The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thus Ended My NBA Dreams

On Sunday afternoons in Lyon, everything is closed. Almost everything: there’s the Botanic garden & pet-supply store, the Picard frozen-foods place (mornings only) and for some reason, almost all the Asian grocery stores in Chinatown. This past Sunday we didn’t need any cat food from Botanic, so we crossed Pont Wilson over the Rhone to the 3rd arrondissement to stock up on udon, fresh cilantro, tofu, and the like. Boog was a bit restless with an excess of energy, so I took him to the nearby playground at Place Raspail while V. finished up the shopping with Tater.

[All photos from the Fete des Lumieres back in December. Not timely but too good not to use.]

When we got to the playground, it was gone. Well, the playground wasn’t gone, just the playground equipment had completely disappeared, Alderaan-style [my spell-checker does not flag “Alderaan” as an error, which makes me smile], as if a million bouncy-horses had cried out as one and were suddenly silenced. “Well, Boog, let’s run around anyway,” sez I, and we set to playing Chasse-Loup, ("Hunt the Wolf", more succinctly known in English as “Tag”).

In the process, with Boog hot on my heels, I head-faked going right around a park bench, then cut right—and my pivot foot, which I had managed to plant on a wet tree root, slid right out from under me. I fell over backwards, but with my catlike grace and ninja reflexes (heh) managed to get my hands behind me and break my fall, then rolled up to one side like an extra from Beat Street.

Having been tagged by Boog in the process, I got up and started to lumber after him, but… failed. My lower back had gone on strike: Any attempt to take a step larger than six inches, or bend over, or straighten up, left me gasping with pain.

No biggee. I’ll just walk it off. It’ll loosen back up in a bit. But it didn’t, neither that night or the next day at work, when I got up from my office chair only when absolutely necessary, and limped to the Metro like an 80-year-old. So I set up a same-day appointment with our doctor, who took one look before whipping out his prescription pad and writing scripts for enough pills to supply a party at Studio 54. "There's a pharmacy about two blocks from here," he said, "but it closes at 7:30. If you hurry you might make it."

You know how in the movies, a guy gets shot or stabbed, and staggers out of a bar/warehouse/garage/bank/whatever, lurching down the sidewalk grimacing and gasping, gibbering incoherently while passersby scoot their children out of the way? Yeah... been there.

So now it's the next day and I’m sitting in a waiting room at Clinique Jeanne d’Arc, just a couple of metro stops from the office. I anticipated the long wait and brought my laptop, because I knew that the waiting-room magazine selection would be terrible—mostly old copies of Paris-Match and Madame, with the odd golf magazine some physician no longer wanted.

It’s really no different from any waiting room back home: a row of hard chairs, a Monet poster print on the wall (interestingly, from an exhibition at the Met in NYC), and some flyers from various public-health organizations lying ignored on a corner table.

My stomach hurts. Unclear whether this is a side effect from the massive doses of medication I’ve been taking to control the pain and allow me to walk, or because I’m nervous about the radiography finding something really awful.

They call my name after only about enough time to write the 3 preceding paragraphs, and I’m shown to a small dressing room with a door at the opposite end, and told to get my clothes off. I do. Then I wait. Now what? Do I walk through the other door? What if it’s not an examination room on the other side? What if it’s another waiting room full of (clothed) people? What if I misunderstood what the nurse said—say, if it was “please take off your shoes”—and she comes back to find me standing there buck nekkid like a low-grade trenchcoat perv?

She does come back, and thankfully does not seem to be surprised by my buck-nekkidness, and thankfully refrains from any comment. Rather, she leads me to the scanner, where I stand in an awkward position pressed against a flat screen while the apparatus whirs. After the whirring stops, I shuffle back to the cabine and get dressed again.

The diagnosis: globally squashed disc between lumbar 5 and sacral 1, with accompanying spinal immobility; thankfully no rupture or nerve involvement. The first thing my doctor said on looking at the x-rays was "Did you play basketball when you were younger?" Um, yeah, I'm from North Carolina... and still entertain ridiculous daydreams about Roy Williams spotting me playing pickup ball at the Y ("Ty Lawson's got an ankle sprain, and we really need a slow-footed 5'11" 36-year-old white point guard with a questionable jumper who can't go to his left...whaddya say?"). Anyway, apparently this is a common injury among former basketball players; I don't know if that's true in my case, but "old basketball injury" sounds a lot more heroic than "blew out my back while playing tag with my 5-year-old".

Anyway, that explains why no posts this week...


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