I’d Grade Myself ‘Fair’

I’m 49-years old and there are days when I feel I’m falling apart. For a guy who at this time seven years ago was limping around with a numb leg and drop foot because of a herniated disc I’m doing pretty good. No limp and no numbness thanks to a Discectomy in March of 2016, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t have pain. I’ll probably have a stiff lower back for the remainder of my time on this earth, but I can at least exercise and not walk like I have a peg leg.

But despite my feel-good back surgery story, I still have shoulder pain and some weird pinched nerve thing in my arm. My sinuses are battling year-round allergens, and occasionally my knees tell me to slow down by aching and popping. With each passing day something else starts popping and hurting on me. If I were vinyl, I’d grade myself “fair”. At least today.

Speaking of vinyl, I’ve been on a bit of a vinyl tear lately. I recently picked up Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot boxset, a couple OG Megadeth records(Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying and So Far..So Good..So What), as well as a massive Pye Corner Audio Black Mills Tapes vinyl set with five LPs. By the end of 2022 I really thought I’d be slowing down my vinyl purchases to a slow drip, but something in me switched. I still don’t think I’m going to be buying as much of the new releases, but OG presses, boxsets, and jazz albums are on the menu for this year, and poppa is hungry.

Buying used and pre-loved vinyl on the Discogs site there’s a language to learn. The language of vinyl grading. This lets you know what you’re buying from a complete stranger, so there’s no surprises when that OG Blue Note Andrew Hill shows up with scratches in the vinyl and the sleeve looks like it sat in a rainstorm for a week. It’s the language of the vinyl seller and vinyl buyer. The clicks, clacks, and grunts to which we understand what we’re getting ourselves into.

The grading system goes like this: Mint, Near Mint, Very Good+, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. You don’t rate anything mint unless it’s still in the packaging and has never been spun, and the vinyl has never left the sleeve. Some sellers will open it just to confirm that the color variant is what it says it is on the outside sticker. But really, don’t say it’s mint unless it’s never been opened.

Near Mint is something that’s been opened and maybe even spun a time or two but the vinyl still shines like new, as well as the sleeve being almost perfect with no imperfections. Very Good+ is still in good shape. Maybe some blemishes on the vinyl but don’t affect playback in any way. Possibly a pop or crackle, but very minimal. Maybe one of the corners on the sleeve looks mashed a bit. Very Good plays well with maybe some noise but nothing overwhelming; nothing that will pull you out of the listening experience. Sleeve shows ring wear, some creases, but it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. Good? Well, you know when a stranger or an acquaintance asks how you’re doing and you reply “Good”? That could usually mean that you’re actually good, or it could mean not as good as I’d like, but I’ll spare you my sob story. Good means the record will play, but expect some flaws. Fair and poor? Well, that’s when you get into buyer’s beware territory. Records are scratched, warped, extremely noisy; while the sleeves look water damaged, torn, molded, and smell like someone’s dank basement.

There are days when I’d grade myself at “very good”, and even a rare day where I’d go to “very good+”. Those days are usually in the summer when I’m out in the heat either taking my daily walks or in the yard mowing, pulling weeds, and just the general keeping the grass looking good. Doing all that in the humidity isn’t super fun, but working up a good sweat does feel nice. The limbs, joints, and tendons are at their most limber in the summer sun. Winter is when my body shows its deterioration. Everything stiffens up, locks up, and seizes. It’s like starting your car when it’s 14 degrees. It doesn’t want to start up at all; it whines, wheezes, screeches, and sometimes even hesitates. The belts screech and the pistons mew as the coagulated motor oil oozes into action like Log Cabin Maple Syrup. Once you’re on the road and driving in the early Arctic air things get easier and move a little smoother, but not without protest.

That’s me. I’m moving about, but not without protest.

I’ve always said I’d rather live in cold temps than hot. I was an easy sweat when I was much younger. In the summer heat, in department store dressing rooms, meandering pretty much anywhere, I’d just sweat. It wasn’t that I was terribly out of shape(but I wasn’t some physically fit specimen either), my engine just ran hot I guess. At some point in my 30s that changed. I don’t sweat like that anymore. I did get more physically fit, and that internal engine ran smoother and without much fuss.

But as with everything, my body started to break down a bit. 30 years working on concrete floors took its toll on my spine, as well as lifting things I shouldn’t like the Incredible Hulk out of impatience. Herniated discs, pinched nerves in my shoulder, Rice Krispies knees and ankles(you know, snap crackle pop every time I get up), and just this weird sensitivity to barometric changes that make my head feel like it’s in a vice. I don’t think it matters how physically fit and healthy you attempt to be, the body will break and you’re going to have to deal with it. If it’s not something you do to yourself, life and Mother Nature will do it for you.

So I’m not sure I want to live in frigid temps anymore. The older I get the more I understand that whole thing of old coots migrating to FLA. Hell, my grandpa did it after he had a stroke in 2001. Moved from Northern Indiana into a manufactured home park somewhere in Central Florida. I think it extended his life significantly. Did it improve it? Well, he was in Florida so I’d say that’s debatable. But he at least got to be combative, argumentative, and all around ornery for a few more years. I don’t want to live in Florida. Ever. If it was between Florida and Antarctica I’d live in a glacier. I’ve always said that Maine was where I’d like to end up in retirement. But over these last couple of winters I’ve realized I don’t really care for bitter cold anymore. So maybe living in the desert, like Arizona or New Mexico, might serve my physical well being more. Maybe start a wind farm next to Owen and Beru. Tatooine always seemed nice, all but for those Tusken Raiders. But hey, if I can put up with MAGAs, I can deal with the Sand People.

I’ve decided that I’m just going to enjoy my life as best I can. No, I’m not going to binge on fast food, narcotics, and booze. I’m not going to buy sports cars and drive 120 mph down the freeway because I feel like it. But I am going to take a day or two after work and just go home, open a can of ginger ale, and watch something I want to watch. Or maybe I’ll work on some music, or spin an album or two. I’m not going to keep the engine purring getting things done I need to, and instead enjoy some things that I want to. And my weekends will be my time; painting, movies, trips with my wife to wherever we want, or just a day spent binging a show. Writing, reading, working on more music…it’s all up for grabs on the weekends. Given current situations friends and loved ones are going through these days I value time away from the 9 to 5 even more now. I’m not wasting free time on things that will bog me down. I want to enrich my head and heart. Because while my body may be revolting against me more and more these days, my head and heart are just fine.

So while my Mint and Near Mint days are long gone(not sure I ever had those days), I can live with plenty of Very Good+ and Very Good days ahead. And if I have to deal with a few just Good or Fair, well that’s okay.

10 thoughts on “I’d Grade Myself ‘Fair’

    1. You’re still fresh in that change and realization that your friend isn’t who they once were. You’ll get better, especially when you’re not reeling from being emotionally wrung out by someone that’s not good for you anymore. We’ve got a couple more months of “fair”, but hopefully when it starts warming up again we can get to good and very good. Hang in there Mike.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you man. I’m not happy how it went down. Some people — I’m sure you know the type — keep going on, and on, and won’t drop it after multiple requests. Always have to “win”.

        So I dropped a few f-bombs, told him to never contact me again, and it was sad.

        But I also never have to worry about logging into Facebook and receiving comments about my “lame” and “brutal” youtube show from my “friend” again.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Agreed as the years pass by things start breaking down within our bodies. I like how you tied it all in like you were rating an album. Brilliant writing my friend. Nice scores on Megadeth by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

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