Sunday, March 18, 2018

The fading loss of

I am still letting go of, my long suffering website... a digital space in which I invested uncountable swirls of creation, and now surrender to digital absolution.

I will no longer host this personal internet play-land. No longer bleed days, weeks, and months researching, building, in a mental world of pointless pointing... the great vacuous potential.

I did love deeply the creative process, riding the wave of new technology and the pedagogical potential. And now I am forced to face the inevitable obsolesce of both my vision and skill. In our sixties 'letting go' is a twisted knot, a daily discipline of untangling.

Lov-e was an acronym for Learning Online Virtually Everything. A grand adventure creating web pages full of interconnecting links, on all and anything that caught my fancy. Caught in that dream, I produced countless pages. Interfacing with students, or self-absorbed in this seductive electronic mirror, I blitzed out for weeks on end. Time spent in that deep well gazing at my reflection... A deep dark delusion of relevance, lightly lifted by dancing fireflies, pixels of pleasure.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Time at 66 within the confines of Parkinson's

Our most precious resource at any age, 'limits in time', a torment unrequested.  I stare off in a dark morning reflection. The monumental majesty of my remaining body, the deep breaths into my cavernous chest, testimony to my ongoing health, versus the encroaching invalidism of my Parkinson's.

How best to live? What takes precedence, within this barrage of distractions... little habitual delicacies amongst a profusion of obligations, all within the slave cell of time. My wheels spin in frustration. I bless having choice, curse the choosing.

I have a big house in the peaceful pleasantry of my mountain. Yet, to reach it, I have a treacherous drive, made more so by a progression of physical and mental symptoms. I slow my pace on the narrow roadway, frustrating the tailgating fastlane enthusiasts. I force away mental distraction, avoiding multitasking. I fight to keep my mind in line. Waves of anxiety pound my perceptions. I skirt the limits of skill and tactical options. I survive not thrive behind the wheel.

The possibility of buses and train is hampered by the standing and walking at either end. My walker too big to carry on size 'tiny'... the standard of Japanese mass transit. Stair-climbs, and short distances, leave me breathless and exhausted. I judge my ambitions by the distance between options of sitting down, public benches scarce here with space so limited.

Limited, yet essential, as accessible Western-style toilets in this continent accustomed to squatting. In Japan, relief has restrictions on all body functions. Nothing more predictably 'unpredictable' than the urinary and bowel rest spots to the Parkinsonian.

Solutions, like selling my home for a city-center handicap accessible. Giving up driving, and silent nights, for a little cement box in a concrete jungle. If not here, where? Somewhere else in Asia or a health-careless America? Is that the gist of it, or are there more shadows to wrestle with? Only timely selections, and biological necessities, will foretell where my youthful fortunes are left to depreciate.

Urgency creating anxiety my new circle of life.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dawn of the Inevitable

RL Seltman and Shirley Pu in "Narcissus Consumes Echo" 11/9/1980

The symptom is simple... I answer the phone, a call from a longtime family friend, and she wants to talk to my son. Then the void, I can't remember her name. In fact, I can't create an alternative way to express who she is. Just a blackhole, where once images and words would appear. Nothing... Fortunately, after painful seconds in that spooky void, a name, an image, I remember.

Soon after, the doorbell sounds, and my youngest son beats me to the door. It is our summer swimming pool ordered on Amazon.  I wobble quickly to sign for the package. And then again another symptom... I can no longer sign, no longer articulate a signature. Crude scratches microscopic in size represent a lifetime of practiced penmanship lost to a brutal scribble, chicken scratches. Another symptom of Parkinson's becoming more and more blatant, more and more the new me.

Japan has state-of-the-art elevators, including a polite but painful visual reminder. A small video screen greets me and shows me, in immaculate digital panorama, the back of my head. A daily reminder of my balding, a glowing ostrich egg, in a nest of white and grey. No longer the gentle knight, a rescuer of damsels in distress, but a fragile bent senior so obviously old, from every embarrassing angle.

Selfies are no longer fun. Finding a suitable self portrait, in a hard-drive of snapshots, is like dumpster diving for diamonds. There just isn't any gif that captures the boyish manliness, my sexy self-image. Bitable soft skin tender to the touch, replaced now by a turkey-like double chin. A stomach roll worthy of a greedy despot, a million mishaps short of a six-pack.

Fifty years ago my high school buddy and I would fist-punch each other's rock-hard stomach to verify our nightly challenge of sit-ups.  Now I cling to handrails, pulling myself slowly upward to a breathless landing, facing the inevitable, more floors to climb.

Thank God I'm still handsome! Feeling virile and forever... Happy in my delusion! Trusting in my dwindling supply of testosterone to get me through another night of luck and love.  "What choice do I have?" spoken by my old man, last time I saw him alive. And alive he was, a raucous rake, to the bittersweet end. A model to follow to the edge of my existence, persevering in glorious masculine fervor, grinning impishly to all the irony. What choice do any of us have?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thoughts on my 65th

A house is like a graveyard... filled with markers of vital spirits of inspiration all lying dormant, fading memorabilia. Books once read, video once watched, chinaware once filled with nutritious delicacies waiting now for the next generation to break and merge again with the earth.

My great grand uncle lived in a little house, adjoining the community burial ground, in his small Pennsylvania town. He was the one to cut the grass among the tombs and remove dead flowers left by those who came to remember.

But what I remember most vividly... is that hand-whittled slingshot he kept hidden on his back porch, overlooking the greenery and lawn. With a mischievous grin he'd stretch back the rubber, posing an aim, and gleefully describe how he protected his turf from critters and vermin... Any and all, who dare disturb his peace.

He taught me my first old man lesson. He was the little boy still alive in that wrinkled old carcass. In our end game, we old men need our sling-shot...
Some simple grumpy old-man way to say 'Hey! I'm still alive... there still some elastic left in these old bones.' Don't underestimate the bite under these dentures.

Old men survive as long as they can deliver their sting. It is the spice we are made of.   'Love us or leave us to die'... said with a slightly-sly naughty-boy's grimace and grin. We old men have our opinion... And, god-help-ya, we might just let you have it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Post Midlife Crisis; Facing the tidal wave of old age

Midlife Crisis is our cultural antidote to the tedium of overwhelming responsibility. Beyond the euphoria of youthful exuberance, new career, new neighbors, new kids, new car, new homes, et al, resides our indebted servitude, educational extortion, and a job that is 'real' work in the 'real' world. A flat plain pattern of sex, constipated coworkers, and cultural cliche up the kazoo, life ain't easy being lived, after the ecstasy of youthful folly.

Midlife calls us into a fresh quest for newness. An authentic hunt for health or an illicit affair, a new hair color or embarrassingly predictable patterns of consumption. Our senses take precedence over making sense. We go nuts feeling we deserve more from life. We need to say 'Hey!' while the sun still shines. So we go overboard a bit, till the tide brings us in.

But what happens next? When mathematically, middle means 'living to 120'. What is the point when you are done swimming in your fountains of inspiration? Where be the muse now to feed amusement? How to get off, when being on makes your body ache, when muscle tone descends into a wrinkled map of past excesses, where root canal and the death of companions become the core of conversation?

Bitch be the drawn curtain, revealing our decline into old age. When our memories appear as a quaint archeology to the youth in our life. At 50 you can smell it coming, by 60 it starts to stink, until at 65 life is a sewage of body stench from every pore of our fledgling insecurity. We hit the wall of our naive mythology, of how we might bloom into wisen maturity with sound insight. We are actually, as stupid as always, yet with far less skill to wing it.

All we have managed to do was confirm Buddha's warning, the inevitability of old age, sickness, and death. The memory of our youthful mimicry, of shaking bent absent-minded old-fogey, when being old was once the brunt of fun filled mirth, now all seems an ironic sad joke. We live the tears, and feel the wet salty fluid dribble down our chins, sorrow blended with delicious self pity. We are starting to see the end now, and it terrifies the fuck out of us.

We miss being young and stupid, instead of just old and senile. We miss the adrenaline rush that secreted passion, through tone muscles and a sparkling mind. The weird association of cosmic conclusion based on wild assumptions, raw platitudes of passion, as much chemical as clear light insight into exuberant animalism. We were spring and, now, late fall, with the chill of winter.

And baby it's cold outside.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Crows on the roof... Procrastination

The distinct hop and skip of crows on my roof.  I live, as much as I can, in my room. Here on the sunny second floor, high above my neighbor's garden and just below the birds.

I'd like to get out more. But these long nights, lost in half-awake, half-dream, leave me little energy for extra-curricular activities. My job and life-tasks command my time. Day is divided into morning, noon, dinner, and night medication, interrupted by perpetual jaunts to expedient thrones. I fill the cracks with distractions.

I have the luxury of being alone enough, to know, too much, of my inner thinking. A quagmire of guilt riddled recollections, concocted optimisms, and a smidgen of profound truths. I like and hate myself in a dialogue of seconds, until I hitch a ride on any old deliberation... the lyric of a shuffled in crooner, an articulate audio author, or a well placed podcast.

My self-selected lunacy, lavished on a percolating procrastination, an anxiety riddled avoidance, a pending premonition of hard times to come, or just another symptom of Parkinson's. I am frozen. And then, as quickly, freed. But freed to do what? More of the same old stuff or, possibly, some move, on the chessboard, I just can't see.

I need help from me, yet I stubbornly refuse to be cooperative. On the shaky ground of brunt obstinance. A donkey stance demanding stick.  I write this to avoid my to-do list. A quest for an excuse, permission to dismiss responsibility, for all or any of this.

Any con to neglect the inevitable, the master illusion of tranquil conclusion. Somehow get out of doing all the paperwork. To avoid the nasty bits, and nibble here the forbidden fruit of self-delusion. If only not working worked. If only I enjoyed the grizzle as much as the steak. If only I'd get done today, what I need to, today.

Not avoid the inevitable. To do, you know, whatever it was I was doing, before I started doing this. OH, now I remember, I was procrastinating.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Figure Another Ten Years

Maybe five more years, where I can still get around, then sets in more of the Parkinson's. After ten I'll be kicking, but not much more. Which makes me wanna do something tremendous, a swan song farewell. A cool step over the line. You know... something special.

Thus the rub. Fate's snub of my aspirations for the grandiose.

Mostly my time is wasted in maintenance. Doctor visits, gimping about, medication dosed out... a string of kind indignations, as the world of well-meaning good-intentions swallow me in a complacency. Endlessly shifting position, easing discomfort... Swirling in a world of friendly smiles, from well trained caregivers.

PD propaganda propagates a perpetual state of hope. Hope of a cure and hope as the cure. It is a tedious drone of optimism for people who live on the darker side of Parkinson. For those of us, who linger in our beds, in a wounded drool of depression. We get the message, acknowledge appreciation, yet we do not digest these happy pills of optimism. We know well how we feel.

I am teaching a swan to sing, as slippery time slimes past, in a maddening rush to an ugly ending. A tune of holy righteousness must come, from a quivering beak of indecision. I must find my voice even while it fades into an inevitable silence.

Hope is a rope to skip when young. Hope for we old is to build a bridge, beyond our predictions of sad demise into a living hilarity of on-going orgasm... to say 'Goodbye' as a triumphant 'Sayonara'. A kimono-clad hero waltzing off into the sunset.

To manifest a masterful final dance with my femme fatale, the Goddess of Happy Endings, is quest worthy of death. Wish me good riddance and my own happy forever-after ending. Help me to say goodbye wisely... artfully, with a hint of mint.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Neurological Lifestyle; The subtle implications of living with Neurological disorders
Intellectually, we all agree, there is an integral intimacy between body and mind. Yet facing this interplay, between the psychological and the physiological, is an annoying prescribed sensibility I'd sooner not have. Every damn chore, from putting on my pants to using the stairs, is a demanding challenge.. A task of survival.

Generally I look normal. I do curve forward, needing to remind myself to stand tall. I do shuffle not step, so need to map out my footpath long in advance. My left hand shakes and fails to grip, needing foresight with each simple task life throws at me.

I need to remember I am no longer the same. I need to recognise what I am doing and relearning how I need to do it. A lifetime of coordination training has to be remapped and practiced, with a child's beginner-mind simplicity.

But I am not a child, shielded by a loving mother monitoring my missteps. I'm an old man, with manly responsibilities and a vulnerable self image. I have lost spontaneity, no longer can I dive in the water in a ballsy dramatic gesture of romantic silliness. Instead I consider how the heck I could get out of the water once in. I am not sure if I can even still swim.

I can no longer say to a lover in an act of fury 'Let me out here...' because I'd be stuck far from the security of my room. I'd be in a world I once wandered freely, but now dread as an exhausting pain riddled incline... Home has become my hiding place.

I am forced to remain fully conscious in a world where body meets a sharp edged normalcy, a small world of endless discomforts, a call to be brave, steadfast, and happy, even when I am not. I am surrounded by heroes of labor, a hard working nation. I ask myself if I can persevere, as my body seeks the support of a chair and my mind hungers for sedation and distraction.

The only exit from brain disease is second guessing experience, a kind of metaphysical mix of hope, faith, and charity of expectations. To switch from the youthful quest for the perfection of existence, to the avoidance of discomfort and the eventuality of a slow degrading death.

Medical science yet on the horizon becomes my image of heaven. I lean on my cane, glaring at the sunset, hoping news will come of cure, a friendly face in a white coat, saying 'Try this pill.' Then I snap out of the dream and resume my existential test... my wilful war-dance of mind and body. I swallow the reality pill of living with a neurological disease called Parkinson's.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday the 13th, Living with Parkinson's

I love Friday the 13th. It pops up and colors an otherwise ordinary day. I love all the many little rituals that populate my world. In totality, they make my life. Absurd yes, random superstitions, plastered like bumper stickers on a prevailing normalcy.

Yet, I love these funny foolishnesses, lined in a row to make a day.

When I stumble out of the dream that occupies my mind and body, my delicious dance deep in delusion, I occasionally spend time on the plane of self-awareness. I note my flickering foibles. The silliness that is existence.

Recently, in a stew of prescribed medications and neurological symptoms, cooked in the cantankerous rock climb of disturbing sleep and drowsy daybreaks, I rise at dawn drenched in anxiety.

Mind you, I have no real fears. I will die, after an undisclosed number of years collecting nasty physical symptoms, yet that is no news to any of us. I live in a land of high security, surrounded by loving friends and friendly lovers. I have always lived a charmed life. Charmed in the jewelled luxury of boom time opulence, contrasted with enough tragedy to keep the drama plausible.

There must be an application for these jitters. Someway this relentless shaking, stiffening muscle torment, and prevailing paranoia can be wrestled down with reflective wisdom. Some trick of the mind, persuading me to will away whatever affronts the paradise of feeling fine.

I want to answer "How are you?" with a charming grin of self-assured "Wonderful!" and not the grim crotchety cackle of an old grey-haired codger. Though good fodder for humor, the grumbling of grey-beards gets old fast. Youth expects us to have skin that glistens and reassuring eyes twinkling in wizened wrinkles of insight.

Trouble is, for me, Facebook-posted truisms do not cure daily dawning in discontent. Something more is needed in the mix. So, I persevere, in a prickly convalescence, flirting with any delicious fish that takes my bait. I am focused on celebrating affection, worshiping the generous spirit of amour and her cousin love. I love Friday the 13th in the hope that bad luck is better than no luck at all.

I clamour for a fountain of courage and the energy to see it through. To make each day a romantic Latin love song. "I am wonderful" said in all sincerity, in a voice that echoes through the canyon bouncing back in a voluminous affirmation of good. Happy Friday the 13th!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Eat Pain to Survive in Style

I have neglected writing to avoid being a curmudgeon. Grumps can be comic relief, but fade, all too quickly, into social irritants. No on tries consciously to be boring. We don't choose to be ill-tempered, a no-fun dullard stick-in-the-mud. It raises from within, compounded by miss-matched mood swings, shattering our attempts to charm.

When your body aches in a sink hole of symptoms, while the mind struggles with depression, being inspirational is near impossible. Perhaps this is why the seriously sick stay home, not wanting to bore others with their menagerie of discomforts.  The dis-ease of disease can be contagious, and no one wants to bum-out their friends.

Facebook is one tool, though tricky-to-handle, for the self-imposed shut-in. Without cheerful adventures 'in the real world', on wind-swept beaches, with happy hoping pets, and smiling group photos with dear friends, our communique disintegrates into the darker-side of networking. Our Facebooking quickly gravitates to clinging to cliche of expression, the down-side of social discourse. Gaza, Ebola, and comedian suicides start to overshadow holiday highs.

So, to distance myself from my own disturbing chemistry, I retreat into sitcom reruns and search the back-roads of mental discourse, revitalising happy thoughts. I try and find the essence of all this funny business in staying alive. I lurk in Skype communicating with my children and friends, eat luxuriously decadent treats, and elaborate on fantasies that no longer have a chance to manifest.

I understand factually, in actuality, my body will never again be as healthy as today, certainly never younger, nor my opportunities as great. I know, well meaning truisms, platitudes of Pollyannaism, actually bring me down. What the hell, being ill and happy is the preverbal square peg in the a-hole.

Praying works, statistics tell us, if one is lucky enough to re-program logic into a loop of optimistic poppycock. If prayer works, good for you... if not, God help all the uncompromising atheist with Parkinson. This is not to say I would not love to be saved. But miracle cures, for our major diseases, do not grow on trees.

The Zen of it is, being 'saved' is living the jive I am. If there is pain, be pain-full, and just try and spare my social companions, with a bit of yogic exercise, simulated smiles. Give my friends a brake by baring down, biting the bullet, and being the clown. Being cheerful in my youth was as natural as spring. Now happy requires rehearsal time, and a whole lotta grit.

I need to learn to dance on many levels and ignore the smells of convalescence. Be kind by not complaining too much. Even smile my rye twisted grin, till true happiness comes home again, until cool and tempered brings social grace back to the mix.

Keep trying to be one with my Parkinson yet fun to hang with. The same way Muhammad Ali now does magic tricks to charm his guests, long after losing his voice and physical stature. To float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, a last stance at dignity. A cheerful hero in the cause of survival.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Rigid Back and the Despair It Propagates

Symptoms for Parkinson's Disease are myriad and personal. We are all different, though commonalities occur in the greater brotherhood of us Parkies. My left arm tremors are most conspicuous, though least of my present concerns, after all I am right-handed.

I just have to be damn careful while cooking or handling two-handed tasks. Watching me read while holding a paper, or drink while holding a cup, prerequisite for us teachers, can be quite comical in a cruel sort of way.

The cramping of foot and leg muscles for no apparent reason, so unpredictable and often in bed, are brutal pain-wise. My most terrifying fear, the loss of control in swallowing/throat muscles, is a foreshadowing I dread. Death by choking is real and my occasional choking sessions extremely embarrassing. As in the recent death from pneumonia by actor Bob Hoskins, when breathing and eating got mucked up together, the source of nightmares.

But the crème de la crème of nastiness, is the rigidity in my lower back. I am a turtle with too heavy a shell. Standing, walking, climbing stairs ages me by twenty years. I lust for a place to sit. I measure distances by feet where I once walked miles. Doing dishes can mean an agonising end to a potential day of chores. I feel hopelessly inadequate in the simplest of tasks. I live to put my feet up, to stop the pain, and bring back normalcy. 

I morbidly look at the dust accumulating, the weeds growing, the dreams abandoned, and feel my age and the death it proceeds. Gruesome stuff.

So I have to consider realistically the future, without knowing which symptoms will take precedence. Do I sell my house and choose a home with wheelchair access? Will my shrinking voice projection, body tremors, loss of mental clarity, leaky bladder, all, none, or more, prevent me from teaching?  

Some Parkinson cohorts play golf while others progress to a life in bed with live-in care. The only reliable fact is 'it is a degenerative disease'. Barring a miraculous new cure, it only gets worse. Shit happens and it hurts.

How much help can I expect, even ask for, from family and friends? How will my adopted country Japan, or my native US, react to an unemployed handicap senior? How much medical care do I factor into my future? How will I foot the bill to a protracted longevity? Cut out early, survive as a Ward of the State, a stone around the throat of love ones, cross the bridges, or wobble into the sea? Grim variables indeed.

So I talk about it with friends. Take note of my preoccupation with eating and the tightening of clothes it brings. Read what I can, project into a realm of potentials, feel thankful for all my blessings, stare at the moon. 

Music helps, though memories of dancing in abandonment crawl up my spine christening my brain with sad acceptance. I am not whole but want to be. Maybe there is something I am missing, a cure, or an adjustment in attitude.

Such is life with this nemesis Parkinson's.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Uncle Walt

Uncle Walt died this week of Lung Cancer. He had Parkinson's, and other aliments, but cigarettes did him in. Funny thing is, though death is surely sad, I can only envision Uncle Walt smiling. That provocative tilted grin... of a fox casing the hen house at dinner time. A look that said 'I know what you are thinking' ... and, scarily,  he usually did. Like this old snapshot of him lighting up atop deadly depth charger's. Crazy sexy. A dangerous seductiveness, fireworks to a boy, or leather-clad 'James Dean' for the girls.

Every one smoked back when I was young, but somehow Walt made it cool. He had a style that both fascinated and terrorised us little ones. He was sinewy, snarly, and unpredictable. He would hook into hobbies and take them to extremes. He was talented and couldn't help but impress you on his pursuits of perfection. 

He made his kitchens into showroom meticulous creations. He pursued photography deeply and then shifted to perfecting homemade wedding cakes, or renovating the old Firehouse streamline bus into a mobile cruiser. He was a master with his hand, a pragmatic electrician with a craftsman's imagination.

He single handedly rewrote the family geography, twice. First by buying a farm from a real estate catalogue, and drawing a large chunk of the extended family to the wintry wilds of Schoharie, away from the dwindling promise of an over-taxed Long Island. From our sprawling extension of Manhattan to the sleepy hills of Upstate New York, he converted city folk into happy country yokels.  And then again, with brave spontaneity, when the snow no longer suited his ageing bones, to South Carolina, for still lower taxes and even more country quiet.

Uncle Walt was an individualist. Like wondering onto blooming wild flowers deep within the woods, I will suddenly remember his mischievous eyes, his unique impish style, and the magic it brought into our lives. And I will mimic his smile, that teasing sly style, so uniquely Uncle Walt's.

Gozdziewski and Lindquist bonded into eternity.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thinking of Toshio Sasaki

Our show at STOREFRONT for Toshio Sasaki in 1982

Spring breaks with cool winds in Kyoto. 
Here in my mountain home, Hieidaira, my body shakes with Parkinson’s, the bitter sweet truth that age brings. 

Toshio was masculine genius, a sensitive individualist, unique in his perfection… a powerful artistic force. He lives, a radient jewel, tucked inside for reassurance. 

In Spring we remember the flowers we have known and they again bloom… a quiet moment in our garden with the perfection of beauty, immortalised in memory, manifest in a bud.

Thinking of you Toshio, 
wondering which collection of forms again could match your force, your unique truth in my life. Accepting your death as my own, 
the perfection we call Spring.


His last major work (a proposal for the World Trade Center memorial)

March 31st 2007

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is my Love of Japan inherently Evil?

As I grow old in Japan, so too grows my love. It can't be Nationalism, a sentiment I hold in suspicion, because I am not a citizen of Nihon. Nor does Japan particularly want me. At best, I believe Japan politely tolerates this outsider. I am simply a blip on the screen of the Japanese bureaucracy.

The Nipponese see me as an amusing nuisance as one does a young child, cute at a safe distance while under the care of the appropriate authorities. Japan is a master baby-sitter... And I am content to be a meek non-voting witness to the mad genius of this country.

Japan warms the cockles of my hardened heart. I love her immaculate infrastructure, as I ride my sterile taxi-bus over clean smooth highways from a space-age Kansai International... A polite white glove clad driver pronouncing niceties, over the crackle-free speaker system, to polite soft spoken passengers. Such a dynamic contrast to the hair raising, bone crushing ride on the other end, in my death defying kamikaze ride to the Cebu Airport in the Philippines.

In Japan, things work. Public space planners, of toilets and other essential comfort zones, always consider the customer. 'Okyaku-sama wa kami-sama desu' ...The customer is God. Which is not a Christian-like platitude, but a real functioning cultural assumption. The Japanese actually believe in honesty, responsibility, and each other's right to feel warm and fuzzy.

Underlying this is a sword swirling, suicidal self righteousness. But all countries have a Jingoistic backbone to frighten off the other Neanderthal. Fearing our neighbors is an assumption in Asia. Japan has bookstores full of racist crap and a National Diet filled with sour faced politicians, all too ready to prick their neighbors with pointy sticks.

Northeast Asia is an endless 'Punch and Judy' show. A drama we are forced to participate in, riders on a roller-coaster clinging to a precarious parapet... daily daredevil militaristic brinkmanship is our new normal.

Yet, all this said, I still truly love Japan. I love sushi and most of everything else served in this gourmet pleasure palace. Sure I know we are depleting the world supply of tuna, killing whales and dolphins for dubious 'cultural' reasons, and most likely exhausting the world's supply of chocolate. Who could resist a country where eating, packaging, serving all consumables is an elegant art form. And, by no means, let us not forget the women.

Who can not love a country, birth place of the infamous yet gorgeous Yakuza tattoo, where women are not tattooed and pierced like hellish voodoo dolls, now the fashion plate served elsewhere. Here creamy uncluttered skin, of delectable proportions, is still sacred and protected. Cleanliness and an semblance of tasteful fashion, the Goldilocks perfection of moderation... strong yet feminine, sweet yet sharp as the snap of a whip.

In the world of crime detection, it is ofter said, we are most likely to be murdered by those closest to us, those who we love. In a quest for art, beauty, and spiritual peace I found my way here. And though she may kill me, I can not resist kneeling at her feet, pledging my allegiance to her seductive charm. I love Japan and that warm and fuzzy feeling I get in her arms. If I am a fool, I am a fool in love.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Search for the Ideal 'Selfie'

I hate this new word selfie. The word is too cute. Cute, like the adorable mobile phones creating these mercilessly Facebook-likeable visuals.

 Technology today is too small for my hands, too tiny for my ageing eyes... obviously designed for the young and delicate. Selfies are for this world of instantaneous perfection, ephemeral... a whisper into the silky ear of a lover.

Phone cameras are too good, making too many master artisan, who turn out too many delectable temptations... scrumptious dinner images, voluptuous landscapes, and forever loveable pets. I too want my own selfie to be adorable, a transcendant irreversible documentation of mouth-watering masculinity.

Is that too much to ask?

If sexy is no longer applicable, what then should I shoot for? ... Professorially professional? Rugged ageing woodsman? Perhaps what the Japanese call Romancing Gray... that financially stable womanizer... a generous Epicurean of fine pleasures. All seem off, if partially true. Tempting self-endearment, suspended disbelief.

What exactly am I trying to express with a head tilt and a glaring glance into the camera? Surely not the self I feel, nor remember, from years of shaving in the mirror. Should I embrace the chaos, the frailty of each moment? None of it, all of it, me. Larger than life itself and really just a selfie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ashes to ash, dust to dust

Parkinson's, my stifling preoccupation, possessor of both mind and body... What can I do to weaken your malicious grip, to stop you from distracting me from the common delusion of a sweeter life, soft sunshine and ruby roses?

Why do you insist on medieval metaphors, of tortured mind games... war among nagging evils, penitent self-flagellation... condescending comments from well meaning strangers?

When owned by a diabolical disease, the crucifix images of a Catholic childhood rush in, like water into the mouth of the drowning. I want to find sins to confess, errors to correct. But, instead, find clumsy thoughts of haunting disbelief in a silent sadist, lording over my discontent.

There is no logic in unforgiving bonds of discomfort, no gracious goodness, only the cold fact, with Parkinson's, it gets worse and then you die.

50% of Parkinson patients will eventually suffer dementia. Chew on that for awhile. I watch as my mind can not recall the simplest of things. If I forget your name, cut me some slack. If I tend to fall, thanks in advance for picking me up.

If my face has no expression, don't be pissed, all of us mean well, our charming face just doesn't work like before. We lose control of our muscles, from our twisting toes, right up our bodies, to our drooling jaws. A curiosity, living in pain... a buffoon drenched in shame... an embarrassment.

We were, up until recently, maybe one year, maybe twenty, just like you. Only not any more. From the image of perfect health to something else. If there is a lesson to be learned, I am learning it everyday. If you don't have Parkinson's, enjoy not knowing how it feels. Smile, while you still can.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Parsing Parkinson's my 'new normal'

Parsing Parkinson’s

My day begins in the darkness of dreams. I half sleep, so nightly mingle, in a tangled net of remembered dreamland images. There is usually a narrative mixing of painful past and pragmatic trivial concerns.

I optimistically assume I am working through torrents of trauma, toward a future of mindful clarity. At best I am sad but glad to be alive.

Next at issue is the container of urine at my bedside. Raising from bed is a logistical challenge. So doing it, so many times every evening, encourages my use of this urinary variation of a bed pan. 

On a bad night, I will have wet my bed, on a good one, I will have slept several times, deep enough to allow for a feeling of normalcy through much of the day. This ‘new normal’ for those of us locked into the cult of Parkinson’s is a flawed daily striving, to appear as I was before.

Trying, through each interaction, to be someone other than a man who pees his pants, and who must preplan toilet access, based on a schedule completely out of his control. A man made to look much older as he waddles slowly in zombi-like steps to put out the trash. 

A once professorially clad romancing-grey cowboy, now wobbling upstairs one-step-at-a-time to his classroom, out of breath and flustered. This ‘new normal’ is a skull necklace of embarrassments, choreographed by some evil god with a vicious sense of humour.  

If I am truly a man of character, no one should detect my battlefield of bodily symptoms. No one needs to know how shitty I feel. But I am new to all this. My mind was once lucid, but now mirrors the groggy demure of an opiate high, orchestrated by a vengeful lucifer. 

Once my cerebrum was reliable enough to bemuse bystanders, with a blistering confidence. An insufferable cockiness has led me out into the wilderness of a hundred infamous cities, with an enviable menagerie of lovers and friends. My organ-led testosterone-rich vitality has always made chance taking an assumed right of passage. 

Adventure-lust and liquid thoughts, germinating into new realms of exploration, have led me into fields of happiness. Life was sublime even when I was too naive to notice.

Now I have Parkinson’s and life is different. Now my hands and legs are shaking. My neck muscles tense and I fear loss of voice in my chosen profession. Fearing my loss of swallowing, of suffocating anxiety, I feel reticent to leave the house. Traveling, once my life blood and turn on, now a terrifying variable of unknowables. 

I want to find a way to tell friends why I do not feel fun. My life has changed from rich to bitch, and I still ain’t tamed that shrew. I am still learning just to be, simply and pure, me again. And me... ain’t easy… with Parkinson’s.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

“Goodnight Irene” An auditory pilgrimage in tribute to my Mom, Irene.

Christmas 1979
“Goodnight Irene”
An auditory pilgrimage in tribute to my Mom, Irene.

At the conclusion of every family holiday party, always a riotous affair in our gregarious clan, my big voiced uncles would bellow out a few verses of “Goodnight Irene.” 

As Irene Josephine Gozdziewski-Seltman, my quintessential Polish-American mom, gathered us kids for the sleepy journey home, she’d blush a bit, and maybe swing a punch at the arm of one of her brothers. 

Enormously loud and bothersome bullies, they teased her affectionately at every opportunity. This was how we expressed our love.  Like it or not, this song “Goodnight Irene” got sung to my mother at every festivity.

My mom was a child of the depression, World War, and hard luck. She preferred the happy songs of Sinatra’s “High Hopes” and Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be - will be.“ She was the Democrat to Dad’s Republicanism. She thought the nights were already too dark and that our days should be filled with bright light and children. The soaps were enough drama, there was no need to focus on the negative.

Dead near 30 years, Mom still lingers, as all mom’s seem to do, deep within me, a swirling throbbing force of mixed emotions. How much I wish she could have seen my kids grow. 

She loved kids more than anything. Grandkids would have been her bliss. But she was in pain too much, from a failing of internal organs, to have wanted to live forever. 

Her heart radiated affection, while the curse of disease pulled her under, a contrasting memory of warm radiating tenderness, counterbalanced by nights alone in the dark, consumed in pain, throbbing, in a torrent of tears.

She tried so hard to hide her unhappiness from we little ones, her angels, her purpose, her beloved preoccupation.

If you type in “Goodnight Irene” into a BitTorrent search engine, you can download an enormous folder of variations of this classic. Ames brothers, Chet Atkins, Dennis Day, Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, The Weavers, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Louis, Johnny Cash, Kingston Trio, Leadbelly, Little Richard, Michelle Shocked, Mitch Miller, Nat King Cole, Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Willy Nelson, and scores more have cut this tune in soulful heart-melting variations.

Each one tears at me and makes me cry, reminding me of another buried moment from inside this chest of recollections. How do we, the dying, love today in honour to those already dead? How do I transform this sad old ballad into tribute to someone so sacred, so long gone, so much pain, joy, and tears…perfection, here with me tonight? 

Good night Mom, and sweet dreams. I’ll see you in the morn.

Irene good night, Irene good night,
Good night Irene, good night Irene,
I'll see you in my dreams.

Last Saturday night I got married,
Me and my wife settled down,
Now me and my wife we are parted,
I think I'll go out on the town.

Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in town,
Sometimes I take a great notion
To jump in the river and drown.

I love Irene, God knows I do,
I'll love her 'til the seas run dry,
But if Irene should turn me down,
I'd take morphine and die.

Stop rambling, stop your gambling,
Stop staying out late at night,
Go home to your wife and your family,
Stay there by your fireside bright

Lyrics by Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly 
first recorded in 1933

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Facing Forward with Parkinson's

Parkinson's is a disease written as a possessive noun. What it possesses is your constant attention. Wait while I take my noon medication. I am owned by this. But what exactly is Parkinson's Disease (PD) doing to monopolise my very being?

For starters, not being able to move my bowels, without a conscious ritual, of sitting on my throne hoping something might happen. PD effects control of muscle and mind. I go many days, often three or four, without rectum release.  A new way of doing Everything is an inevitability for all body functions. Urination, by the way, happens much too often and not necessarily in my control. Erections, hit and miss. But constipation, bladder issues, and erectile dysfunction are just subplots in the spectrum of daily discomfort.

80% of my required Dopamine has died away, long before diagnosis happens. Dopamine is how we control our muscles, both in conscious and sub-conscious activities. There are the conspicuous arm and leg tremors, havoc when carrying my morning coffee back to my desk. Distracting wiggles and shakes to all while I am talking. But this too is a 'minor' disturbance in my pantheon of symptoms.

I have a full course of muscular madness. Muscle rigidity means my back tightens like a rock, keeping me from enjoying a short stroll or standing to do the dishes. The shoulder pain locks in to the mother of all stiff necks. The legs cramp, as they did as a kid when swimming. The fist clasps tight, leaving finger nail abrasions in my palm. And this is only the early stages, primarily on my body's left side, just a preview of trauma to come. Later medication will lose effect and I will live in a symphony of symptoms on both sides of a twisted frame. Already I feel this happening.

Fear plays into the mix. I have the sensation I am choking, a feeling as if my shirt top is buttoned tight against my throat. Some PD folk must be watched not to choke as they eat, others lose their voice. Muscles are everywhere and all can fail without notice. The fear creates stress and stress accelerates symptoms. PD people must master cool, while in the throws of looking ridiculous. The goal is being relaxed during convoluted physical displays, showing calm when slowly tortured by public embarrassments, or at home humiliation. Learn to swallow both your food and your pride.

As a man, I must now leave my masculinity as some lost remnant of youthful bravado. During a recent traffic emergency, all the men ran to lift a car and move it to safety. I stood and watched, knowing I'd be more hinderance than help. When men help move friends, lifting furniture and boxes, I am conspiculously uncommitted.  Knowing my nights carry the risk of total physical break down, I sadly ignore social invitations. To fix things that require strength, ladders, or power tools, I must drop my manly inclination and ask someone else. I am no longer an independent mister fix-it, but more an incompetent klutz, from chef to cockroach in the kitchen. Beware shaking hands when frying or fixing tea. PD pedestrians can set your house on fire, but mostly we end up in hospital with self inflicted wounds from strategic miscalculations.

But perhaps most frightening, are the psychological implications, apathy, reticence, depression, and gall. My nights are a horrid menagerie of half-conscious dreaming, laced within muscle cramps and emotional outbreaks. I reach for cathartic insights but wobble in self doubt. There is no damn silver lining yet, as promised in every fable with a trial by fire. I yearn for, plead for, some way to hype this into a happy ending. Some badge of courage, mark of greatness, a life of some significance. But, for now, I have to quit typing... the back pain has become too distracting.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Parkinson's Disease

For my sixtieth birthday I bought myself a 50cc scooter. An old man's bike, designed for frugal shopping, a pleasant lift to the bottom and back up a steep incline, to and from my mountain home.

I was no longer facing mid-life crisis, when a man wants the mechanical equivalence of an erect penis. At 60 you want efficiency and convenience. A Harley is for the other guy.

Yet, despite my cautious calculations for cost-effective cruising, when I tried to master the foot and hand shifting on this less-than-sexy Super Cub, my motor skills just couldn't cope... creating a comedy of near fatal errors. The new bike remains now covered and unused, a sad testimony to unfulfilled aspirations.

I initially blamed myself for the clumsy motor skills. Yet there were other subtle symptoms, scattered across my physical landscape. Aching muscles, incorrectly diagnosed as 'gojugata' (50 year old shoulder), essential tremor in arm and leg, arthritic-like clamping of the hand, and other demasculating signs too embarrassing to mention.

I was accelerating into old age at an alarming speed, while being told by my doctor, all was in my head. And... in fact,  all was eventually diagnosed so... because that is where Parkinson's lives, sending inappropriate signals throughout.  Tricking my system into right-side tremors and cramping muscle weirdness, idiopathic delirium of my dopamine.

PD is problematic perfection, a brutal daily adjustment from what once was 'normal'. A cesspool of negatives, seeking some optimistic alternative. A spiritual quest, initially for some explanation and eventually for acceptance, a soap opera solution in my own worse case scenario. A way to eliminate all peripheral distraction, drawing focus on some pitiful soppy play for sentiment.

But this isn't bad theatre, this is my life. And I want to choose my conclusions. I never liked teary-eyed  demises. Parkinson's Disease was never in my plans and now it is poisoning all my subplots, ruining my timing for a Grand Finale... forcing some creative swan-song all too soon.

The script sucks, in a bad need for rewrite. I have Parkinson's and I just can't get my head around it. Yet I have no choice. Debilitating diseases wait for no one. Face it first, accelerating the denial stage into some pro-active mind set. Learn how to survive, maybe even flourish. Right now it doesn't feel possible. But I still may surprise myself.

I am more than a bad ending.