Cemetery Music


(Still working on my novel when I came upon a couple of paragraphs I’d completely forgotten writing more than a year ago …)

The Orchard Depot cemetery sits on a ten acre hillside plot just south of the town limits on state highway seventeen.  The headstones are laid out in neatly aligned rows and columns that rise with the hillside until, just short of the top of the hill, they abruptly stop, halted by a woven wire fence that marks the beginning of a large hay field that belongs to Driscoll’s farm. For most of the year, the mature oak and elm and maple trees that break up the neat rows of headstones provide cool shade and whisper in the westerly breeze, and in early August, when the uncut hay is long and golden and the wind is out of the west, you can watch it make the hay dance, a gentle and golden ballet, swaying to the hushed and whispering symphony that the wind and the leaves and the hay composed and performs for the dead.

In the depths of winter, though, only the wind remains, icy cold, and with the leaves gone and the hay cut, in the gray absence of sunshine, the ballet becomes a dirge, a melancholy and empty meditation on death. Its audience, the dead, sleeps cold and restless beneath a blanket of snow, haunted by the bleak winter music.

Changes


(I’m having so much fun working on my novel that I’m going to post the chapter that occurs immediately before the sceneI posted last night – it’s still pretty rough, but I kind of like how it’s coming together.  The setting is the fictional south eastern Wisconsin town Orchard Depot, and it’s November of 1979)

Right before our eyes the town was changing. Sometime in early November, suddenly and without warning, the giant green brontosaurus that marked the intersection of State Highways 17 and 47, was gone, replaced by a CLARK sign. Richter’s Sinclair had become a casualty of the late seventies oil crisis, one of many Sinclair stations across the country to be sacrificed.  Roman Richter still maintained ownership of the franchise, and he still ran his mechanic business out of his garages, but Richter’s Clark would never come close to the Orchard Depot landmark that the green brontosaurus and Richter’s Sinclair had been.

There were other changes, too, starting with the sudden departure of the town president Frank Cornish two years earlier. If the downtown sidewalks seemed emptier, it’s because they were, more people choosing to do their shopping at the plush shopping malls and non-descript strip malls that were popping up on the swollen edges of Racine and Milwaukee, nibbling away at the flat farm fields, moving ever closer to Orchard Depot and offering national chain hardware and grocery and pharmacies that the owners and operators of the downtown businesses couldn’t compete with.  Even Frank Cornish, before he left, sold off the Orchard Depot lumber yard to a regional conglomerate.

The old Cornish home, the grand Victorian mansion that stood on the hill next to the high school, had already been sold and foreclosed upon, and was starting to sag under the weight of its age, while weeds took over the front yard.  Cornish Park, the forty acres across the street was the big donation Frank made to the town he loved so much, and was the one landmark that bore his name.

It wasn’t just the town that was changing,

Days after I turned twenty one years old, Angela Pollard, of Michigan City, Indiana, became the first steady girlfriend I’d ever had.

This was also the time that I started a new job, working evenings, two to ten P.M., unloading delivery trucks and packing orders on the loading dock of a company called Open Pantry in Racine. Our schedules were such that I’d get off work an hour after Angela started the overnight shift at the Town Friar, so after its tumultuous start, we were forced to slow down the pace of our romance. Which was just fine with me.

I’d make a point of stopping at the Town Friar every night on my way home from work and ordering dinner.  Angela would serve me, and, as it was still in the slow time of night, usually be able to break free to sit with me for a few minutes, when we’d discuss the events of our days. I found myself looking forward to these moments, mentally logging things that happened during the course of the day as things I’d have to tell Ang about. It was a new experience, having a friend that I could share the details of my life with.

Nights Angela was off, usually Tuesday and Wednesday, I’d drive straight to her apartment and spend the night. I was making up for lost time by engaging in Olympics gold-medal worthy sexual gymnastics. I was a quick learner and an enthusiastic experimenter.

None of that got in the way of our mission to find Matt’s body. Angela made sure of that. I, on the other hand, would have been happy to finally forget about Matt for a while/. I was enjoying working my $4.25 per hour job and my first real relationship with a living, breathing woman, one who not only looked great but was able to make me feel things I’d never imagined feeling. I was falling in love, both with Angela and with the idea of falling in love. It’d been so long since I’d allowed myself to even dream of these things coming true that I was willing to let them take me where they would.

It was Angela who kept us tethered to reality, and the fence post she kept us tied to was Matt, and the search for his body. I recognized a determination and drive in her to uncover the truth that was waning in me. She’d have to be the driver, and I’d be a willing passenger.

The subject of Tom Musgrave and why he lied about seeing Matt became the point of focus, with Angela becoming obsessed with the question, why did he lie? She became convinced, and in turn convinced me, that once we understood Tom’s motive for lying, the answers to the remaining questions would fall like dominoes.

The years after we discovered the lifeless body of Matt Pollard couldn’t have turned out more differently for Tom Musgrave and me.  Where I began my downward spiral and became an object of derision and fear and perhaps the most reviled individual in Orchard Depot for what I did to Sam Richter, Tom, on the other hand, became a source of pride and something of a cherished Orchard Depot celebrity. It was basketball that did it, as Tom starred first on the middle school team, then the high school team, where he shattered all of his older brother Jim’s  scoring records, making the class C all-state team and accepting a scholarship at one of  the state schools, UW Stevens Point. He was the team’s starting shooting guard, averaging twelve points a game his junior year and, at Thanksgiving, just  a week before the 1979-80 season was to start, was listed by the newspapers as a possible all-American candidate.

As I observed my one-time best friend’s ascension into sports stardom, I couldn’t help but feel that the fates were rewarding him for lying about the body and punishing me for insisting on the truth. It also became apparent that the more successful he grew, the bigger of a dick he became. This was more fact than opinion, as I’d overhear classmates talking about what a snobbish cunt he was, and watch them roll their eyes in disbelief over yet another example of his arrogance.

When we were still best friends, in the seventh grade, he was only a slightly better basketball player than me, and we’d wage epic one on one battles against each other. Then after the body and the lie, after we split and went our separate ways, Tom blossomed and pushed his way out of the shadow Jim cast, while I was left to shoot baskets by myself in the driveway.  Where Tom progressed, I digressed.

It wasn’t just basketball, either.  As high school bled into college, I retreated inside of myself, spending most of the time alone, reading and watching television. I fell into a lonely rut, and I put on a few pounds. While I wasn’t fat, I was well on my way to becoming just another pear shaped late twenty or early thirty-something idiot.

Then I attempted suicide and failed, and spent nine long months in the state psych ward in Madison. Bored out of my mind, I quickly discovered the gym and running track, and ended up spending a large portion of my waking hours on their treadmills and weight machines. I ran a minimum of three miles every day, most days going five or six. By the time I was released, I was in the best shape of my life.

So it was that on Thursday, Thanksgiving morning, I looked out the picture window of my mom and dad’s house and saw Tom Musgrave, home for the holidays, in his sweats, jogging down Vicksburg Avenue in the chilly grey morning, and decided that I’d go for a run, too.  But first I called Angela up.

“Ang,” I said, “meet me at the grade school playground in about fifteen minutes.  And bring the photo of Matt.”

I slipped on my running shoes and exited our house out the back door, and started running, heading due west through the back yards for two blocks, until I got to Highview Avenue. Figuring I’d intersected Tom’s route and gotten the drop on him, I slowed down to a jog and headed north on Highview, toward where it ended at Thirteenth street, toward where Tom was.  As I approached Thirteenth Street, I looked to my right and sure enough, jogging west on the sidewalk, was Tom Musgrave.

I timed my exit from Highland and entered the Thirteenth Street sidewalk so that I ended up by Tom’s side.

“Hey, Musgrave,” I said. “Mind if I join you?”

“Go fuck yourself,” he said, not even looking at me.

“I’ll take that for a ‘go ahead, Jack.’”

“Leave me alone,” he said.

“I will, I will, I promise,” I said.  “Right after I ask you one question.”

Tom didn’t say anything, he just kept on running. I stayed right there at his side. I was having no difficulty maintaining his pace.  We got to the corner of State Street, and I slowed down and let Tom choose which direction we went. Luckily, he chose left, toward the elementary school, where I’d told Angela to wait for us.

As we headed towards the elementary school, I said, “I’ve got just one question for you.”

“Fuck off,” he said, louder his time.

Ahead of us the school playground came into view, and I could see Angela, sitting on one of the swings, waiting for us.

“Why did you lie about the body?”

Tom didn’t say anything, we kept running. I wouldn’t leave his side. We were just about even with Angela when I reached over and grabbed him by his unzipped sweatshirt, stopped and said, louder, “Answer me!  Why did you lie?”

“Get your fucking hands off of me,” he yelled, ripping my hands off of his sweatshirt.  They were free for only a second, then I grabbed him again. I could see him reaching his right arm back to throw a punch at me. Before he could launch it, I stuck out my left leg and pulled him over it.  He fell hard on the sidewalk, and I was on top of him, the same way I was on top of Sam Richter when I hit him with the tire iron.  From my periphery, I could see Angela, running over to us, with the Polaroid in her hand.

“Get off of me,” Tom was yelling, flailing about, but I still had him pinned down when Angela got to us.

‘Not till you tell us why you lied,” I said.

“I didn’t lie.”

Angela was bent over, holding the photo out in front of his face. “Look at this.  Look at it.” Tom at first wouldn’t look at the picture, jerking his head from side to side, but then he caught a glance of it, and recognition sparked across his face.  “That was my brother, asshole.  Thanks to you, whoever killed him is still walking free.”

Tom’s expression softened and he stopped resisting. I still held him, pinned down, when we could hear the sound of a police sirens, at first distant but getting closer with every second. Tom lifted his forehead but I grabbed him by his scalp and shoved his head back down on the hard sidewalk.

“Why, fucker?  Why did you lie? ” I said. The sirens were getting louder.

“I don’t know! Ask Jim,” he said.

“Your brother?”

“Yeah, Jim,” he said. “He told me to.  I don’t know why.”

“Jack, the cops!” Angela said.  A squad car had just turned down State Street, the siren louder and approaching. I got up, leaving Tom laying on the sidewalk, and grabbed Angela’s hand, and we ran across the playground into the small grove of trees on its eastern edge.

We stood there, in the trees, catching our breath, hiding from the cops.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” she said.  From across the baseball field and over the playground, we watched the scene on the State Street sidewalk.  The police car was parked on the side of the road, its lights silently flashing.  Tom was standing, dusting himself off. Two officers were there on the sidewalk, talking to him.  Angela and I watched as they got back in the car, leaving Tom on the sidewalk. The lights on the squad car went dark, and it slowly pulled back out on State Street and drove off.

“They’re leaving,” Angela said.

“Yeah, my guess is that Tom didn’t want to press charges. Not with his brother involved in this whole thing.”

“Do you know his brother?

“Yeah.  Jim’s always been a great guy.”

“Do you think Tom’s telling the truth?” Angela asked. “Do you think Jim killed Matt?”

“Yeah,” I said.   “I mean, no.  Yeah, I think he’s telling the truth. But no, I don’t think Jim killed anyone.”

I was trying to process what had just happened. Angela was distracting me with all of her questions. It wasn’t as much what Tom said as it was the way he said it, the expression on his face. His entire demeanor softened after he saw the picture.  It became apparent to me that, despite his lying, the corpse of Matt Pollard had left just as indelible a mark on Tom as it had on me. The expression on Tom’s face when Angela showed him the photo was of instant recognition.

I started walking Angela home. It was going to be a big enough day without the altercation with Tom, as Angela had accepted my invitation to Thanksgiving dinner with my mom and dad. It was going to be nerve-wracking enough, as we’d also decided we’d use the occasion to tell mom and dad about Matt, and that it was more than random coincidence that brought Angela to Orchard Depot and into my life.

But none of that mattered as we walked across town. All Angela could talk about was Tom Musgrave, and his admission that he lied, and that we’d have to get to his brother Jim to find out why.

“So you don’t think Jim killed Matt?” she asked.

“No, there’s no way,” I said. “There’s just no way Jim killed anybody.”

“But can you be certain?” she asked. “Maybe he has a dark side.”

“Jim?” I couldn’t help but laugh. “A dark side? You’ve obviously never met Jim. One of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, even if his little brother did turn into a dick head. Did you know he was there the night I hurt Sam Richter?”

“At the gas station?”

“Yep. He witnessed the whole thing.”

“Then that proves he was involved!”

“How does that prove anything?”\

“Well, how do you know it doesn’t?  We’ll just have to talk to him this weekend.”

“Oh, he’s not home.  Don’t ask me how I know this, my mom must have heard it and told me. He’s with his wife’s family in Texas, her folks retired down there.”

She stopped in her tracks. “Texas?”

“Yes.  So what’s the big …”

“Does he have two kids?”

“Yeah, a boy …”

“And a girl. Does he work at the Plastics factory?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Holy shit,” she said. “I know this guy!”

Sparks


(I’m up at my cabin, working on my novel. I wrote this short scene tonight – the setting is an all night diner in a small mid-west town.)

Shortly after midnight on Angela’s first night waitressing at the Town Friar, a late twentyish man with dark bags under his blue eyes and dishwater blonde hair neatly parted on the left side walked in alone and took a seat in the last booth.  It was a Thursday night, officially having just rolled over to Friday, and as it was a week night and still almost two hours before the bars closed, the restaurant was nearly empty.

Angela approached the table with a coffee pot and a menu in hand.  She handed him the menu and asked, “Coffee?”

He didn’t look up as he turned his cup upright and took the menu. He muttered a “thanks” and buried his nose in the menu as she poured.  When she was finished with the coffee, she asked “Do you need a couple of minutes?”

“No, I’m set.”  Then he ordered bacon and eggs, sunny side up, not lifting his eyes until he was done, when he saw her for the first time.  “Say,” he said, “You’re new, aren’t you?”

“First night,” she smiled.

“Well, nice to meet you,” he replied as his eyes dropped down to her breast, where her uniform proudly displayed her name plate, “Angela.”

The following Monday, shortly after midnight, he stopped in again. This time, when she bought the menu and the coffee pot, he looked straight at her, and smiled.

“Hi, Angela.  Do you remember me?”

“Yeah, I remember you.  You were here Thursday night. Bacon and eggs, sunny side up.”

“That’s right. You must have a good memory, or else I really made an impression on you.”

“I never forget a face.  Or a tip,” she said.

“Well,” he said, “I never forget anything. I have what they call a pornographic memory.”

She laughed. As she poured his coffee, she said, “I suppose next you’re going to tell me you like your coffee like your women.”

“Not my coffee, my eggs.  I like my eggs like I like my women. Sunny side up.” She smiled and shook her head.

Once Angela settled into her schedule, the night shift Thursdays thru Mondays, he became a regular, always stopping in at about five past midnight every Monday and Thursday, always at the same booth, always with some new cheesy lines for Angela. She found something endearing about the way he delivered them. He was just self-effacing enough not to take himself too seriously, and at the same time, there was something sad about him, a sorrow that seemed to settle in his shoulders.

She learned a little bit about him, that his first name was Jim. When she asked him what his last name was, he answered, “Nasium.”

“Nasium,” she said. “You’re name is Jim Nasium.”

“That’s right,” he replied. “And trust me, I could put you through a real workout.”

She learned that he worked 2nd shift at the plastics factory. When she asked what he did there, he answered, “I’m the foreman, because I’ve got the sexual stamina of four men.”

“You’re wife is a very lucky woman,” Angela frequently replied, reminding him of the wedding band on his finger, and trying to preemptively douse any sparks that might have been igniting between them.

He’d say things like, “You must be exhausted.”

Ever the trusty straight man, she’d reply, “Why’s that?”

“Because you were running thru my dreams all night.”

The cornier the lines were, the harder she laughed. She appreciated that he came armed with the lines, touched that he’d thought about her outside of the Town Friar even if only for a moment or two. She found herself looking forward to his visits.

As reliable as his business was on Mondays and Thursdays, he was never part of the weekend bar closing scene that was the busiest time for the Friar.  Angela only saw him once on a weekend, on a Saturday night in September. He came in and sat at a table in the center of the room instead of his usual corner booth, and then she saw he wasn’t alone.  There was a woman with him, seated across the table from him, and it couldn’t be clearer that it was his wife.  The table was still Angela’s to serve.  As she approached them she saw him wince. Rather than the customary greeting she gave him the nights after work, she went the generic route, pretending she didn’t know him, and he did the same.

Angela recognized Jim’s wife as one of the many same small town girls she’d gone to high school with back in Indiana. She was still pretty, but early childbirth had expanded her hips and added a shapeless softness to her waist and face.  As she watched the two of them, an image became clear, an image of what their lives were like. This was a big night out, a birthday or anniversary, long awaited and eagerly anticipated. They’d gotten a sitter to leave the kids with, and now, at 10:30 on a Saturday night, their big evening was already winding down, and they sat there, wordless and tired, with nothing to say to one another. As Angela served them, Jim couldn’t even look her in the eye, and the source of the sadness she’d always observed in him became clear, and a part of her felt like crying.

Word Has It


One of the best songs ever written by the great Neil Young is the amazing Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young track, “Helpless,” which includes the line “big birds flying across the sky.”  It conjures up images of herons or cranes or eagles or owls, “throwing shadows on our eyes.” It’s one of Neil’s most poetic and poignant images, and perfectly captures the feeling of being helpless.

Now, let’s look at what one misplaced apostrophe can do, and change birds to bird’s. Neil’s powerful paean to heartbreak and loneliness becomes a silly sentiment about a yellow-feathered Sesame Street character clumsily taking flight.

Such is the power of punctuation and typing.  An inadvertent space can change the kindly and distinguished therapist into the menacing and sinister the rapist.  An unintended “i” inserted at the right place can change a realty agent into something more mysterious and powerful, a reality agent.  Leave out the letter “l” and a minor vocal inflection can turn into a deadly and life threatening vocal infection.

Maddening as these can be, they are but one of many reasons why I love the English language. That it has room for Ogden Nash silliness, Ernest Hemmingway efficiency, William Faulkner bombast, and so much more, is truly remarkable.

But it wasn’t these brilliant masters who first made me fall in love with language. Rather, it was one of its great butchers.  Nobody could carve up the English language like my dad.

There were several categories of the mayhem he’d inflict.  Among my favorites:

  • Adding an extra random syllable wherever he deemed fit. Vibrate and arthritis may seem like perfectly fine words, but not for my dad – they became, instead, vi-a-brate and Arthur-ritis.
  • Strangely inexplicable word choices. More than once, while deer hunting together, we’d come to a nice hill or ridge and he’d whisper to me, “This looks like a good spot. I’m going to stand here – why don’t you go out about one hundred yards or so and make a half circle around me, maybe you’ll kick something up.  Don’t go too fast or too slow.  Just sashay thru the brush in a big half circle.” The first time I heard this, I went home and looked up the meaning of sashay in the dictionary:

          Sashay: to walk in an ostentatious yet casual manner, typically with exaggerated                      movements of the hips and shoulders.

Not the kind of lingo you’d expect while deer hunting with a burly truck driver.  If anybody reading this happened to be in the Chippewa County forest about forty years ago and thought you saw a guy dressed in blaze orange walking though the brush in an ostentatious yet casual manner, with exaggerated movements of the hips and shoulders, you weren’t hallucinating – that’d have been yours truly.

Another favorite strange word he’d use from time to time was monkeyshines. This was used whenever I was goofing off and getting on his nerves, forcing him to say “knock  off the monkeyshines.”  I’d heard the word so often that at one point in my childhood I became convinced that when I grew up, I’d make my living in the tropic, illuminating primates.

  • Mispronounced words: There were a number of these, but my all-time favorite was the time he was explaining a minor surgery he was scheduled for. When he got to the part about how they’d anesthetize him, he said “They’re gonna use Anastasia to knock me out.”  I immediately formed images of the missing daughter of the Russian Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandria bonking my dad on his head with a hammer.

It’s little wonder that I grew up loving puns and playing with words.

Here are some bonus sentences I’ve written without having a story to use them in:

He’d heard of the great herds of cattle, but had no concept of them until he rode the road and saw the herdsmen who drove droves of the great beasts into town.

His shirt was wet with sweet sweat.

While he napped, she grabbed the broom and cleaned up.  In other words, she swept while he slept.

It was so warm out that Fido, being a hot dog, had no appetite for a hot dog.

Horst, the singing cowboy, lost his voice.  It seems that Horst grew hoarse on his horse.

She sang a hymn to him. That Jim wasn’t here when he sang his hymn to her is neither here nor there – even if he was here, she couldn’t hear what he sang to her.

Black Lives Matter


The past few days have been nothing short of insane, with two more questionable shootings of black men by white police officers, and the subsequent murder of five police officers in Dallas.

To be clear, nothing can justify any of these murders.  The five officers killed in Dallas is unforgivable, especially when considering the fact that their lives were taken while they were working to protect people who were protesting against them.

I have nothing but respect for the brave officers who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us from the sick and twisted few who view violence as a justifiable mean to an end. It’s an incredibly difficult job that is only getting harder, and requires men and women of exceptional courage and character.

At the same time, because their job is so important, I believe that police officers should be held accountable to a higher standard.  The stakes are too high to suffer the incompetent and corrupt few who besmirch the integrity of the badge and weaken the trust that citizens must have in the institution to maintain a semblance of order and sanity.

One of the outputs of the week has been debate about the legitimacy of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. There’s been a  lot of push back against the movement, from preposterous and inflammatory rhetoric from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who classified the movement as a “terrorist organization,” to the many dim-witted racists who dismiss it with the broad sweeping statement that “all lives matter.”

Well, no shit. That is so obviously true.  If only the people saying that really believed it, if they paid attention to some simple facts, they’d begin to grasp that white America and black America are two radically different places.  Once one begins to understand these differences, the need for a “Black Lives Matter” movement becomes as obvious as the fact that for many Americans, black lives don’t matter.

The discrepancies between these two different Americas are so vast and complex that there are no easy sound bite solutions. For more than one hundred years, blacks have been segregated and abandoned, relegated to lives of poverty and violence, with inadequate access to education, health care and employment. As a result, a culture of cynicism, drug use, and violence has developed.  The inner city neighborhoods have become war zones, with no way out, and no way in for the abundant riches enjoyed by those outside.

How big are the gaps?  Here are some numbers I pulled down from the Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) website this morning:

Average life expectancy, U.S., birth 2010

Total population               78.7

White males                       76.5

Black males                         71.8

White females                  81.3

Black females                    78.0

 

U.S. Infant mortality rate – Deaths before first year, per 1,000 births

Total population               6.17

Whites                                  5.20

Blacks                                    11.5

 

Unplanned pregnancies from 2006 to 2010

U.S. Whites                        30%

U.S. Blacks                          70%

 

U.S. Obesity Rate

Age                        White    Black

2-5 years              3.5%      11.3%

6-11                       13.1        23.8

12-19                     19.6        22.1

20-39                     26.2        46.0

40-59                     38.7        49.3

60 or more          34.0        48.5

 

Deaths from Firearms per 100,000 people

Age                        White    Black

15-24                     14           75

25-34                     17           79

35-44                     15           33

45-64                     20           15

65 and over        27           7

 

It’s taken a long time for things to get to this point, and the reasons for the disparity in all of these numbers are many and complex, and the solutions too difficult for a simple mind like my own to comprehend.  But maybe the first step is for white America to recognize that we’re all Americans and decide that it is unacceptable for so many of our fellow citizens to be discarded and abandoned and forced to live under such deplorable conditions.  Maybe the first step is the simple acknowledgement that black lives really do matter.

Independence Day


Today, July 4th, is one of the most important holidays in these United States:  Independence Day, or the country’s birthday, the day we declared ourselves to be a free and independent state.

To be independent, to be free, is one of the most powerful and universal dreams. It’s so powerful because almost everyone has a personal independence day that they long for.  Whether it’s freedom from a job and the independence to retire and do what one wants, independence from an oppressive spouse or parent, or independence from financial burdens, we all recognize and share the vision of unshackling the chains that bind us, that prevent us from achieving our dreams. It’s at the core of being human.

It’s easy for me to name what I dream of independence from:  Parkinson‘s Disease.

I’m at the point now where every day is literally a street fight between myself and this stupid fucking disease.  And if you want to know who’s winning, all you need do is count the bruises on my body from the frequent falls and the walls and furniture I ‘m constantly crashing into as a result of the balance issues I struggle with. Right now, at this moment, I have bruises on both arms and shoulders, one on my back, and a particularly big and purple shiner on my left hip that is finally beginning to fade.  I’ve had enough falls and crashes by now to know that it takes 48 to 72 hours after the worst ones for the pain to appear. Last Thursday night was one of the worst so far, when I fell out of bed flat on my back.  Like clockwork, the pain has started to set in this morning.

Then there’s my speech and voice.  I stutter and slur my words and mumble softly, and when at my worst, people either simply don’t hear me at all or mis-hear me, nodding yes or shaking their heads no when in fact I never asked a question.  Usually I try to speak up and make myself heard, other times I figure it’s not worth the effort and let it go.

For a guy who fancies himself a writer, nothing is more frustrating than coming across as inarticulate.

And speaking of writing, I usually try to fit my writing time into that brief window when my meds have kicked in, because otherwise, it’s getting too difficult to operate a keyboard.  If you look closely at the dates I post articles to this site, you’ll notice almost a steady decline in my output.  What used to be once a week has turned into once every other week or less.

There’s a new thing that’s been kicking my ass lately, and that’s “freezing.”  I could always tell when my meds start to wear off because I become very rigid and stiff, and movement of almost any type becomes very restrictive.  What’s new is my brain’s apparent difficulty to multi-task when I’m in this state.  Any physical activity I attempt to do, whether putting on my socks or getting out of a chair, requires my full concentration.  For example, every morning, when putting on my socks, my mind begins to drift as I think about the things I want to do in the upcoming day, and before I know it, a minute or two has passed by and I’m still sitting on the edge of my bed, sock in hand, staring at my foot.

This all sounds very depressing, and trust me, more often than I’d care to admit, it is.  But despite all of this, I haven’t given up.  I’m currently a week away from completing my second go at Parkinson’s physical therapy training, and I religiously do my stretches every day.  I still work out daily at the Kenosha Memorial Hospital cardiac center and still lift weights, trying to ignore the pain in my arms from my bruises.  And there are times, especially after I exercise, where I feel good.  I’ve learned to treasure and bask in these moments, even when they last for only ten minutes or so.

Every morning, when I wake up, I tell myself that while it‘s inevitable that Parkinson’s will eventually win, that doesn’t mean I can’t give it a good fight. Maybe, for that day, at least, I can kick its ass, and declare my own independence, however short-lived it may be.