Saturday, October 16, 2010

Carole King -- "I Feel the Earth Move" (1971)

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling

Six months ago today, I was working in my yard when I experienced an odd but relatively mild sensation of tightness in my upper chest.  I took an aspirin, went to the nearest hospital, and was told about 12 hours later -- long after the chest tightness had gone away --  that I had an elevated level of troponin in my blood.

Coronary arteries
Troponin is a protein complex that is integral to muscle contractions in certain types of muscle, including cardiac muscle.  When your troponin is above a certain level and you have the other symptoms I had, that means you've officially suffered a heart attack.

When the cardiologist told me that, I found it more than a little hard to believe.  By that time, I felt perfectly normal.  I had felt only very mild discomfort, and did not experience most of the classic signs of acute cardiac syndrome -- like tightness or pain radiating to the left arm and jaw, nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath.  I don't have a family history of heart disease, I've never smoked, I'm not overweight (OK, maybe a little), and I exercise regularly.  Last but not least, I eat salmon two to four times a week -- and have been doing so for more than 15 years.

Coronary stents
Shortly after that, my doctor had punched a hole in my groin, inserted a catheter into my femoral artery, and placed a stent in my right coronary artery, which had turned out to be 80%-90% blocked.  A couple of days later, I went home.  Every thing's been hunky-dory ever since, and there's no reason to worry.  Which doesn't mean I don't worry, of course.

Today is also the 24th birthday of my twin daughters, Sarah and Caroline.  It didn't hit me at first that the two events took place at these perfectly opposed points on the calendar.  If you think of the year in terms of the earth's orbit around the sun, the earth's position on April 16 and its position on October 16 are directly opposite one another, separated by exactly 180 degrees -- just like the earth's position on the first day of winter and its position on the first day of summer are separated by 180 degrees.

Sarah and Caroline (1994) 
In case you're wondering how I know Sarah is on the left and Caroline is on the right in this picture, note that Sarah is holding the paintbrush with her left hand -- she is left-handed, while Caroline is right-handed. Most sources will tell you that is an indication that they are "mirror-image" identical twins.

But an East Carolina University genetics professor calls the whole handedness thing into question.  He says twinning and left-handedness are somehow genetically related, although the exact mechanisms involved are not clear, and then he drops this little bombshell: "Most twin conceptions result in no births at all, and for every twin pair born, about 10-12 people who grew from twin embryos are born single. It is actually possible that every lefthander in the world is a twin. I'm not saying I believe that, but it is not impossible and there is no evidence against it."  Wow.  (I'm left-handed.)
Getting back to the 180-degree thing, there's a parallel concept in Chinese astrology.  Everything I know about Chinese astrology, I learned from the paper placemats they give you in Chinese restaurants.  But as I understand it, there's a 12-year cycle, with each year named after a different animal.  2010 is the year of the tiger -- so was 1986 (the year my daughters were born).  I was born in 1952, which was the year of the dragon.  (The next year of the dragon will be 2012.)

The Chinese zodiac
Think of a clock face, and imagine that the chart below is rotated so that my year -- the dragon -- is at 12 o'clock.  The sign that would be directly opposite the dragon at the 6 o'clock position is the dog.  Normally opposite signs do not see eye to eye with one another.  They are competitors.  (The most compatible signs for the dragon are the monkey and the rat, which would be at 4 and 8 o'clock, respectively.)

Like the dragon and the dog in Chinese astrology, April 16 and October 16 stare at one another   from directly opposing locations on a circle.  It is impossible to be further away from April 16 than October 16 -- and vice versa.  And although it might sound like an apples-to-oranges comparison, the two most opposite days in my life to date have been the day of my heart attack and the day my daughters were born.  (I have two sons as well, and I'm not saying that I prefer girls to boys.  But I got both girls on the same day -- so it's simple mathematics.) 

Now that I think of it, one other event that rivals the birth of Sarah and Caroline in significance took place on October 16.  That was date in 2003 (the year of the sheep, by the way) when the Yankees were down 5-2 in the 8th inning against the Red Sox in game 7 of the American League Championship Series.  Somehow, the Yankees managed to come back to tie the game against Pedro Martinez, the most dominant pitcher in the AL that year, and won the game when Aaron Boone -- yes, I said Aaron Boone! -- hit a home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the 11th.  (Boone hurt himself in the off-season, the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to play 3B, and Boone never appeared in another game for them.)

In any event, it's clear that October 16 PUMMELS April 16, which -- unless you are one of the 41% of Americans who pay no income taxes -- is the day after one of the most unpleasant days on the calendar.

Turning to our song of the day, "I Feel the Earth Move" in the first track on Carole King's phenomenally popular album, Tapestry.  I am not really exaggerating when I say that every girl I knew in college owned this album.  It was the #1-selling album in the United States for 15 consecutive weeks in 1971, and two singles from the album -- including this song -- reached #1 on the singles chart.  (James Taylor's cover version of another song on the album, "You've Got a Friend," was also a #1 hit that year.)  

Tapestry has sold 25 million copies worldwide -- including one to each and every one of the approximately 150-175 females in the Rice University class of 1974.  It was at one time the biggest-selling album in history, and no album by a female solo performer has ever stayed on the Billboard charts longer.  

I don't have a lot to say about this album or this song.  King is first and foremost a songwriter, not a singer -- besides the songs of her own albums, she's also written (or co-written) hit songs for artists ranging from the Shirelles to Bobby Vee to Aretha Franklin to the Monkees -- but she knows to keep it simple and not try to do too much as a performer.  I don't mean that to sound like I'm damning her performing style with faint praise, but I don't think she compares to her contemporary, Laura Nyro, as a singer.  She may not be as good a songwriter as Nyro was either, but songwriting shouldn't be a competition -- they both wrote many very good songs that were also very popular, and that is a very rare accomplishment.

King is still touring at age 68 -- she and James Taylor were wowing large crowds just this past summer.  Sadly, Nyro died in 1997 (at age 49) of ovarian cancer.  

Here's Nyro singing "Save the Country":

Here's "I Feel the Earth Move":

Here's a link you can use to buy this song from Amazon:

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