"Backyards" by Broken Social Scene which clocks in at 8:14
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but wiffle ball will never hurt me."
Right? No. Actually, it's words. "Words will never hurt me" is the correct second half of the battle cry of the undersized that's heard in backyards across the US every summer. It means: "Yell at me all you want, you big bully, but your words won't be breaking these bones, no sir." It's a passive resistance meant to reassure those who can't yet defend themselves. In truth, I always paid the phrase little to no mind. But it rang in my head like a TV jingle because I had a strange fascination with the breaking of bones as a child. I'd say it over and over in my mind ("sticks and stones, break my bones...") and imagine the sticks and the stones and the breaking of bones and what that must feel and sound like. I didn't think it "fun" but definitely found the whole idea of fractures "neat." Which could be a result of me always wanting what I couldn't have (my friends were all breaking bones and getting casts -cool!- but not me); or, probably was just standard macabre little boyishness. Regardless, given the collective reaction to the story I'm about to tell you, you might think the axiom was meant to be about the impotency of wiffle ball rather than inability of language to crush anything other than one's spirit.
Here's what I've been telling people this past week that's had them all equally perplexed: "I broke my arm in two places playing f'ing wiffle ball."
And the standard response: "You broke your arm playing wiffle ball?! How the....???"
That's right, I did. I broke my arm playing wiffle ball. And this is how it happened...
I was in North Carolina last week, playing wiffle ball with my nephew. He's 10 years old and plays too much soccer for his own good. Which means he's quick and competitive (nice). But he needs some baseball influence in his life, especially growing up in the South. I know it. So I figured why not start with wiffle ball, right? A harmless introduction to America's pastime. Good, clean, backyard fun!
So there we were, two dudes playin' ball. It's important that you realize it was just the two of us because you can't really play any kind of baseball with just two people. But that didn't stop him from sprinting around the bases each time he hit one of my strike-every-time batting practice pitches. I'd toss it right in there and he'd smash it over my head and cruise around the bases before I could even retrieve the ball, let alone catch up to him and tag him. "Ohh, I scored again! Home run! Woo!! You can't get me out old man! 18 runs, no outs!!"
Once I considered winging the ball at him - hitting him with it to get him out, like in kickball - I knew it was time to step up my game. Hey, when I played wiffle ball as a kid with only two people pegging the other kid was fair game. Shoot, it used to be a legal way to get a runner out in pre-baseball baseball. And believe me, I could've hit him with that wiffle ball with ease. But it probably would've hurt, and -you know- I'm an adult and all. So instead I opted to go for the tag.
I threw a big fat pitch and he belted the ball up over my head. It bounced off the roof of the garage, a rightful homer if such boundaries had been set up. But they weren't. As he trotted around the bases, secure that I'd lazily retrieve the ball and make no attempt to tag him out, something within me snapped. Not my arm bone -not yet- but something else entirely. My 'playing wiffle ball with a 10 year old' competitive pride. I grabbed the ball and sprinted towards the kid full speed. Even though I was wearing jeans and big clunky leather boots, there was no way I wasn't going to tag him out. A silent lesson for him: "if I wanted to, you'd be out every time little one." So I ran. And right before he touched home plate I got him. OUT. Proof that I can still move it if I want to. And right after that I "tripped over my own speed" (his phrasing, not mine) and fell with my arms outstretched, full-force on my left shoulder. OUCH. Proof that I can't still stop so well if I need to.
Immediately I heard a pretty gruesome crunching noise that sounded like a bunch of crisp stalks of celery being broken en masse. I figured I'd separated my shoulder and possibly torn some ligaments or something. I knew it was bad news on the spot. Then I went to the ER, got x-rays, and found out that I'd broken my humerus in two spots. The whole process took around four hours - a bit long if you ask me. Then again, it seemed like twelve hours at the time.
It's my first broken bone; first official one at least. I know I had a hairline fracture in high school on my thumb from playing baseball - real baseball - and catching one too many hard throws at first base. That one hurt, but not too terribly bad. I also had another baseball-related broken bone from having someone step on my pinkie toe with their metal cleats. Made my toe look like a little fat blood sausage, that one. I know... it was nasty, and hurt pretty fiercely too. However, neither of those injuries was anywhere near as incapacitating, or painful, as this wiffle ball injury.
I can't do much of anything. Or, now I can because I've relearned my entire existence based upon having only one functioning arm. But for the first three days I wasn't doing so well in life. Each moment was miserable. And I'm not meaning to be a drama queen, but seriously. The pain was extraordinary - it's since moved into the realm of "dealable."
The fractures are on my humerus at the very top where it connects with my shoulder. I likely have ligament or tendon damage, that's TBD sometime next week with an MRI. Fingers crossed, because I'd really rather not add rotator cuff surgery to the recovery mix. As it is now, simple acts such as putting on my socks can take minutes. I can't really fully bend over to pick anything up, I fear very crowded scenarios such as concerts or subway cars (I know right?), and I can't lay down flat to sleep in a bed. I've been sleeping entirely on the couch, propped up on my good shoulder with the bad one pointed skyward, hoping that I don't move in my sleep and wake up to sharp self-inflicted shooting shoulder pain. This tactic allows me to sleep for a few hours at a time; which is nice, all things considered. But any sudden movement of my left side involves potential terror... laughing, coughing, or sneezing hurts like a mofo and I've quickly grown tired of my sling and the side effects (no cast for this particular combination of fractures). Add to all of this the fact that I'm no big fan of my prescribed painkillers (Vicodin) and you might see why I've been a bit grumpy and inactive since last Friday. Did I wish this upon myself??
There was a time about ten years ago when I figured I'd probably never get to experience a real fracture. I was well past my "danger years" so, other than something like a random car crash, how could I break any bones now? Especially living in a slow and mellow place like North Carolina... no broken bones to be found there. And then I moved to New York City and that kind of thinking completely changed. The danger quotient skyrocketed from the moment I struggled to carry my guitar, suitcase, and synthesizer up five flights of stairs (all at once) to my first (nasty) New York apartment. I imagined what inevitable scenario would lead to my first fracture now that I lived in danger zone numero uno (and this was pre-September 11th, mind you). A mugging? Being caught in subway doors? Walking up and down those very stairs to and from my rat-partment every day?? A fall from a party on a roof deck in Williamsburg? Being hit by a taxi? Walking by a tall building and having the misfortune of being directly underneath some miserable soul who'd just lept out a window 50 stories above?? The possibilities were endless. Little did I know, the danger did not lie waiting for me in the harrowing concrete jungle of New York City; rather, I'd meet my doom back in sleepy old North Carolina playing an overtly low-impact sport called wiffle ball in a backyard (of all undangerous places) with my ten year old nephew...
"Suburbs and backyards may break my bones but New York City will never hurt me."
I think I'll stay here in the city for a while. Resting and recovering away from the perils of suburban backyard life. Typing. With. My. One. Good. Arm.
*above image from HERE.
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Oingo Boingo - "Change"
Count Basie - "Blues For The Barbecue"
The Besnard Lakes - "You've Got to Want to Be a Star"
M83 - "Couleurs"
David Byrne - "Happy Suicide"
Fleetwood Mac - "Oh Well"
Phish - "You Enjoy Myself"
Green Day - "Homecoming"
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15 May 2008
"Backyards" by Broken Social Scene which clocks in at 8:14