Good Dog

It’s Sunday.  No alarms, no where to be.  It’s just a nice relaxing Sunday.  Except one thing.  I feel like I was run over by a truck when I wake up.  Every muscle in my body, including all those little secret ones that I’m always surprised about when I realize I have them, is completely wrenched.  My neck hurts, my shoulders hurt, my back hurts, my hips hurt, my legs hurt, and, yes, every cotton pickin’ toe hurts.  Even my ears feel strained.

When I get out of bed, I walk like a cowboy after a month on the trail.  It’s like my knees won’t bend and I have to rock my weight back and forth from foot to foot, swinging my legs from my hip to move forward.  This is what running down a hill with a glider on my back does to me.  Who knew it was such hard work?

I get the coffee going and then, while I wait for it to brew, I do some yoga.  I end up doing a lot of yoga, trying out virtually every restorative pose I can remember, trying to ease my body back into movement.  By the time I have spent an hour doing these gently relaxing poses, I am able to walk back to the coffee maker looking a little more like I have the joints of a human being than the joints of a barbie.

I take my cup of coffee back to the couch, but instead of sitting there, I choose my office chair instead.  I have a remarkable office chair.  For my entire career, I’ve had a bad habit of slouching down into my chair and resting my head on the back of the chair.  Given that I am tall, this requires scootching my rear end all the way to the front edge of my seat and then stretching out my legs to plant my position so I don’t drop off the edge and fall onto the floor.  From behind, people think I’m sleeping.

In any case, this posture has always left me with back pain and I could never figure out why I always slip into that position when I’m not paying attention.  Well, when I bought my own office chair, I figured out why.  It’s because my neck hurts.  All these years, what I really needed was a neck rest on my chair!  Now that I have said neck rest, it gives me a place to perch my head while I’m sitting straight up.  My office chair has eased my neck pain on more than one occasion, so I give it a try again today to see if putting the weight of my head on the rest and pushing back gently against it to stretch my neck helps.

While I do this, I work on processing photos.  I might as well do something productive while I’m sitting there.  Pat got up before me and is already on the couch nursing his sore muscles.  Although, he is in far better shape today than I am.  He stopped flying early because he wanted to protect himself from pulling his hamstring again, having just recovered from the last time.  So, he did half as many flights and launched on all of them, meaning he didn’t run all the way down the hill like those of us struggling to launch did.

I resent this about him.

After having plenty of time to relax and ease ourselves into our morning in our own ways, we decide we should ride to the market today.  While I hurt, I haven’t actually pulled or torn anything, I’m just sore.  And riding a bike gently and a short distance is a great way to get blood flowing to sore muscles and ease some of the pain.  I’m totally up for that.

We make our way across the Walnut St bridge cautiously–the crowd for the Head of the Hootch is back again today, although somewhat thinner now.  We are prepared to walk our bikes if the crowd gets too thick, but we make it across still in the saddle by riding slowly and watching out for darting pedestrians.  Fortunately, there aren’t any races going under the bridge as we cross, so the darting is minimal.

At the market, we stop to talk to Lou and Eddie, the honey and candle makers we’ve met at the market several times now.  Pat has a printout of some info about a trumpet Eddie wants to sell.  He goes through what he found with him and gives him the bad news that his trumpet is not likely to sell for a lot of money.

We move on to find lunch.  We didn’t realize how late it was getting when we left for the market and after our little ride there, we’re suddenly ravenous.  We find a hot dog stand in the back corner of the market.  It’s called Good Dog, which is a restaurant located about half a block from our apartment.  We’ve eaten there once and they serve the same mustard used in the Cleveland Indians stadium.

We each order a couple of dogs and while they cook, I get into a conversation with the owner.  They are from Akron, Ohio and the owner used to go to watch the Cleveland Indians with her grandparents.  She saw an article about how the mustard on the hot dogs there was part of what kept the Indians fans coming to the stadium even when the Indians had one of the worst records in baseball.  So, when they decided to open a restaurant that serves hot dogs, they decided to serve that mustard.

When our dogs are ready, we say our good-byes after getting directions on where to buy beer.  We didn’t realize they always sell beer at the market, not just during Oktoberfest, but there are only a couple of vendors rather than a bunch.  As we make our way towards the beer, we pause to take a bite of our dogs.  My teeth pierce the skin of the dog and juice squirts out a good 3 feet.  I laugh.  As I chew my mouthful, I’m impressed.  “Good dog!” I say.

We drink our beers and finish our dogs slowly, wandering around and checking out the vendors who are there today.  Some of the same photographers are there, including one that prints the photos on fabric so they look like a photo-painting.  I do not like this look.  As Pat says, “It should be on black velvet.”

We visit the produce vendors next and pick up some watercress, radishes, tarragon, and lettuce.  We’ve decided we’ll make my favorite salad with the first three ingredients, although we will have to supplement with a few items from the grocery store.

Having eaten, wandered, and purchased everything we could use, we decide to head on home.  The crowd on the Walnut St Bridge has grown slightly, but we’re still able to make it safely through without walking our bikes.  We get home, unload our groceries, and collapse on the couch.  Having loosened some of the kinks out of my body, I’m now completely ready for an afternoon nap.  Ahh.  It’s the life of a good dog.

My First Chattanoogan Drive

The hardest part of taking a two-week vacation is going back to work.  I ease into it gradually, getting up early and taking a morning walk with Pat and even taking my camera so I can shoot the sunrise.  We wander along the riverfront slowly, shooting every few minutes.  We run into another photographer.  I ask him how he likes his tripod (having still not bought one) and he chides me for trying to take landscape shots without one.  OK, maybe not “chides,” but I was pretty humiliated when he asked me how long I’d been shooting and I said, “about 7 years” and he said, “time to get a tripod!”  He also points out a sunrise rainbow that’s formed on the other side of the bridges, which I had completely failed to notice.  Strike two.  We manage to enjoy the sunrise none-the-less, but as a rainbow predicts, rain drops started falling so we high-tailed it home before we (by which I mean my camera) got too wet.

After two weeks off, I’m ready to go back to work from an emotional perspective, but from a pure memory standpoint, it’s like bits and pieces of information have fallen out of my brain and have to be swept up and poured back in again.  However, the last bits of dust that make it all fall back into a coherent picture have to be chased around and forcibly gathered.  Things that seemed vitally important two weeks ago are now just distant memories that I don’t know the status of.  I find myself wishing I had timed my vacation differently, but then I pause to wonder when would have been a better time?  It’s never a good time to take a vacation.

I dive into my email.  It’s actually not as bad as I was afraid it would be.  Fortunately, there is someone to cover for me for once and the more urgent items got taken care of while I was gone.  As I hunch over my keyboard sitting on an ottoman, I am quickly reminded of something I didn’t take care of before going on vacation–I must get an office chair.  The pain in my neck has not gone away even after 2 weeks away from my “desk.”  After only a couple of hours back, I’m in so much pain that I have to move back to the couch where my head is supported.  I decide that I will go chair shopping tonight.

Pat left this morning to go back to Columbus for three days.  I could have gone back with him and worked from Columbus, but I feel a need to stay home for at least a week.  He wants to go home next week, too, so I will go back then.  In the meantime, I am left to keep myself busy for the next three days.  There is one advantage to having just come back from a two-week vacation–I will have plenty to do.

It’s now after 5PM EST and I decide to take a break to go chair shopping.  I google office furniture and discover a website that has some really nice office chairs.  Just out of curiosity, I look up their location and discover that they are located 1 block from me.  This is a nice surprise!  I walk over there to see what they have.  The woman there, Leslie, gets down chair after chair and asks me to sit in each one for a while to get a feel for it.  There is one chair that has a funky neck rest on it.  It’s the only chair that has it.  I sit down and the neck rest hits a sore spot in the crick in my neck.  I think it feels rather awkward and it’s uncomfortable, but Leslie gives is a tug and adjusts it so that the top edge is sitting just under the ridge at the base of my skull.  There is something relieving about being able to set the weight of my head on this headrest.  Although it’s still putting pressure on my neck in ways that I don’t like, I find myself wondering if it might feel better after getting used to it.  Leslie makes the most amazing suggestion:  She tells me to take the chair home and try it for a couple of days to see how it works out.  This is the perfect solution–I get to try the thing before I buy it!  However, I wasn’t optimistic when I came over here that I would find anything, so I didn’t bring the car.  I contemplate rolling the chair down the sidewalk, but see scuffed wheels full of road dust in my head and decide that’s not a good idea.  Instead, I walk back home, pick up the van, and drive in Chattanooga for the very first time.

Yes, it was only a block from home, but, remember, I had to drive 2 blocks by the time I went round-trip.  I did not even use the GPS.  I got in the van, started it up, and drove it like I’d been driving every day for months.  I think about it and realize I haven’t driven since our last trip to Columbus when I drove part of the way home.  That was a month ago.  But, I make it to the furniture store unscathed and amused that this tiny jaunt would end up being my first official drive in Chattanooga!

I retrieve the chair that I’ve signed out on loan and manage to load it into the car with only a couple of new bruises, and then go into the grocery store (which is right across the lot) to get some beer and dinner.  I pick up some stuffed shells, which have become a standard “lazy” dinner lately, and Sierra Nevada.  I forgot to grab a shopping bag when I left the apartment and was unable to find one in the van, so I tell the cashier I don’t need a bag.  Normally, I get $.10 for each bag that I bring and use.  I’ve always thought it was $.10 for every bag of theirs that I don’t use.  Apparently not.  I do not get $.10 for not using a bag at all.  When I think about it, I bring in reusable grocery bags that are 2x the size of the paper bags they use if they bag my groceries, yet, I don’t get $.20 when I fill one of my bags because I saved two of theirs.  No.  I get $.10.  It occurs to me that perhaps I should try bringing a bunch of hand-puppet-sized bags and put one item in a bag.  Would I still get $.10 for each bag I bring?  I may have just found a way to make shopping at Green Life affordable!

When I go back to the house and get my chair upstairs, I go back to work while my pasta shells heat.  I adjust the chair just right and feel my neck stretching and my shoulders relaxing.  I think maybe I will like this chair.