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This is it for me for a while. Over the next two weeks, you'll have to slog through reprints of earlier columns while I recover from something I did to myself a long time ago. Sorry.

When you're young, you don't know your body is keeping score and that you'll pay for every single thing you do to yourself.

Rodeo riding, snowboarding, cliff climbing, parachuting, etc. — those all sound thrillingly daredevilish when you're barely out of puberty and just trying to have a little fun.

Motorcycle helmets? They're for wimps. I can ride my board down that stadium handrail. So what if I fracture my pelvis cliff jumping? Isn't that why morphine was invented?

You can sit around and laugh about how many times you broke your arm, dislocated your neck or sprained your tailbone doing something anyone with an ounce of normal smarts would think, "How stupid do you have to be to try that?"

Just wait. Forty years later, there's nothing dare devilish about waking up in the morning and pushing yourself facedown into the bathroom with your toes because nothing else on you works. You'll wish you could time travel back and slap some sense into your dumb ass yourself.

Or not. Maybe you'll be spry well into your geezerhood. Maybe you'll be one of those freaks of nature who can take a lot of physical abuse and get away with it. But take a look around at the battle damaged. Do you really want to play the odds? I did.

This is just what I'm thinking as I stare down the barrel at surgery. On Friday, I get my shoulder opened up thanks to something I did way back when my motto for crazy stuff was, "How bad could it be?

I'm paying now for bashing into the ground 35 years ago, doing something my wife told me not to do because she understood (as do responsible people everywhere) that oafs with short attention spans shouldn't jump out of airplanes.

That high speed land augur earned me a pin in my shoulder and a lifetime of being unable to sleep on my left side. Along with some other stuff, it also affected my posture so that my right shoulder has gradually come apart. I don't know which side I'll be able to sleep on now.

I confess that I had a lot of fun back when my body could take it. I still laugh with friends about the time a tree broke my fall from a gondola, or I tobogganed the stairs in the old Salt Palace Convention Center. The infamous '71 shopping cart drag races earned me a bum elbow.

But stunt scars won't make you feel all warm and fuzzy when you reach an age where even Vicodin has a hard time doing that for you. The bill for that time in your life when you mistook testosterone for intelligence always comes due.

For the past two months, I've been functioning only because of drugs and dread. I can sit at my desk only with the help of hydrocodone, and I make deadline only because I'm afraid of my wife and my editor.

It's time to fix what I shouldn't have done in the first place. Most people get to this point in their lives about something. I'd feel worse about it if I didn't have all this company. See you in two weeks.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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