In Star Trek V, The Final Frontier, Spock's errant, half-brother, Sybok "borrows" the Enterprise to enter Sha Ka Re, the mythical, Vulcan heaven which lies beyond the Great Barrier at the center of the galaxy. Last night as I slept, I pierced the Great Barrier and somehow managed it without a star ship. Like Sybok before me, wait.............scratch that, he technically comes way after me, doesn't he? Shit. Like Sybok after me....No, that just doesn't sound right. OK, let's just start over, shall we?
Just like Spock's bro, I have longed for Sha Ka Re. For many years now, I've had, um, issues with aging and the inevitable breakdown of the 18 yr old body that has carried me beyond forty and into the new millennium. For quite a while, I was able to pull off abusing my body in weekend sports, extremely physical jobs and the alcoholic/chemical pursuits of a madman. Something changed about 5 years ago and shit just stopped working right. Old injuries began to hurt, my weak back began to betray me on a regular basis and new fonts of pain and stiffness rose up daily to greet me, like a knife to the kidneys, every morning.
So I stumbled around, bound to my planet Nimbus, dressed in rags and wishing I had a star ship, but never doing much about it, other than to leave the couch for more chip dip, or a second glass of milk to wash down those last eight Oreos. About a year ago, I finally had had enough and began a pathetic attempt to quit smoking and get in shape. I found both to be more than a challenge and putting smoking aside, the workouts were killing me. My joints were especially against this new plan. Since December, my right hip joint has given me problems, burning intensely after just 5 minutes on a treadmill, or elliptical. My shoulders, oh, my shoulders. Wracked with arthritis, felt like they rusted up about 15 years ago and lately, like somebody filled the joints with gravel.
None of this deterred me from my goal of Sha Ka Re, but let me tell you, not being able to lift your arms up in the morning until you've spent 30 minutes in a scalding hot shower is not very pleasant. My greatest this year fear has been a morning without hot water and not being able to brush my teeth. So, I pressed on through the pain. I made regular pilgrimages to my chiropractor (Dr. Hill, I love you, man). Bless him, he ironed out a lot of the problem in my hip, but the rest of my body continued to break down.
For the past three weeks out here off the coast of Australia, the weather has been unbelievable. Sunny and about 100 degrees every single day. I joined a few of the crew in subjecting myself to a Mon/Wed/Fri circuit training workout supervised by our medic and personal trainer. It's been pretty brutal, especially in the scorching Australian sun and baked metal heli-deck. My body continued to break down and the pain worsened, every single day. Undaunted, I also worked out on my own, every day we didn't have circuit training. I've been doing several KM worth of laps around the heli-deck, most of the time, working out with dumbells while walking and running. I was sure that not giving my body a day off was making things worse, but really needed to loose the weight and well, I get pretty stubborn at times and just can't let things go. Showing up for a workout in mortal pain is just wrong, I know, but I'm stupid like that.
Lately, I've hurt myself so bad on the off days that my fellow crew have had to resort to public humiliation in order to get me to participate in the circuit training, after some particularly brutal off-day workouts. Yesterday was an off day. It was also the hottest day of the trip, so far. I slogged out to the deck and did my laps, meaning to limit myself to a half-hour, in order to avoid; getting burnt to a crisp, paralyzing myself and passing out from heat exhaustion. I was also waaaay behind on sleep and wanted to get my head down before 6pm. Well, I'm pretty much an idiot and pushed myself, brutally, for nearly two hours, finally coming inside, burnt to a crisp. I went to bed confident I'd be a complete mess tonight.
I awoke to find that sometime during the night, I'd pierced the Great Barrier and now resided in Sha Ka Re. I opened my eyes and panicked. I knew something was very wrong, but couldn't figure out what it was. After carefully levering myself out of the rack to a standing position, I realized the problem. I was totally and inexplicably pain-free for the first time in years. Not only could I raise my arms above my head, but they seemed to float up and wave around like drunken Klingons, of their own accord. I was standing in Sha Ka Re and had no pain to share with that deranged God, imprisoned behind the Great Barrier.
To celebrate, I shaved and brushed my teeth BEFORE taking a very short, lukewarm shower, while singing "Row, row, row your boat...gently down the stream..."