Happy February

"As the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen"--Anonymous.

I wanna find Anonymous and beat him senseless with a snow shovel and jug of ice-melt. Or maybe smother him with my insulated winter coat, or choke him with my muffler.  I know that axiom is meant to reassure us as we freeze that we're increasing the amount of sunshine, but I find it cold (dis)comfort.

First, I woke up Christmas morning to discover I was in the throes of the mother-in-law of all colds (caught no doubt while Christmas shopping)--while the weather gods were busy dumping 2-3" inches of "lake effect" snow on us.  About "lake effect" snow:  it's very real, just as tedious to shovel, clean off our cars, and avoid slipping or skidding on when walking or driving; but according to official weather statisticians it doesn't exist if it doesn't fall at O'Hare.  By the time we finally broke our alleged "snowless streak" last week, here along the north lakefront we'd racked up nearly a foot of the stuff since Dec.'s first flakes fell. It fell and melted and fell and melted again, but it DID fall. On US. For the first time since I wrote the song, I actually lived "It Sucks Being Sick at Christmas."  And my cold (and its companions asthma and laryngitis) stuck around for almost two weeks. At least it wasn't the flu; so far, that shot has worked. (Last week's norovirus was not funny, however. At least it had the sense not to hit me till after my birthday).

I turned 62 last week. Still trying to wrap my head around that: older than everyone on either side of my family when they suffered their first heart attacks (grandma was 62, dad 50, and my uncle's MI killed him at 49).  New Year's Eve I was walking back home from the 5-course dinner party we'd held at our favorite local restaurant, en route to setting up the midnight champagne for our dinner guests. It was in one of the freezing-cold cycles of the climate roller coaster we've been riding all winter: between trying not to slip on the ice and walking fast enough to keep from feeling the wind, I had to stop a few times to let my heart slow down and breathe more slowly. I got into the house, filled the champagne bucket with ice....and nearly fainted.  Lay down, got up, fetched the bubbly from the basement and saw stars again (and not the ones Dom Perignon claimed to have been drinking back in old Epernay); also felt a profound heaviness and fatigue in my upper arms and shoulders. Uh-oh. Still, I chalked it up to being out of shape (though not on an empty stomach, anemia or dehydration, which had caused milder versions of this while packing up and schlepping equipment after a few summertime gigs). Bob insisted that despite having gotten a clean bill of health before and after my knee surgery I should get a checkup.

My family doc took an EKG and confirmed that I wasn't having, nor had I suffered, a heart attack; but as he couldn't say I wasn't going to, he prescribed a battery of heart tests (echo, stress EKG, nuclear imaging). He also took a blood sample.  Had the tests, and all were dead-bang normal for someone younger and thinner. No diabetes, anemia, elevated enzymes, etc. But my lipid panel was a shocker: while still considered very good, my HDL had plunged 20 points since June, my LDL rose by 40, and my triglycerides (always low) had tripled.  Bob asked me if I'd fasted before the blood draw, and I replied "for four hours." He asked what was the last thing I'd eaten, and I sheepishly admitted it was a croissant the size of my head. I neglected to mention a week of pizza, pasta, great bread and a near-nightly bedtime treat of a chocolate egg cream. He thinks all those carbs were the culprit behind the spike in triglycerides and LDL, and my enforced rest from my cold probably depressed my HDL--along with cutting way back on wine since I had to give up all alcohol for the month I spent on blood thinners post-op.  Family doc put me on a statin (Bob agrees), a low-carb diet, and orders to start exercising now that we'd determined my heart was strong enough to take it.  So I have become pals with my treadmill and stationary bike, and can reintroduce "Dead Animals & Leaves" to my repertoire.

Between scheduling recording sessions, Stephen Lee's solo gigs, Folk Alliance in Toronto, and my upcoming spring trip to Napa with Bob, it's been tricky to book our duo and my solo gigs. But I've got some coming up--tonight's Dylan tribute at Gallery Cabaret (me solo as part of a cast of thousands), Valentine's Eve at Bill's Blues Revisited at the Orrington in Evanston, a bunch of solo and duo guerrilla showcases at Folk Alliance (and a solo mini-sit for the sick kids at Toronto's children's hospital), Wild Hog in the Woods in Madison 3/22 (duo), Metropolis Coffee 3/27 (solo), SERFA guerrillas in May (solo thus far), nursing home gig in Madison in May (duo, not open to public), Alton, IL Library June 4, and the Folk You showcase in Chicago June 21 (solo).  Details in the Calendar section as well as my upcoming Sandygram.

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