Saturday, 28 June 2014

Looking For Vinny - Parkinson's For Life Without Parole Pt 2

The Phantastic Neural-Penal Translator

While I suspect that many readers might have assumed that the whole shtick with contrasting Parkinson’s and a life sentence in the Big House was just that, a shtick, it wasn’t, (at least by the end of the investigation). I was really counting on this piece to stand on its own as a hard-hitting number - like something that the CBC’s Fifth Estate would punch out. At this point, it was about as hard-hitting as a body shot from one of my elderly brothers.

Struggling, I revisited some of my earlier sources to see if there were any updates I could tap into. I checked my forum account at My posting: "former beauty queen seeks platonic information gathering sessions on prison life" had gotten so many replies that I cancelled the posting. I have found out that the visitors center was an open set up and not behind glass. I doubted  I would survive the pummelling for my postings stretching of the truth.

I had reviewed an excellent article: “50 Slang Words To Make You Seem Like a Tough Guy in Prison” and immediately recognized half of them from my youth. I called up a few of my siblings and tried some of the remaining words. It seemed to work effectively - they still kept their distance.

I had even listened to Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. A few movie marathons later, including  Escape from Alcatraz, Cool Hand Luke, the Longest Yard, etc. and I had my thesis: that Prison Guards and Neurologists were in cahoots.  While my resources didn't allow an in-depth investigation, what we uncovered was certainly enough to call in the good people a The CBC's Fifth Estate.

I'll assume you're familiar with the standard (studio mandated)  opening scene where the new inmate (with the Houdini-like abilities to escape) is read the riot act by the Warden. It struck me how much the Warden/Prisoner intake dialogue resembled the Neurologist/Patient intake dialogue. So much so, that I began to think like a conspiracy theorist. And that's just, well, dangerous :-) I didn't have any particular conspiracy in mind. And that's just, well, worse.

Neural - Penal Translater
Watch as the following Warden statements are run through the Neuro - Penal Translator producing the correct  Neurologese translation to the right. And yes, I will confirm rumours that  as a result of the tremendous success this new product, we're looking at the possibility of using this technology in other applications such as a new Marital Translator, Parent - Surly Teenager Translator, Grumpy Guy With Parkinson/s - Partner Translator etc.

I see you have a history of escapes, assaults, and  you are a real shit disturber - Care to comment?

I understand you ask a lot of questions
From now on you’ll breathe when I say to breathe, you'll eat when I say to eat,  and you'll crap when I say to crap. Got it?  This is Sinemet. From now on you will take it at 5am, 9am, 1pm, 5pm, and 9 pm
No one has ever escaped from this prison There is no cure for Parkinson's
Here at Alcatraz, I deal with prisoners cannot be reformedHere at the Clinic  we work with neurodegenerative diseases that will not get better, they will worsen over time
Your ass is mine from now until, oh yeah… LIFE! I will see you after six months from now till neurodegeneternity!

Yes, I'm not the only one taken aback by  the brazen statement of facts and the unapologetic presentation of an unpleasant reality.  I don't think it's a stretch to wonder whether the two of  them went to the same school - but seriously, you want me to suggest that their programs were barely differentiated? That’s pretty bold stuff. I’ll go with it.

Signs your neurologist may be moonlighting at the local penitentiary:
  • They suggest “corporal punishment” as a new experimental treatment for Parkinson’s
  • They begin to accessorize with Kevlar. 
  • They threaten that if they get one more call from the pharmacy to refill your prescription you’ll be going to the “hole” for six weeks
  • When questioning you about your exercise levels, they asked how much time you’ve been getting in the “yard” lately.
  • They never turn their back on you anymore

Note: no doubt you have noticed the photo to the right. Yes, that is YOUR Neurologist Dr Degenerate! One of our alert readers sent this in to me.  I struggled briefly with my journalistic responsibilities. Extremely briefly, as if I had any, I was unaware of what they were anyways.  Do note, your neurologist has not broken any laws (at least in the photo). I do share your concern over his ability to function at a professional level at your appointments the next morning. I for one, would not feel good entrusting the counting of my toe taps to someone who has been fawning over Vinny "SmartyPants" Malone.

Vinny, aka "SmartyPants"

So you’ve met the Warden. Now it’s time to take a stroll down to cell block B where you will meet he guy who can really get things done. Let’s introduce you to Vinny in B-6. Vinny is the guy who can get you absolutely anything. Need a nail file for your (ahem…) . nails? Vinny can get one for you. Need to get a valentines card to the Warden’s wife? He can take care of that as well. Need to get a set of floor plans for the prison? Done!

Vinny’s smart, real smart. There should be no mystery why they call him “SmartyPants”. Vinny knows his game well. He knows the posted rules, and he knows the real rules. He knows his needs, his suppliers, and his market, all, very, very, well. Vinny is a master of his limited domain. In the big house, he knows what is beyond his control, what he can control, and when he can attempt to influence. You and I can learn a whole lot from Vinny.

If I was half as sharp as Vinny, I would sit down and sketch out all of the things  I can either control, or influence. Vinny, being the sharp, resourceful fellow he is, would then look for gaps and inefficiencies and would seek out the best people he can find for his team. They may have a rap sheet a mile-long, but they would be the best he could find. Are you bold enough to ask for the best?

So now you've learned a bit about prison life, you've met the Warden, Vinny, and maybe gained a little insight into why your Neurologist is incessantly yawning. Our final instalment looks at the concept of hope, why I don't believe in it - and what strategies and secret weapons I possess to help me through to the finish line.

Next: Final Instalment - The Hopeless Optimist

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Looking for Vinny - Parkinson's For Life Without Parole

Usted no me Dijo el Tío es Una Leyenda Del Café?

“Quad Espresso!" the Barrista shouted, giving me a short reprieve from the interrogation I was about to undergo by Shemp, an ex-con. I leapt up, enjoying the notoriety (imagined or not) that ordering such a hi-octane drink would bring. I made eye contact with a few of the regulars, accepting their likely feigned admiration. I raised the necter to my lips, glanced off into the distance, and in my best Juan Valdez accent offered, "nuez, adecegrita, yaque domina la crema" (nutty, suitably bold as it dominates the cream) My disciples nodded in agreement, as the Barrista rolled  his eyes. Good god, They still think I'm Columbian ;)
Shemp and I had crossed paths about 12 minutes earlier outside the coffee shop. He had been panhandling, I, doing a blog entry that contrasted living with Parkinson's to a life sentence of incarceration, was looking for someone with real life correctional experience. Shemp was my man. A free lunch in return for one hour of "Life In the Big House For Dummies."

I wracked my brain for any personal anecdote that might convince him that I was just a little bit less like Howdy Doody and a shade more like Clint Eastwood. Someone once told me that everyone should have at least a minor skirmish with the law. I think the thought was that if you were just one more stupid comment away from charges, it was some indication that you were at least willing to stand up or yourself. I would suggest that the addition of the adjective "stupid"
was maybe a sign that this was a bit less about logic and more about a boiled down explanation of how we actually fill our remaining rooms in incarceration.

I thought I would test him with this one. After a few minutes of conversation, I would wait until the first pregnant pause, look at him with an expression appropriate for a "we got business to do" situation... (of course, I would first need to locate that look in my repertoire), then I would ask him "can you be trusted?" At that point, I'm guessing that he would either strangle me with his bare hands, or he would be ready to do business. I would look at him, pause, and whisper "last week, Monday - I killed a man, with kindness. At that point, depending on his reaction and demeanour, I would either bolt for the door, or really bolt for the door…

I was striding back to the table when I realized that you can take the con out of Millhaven Pen but you can't take…. The grub had arrived, and Shemp's latent penal instincts had kicked into high gear. He had assumed the Emily Post approved correctional dining position - crowding the  plate, arms protecting either flank, shanked left and right with the business end up. That’s right, Shemp ate his meal with two knives. Frankly, it scared the shit out of me just to sit at the same table as a double-shanked Shemp...
I let out a next to silent groan. I managed to coerce one of the few remaining loyal cells in my substantia nigra to help out with some movement, cracking open an eyelid. Ahh - Starbucks, fantabulous. I slowly raised my head off the table, self checking whether I had violated any coffee culture norms. Ok there. A swizzle stick - stuck to my cheek, fell to the table. Shemp,  I muttered…?

 No sign of Shemp. I checked my Starbucks receipt to see if there had been any charges on it - other than my regular quad. None. Was Shemp one big apparition? Quite possibly. I had been warned about "extremely vivid" dreams as a side effect of one of my medications. I got up to go and splash some water on my face when I noticed a napkin on the other side of the table wadded up into the tightest ball you could imagine. On the back of the napkin, was written my working title for the blog entry but not in my writing:

"Once you accept that you are not in control,
you are in control...

Family feud, Unjustly Detained, The Lost years...

Occasionally I will chat with someone contrasting life with Parkinson’s with incarceration, particularly with the concept of a life sentence without parole. Most are uncomfortable laughing at Parkinson’s to begin with, even if I take the lead - c’mon, it’s safe, follow me …. (the ice is thick enough!). I appreciate the thoughtfulness involved, but do wish I could have more belly laughs with others about it. Some disagree with the characterization of Parkinson’s as a life sentence, while others question my knowledge or first-hand experience with the penal system to make a valid case.
For your information, I am eminently qualified to make this comparison. I have watched every epis0de of Prison Break (80),  I survived as a sibling detainee in my youth,   I have toured Alcatraz, and most importantly, I, myself, have done time in the Big House.
Hell hath no fury like a sibling who will one day write a blog
Sadly, the photo to the right can be reduced to yet another tale of brotherly love gone sour, one more example of misuse of RCMP resources by one of its members, (a Sargeant no less), and ultimately, an oh-so- desperate attempt by a brother to knock me down off my favorite son pedestal. (it’s a wonder I can write with such clarity in this thin air).
Cycling through Kimberly, B.C., I was hauled off on an obscure public (in)decency law Kimberly Code 2.6.4  Subsection: Public Indecency and Spandex Cycling that read: “if over 40 years of age, thou shalt not be seen on a bicycle in spandex, unless deemed to be “somewhat hot for their age.”  I took the expedient route and plead guilty. I mean, its not like the sentence was remotely Mandellian in length. (I was out in 20 min.) It’s just that I reject any form of "Hotness profiling".  I know, I know, I could have easily fought it !

Next Week: Part Two starting with The Phantastic Neural-Penal Translator

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Water Is Getting Pretty Rough out There

Thursday Update:

Just cleaning up a few puddles here and there.  A few parts were rejected by the censor board. I have cleaned it all up and now you are safe to huddle around the blog with your family on Sunday nights instead of watching Heartland. you will get it later today at long last      

Wednesday Update:

The water can get pretty rough out this way. We like to think that here at Parkinson's Wake we are getting good at handling rough water. Even so, this week it has been coming over the top of the gunnels - slowing progress on almost everything. Posting will come tomorrow. I think it's become apparent pretty quick that a rigid posting schedule is not suitable for me. I'm thinking that the once a week frequency may be manageable but I think we need to go back to the flexible posting timing - as in, it will be posted when it's posted.

Thanks for your understanding!


Monday, 2 June 2014

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait & The Surprising Science of Happiness

Hello all,

Apologies for another delay. Despite my best intentions,  I was not able to get my column done in time. It's a good one - I'm enjoying working on it and would not want to rush it out the door for the sake of getting it out. It will be out on Saturday.

This week -  Enjoy the following. Many of you will be familiar with Ted Talks. For those who are not, you're in for a treat. This is one of my favorites. By Dan Gilbert .

Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong — a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness.


The Surprising Science of Happiness