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If I injure my back on tour, can I write of the massage come tax time?

Who knew rocknroll could be so dangerous? Last Friday night — actually, it was Saturday morning — I was lending The Nadas a hand in their load out of Sokol Underground in Omaha, Nebraska. It was a fabulous night. I’d never been to Omaha. I called my brother to tell him I was standing in front of the Mutual Of Omaha Headquarters. The audience was small but mighty. They sang along to every tune. And all things considered, they were pretty darned gracious to me. The guys invited me onstage for “Do It Again” and “Girlfriend,” which Mike, Jason and I had just tracked that morning. I felt good. My whole body was smiling.

I lifted a road case — The Nadas have dozens — into the trailer when I felt something spike in my back. A sharp pain shot from my waist to my shoulder blades. I grimaced, and moved on to another heavy piece of rocknroll machinery. Jason poured me a shot of Templeton Rye on the bus later. The crew slid into their bunks one by one. I sat up listening to Josh Davis’ “Don’t Follow” a few times before pulling out my bed in the rear lounge and drifting off into a Miller High Life soaked slumber.

The morning came quickly through the blinds. I felt the bus lurch forward, then steadily gain speed. I heard Mike laughing over the roar of the engine. I stumbled up front to find him pointing the mighty gray whale eastward into the sunny interstate. He was laughing uproariously at XM Radio’s comedy channel. It was barely seven o’clock. He was wide-awake. I limped back to my bunk clutching my back like an eighty-year-old and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up in Des Moines, and hobbled off the bus.

While The Nadas and their crew are sensitive, thoughtful folk, the road is not a place for the weak. Jokes are frequent and eviscerating. And so I didn’t announce my injury. I didn’t complain. I simply washed down a few Advil (with an Excedrin for good measure) with warm beer, and resumed my day. I grabbed a cup of coffee with Jason and Charidy, choked down a stale Danish, and pointed my Pontiac towards the next show.

A steady diet of Advil kept the pain at bay all week. Until yesterday. I woke from a few hours of sleep (the State Fair show was followed by an AK’s after party which was followed by a late-night breakfast) clutching my back with my left hand, my head with my right. When I climbed onto the regional jet out of Des Moines at five o’clock, I had no idea I’d be wedged between two overweight businessmen for ten more hours. I could barely stand in the taxi line at Newark.

I deal in music news. By day, my colleagues and I bandy about tales of celebrity woe: lawsuits, arrests, rehab. We’ve laughed more than once at the thought of Mariah Carey taking time off for exhaustion, or Ashlee Simpson canceling a show due to laryngitis. No longer.

I limped into the office on three hours sleep this morning. My first order of business, subsequent to regailing my colleagues with tales of cows carved entirely of butter, was to book myself a massage. Now, I’m not the massage type. I get exactly one a year on the day after the New York City Marathon. But it was mission critical today. And so, hours later — after the budget meetings, the creative conversations, the emails and conference calls — I climbed onto a massage table at Feline Spa. Laying there, reminding myself to exhale (without sounding creepy), I tried hard not to think about work or the new record. The massage was downright painful. She never really got at the spot that hurts. And before I knew it, I was laying alone in the dark. Walking home — slowly — through a sea of harried Upper West Siders, I wondered if I’d ever feel like myself again. Then I wondered what it feels like to be myself.

The road is a thankless mistress. I’m paying for the affair.

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