Lum: Follow the rickety brick road |

Lum: Follow the rickety brick road

Su Lum

So I was going along, minding my own business, as we used to say, feeling strong and chipper, when — whap — my back went out.

I don’t want to sound like Little Orphan Loo here, but damn.

Those of you who have experienced having a back “go out” know what it means. It means that two large hands come out of nowhere, grab you by the chest and hips, twist hard and fast and throw you on the woodpile.

Someone comes along and plucks you out of the woodpile. You are poked and pried, X-rayed and drugged, and then you have an MRI and go to Dr. Hahn at the pain clinic for pain shots. As you read this, this morning, I will be on the table.

They call it a “shot,” but it’s really a major procedure with a couple of assistants, a TV screen showing my spine and a whole lot of footlong syringes that I try not to look at. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s not as quick as a “shot.”

The drugs can scramble your brains a little bit. Write down when and what pills you’ve taken.

I picture my lower back as a bubbling cesspool filled with damaged, toothless gears that are my useless discs turning slowly in the muck of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, a squeezed and spurting spinal cord struggling to get free as it sinks into the mire of what they call “degeneration,” which about says it all.

Nobody wants any part of operating on this mess, despite my pleas.

But there’s a rhythm to these things. Between the shots and the passage of time, it gets better.

There’s a position I can get into on the bed where it hardly hurts at all, and I can sit at the computer for almost 45 minutes so I can watch my baby eagles on the video cam — they are starting to look like big black buzzards. On Monday, it was pouring rain in D.C., and they were drenched, huddled together, poor boo-boos.

Getting from the computer to the bed much less to the bathroom is another story, involving a cane, groans and yelps. My friend Hilary gets stuck being the water boy, oxygen tender and food supplier and is probably even more eager than I am for me to get those “shots.”

Meanwhile, the local ospreys in Emma finally laid some eggs. I figure they’ll be hatching just about the time the eagles fly off, so I’ll be able to keep my bird habit going without interruption. I love the osprey site, unpretentious, waving in the wind and watching the surrounding grounds transmogrify from gray to green.

I couldn’t get down to see the horned owls that are causing a stir down by the old art museum, but I’ve seen great photos of the parents and baby — probably better than I’d be able to see with my creaky eyes anyway. At first I was worried that the throngs would disturb the family, but the owls had plenty of time to check out the neighborhood and had the nerve to steal another family’s nest and take it over, so they will get no sympathy from me if they have to tolerate gawkers.

Speaking of the old art museum, one can only hope that the City Council will have a change of mind and heart — there are plenty of openings to do so without breaking promises. It seems to me that age 50 is quickly becoming the new youth as it takes longer and longer for kids to grow up these days.

Another major irritation on top of my back disaster is that I lost my credit card. Nobody has used it, so I know it’s hiding at the bottom of a shoe or lost in the car, and I hate having to replace it because I had memorized the number.

For me it is a huge deal to memorize anything as long and random as a 16-digit credit-card number. I did it to entertain myself while exercising on the anti-gravity treadmill at physical therapy, and I have to say it is an extremely handy thing to have in your head when you call in for restaurant delivery or use it online. But you need the actual card at the grocery store and Carl’s, so a new one is on its way.

I do not know if I have the wherewithal to eject that old number from my mental computer or to put another new number in its place, but an upside of my situation is that I’ll have plenty of time to try.

Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks she can. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


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