parking lot and up the stairs and obtained a seven-of-spades playing card ( Hole-punched through the centre with a ‘Property of Casino Vernon” stamp) which indicated that I was seventh in the queue and could be face to face with a Dr. person within the hour. I decided that to limp away would be lame indeed so I settled in beside an exhausted looking young woman with a crying baby and a bored three year old.
I left with a prescription for some Tylenol 3’s (talk about a poor man’s opioid), some antibiotic (I apparently had some infection) and a requisition for some blood-work.
Alright…so now it’s time to head for the airport. Lori insisted on driving me (sweet thing) and she even rushed into Superstore to buy me a cheap cane to keep me from toppling once I was on my own. Making my way the the airplane was indeed painful and I had to hobble-run through the Calgary airport in a rush to my connection. I did use the cane…kinda…it was awkward, competent cane-ing takes some practice. It was more of a showpiece really but it worked to get me in with the pre-boards when the flight was called.
I made it to the hotel, discussed the very real possibility that there would be no bass drumming for the pending show, holed up in my room with an ice bucket and ordered room service. I iced my foot off and on until it was time to head for the venue. By morning the swelling was down by half and with the help of some Tylenol 3’s and a big reduction in the pressure I played with I survived the set. But it wasn’t until I actually got through the first few songs that I felt I would probably make it to the end.
Rich and Ronnie were sympathetic, God knows they’ve got their ‘old guy’ issues too. But that’s the thing; I’ve always been the strong one, the guy who can carry their guitars when needed, the backbeat that doesn’t wimp out, the one who could run.
But the times they are a’changin’.
It’s all question of balance…and attitude…and acceptance…I guess.