ModemDavids Parkinson Page

Personal reflections / impact of Young Onset Parkinson's in life of a late-40's musician,husband,father and teacher. Metaphysical implications of disease, musings on life, music, poetry ...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Close Encounters of the Dsyphagic Kikng

Parkinson ’s disease presents but two challenges –



Standing still…

So, it’s been awhile between posts …. Not much to say, after a while. But it’s definitely gotten to be a harder slog, what between the constant tremor, distonia of the foot, some wicked swallowing problems (dysphagia, for you terminology hounds) - almost done in by inhaling a milky shard of shredded wheat on Monday, only to face the challenge of disgorging a malevolent tortalinni from my airpipe – prevailed both times only to go through a hellish failed attempt to hack out a small morsel of yummy watermelon before it took up residence in my left lung. Need now to be onguard for signs of aspirationial –‘fucking pnumonia, or at least, the boogie woogie flu… This is not the guy I planned to be, strictly old man in nursing home stuff – and for a spry bastard still several months ahead a fifty second birthday. Anyway, hope the offending melon did not contain any fertile seeds, otherwise I may need to appropriate Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ as my new theme song….

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Swimming Upstream

Bucking a shitload of inertia I have finally begun to drag my sorry behind on a regular basis back to the gym – having now passed the half-century mark it’s finally dawned on me that I’m no longer a teenager and will need to keep as many of the original parts in servicable condition for a good while longer. So, decked out in sweatpants and muckalucks I sidle up to a well-worn elipitical training machene, punch up a 30 minute workout and start a-stepping.

Parkinson’s, being the full body futhermucker that it is, has taken the glide out of my stride, the pep out of my step, if the glove don’t fit you must aquit….(sorry, channeling Johnny Cochran there for a moment)…anyway, it’s done a number on my left side and doing the aerobics and weights has gotten tougher.

Inevitably, after 5 or 10 minutes on an aerobic machene I’ll hit a wall where my leg does not want to move, assymettrical large muscle fatigue – and yet, that is the precise moment that I must transcend and push beyond – I know that I can’t but I know that I must and today, as in most days, claim the small victory of making it to 30 minutes or more. I’m reminded of earlier martial arts training where the instructor would mercilessly push us to do endless repetative punches, kicks and blocks. Asked what was the point of pushing so far beyond the threshold of ability he said wisely “exactly the point…..once you go beyond the point where you can do it and can no longer ….yet you insist on continuing you access your goal which is: transcending the limitations of your strength and physical body to strengthen and access the unlimited potential of your will and intention.”

Clearly, in approaching my larger goals of maintaining the best possible functionality and level of health in the face of a systemic challenge, pushing beyond the normative level of my physical abilities is called for – and work and right action towards engaging my will and intention must be engaged. Swimming upstream, but still swimming ….good as it gets, for now.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Entry from the “Modern Translation Guide To Singles Pages Language”

HOPELESS ROMANTIC – has both herpes and aids.

No, no – its not that for me, and, no, ModemDavid remains a faithful married guy, not out there amongst the mingling singles who stare blankly from Ray Bans, thin rays of mingled hope & desire eminating from tired eyes foggy with cheap wine and cheese breath, still seeking that first miraculous locking of eyes with‘the one’ who at any moment may sashay through the doorway if I can only continue to look cool and detatched for maybe one drink more (yeah…right) And, no thank you, I have not gotten any social diseases, unless that mildly inflamed hickey I got from Holly Weiner at 17 counts.

Yet how now at the relatively not ancient age of 50 do I euphemistically describe myself as anthing better, more elevated than simply the cumulative sum of my diseases? Another round of medical visits, more probing, imaging studies (endoscopy, to be precise – which as Los Angeles is a union town involves lowering not only a camera but, apparently, a 3 man IATSE film crew down your neck – or so it felt in recovery) – all of this to reveal the happy arrival of a brand new baby diagnosis – little Moderate to Severe Reflux Disease to add to the list that have truly made 50 the new 70.

So whats on my list now:

Idiopathic Parkinsons

Peridontal Disease,


Frozen Sholder,\

Mild to Moderate Spinal Stenosis

Chronic Inflammation of Juvinile Hickey Syndrome ( CIJHS)

I’m one fucked up dude, dude…….and yet

If I am not my name, what am I? If the essential ‘I’ remains more than the sum of my diagnosis, than how do I operate, how do I access the premordial ‘ I’ that animates me from the motionless steady state deeper reality in which the slow but insistant ravages of my multiplicity of disease processes are neutered, rendered harmless, baying perhaps like wolves or hyenas locked safely outside, but firmly enjoined to back off, not interfere or do anthing more than minamaly disrupt the trajectory of my days across the span of a lifetime. Answer me this, o wise one, and I will gladly buy you a beer.

So, like the ‘hopeless romatic’ I still seek retain a link to something optomistic, planning and hopeful looking across the Great Plains of my 50s and beyond hoping to lock eyes with a future that holds something more bearable, duralble and fulfilling than the cold and clear trajectory of multiple diagnosis.

Go figure,


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dumpster Satori

Power sander hums

Perplexing flies in dumpster

“Hey… what’s this buzz?”

Well, after the final indignation with my sweetie of having a valet from a fancy restaurant outright refuse to park my monkeyshit brown Mitsubishi on purely aesthetic grounds, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands – literally – and, armed only with a small power sander, a bit of moxie and elbow grease, head out into the ally behind our l.A. townhome with a facemask, sanding pads and a little A.M. radio tuned to the local Cumbia station. This is what Labor day is all about, I think to myself as I settle into the rhythmic grind of stripping the defective withering clearcoat.

Though I’ve lived here for almost a decade, till today my relation with the ally has been only a transient, passing thing – pass through to drop off a big bag of poo and diapers from the little ones, an occasional quick stroll to the main street to save a few steps….this and nothing more.

Yet, spend a full day in the ally and it reveals a life of its own, patterns repeating yet always theme and variations. Bottle People living on a recycled economy, the occasional cholo wandering through his turf, wondering, ‘so, is this all there is?’ Unlike when passing through as a homeowner, where eye contact is rarely made here, a quick look, an acknowledging glance

Indicating either peaceful coexistence or mutually assured destruction

(‘hey—you fuck with me and I’ll kill you’ and

“hey-you fuck with ME and I’ll kill YOU! Ok good…we’re friends!!!) –

imagine, a working microcosm of cold war US/Soviet relations just outside your doorstep.

Most surprising, though, was my interaction with the natural world. The prolonged low buzzing drone of the power sander was enough to draw many curious onlookers, the type with compound eyes – flies, disturbed from their reveries and bacchanalian refuse orgies, disturbed and – I know, I flatter myself – just maybe attracted by the powerful manly drone of my black and decker ‘MiniMouse’ sander – flies come by to check me out and do the hang where the action is. Not to be outdone, a mammoth bumble bee or two join. Everyone is having a blast as I cut deeper into the evaporating color of the Mitsubishi only to find that -- hey, waddyaknow -- the base metal you would expect to see at the end of the road was only masonite with a thin veneer of aluminum foil… I know why it was cheaper than the camry!

So, its now quite a scene, the sander sings sweetly while the flies and bumblebees sway gently to the distorted Cumbias and Cha-Cha-Chas blaring from my radio. All good until LAPD show up, no doubt summoned by some pesky neighbor no doubt wondering why an unlicenced Auto repainting shop was operating within earshot.

And so the day ends, an order to appear in court to answer charges of illegal operation of an environmentally impacting business and disturbing the piece my only souvenier - and, just before I sink into the enuie of legal worries to add to the myriad of others that have found me in my 5oth year a trio of dumpster flies, having followed my back from the ally no doubt, zip by me, back and again in perfect time to the last cumbia of the day still blaring from the radio.

Go figure......

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Freaky Teethy Things....

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth & Nothing but the Tooth….

So, I achieved a long-term life goal – made it to the ripe age of 50 with every one of my teeth still in my head. It’s no secret that Modem is a man with deep pockets…..deep pockets not of the sought-after financial type but rather of the periodontal persuasion. So, here I am, ripe with deep pockets…..sheesh.

And, after many years of near-heroic effort to save one of my more affected teeth, the day of reckoning came and the hour came near when molar number 29 had to go.

The thought of losing a tooth was disturbing to me – to see a fixed and seemingly permanent part of your physical self as impermanent, transient and fleeting thing gives a good elbow to the gut of that largely sleeping part of yourself that, despite all it sees in the world without and the world within – in spite of it all – persists in the dream of personal exceptionality to mortality. If you ever really want to bug that bastard, go ahead, pull a few teeth –

The tooth itself was quite a piece of work – according to the good doctor it was a dental freak of nature, a molar-on-the-edge with a rarely seen extra root shaped roughly in the shape of a male phallus (you can call me ‘dick-head’), a genetic freak apparently at this moment winging its way to a hallowed acrylic display case in the Museum of Dental Oddities. I wish it only the best of happiness in its new life. Apparently, its doing quite well without me, haven taken up with some busty dental hygienist with a thing for freaky teethy things, or so I read on its twitter posting. ‘That’s my boy…J

So its almost a week after losing the little bastard….and, frankly, good riddance. According to the doctor, the permanent state of infection was starting to impact the jaw bone and left untreated could have been much, much worse, more loss of bone, etc. The only available option might then have been the much ballyhooed but untested full “mouth transplant” – and that I’m not ready for, unless maybe I can get myself the strong lower jaw of a CharlesBronson, a George C. Scott, or a Tosiro Mifune. On my budget lucky if I could afford a used Alfred E. Newman, fucked up gapped teeth and all.

Well, that’ll be about all for now. Damn, I’m hungry….’gotta go and gum a donut.

Go figure,


Saturday, November 22, 2008

El NeuroMigre

Back after another followup at the neurologist.    Interesting conversation – apparently, the problem is all in my head.


But, there too, may lay the solution.


How convenient. 


Research points to the presence of dormant stem cells already there in your own brain – already there – no need to conduct some surreptitious cell harvesting from the unformed brain of a preborn spawn of some frantic juvenile coupling –

Though I do remember those being ‘kinda fun – the stem cells, the are ALREADY THERE  - inside your own head, an unused bench of new hitters for your cognitive world series, the one that really matters – the one that is you.


Imagine – there they are, all lined up on the bench in crisp outfits, telling off color jokes, their witty urban banter punctuated only by the occasion emission of a spent chaw of chewing tobacco,   All set !  So what the is the problem???


They’re asleepL


Unconscious, unknowing.

Totally and blissfully unaware


So, my neurologist tells me, the engineering task from the pharmacological perspective is to first wake up all the little bastards and then direct them to migrate to precisely the right location in your ‘wittle head, link dendrites and fill the gap of their dead and dying Brothers of the Dopamine order, to stand in the breech singing kumbaya and  forever  cure that what ‘ails ye, afflicted readers of this blog. 


Piece of cake, no? Take two aspirins, eye of newt and call me in the morning….


Clearly not an easy task – but I felt momentarily positive thinking that maybe a solutions does lurk near.   Migrating stem cells – why didn’t I think of that?


Then I did think of that and here is what I think I thought:


If it were me, if I were one of those neuromigrants, and you woke me up – well, first of all, then I’d be pissed….no-one likes being woken up, right?   And then, after waking me (remember, I’m pissed) – now what do you do?  Hand me marching orders to assemble somewhere  within the Substancia Nigra, not the best neighborhood by far, hell, I’ve never been there, and while the march for racial equality may have indeed transcended its challenge with the election of Obama in macro-world, whose to say that my sleepy Grey – matter brothers would ever willingly move to a place characterized by all the Dark Matter of the substancia nigra –never underestimate the predjudice of of pigmentation.


No – as a young, recently awoken plurapotent stemcell no way in hell that I’m about to willingly hitch my wagon to a dying brain.   Hell no, I don’t want to be an enable of some near-50 mid career frustrated- high school band director- who left New York to find fame and fortune in Hollywood as a wanna-be film composer, who went from wanna be to has been with out having been there.

Just because he HAD potential and squandered it, now you ‘tellin me that me, with my infinite stem cell superpowers I have to go and shoot my wad on some bum like that?   You talking to me?  You TALKING TO ME?  


Great…. now you’ve gone and radicalized the little bastards…



Desperate times call for desperative measures.    Woken and ordered to do the

“Man’s” work – with no say in the matter – its entirely reasonable to assume that a critical mass of the newly politicized neuroMigre would look for ways out….hop on the bus, Gus,..make a new plan, stan…..Hitch a ride on the gust of a sneeze, sling down a thread of mucus hanging from your nose, swinging like a little Tarzan in hopes of  somehow finding the way into the head of an up and coming basketball star, supermodel or at least that of a musician who knows better than to do clubdates as a sideman……    


Migrating Stem Cells – wake ‘em up, tell em where to go, what to do, and don’ talk back or ask too many question.    So what do you make of the odds?


Go figure,


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sparring with the Muse....

Before being hit with the reality of PD, as a keyboard musician I would from time to time amuse myself with the morose projection "what would happen if I somehow lost use of my hands" - one of the most terribilest thoughts there is to a working musician - and for the bulk of my teens through early 40's this is what I was -
now, confronting the reality of the gradual but insistent loss of the fine motor control integral to piano technique I find myself having to deal with this experience, not in a traumatic way, i.e. losing your hands in an unfortunate accident, but rather with a torturously slow attrition of those abilities which I've taken for granted for so long.

So it was this week that I approached two music events - the first, a rehearsal session with some top L.A. veteren musicians - these are the guys that play behind all the big name artists when passing through town, the musicals at the Pantages, the Hollywood Award Shows, all the way up to major film dates and all the way down to the monkeysuit jobs at Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings and corporate events of every ilk.

Walking into the session with my gimply left hand was a little disconcerting, and I started out without the quiet assumed conidence in my competence that always till recently accompanied me to the stage - I may not be able to dribble a basketball for shit, but I can always kick musical butt on the keys - and it was a bit of a hard start, but as we got into the second number and on, it was good to start to feel the left hand join in the dance, running on fumes maybe, but still running. From a playing perspective, I've always been more of an 'architectural' player than a virtuoso - i.e., more inclined, attuned to 'surgically' playing the right note, harmony or punctuation at the right time to support the music rather than playing rapid-fire improvisations - and, for where I am now and may be going, this approach serves me well.

I am always impressed playing with senior musicians - guys in their 60s to even into the 90s' - by how undiminished and strong their music making can be - and, looked forward to maybe one day joining the club of back-slapping wizened old geezers trading stories between numbers - I dunno, hard to say where I'll be in 10,20 years even without the PD issues - still, it felt good to get out there and swim with the fishes again for a bit.

Played a second, paying job, solo piano - this started out easier and ended the third hour the control and manual dexterity in my left hand had almost completely departed - walking bass lines out of the question, barely able to drop my fingers on the keys save for dropping the entire arm through it but with a considerable degree of difficultly at the end.

No great cathartic thought this time around.....just observing the dance.