I have a lot to tell you guys.
Some of you already know I can write lengthy posts and journal entries as a matter of course and without really breaking a sweat. In this case, so much has happened that has changed my life, and I have been 'artist-incognito' for so long (nearly 3 months now since I was last seriously active on my page or in the forums), that to relate it all to you, even in an abridged form, will make this a novella by the time I'm done. For those not disposed to reading long posts, my apologies. But, honestly, a lot has happened, and I want to... I need to, tell you guys about it.
To begin with, I was laid off my job about three months ago. As a severence package, my boss gave me 2 weeks pay, allowed me to keep a $1500 laptop which he bought that I had been using at work, and paid my internet bill (which had been set up on the company account so that I could have access to a very high speed connection at home) for the last 3 months. Now, the actual effect of this on my and Laura's life was dramatic. Our income was cut from around 1400 a week, to around 650 a week. We were not living beyond our means at the higher level of income, but we were paying bills and so forth at a level which exceeded our toal monthly income from my wife's job. So it hurt, bad, when he let me go.
Despite that fact, I don't harbor any ill will towards him. I've been in the decorated apparel industry for nearly 20 years, and owned and operated my own screenprinting shop. I knew as much about the reality of his business as relates to cash flow, cash reserves, credit availability, etc. as he or his accountant did, and my boss knew it.
When the bottom fell out of the economy last October, he took a huge hit. Over the last 8 or 9 months, he's borrowed heavily for the sole purpose of underwriting his business. So heavily, in fact, that he really has no borrowing power left until he pays down the loans he's taken out up to this point. For those who don't understand how this affects his business, what he is doing is called "leveraging" his business. He has burried his company in debt, similar to the way the government runs. A big part of his monthly income must be used to service his debt load. That money cannot be used to fund operations, buy stock, or cover payroll. It is entirely possible to kill a business by leveraging it too heavilly. In my boss's case, he'll be fine as long as his total annual revenues do not drop any more than they already have.
But the sad reality, for him and me, is that his business's income is down by almost 35% over the last 9 months. By the end of the company's fiscal year this year, he'll be looking at the worst loss and worst year for his company since it was founded. He's been making cuts in personnel and expenditures over the entire year since January.
The honest truth is I believe he carried me far longer than his business, or his check book, could justify.
Most of you know I sing in a working rock band. My band has been playing gigs and recording an album all this year. About 4 or 5 months ago, I began to experience severe pain in my right foot any time I stood on it for long periods. Long periods such as practice sessions, or live performances. Now, for several months, I was able to contiue to perform and practice. But, the pain was steadily getting worse. After practice one day in May, my foot sort of seized as I was driving home. The pain was excruciating, and I has to pull off the road because I couldn't drive. A trip which normally took about 40 minutes took me 5 hours to get home.
When I took of my shoe and sock, my foot and lower calf were blue and purple, cold, and hard to the touch. A week or so before this happened, I had mentioned the pain to my GP doctor, and she had set me up with an appointment to be seen by a veacular surgeon she respected and trusted. Then my foot got seriously bad on the way home from band practice. Since it was only 3 days until the appoitment, and since I had no clue how bad my foot actually was, we decided to see if I could wait it out until the appointment.
That lasted for almost 2 days before I simply was unable to endure the pain. I finally went to the emergency room, and they immediately called my GP, who told them the name of the vascular surgeon I was going to see. He rushed in, took one look at my foot for about 10 seconds, and immediately sent me to surgery. 15 monutes later, I was shaved, naked and unconcious on an operating table. He had told Laura and me that he was going to try and save my foot, which he said had been oxygen starved for more than 48 hours.
I woke up in the ICU ward and thankfully, still had 2 feet. My surgeon said he was very happy with the results. I was in the hospital for 5 days, went home, and began the healing process. All seemed well.
Until one night, 3 weeks after the surgery. I woke up in agony. My foot was again blue and purple, ice cold and completely numb, except for the intense pain it was sending to my brain via the damaged nerves in the foot. We didn't wait this time. I went to the emergecy room that night. My surgeon was called again. He came in and immediately put me in surgery a second time. This time he cut me, about 6 inches, in the groin where my right leg meets my abdomen, near the area where the femeral artery is located. He used both intrevenous "clot-busting" medicine, an arterial baloon, and an arterial scraper to completely scour my arterial system from the groin to the knee.
That's right; 2 major surgeries in less than a month. Additionally, I've now had 3 major surgeries, including the one I had 2 and a half years ago where they cut my stomach open from my pubes to my breast bone. That was a 15 inch incision (what the hospital staff jokingly refers to as a "zipper"), for a procedure where they took all my internal organs out of my body and laid them on the table all around me. Despite that fact, I have to tell you I have never in my life experienced pain like what I felt in my groin where he cut me during the first week to ten days after I woke up in recovery. I won't even try to describe it. There simply are no words.
I spent the first week of recovery in a drug induced haze, bombed out of my mind on Dylaudid. For the last month, I've been taking a steady diet of Norcotabs (10 mg codine per tab) to the tune of 8 to 10 tablets a day. Without the pain pills, I am unable to do anything...ANYTHING... at all, because of the pain. I know this because the pills only help the pain for about 3 and a half to 4 hours per dose. I sleep about 6 to 7 hours each night, which is long enough for the codiene to be completely cycle out of my system. So each morning I wake up in white hot, blinding agony. So bad that I frequently start my morning with both the standard good long pee, and a round of barfing my guts out because of thr pain. I have to sit, and basicly DO NOTHING, until the pain pills kick in and knock the pain back to a bearable level.
I have an appointment to see a pain management specialist in about 3 weeks. In the mean time, a hemotologist my surgeon called in to consult on my case has discovered I have a congenital blood defect that causes my blood to coagulate at 4-6 times the normal rate. It is believed by my medical team that this is at least half of the reason why my legs are clotting so badly for a man of my age (47). They are continuing to test my blood to dicover if there is any treatable condition which they can specificly target which will help prevent this from continuing to happen to me as I age. In the mean time, I am on blood thinners, and have my blood viscosity tested every week. I am getting doppler tests twice a month, because they don't know if the clots are going to happen again and again and... - you get the picture.
My surgeon has promised he will keep me stocked in codeine until I see the pain management doctor, unless I show any signs of dependancy. He has also added a second pain reliever which is non-addictive, which is designed to target the neuropathy that he believes is causing the pain in my foot. I'm on a low dose of that right now, and am suppossed to tell my doctor if it helps. After a week, I've begun to take double the prescribed doseage each day, and it still isn't having any noticeable affect.
During all of this, my wife; Laura, working all on her own, located a house for us to rent that will cost us almost exactly half of what we are paying now. It's 10 miles out of town, in a neighborhood that looks like a place where the residents have moved in order to get "off the grid". It's less than a quarter of a mile from a large lake, out in the woods, and away from anything that could be construed as "in town". Luara was worried I would feel like it was a bad neighborhood or that I would not like the house. I love both. It suits my artistic temperament perfectly. She is intensely relieved, and I cannot wait to move.
Finally, about 2 weeks ago, the bassist in my band seemed to suffer some kind of melt down. He came into practice one day and demanded that he be made leader of the band, and that we only record and perform music he had composed or would be composing in the future. In additon to this, he was writing really ugly, mean-spirited emails to me and one other member of the band, telling us not to get in his way as he took over the band, and threatening to fire us if we gave him any flack.
I haven't been to a band practice in almost 2 months now. I got most of this second hand by phone and email.
Wel, after the hysterical laughter died down, the band basicly told the bassist to go piss up a rope. At which point he quit the band. North central Texas has like 12 or 13 universities and colleges all located within a hundred mile wide circle, and has a really strong music scene. So the band took this in stride, and started hunting up a replacement bassist. UNTIL... out of the blue, 3 days later, our lead guitarist emailed the band and said he was quittig too. His reasons were more pragmatic. His wife got laid off, and until she found another job, he was going to have to take double shifts at his job to help keep their train on the tracks.
What do you say to that? Well, we wished him well, and all gave him a hug. Not a lot else you can do.
With 2 key players gone in less than a week, I decided, after having talked it over with Laura, that I needed to quit also, because of the fact that I am likely to spend the next 3 to 6 months dealing with these issues regarding my vascualr system. I haven't mentioned it to this point, but in my last doppler exam, he located an apporximately 70% blockage oin the main artery feeding blood to my left arm. Barrign a miracle, I'll be back on an operating table in about 3 or 4 weeks.
I knew, if their ever came a conflict between getting my medical problems fixed, or meeting a commitment for the band, I was going to choose my health over the band. I didn't want to let them down that way, so the only possible, honorable thing I could do was quit and let them find a singer the could count on.
So, my band; Alternate Energy, is no more, and the album will never be made. And just quickly, for those that don't know; this is typical for bands. Happens all the time. It sucks, but you get used to it and try not to let it get you down too much. Starting a band is hard. Keeping a band together for longer than a few months is WAY hard. Not sure why, exactly, but I do know it's the way things work with local bands. I've been playing sem-professionally in bands since I was about 20 years old. In the 27 years since, I've had one band last for 4 years (my best band), and one last for about 2 years (also a great band)... the rest (like maybe 15 to 20 other bands that I've joined and tried to help get going) all went bust for various reasons, in less than a year. And, more often than not, in less than half a year.
So, as you can see from this insanely long journal post, I've had my proverbial hands full the last 3 months. That is why I have almost totally absent from DA. I've stopped by now and then, and answered a few emails, but you guys all know I normally chat it up here a lot, and post in the forums almost on a daily basis. I missed all that while dealing with my health issues, and look forward to getting back to being deeply and happilly involved on the site.
There is more that has happened in my complicated, messy (but never boring) life these past 3 or 4 months... almost all of it good and interesting. But I'm going to save that for my next journal entry. I make this one any longer, and you guys will have to set aside an hour of your time just to read it.
I miss you guys. Miss the site. I'll be back and chatting it up the minute my health and circumstances will allow.
Take care... stay creative... kand always remember to have fun doing your art, and I'll see you all soon.