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From Fly Creek

March 6, 2014

Let not thy left hand know


I owe you a year’s updating on Parkinson’s and me, but most of it can be summarized as “more of the same.” More imbalance and falls, more memory loss, more cognition that sometimes jerks and judders like an engine screaming out for servicing. And still no name for the kind of Parkinsonism that is moving forward at a wobbly pace of its own choice.

There is a specific symptom that is quite close to what my willful arm was doing. You can look it up on any search engine: “Alien Limb Syndrome.” Most entries carry video clips of people dealing with it. You won’t want to watch more than one.

The syndrome often follows a severe brain surgery to quell uncontrollable grand mal epileptic seizures; it consists of severing a link between the brain’s two hemispheres and is usually quite successful—except for an awful side-effect: alien limb syndrome, and much, much worse than what I was experiencing.

Thank God, between Dr. Deringer and Michael Quinn, Bassett’s gifted physical therapist, another possible cause for my assault and battery has emerged. It may be closely related to the gross startle reflex that’s affected me for perhaps five years.

All we animals are blessed with startle reflex; it saves the life of numberless gazelles and gnus from being gnawed by lions and such. A subtle, almost subliminal warning sounds in them and causes a huge surge of adrenalin. And off springs the graceful gnu or gazelle, leaving the lion cursing the startle reflex.

And so with us humans. If someone clashes a set of cymbals just behind us, we jump, are flooded with adrenalin, and are instantly ready for flight or fight. But, as to me:

Well, in a restaurant, let someone at the near table burst out with a sudden roar of laughter, and I’m ready to leap, gazelle-like, right across my own table and into a dining companion’s lap. Or worse, let a cook drop a steel pot lid, or a busboy a stack of plates, and your usually genial friend all but climbs the drapes.

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From Fly Creek
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    July 24, 2014

  • 'They were out of step but Jim!' All right, skip the drolleries about the headline. The quote is actually the title of a 1918 song by Irving Berlin, who, with George M. Cohan and other songsmiths, was producing patriotic pieces by the dozen as the Yanks were going "Over There!"

    June 19, 2014

  • Replanting has taken root Lots of boxes still to be unpacked and stuff to be put on shelves and into closets, but Anne's and my shift into Cooperstown is almost done. We're securely replanted at 24 Delaware Street and already feeling at home.

    May 8, 2014

  • There's reason to hope I hadn't planned this piece for my April column, but something happened that was impossible to ignore. Within a week, three different friends (count them, three!) from different parts of the country emailed to say they'd come across an old Crier column that they'd saved for twelve years and had sent to many friends because it meant much to them.

    April 17, 2014

  • Let not thy left hand know That headline's a Bible allusion, trenchant advice not to preen when doing good: "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." Amen, I say.

    March 6, 2014

  • How good to be back! "Tis I, the Spirit of a Thousand Columns Past, back after a twelve-month silence to talk at you again in the flesh!"

    January 2, 2014

  • Mammon Triumphs in Turkey Bowl Editor's Note: We're thrilled to announce the return of our columnist, Jim Atwell, and his legendary column "From Fly Creek." Jim's column will be an occasional feature, when he is able to write or he has something he wants to contribute. We celebrate his return with one of his classic columns.

    December 5, 2013

  • Rolling toward a stop I’m slowing down, friends, rolling toward a stop for this column. The best way to describe my reason is through an analogy: I want you to think of me as a horse-drawn wagon and driver â€" not just as the driver, but as the whole shebang.

    December 27, 2012

  • Giving gnomes a home Whack a mole, if you must, but never a gnome. You'd enrage those who dote on them. And there are many such people, though maybe not as many as gnomes. Gnomes are everywhere.

    November 29, 2012

  • Hauling history home Anne and I have a trip ahead of us. We'll be trundling south in our bought-used-but-still-great Mercury Mountaineer SUV.

    November 15, 2012