Arthritis Finger

I’ve had some flexible squishy tape wrapped around the last joint of my left index finger for over 5 weeks. The doctor is treating a symptom of the severe arthritis in that joint.

On the surface, that sounds like typical old guy stuff.

Let’s dig below that surface.

First, a conundrum: the same joint on my pinkie finger on the same hand has the same severity of damage, yet feels no pain, no discomfort of any kind.

Next, the deeper issue: as a musician, the top joint of my index finger is vital to playing any instrument. You use your left hand to choose the notes you’re playing, and it has to be strong and flexible. Arthritis is neither of those.

The damaged joint affects me physically, and concern about its future affects me emotionally.

There’s good news. The pain and swelling has been exacerbated by a cyst at the end of a bone spur. The bone spur is quite small; the cyst was growing. And painful. And causing swelling and pain in the joint.

Large doses of anti-inflammatory meds plus a 6-week regimen of light pressure (thus the wrap) has almost eliminated the swelling, and reduced the pain, even when I’m playing an instrument, to negligible levels.

Videos of Les Paul, a great enough guitarist to have the most famous guitar in the world name for him, show his aged hands twisted with arthritis, the knuckles swollen.

He was still Les Paul, still one of the greatest jazz guitarists in the world, ever.

I’m gonna hang on to that image.


The Stranger on the Road

a barnEver since he’d set the barn up as a recording studio, he’d wanted a window so he could see his farm while he played. Windows not being inherently sound-deadening, it was a complication, but over time he’d hit upon a solution involving multiple layers of glass embedded in spongy soft stuff that helped reduce sound transmission.

So when the old man in the battered brown hat headed up his gravel driveway, he didn’t have to wait for the surprise of someone banging on the big barn door and messing up the track he was recording. He’d stopped playing his old Telecaster to watch as the stranger trudged up the drive, never raising his head enough to reveal his face.

But there was no banging on the door. With no windows anywhere else in the barn, he didn’t know if the old guy had gone around, or was just standing there.

Easy enough to find out.

He hung the guitar on the wall and crossed to the door, sliding the crossbar and pushing outward.

Mr. Brown Hat stepped back, blinking, obviously surprised.

“Um, hey, I’m sorry, uh, I was just . . . ” His hands wiggled around as he talked.

“Did you need something? Like, I mean, are you lost? Long way from anywhere, sir.”

The elderly gent chuckled. “I’ve been lost a long, long time, but not how you mean.” He shuffled his feet, glanced toward the road, shoved his hands in his pockets.

“I was passing, y’know, just walking down the road, and I heard the music, and, well, it drew me. I wasn’t trying to trespass, just getting closer to hear it better.”

That brought a chuckle. “You do realize that’s the shortest route to a musician’s heart, right?”

He pushed the door open wider. “If you want to listen, you might as well come in and get comfortable.”

The traveler pulled his hat off and held out his hand. “Morris. Morris Michael Miller. For which I apologize on behalf of my long-departed parents.”

“No apology necessary, Morris Michael Miller. I’m Reed. Reed Smith, most common last name in the English-speaking world, I guess.”

“There’s a reason for that, but instead of boring you with that, what if I sit down and shut up and you can play some more of that hopeful-sounding stuff you were playing.”

Reed smiled. “Hopeful? I guess the words made the music lean that way. Come on in.”

Morris found his way to one of the battered old kitchen chairs near the biggest speakers, and Reed grabbed the Tele and sat down to play.

He had no idea he’d just begun the greatest friendship of his life, nor that the stranger he’d taken in would live out the rest of his long life on the farm he’d been passing for no reason except that was where the road took him.


Perfect Day

I wrote this the last day of 2009. Still working on it.

It feels natural, waking up in Ireland. Like I was born in the wrong place, and now I’m home. And my life has felt more real since the first morning I woke up with Sue’s hair on my pillow.

There is nothing in the world like Irish breakfast tea, in Ireland (or, at the other end of the day, a pint o’ Guinness in the land where it’s made).

Potatoes should be part of every meal (another indication I’m secretly Irish). And as Sue says, orange marmalade was designed for morning tea.

The bright sun is a treat at breakfast. Since it rises at 4 am in the summer, and still shines almost every winter day, S.A.D. is a thing of the past. As are my allergies. Remember how miserable it was in Sacramento, like a chronic cold?

No flying bugs; no window screens. We could step out the living room windows to the deck above the river—and we often do.

Even with the sun on the deck, it’s cool enough for a sweater. I love sweaters. And hats. I love clothing in general in a not-very-manly way. But when it’s always cool enough for long sleeves, I get to wear something fun and different every day.

I enjoy having a household staff. I know it looks odd to folks who have old views of ‘servants’ and all, but these people are my closest associates, trusted friends. It’s just that their passions and dreams relate to the type of serving and caregiving which I’m glad I can support, financially and otherwise.

Having a valet lay my clothes out and draw my bath after bringing me tea in the morning is a nice luxury. I delight in having a talented passionate chef prepare all our meals. Especially a nice lunch to take on a drive.

My afternoon massage lets me make the most of my nap. And having a house cleaner to keep everything tidy takes a burden off Sue and lets her enjoy her home more. I’m so much more productive now that I have an assistant who takes notes, types, and manages my library.

I’m still not used to our clients never calling, but since they’re all in different time zones around the world, my coaching calls end up at 5 in the morning or 9 at night. I love it. Leaves my days free for writing and naps. And recording my music.

My travel videos of Ireland have been popular in the States. It’s fun to do the whole process, including the music.

There’s going to be a big crowd at the pub tonight. I love it that my work enables me to buy the first round any time I perform there.

Time for our morning walk. Sue’s strength has returned since we’ve been able to get out every day.

After our walk, it’s off to Shannon to pick up the kids. It’s one of the best things in my life, finally being reunited with them.

(Insert Lou Gehrig quote here:
“Today-ay-ay, I consider myself the luckiest man-an-an on the face-ace-ace of the earth-rth-rth)

Joel D Canfield 31 December 2009