Thursday, October 29, 2009

Phrase of the Day

Bone marrow edema.
How does that group of words make you feel? A little uncomfortable, I'm guessing. Most people don't think about their bone marrow. It's like the floorboards in your house- you know of them, may have never seen them, but they're there and are doing their job. So, imagine coming into the kitchen one morning and seeing a big bulge in the floor- you've got an edema!

Now imagine the walls are also banged up, like someone trashed your place while you were asleep or, more likely, when you were doing something fun that makes you totally oblivious to the pounding of your walls and cabinets. Yup, that's what I have, a bruised bone and swelling of the bone marrow. Nice ring to it, huh?
How did I do it? Well, it wasn't from doing something in my bedroom that made me totally oblivious. Most likely, it was from years of snowshoeing, scrambling and hiking with a (Mountaineers-approved) heavy pack on. Yes, I had fun, lots of it. Snowshoeing up to mountain tops in deep snow for hours so I could teleshoe downhill for 20 minutes with a grin on my face that was so wide, I swore my smile was going to tear my face all the way to my ears. Totally high, totally blissed, totally oblivious to the inner workings of my knee and the forces that were acting upon it. Or scrambling to a ridge top, like I did this past summer, in the Teanaway in July and Lake Stuart area in August.

All for a great photo- oh, what I won't do for a great photo! Sure, I was sore afterwards, but that's what Ibuprofen is for, right?
That's what makes me part of the "I Generation". We all carry it and we know that taking a couple before going to the mountains and then maybe a couple more when returning will set you right, allowing you to climb the stairs back to your bedroom, allow you to go out and follow the sun another weekend.

That system broke down a couple of months ago when, after a scramble at Lake Stuart, my knee started locking, hurting like hell and not allowing me to climb back to my bedroom. After x-rays and an MRI (not nearly as bad as everyone tells you it is- YoYo Ma helped), it was determined that my cartilage has been worn down and I have the afore-mentioned bone bruise (contusion). Each doctor I saw tried to draw information out of me about a supposed "blow" to my knee. Did I fall? No. Did I jump, landing on one leg? Nope. Did someone beat me with a baseball bat and somehow I have repressed the memory? Not likely, though possible if there could be litigation monies involved.

Another year, another injury, another medical mystery. Unlike the floorboards, this one isn't quite so easy to fix. At the moment, I am waiting on pins and needles (sorry, just a little acupuncture humor).

Monday, October 12, 2009

All hail the bicycle- a brief review of David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries

photo from StreetFilms.org site

In the September 24 issue of the Seattle Times, Andrew Matson reviews David Byrne's new book, Bicycle Diaries, by saying, "it's not really about cycling". Obviously, Matson is not a cyclist or somehow misses out on the fact that the ruminations by Byrne while in different cities around the world are coming from him while perched atop his bicycle. No, it's not about cycling and aerobic threshold or lactic acid or gear ratios or that other technical regurgitation that you can get by reading Bicycling or a cycling training book. But it is about the very heart of cycling and the special point-of-view that it affords as you roll, human-powered, through a town, taking in details that would otherwise be missed from a car or train.

David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries is exactly what the title implies: if only your bicycle could write and give the perspective of a slow-moving mode of transportation ("faster than a walk, slower than a train"). He compares riding through a city with all of its offices, shops, storefronts and people to "navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind". Everything about that area can be gleaned from a bicycle, as you observe situations as they happen and can interact, instead of just observe, like you would from a car.

The cities he writes about (and he does mention Seattle, saying many areas are very rideable) are those that he has visited for a performance, stating that cycling helps him stay sane when he has lost his bearings from plane travel and multiple time zone crossings. It is a compass of sorts that steers him in the right direction, his legs feeling a familiar movement in the spinning of the pedals and his brain following along, freeing his unconscious mind to think and to catch up to the present.

For parts of the book, I have to agree with Matson's review in that it isn't about cycling because it becomes much larger than that, as Byrne delves into the history and development of the cities he rides through. Cultural, lingual, socio-economic, all the components that make cities either into livable, dynamic areas or into wastelands of shopping malls and parking lots. But it is always the bicycle that he comes back to, as his source of grounding and finding of place.