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Friday, July 8, 2011

my recent bad cycling accident

5 weeks ago, i purchased a new road bicycle, a Trek 2.1. In the first month i put over 500 miles on the bike; using it for local errands and deliveries as well as going out for long rides, tackling the Berkeley and Oakland hills on some amazing rides.  It has been wonderful getting back into something i have loved so much in the past. I used to ride all the time back in College and when i first moved to California it was my main mode of transportation. Then when my great friend Matthew Sperry was killed on his bike, i had difficulties getting back on and riding. 8 years after Matt's accident, partly in honor to him, i picked up this new, amazing bike.  Interestingly enough, getting back into riding also brings back wonderful memories of my sister Barbie who was killed in a car accident many years ago. Barbie was a truly generous person; when i finished community college, she gave me an amazing present of a Bianchi road bike, one that i then put thousands and thousands of miles on while back in College in Florida.

Well, Monday morning, July 4, Cori and i went out for a great ride. We hit tunnel road and took it up to Skyline to get to the top of Oakalnd hills, turned right on Grizzly peak and then a left on Pinehurst, descending down the other side of the hills. This led to an amazing, very fast descend through a redwood forest that was stunningly beautiful and in many ways defined why riding in Northern California is so desirable. The views, aromas and the feeling of wind flying past you at 25-30 mph! Then back up the hills, onto redwood road for a climb back to the top of the hills and back down and descend all the way back home to West Oakland, about 30 miles and over 2000 feet of altitude climbing in total. Fairly typical of the way riding has been developing; making longer and longer rides with higher and higher climbs. Not feeling any danger at all except for the idiots in SUVs who honk their horns and ride right next to you and scream at you while they are on their cell phones.

Later that evening, we decided to ride to Alameda to see fireworks. Ironic in many ways since i totally despise my government and cant stand the hypocrisy surrounding holidays like this. Frederic Douglas' speech about July 4 always comes to mind on this holiday to me!  Nonetheless fireworks are beautiful and there is a Chinese noodle shop in Alameda we wanted to have dinner at.
7 miles into this ride, i was on unfamiliar roads and came flying around a turn at about 18 mph and my front tire got caught in an old railroad line, one of the most dreaded things to happen on a bicycle with thin tires! I tried to maneuver out of it, caught an old railroad tie and went down, hard. Of course i had my helmet on so no worries about that. I immediately got the bike off me, Cori, who was riding behind me came running over to me. I sat up, said, "i feel lightheaded" and fell right back down. I think it was the second fall that did me in. Apparently i was out for 2 seconds or so and i remember hearing myself breathing really strangely before snapping out of it. Cori said, she tried to flag a car down but they looked over at us and ignored us and drove on. I got to my knees and sat there, looked at my bike and saw damage and was wondering how i was going to get home as we were 7 miles away at this point. 2 cyclists rode by, saw us and immediately stopped. The guy threw his bike down and ran over to me asking what was up and if he could help. Wish i got their contacts as i would like to thank them again and cook some great food for them as a way of appreciating their concern for an injured stranger. They sat with us for a few minutes, making sure i was not blacking out. He had paramedic training in College and checked out my eyes but i had no fear of concussion but still, i greatly appreciated his concern and what he was doing!

They wanted to call paramedics but i explained i am underemployed in this economy and cannot get insurance due to having leukeima as a child and was not interested in developing thousands of dollars in debt for this accident. Especially since i already was pretty sure what my problem was and knew from friends who experienced it, that there is nothing to be done except wait for it to heal itself.

Eventually Cori and i made a very long walk to the Fruitvale BART station and then took that to the 19th street station and then walked home. It was insanely difficult as i could barely breathe and the pain was intense. I pretty much knew i cracked or damaged some ribs, judging by the area of the pain and the way i could not fully breathe. Over 20 years of training as a flute player really came in handy for this i have to say as i was able to adjust my breathing in different ways to make it more bearable.
Got home, washed up all the cuts and sores and somehow, very painfully got to lie on my back. Once on my back, i was finally able to take full, deep breaths and that made life much less scary!  Got out the computer and started reading about cracked ribs.  Sent an email to a friend of mine who studied shakuhachi with me for a decade before moving away to start his own MD practice.  Explained to him what happened and what i was going through and he wrote back saying, yeah sounds like cracked or bruised ribs and all that can be done is pain management.

So here i was lying, in massive pain, wondering what to do about my shakuhachi lessons, the next morning and some cooking gigs coming up.  Losing income is never fun, but especially during a time when the ruling class is doing everything they can to destroy small businesses makes it even more difficult.  i cancelled tuesdays lessons. Then tried to teach on Wednesday but could not blow a note, could only talk through lessons. Cancelled thursdays lessons as i realized it was not fair to students for me not to be able to demonstrate what i am showing and sharing with them. Not fun! Besides losing income, i love teaching and have some amazing students who i always look forward to seeing and working with. Obviously, they are all totally understanding and have been very supportive.

To put it simply this is the worst pain and discomfort i have felt in my adult life. As a child i had leukemia so physical pain is not exactly unfamiliar. The worst part of the chemotherapy treatments were the spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies and what i am going through is pretty close to that lvel of unpleasantness. The aftermath of spinal taps meant 24 hours of lying around, sleeping and puking before snapping out of it. And the bone marrow biopsies were insanely painful, made worse by a rather twisted, sadistic and downright stupid doctor named Barry D. Gordon. I say this guy was insanely stupid as for some reason an aunt made me see him years after my chemo was over and he told me i would die in 9 months since at that time i just became a vegetarian. Sadistic as the bastard would insist on taking these biopsies from the most painful place and always did it with a rather wicked smile on his face; when he was absent, his colleague, Dr Fersco (sp?) would take it from a much less painful place with a very concerned look on his face. I would love to see Dr Gordon to ask him some questions about these smiles and his methods. Fortunately for him, he was nothing of a doctor, made zero impact on the field of hematology and not a single hit on google ever comes up. Even though he would be an old man,  now, i would have difficulty not kicking him in the face and pummeling him over and over again after asking him questions... but i digress :)

So i want to shout out to a few people in particular that have been very kind and helpful these past few days!

-Bob Garcia, a student of many years and a great guy in general came by with some pedicularis tincture that he said was good for muscle relaxing. And some vicodin for pain.
The vicodin made me totally out of it but all the pain remained, not what i was hoping for or expected! The pedicularis did not offer any noticable change, oddly.

Allan Cronin. I met Allan 2 years ago when he came to one of the dinner/concerts that i host. Pamela Z was the performer. Since then Allan has attended a rather large percentage of the dinner/concerts and we have become friends, sharing our mutual interests in food, music, beer and more. Out of nowhere, there was a knock at the door and i managed to get up and answer it. I forgot Allan is a nurse! and there he was with lidocaine patches and some painkillers. Incredibly kind of him to go out of his way to bring these over. The patch certainly helped a bit but the painkillers again, did nothing.

Tara Green (her pseudonym)! She saw my post on facebook about the accident and pain i was in and asked me to send her my address. I was not aware that Tara was in the medical marijuana baking business! She offered to send me something that i would eat that would heal the pain. I enjoy my weed very much and know of its medicinal (as well as recreational values), all too well. And have some in the home but was afraid to smoke any as if i cough, it would be brutal to say the least. So in the mail came a package of "medjool", small treats made from coconut, agave, dried fruits and nuts and some serious indica. I am not sure if she is using a tincture as there is no oil in these. Usually marijuana, is cooked in fat to get the THC out of it and then the fat is used to cook with. Not sure of her methods but i know that 30 minutes after eating one medjool, the pain was going down! It did not disappear by any means, but for the first time since Monday, i could get up and lie down without excruciating agony.
her website is

Seth Katz. On my first tour to the west coast, i was performing 2 concerts in the San Francisco bay area and Seth and his then roomate, Bill Hsu offered me a place to stay those 2 evenings. Been friends since then!  Seth has shown me how to forage chanterelles and that alone puts him high on my list of humans but in general, Seth is just a good hearted, smiling kind of guy who goes out of his way for many people. He has offered numerous times to drop off some painkillers but someone already brought me some (and it did not work, sadly).

and the countless people who have called or emailed or left messages asking if they can do anything! Way too many to mention but i will not forget by any means.

and of course, Cori, my girlfriend. What can i say? What more can i ask for. She is an incredibly generous, loving woman who has been there for me since i hit the ground Monday evening. She wanted to take the following day off work to stay with me but i insisted she go. Nonetheless she came back home halfway through her shift. I pretty much cannot do anything, right now so am not much fun to be around. All i can do is read and write and watch videos. Cannot cook my own meals (nor do i have much of an appetite) and yesterday she came home from cooking at work a full shift and then made us an amazing meal of homemade tortillas, cucumber salsa, tomato salsa, beans, rice and avocado.  Damn that plate tasted and looked amazing! And before she left for work, she filled my bicycle cambelbak with water and left it right next to where i was lying in bed with all of the painkillers and such stacked up in reach. A small but amazing gesture on her part that really moved me. And she is drop dead gorgeous on top of it.

I do not know when i will be back on my feet again. I have 3 cooking gigs, next week, one i was informed this morning is already cancelled; Francois Houle the brilliant clarinet player from Vancouver was supposed to play the dinner/concert series on Wednesday as part of the annual Matt Sperry memorial festival. He is now going to play solo at Tom Duf's house instead (no food, i assume). i hope i will be able to produce the cakes for the Marin vegetarian society meeting on the 16th and host the peach class on the 17th as is on the schedule. On Monday i will see how thing have progressed before talking to the folks in Marin.
Ironically to some (not to me!), i am constantly thinking of getting back on the bicycle and continue the rigorous training i started. I was really getting stronger, losing weight and developing the interest to start doing longer and longer rides, planning a 90 mile ride to friends in Guerneville in August and hoping to start training for the AIDS ride (a week long ride from San francisco to Los Angelos, next May).  And dear lord it is peach season and i want to be cooking/grilling/roasting peaches into some of my favorite summer dishes!  Basically i want to be doing anything besides lying here, at this point!

i think the bicycle is ok. When i can ride i will take it over to Missing Link, where i purchased it and have them bend the hoods back in shape and look it over to make sure nothing is damaged that i cannot see.

i look forward to not having to lie here all day and night long!


  1. Very sorry about your accident. It's indeed ridiculous that we live in such a backwards country when it comes to health care. I'm glad you have friends and contacts who have been getting you some of the care that you need and deserve. Hope you're back in the saddle very soon!

  2. Oh no!! I hope you feel better soon and that everything heals.....

  3. thank you Tanya! Been a week since it happened and the pain is finally going down a bit, now!