Sunday, September 18, 2011



Last week I didn't mention something great that happened to me. I had put together a nice post about a half-assed 9/11 story, photos taken around the yard, and my experiences in Newark, and I didn't want to throw in something off-topic.

Last Sunday I ran 5 k.

I mean without stopping. I've run 3 miles in as few as two parts, with a walking break. But not without stopping.

I know, I ran the Columbia 5 k Fun Run last year, but I took walking breaks.

I set out early Sunday, and I mean like 4:30, because I am crazy. I was going to run 2 miles, break, and maybe 1 or 2 more. But some days you just feel good. Know how that is? I was running along and thinking about stuff, and didn't pay attention where I was, and then I turned my attention and thought, I must have run a mile by now. And I realized I was at 1.5 miles. Good sign. When I got to 2.0, I wasn't done, so I went for 2.5. By then I was starting to feel a little tired, but I realized I had a shot at 3.0, so I kept going. And at 3.0, I figured, just another 500 feet or so, and I can say I did 5 k. I had not measured off how much more it was to 5 k, but I knew it should be about two blocks and two streets, so I did that. Just now I measured what I ran on gmap-pedometer and it was actually 5.1 k.


You know what, if 5 k had been another couple of blocks I think I would have run that too.

Sometimes having a goal and being near it gets you to squeeze out a little extra. That's why I run specific distances I've measured out. Of course it satisfies my weird sense of order, like lining up the windows on my computer screen. I proceed as if units of 5,280 feet meant something. But when I feel a little tired, completing a specific distance gives me something to accomplish. Sometimes I would give up sooner if I were just running as long as I felt like it. Maybe having any goal is the key thing.

I don't expect to run 5 k every time. In fact the next time I ran the same route, a couple of days later, I was pretty tired at 2 miles, so I stopped there and walked a little. After all I am not out to torture myself. But it is very cool to realize that I can do 5 k, under some circumstances.

Then came Thursday morning.

I had gone to sleep Wednesday night without incident. I should mention what I ate for dinner, to show that it wasn't involved. Sauteed kale in olive oil and a little butter, and then penne with marinara and small meatballs. Notice, nothing there very chewy. I had forgotten to buy bread, so I didn't have that to bite off and chew. We're coming to why that matters.

I woke up with something very wrong on the left side of my face. It felt tight and swollen, and I realized moving my jaw hurt. The center of pain was the joint, just forward of my left ear.

It didn't make sense to me. What could have happened during the night? I don't even sleep on that side much.

I was going to be home that day anyway, because a man was coming to check and clean the oil burner that heats the house. As usual my plan was to tough it out and see if the pain went away before considering doing anything drastic, like getting medical attention. Helen said I should take an Aleve, so I did.

It got slightly better through the morning.

The oil company has some long-term veteran employees, and I got one of them. I think it speaks well of a company to have people stay with them for a long time. This guy knew his stuff. He did a real nice thorough job. He showed me how filthy the combustion chamber was, and wondered if other guys had even taken the trouble to clean it the last few years. So I spent some time talking with him. He told me how some people these days don't do honest work and so on. It took my mind off.

Lunch was an ordeal. What I had bought for myself the day before didn't require much chewing, but I still needed to break the meat into little pieces I could sort of inhale.

After that I had nothing to do, so I lay on the couch and thought about my face and jaw hurting.

At such times— when something hurts— I feel that I should curl up into a little ball and await my fate.

But then Helen called to hear about the oil burner. She also suggested that instead of curling into a ball and awaiting my fate, I might call our dentist to have the jaw checked out. Dentist. They do jaws, not just teeth. Of course I said I didn't think so.

Twenty minutes later I decided I was an idiot. Appointment made for first thing the next morning.

I still felt like curling into a little ball and awaiting my fate, but I had a goal to achieve first. I needed to hang on till I saw the dentist. I didn't want to let him down by not showing up. That's a goal. Then I could give up all hope. I would be able to postpone it.

I sent email to work saying I might be out or not depending how it went. A friend replied that I could still drink. It is good to look on the bright side. For dinner I had soup, soft noodles, and a small amount of chicken cut into pill-size pieces. And two glasses of wine.

When I woke up Friday it felt worse again. As if something happened again overnight. What am I doing? Sleepwalking and chewing on furniture?

The dentist agreed it was pretty weird for this to start overnight. He said usually it's a case of biting into something tough, like a good bagel, and you feel something snap. That's why I mentioned to you what a soft dinner I happened to have Wednesday. If it was a delayed reaction it was very delayed.

I want to run this story up to a splashy finish, but what happened is that now two days on, after taking an anti-inflammatory drug a few times and wearing a guard the dentist made to keep my jaw slightly open at night, I am just about normal again.

It would be a better story if I had to go in for emergency jaw surgery, and all my friends and relations came by the hospital to see me one last time in case I didn't make it. I could tell you things they needed to say to me while they had a chance. I would also have to throw in the scene where I ask the doctor, "Will I be able to play the piano?", and, being it's jaw surgery, he would say, "Of course!", and I could say, "That's great! I could never play before!". You put in comic relief in tense parts of a story. Then I'd pull through and people would crowd around and say I am the richest man in town.

I would sell the rights and become famous.

But, taking a few capsules and wearing a thing at night, well, that's all I've got for you really.


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