eight miles high

a zeppelin over san francisco, futurowoman, deviantart

Call it luck or call it reason, but I just missed by a few years the sentinel plea of a generation by Timothy Leary to “tune in, turn on, drop out”. Still, the creative burst of writers, musicians and artists of that era have been a soundtrack to many  years of my life. Expressions of love, peace, community and equality – to name but a few – continued to reverberate in my early years.

As time past, I had more than a few blows on my psyche that may have dislodged or completely derailed such thinking – travails of a working life, the premature death of friends and a partner, the loss of extended family – but then came my diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease some 16 years ago. Now, that was a freak-out! A real bad trip, man. Bummer.

Ever since, my days have been characterized by a different kind of drug – those of a pharmaceutical nature (see  Go Ask Alice  or Pump It Up ). Not those inspired by acid rock or a psychedelic-infused or melancholic nature or condition. Just a batch of prescribed concoctions aimed at addressing my PD symptoms (or side effects of the same).

But recent news has me contemplating whether that might be changing. There’s something in the air these days – could it be the winds of change or is the answer in fact, blowin’ in the wind? (that’s the last 60’s metaphor I’ll use I promise).

First, there was the news that many patients with PD were experiencing the benefits of medicinal marijuana. Studies have trumpeted it’s success at pain relief, issues of anxiety and as an aid for those suffering from sleep deprivation. More and more people with PD seem to be turning to marijuana for relief.

Then, I read today, of a new set of headphones that have been developed that stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain. They will pump music into your ears as normal, but at the same time, “will deliver a low-power electrical signal through your ear canal to stimulate the Vagus nerve – a nerve that runs from the brainstem to the abdomen and plays a role in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres”. In other words, if this works, just by listening to music on these headphones, we’re going to get high! How high is debatable given our dopamine- challenged condition.

Now, you might be skeptical that such an item as headphones could get you high but here was the kicker for me. This article appeared in a serious audiophile periodical and here’s what the seasoned journalist who wrote the piece said after testing out the headphones:

 I felt like I reached a personal high point. I couldn’t stop smiling or laughing. I was like, ‘Oh wow’. For about 5 minutes, my happiness level was a 10 out of 10. Then it got foggier, but I was still unusually happy for about an hour.”

Oh wow, man! (I know, I promised. Chill) Don’t bogart that joint, my friend! Pass it over to me! If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be down in the rec room in my bean bag chair with my new headphones on. Make your way through that purple haze and that’s where you’ll find me. Eight miles high.




A word from our legal department: this blog entry is not written or reproduced herein, to encourage or propagate the use or misuse of any and or all legal or illegal stimulants such as cannabis or dopamine-stimulant headphones under any or all circumstances. Any representation by the author of any activities or recreational pursuits undertaken in said locations, under said influences, are fictional in nature and are intended for the entertainment of the reader. Thank you for your attention and understanding and excuse me while I kiss the sky.




Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Muhammad Ali by Chaker Design, deviantart

Growing up watching Muhammad Ali in the prime of his boxing career was a real treat. I wasn’t such a big fan of boxing – two people beating the heck out of each other  – I didn’t get it. But Ali was an entertainer.

Besides his famous line that titles this blog, Ali came up with the numerous gems over the years. Some 50 years ago, prior to his championship fight with Sonny Liston, he declared “The crowd did not dream when they laid down their money / that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny”.  The humble “I am the greatest”. Or how about this nugget: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”. The charisma – the confidence – the determination he showed can all be seen in just the first few minutes of a youtube clip of Ali during training (click here).

Today, of course, Ali is fighting a different kind of fight. As most know, he has Parkinson’s and is in a very advanced state of the disease. It’s hard to watch him these days and compare him with his days as Cassius Clay. Yet, in a very telling way, Ali’s present state is a beacon of sorts for those with PD. As the disease progresses, it slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, robs us of the life we have known. We may not all be accomplished athletes or famous celebrities like Michael J Fox, but we all get to experience loss to an equally great degree.

Recently, i’ve noted one loss that had me thinking of Ali. As I said before, I’ve never really been that into boxing. I’ve never trained in a gym. I once was involved in a high school fight where, taking one blow to the head, I was knocked out cold. So much for a career in one-on-one fist fighting! I don’t even remember who my sparing partner was on that fateful day but, were we to meet again, he would have an even easier go with me. I have been noticing the gradual loss of strength in my hands. I have difficulty fastening buttons or clips. I can’t scrub dishes. I can’t apply enough pressure to any tools that require this. Make a fist? Deliver a striking blow? Forget about it.

Although, I hasten to add, I may not be without hope forever. There’s a group that’s active in the US and I understand that they are rumoured to be setting up a chapter in Toronto. It’s called “Rock Steady” and it’s a boxing club for people with Parkinson’s. While the thought of jumping into the ring only to get clocked ( a la high school) doesn’t exactly thrill me, I am attracted to the exercise benefits of the sport as well as the potential hand strengthening. Not sure about the look of me in Everlast boxing shorts. Float like a butterfly? Sting like a bee? What? Are you looking at me??



I wanna be a biker (again)

biker hands by uzixc, deviantart

Banana seat. Extension handlebars. Fat white walls. I was the coolest kid in my neighbourhood (at least I thought so).

Flash forward to University days. A one-speed clunker. Storage basket. Cruised across that city everywhere on my bike, ponytail blowing in the breeze. Cool.

Then a series of cars. Kids, and more cars. Two-wheel life was wedged out of my life until Parkinson’s came calling. “Exercise is so important” I was told at every turn. “Get  outside – take a ride”. Yet would my balance problems permit me to return to my cycling days? Enter the adult tricycle – two wheels up-front, one in the back. A low rider that had me about a foot off the ground, sitting comfortably and garnering lots of attention wherever i rode! That was uber-cool.

Yet, after a series of too-close-for-comfort encounters with vehicles, and an improved balance from my new PD medications, I decided to part company with the trike. We’d visited Amsterdam around the same time and I was inspired by the way bikes are so integral to life in the city. I loved the cruiser-style bicycles that everyone seems to use to get around. That’s what I’d get – an Amsterdam special!

Well, I’m yet to make this acquisition but I feel like it’s immanent. Though my attention has been distracted by other objects of vehicular lust (have you seen those 3-wheeled Can-Am Spyder bikes? What about a Vespa scooter?), I remain committed to the Amsterdam bike. The exercise that is so important for someone with PD, as well as the slower pace of riding a bike, appeals. If I could only find one with a banana seat.