There’ll be days like this, my mama said.
Alas, after almost a full week of congestion-free livin’, the past three days have been right back to Bronchiectasisville: coughing and congestion, aches, chills, and zero energy. Just part of the occasional fun one can have with bronchiectasis.
Since this seven-day period is the longest congestion-free spell I’ve had since January 2011, it really fooled me. I was running every day and eating healthy–vegan, no less. I was thinking I’d beat this incurable disease. What a dope!
The past three days, I’ve felt too shaky to run, except for yesterday, when I forced a little two-miler. Why is that, I wonder? Could it have anything to do with going back to work after a vacation (a seven-day, congestion-free vacation)? Why, yes, that’s what I’m beginning to think. It’s the big difference between last week, spent camping, reading, running, and hiking, and this week, spent driving in rush hour and looking at a computer screen.
Can’t take a permanent vacation. (Could, but I can’t.) So I have to find a way to deal with my stress and my respiratory condition. And that I will do!
Mama Said: Luther Dixon and Willie Denson wrote this girl-group classic recorded to perfection by The Shirelles in 1961. I don’t think enough about The Shirelles–I usually only hear them when I’m not intending to–but their great songs always make me smile. Maybe can pull me out of my bronchiectasis funk.
After a long affair with the Saucony Kinvara, I tried to go astray, not for the first time, and, not for the first time, I came running back. It seems that I’m just a Kinvara guy, and the Kinvara 3 just feels right–and others don’t. I’m not the only Kinvara lover. Here’s a post from a guy who, despite owning and reviewing many running shoes, finds himself drawn to Kinvaras. Here’s his review of the Kinvara 3
The minimalist Kinvara is not for everyone, but it’s for me. And yet I’d started thinking that I maybe needed a little more support. I’d gone way minimalist a few years back with some Vibram Bikilas, but in my overeagerness wound up with an injury–something I hadn’t heard about called “top of foot pain,” caused by lack of support over the top of the shoe. But despite the fact that I could no longer run in my Bikilas (they’re still great for wearing around the campsite or doing yardwork), I just couldn’t hang with a heavier shoe. They all felt clunky. Shoe-like. That’s when I discovered the Saucony Kinvara. They felt more foot-like than shoe-like, and I found myself running in them on pavement, trails, in the ‘hood and in races. No injuries.
But, even though I was perfectly happy with the Kinvara, I kept having the nagging thought that I really should try something else (typical man, you say) and that I maybe would benefit from a bit more support. I got some Mizuno Wave Rider 16s, which felt pretty good in the store but did seem to have too much heel. I took ‘em out for a spin and by evening had pain in both knees. Now, that seemed counterintuitive to me: more support causes knee pain? But, I guess, when you get into a familiar pattern with one you love, that’s what you get used to and that’s what you should stick to. I’ve learned my lesson. I went back and traded the Mizunos for the Kinvara 3. I’ll always be true to Kinvaras.
Always True to You (In My Fashion): The song was written by Cole Porter for Kiss Me, Kate, the 1948 musical about making a musical (of Taming of the Shrew). Ella Fitzgerald did a nice rendition of the song on her Cole Porter Songbook; Blossom Dearie covered it on hers. Peggy Lee has recorded it, along with many other female vocalists of the fifties and sixties. I don’t know of any more recent versions. Other songs from Kiss Me, Kate may have been a little more durable: “So in Love,” “Why Can’t You Behave?” and, especially, “Too Darn Hot.”
It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, but the post title is not a reference to things Irish. The song “Bein’ Green” and its opening line, “It’s not easy bein’ green” have been appropriated for many causes and occasions, including St. Patrick’s Day, as well as the environmental movement, aliens, and sports teams. (Its original theme, of course, had to do with diversity and tolerance for those who are different, like poor old green Kermit the Frog.)
I’m appropriating it for veganism. My stepdaughter and her husband and two-year-old went vegan a few months ago. My wife followed suit (mostly–she still snags a little cheese here and there) back in the fall. I cut way back on meat consumption, but still ate fish and chicken occasionally, not to mention occasional packaged food prepared in an unvegan manner. I had quit dairy, pretty much, two decades ago on account of sinus problems, so I didn’t have a dairy craving to overcome.
So, last week a friend of mine who has had persistent migraines and knew of my bronchiectasis ordeal told me she was going to try a raw food diet to see if her health improved. She challenged me to try it if, after a month, she was seeing results. I accepted the challenge, but then started dreading a raw food diet. It’s limited not only to plant-based foods but to uncooked plant-based foods. Basically, raw fruits, veggies, and grains. Hmmm..But my friend also suggested I watch the documentary Forks Over Knives, a movie my stepdaughter also had recommended. I watched it Saturday and that day I pledged to try my best to be a vegan–for ethical as well as health reasons. I won’t go into its many assertions here; watch it and judge for yourself.
I wasn’t going to talk about my trip into veganism so soon after starting it. I don’t trust myself. But so far, it’s been great. After an entire life of two-to-three meat-centered meals every dang day, it’s refreshing to find ways to get full without meat. And I’m avoiding sugar and chips, too. I feel better. Can I keep it up?
I’d checked on the bronchiectasis forums site, Bronchiectasis R Us (I know–pretty wacky title, huh), to see if anyone talked about the remedial powers of green smoothies, a health staple of many vegans. It’s basically a blendered mix of fruits and greens, and you can come up with your own combo. My first one was four ounces of mixed salad greens, one cup of water, a banana, and a little over a cup of pineapple. Tasted great but was a bit thin. I plan to try it with kale instead of salad greens next time, and a little bit of soy milk. Anyway, there were indeed some bronchiectasists who’d had good luck with green smoothies, apparently as an infection fighter.
I’m hoping I can be green from here on out and see an improvement in my bronchiectasy.
“Bein’ Green”: The song was written for Sesame Street by its main songwriter-in-residence, the late Joe Raposo. He was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite songwriters, and Frank covered “Bein’ Green.” Kermit’s version is superb, but I am also fond of a version by Broadway/TV star Audra McDonald (pictured).
I was feeling grounded: dull, heavy, lackluster. Then I got the opportunity to run in nature three days in a row, and I felt weightless, free, and invincible. Okay, well, that’s an exaggeration. But I’m always lifted up by running experiences among trees, dirt, and grass.
The first two days were at Lake Brownwood State Park, and, in truth, both runs were at least partially on asphalt. But at least it was asphalt through woods, creeks, and meadows and not through traffic signs, houses, and smog. The third day was in my paradise in the ‘hood, Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, which I seek out on the rare weekdays that I’m not at work. (The place is just too crammed with bikers on weekends.)
I do believe (I tell myself, anyway) that if I had a schedule that allowed a trail run every day I’d do it. Not only would I run every day, I tell myself, but maybe I’d run farther every day. Nice to dream.
Nature Boy: The songwriter eden ahbez (he always insisted his name not be capitalized) gave the world one standard, “Nature Boy,” a song the world first heard as a Nat “King” Cole hit in 1948. The song is haunting and beautiful and strange, but its composer was even stranger. Ted Gioia, in his book The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, writes, “The tunesmiths who created the golden age of American popular song had their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but eden ahbez demands pride of place as the most eccentric of them all. This pre-hippie hippie (real name George Alexander Aberle) was into mysticism, natural food, and going barefoot. (Maybe he was a barefoot runner, too?)
The most well-known version of he song was Cole’s mega-hit, but many others have recorded it, from Bobby Darin to John Coltrane. Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso included an eerie version on his tribute to American music.
- Nature Boy (soundpossibilities.wordpress.com)
I’ve had my ups and downs as a bronchiectasis sufferer. (No, I hate that–“sufferer”; let me coin a new term: bronchiectasist.) I had a cold two weeks ago and shook it off pretty quickly, but as we bronchiectasists know, nothing like that really gets shaken off so easily. It burrows in. For several days I found it difficult to run, difficult to want to run.
And then, three days ago, I headed out of town for a camping trip with My Sweetie. I’ve felt great the past three days, with energy, high spirits, and a new environment to run in. Now, back at home, I’m still feeling good, but hoping that my three days of vigor don’t turn into a long string of dull days. I’m doing what I can to “keep the dream alive.” I’m trying out a healthier, vegan diet, for one thing. But I don’t want to jinx it, so I won’t say much about that yet. Only that on the one hand, plant-based, whole-food diets may build up my immune system and on the other hand my lifelong meat-centered diet is gonna be hard to shake. But I’m determined to give it a shot. And to run as close to daily as I can.
So, am I feeling good just because I’m on vacation? Maybe. But I’m going to try and hang on to the good feeling as long as I can.
Feeling Good, the song: “Feeling Good” was written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1965 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd. Nina Simone included a great version on her album of the same year, I Put a Spell on You. Others have covered the song, notably Muse in 2001 and Michael Buble, who had a very popular version in 2004. The song’s been sampled in hip-hop and rap, included in commercials and TV and movie soundtracks, and covered on American Idol. For my money, Nina’s version’s the best–one of her best covers on one of her best albums. It captures the feeling I’ve had this week perfectly.
Gorgeous day today, low eighties, partly cloudy. A little on the windy side, but that works out okay for a runner half the time–particularly when it’s the back half.
I did my new-normal “bronchiectasis era” three-mile run. My breathing, both today and yesterday, seemed to be a little more of a strain than it used to be. I didn’t use to notice my breathing very much, except on longer runs. Now I do notice it.
It makes sense that, with a progressive, incurable respiratory disease, my breathing is going to become more of an issue. I just can’t tell if it’s truly getting worse over time. Scary thought. I rationalized that I had a cold part of last week. I may be feeling a residual effect. And I allowed that my running has not been nearly as regular the past few weeks, months, as it was before. I need to ramp back up, I figured. All that, plus I’m getting old.
I just hadn’t felt my age until recently. But, I don’t despair. I plan to keep running until I’m the oldest guy out there. And I do see a lot of older guys–older than I am–out there sticking with it, sometimes running marathons and ultras. I may get slower and slower, and the regular running may cover ever shorter routes, but I ain’t a-gonna quit. I really do intend to get back to the half-marathon and, yes, do a marathon, eventually. And I’m gonna keep the bronchiectasis in check, too.
Listening to: Helen Humes‘ 1959 album ‘Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do (on 180-gram vinyl). Helen Humes, in the forties a singer for the Basie band, cuts loose on this 1959 classic. In addition to the revved-up version of “When I Grow Too Old to Dream,” she lets go on “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Trouble in Mind” and the title song. It’s a treat. She’s got the same ageless child vocal quality as Ella, but a little earthier.
- Dear Abbey – An Australian Profile in Courage (bobsnewheart.wordpress.com)
So where can a guy go these days to get the fingernail polish he needs? Is that so unreasonable a question?
One manifestation of the somewhat uncommon respiratory disease bronchiectasis is the much-less-common yellow nail syndrome, which is about as unglamorous as it sounds. I regularly let friends and acquaintances know about my bronchiectasis so that they know that my intermittent coughing isn’t contagious, but I never attempt to explain my misshapen and discolored fingernails, although I realize that those around me may be wondering if I have some reincarnation of a medieval plague.
I have become a little self-conscious about my fingernails. They used to be something I was proud of. My mom envied them. As a nylon-string guitar picker, I grew them out just a bit on the right hand and kept the left-hand trimmed close. Well, that’s all changed, at least for now. The remedy, if it works, takes months. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep a low-fingernail-profile. But there are big meetings at work this week, and I decided to follow up on an idea I had to seek a perfect fingernail polish: one that would match my skin tone and not look like nail polish. I figured this has to be a quest others make now and then. But I guess I was wrong. No one at the drug stores, the pharmacies, and the beauty supply shops I visited seemed to understand what it was I was after. I was on my own, and eventually picked a shade that to me looked about as close to my skin color as I was gonna get.
I got home and applied it, and didn’t do too bad a job for a guy attempting his first nail polishing. They looked OK, I thought. No one will notice.
But when I got to work the following day, my nails, which at home had looked pretty dang natural, if you didn’t look too close, under the fluorescent lights of the meeting rooms at work looked garishly unnatural and pink, and I began to wish I had some gloves.
So where can a guy go these days to find the business-casual gloves he needs? Is that so unreasonable a question?
Listening to: John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, recorded in 1963. This album is perfection, a gorgeous set-piece. In addition to “You Are Too Beautiful,” Hartman and Coltrane did their magical interplay on “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “Dedicated to You,” “My One and Only Love,” “Lush Life” (a last-minute addition to their session), and “Autumn Serenade.” Coltrane never sounded more soulful, and Johnny Hartman blends with him so well you wish they’d done more together.
Since I’ve been re-examining the whole running thing lately, I was thinking I’d make a top-ten list about why I run. (I’m just as much a hopeless listmaker as I am a runner.) This idea, as soon as I began it, turned into two top-five lists, both immediately populated.
First, the reasons why I run:
- In periods during which I’m not running–injuries, cold and wet weather–I dream about running. It’s a persistent indicator that I should continue running.
- In the five or so years I’ve been running again, the migraines and other headaches I got for years have gone from regular occurrences to nearly nil. That alone makes running worth it.
- On paved running paths, I listen to my iPod, a trusty first-generation iPod Shuffle. It’s an excuse to listen to a very eclectic mix of music. (See the top-ten music lists I’ve posted previously.) On nature trails, I forego the tunes and drink in the nature. Either way, it’s a great change of pace for my senses.
- I feel better, not only physically but mentally, after nearly every run.
- It’s really the only type of exercise I enjoy.
Now, five common reasons for running that are not reasons I run:
- I don’t run to lose weight. I’m already too thin, and eat as much as I can (healthy stuff, for the most part) and drink a nice, dark beer many evenings.
- I don’t run to socialize. I have always run alone. I have done quite a few races, surrounded by hundreds or thousands of runners, but I’ve always arrived and departed alone. That will change in April, when I join my stepdaughter and her husband at the Big D Half-Marathon. But I don’t think it will be a new norm.
- I don’t run to be part of the exercise or fitness culture. That’s all fine, of course, but I’m just running, trying to stay with it but not overly concerned about having well-rounded workouts.
- I no longer run to improve my time or distance. I’m an old guy, and I know I will not get faster. I will only get slower (but I guess maybe I will have an increasingly better chance of winning my age group).
- I’m not so into the gear. I want good shoes, of course, but I’ve stuck with Saucony Kinvaras for my last several pairs because I like “travelin’ light.” Everything else is pretty un-special. I mean, a first-generation iPod Shuffle?
OK, well, I’m glad I sorted that out.
Listening to: Billie Holiday, whose version of “Travelin’ Light,” and so many other of her wonderful interpretations, have inspired so many singers, and continue to have a huge influence. The scan above is of a first edition of her autobiography.
Bronchiectasis hasn’t taken over my life, but I think it’s taking over my blog. I’m still trying to figure it out, and wondering how to continue to run and continue to sing, just maybe with lower expectations and demands. “I don’t want to set the world on fire”–I just want to keep doing what I enjoy doing. I figure these posts to the blog may help work things out.
There isn’t much out there about dealing with bronchiectasis, so I’m kinda doing trial and error. On this beautiful weekend, I was intending to run today and tomorrow, maybe on trails. But I got a dang cold and I’m stuck inside. That’s another thing I learned about bronchiectasis: those who have it are susceptible to colds and other infections and the like. Oh well.
Listening to: Betty Carter, on a 1976 2-fer reissue of two of her albums Out There (1958) and The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (1960). The reissue is called What a Little Moonlight Can Do. Betty Carter is a treasure, a real jazz singer who takes a lot of chances and makes every song her own. She’s not for everyone, but many do know of her through her duets with Ray Charles, including “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” On the reissue, she not only does the aforementioned Ink Spots hit, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” but does her thing with “Babe’s Blues,” “Something Wonderful,” “But Beautiful,” and other standards. All gorgeous and, at the same time, a little challenging–standards that don’t sound standard. She does not hold back. Her bands include Wynton Kelly, Mel Lewis, Kenny Dorham, and other luminaries.
“There’ll be a change in the weather, a change in the scene / From now on, there’ll be a change in me.”
I’m running again, determined to stick to regular, short runs. I put an indefinite hold my goal to run a marathon. I was content (I thought) to run my routine, to never enter a race or fun run again.
And then I heard that my stepdaughter and her husband have just decided to become runners! They’ve done some treadmill stuff, but had never expressed much interest in my running endeavors. Now they have registered for the 5k option of the April Big D Marathon. Last night, they asked if I want to go with them, figuring I’d do the half-marathon or even the marathon. I’ve always gone to races alone before, and, like I said, I wasn’t really thinking of doing any organized runs. I even missed my beloved Dash for the Beads, which is right down the street.
Today, though, I spent a lot of time thinking about registering for the half-marathon in the Big D run. It’s way expensive, as these big races always are, and it will be crowded. But–I think I’m going to do it. Gotta support the budding runners in my family!
Listening to: The Boswell Sisters box set from Columbia Special Products. I’ve spent quite a bit of space on The Boswells before. They are in the uppermost tier of my music heroes, and I never get tired of listening to them. I quoted the 1921 song “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” Their version, included in this set, is inventive and tight and exuberant, as are all of their arrangements and performances.
Also listening to another inventive album, this one from this century: Love This Giant, the unlikely alliance of David Byrne and St. Vincent. One of the best things I’ve heard recently.