Bionic Arm! Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Yesterday I started my day with about 90 minutes of lower body and core stretching and strengthening, and then the 1.7 mile walk to Steelhead. I spent the morning at Steelhead writing my blog post about Sunday’s open house at Flow LBC. Just after noon I ventured out into the 100+ degree heat to catch the #71 bus heading downtown via Orange and Alamitos. I love the bus system here! They have a messaging system that lets you know quite accurately what time the bus is due, and as far as I am concerned that takes all the pain out of using the bus.


Photo courtesy of Berlin Bistro

My destination was the East Village, specifically Berlin Bistro. Jessica (aka, @nowheregurll), one of my favorites from the Fox Coffee House, is now working there and had highly recommended it, so my plan was to kill two birds with one stone by visiting the Berlin while she was on duty.  Berlin is located on 4th St between Elm and Linden. It occupies the northeast corner of the same building that houses Fingerprints Music, and there is an easy flow between coffee shop and record shop that enhances the atmospheres of both establishments. The food did not disappoint. I ordered a main dish, Shrimp & Grits, that was both very creative and very good. I am hitting myself in the head right now for not getting out my phone and taking some pictures for a decent blog entry; I will do better next time!

From the Berlin Bistro I shuffled the two blocks to 4th and Atlantic to catch the #61 bus up Atlantic for my appointment at the Memorial Orthopaedic Surgery Group. Shuffled quite literally as the temperature by that time was 105, and joined a small group huddled in the shade of an abandoned gas station waiting for the bus. The bus stop at the other end was right on the doorstep of the MOSG, and I arrived at 2:40 for my 2:45 appointment. The waiting room was full, and I spent a lot of time waiting, first in the waiting room, and then in the examination room. The nurse cut off the splint, the doctor came in, took a look, and then told the nurse to fit me with a brace allowing zero to 30 degrees of flexion. When she came back with the brace, though, she set it for 20 degrees, telling me that the doctor had changed his mind. She was nice enough once she had it on and taken a look to go back to Dr. Warden and ask him to take another look. He did so and agreed that 30 was okay–a small victory! The plan is that I am to avoid activating the triceps to straighten my arm. Gravity should do all the work. I will be seeing him again in 4 weeks.

The new brace is a big improvement over the splint, in addition to looking way cooler! I can now do things like reach my butt, which is important for reasons I will not be going into, and while I haven’t tried yet I think it will also allow my right arm to contribute positively to the driving experience. Still can’t use it for eating, though, but at the same time my left-handed technique keeps On my way! improving. Every day a little better!

Flow LBC and friends,Sunday, September 25, 2016

I began my yoga practice just over four years ago and have had the benefit of personalized instruction from some very dedicated teachers. Paramount among that group is Ramona Magnolia Tamulinas, my yoga muse. I have been taking weekly private yoga lessons from Ramona for almost three years now and have reaped tremendous improvements in my practice as a result. I am currently quite excited that Ramona is now in the process of opening her own studio. The studio, named Flow LBC, is in the Wrigley neighborhood in Long Beach at 700 W. Willow (cross street Maine Ave) and is but a short walk from home for me.

On Sunday, September 25, we were treated to an open house at the studio. Ramona, unfortunately, was unable to attend, so fellow teachers Violeta Isavel Rangel, Adrienne Peters, and Samantha (aka, Sam) Parks served as hosts for the event. Ramona and friends have done a wonderful job of creating a space very conducive to a pleasant and productive yoga experience. Despite the 102 degree heat outside, the combination of air conditioning and ceiling fans made for a very comfortable place to spend a very hot afternoon.

In addition to potluck food and drinks, some wonderful entertainment was provided. First up was an acapella trio, Bedlam Lullaby, featuring Sam Parks, Cameo Adele, and Denicar Bergancia, self-described as three old souls with a thirst for chaos and a love for serenading others. I was completely captivated by their mix of old standards, current tunes, and original compositions. All three of them have beautiful voices, and together they have a grasp of harmony that provides for breathtaking results. They have been together for about three years now and are currently only gigging once or twice a month, but I predict that once word gets out about them that they will very soon be a very hot commodity.


Next up was something very different, a trio named Emerald Frontier fronted by Adrienne Peters (another multi-talented yogini!) and including Adrienne’s spouse Tracy Jupiter on multiple instruments along with Heather Dillehunt on bass. They are “…a post dark-wave electronic trio with a hint of mid-east flair… Mix a bit of urban grit with sultry, dark vocals, keyboards, bass, and electronic composed beats and theater [for]…a transformative trip through uncharted territories.” Adrienne was a bit nonplussed by the confines of the space and a lack of vocal monitors, but they put on a stirring set nonetheless.

Ramona is still in the process of assembling a regular schedule for the studio, and for the time being they are offering a variety of donation based classes. Check the website for current and future class offerings.

Triceps update, Thursday, September 22, 2016

The featured image is a panorama of the very cool mural in the restroom at Steelhead Coffee that extends across three walls!


Now about me. Because of the difficulty Dr. Warden had in stretching and reattaching my tendons he is taking a very cautious approach, which means that I am still wearing a splint that keeps my arm almost fully extended 24/7. As I am right-handed and the injury is to my right arm this has been more than a small hassle, but I have adapted quite well. As time goes on I have noticed that the bindings on the splint have loosened somewhat and the utility of my right arm has been improving. I can now do things like pull up my pants, whereas before I was unable to even reach my waistband, and movements that formerly caused discomfort now come and go without pain. I took it very easy last week on walking as I was also trying to rehabilitate an upper hamstring strain, but this week I have been able to be more ambitious and extend my range quite a bit. Prognosis on both fronts is very promising!

My next visit with Dr. Warden is scheduled for Monday afternoon, and I am hopeful that I will lose the splint at that time

Deja at the Fox, Saturday, September 17,2016

The Fox Coffee House on west Willow in Long Beach has open mic’s every Thursday and Saturday nights. On selected Saturday’s they will have a featured performer from 7-8 pm, and those performers are drawn from the ranks of open mic regulars. This Saturday one of those regulars, Deja Nichole, made her debut as a featured performer on her 18th birthday. Deja has only been frequenting the venue for a couple of months, but her debut was spectacular! She has a beautiful, powerful voice and can accompany herself on guitar, and her set showed a degree of polish and sophistication well beyond what might be expected based on her age and experience.


Deja with Jesse Schade

Deja sang a mix of covers and original songs. Her own songs deal with serious and mature topics; a good example is “Lion’s Den”, which deals with the tensions between the African-American community and the police, a situation that one cannot adequately understand unless one has spent time in the lion’s den. The real highlights, however, were when Deja performed duets with other regulars like Jesse Schade and Eddie Lopez. In her short time as a Fox regular she has developed very productive collaborations with other members of the community, and as host Sean Gallagher likes to remind us, that is the whole reason behind this venue. Deja’s last song was an original named “Friends”, and in her preface she told us that when she first started coming she really didn’t have any friends, but now she has an entire community behind her and working with her. This is a young lady with a very bright future, and you can catch her this Friday doing a 30 minute set at The Royal Cup Cafe for their open mic.


David and Jennie, Friday, September 16, 2016

No, that’s not me in the picture above. That is David (aka, Diablo) Matthews, lying on the pavement  of the 710 freeway. He is taking a selfie of himself in the aftermath of an incident where a motorist in a hurry to get into the HOV lane cut across the double-yellow and sent him sliding across 3 lanes at 85 mph. If you look closely, you can see that he is smiling. Smiling, despite the fact that he had suffered a double compound fracture of his left arm, and his right arm had dislocated at the shoulder and pushed into his chest. Now this is a person who knows a bit about absorbing those insults and injuries that we are prone to!

I spend a good chunk of my days sitting around coffee houses, talking to pretty girls and other interesting characters. Working, I call it, and it’s great work if you can get it! Today was a banner day for me. I was in my customary location when a lovely young lady sat on the bench next to me and was soon joined by a bearded biker type gentleman, replete with baseball hat and tattoos. Having an arm in a great big honking splint is a great ice-breaker, and sure enough, David (as I found out later) inquired about my arm. He was conscious enough to offer me a firm left-handed handshake, and I soon found out that there was a story in that left arm!


I found that David was only seven weeks removed from major surgery on that arm, surgery to completely redo the unsatisfactory work that was done two years before after his accident. His initial surgery had left him with limited mobility, much pain, and a few fingers that weren’t working. The latter condition was particularly galling as  David supports himself by making jewelry, as you can see on his web page. Over the next two years David consulted numerous orthopedic surgeons until finally settling on Dr. John Itamura at White Memorial Medical Center, a member of the Kerlan-Jobe group. Dr. Itamura’s assessment was that the earlier surgery had used very outmoded methodology and been badly executed to boot. He advised starting from scratch, removing old hardware, rebreaking the bones, and resetting everything using newer techniques.

So, that is what happened just seven short weeks ago, and the results are amazing. Except for the scar, which is still rather raw, you would be hard pressed to notice any thing special about that arm. He has full flexion, but comes a bit short on extension. I foresee a day when his physical therapist has to throw her entire 95 pounds into fixing that, but for now Dr. Itamura wants to give more time for the bones to heal. Best of all, those fingers that weren’t working are back in action, and David is a much happier man, ready to put this episode behind him. My kind of guy!

Injury Update, Friday, September 16, 2016

Just returned from my first post-op visit with Dr. Warden. I first was sent in for an X-Ray of the elbow, complete with splint, and then to an examination room where a nurse pulled up my X-Ray, cut away the dressings, and left me to wait for the doctor. I am now regretting my adherence to the “No Cell Phone Use” signs and the resulting failure to snap pics of my wound site (invisible to me without reflection) or my X-Ray, an oversight which I will amend in the future. I hope! What I could see of the arm looked great-no major swelling or discoloration-and I could also see a pin seated in the end of my ulna that looked to be fine.

The doctor then came in and told me that the anchoring had been extremely difficult and even accused me of passing a six month old rupture off as fresh. He mimicked putting his foot up on the wall and pulling with both hands as an illustration of how difficult it had been to retrieve the end of the tendon, and told me that the first pin he had inserted had actually pulled out. The upshot is that we are going slow and I am stuck with this splint until at least the 26th of this month.

As for the difficulty, I have my own theory. On several occasions after the accident I had raised my right hand too high in the air and an involuntary mechanism had cut in, causing my arm to snap to a fully flexed state accompanied by very powerful and painful spasms in the upper arm. My theory is that those spasms were the unattached triceps firing to do the work they were supposed to do, and those episodes essentially left those muscles tied up in a big knot that resisted straightening. Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Steelhead Coffee, September 14, 2016

As I was starting my walk back from Albertson’s yesterday, carrying a bag with 10-15 lbs of groceries, I was conscious of many sources of complaint emanating from various and sundry parts of my body. My right arm, of course, but my right ankle was also speaking up, along with my left shoulder. It finally dawned on me that even the limited activity that I have been engaging in was pushing things a bit too hard, so I grabbed a bus to cut down my walking. Over the past couple of days I discovered that the 181 bus, which comes up Magnolia from downtown and has a stop 250 yards from my house, morphs into the 131 at Wardlow Station and takes me right here to Steelhead, and to points beyond as far as Belmont Shore and Seal Beach. Doesn’t get much better than that, as far as I am concerned!


I have also realized that trying to type with my right hand was counter-productive, so I am now sitting here dutifully resting my right arm on my leg while my left does all of the work. Speaking of sitting here, a large part of my daily practice now consists of sitting here and at the same time keeping my core fully engaged and doing various shoulder and heart opening isolations. Just put my feet up on the chair across from me and working on my dandasana. In a few minutes I’ll step outside and do some folds, squats, and roll-ups. It’s been a cold morning, and the sun feels real good!!!!

Had some sad news yesterday when I heard from Evelyn Grauten, core coach extraordinaire and member of Team John, notifying me that her long-running mat Pilates at Yoga World was being discontinued (super sad faced emoji here)! That class was a key component of my core-building program, and will be greatly missed. Luckily, Evelyn works at other locations around town, including Long Beach Recreation. I also want to give a shout-out to another member of Team John, Edna Pestaño, who was kind enough to make a house call to cut my hair and also help me wrap my wing in shrink wrap so I could take a heavenly shower. You can find Edna at her new location at the Supercuts in Seal Beach.

Steelhead Coffee, September 12, 2016

Life for me is all about systems, and injuries like my current state of affairs provide tremendous opportunities to develop new systems. For example, I am right at this very moment at Steelhead Coffee trying to develop a system whereby I can comfortably blog in this, my favorite blogging spot. Have tried several different configurations of table height, distance from table, positioning of iPad on table, with less than satisfactory results (very sad face emoji here), but think I can solve this one by raising the iPad by an inch or less. Must pack appropriately sized book in future! For now, honing left-handed typing skills!

I have also modified my “get myself to Steelhead” routine as well. Normally I would walk the 1.65 miles, but in the interest of using this period of low activity to also let my work on my gait to settle I am trying to limit my walks to half-mile segments. My routine this week will be to walk the half-mile to Wardlow Station and take the bus, reversing on return.

It has been really busy at Steelhead this morning. I had the pleasure of seeing Jenni Brandon and catching up with her. Jenni is a fellow graduate of the 200 hour teacher training at Kava Yoga. Jenni and her husband Simon were in the class prior to mine, and while I did it to further my own very new practice, Jenni is all about the teaching. I think she teaches a couple of hundred classes a week (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration) at various places around town (including Kava) as well as subscription classes at her house.


The featured image for this entry is the mural on the outside wall by Yoskay Yamamoto and associates. One afternoon last week I stopped by the Fox Coffee House and found it to be a bustle of activity that seemed to be centered around a young Asian man seated at a table writing in a notebook. On inquiry I found out that the bustlers were filming a documentary and the young man was none other than Yoskay himself! I got to meet him and see that the notebook was a sketch pad. The Fox was used as a location as it is home to another of Yamamoto’s murals.


Triceps update, Sunday, September 11, 2016

On Friday, 9/9, I walked the mile from my house to the Surgery Center of Long Beach, checking in just before 8 am for a procedure scheduled for 9 am. Got all prepped and then spent a bit longer than I liked lying in bed waiting for Dr. Warden to finish the operation scheduled before mine which apparently went into overtime. I was finally wheeled in, administered my happy juice, and before I knew it was waking up. My mentor, former boss, and great friend Lynn Winters was there, having volunteered to shuttle me home as she has on a couple of other occasions. I didn’t have a chance to talk to the doctor as he was already working on his next job, but he did tell Lynn that my operation was rather difficult due to a pin that kept popping out. I will be seeing Dr. Warden for my first follow-up on this coming Friday and plan on getting more information then. For now, I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything worked out okay in the end and everything stays attached.

The word that I had from the doctor before the operation was that I would be spending six weeks in a brace. Right now the brace is rather cumbersome as I essentially have a splint over the surgical dressings, and I am hoping that once those dressings come off I will have something a bit less onerous. For the time being I have been being a pretty good boy, spending a lot of time on the couch watching the French Open, soccer games, and episodes of the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live that have been piling up on my VCR. I have a pretty nifty cold therapy machine that I am supposed to be using to ice the arm, but between the thickness of the splint and the bandages the cold does not really get through. Pain is manageable, and I have only taken pain medications at night. Haven’t gotten much in the way of sleep, but have been at least able to rest reasonably comfortably. I did take a short excursion yesterday, walking to the Fox Coffee House for my espresso and Albertson’s for provisions. This morning I got back into my usual Sunday morning route by taking the bus to breakfast at George’s 50’s Diner and then walking here to DRNK Coffee House. Need to keep connected with my people! In a bit I will be catching a bus back towards home for more relaxing.

Prairie Trail, McHenry County, IL, September 4, 2016

Whenever I come to visit my family in the Crystal Lake area I make sure to spend some time on the Prairie Trail and its connecting Fox River Trail. The Prairie Trail extends from the south edge of McHenry county at Algonquin Road north all the way to the Wisconsin border, a distance of 26 miles, all of which I have traversed at one time or another on foot, bicycle, or both. At the county line on the south the trail connects with Kane County’s Fox River Trail which extends another 40 miles south along the Fox River to Aurora and a bit beyond, as well as the Illinois Prairie Path that extends southeast to Wheaton. I have also traversed the first 30 miles of the Fox River Trail during various excursions in the area as well as a few miles of the Illinois Prairie Path.


During the last Ice Age northeastern Illinois as far south as Shelbyville was covered by ice, and as the glaciers retreated they left behind a lot of debris in the form of gravel and crushed rock. Those deposits of rock, gravel, and sand are called moraines and those moraines, along with flatter glacial outwash plains, are a dominating feature of the landscape in this area. On Sunday I took a short hike through the heart of one of those areas. The three mile stretch that I traveled began at the southern edge of Crystal Lake at Berkshire Road and about a mile in followed an old railroad right-of-way that ran along and through an area where rock, gravel, and sand are being extracted from one of those moraines.

The second mile of this hike ran though McHenry County Forest Preserve land, and at points along the trail  you can see some of the marshes that are common in this area and piles of railroad ties left over from the railroad tracks that once utilized this right of way. I have in the past seen deer, foxes, and other wildlife along the trail, but on this hike the only significant sighting was the garter snake below who had made to unfortunate choice to bask on the bike trail. As there was quite a lot of bike traffic on this beautiful Sunday I stopped and, ignoring his best attempts to imitate a rattlesnake by shaking his tail, managed to coax him off the trail before he was run over by approaching bicyclists.


The third mile of the trail is on an easement through property that is being actively quarried, and the screenshot from Google Earth below shows the area currently being excavated. Many of the recreational lakes in this area, like the Three Oaks Recreation Area, are former quarries that have been allowed to fill with water.


There are several miles of active conveyor belts in the area, and one of them parallels the Praire Trail for about a half-mile before dumping the output of the quarries into the sorting and sifting plant that marked the endpoint of this particular excursion.

The Prairie and Fox River trails are just two of the components of a very extensive trail system that spans most of Northern Illinois. As you can see from the map below, it is currently possible to travel on existing trails from Park Forest to Moline, almost the entire breadth of the state, with the exception of the Kaskaskia-Alliance segment (about 25 miles) that is still under development (in blue on the map). I look forward to the day when one will be able to make a complete circumnavigation of the northern portion of the state entirely on the dedicated trails (shown in green on the map).