Friday, May 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Hernias

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
The first hernia happened, as I said earlier, in the spring of 82. That was the "worst" part. The best part was actually some best parts, plural, because a little later, as the month of May was moving on, "Chariots of Fire" came to town and I was inspired to take up running. "I'm an actor," I thought, but all those guys hammering so happily along that beach make me feel as if I'm a very lazy actor. As I also said, I was averaging about fifty miles a week walking at this time, so my self assessment was not all that accurate, but that is how I felt. Besides, after the hernia, I knew I needed to get stronger. And as any good physiotherapist can tell you, running creates such strong lower back muscles that you have to do abdominal exercises to equalize. I knew how to do sit-ups.
My journals tell me that this is the anniversary of my first run, and for a guy who already walked that much I was cautious to a fault. A total of six quarter-mile laps, half of those walking. I felt really good, and remembered being eleven on Lasqueti, jog-walking down the road to my new friend's place because the six or seven mile journey that my brother and I had set out on one sunny Saturday morning was going to take forever if we just walked. Being able to stop and start the running part as we liked made the process very likable, and of course trotting on gravel between two walls of trees made it even better. It occurs to me that I'd like to do that road again, this time from end to end. Maybe when I'm rich and famous.
This hernia has also won an Oscar in its role as a blessing in disguise.
Most of the credit goes to MT and her almost three decades of reading and research, but ordinary medicine also gets its share. The machinery registered the high systolic/diastolic numbers - on two separate visits - the anesthetist canceled the surgery, and my family doctor told me about sodium. He also measured my blood pressure and found it at 160/105. Going down?
Having had a cast iron garburetor for a stomach as a young man, I had proceeded into middle age without interest in hearing one word of caution about salt, and carried on after both my wife and our cook both stopped putting salt on their meals. (MT has always included a sufficient quantity of NaCl in her cooking, either sea or rock salt.) I can't say I wasn't given good example, and I can't say I didn't have the opportunity of an excellent research library. And I also have memories of various little irritations that started landing on my body in the 80s, so now I have to ponder the degree to which they were caused by too much sodium. The unwanted concentration of sodium also partly explains why my body would suddenly be so happy to profoundly augment its water intake over this past week. For a pitta, salt is already heating, so too much of it is simply pouring salt into an already existing wound.
Last night I had the first meal of my life, other than porridge or pancakes or such, on which I did not sprinkle or grind out a liberal helping of salt. I can't say that I missed the stuff.
But when I was telling this saga this morning one of the clerks at the food co-op, she told me she has low blood pressure - it runs in the family - and that she loves salt and can eat all she wants.
Different folks have different ways of avoiding strokes.
I must admit that it's been a somewhat anxious week, and now I feel like a man just let out of prison, or maybe the hospital. And that's good, because thanks to my piano lab rat's enthusiasm to one of her principals about her grandpa's music methods, I have a business luncheon happening on Monday. Hayley insisted that the lady wanted to meet me, I went to her office, and the meeting was set. From another granddaughter who lives here, who intends to summer school Spanish at this quite new establishment, I then learned that this school is in the process of setting up its services, thanks to the computer, on an international basis. This information also given in the co-op this morning. Nelson is just that kind of town.
Now let's do some music, if only to celebrate.

With the guitar. I've made another break-through with the keyboard, thanks to Hayley's pushing on - never get too serious about lesson plans - but this success once again raises the question of massive publishing ventures, so I need to think about what to say about it. Besides, in Guatemala, Vladivostok, etc., more kids have guitars than pianos. I have no idea how balalaikas are tuned, but they have to be tuned according to the numbers, so the theory applies to them too. You should hear MT doing her numbers on our octave mandolin.

We left off at 3 and I later mentioned 4 and 5, but I didn't nail the relevant frets. Some people figured that out, of course. But for those who didn't, let it be understood that, to repeat, 3 is stopped at the 4th fret, 4 is stopped at the 5th fret, and 5 is stopped at the 7th fret.
So now we have our first 1/2 tone, the one-fret space between 3 and 4. This tells us that we are using the major scale, in this case the E major scale. If you want to understand and even hear the essential difference between the major and minor scale, simply play all five numbers the same way you have learned them except the 3. The 3 for the minor scale you play on the 3rd fret instead of the 4th. This puts that critical half-tone a fret lower. As you can see, or rather, hear, the resulting sound has a very different effect on the musical emotions.
But back to E major. You can either play the second part of "Three Blind Mice" on 5 down to 3, or else you can really launch out and play all of "The fox went out on a chilly night" on just those five notes. There are not many songs that have only a five note range, but that old folk tune that I learned from a Harry Belafonte album is one of them.
If you're already slick with the first five notes of the E minor scale, then try "Hangman, hangman, slack your noose" if you know it. It simply goes up the scale, and then comes down. A simpler challenge than "Joy to the World", which uses all eight notes, and only in order in the beginning.
Or, if you don't feel up to playing tunes, or you don't know the songs I've mentioned, simply carry on with your backwoods counterpoint. That good old second string, the B, just keeps on putting out as the harmony line for 3, 4, and 5. And thus all the way up to the upper tonic, or 1, if you feel inspired to keep going.
The 7th fret gets you note 5, to repeat, the 9th gets you 6, the 11th gets you 7, and the 12th gets you the upper 1. We are still in the major scale.
For E minor, the other half-tone comes between notes 5 and 6, which means that 6 will fall on fret 8 and 7 will fall on fret 10. The upper 1, once again, falls on the 12th fret.This is the E minor natural scale. Forget, for now, all that melodic and harmonic minor crap that the conservatories, or at least the scale books, shove at the poor beginning student.
The B string functions as the 5th just the same. Them as invented music were obviously a lot brighter than so many of those who teach it, especially when those who teach it, or publish it, try to tell you that there are no songs in the natural minor scales.
Computers have speakers and sound now, don't they? I might get to record again. I did quite a bit of that in 71, and MT even cut a number, although not with me. This all happened at Nelson's first venture into recording studios, where a number of friends of mine and another forty or so musicians created a folk music program for the local radio station. The program ran for eight months and the studio kept on for some years. We almost got a contract with CBC Radio in Vancouver, but to do so we would have had to move there. None of us had any reasons to move to Vancouver and we all had good reasons to stay in the Kootenays.
Now we see one of the more mysterious reasons starting to make sense.

No comments: