Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RIP: Composers of "Batman" and "The Andy Griffith Show"

Who are Earl Hagen and Neal Hefti? I'm certain many of you don't really know. Earl Hagen was a close friend of my father's. He helped dad get into the TV music business. Neal Hefti was also a friend of the family. Each man passed away this year.

They were both famous composers who wrote music for the big bands, radio and movies. But TV is the claim to fame they share. Between 1960 and 1980, Earl Hagen composed a countless number of TV themes and the background music as well. Much of his music is known by anyone over 40. For example, he wrote the theme to the Andy Griffith show. That's got to be in the top 100 recognizable tune book. Google him and you'll see how pervasive his music is.

But what I remember most is his bare pate, the Tam-O-Shanter he always wore, and the monumental ears. He looked like a character actor form the 40s. You just don't see folks with his features these days. Why? I don't really know.

When I was 9 years old, my father was recording a show at MGM and Earl offered to drive me home. We lived in the same development. It was my first ride in a Farrari. He even let me take the wheel in deserted areas. For someone so successful and talented, he was very unassuming; no ripping off heads in the studio for Mr. Hagen. Golf was his passion, and an unending source of rattlesnake stories, as the Calabasas course had its share. His son Dean was 8 years older than I, but had lots of colorful stories to share with me. You see, Dean was a talented drummer who played with the Spencer Davis band and Traffic; he also did session work for my father.

Neal Hefti wrote the theme for the "Batman" series. He also wrote a number of great shoe-tunes: Barefoot in the Park, Girl Talk, Cute, etc. Like my father, his was a generation of self-taught musicians. At dinner, we always heard the names pop up. Not because they were so successful. Rather, they were a part of my dad's generation of composers. Much of the music of their generation was brightly colored by Hagen and Hefti. They could do it all: arrange the band's parts, write the simple jingles and the complex backgrounds. These days, it's not so common. But what is it I remember? .....The Fararri. And I'm a musician!

So the old guard is falling away. Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My much-awaited MRI results were something of a dissapointment. There's nothing terribly wrong, nothing that's defying age. In short, my lumbar vertebrae are all bulging mildly, but the bulging is considered "unremarkable." Typical for late 40s. So it would appear that treatment is up to me.

The problem is that the pain is sometimes very "remarkable" to me. I know what it's like to have a pain-free back, and I know what it's like to have chronic pain.

As for running, no one's saying to stop. It doesn't hurt when I run, so I'll run. But my experience over the last two years suggests that running much volume at one time (long runs) seems to be closly related to the pain, spasms, assemetry and all else that's been sidelining me lately. Then again, so does taking out the trash...

I'm bothered because it feels nice to have a treatment plan for an injury. "Do this, then that, take these and you'll be better by this date..." That's what I like to hear. But no. I'm in trial and error mode. I could stop running, that might help but I'd go crazy without my daily exercise. I will, of course, do some winter sports this year. But nothing an replace running.

For now, its hit the treadmill. It's softer that frozen 12 degree-F pavement. So away I go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'll say it flat-out: I hate those word-verification tests you need pass to post.

Cursive "m"s that looks like "n" or "r" with no additional n,m or r for comparisons sake. Or the g and q that are identical except for a swirl. I've lost a few posts due to cursive complications. After I see tiny words like gyrqgjlnr I start to get dizzy and log off.
Then other times it's so easy...go figure.

If you are posting with me and that happens, feel free to send an email to me, and we can curse the cursive together.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Survived my Second MRI

I've now had two MRIs. My first one was way back in 1990. That horrific experience taught me a few things. The first thing I learned was that, yes, I can be VERY claustrophobic. The second lesson I learned is to come in fully prepped.

What do I mean, fully prepped? Simple, anti-anxiety meds. From yesterday: "yes, I want the atavan...may I have another please...no? I don't WEIGH enough? THAT'S my reward for all of the training? To have an anxiety attack after waiting two months for this stupid test? I guess it's a good thing I brought my own.. After feeling nearly psychotic during the 1990 MRI (though I made it through the hour-long test)...I was taking NO chances.

I have to admit, it was smart of me. I don't know how I would have done otherwise. There were times my head started to swirl in anxiety yesterday, but I was able to remain calm, knowing I had medicine on my side,

Another trick I learned is to count songs and commercials on the radio...though the magnets were so loud, the only song I really heard was "Evil Ways" ..."lord knows you've got to change...blah, blah." I played this around 500 times in several bands and will fail to notice if I never hear it again.

But my best new MRI trick is to open my eyes one at a time: Things appear farther away with just one eye. Things like walls 8 inches from your head. Also, a "mono" view eliminates the sense of near-total enclosure one might get when one is..well..nearly totally enclosed.

The warmth of the pulsing magnet on my back in concert with the drug cocktail in my system gave me a nice embryonic warmth as the final tap of the MRI passed. Later I took a two-hour nap. So yes I learned. Now if only my back felt better things would be fab-ulous.

So, for the MRI-shy folks out there: one-eye at a time, say yes to drugs(and bring a back-up....but only if you really need them:)), and above all, change your evil ways. Jean and Joe are counting on you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh My God! My back hurts!!!

As the man of the house, I take out the trash. No biggie, right? It's not all that heavy, and I still have some muscles.

So I lift up the bag, and feel a jolt of blood-curtling pain go up the spine. With each step it gets worse. Yikes! It hurts to step out of the car. It hurts to put on my shirt. I'm shaped like the number "2" again.

And tomorrow's my MRI. Well, the radiologists will think I'm an 85 year-old with the scoliosis and whatever else shows up.

And to think, I felt so good running this week.

"Good Grief"...am I in sad shape.

I just hope I can make it through the MRI without a spasm.
I can...I can...I will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MRI Countdown

In two days, I'll have had my back MRI. In a week, I'll have the results. Strangely, I don't expect to find too much wrong with the back. Something's wrong, but I don't expect it to be anything scary or requiring surgery.

It will, represent a kind of transition for me, however. I'll have to decide what next to do. I never dreamed when I started running, that I'd arrive at this point when I might possibly transition out of competitive running. When a job, relationship, social-family life is on the rocks, running is a great mollifier. I've lived in some shabby places, lost jobs, changed girlfriends a couple of times and seen my parents grow too old to do most of what I associate them with.

The running is a palliative. But there's a caveat: I need competition as a motivator. Without that carrot, I might run, but it's just exercise. The highest runner's high I've had has always been running well. This year, I ran two solid half-marathons, but hated running in them both because I knew I might not make it due to injury. I'm still injured and have had a good running career, but what to do next is a strange quandry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hard Core in Winter.

Like most male runners I know, I scoffed at the advise proffered me regarding the implementation of core-strengthening exercises into my running routine. "Why," I would ask "should I waste time building up my stomach and back muscles when all of the running muscles are already getting daily exercise?"

For years, this logic served me well. When a rash of injuries hits, however, one begins to question EVERYTHING including non-running fitness. My PT now has me doing a battery of core stabilizing exercises and I'm making good progress.

Is this improving the pain in my back or my knee and PF/sciatica problems? No. So it seems to be a trial and error process. It might be that I drove too long with poor alignment and now the faulty wheels are, though-aligned, still faulty. If that's the case only time will help(and that r-word, rest).

But this much I will say: I can do far more push-ups, crunches and all of the other core-related activities with less effort than before. And, this will be a permanent part of my training routine from now on.

There has been snow on the ground for 5 days and soon there will be enough for some nifty winter X-training. It's 23f for a high today, and going down by the day, so I've got to look for the pony, right?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

There isn't much to say about my running. I'm awaiting my back MRI and running a basic 30-35 mpw in an effort to retain my sanity. Some days running feels good, others are a little uncomfortable.

It's hard to forsee a change when thers an ongoing pattern of pain and numbness in the left leg and lower back. But, when I feel good my running seems fine.

There's snow on the ground now. Let the season begin.