This is from page 16 of the book project. This panel is a triple tribute, to Robert Johnson, Skip James, and my wife Pam. Pam and I used to drive to work together to our jobs at the Anchorage Daily News. I would customarily time my meds so that I would arrive as mobile as possible. This spared me the embarrassment of shuffling across the parking lot beneath the Newsroom window wall. Not to mention making me more stable on the icy incline of the sloped parking area.
Unfortunately there were certain obnoxious side effects. There gets to be a point Parkinson's medications make up for what they lack in subtlety with power. This often put me into a mildly manic state that meant my long-suffering bride was often subjected to lectures on topics she of course cared deeply about- for instance the relative merits of bluesmen of the 1930's.
Often these lectures would be repeated from ride to ride, sometimes in fragments on the same trip in. Other favorite topics were state, local, national and international news, movies, and naturally, traffic reports. We referred to it as "Radio Pete" No commercial interruptions no volume control, all the obscure references you can stand. And no, we're not taking your calls or requests. Fortunately it was a short commute.
Don't be mislead by the title of this post. I have bad ideas to spare. In fact if you need any, call or email and I'll send you some of my overstock. This will be a mercifully short history because of the concentrated time period in which it takes place, not because of a sudden short supply of stupidity.
Our sorry tale begins on Labor Day. We had plans to go to the Alaska State Fair. My back was acting up for the first time in years and I decided it would be smart to stay home. This was a good idea. Probably the last one I had that day. Pam asked if she should stay home to keep an eye on me, but I didn't want her to miss those mammoth cabbages, weird looking chickens, and enormous hogs raised by improbably young members of the 4H club, so I said "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine." Stupid idea #1.
She wisely gave me a second chance to have her stick around which I declined citing the profoundly stupid point that I would likely be too proud to accept her help on anything consequential, so she might as well go enjoy herself and not worry about me. If you're keeping track this probably counts as bad idea #2.
Two or three hours into her absence my back began to act up with a sadistic streak unlike any thing I had ever experienced. After a long and inventive period of writhing around I discovered I could attain a measure of relief by lying on the floor and curling my legs up to my chest. Expecting Pam to return at any time I decided to kill the intervening hours by watching "Magnolia". Which I did on my back my legs curled up, the picture on the TV appearing upside down. You're probably thinking this was bad idea #3 but it was actually worth it. I love William H. Macy in this flick.
Eventually Pam returned and found me on the floor doubled up watching Macy get creamed by a rain of frogs. I lay down in the back of the Subaru and we drove at a smart clip to the emergency room. They loaded me up with 20 mg of Valium and when that didn't kill the spasms in my back muscles they threw in some morphine too. That worked. I even felt good enough to lecture Pam about how morphine was known as "Soldiers Joy" back in the Civil War, hence the name of the popular fiddle tune by the name of "Soldiers Joy". Music and drugs go way back together. Naturally Pam found this fascinating.
Armed with a prescription from the ER doctor for Valium to relax my back we drove to the all-night drug store, and picked up some little green pills. Boy did that do the trick! I became the very incarnation of mellow. I wasn't worried about anything. For instance walking around the house in the dark with a compromised sense of balance from PD further compromised by muscles relaxed by Valium. This led to a certain amount of banging and crashing as I rammed into walls and furniture. Bad idea #4? I think so.
At this point Pam began to get a touch irritated "What are you trying to prove?" She demanded. A reasonable question. I'm not sure of the answer. Maybe that she doesn't have to drive all the way to the State Fair for entertainment.
For years people have been prodding me with the question "Why not turn the blog into a book?" I usually counter-prod with the question "Do we really need another book on Parkinson's Disease?" Then several months ago I ran into two friends, Scott and Julia. Scott is a great fan of graphic novels, which is a highfalutin' term for fancy comic books. We were chatting about "LOGICOMIX" which is,among other things, a comics biography of Bertrand Russell we both read and enjoyed. "You have enough in your blog to turn it into a graphic novel", Julia suggested. I told her I didn't think so. The blog doesn't really amount to a narrative, the drawings aren't connected enough. The whole thing seems like a fragmented, episodic series of observations. Not enough graphic or novel. Or maybe I'm just lazy.
Later I was talking to my friend Steve. Again the dreaded book subject came up. I raised the usual objections. But he may have given me a way to focus that will work. "You treat Parkinson's Disease like an adventure", He said. Hmmmmm. With a massive, Herculean effort, a guy might be able to make that work. I've got about eleven pages so far. They appear above. above, in case anyone is curious.
One reason I have been reluctant to start a project like this is a fear it will interfere with blogging. Then it occurred to me I could post pages here from time to time, neatly killing two flies with one swatter. Page twelve calls, must run...
Below is a brief description and contact info regarding a series of classes being put on by the Multiple Sclerosis Center for those of us dealing with Chronic disease.
Better Choices Better Health Living Well in Alaska
This is a Self–Management program for those dealing with
Chronic Diseases. It is a six week course designed to bring
you hope, tools and resources. It will allow you to improve
your health-one step at a time. It begins October 12 and
will meet every Wednesday through November 16th. It runs from 6:00-8:30pm, and will take place at the Alaska MS center, at Providence Hospital. Pre-registration is required and limited space is available. Please RSVP by calling 929-2567 or email us at email@example.com .
The Alaska Multiple Sclerosis Center (AMSC)
3340 Providence Drive Suite 552 (Tower A)
Anchorage Alaska 99508
Welcometo all with an interest in Parkinson's Disease. This blog was to be an information clearinghouse for the Anchorage Parkinson's Disease Support Group, where meeting schedules, agendas, speakers etc could be found. It's still that, but has also become a sort of therapeutic hobby. So I invite you to join in the discussion and experience a little therapy as well. This will be as interesting as we as a community make it. Think loud and sound off!
Our Support group meets the third Saturday of each month at 3:30 in the afternoon. The meetings take place at the Anchorage Pioneer Home , 923 West 11th Avenue in downtown Anchorage on the fifth floor in the West lounge. You may call 350-9691 with questions about the group and meetings.
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The Knight Digital Media Center, judges of the Alaska Press Club's annual journalism awards selected The Alaska Parkinson's Rag for second place in the "Best Blog" category for 2008. Here is an excerpt of their comments:
"...Alaska Parkinson's Rag is many things: a community resource, a humor column, a science and medicine explainer. But it's also something that few blogs ever manage to be: addictive and gripping. Everything seems to work just right on this blog, and it is a powerful testament to what a person can achieve in this medium. "