“Just Say No.”

Ah, if only it were that easy.

Just.  Say.  No.

What couldn’t we do, if we could 


Close the door

Turn the page

Start over

No thanks

Don’t want

Done.  With.  That!

Like yesterday, for instance, when the Physical Therapy Assistant insisted that I lie on my back, with a hard piece of half-round foam running the length of my spine.  The idea is to open up my shoulders, which I’ve been guarding because of impingement syndrome.

I’m enthusiastic about getting more function.  I clambered onto the torture platform and lay down on top of the foam thing, expecting to open up and bliss out.

Except that didn’t happen, because the foam thing is hard as a rock.  I wiggled and squirmed trying to find the comfy spot.  There wasn’t any.  It pressed on my tender sacrum and my tender thoracic spine.

“Straighten your spine out!” The Assistant barked. That did it.

“I cannot straighten my spine because my spine…is…not…STRAIGHT!”  

Now other patients in the Physical Therapy room were interested.  A drama!

At a word from the head Physical Therapist, the assistant backed off.  After I had descended from the platform, she led me to a doorway (common PT tool, available to most people who don’t live in a van).  There she demonstrated a doorway-assisted stretch that I hope to be able to do one day, but not when I have recently fallen and can barely move at all.  Nope.  Not doing that.

“What do you MEAN, you’re not doing that?” She screeches, drawing further attention from the Peanut Gallery.

“Just what I said.  What else have you got for me?”

She crosses her arms.  Oh brother.  I’m waiting for the PT Get Tough lecture, but her boss shuts her up in time.

Now she wants to do something with my neck muscles.

“Neck is off limits.  No discussion.”

Too bad my aim was not to give this person an apoplectic fit.  If I had meant to do it, it would have been a tremendous success.  But that was not my aim.

I’m really not in bad shape at all.  Just banged up a bit.  Actually, when I think about it, most of my biffs and bangs were acquired doing things I love to do: occupational injuries due to the business of life, with a large overlay of genetic vulnerabilities.

I can’t say No to my genes.  But I can certainly say No to anyone who doesn’t listen to my concerns, who seeks to intimidate me, to use their position of petty power to try to overrule my ownership of my own person.

“But it’s for your own good!”


On the other hand, what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander, and so on.

I’m not just “a shoulder.”

I’m a person who has lost 2 1/2″ of height over the past two years.  That’s because my spine is kind of disintegrating.  It’s getting a bit pretzel-y.  My years of spine PT are over.  So nope, PT assistant does not get to mess with my neck muscles.

We ended up with simply repeating the exercises the Head Trainer had given me last week.  Whatever.

As I write this I’m thinking about a friend who is very ill.  She’s enduring incredible invasions of her privacy, has lost every vestige of personal space.  People bossing her around from every possible angle.

She can’t “Just say no.”  She can’t Just get up and walk away.

This has to be the hardest thing: to not have the option to Just.  Say.  No.

Courageous Firefighters Save an Adorable Puppy and the Story of her Remarkable Recovery | Animal Hospital of North Asheville (AHNA)


Study: Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) Therapy Reduces Need for Opioids – National Pain Report


This could be a blessing, if insurances including Medicare will pay for it….

The Hero in the Little Bottle, or: Thank Goodness; or: That #!*@$&! Dog!!!

Here is a sample bottle of some hydrocodone medicine.  You can see by the beat-up label that it’s kind of old.  The expiration date is 1995.

It’s part of my emergency kit.  The last time I took one was in 2010, when I was in India and broke my wrist.

Yesterday I was walking on a State Park trail enjoying the late afternoon sun when a lady walked by with her Golden Retriever.

“Is your dog friendly?” She asks.

“Well….sometimes.  She plays really, really rough,” said I.

By this time I had moved off the trail into a little grassy area to give the lady and her dog room to pass.

Instead, she decided to bring her dog over to “make friends.”

Before you could say “Oh fuck!” Atina was in her dog’s face snarling and making that fearsome sound dogs make when they’re fighting.  She was so determined, I found myself helplessly dragged along at the end of the leash.

Then I myself roared into life and dragged her off the terrified retriever, whose owner was triple quadruple terrified.

Atina had not finished snarling when I got hold of her, but she shut her face once she saw mine.

God I just wanted to kick her ass around the block!

I waited for the poor terrified lady and her dog to get back down the trail before I started back myself.  It was getting toward “coyote time” of the evening and I was in no mood for another confrontation.

As I led the now-chastened Malligator down the path, I spied a rock sticking out.  Watch out for that rock, my brain said.  Fuck you, said my body, and demonstrated my foot-drop so that I could trip on that very rock….and fall into thin air.

I saw the whole thing in slow motion.  The hard ground coming closer and closer….I dropped the leash from my left hand and the baggie full of dog poop from my right, and broke my fall with both hands.

Jesus Christ on a bicycle, I have rarely felt such pain!  Now I know why beating people on the hands and feet is such a popular form of torture.  There’s really nowhere for swelling and blood from broken blood vessels to go.  The pressure is maddening.

I’m able to this only because the first-aid measures of last night have much improved the situation.

First I managed to get myself and the Malligator into the van.  This was no small feat, since both of my thumbs were so swollen they were pulling my hands into claws due to the spasms in my thumb muscles.

Once I got inside, the only thing I could do was to sit down and bawl uncontrollably for a long time.

Next I had to remember where I’d stashed my emergency pain pills.  Fortunately my mind’s eye is pretty good, and I located the plastic box where I keep seldom-used meds.  It was dicey getting the box out of the overhead compartment, between my bad shoulders and my completely fucked-up hands.

I took a pill, then sat down to cry some more.  Eventually I remembered the Traumeel, that wonderful arnica-based homeopathic ointment.  It’s great for bruises and any kind of trauma that doesn’t involve an open wound.

And ice!  It required some ingenuity to get the damn ice out of the ice tray, but I did it.

As I was icing, I remembered that I am an acupuncturist.  I got some needles and by pressing my teeth into service, extricated a few from their sterile packaging.  I did some emergency points for general trauma, then did some decompressing local points.  After an hour the spasms had gone from my thumbs and the swelling was subsiding.

This morning my hands are much better, although I fear I may have further injured my already-fucked-up left wrist.  I guess I should call my hand surgeon’s office and make an appointment for next week….

(The Golden Retriever was fine, by the way.  Just a lot of noise and display, apparently, but soooooo NOT okay.  I might get the electric collar out for our next walk.  When she has it on, I almost never have to use it because she KNOWS what it means….)

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About the author:


Magic Mountain In The Sky

The lights of Tucson glow behind the mountain, glowing a silhouette, casting an ominous glow across the clouds.  How can I not be enchanted?

At first I was not in love with this harsh desert landscape.  Everything is stark, hard-edged.  Everything has spines, or bites!  Life in the desert leaves a very fine margin for error.  Screw up once, and you easily lose your way in the maze of cacti and endless leguminous shrubs.  

Where is water?  

Mostly underground or locked inside plants that are stoutly defended by suits of spiny armor.

Where is food? 

All around you, locked inside plants that are stoutly defended.

Or running fast: jackrabbits, desert rats, lizards, snakes; you have only to gain access.  Good luck.

Watch out for things that bite or sting.  And everything bites or stings!  

The most terrifying sight in the desert is a dusty-looking cloud moving along 6 feet or so above the ground.  As you get closer, you perceive a low hum, almost a vibration.  

Turn around and leave, now!  It’s Africanized honeybees.  They’ll kill you faster than any rattlesnake or scorpion!

I inadvertent walked underneath a tree in which Africanized honey bees were swarming.  I perceived a sense of movement, then the hum of thousands of wings….I held my breath, striving not to give off fear pheromones.  I’ve seen a person get swarmed by honeybees.  She was allergic, and saw one bee and freaked out. Suddenly the whole hive was on her!  So I tiptoed out from under that tree, trying not to tiptoe…

Having been kind of cornered in Tucson by bad weather everywhere else, I’ve had time to get to know this inhospitable environment.  I’m awed by its stark beauty.  It’s harder to photograph than many places I’ve been, perhaps because of the monotonous miles of….cactus. And shrubs in the legume family.

Sometimes Mother Nature smiles and puts on a light show behind the Magic Mountain, bending the light from the city and bouncing it off the clouds.

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