The Observer right now is, as the old timers used to say, “down in the back.” Specifically, it’s the lower back, which has us hobbling around The Observatory like the cranky, broken version of Charles Foster Kane after his off-key caged songbird flew the coop. As we write this, we’re perched on a chair with a pillow stuffed behind us, desperately trying to keep our rickety bones in the perfect alignment required to prevent the pain from going off like somebody lit a cherry bomb between the knuckles of our spine. Cough, sneeze, reach for the coffee cup in just the wrong way, and ZING! An electric bolt races out from the spot and down our string of knobby pearls, the pain enough to keep us tied us to this chair and keyboard for as long as that is bearable, when we retreat to the slightly more bearable couch. If this goes on much longer, we’re going to have to look into getting our aging, non-HD flat screen bolted to the ceiling.

In case nobody told you: Getting older sucks. We heard a comedian once — was it Wile E. Coyote-grade long-fall-to-rock-bottom-victim Louis C.K.? — say that you know you’re old when the doctor stops talking about how she’s going to fix your problems and starts talking about how you’re gonna live with them until they either kill you or magically work themselves out. We’re crossing our fingers this is something we’re not going to have to just live with. We’re on day four now and hoping for the best.


We come by it honest, at least. Pa had a legendarily puny back, inherited from his father and his father’s father, Pa poked and prodded and prayed over by everything from chiropractors to acupuncturists during the five decades Pa got on earth. Never surgeons, though, as he had a lifelong fear of sawbones getting up inside his bodily temple for a little remodeling. At least once or twice a year we’d come home from school to find him lying in the middle of the living room floor, trying to get a pinched nerve or slipped disc to go back to the hell it came from so he could bear to get out there and hustle. The Observer, who doesn’t have to lift anything heavier than a pen or coffee cup to do our job, literally feels our Old Man’s pain. Right now, we’re six years and change from where he was when he cashed his chips, and for Yours Truly, there might as well be a big red clock on the wall counting down the seconds.

And so here we sit, wondering whether the next time we stand will be pure, non-ouchie bliss or that feeling like a railroad spike being hammered between our vertebrae. Probably the latter, from the feel of it. There are times, Dear Reader, that we envy the invertebrates — slimy, squirmy and squishy as they may be. An exoskeleton might be quite nice right about now, we think, instead of this string of hair-trigger firecrackers that has replaced our lower spine. Then we imagine the old grubs and beetles and centipedes at their tiny version of a coffee shop, griping about carapace ache and wing warp and all the other things for which buggy doctors can only give them a teeny tiny pill and best wishes by way of a cure.


If you watch this space, you know that The Observer is both as skeered of doctors as a turkey is of cranberry sauce, while simultaneously being one of the biggest hypochondriacs alive, sure that every sniffle, rumble or pain is the Big One that’s going to lay us low. While the women in The Observer’s family tend to go on until they resemble a row of dried apple dolls, wizened and wry and charming as hell about everything from love troubles to how to make epic chocolate gravy, the men in our family are hothouse flowers, great until they ain’t. We try not to think of that as we sit here, reminded of the fragility of these mortal bodies of ours by the dark tune growing between our L3 and L4 vertebrae, which jumps a half-octave every time we shift our keister in this chair. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re shuffling off to our bower, where we can find the momentary bliss of the horizontal for a little while. By the way: We’ve heard of standing desks, but does anybody make a laying down desk? If this goes on much longer, we may have to Google that. Ow. Ow-ow. Ow.