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Down But Not Out In Edgewater

by Geraldo Rivera | May 21, 2010

Looking out at my trusty old sailboat Voyager riding comfortably on her mooring in front of my home, just down stream from the George Washington Bridge in Edgewater New Jersey, the fact hit me that I wasn't working on a weekend afternoon. Since 20001, Saturday has been a show day for 'Geraldo At Large', and this one is an especially pretty late-Spring day on the Hudson River, so I'm feeling guilty about missing work. But I've done the unthinkable; I've called in sick.

Sick days aren't part of my nature. In forty years of hard marching, field reporting out beyond the wire from some of the grimmest places on the planet, plus the often nerve-jangling experience of doing studio and location shows by the thousands, I honestly don't remember ever taking a sick day off. That is not to say that I haven't feigned sickness during contract negotiations or to be free to be bad, back in the day. My main point is that until right now I have never been so incapacitated that I couldn't drag myself in and get it done; all the while being secretly scornful of weaker souls that beat it out of the office at the first sign of a cold or hangover.  So, generally fearless and combat-tested, and with a 'damn the torpedoes' personality, I've always 'answered the bell'. And 'if push came to shove', (is that too many metaphors?) done so with the confidence that I could still kick most asses. Until now.
The experience of forced inactivity yields some undeniable truths. First, that getting old sucks. Even if you're not sick, vital moving parts are wearing out. My left knee was replaced last October. That irksome recovery was nothing compared to the back surgery I felt compelled to undergo just now. The catalyst was my poor performance on the ground recently in Southern Afghanistan. That was two tough weeks in mid-February, when I could hardly keep pace with the rugged young Marines patrolling the dangerous, opium poppy- laden, IED-plagued, recently recaptured, semi-ghost town of Marja and similar, dusty shit-holes up and down Helmand Province, the world's heroin capital.
On foot patrol, I had to bend over every hundred meters to stretch my weak back or even sit down for a minute or so to relieve the pain and catch my breath. Walking at the rear of the column, I tried surreptitiously to touch my toes unnoticed; but out of the corner of my eye, caught the surprised, concerned glances of the elite war-dogs shocked by the suddenly fragile icon in their midst.
The recuperation from the back operation was going smoothly and I strutted around the 6th floor of New York's elite Hospital for Special Surgery at a crisp pace, climbing and re-climbing the steps in the physical therapy (PT) room demonstrating my flexibility and growing strength to the fine rehab staff at HSS. Then came the breakdown. On last Saturday night, my third in the hospital I was surprised by an unwelcome guest, an ex-con doctor who insisted on staying to talk about his legal problems until the last second of visiting hours. To show him through body language that I was not pleased with his persistent presence, I tried to slam the room's refrigerator door closed with one foot while leaning over still attached to the IV on my bed. The result was a popped sciatic nerve that is crippling.
After referencing an incredible photo on the front page of today's New York Post of a bullfighter getting gored in the jaw, I wrote my staff to explain why I was missing another weekend of work. Here's what I wrote:
"Basically I feel like the gored matador Julio Arparicio, and you should use that incredible pix on the show tonight; the only difference between me and my friend Julio is that my bull's horn is sticking through my thigh." not my jaw."
I just dragged my lame ass off the couch and out to make a little speech to a big group of local kids marching against breast cancer. Spent yesterday in hospital trying to figure out what's going on. Hopefully I'll be able to get it together for next weekend's shows. In the meantime I'm sure you'll all do great for Judge Jeanine Pirro (my frequent side-kick and friend). See you soon xg"
In the honest, 'cycle of life' discussions that former President Bill Clinton increasingly references, especially in the days since his own hobbling heart condition, it is common among my generation of aging Baby Boomers to regularly infuse any conversation with updates of the various maladies afflicting us. "How's it going," we quietly ask those with heart problems or prostate or colon cancer, perhaps if finding comfort in the struggle and triumph of others.
What's happening in me is non-life or career-threatening, but my busted sciatic nerve has certainly added thoughts of mortality and a dimension of discomfort that I want to purge as badly as Sigourney Weaver did the creature in 'Aliens'. I should be back to work soon, but in the meantime I'm focused on getting my body back from that creature without becoming a whiner or a pain-pill popping junkie in the process. Meantime, I trying to chill out, letting someone else do the heavy lifting. Hasta Pronto.   

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