There are great years, then there not so great years. 2006 was definitely that latter. From the viewpoint of someone observing my life, you might think I was living a charmed life, and to a certain extent I was. But, this was the year during which I discovered what chronic pain actually was. Like most of us, I thought pain came in three forms.
First, there’s a physical pain due to being uncomfortable, sick or injured. You take some acetaminophen or ibuprofen and go on your way, maybe rest a little. Second, there is emotional pain due to the loss of a loved one, a breakup or the loss of something important in your life such as a job. Time heals those wounds, even it’s not completely. Finally, there’s the physical pain involved with exercising or training for athletic competition. The pain you experience while lifting weights, running in a timed run, the pounding you take in football, the constant change-of-direction movement in basketball, soccer or tennis, the constant down-and-back in swimming, etc. Those are temporary pains that you learn to break through in order to become better.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, is something that never goes away and seems like all three of the aforementioned types rolled into one. You never escape it. It wakes you up at night and keeps you from sleeping, making you constantly sleep-deprived. You never feel refreshed or caught up on rest. Then, there’s the days of breakthrough pain, which seems to be at a whole new level. I hate those days the most, which I have been battling the past couple of days. My patience is non-existent and my body feels like I’ve been running a marathon, played an afternoon of basketball games, then beaten with a baseball bat. That’s been my life for the past three days. Later today, I will rally because we are watching our grandson for a few hours, then I will collapse.
It was in 2006 that I knew something was wrong with my body. My spine did not feel stable. I was immediately sent to pain management because I was also complaining of constant back spasms and back pain, but all of that stemmed from the lack of a fusion of vertebrae L4 and L5. When you are sent to pain management, the immediate concern becomes that you are an addict, which was not true of most of us. But, that’s American society and our false mantra of picking yourself by your bootstraps.
So, I was beginning my foggy period of life, in a haze of medications while attempting to work my way through this, since that’s what you did in sports. It’s the old “are you hurt or are you injured?” question. Even when I was probably injured, I tried to bounce back quickly as if I were hurt. The problem was that I could no longer deny that I was injured, no matter how I tried to ignore it and just carry on. 2006 represented the year when I discovered I was invincible. So, I was battling to come to grips with my new limitations.
Still, there were a few albums that helped me survive this change in my life. So, let’s see what 2006 had to offer.
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2006). What a talent and what an album! This album was simply timeless in Amy’s jazz/soul singing and instincts brought up to date with tasteful touches of modern sounds from hip hop and R&B. She was a talent for the ages, and her absence is felt more and more as time moves on. Unfortunately, it may have been that internal pain of hers that moved her talent to the immortal level.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006). For a brief moment, this band was poised to be the next big indie rock band out of the UK. And, this debut set the tone. Unfortunately, once again, a huge English indie rock band does not translate well here, and they become a little bit bigger than a cult band here. Regardless, this album rocks.
Bob Dylan – Modern Times (2006). A few years earlier, Dylan quietly released an album called Theft & Love that introduced the bard of Minnesota to a whole new generation of music lovers. That album was something of the beginning of a whole new level of creativity for Dylan. Sure, the days of his world-changing music were 40 years in his rearview mirror, but he actually was entering a whole new phase like the old bluesmen of the past. Modern Times happens to be the best album in his catalog since 1976’s Desire. This is a great album.
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006). If you did not hear this duo’s song “Crazy” back in 2006, you may not have been on Earth. This album was the work of Danger Mouse, fresh off his Grey Album bootleg mashup of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album, and Cee Lo Green, former member of the rap group the Goodie Mob. I remember my older son bringing this CD home from college for me to listen to. What a visionary mix of the old and the new. Plus, how did “Crazy” NOT win the Grammy for Song or Record of the Year? Robbery!
John Mayer – Continuum (2006). In the aftermath of the surprising popularity of the Dave Matthews Band, there seemed to be a million or so acoustic guitar-based artists with whiny voices and sincere lyrics popping up everywhere. Initially, despite the protests of many of my students and athletes, I wrote off John Mayer as a somewhat pleasing poser. Then, he recorded this album that is steeped in the blues and Seventies soul that seemed to be something of a millennial’s What’s Going On. Finally, he was breaking through those silly love songs of his youth and stepping into being something of a serious artist. This album changed my opinion of him.
Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006). I never expected that little curly-haired dweeb from *NSYNC to be the man who would bring sexy back. But, that’s what makes rock music so much fun. Suddenly, this guy has grown into a major musical force yet will leave it behind for a bit while he pursued an acting career. But, this album was so good, that people never forgot and were constantly begging him to make a comeback, which he did in spectacular fashion. This album will be the one that launched him into superstardom and a future Five Timers Club member on SNL.
TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain (2006). This was the NYC band’s breakthrough album that caught the eye of many record buyers in the mainstream. This band has been described as something of America’s answer to Radiohead. And, there is a little truth to that description. On this album, the band’s production allows their music to breathe, much like Radiohead discovered on their O.K. Computer album. But, the music is still challenging but melodic (sound like someone else, uh, let’s say Radiohead?) and even soulful. They must have been good because David Bowie lent backing vocals to this project.
And, there you have it. I know, it’s a short list, but it is packed with some outstanding albums. Catch you later! Peace.