Sep 23

And now our rides are about something else

One year ago tonight … well, I’ll let me tell the story

I was walking from the control room into the studio — two back-to-back doors — just before a taping began tonight when my phone rang.

My phone never rings.

… The Yankee on the phone, clear as can be. She’s had a bike accident. She’s OK. Deputies are coming and so is an ambulance and people have stopped to help. She’s going to the hospital because she’s sure her collarbone is broken and where am I.

When I got to the hospital, she was off getting some scans. Some of her things were in the examination room they put me in, while I waited for her to come back, I studied her helmet, which had done its job and was destroyed.

They pushed her bed back into the exam room and, friends, there’s just no way to prepare yourself to unexpectedly see someone you love in a neck brace. The scans revealed that brace to be an unnecessary precaution in this case, and the next year started right there, starting right here.

She was going through that intersection when the driver of a red pickup truck caused her to crash, and then drove off without stopping. Someone else did stop to help. Her kid called the police, she called me, collected the bike and called again to check on us later that evening.

I told that woman that my wife had the three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and who knows what else. We later added a likely concussion, weeks without sleep, and a fractured shoulder blade to that list.

The surgeon was great. He’s a triathlete himself. Or he was. (It sounded, for a time, like treating her injuries had psyched him out of road riding.) He taught me a new term. Her collarbone was a comminuted fracture. He described it like this. Go out into the driveway and stomp on a small stick until its just pulverized dust. Sometimes that happens to bone. Comminuted fracture.

I didn’t sleep for more than a week. She couldn’t sleep for more than two, but the surgery, a week after, stabilized the bones — what was left of the collarbone anyway — and that was a big step.

I was fortunate to be able to stay home and take care of her those first two weeks. Her mother came for a week, and then her bestie drove in and took over the house, letting me go to work and take some naps. And, between us, we got to week four, where the patient progressed to feeling terrible.

She had months of checkups and a half-year or so of physical therapy. She got PT homework that she still has to do because, a year later, her bones are still mending. And in light of all of that, she got, we got, pretty lucky. All of that pain, hard work and the frustration involved in simply trying to get back to normal made us very lucky, indeed.

I’d like to tell the guy driving the red pickup truck where he can go, but he’s already in Bloomington.

Do you know where we were today? We were on our bikes, on a sunny, windy day, marking the anniversary.

She’s still not 100 percent, but she’s getting stronger, a process that’s been underway since her first ride back, in early March. It was almost six months off the bike, much of that under doctor’s orders. The six months since she’s been slowly regaining her confidence, which is an

When I broke my collarbone, in a 2012 accident that was plenty bad, but not nearly as rough as hers, it took me almost six full months to even want to ride again. It was 11 months for me before I noticed I had a moment I wasn’t hurting, and a year almost to the day of my surgery that I realized there were times when I didn’t feel protectively self-conscious about turning my head or shoulder. It took me more than 14-months — and a second and third specialist and more PT than I’d care to admit to — before I wasn’t in some sort of constant pain. If anything, she might be a tiny bit ahead of schedule, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

This is what I learned then, what I’d forgotten since, and what I’m reminded of today, having looked back at my own little recovery process: every little normal thing is a huge win, and they’re all worth celebrating.

Oct 22

I’m catching up on sleep, thanks

This, the Twitter thread below, is an extremely true story. I took a nap this evening and have basically gotten back to the point of feeling like normal again. Can’t imagine how she feels, but she’s got the medication! And she can take naps if she feels like it.

I’d say she’s lucky, but I’ve seen the X-rays. I know exactly how lucky she is.

Spent most of yesterday at the office telling people about it, I think. Word gets around. Maybe in a day or two I’ll be back up to full speed, and feeling like it, too!

Let’s wrap up the Poplars Building talk. You’ll remember it was a hotel, and then dorms, and finally some administrative space. The whole building is gone now. They torn down the first half during late August and September. They took the other half last week. But the remnants are still there.

Eventually this will become a green space. I take that to mean they don’t know, yet, what they want to go in that space, but some plan will come along one day.

We should catch up on the Re-Listening Project. If that sounds official, it isn’t. I am working through all of my old CDs in the car. Easy content and, sometimes, good music. These aren’t reviews, mostly just the memories that mark the time.

This is strictly chronological, which is to say the order in which I bought all of these things. My discs cross genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no large theme. It is, a whimsy as music should be.

“Deluxe” was Better Than Ezra’s major label debut, and I bought this first as a cassette. “Good,” which they still do on stage as “The one you remember” was released in February of 1995, and I bought it sometime around there. Obviously I thought enough about it to purchase it a second time, as a CD.

I remember playing the tape version almost continuously on a three-hour solo road trip to see a friend.

First of all, no one remembers that Salma Hayek was in the video for the third single off this record.

Her career, in American media anyway, was just about to take off. This was sublimely timed casting that wouldn’t have been possible even a few months later.

Secondly, I have this weird flash of a memory of listening to this record in an Arby’s drive thru. Maybe that was the beginning of that road trip.

It’s a deep cut, but Summerhouse still holds up.

This, along with Rosealia, was one of my favorite songs of the record.

A few years later I was shooting pool in a restaurant — that no longer exists — when a friend came out of the closet to me and the guy playing his guitar in the corner was covering that song. I was the first person she told, she said. She figured I was from the big city, and that I’d understand. But I knew already. And whole, larger story, is an incredibly sharp memory.

Seven-ball-with-a-weird-pant-scuff-in-the-right-side-pocket sharp.

This was the song for part of that fall, and parts of many subsequent autumns.

Better Than Ezra has seven more studio albums. At least the next five get better and better. They’ll all appear in this list, eventually.

Oct 22

Back to work

Back to work today. Catching up on meetings and the things I couldn’t do while working from home last week. Some things are virtual, some things you just need to be there. Fortunately, everyone has been understanding and most gracious with my absence last week. Family comes first, and that’s a nice perk.

I’ve worked places where that wasn’t the case.

I’d say this has been a great chance to slow down, except that everything seems to have sped up. But on Friday The Yankee’s mom came to town to see about her daughter and help out. That was a big morale boost. And this weekend she worked through those early days of surgical recovery. She’s also a week-on from the big crash, and so, on balance, she’s starting to move better.

On Sunday afternoon we all even took a walk.

When I got to the office I saw that the Poplars Building, which we’ve been documenting in this space since August, is now all gone.

They took that second half in a week. But you should see all the rubble that’s out of our view there. Maybe we can take a look at that this week.

Also, the leaves have started turning. Something about them seems off this year. Subdued somehow. Maybe I just caught it in poor light at the wrong time of day, and early in the turn.

There will be a few more days of opportunity to poorly demonstrate the leaf turn. I’m sure I’ll try.

I started, oh, almost two weeks ago now, reading Andrew Ritchie‘s Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer. I’m about 20 percent of the way through it now, but the beginning sets the stage. Late-19th century, a young black man rides a bicycle as well as anyone at the peak of American interest in cycling, both as a pastime, but also the sport.

“The fastest humans on earth.” Crazy, but it’s worth reminding ourselves to think in those terms.

Taylor was from Indianapolis, he’d moved with a mentor/employer to Massachusetts, and he’d signed with the League of American Wheelmen, the sport’s governing body of the time. He was 17 or 18 here.

Within the next year he’d be a world champion, and a world record holder.

He was, in fact, the first African-American world champion, of any sport. He died nearly penniless. He’s been all but forgotten outside of his adopted Worcester, Massachusetts, and some vibrant-and-growing cycling groups. Major Taylor will have a renaissance, you can just put your ear to the wind and feel it coming, on your left. His is an intriguing story.

Sep 22

Visited an ortho this morning

Last night was a fairly sleepless night, I think. The painkillers seemed more like pain ticklers. But we had an early morning appointment, and that brought out two trips to the biggest pharmacy in town — and several phone calls with the doctor’s offices and the insurance company because, the best I can tell, American healthcare — and drugs that can get the job done.

The Yankee had more X-rays following her bike crash last evening. And they all confirmed how lucky we are.

To recap: some jerk cut her off and she crashed her bike to avoid hitting his red pickup truck. There are witnesses. So we spent most of the night in the ER, and the rest of the night in the drive through of the pharmacy.

She has a few broken bones. This we knew. Two ribs will heal on their own in time, and we knew that. The particular ribs were an initial worry yesterday, because they often lead to other damage, but that’s not the case here. Today’s doctor visit was to consult a specialist about her collarbone, which is also broken.

More X-rays were taken. After several painful rounds of that, the doctor thinks that she might be able to avoid surgery. (Which, having had that surgery myself, I say “Good!”) We’ll go back for more scans next week. And, for the next while we’re just gritting through everything, moving slowly, using one hand, and finding out that there’s no position that is actually comfortable.

And counting our blessings.

Let’s look at her helmet.

By the way, never buy a used helmet. Not all helmets are made the same, some are better than others. Like most anything these days, there are tiers to modern helmets in terms of price and tech and protection, but all helmets on the market have to pass certain minimum standards. The Smith Ignite MIPS Helmet you see here is a good aero helmet.

And should you crash your helmet, retire it and get another one. Also, depending on who you ask, it’s a good thing to upgrade every three-to-five years because of age or heat or sun damage. There’s no real consensus opinion on their lifespan, but three-to-five years are the most agreed upon windows.

This is the left side of her helmet. All of the scratches on the polycarbonate shell came from this accident.

This part is important. The shell on this helmet is molded to the expanded polystyrene foam, but you see where that got ruptured in the crash. This would be just above the left ear.

Here’s the overhead view, with the rider facing the top of the shot. There are some impressive gouges and scratches across the crown of the helmet. All of this, of course, means the helmet is doing it’s job. The helmet gets eaten up by the road so your cranium doesn’t.

See this cracking in the EPS foam? That’s not supposed to be there. That’s crash damage.

Again, better the helmet than the head. Here’s another view of where the EPS foam was destroyed. The green stuff, the straw looking stuff, or the honeycomb stuff, is called Koroyd. This stuff is designed to crumple on impact and absorb crash force in a controlled manner, minimizing energy to the noggin.

The point of this is plastic deformation. Look at how it got squished up. The Koroyd did it’s job.

Altogether, it seems the many bits of technology in this helmet worked. You can see a fair amount of damage, and no head trauma.

A guy in a truck caused this wreck. A helmet very well might have kept it from being a life-changing wreck.

Be kind to cyclists; wear a helmet.

Sep 22

A night in the ER

I was walking from the control room into the studio — two back-to-back doors — just before a taping began tonight when my phone rang.

My phone never rings.

I have dedicated ring tones for most people, even though my phone never rings. So, even while the phone was in my pocket I knew from the song that it was my lovely bride.

She never calls me. We text.

I answer the phone. There’s some other woman on the phone.

Not good.

And her voice is breaking up. Bad cell signal.

I’m trying to be polite about this, but then suddenly there’s The Yankee on the phone, clear as can be. She’s had a bike accident. She’s OK. Deputies are coming and so is an ambulance and people have stopped to help. She’s going to the hospital because she’s sure her collarbone is broken and where am I.

I’m at work, of course. She knew that, but she forgot it or was speaking without thinking about it, same as I asked her, for some reason, what she’s going to do with her bike and what hospital she’s going to. I told the guy running the TV shoot and the engineer that I’m leaving. I rode my bike into the office this morning, which means I have to ride to the house to get the car to go to the hospital.

This was the fastest I’ve ever made that commute, perhaps even by car. I don’t even remember breathing hard or feeling it in my legs, which had complained all the way in this morning. At one point, just before the last hills, I remember being upset I didn’t have harder, faster gears to work through. My machine wasn’t equipped for the moment or the adrenaline or both, which never happens to me.

That part wasn’t important, of course. I got to the house, doused my head with cold water, put on dry clothes. Grab the insurance card, some snacks and a hoodie. Fed the cats, because who knows how long this will take. Out of the saddle and back out the door in seven minutes, at the hospital in nine more.

Emergency room. Chairs. Someone calls my name and I go to an exam room. The Yankee is off for a CT scan, and she’ll be back in a moment. There’s some of her cycling kit, and her shoes and her helmet. I pass the time studying the helmet. There’s one small displaced part on the left side. One crack inside. Some light scrapes near the crown of the helmet. So it’s her left collarbone. We’re going to match.

A guy wheels her bed back into the exam room. She’s in a neck collar. No one said anything about a neck collar — and there’s just no way to prepare yourself for seeing that — but when the doctor comes along with some of the results from scans and X-rays, he removes it. The neck collar was a precaution that was thankfully not needed. But her left arm is definitely the worse for wear. She’s got one tiny scratch on her knee, and a little scrape on her leg that wouldn’t impress anyone who has ever had a carpet burn. She tore the center pocket out of her vest, meaning she rolled or slid on the small of her back, but her back seems fine.

She was going straight through a small intersection on a straight road. A guy in a pickup truck was coming from the other direction, aiming to turn to his left. Apparently they made eye contact, he slowed, and then he decided to turn across her direction of travel. She doesn’t think she hit the truck, but we know from witnesses that the ass paused briefly and then drove away.

“Bicycle Friendly Community” is another quality B-town joke.

As we sat in the Emergency Room waiting for the next thing to happen one of the witnesses calls. This is the woman that called me earlier. She’s taken custody of the bicycle. She says her husband is also a cyclist. He has pronounced the bike fine. Like that matters.

What really matters is this: In one of those weird moments of normalcy that infiltrates a mild medical emergency, The Yankee says “I didn’t stop my Garmin.” Twenty minutes earlier she was getting brain scans and wearing a neck brace, but now the important stuff.

The lady says I can come get the bike whenever. I thanked her for that, and thanked her many times over for stopping. I think we were all a little moved by that. And so, to lighten the moment, I said, “Since your husband is a bike rider, would you mind asking him to stop her Garmin?”

“It was the first thing he did,” she said.

Cyclists, man.

Now an RN comes in. They’re going to move her to another exam room and put her shoulder back into the socket. This is news. But it turns out, apparently, that the RN was misinformed. Or at least I continue to hope so. I asked the doctor directly, in front of this RN, if we had to reduce a shoulder. And he said no. But he also missed the collarbone later, turns out. (Thanks for that catch, radiologist.)

So it seems there’s a collarbone break, and two broken ribs. And an orthopedist appointment in our future. Fortunately, she has an orthopedist.

She was discharged from the hospital at 11 p.m. We spent a half hour, 30 solid minutes, in the drive through of the only 24-hour pharmacy in a town of almost 100,000 people. There was one car ahead of us.

Our immediate future: Not much sleep tonight. And, if the memory of my own broken collarbone serves, the next month or so is just a bunch of gritting through pain, finding the least uncomfortable position possible and vowing to never move, ever again, and finally, wondering when you can sleep through the night, and waiting to use your arm again.

But we’ll let the orthopedist tell us that tomorrow morning, for sure.

What we are is lucky, and we don’t need an ortho to tell us that.

Wear a helmet, kids.