Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Q & A

Today I went with someone from SBI to talk to a small group. The group wanted to understand brain injury better. They asked some good questions, questions someone out there in the blogosphere might have wanted to ask...

Weren't you wearing a seatbelt?
Yes. However, the seatbelt did not stop my body in time to prevent my head from hitting the seat. Also, a seatbelt can't prevent the kind of closed head injury that happens when the brain bounces around inside the skull. The skull is hard and has ridges on the inside; it is not smooth like our scalp. The brain is very soft.

Were you under the care of a doctor?
I called a medical facility after I realized something was wrong. One of the interesting facts about brain injury is, for mild TBI there's not much even the medical profession can do. It's certainly tempting for me to hope that a doctor can fix my injury. If you're the doctor, it's kind of a thankless position to be in. A doctor has very few tools for treating mild TBI.

How did you know you had a brain injury?
I couldn't pack my bike bag in the morning before work. For almost 15 years this was a task I did most mornings.

The paramedics told me to 'look for signs of concussion' after the accident. For the record, the person  who has had a brain injury is not qualified to watch themselves for signs of concussion. We've got a few other things going on...

Why didn't you tell the people at work right away?
I would have lost my job. The stigma of brain injury is just too great, and most people are still too ignorant to deal with it rationally. For this reason, the neurologist advised against it. Instead, I thought if I could make my brain do my job, after a while it would heal and I would be back to normal and everything would be OK.

Can't you just make lists of things you forget?
Imagine having to make a list every time you needed to do more than one simple task. Lists are a great tool to compensate for not being able to sequence tasks and for gaps in short-term memory. It's just a lot more work to have to make them.

Isn't bicycling risky? Aren't you afraid of crashing and getting another brain injury?
Whether and how to get hard endurance exercise is a decision each brain injury survivor needs to make for themselves. For me, cycling is what I already know how to do. And in a way the decision to ride is the same one a sick person makes when they choose to participate in an experimental trial. It's clear how life is without it, therefore I am willing to take the small risk and do something that makes my brain feel healthy. In bicycle crashes, I never sustained a brain injury of this magnitude. The speeds in automobile accidents are much greater, so much greater force is exerted on the occupants of the car.

When I ride in cars, I am afraid of the car crashing and of getting another brain injury. Another thing I notice when I ride in cars is that other people do not share my concern, when maybe they should.

Disorders of the prion type

For a long time researchers suspected there might be a link between repeated brain injury and Alzheimer's. Anecdotally, they saw a number of former pro athletes and veterans who developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease after brain trauma.

Well, they found the link.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Study in orange

Sometimes we make our own folk art here on Route 66, a journey. Does anyone know what kind of wildflower this is?

Lou Reed

On the way to Spinning class today Walk on the Wild Side was playing on the radio. That song with  the fun walking beat? I thought, this is by that guy...you know...the one with the sunglasses. Not that other guy...(forgot his name too)...the one who sang duets with Jennifer Warnes. Both New Yorkers - nope, names are not coming. Just enjoy the song.

The Spinning instructor (whose name I also forgot) was a sub for the regular guy. She told us ahead of time she mixes her own music. My legs got happy to her mix.

Happy. Music, exercise, happy brain.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bring out the gladiators

Found this great summary of the brain injury issues in the NFL. It helped me understand why the league might be considered liable.

Check out the reader comments. Holy cow! Many hit on individual choice. How the players aren't good for much except football. The number of comments that made this point in one way or another just blew me away. Lots of judgment here and not much empathy for the hurt players. It must feel good and powerful to issue judgments like these. Another way of feeling immortal.

As I've said before, I'm not an NFL fan. So this is not really about football. It's more about informed choices and human behavior. How much of an individual decision is it, to play football? First, think about the age of players when they make the decision. Also, the salaries and perks must blow the other options out of the water. When someone has few other career paths, isn't that an argument for caution and full disclosure? Players need to know up front what they're getting into. Living with a brain injury isn't something most people would choose. Trust me on this...

Even with the facts spelled out, we don't always make the right decision. Imagine all your friends want to go out to a fast-food restaurant. You know it's not the best dietary choice. Do you really suggest the hippie cafe with a salad bar instead? We are not designed to buck social trends. Those kinds of people get movies like Erin Brockovich made about them, they're so rare.

Many people are wondering what the game of football would look like, with limitations. Here's a New York Times article on how the sport might change. Disappointing fans, saving players and their families.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Basin of Big

Yesterday was supposed to be a Big Big Ride day, but I failed to find the correct lever. That would be the lever that ejected me from the house before 7:30 am. Thus it morphed into a Big Ride day.

Left my lunch on the counter at home. Looped back to get it, 6 bonus miles in noisy suburban flatlands. Surprised to see so many SUVs still lumbering around. They look comical, trying to get around corners. When they accelerate, that giant sucking sound. This is not the good part of the ride.

Heading south toward Stevens Canyon, a herd of gravel trucks stampede toward the quarry at the base of Montebello. They give me a wide berth but it's still not pleasant. The noise of the huge tires and heavy vehicle on the road puts the brain on high alert. There's nothing like the adrenaline rush when one of them bears down on you from behind, accelerating to get up that little steep pitch at the mouth of the canyon. They take up the whole road. This is not the good part of the ride, either.

At the quarry driveway we negotiate using eye contact. They wait and let me through. A shuttle bus full of people pulls over at the reservoir, full and blue and sparkly. You might have heard of Stevens Creek Boulevard, that 6-lane thoroughfare stretching through Cupertino and San Jose. (Strip mall, anyone?) Now, it's time to commune a little with Stevens Creek.

In the narrow, forested canyon with the creek running gently, my breathing slows and thoughts relax. Just in time for Redwood Gulch 

Well, my arms and legs are dripping sweat. Yet even with the late start the temperature is OK. There's plenty of shade and I'm not going to expire on Redwood Gulch today.

Contrary to what it says above, after the first steep pitch there are 2 more to go. I distract myself with whatever human activity is visible from the road. The Free Kittens sign is still posted. Someone is in the process of clearing a plot of land near the top, with heavy machinery and trucks. And it looks like a big renovation project at the Jewish kid's camp at the summit.

Redwood Gulch is a bit of a test for Super Tour, the same way that Page Mill is a test. Passed the first test! My fitness is not quite at the point where Highway 9 and the Castle Rock climb on Skyline feel like nothing. That's OK, the temperature is basically perfect up here and the grades are nowhere near 17%. I get to do my favorite roller-coaster part of Skyline, the one lane part. Then it's the big descent into Boulder Creek.

Today I don't feel like lingering in Boulder Creek or even taking pictures. Being Monday afternoon, the main street (Highway 9) is noisy with cars and trucks. Locals seem to rush into town with business, do their tasks, then get the heck out again. Kids and dogs get corralled. No chatting, no stopping. Accordingly, there is no bench for sitting anywhere on the main drag. I pull up a patch of shade on the sidewalk outside New Leaf Market. Lunch from home tastes good and I'm not tempted to gorge myself silly.

For company, folks are munching happily next door at the Red Pearl. One reason the locals come into town is food! Have to try that place some time. Down the street at the Blue Sun cafe (now closed), my friend Bonnie once made me try the tempeh Reuben sandwich.  Sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, rye bread, the works! Having ordered it many times and always on a bike ride, I can still taste the savory protein goodness.

Heading into Big Basin, a happy stomach is an advantage. Climbing, coming right up.

Highway 236 follows the real Boulder Creek toward Big Basin. The narrow road carries a lot of traffic between town and the Boulder Creek Country Club. Houses line the road since everything else is a hillside of some kind. I'm always amazed, passing the Country Club, to see people playing golf in the midst of gorgeous nature. Go for a hike people! OK, maybe that's just me.

If you go straight on 236, you climb for a few miles and then descend into the park headquarters, then climb out again, descending to Waterman Gap. So your legs really feel the basin. You get the summer traffic heading into and out of the park.

If you bypass the park on China Grade, you get a tough climb on a gorgeous little road. On this hot day, almost completely shaded by redwoods, tan oaks, and a multitude of other trees. For mileage, China Grade technically qualifies as a shortcut. For Super Tour training, it's steeper and more better.

Which one would you pick?
China Grade winds in a normal way until it crosses Little Boulder Creek, at which point it heads straight up for a couple of miles. Instead of feeling the basin, my legs are feeling every contour line as it is crossed. I'm in some kind of meditative stupor, induced by aerobic effort and good old pushing. 

The trees and their root systems are evocative helpers. They turn my thoughts to notions of time, and importance. They are masters of survival, of reaching deep into the earth for it.  

Redwood fairy ring.
Redwoods are designed to automatically regenerate. When the main adult tree is damaged or starts to die, new trees sprout up around it in a circle or ring. That's the concept. When you stand among these trees, they have a visceral force that is quite powerful. "Fairy ring" is WAY too romantic. They're saying, we survive. We survive together. We're in it for the long haul.

Trees have stem cells, just like us. The image of trees harnessing their own genetic material makes me think of neurons regenerating. Yet another example of reuse. I find it reassuring, validating for the path I'm on.

About a mile from the top a new Mercedes rounds a blind corner (there are many), honking its horn to warn other cars. I'm thinking, and what is an oncoming car to do? Back down the hill? Urban expectations out here in the forest. There isn't always a way to be safe.

When our paths cross, the driver's window is down and the driver pokes her head out. "Is this Big Basin?" she asks. The car is full of people. I start telling her how it's technically park property but the road bypasses the park. She asks me how to get to the park from here. I'm not at my best, but the following becomes clear:
  • She thinks they turned onto this road from Highway 9 (not possible).
  • She's following the signs to Big Basin State Park (no map).
  • The other people are her Italian relatives, none of whom speaks English. 
  • The male relatives are admiring the Waterford's iridescent orange paint job.
  • Someone official, maybe a state park employee, is on the phone via Bluetooth inside the car.
Somehow we humans are still walking the earth!

I offer to show her where to turn at the top of the hill. It's not hard to imagine them crossing 236 to the other side of China Grade, the part that becomes dirt on the way to a boy's summer camp. But I'm creeping too slowly for them. She passes and at the stop sign there's no sign of the Mercedes. Hopefully all is well.

Sometimes a sweet little road in the middle of a ride will cast a warm glow over the whole experience. Just makes everything fine. And so it is with the detour on China Grade. The trucks of this morning are forgotten. The fast descent into Waterman Gap, the gentler climb up Highway 9. It's all about the contours of the earth. Feels totally natural to be out here all day long. Feels like home.

On the way back to Saratoga Gap, check out these two views of Big Basin, looking southwest. One is sort of impressionistic. It conveys the mood of the landscape, but is missing some details. You have to conjure Big Basin behind that tree.

In fact, if you don't already know Big Basin is in the background there, it's just a photo of a tree.

If you can tell what kind of tree it is, please comment!

Now, that is Big Basin.

Monday, June 18, 2012

10 Myths of "Recovery"

Found this the other day, via Google:

Debunking Ten Myths of "Recovery" from a textbook  (I think) on brain injury. The first one is kinda hard to read, but the rest of them resonate with my experience. That might mean we have to accept the first one, too.

The web site is a collection of links gathered by an acquired brain injury survivor.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The 3 R's

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

The other week I came back from the library with a Henning Mankell book. Didn't know if I'd already read it. After reading and returning it I still have no idea. It was a good read though! One Step Behind.

Repetition is how I've been moving forward since the accident. That feeling of disorientation, wondering whether I've been here before, wondering where I am. It's the downside of everything familiar actually becoming a new experience. Press on. Do it again. Make it real.

Can I relearn what used to be familiar, by being patient and repeating things over and over? It's a big experiment.

I've been looking for some empirical research to support this approach. That is, that repetition can help TBI survivors establish a new store of familiar patterns. In the process I came across this anecdotal evidence. And more first-person advice here. Along with a network of brain injury blogs to link to. Huzzah!

But so far, I haven't found any neurological studies in this area. If you know of any, please comment!!

And here's an essay that argues it is not all wasted effort, a nice counterpoint to the video.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday Montebello VI

Got my act together in mid-afternoon. Have been trying to talk myself into a Big Ride. So much resistance. That'll teach me...

I am signed up for Super Tour 2012 (Oregon Cascades). A spot opened up and I needed a goal and on some kind of impulse, I raised my hand. This means getting on the bike. Big Rides and Small Rides. Spinning class and the gym. 32 days until we meet in Ashland.

Climbing is needed, lots of climbing, fortunately not a problem around here. Motivation is the gating factor. Then it hits me -- no need to go to Woodside. It's Wednesday and a certain climb is the traditional choice! Low traffic, a fast getaway, scenic beauty, and 3200 feet of climbing in 35 miles.

Today was supposed to be cooler than the last four days. It was not cool, however, on the climb. Sweat dripped from my arms onto the Waterford's top tube. I pressed on with thoughts of a mint iced tea at home, afterward. I savored the shady spots.

To the east the whole Silicon Valley was under a stripe of brown haze. It's an inversion layer day. On those days, climbing doesn't buy you cool-ness. It's hot everywhere, sometimes hotter up on the ridge.

I'm looking at the spot down there where our house must be.

At about mile 16, close to the end of the pavement, the first cooling breeze pushes over the ridge, from the west. Then it stops. The marine layer is pinned against the coastal hills a few miles away. It can't move...
Looking toward the Pacific.

There are other signs that summer came here while I wasn't watching.

That blond color.

With no rain for 2 months, the dirt surface has turned dry, loose, and treacherous in places.
Bicycle tracks in the loose gravel.
My seat bag is packed for contingencies, with a jacket, arm and knee warmers, and a thin wool hat. Everything stays right where it is for the summit and the trip back down those snake-y curves of Page Mill.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WalMart Nation

1. Trains. We saw them on Route 66, day and night, from LA to Albuquerque. We rode parallel to the tracks, waving at the engines. Once in a while we got a whistle blow. Many times we crossed tracks on roads. We heard trains before going to sleep at night, at 3 am, after breakfast while packing the van. Long freight trains, many cars and engines long. The whistles and rumbling of the cars is the music of Route 66.

Of course the roads that made up Route 66 were built along the railroad right-of-ways. No mystery there.

What we all noticed was the number and length of the trains. So many cars! A lot of momentum, a lot of diesel burned. We were witnessing the moving of goods on a grand scale. On a global scale, in fact.

Anyone can see that most of the cars are boxcars and if you look carefully, containers that can travel by ship, rail, or truck. So the next thought comes automatically. WalMart. These containers came off a ship from China at the Port of Los Angeles. They're making their way inland to a WalMart store near you. Again, the scale of this logistics project - staggering.

Another puzzle: why not the interstate? We saw semi trucks every day on I-40, and we saw the truckers at  truck stops, roadside casinos, and DQs. What are those folks doing, if not moving goods? We figured that those containers must be doing the long haul distances. Long haul, big volume. It's probably more cost-effective to use rail for long distances and many containers.

But somewhere around Bagdad Cafe a question was nagging at me. Trains were heading westward too. Almost as many trains going west as east. I was stumped. I asked Lon 'what kind of goods could possibly be produced in the east and consumed in the west'? I couldn't think of a single thing Danny or I consumed that was produced east of the Mississippi. Sure, a few trains pulled cars with FedEx and UPS logos on them, but they were in the minority. Probably carrying Internet purchases. Probably from Amazon.com ;-)

Lon guessed that the containers on westbound trains were empties heading back to LA and then China. Of course! The empty cars and the full cars look the same from the outside.

2. Coincidentally, this trip caused my first-ever visits to WalMart.

  • The pre-ride weather forecast required serious plastic bag-gage. On Easter Sunday, we ended up at WalMart in my town. It was the only place open that sold huge Ziploc bags. After 15 years, there was no avoiding a trip to WalMart.
  • 2 weeks later in Grants, NM, Veronica and I walked to WalMart in the dust storm. I got breakfast: Chobani yogurt, donut holes, and Starbucks Via. Even if we had been able to get to downtown Grants (the Route 66 part) I'm not sure there would have been a market there. In Grants we could see the original value proposition of WalMart at work - bringing affordable basics to rural (poor) communities. It's hard to oppose that, at least in principle.

As we observed the mighty WalMart supply chain in action, I was actually getting sucked into that supply chain!

3. While researching this post, I became aware that WalMart is moving into the area where I grew up. Economically speaking, an area not unlike some of these communities on Route 66. Still. There's no railroad to move goods from the Port of Oakland 300 miles north. A lot of trucks will need to move up and down Highway 101. I wonder what infrastructure changes WalMart will try to advocate for, politically, in this economically fragile region. Fingers crossed...

Back in the saddle

Wednesday I had to get out of the house. C. was coming to clean. It was time to take the Waterford for a spin.

Two and a half weeks of no biking, none at all since the Santa Fe Century on May 19. It's been a struggle to find motivation. No structure = nothing happens.

I would love to just be able to rest. My body is still recovering from Route 66, or the Central Coast Double, or some combination thereof.

Good thing the Waterford is such a pleasure to ride. Light, comfortable, steady. It's that new generation of steel frame. Woodside seemed like a good goal, via a climb up Old La Honda. Beautiful day. I liked it so much I told myself it was Pescadero on Friday. So it was, and we went to Pescadero Friday. Slowly, especially on the way back. Being sick for 2 weeks does not help, either.

I brought the camera. Hoping to see something new in these familiar places. Kinda like all those new-to-me places we saw on Route 66! Maybe what I'm really tired of is not the landscape, the roads, and the same old places to stop. My thoughts have just been in a rut these days.

After climbing the hill and starting down the west side, the first change of note is the pavement. While we were on Route 66, San Mateo County has repaved west Old La Honda! Mostly. They left some mysterious stretches of old pavement.

Like, you missed a spot...
The signs warn us tourists: Narrow Road, Winding Road Ahead, Loose Gravel, Rough Road Next 2.7 miles. Horses on the road. Now, where is the sign for Senseless Unpaved Spots?

This thought and many others fly by on Pescadero Creek Road. I've always been curious about Phipps Farm. How many times have I passed this place and yet never stopped? Still too focused, not stopping today either. Getting back in the saddle, you want to stay in the saddle.

Coming into town, something is different, though. The goat field on the right at the corner of North Street is cleared! Empty! Where are the goats??? What happened here? This corner is, or was, the site of Harley Farms, makers of artisanal goat cheese and other treats. A fixture in Pescadero.

Why did the goats cross the road?
A new possibility: a farm can move. Last September they began moving to a new field and barn across the road.

Taking a photo requires rolling a few feet into a gravel driveway and getting out the camera. The goat-lets may be cute as a button but slouches, no way. A first one bleats a greeting, and in a flash the whole tribe is trotting over, bleating away. Ears bouncing. I am trying not to laugh... What are they asking for, carrots? If so I came unprepared...

Another thing I'm unprepared for is the Welcome Committee. A fat, ankle-high mutt, who chases me all the way out to the middle of Pescadero Road. Hey those stumpy little legs can move! Arriba!

I'm too hungry to argue with him. We are definitely NOT amigos, but the taqueria in the gas station is calling. A tamal plate and a cup of horchata fuel the small-ish climbs on Stage Road. This is the old Highway 1, set slightly inland among gorgeous rolling hills, fields, orange and yellow wildflowers, and occasional ocean views. Takes my mind off my stomach, which is not that happy.

This is a favorite hawk-watching road. They like to soar over the blond fields looking for mice. No hawks today.
Stage Road, Pescadero, San Mateo County, California
Come to think of it, some folk art is missing too. Along the Pescadero Creek there used to be a house with dozens of pink plastic flamingos in the yard. Now it is just a hillside, flamingo-free. And the farm at the bend in Stage Road was guarded for years by a metal skeleton wielding a machine gun. Seemed kind of overkill for an urban sheepdog retreat, but hey! Here's to springing up wherever, like wildflowers.

For some reason I always imagined the sculptor was a teenage boy. Maybe he moved on and took it with him. Then on Highway 84 in La Honda, someone has taken up the possibilities of scrap metal!
Roadside family portrait.

3 faces and a tie of dollar bills....
I like the construction details and the ingenious way the different types of metals are reused. Each piece has its own "personality" but they also clearly belong together. A family. High quality stuff, I say.

A cold Coke at La Honda Market faciliates the climb back over the ridge. My stomach settles during  the ride home.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bikkie patrol!

On Route 66, the van always had an array of goodies for us. Apples and oranges and bananas, peanut butter and jelly, cookies, beef jerky. Soda and V-8 in the cooler. Gatorade. We could just belly up to the bar (and we did). All good riding food. And mostly sugar, sugar, sugar.

Very little of this was legal when I was growing up. My special favorites were the cookies my mother refused to buy. You know, those sandwich cookies with "creme" fillings, like Oreos. Mother's English Tea. Taffys. Believe it or not, Oreos are a great riding food! Most cycling events feature them at rest stops. They're salty and sweet and calorie-rich. Mmmmm.... But I digress.

At the end of a trip like that, one of the transitions you have to make is diet. Thea kept repeating a mantra to herself the last few days. Our last few meals together she would mutter under her breath, preparing for the transition. Something like, gonna have to ramp back on the calories when I get back home.

It's not just the volume of calories that has to change. When you ride a bike all day, up and down, dirt and pavement, the body burns whatever you shovel in. Waffle combo. Enchilada plate (with green chile). Milkshake! When you stop doing that, what you eat becomes more important too. Time to focus on the type of fuel.

Your brain knows the difference. A few weeks ago I ran into this article about Omega 3's versus sugar. Oreos vs., say, salmon. Both excellent for the taste buds! Only one is good for the brain, though. Guess which one.

What I'd really like to know is, after they stopped feeding the rats Oreos, did the rats ever stop craving them?

Full disclosure, this morning's breakfast was a donut. Someone in the house has a Massive Sweet Tooth. But in general, since the trip I've ramped way back on sugar, mostly by cutting out dessert. I notice I can taste it now, in supposedly not-so-sweet drinks.

This week's treat is two wild salmon steaks, waiting in the fridge :-)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Breadcrumbs and popcorn

At the library the other day I needed help. I had checked out a book on folk art. When it was time to leave the library, the book got left behind.

This is typical TBI move. Even so, I was stumped when I got home and went to show the book to Danny. It was not with the other books in my bag. I looked over and over. Where could it be? Where could it be?

It's still not my view of myself, the kind of person who drops every sort of thing wherever. When I look in the mirror I see my old self, not Hansel from the fairy tale. Every breadcrumb is a different item, usually valuable. I'll never find my way out of this forest.

The next morning the library catalog showed the book was recently returned. So last night someone  checked it back in. Excellent - we can forget about Hansel and just go get it! No one has to know.

Searched the shelving carts. Found the other 3 books I had looked at, but not this one. Stood in line at the front desk. Talked to the clerk, and by this time forgot the name of the book. We looked up the name together. She threw up her hands and said there was no way to find the book anyway. The supply chain at the library is just not that robust. The business process is clear but the IT infrastructure can't tell you where a book is in the library.

Then she said, the book could be buried in a pile at the return kiosk, or it could be on the shelf.

When you're leaving your things everywhere and forgetting names and important details, your survival skills kick up a notch. Can't take credit - this just seems to happen.

No, I said. It can't be on the shelf or in a pile of other returned books. The other 3 haven't reached the shelf yet. This one needed special handling, so it would be a step or two behind in the supply chain. Not a step or two forward.

And no, it can't be in a pile of other returned books because it never went into that pile to begin with. It came from inside the library and shortcircuited the whole return loop. Furthermore, according to the computer it is already checked in. But not shelved. So it can't be in a pile of books waiting to be checked in. That's not how libraries work.

It must be behind the desk, could you take a look?

We don't keep library materials behind the desk for any length of time, it can't be there.

Could you take a look for me anyway? (at this point, raising my voice and speaking firmly)

At this point she is probably thinking, who is this person who left a book behind and then forgot the name of it and now is telling me how to do my job? Who cares if she gets her stupid book!

And at this point I am thinking, yes I got knocked on the head and I forget stuff that makes me look stupid to someone like you. But the stupid facade hides an A #1 escape artist who solves self-inflicted problems 24x7. Figuring out where stuff HAS to be because all other options have been eliminated, that is my specialty. Now go behind the counter and get my freakin' book.

She goes away and comes back 90 seconds later. No book.

I get the reference librarian upstairs and she goes downstairs behind the same desk and by golly comes back with the book.

When you leave stuff everywhere and forget details all the time, it becomes really important that the book is behind the counter. One, when you find the book you can pick up where you left off after this fascinating, frustrating detour. I mean, no one would consciously choose to live this way.

Two, if the book is not where logic says it must be, your brain ain't worth a kernel of popcorn (unpopped). And if that's the case, why be in the library at all? Why not take up skydiving? At least plummeting through the atmosphere, you wouldn't have to show your faults to people who are supposed to help but don't. There's no time for that.

Before my head injury, I wasn't aware of relying on others much at all. Situations like this one didn't really happen to me. I didn't forget stuff. So I didn't realize how unhelpful other people could be. How much I really don't like needing to rely on them. The whole machine feels pretty broken: me, and the people who are supposed to help.