Onward!

Patrick and his Dobro 33D

Social Security and the IRS think I am dead.

I was not going to argue this, but Dear Old Dad argued that it could complicate things down the road. So, albeit reluctantly, we are taking steps to remedy the situation . . . but I have to admit that I am enjoying my status as a zombie.

My health after the harrowing Suboxone withdrawal has been steadily improving. Lately I find myself battling my old foe peripheral neuropathy, but I have a good neurologist on the case. Last week on a scale of 1 to 10 – with pain being the worst pain I ever experienced – I was at around 23. Crying time.

Today I am between 7 and 8. So it is improving bit by bit.

There is a lot going on here musically. The Daily Frail is still happening over on Patreon. A few folks are either unnerved or just plain angered by the fact that I am breaking away from using tab. Somebody pointed out that my very popular books used tab and I replied that the books were written long ago and even Picasso was prone to painting over old works to create something new.

Tab never helped me with the guitar, and I used it so rarely with the banjo that I practically had to relearn how to use tab when I wrote my first web-based workshops. On plain paper tab was a useful way to help people visualize the left and right hand mechanics – but we are living in 2019 and the printed page is going the way of the rotary phone. We don’t need to cling to old methods that never really worked. This should be a time of innovation and discovery!

So I am getting myself mentally, physically and musically ready for something new. For the banjo I find myself thinking back to the way I used the teaching methods employed by my karate instructors. There was nothing written in the dojo. I was expected to pay attention, internalize what was presented and then put it into action.

When I was learning music I only met my teachers briefly. Some encounters lasted a few minutes but I left with enough to work on for months. Given my progress over the years it’s safe to say this approach works. My challenge now is to create the same sort of environment on the Internet.

So a new banjo method is on the way. My friend Dobro Libre will be doing similar with the guitar to take some of the workload off of me.

A lot of this new teaching method will fly in the face of a lot of the material out there now – including my old workshops. This is inevitable because change always generate conflict and controversy. The momentary angst will not bother me because I am looking at a larger timeline. Forget somebody being pissy today and look fifty years down the road or beyond.

When I met Tiny back in the 1980’s the fiddler’s picnics in Pennsylvania were filled to capacity. Every time I go back there are less musicians. We lost something at some point. The same happened to karate, going from tough training to a weird sort of day care where seven-year old kids get back belts without throwing a punch.

Keep an eye on frailingbanjo.com for updates on the new lessons, the book in progress and some other cool things we have in the works. I would share more details, but that would spoil the fun.

Right now I am off to do a bit of yard work and then scare the neighbors by practicing Modern Arnis on the heavy bag. Nice to know I can still throw a punch and make an even heavier blow with my sticks. I hope Ed Parker and Remy Presas will be watching my comeback!

Stay tuned!

God bless,
-Patrick

The Cat Ate My Laptop!

So last night my neuropathy was going crazy and I was in agony. I passed the hours listening to music and assuring myself that the only way things could get worse was if I accidentally set myself on fire.

This was a mistake. Things always get worse.

To prove this. Pooka decided to latch on the the cable of my cheap headphones. The headphones do not work well for me, but at this time I have no way to hook my bone anchored hearing aids to the laptop.

I tried to get Pooka to let go before she chewed through the cable, but she decided to run for it. In the process she dragged my laptop off of the bed where it came crashing to the floor. The hard drive is toast. Sigh.

Without laptop cables to entertain herself with, Pooka spent the rest of the night attacking my feet. Neuropathy pain is the worst – but when a seventeen pound tortoiseshell calico sinks her teeth and claws into a neuropathic big toe . . . well that’s just hideously painful.

Not sure if I will replace the laptop. Being able to work in bed is a bit of a big deal when I am in a lot of pain, but Pooka is such a crazy cat that I am not sure what to do. Giving up on Pooka is not an option – I don’t have that many friends left!

Pain, Pain and More Pain

So far quitting Suboxone has generated only minor side effects. I’m doing pretty good except for one thing – peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where your sensory nerves get damaged and start sending pain signals to your brain.

I am okay during the day, but when I try to sleep the pain jumps in and just kicks my ass all over the room. On a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being the worst pain ever – I was at about 15 last night. It got so bad last night that Dear Old Dad handed me a double shot of some seriously good Irish Whiskey. It helped.

I see my doctor on the 27th, but from what I have read there are not many effective treatments for peripheral neuropathy. I am guessing that I will have to learn to live with the pain and/or look for alternative therapies.

I could wring my hands and cry, “oh woe is me”, but that never accomplishes anything. My hands still work and my head is clear. I’ll keep on fighting.

Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. We’re taking her to Salisbury for the Chinese Buffet and shopping at the Hobby Lobby – she loves that.

On Monday I turn 49. Dear Old Dad is going to drive me to Assateauge, and then we will pick up the heavy bag and other equipment for the backyard dojo.

The Daily Frail will be back on Tuesday.

Slow Going

The seizure on Monday night still has me a little shaky – and that is on top of the lingering side effects of the Suboxone withdrawal. As a result I am moving slow right now, but still moving forward.

Somebody was kind enough to help me order a heavy bag and some other equipment to help with the backyard dojo I am putting together under the honking huge pecan tree. Everything should be at the store on Monday – and that happens to be my birthday. Dear Old Dad is going to drive me to Assateague Island that morning. It should be a nice day.

The Daily Frail will return to production soon. Work continues on my current book in progress. Careful planning is underway for our YouTube replacement series . . .oops! That last part was supposed to be a secret!

Welcome Back, Epilepsy :(

On the way to Monday Music Night I had an epileptic seizure.

Me being me, I went to Monday Music Night anyway. Then we went to the hospital.

Now it’s 4:00 AM and I am home safe with an aching head.

I can handle most anything, but it sucks when your own brain can’t be trusted.

I am not sure if I will able to drive for a while. I guess I’ll have to start shopping for a bicycle to get me through the summer. I’ll just make the most of it. Can’t let it get me down.

Returning To Brick Kiln

Going back to Brick Kiln with a clear head was . . . sweet. I picked up a bag of bread from the Dollar store and the seagulls and blackbirds were happy to pose for my camera.

Eventually I stopped taking pictures and sat on the dock in the cold wind. I watched the wind move over the water. The marsh grass over on Jane Island waved in its own rhythm while work boats plowed through the water on their way to the bounty of Tangier Sound.

I have so many memories, happy and sad, of the times I brought Amy here. Sometimes we danced with the seagulls, other times we just held each other in my ’89 Mercury. She once angrily said the all of the seagulls here knew me – and I still don’t understand how that was a bad thing.

As I walked back down the dock I saw a woman throw her McDonald’s trash out of her car window. I calmly picked it all up, walked up to the car and said to her, “Hello! I think you dropped this.”

She turned to say something harsh, saw how big I was and calmly accepted the wad of trash.

Nice to know I still look like I belong on the Brute Squad.

I picked up some more trash along the beach before I got in the car for the drive home. As soon as the weather warms up a bit I will be walking here every day. Taking pictures with my camera and my heart.

If this is only a week after getting off that poison, I can’t wait until I start getting myself back in shape!

Alive! Alive! Alive!

This morning I woke up well before sunrise. I put on the heavy walking boots I have not been able to wear for years and put on my pea coat. I got my camera and stowed one extra lens in my coat pocket. I fed Pooka, quietly slipped out the front door into the cold darkness before dawn to watch the sun rise at Jenkins Creek.

Jenkins Creek is a special place to me for reasons I will not share. I don’t take many people there. Nowadays it is not what it was when I first came to Crisfield, but I still love it there.

I watched the sun rise. I took a few pictures. I pondered on some big decisions. As I turned back towards home a great blue heron I had not seen rose up from the marsh grass in front of me – so close I could feel the air from the beating of its wings. I threw up my hands and danced for joy on the lonely street.

Driving home I started laughing with joy. At the end of a dark grueling journey I am finally coming back to my old self. Back to visiting herons and watching the beginning and the end of each day with joy. Alive! Alive! Alive!

Ten Years Younger

Looking in the mirror yesterday I was shocked at the face looking back at me. I couldn’t place what was different, but then it hit me. Color. I wasn’t all pale and washed out like I have been looking for the last ten years.

I am back and it feels . . . well, it’s hard to say how it feels. Imagine ten years of pain, struggle, heartbreak and illness – then suddenly everything comes back into focus. Music sounds better. Food tastes better. Colors are brighter. The headaches seems to have stopped. I can type again without difficulty.

Money is tight, but I treated myself to a Spotify subscription. Headphones still don’t do much for me unless I crank the volume all the way up, but soon I will have my new BAHA implants with better audio connectivity and I will be happily be finishing up my current book with music blaring in my skull. Rock, country, folk, old-time, punk, jazz, Celtic, classical and everything else I can get my mitts on. I write better with music blasting, so this will be good!

I still have my hurts. I would give up all of the music in the world just for Amy to see me now, back to the person she saw trying to fight his way back to the surface. To come back up from such depths to find her gone is . . . well, let’s just say that the English language lacks the eloquence to describe these emotions.

It has been emotional for my parents as well. Mom and dad have both stopped to stare at me in a sort of wonder, saying, “It’s nice to have my son back.”

I still have to get my body back in shape. Long walks, work in the garden and I plan to make an open air dojo under the big pecan tree. I don’t care about fighting anymore, but I can use my Kenpo and Modern Arnis training to get my body moving and my mind focused. it would be nice to have a heavy bag to work with, but I can probably scrounge a stack of junk tires before Dear Old Dad gets wind of what I’m up to.

Dear Old Dad and I are making plans. More on that soon – and keep an eye out for the arrival Dobro Libre!

Today I plan to studiously do nothing except play some music, listen to some music and enjoy this day. Sprawl out with Pooka and wait for the future to arrive.

It’s nice to be back. I missed me;