Thursday, July 28, 2016

When Lolita meets Dr. Frankenstein

This was the original working title of my latest book - When Winter Wind Wears Desert Boots.

Why is this original title - When Lolita meets Dr. Frankenstein - nowhere to be seen in the final published copy? Another story to be told. Perhaps if you read the book (if you haven't already done so), you will have a theory to offer.

And today and tomorrow: July 29-30, you can still download the Kindle version of the book for FREE.
Click here to go to Amazon and download a FREE copy.

Your comments are more than welcome. You may find this hard to believe, but even scathing, negative criticism is far better than no feedback at all. For your comments and reviews feed my writing and give me reason to press on.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Here's looking at you, kid.

In my early years
I like the early summer mornings, stepping out of the shower to feel the cool breeze on my naked skin. Slowly letting my body air dry. This is my hour, not to be shared with anyone else as I move through the house, still dripping wet.

A few days ago, while nearing the end of this intimate moment of privacy, I stepped out onto the open balcony to hang up my wet towel. And, as is often their habit, a small herd of Ibex had collected on the lawn below, munching contentedly on the grass offering. I stood there quietly for a moment watching them, when suddenly an ibex, one of the younger ones, looked up and saw me standing there, totally naked. He froze in utter fright. Others sensed his fear and looked up, also. It only took a few seconds for the stampede to begin, the ibex making a hasty retreat, back to the wadi from whence they came. Should I have taken offence at this comment on my natural state of being? No, I have learned to roll with the punches and look on the bright side. I may have stumbled across a solution to thwarting their marauding ways: the human scarecrow.

These are the same ibex that allow me to walk slowly and steadily through their ranks on my way to work. Seeing me approach, they will pause their munching for a moment, and then, registering no great danger,  return to their early morning breakfast while keeping track of me through a corner of their eye. How do we explain the former chaos, then? Why should my not wearing clothes make such a difference? Could it be that they do not recognize me in my nakedness? Doesn't that conflict with our instinct? Shouldn't I be most recognizable when I have no masks to hide behind?

As for the neighbours, I haven't received any complaints... so far. Most people are still not up by the time I complete my naked ritual. Although one morning, I thought I caught a few flashes going off from the neighbour's window opposite. Someone taking pictures? Collecting nude pictures of me, perhaps, that could be used against me in a future neighbourhood dispute? I doubt if they were doing this for their own artistic pleasure.

What is it about our bodies, then? Why do some bodies attract and others repel? Why do some look better covered up in clothing and makeup while others look best in their natural glory? Are we genetically programmed to find certain bodily structures more pleasant to the eye? Is this a part of our cognitive structure? And why do we describe one person as merely attractive, while we describe another as stunning? I must admit that I enjoy watching attractive women. One of my guilty pleasures. Come on... aren't we all like that? "You can look, but no touch," Molly told Andrew as he appeared excited by the Israeli female form - quite unlike what he was used to in Oregon. If we aren't flustered at times by a beautiful human figure, then it may be time for someone to check our pulse.

But it isn't all about the curves, all in the right places, is it. As a seasoned armchair woman watcher, I maintain that there is much more to it than that. The eyes have it.
"Oh no," you say, "you aren't going to tell us next that the eyes are the window to the soul. When all you are really interested in is looking at her butt."
Well, call me abnormal. I have been called abnormal about so many other things. But while I may find a woman attractive upon first look, my interest quickly fades away if an attractive figure is all there is. And forgive me for harping on this, but it is in the eyes. If the eyes are vacant, she simply becomes another faceless figure in the crowd.

*This is the time to remind you that I am married and this is merely an armchair sport. Especially since my wife and inlaws sometimes read my blogs, as well as my children, sister and mother...
"You've been dodging the silver bullet for some time," my good friend says to me. "It may have just caught up to you."
I shift uncomfortably in my chair. "They will understand," I say, but this time with a little less conviction.

But let's forget the attractive human body and go back to talking about mine. I do think that after that rather quick response of the Ibex to my naked body, I do deserve a second opinion: this time human. But how do I go about that without appearing to be a pervert? I don't want to make the morning headline - "Naked man shot by police as he reached for.." what exactly?

If we look at my 19-year-old figure above, I once had a body worth keeping. But we can't, can we. Keep it, I mean. Nobody can. Not even those celebrity stars with their botox filled frozen faces. As if someone would really want to kiss that. Much scarier than my naked body, in my humble opinion. But then, I am subjective, aren't I.

In my winter years
The irony about it all is that I probably look better now than I have in the last ten years. I have lost a lot of weight, although I consciously haven't done anything to explain that change. My posture is much better than it has ever been and I am walking much more naturally. I guess I should thank Parkinson's for this. It threw down the glove and I am trying now to gain early ground.

And I have two secret weapons to help me in this struggle:  a badass Pilates instructor and a badass neurologist.  They leave no room for self-pity. The Pilates instructor reminds me of an unwavering drill sergeant. Nothing gets past her. "Body straight, shoulders back! Do you think I don't see you slouching!" My Russian neurologist reminds me of the Russian woman officer at passport control at the Moscow airport where, at one point, I thought she was about to send me to a Russian jail. She didn't understand why I had only a visa for Kazakhstan when I was going to Kyrgyzstan, albeit through Kazakstan. And of course, she didn't speak any English.

You see, that is exactly what I need. Not someone to let me cut corners and try to warmly encourage me. No, they have to be ruthless, within reason. So maybe the ibex had it right, all along.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The gift that keeps on taking

They say, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." But when Michael J. Fox deemed Parkinson's disease to be a gift, many people - especially those suffering from the disease - took offense at his choice of words. Nonetheless, Michael continued to describe Parkinson's as a gift, but with the following clarification:

“Because Parkinson’s demanded of me that I be a better man, a better husband, father, and citizen, I often refer to it as a gift. With a nod to those who find this hard to believe, especially my fellow patients who are facing great difficulties, I add this qualifier — it’s the gift that keeps on taking...but it is a gift.”
~ Michael J. Fox

A gift? Really? Can I return it then? Where's the exchange slip?
But there is no exchange slip in the box. It even came without wrapping. No, it appears that it is mine to keep. But what do I do with it now?

Michael certainly wouldn't have called it a gift the day he was diagnosed with what is usually known as an old man's disease. He was at the tender age of 29 and at the height of his acting career. He had wed Tracy Pollan, the love of his life, a few years earlier and they had already started a family. One might say that he was living a charmed life at the time. That is, if it weren't for his excessive drinking and workaholic habits that kept him away from his family and fed on his constant worry that it all would somehow dry up if he didn't keep pushing himself.

And then the sky fell in and the next day was the first day of his life.

Michael's immediate reaction to the diagnosis was to drink even more and take on even more projects to bury himself in work. At that point, it appeared that he had entered the early stage of denial - which lasted for the next nine years as he tried his best to hide this disease from the general public - even from his co-workers on the set of the hit TV series: Spin City, where he was filmed from every angle.

What changed, then? What brought him out of the closet?

"Humility is always a good thing. It's always a good thing to be humbled by circumstances so you can then come from a sincere place to try to deal with them."
~ Michael J. Fox

Michael's coming out had a great effect on the Parkinson community. Parkinson's was a disease that was generally pushed into the background. There was no cure for it. The most you could do was to try and slow it down. It was a disease that many felt ashamed of, because it was so noticeable and socially ugly. And here was Michael, whose warm and expressive boyish features had once won us over in Family Ties and Back to the Future, now exposing the haggard features of his Parkinson to the world - no longer feeling the need to hide his symptoms.

"Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there's got to be a way through it... I often say now I don't have any choice whether or not I have Parkinson's, but surrounding that non-choice is a million other choices that I can make."
~ Michael J. Fox

Michael was surprised by the strong positive reaction of the Parkinson community to his news. It was then that he realized that it was within his grasp to do much more. He set up the Michael J. Fox Foundation to provide significant funding for promising Parkinson research in the hope that it would lead to a cure. And he set out into the world, speaking at fund raisers and agreeing to give interviews to the media, so that Parkinson's might take on a new face in the public eye. He even continued his acting career, appearing in guest spots in many different TV series. All this, despite his being told at the time of his diagnosis that he might still have a good ten years of work ahead of him. And here he was, ten years later, about to set out on a crusade to find a cure for Parkinson. His work had just begun.

What can we learn from all this? A good friend of mine once said: "It's not the disease which is at the heart of the matter, but rather how we react to the challenge." It is what it is, and we must decide what we will do with it.

We never know how we will react to a situation until we are there. My father was diagnosed with cancer at the age of seventy-six, I was the first one to visit him in the hospital after he had received the diagnosis. "Well, I have had a good life," he told me. That moment has stayed with me ever since.

I am a recluse. I admit that. No matter how many people surround me at times. I am invisible to most. I know that most of this is my own doing. And when it comes to medical challenges, my immediate reaction is to keep it all to myself. This is a result of my upbringing - or at least a significant part of it. But that is another story. I will tell you about it when we know each other better.

As for now, it may be time to change. If Michael could change in his own way, so can I. For I am fortunate to be loved, and fortunate to be surrounded by such a beautiful family. And as long as I am not a heavy burden on them, there is still reason to pull myself out of bed on a cold winter morning.

Humility. Acceptance. Can we do without denial?
"How can you possibly leave yourself so open and vulnerable?" you ask.
"Have I? But you must realize that this blog is not about me. It is about Michael J. Fox."
"Yeah, right," pipes up a little voice from the back. "It's about you and Parkinson's."
"Okay, since we are in a giving mood, I will give you that," I respond. "It's about Parkinson's."