Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I went to college during the late 60s and early 70s. Still, I was never much of a druggie. As opposed to President Clinton, I did inhale, but beyond that my recreational drugs were confined to coffee and beer. There were drugs all around me, but I never indulged. I solicit no points for my decisions. Essentially I did not want to take a chance and mess with my head.

I've maintained the same posture as an adult. I take almost no medicine except aspirin unless I am told that I really must take an antibiotic to ward off an infection. I've had back ailments in the past, but when I took pain medication it tended to rob me of my thinking apparatus as well as the pain, and I preferred the pain to feeling completely at sea. No medals for this decision to avoid drugs. I think individuals' bodies respond differently. I just think I, personally, am better off to just say no.

About two weeks ago I started to feel some pain in my head. About two months prior to that I had some dental work done and the dentist told me that I should make an appointment for a root canal. If I didn't, I was warned, eventually I would be in a good deal of discomfort.

I tend to pooh pooh such advice. I've heard it before from dentists and then when I visit another dentist and mention the warning, the new physician looks at my mouth and sees no problem. So, when I heard the dentist recommend I go for a root canal, I put the referral slip in my pocket, and intended to forget about it. As I was leaving the office the dental hygienist told me again to make sure I made an appointment and guaranteed me that I would regret it if I did not do so quickly.

But I didn't pay any attention. Until two weeks ago when I started to get headaches. I brought my aspirin with me on a trip to New York and found if I took a couple aspirin every four hours the pain would go away. So, I did, and I figured I would be fine.

But last weekend, I started to get the kind of headaches that I have only heard about. I've felt searing pain before with athletic injuries, but always sensed that the pain could be endured and eventually would go away. This was scary pain. This was hold onto the aspirin bottle like a wino holds onto Muscatel pain. At one point I thought maybe I had a tumor as the reach and duration of the episodes was debilitating.

I remembered what the dentist/hygienist had told me and hoped this was a function of my ignoring his and her advice. My dentist is on my route to work, so I stopped in Monday morning hoping maybe he could see me without an appointment. My dentist is really a special professional. He was about to consume his breakfast when I walked in. I told him what I was feeling and he suggested that I sit in the chair for a few minutes. He poked around, pulled up my ex rays, and explained that the pain was likely from the root canal that I needed. He phoned his associate right then and made an appointment for me, for Thursday. He also offered to write a script for some pain medication.

I adhered to my regular line about medication and told him I would prefer sticking with aspirin. He made a face like "suit yourself" but said if I changed my mind I should just give a call.

I got to work a little late, but felt relieved that I would soon be able to address the problem. And then an hour later, I felt pain in my head like I don't wish on anyone. Literally debilitating pain that had me holding my head in my hands. I called the dentist and left a message hoping he might write the prescription.

By the time I drove home I was feeling, almost comically, like my head was going to explode. I stopped at the drug store and my dentist had called in the prescription. I opened the vial feverishly and popped down the first pill.

Well, let me tell you, an hour later I was singing hymns to the CEO of CVS. There was no pain. I could drink hot, cold, walk around the house, read a book, watch tv. This stuff was great. What's more I was fully functioning. I was able to concentrate on work related issues. It was as if this pill knew just where the pain was and went right to it.

I "got" drugs, then. I almost got religion.

About six hours later I forgot I had problems with my teeth and head. Until I remembered again when about two hours after that I felt as if someone had slammed a brick onto the side of my head. I found the vial and popped another pill. Sea of tranquility in a half hour.

This drug stuff is great.

Last night I took one before I went to bed and slept like a marathon runner all night. But, my first steps this morning were a little wobbly. I took another pill before I went to work and thought I could hear the sounds of silence on my ride in.

I am supposed to take one pill every six to eight hours. About five hours into today's interval, I started feeling the pain again. I kept looking at the clock willing the time piece to go to six hours. Then I took another, and this time while the pain ebbed it has not gone away completely.

I am looking forward to tomorrow morning's appointment for this root canal like I might look forward to a reunion with a lost sweetheart. I cannot wait.

I think I was right about drugs in the first place. At least drugs that are taken to mask pain. They tend to be only good for the short run. If you use them for the long run, the natural problem will resurface--if you do have a natural issue, and then you will need more to suppress what is naturally surfacing.

Probably a metaphor in this related to sports and life. Perhaps the natural pains we experience from an absence of love and friendship, can be addressed by temporary coats of armor. But if the pain is so great and the source of the loss so natural, the armor/drugs will have only a temporary effect. But what do I know. The more times around the track, the more I tend to doubt what I at one time thought was irrefutable. So, maybe there is a metaphor in this, but right now I am more concerned with when the next brick will collide with my head.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Complete Circuit

When I was in elementary school--maybe in second grade-- each of us had to participate in the science fair. The idea was for us to come in with something we created related to science that would be put on display for visiting parents to view at an exhibit.

Science was not my thing. I had put off doing my exhibit until the last minute and finally fessed to my father saying I had no idea what to do for the science fair. So, he helped me. He found a piece of plywood someplace and an old insulated piece of wire. On the plywood he screwed in a tiny lightbulb that was encased in a small piece of hardware. He connected the wire to the lightbulb and ran the wire around the periphery of the plywood. He interrupted the wire about half way around from where the bulb was, and found an old manual switch. It was the kind of switch that you could pull down to get current. As I remember the top of the switch was not insulated so he yanked off the top of a nosedropper and put that on top of the switch. Somewhere on top of the plywood he hooked up a battery.

This he told me would illustrate a complete circuit.

I thought my father was a magician with this set up. What with the wire, lightbulb, even nosedropper and switch--this was impressive to me. However, I still did not get it. Then he demonstrated that when the nosedropper was up and not connecting with the base of the switch, the lighbulb would not go on. But if you depressed the nosedropper so that the metal on the top connected with the metal on the bottom, then the tiny lightbulb went on.

Now I was wide eyed. I must have asked a bunch of questions, but what I recall doing mostly was plunging the noseplugged top to the bottom and then releasing it to see that lightbulb go on and off. And then, periodically, picking my head up to look at dad as if to say, that's like a magic trick.

When we went to the fair there must have been 209 complete circuits that were brought in and there were exhibits that were like rides in Disney world, but it did not matter to me. I was still taken by the contraption dad had put together and kept plunging the nose dropper to see that light go on.

In early 2006 a woman who had been, to me, a little kid when I'd been a camper at a summer camp, endeavored heroically to organize a reunion of all those people who had attended the camp during a 20 year span. She was remarkably successful and in the summer of 2006 some 100 ex campers descended on a camp near the one where we attended and reunited for a weekend that was beyond rich. She not only brought together the people who could attend that reunion, she stimulated other connections that begat other connections. In December of 2006 she organized another reunion which I could not attend, but glommed onto the photos that were posted from the event. In the summer of 2007 she organized a mini reunion in New York which I could attend and seven of us sat in a midtown restaurant for hours reminiscing and connecting. In the summers of 2009 and 2010 there were other summer camp reunions near the camp where we had attended. Through this woman's indefatigable efforts she has brought lifelong friends, sweethearts, and even families back together.

The reconnections made are not artificial or superficial. They have established completed circuits that have enabled many of us--pardon the heavy metaphor--to light up and feel charged. Sure some connections might seem to fade as time goes on, but for those that were very real in the first place, we have embraced and been enriched because of the completed circuits.

I often wonder about energy. When we feel thrilled, relieved, joyous--it is almost a a palpable sensation. That is we can feel it. So, what happens when we don't have it. We know how we feel when we have a completed circuit, when we feel that rush of love, of having connected--what are the manifestations of not having a completed circuit. What happens to that potential emotional energy?

I am still not a science student, but I think that unharnessed emotional energy does go somewhere and it is in us. In the same way that a completed circuit is enriching and is genuinely salubrious, when that nosedropper goes up and the light goes off, I think something insidious begins.

Thank you Dad for helping me with my science project and explaining how a complete circuit works. Thank you Ona for the industrious and sophisticated wiring that allowed so many of us to complete circuits.

Keep that nose dropper down. Not only for the richness and illumination of a completed circuit, but to avoid the deleterious effects of a loss of power-- functioning in the dark, bumping into objects, substituting adjusting to darkness for genuine light.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

world cup

Since I was old enough to be aware of such things, I was surprised at how frenzied soccer fans were about their game. I knew of course how Americans would get riled about basketball, football, baseball, and hockey--but soccer seemed to be the kind of sport that could not engage enough people. And, of course, I was wrong--since soccer is the most popular sport in the world.

Today's match between the United States and Brazil might explain why that is. I noticed when reading the paper today that there was a world cup match at 11 a.m. eastern time. Sometime around 12:40 when I had some laundry to fold I put on the game while attending to the task.

Then I was hooked until the end of the second period, and the two overtimes, and the shoot out. The United States came back in the last seconds to tie the game, and then won in the shootout. The tying goal was truly a work of art. I found myself as excited about the end of that game as I have been for any sporting event in a month or two--and that includes the Bruins' championship.

So, for naysayers who consider soccer some inexplicable attraction, give it a chance. A game like today's would make a believer out of you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

emotional investment

Typically, I divorce myself from legal concerns related to sports. I don't bother during the off season to see who is a free agent and who my teams "might get". I won't know who will be playing for the Red Sox until opening day and it may take a few weeks for me to distinguish a Scutaro from a Lowrie (two shortstops for the Red Sox). Line 'em up, start the games, then I will start to follow the sport.

However, with the NFL lockout I find that I am interested. I am not at all concerned with the nuances of the dispute and how much the players might get from this revenue stream or that. I am concerned to see that they settle it. I look through the newspaper daily to see if there might be an article suggesting a looming settlement. On the sports websites I frequent I will click on NFL to see if they are any closer to opening the doors. I will even switch to the NFL channel when I am surfing to hear if there is any news.

I have no financial investment in football. I don't sell tickets, popcorn, own a parking lot near the stadium, or play linebacker. I have an emotional investment. And I am not alone.

It is an interesting concept--emotional investment. We tend to consider investment planning in terms of dollars. Fidelity has a long running campaign about how customers seeking to invest for retirement should follow a plan that will lead them to comfort. This is important, no doubt. Financial security is only irrelevant when you have it.

But emotional investments are as important. So I want the NFL to start, because I like following sports. I have an emotional attachment to my teams such that I feel happier when they win. If we feel this way about our teams or avocations, doesn't it follow that we all have a good deal of emotional capital that can be wisely or unwisely invested. Emotion, I once wrote, runs the show. Only sometimes we do not respect its importance sufficently so we consciously or otherwise throw our precious emotional capital away like some frivolous gambler who places $100,000 on a horse that shouldn't even be in the race.

For all of us--not just those who find themselves happy when their teams win, or those who will want to pop a beverage when the NFL strike ends--all of us have to respect the value of our emotional capital and invest wisely.