Monday, October 19, 2020

Parkinson's update & where do they get those long drug names


(671 words)

My neurologist just prescribed me Amantadine to go along with my Pramipexole and Levothyroxine. Or as I call them, the little green one, the pink one and the medium tan one that tastes like the bottom of a farmer’s boot.

That’s three pills, 17 syllables.

The Amantadine is supposed to improve dexterity in my left arm, which Parkinson’s has rendered as useless as a deli window salami. Side effects include vivid hallucinations in 50 percent of the patients.

An Amantadine-taking friend of mine warned me of this. He has them. I asked him to describe what he sees.

“You see whatever’s most on your mind. With me, it’s roofers. We’re having new roofs put in on three of my properties so I’ve been thinking a lot about roofers.”

I wonder if I’ll start seeing naked waitresses bringing me trays of food and drink. That’s been a persistent fantasy of mine since puberty and the years have done nothing to diminish its potency.

Either way, I’m glad we don’t live in a house with a leaky roof.

There was good news from my neurologist. She says I’m beating Parkinson’s. Those were her exact words: “You’re beating Parkinson’s.”

“I can tell by looking at you you’re doing great. Still strong. Most patients at your stage (5 years since symptoms appeared) are showing significant struggles. You display none of those. That bodes very well for your future.”

I’m gratified, but I wonder if she’s taking drugs with side effects that include overly exuberant diagnoses to anxious patients.

I don’t feel like I’m beating Parkinson’s. Distracting it, maybe.

I know it’s one of those things that’ll be uppermost in my mind until the day I die, which leads me to fear I one day might transmit the disorder to all those naked waitresses I’m hoping will appear in my hallucinations.

I wonder how long it’ll be before the number of pills I take outnumber the number of fruits and vegetables I eat.

Or alcoholic beverages I guzzle.

I think every pill comes with prudent instructions to avoid alcohol.

To which I say, how the hell am I supposed to do that? I work in a building that has three bars lavish with booze. I daily stroll past two of them on my way up the stairs only occasionally succumbing to temptation’s pull. 

What am I supposed to do? Heave a grappling hook up onto the roof and scale the walls?

No. I’ll not let a little pill boss me around. I invite it into my body — my party — and I expect it to play nice with the other guests. 

I think I’ll begin to worry when I top 100 syllables in daily pharmaceuticals.

A big chunk of that could come if I’m ever diagnosed with melanoma. The skin disease is treated with Talimogene laherparepvec (tal IM oh jeen la her pa REP vek). I imagine the name hula hoops twice around the little pill bottle.

Then there’s OnabotulinumtoxinA, which sounds less like a treatment for debilitating motor skills and more like one of the brain puzzlers used to stump final round contestants at the National Spelling Bee.

Where do these names come from and do the smock-wearing namers ever try to name a pill Phil?

Well, it turns out the naming of a generic drug is highly regulated — and informative. Each syllable tells a story.

Reliable web sites — are there any other kind? — say “Pharmaceutical names are assigned according to a scheme in which specific syllables in the drug name (called stems) convey information about the chemical structure, action, or indication of the drug.”

So, conceivably, there are men and women who have committed to memory vowel-devouring words of up to 20 letters. I have no idea of how to identify these people by sight but if one day one them becomes my partner in a high-stakes game of Scrabble, man, you’re going to hear about it.

Because a rose by any other name is still a rose.

Same goes for Dapagliflozin.

Related …

So, okay, I have Parkinson’s

The suicide pill 

Prince & the Nation that pees purple

In the ring: fighting Parkinson’s with boxing

Deep sixing heart attack plans

Thursday, October 15, 2020

My KDKA spot goes pfft

(726 words)

Our daughters made a nice impression on some friends this weekend and I was happy to share the compliments.

“They said you were charming, poised and articulate,” I said, sensing right away they were experiencing proud surges of youthful self-esteem. It was heady praise.

It’s why I felt momentary shame when I instantly pricked their ego-expanding balloons.

“You know,” I said, “when people say things like that, they’re not complimenting you. They’re complimenting me and your mother.”

It’s true. A child is unworthy of genuine compliment until they’re about 25 years old and are out and about in the world. Until then, most everything they are — how they look, how they act, what they have — is a result of parental influence.

I can say this because I understand an increasingly big part of who I am is a direct result of someone else.

That’d be Kevin Miscik.

Kevin’s owned Lapels, a fine men’s clothier in downtown Greensburg, since 2002. That was around the time when I dressed year-round like a guy who was always available to help a drinking buddy move a porch couch.

That all began to change when Lapels opened.

I guess I bought my first shirt there in about 2003. Most of you have seen it. It’s the vivid Tommy Bahama floral print shirt I’m wearing on the cover of “Undaunted Optimist.” The plush black sports coat was another of Kevin’s recommendations.

It’s because of Kevin I’ve become a bit of a dandy, this at an age when most men are beginning to transition from tailored business suits to elastic waist band warm-up duds.

Prior to Covid, I’d been doing a lot of public speaking and needed to look sharp. Plus wearing fine clothes gave me confidence. And it was all thanks to Kevin. 

He and his associate Bob Nolan seemed to take pride when they found just the right garment to compliment a new sports coat I’d purchased for a high profile public appearance. 

So today was going to be a big day for Kevin and I. I was scheduled to appear via Skype on KDKA’s “Pittsburgh Today Live,” for a segment that was to run later.

I was very excited. It seemed like a great opportunity to promote my book. 

I told Kevin.

“Oh, that’s great!,” he said. “Stop by the store and let me find you a shirt so you’ll look your best.”

It was very generous. He picked out the playfully dashing Luciano Visconti number you see in the picture and wished me luck.

The appearance on a popular regional TV show never felt to me like a sure thing. Dates were changed, calls went unreturned.

Then all of a sudden it became a sure thing. We were set to do a 4-minute segment today at 10 a.m. Just yesterday, I ran through some topics with the host and followed up with some scripted talking points.

After some initial nervousness I believe I settled into some lines and sight gags that would ensure a winning appearance.

Then out-of-the-blue (the black actually, it was 8 p.m.), came the soul-deflating e-mail. 

“Unfortunately,” “cancel,” “disappointing,” “final say,” “so terribly sorry” were some of the key phrases. It ended with a plea: “I hope you understand.”

In fact, I do not. 

Evidently, someone must think I’ll be bad for business, that I’ll drive viewers away, or that I’m the kind of crass opportunist who’d use my time to shamelessly plug things like the businesses of my friends.

(I plead guilty on that last count. I had positioned the little sign I’m holding above so it would appear on the Skype shot right above my head.)

It’s all good. I bear no grudge.

My heart has no room for hard feelings — not as long as it’s consumed with the toxic smog of lost opportunities, hurt confusion and the rising tide of bile belched forth from deep in the soul where once pretty dreams go to die.

So it’s not unlike those Friday evenings when the bartender says I’ve had enough.

But don’t feel bad for me. I’m confident other opportunities will arise and the good times will resume their roll.

Feel bad for Kevin.

See, I’m keeping the shirt.

Related …

I drank alone

I get screwed by Bay Hill … again

Praise, Fame &TINARA Award going to my head


Friday, October 9, 2020

Americans suffering from ASS


(530 words)

I have a layman’s understanding of Attention Deficit Disorder and a lazy man’s reluctance to do the research that would broaden my knowledge.

So take what you read here with a grain of salt, a warning I’m sure is unnecessary to those of you already hyper-alert to fake news shenanigans.

In fact, my standing in this regard is so shallow it can be summed up in one lame light bulb joke:

PERSON 1: “How many attention deficit disorder kids does it take to change a lightbulb?”

PERSON 2: “I don’t know. How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?”

(PERSON 1 stares blankly for a good 20 seconds or until straight man loses all patience. Then …

PERSON 1: “Wanna go ride bikes?”

See, the humor comes from the inability of an ADD person to focus on one thing or concentrate on a task or field of interest before absentmindedly flitting onto something else entirely.

I confess here to feeling a twinkle of serenity upon typing the word “absentminded.’

Image for a moment being incapable of finding your mind.

If I lost my mind I wouldn’t send out a search party until 1 January 2021.

I don’t have ADD.

No, I, probably like you, have Attention Surplus Syndrome (ASS). Yes, I made it up. I imagine identifying and describing an affliction entitles me to naming dibs, which I decline.

It’s going to be challenging enough being my daughter without having to answer the question: “So, are you the Rodell for whom ASS is named?”

ASS is the flip side of ADD. Go ahead and call it the other cheek.

ADD patients deal with attention deficits. ASSes like me have surpluses of attention. We watch the news all day and well into the wee hours.

It’s the one thing upon which partisans on both sides agree. We can’t get enough of the news. We could stare unblinkingly for hours and still not be sated.

We have attention to spare.

I’m not there yet, but the most extreme cases people with so much surplus attention can’t help themselves and spill their excess opinion on innocents who are simply trying to enjoy their lives free of political conflict.

They swamp FaceBook friends with conspiracy theories and fake news purporting to be about fake news. Many of them are consumed with hate for anyone who doesn’t share their opinion.

And they can’t shut up.

They’re Attention Surplus Syndrome Oral Lecturers (ASSOLs).

Happily, it’s not too late. You can begin taking steps today to restore your sanity. Turn off the TV, slam the lid on the laptop, take a stroll in the woods or snuggle up to a cuddly consensual and see which of you can go longer without using mentioning politics.

I’m trying to do my part to be less of an ASS. I’ll be selling books at Second Chapter Books in Ligonier from noon til 5 with an earnest vow to avoid controversy.

I hope you’ll do the same. We all need to do our part to lower the volume and reduce the ugliness.

Let’s start with you and I.

Let’s together vow to kick ASS before ASS kicks us.

Related …

America’s last undecided voter … me!

Trump’s no jackass — he’s under-qualified

Trump’s in Latrobe! Aunt Millie goes nuts …

Monday, September 28, 2020

Forget vaccine. America needs giant roofie

(542 words)

In these times of tumult and vitriol, it’s worth considering the problem-solving traditions of the bonobo monkey, the closest animal relation to me and, yes, you.

In light of that kinship, I request you join me in reading the rest of today’s blog with your clothes shucked and tossed in the corner.

Not wearing clothes — or one would assume condoms — is an evolutionary efficiency for animals that couldn’t keep their pants on even if pants made sense — and pants don’t make sense until until you start needing pockets, which the bonobo won’t need until it begins to vape.

Researchers say the monkeys, which are ruled by old females, are too busy having polygamist group sex to seek the stress-release of a toke.

They have sex to celebrate. They have sex to console. They have sex to reconcile, to heal, to exercise. I figure they must have sex to kill time until it’s time to have sex again.

So where’s all this monkey sex taking place?

The central west African nation called the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bonobos for Biden!

Actually, it’s unlikely these most contented primates give a hoot about politics.

What would it take to get you to not give hoot? To monkey see, monkey don’t. To go bonobo.

I’m thinking 5 mg of Flunitrazepam ought to do it.

Never heard of it? It’s aka rohypnol with the street names Forget-Me-Drug, Pingus, Lunch Money Drug, Mind-Eraser and …


It has a dark reputation for its use in date rape, which is a shame because it’s beneficial in treating the scourge of insomnia.

But that a few miscreants can use pharmaceuticals for illicit purposes outside prescription instructions is a lament for another day.

This is about how America could use one great big roofie.

See, I was a reporter in the early ’90’s when roofie’s first hit the street. Back then they were known as “hug drugs.”

We could all use a lot less hate and a few more hugs (side effects include heavy petting and could lead to metaphorical monkey sex).

Our curse is to live at a time when many people aren’t truly happy unless they’re truly angry.

We’re so fixated on finding a cure for Covid-19 — at least those of us who believe it’s an actual thing — that no one’s paying any mind to the deadlier as-yet unnamed disease that’s tearing us in two.

One is killing Americans. 

The other is killing America.

Many of us have allowed serious policy differences to usurp our common humanity. We say things on social media that on the playground would earn a punch.

Even if it were deserving, could one half of the nation kill the other half? Some seem intent on finding out.

When even the mundane are deemed worthy of demonization, Hell itself becomes pedestrian.

I’m loathe to be out of (goose) step with so many of my fellow Americans, but I declare myself a conscientious objector.

I object to so much unconscionable behavior.

You can find me strolling through the woods and climbing all the highest trees in search of the perfect banana.

My fear is if more of you don’t join me in this monkey business, we’re all screwed.

Related …

Monkeying around with bananas

Men with tail making monkey out of me

Trump in Latrobe! Aunt Millie goes nuts …

The giant Trump who ate Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Who can help me quit caring so much?

Thursday, September 24, 2020

My new book, Tin Lizzy signing & a euphoric fan


The sentimentalist and the crass self-promoter within me were at war as we drove to meet the 80-year-old widow who’d written me a gushy fan letter.

My friend Mark is her financial advisor. He usually buys 30 copies of my latest book and gives them to clients at Christmas.

This year he gave Charlotte a signed copy of my Fred Rogers book. Well, she just loved it and in her thank you note — how endearing — said my stories were hysterical, that I was her new favorite writer and included other compliments that in a bygone era would have lead me to conclude impure thoughts were justified.

So I sent her a “Crayons!” book and she just loved i, too. We began to correspond by mail — again, endearing!

I thought with the new book out it’d be a good time to surprise her. Mark agreed and yesterday we drove to her Greensburg home.

It occurred to me the surprise visit might yield some good video I could use for promotional purposes. But, as I told Mark, it might also ruin what had the potential to be a very sweet moment.

I believe pointing a camera at anything changes everything.

What if Charlotte was shy about her looks? She knew Mark, but she didn’t know me, a stranger in a mask. What if she had a heart condition? The video could become evidence in my manslaughter trial.

So I left the phone in my pocket and today I’m I awoke with the belittling and now-familiar taunt, “You’re such an idiot!”

Because the encounter with Charlotte was euphoric.

It was like we’d told her she’d won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. 

She hugged me and burst into tears. 

I don’t think I could have gotten a better reaction if I’d with one touch healed her infirmities and freed her from her walker.

I guarantee John Grisham has never seen a reaction like that. I understand  Grisham’s books are intended to entertain and mine, particularly “Crayons!,” have self-improvement elements, but my point persists.

In order for Grisham to see a reaction like the one I got from Charlotte, he’d have to endorse one of his royalty checks over to me.

And yet again I’m left to ponder the vast gulf between reader adulation and my dismal finances.

Will this new book finally bridge the divide? I’m hopeful yet realistic.

I’m losing significant income thanks to Coronavirus restrictions that rule out lucrative speaking engagements.

Should I give up? Take a second job? Maybe become a plumber?

I think I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Getting reactions like the one I got from Charlotte convince me I must be doing something right.

Sure, it would’ve been nice to have it filmed, but I didn’t feel right blindsiding a sweet old widow.

Now, you, that’s a different story!

I’ll be signing my new book all day (and part of the night at Flappers) at the grand re-re-re-Opening of the feisty and resilient Tin Lizzy.

You’re welcome to stop by and say in 30 seconds or less why people should buy my books.

Sure you can do all that any day. You’re always welcome here. What makes Friday so special?

I’ll today be wearing the same outfit as the one I’m wearing on the ballyhooed cover of “Undaunted Optimist.”

Right down to the neon yellow socks.

Charlotte’s not the only one capable of being endearing.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I'm told I exude calmness; is it Parkinson's?


(767 words)

It was a startling sort of compliment about a man who appeared hard to startle.

That man was me.

We were having basement party cocktails with two other couples when a 40-ish woman I’d just met said I exuded calmness. Her smile made it clear she meant it as a compliment.

Of course, she did. We all seek reassuring calmness during these tumultuous times. The Weather Channel forecasts the floods and fires, while their cable counterparts forecast nothing but shit shows through 2021. 

True calm is as elusive as mercury on marble.

Am I calm? Hell, no!

Thanks to reports of random gun violence, I’m afraid of getting shot. And thanks to reports of the Election Day politicization of vaccines, I’m afraid of getting shots.

My book is coming out this week and I’m fearful it won’t do as well as my last two books. My last book had a smiling Mr. Rogers on the cover and it did very well. Fred Rogers is a globally recognized and universally beloved icon.

The book before that had a picture of Arnold Palmer on the cover and it did very well. Palmer is a globally recognized and universally beloved icon.

This book has a frowning picture of me on the cover appearing to be on the lookout for a bus that will never arrive. I’m a cheerful nobody grudgingly tolerated by about one-third of the people who frequent the Tin Lizzy.


Inwardly I seethe.

But her comment required a reply. I calmly evaluated the honest answers to what I’m calling the “I may look calm on the outside, but inside …” game.

• “… I’m horny!” — Mine was the first generation to grow up immersed in soft core cable porn on the then-new HBO. And by soft core I mean we could watch comely Angie Dickinson romping nude in R-rated movies like “Big Bad Mama” for hours and never see a penis — and I had a sporty one of those so I was fine with that. I don’t know if previous generations thought more about sex, but the only time mine’s not thinking about sex is when it’s time to think about what to put on the pizza. But announcing, “I’m horny!” in a room full of consenting adults can lead to complicated situations if, say, someone besides your wife replies, “What a coincidence … I’m horny, too!”

• “… I’m all talked out!” — Buck, my friend/landlord/inebriator/fellow philosopher, says life would be more bearable if when we were born we were each given, say, 500,000 words to use throughout our entire lives. People would be much more circumspect about wasting words on idle chat. Me, I’m closing in on 500,000 but it’s more that I don’t feel the need to yap as much as I once did. We’re in the midst of a Cat 5 word storm and I simply don’t feel obliged to contribute.

• “… I’m anxious!” — It’s like our lives have become an endless “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” loop.  The 1989 Billy Joel song compresses 40 years of panic headlines into 4:49 of melodic mayhem. Only now it’s like we’re living 40 years every 12 hours:

Comey Cohen Cuomo SNL RBG Stormy Daniels NOT FOR ME!


• “… I’m no longer graceful!” — It’s been two months since I tumbled on the way home from the bar (don’t judge me) and my foot has yet to heal. So sometimes when I appear calm, I’m really trying to game plan how to get to the bathroom without clumsying into the snack table. I know it’s beneficial to stay off it — and I try. But telling a two-legged man to give up walking is like telling a fish to stop swimming. So along I limp.

I could have said any of those things. But no. Here’s what I said:

“Now that you mention it, I am feeling rather serene.

“It’s either that or it’s another symptom of my Parkinson’s. I hear some people deal with a condition known as ‘frozen face.’ It’s when the muscles in the face refuse to react to expressive reflexes. I’ll be seeing my neurologist soon so I’ll ask her about it. You could be mistaking that for inner peace But that’s just Parkinson’s.

“Anyhoo. What were we talking about?”

No one made a sound. Every face had gone blank. They were completely immobilized.

Talk of my frozen face had iced theirs.

So I felt bad. My killjoy supposition’d bummed out the party.

Next time I’m just going to go ahead and tell everyone I’m good and horny.

Related …

Not broken, but … My foot injury

Speed reading as unwelcome as speed sex’’

So, okay, I have Parkinson’s

Monday, September 14, 2020

Where have all the really smart people gone?

To paraphrase an ever-relevant question about dire situations, what does Christopher Langan know and when did he know it?

Well, Langan knows most everything, most of it since age 3 when he began reading at an adult level.

Many scholars list Langan, 68, as the smartest person in the world. How smart?

His IQ is higher than most amateur bowling score. It is estimated to be between 195 and 210.

So his IQ is twice the average American IQ, which is 100.

If you’re feeling average, cheer up. I automatically add 25 points to anyone who reads my blog.

Buy a book and I’ll add 3.5 times that!

If only I could do the math.

Alas, I’m not smarrt, er, smart.

But I’ve always admired men and women who are and tried to learn from them.

That’s how I came across Langan’s name. I was writing something that would benefit from an example of superior intellect, a real brainiac.

And I was stumped.

All I could think of was Albert Einstein (estimated IQ: 160). But that’s cliche. Certainly I could come up with a current example, some living genius upon whom we can all agree.

But no. In America today we’ve so devalued honest-to-goodness intelligence, we couldn’t recognize it if it threw a chalk eraser at our heads. 

In fact, nearly everyone knows the richest person (Jeff Bezos, $114 billion). People Magazine threw us a curveball for sexiest man of 2020 when it named Anthony Fauci the recipient, taking over the title from John Legend.

Shouldn’t the smartest American be a celebrity, someone we all know and refer to when we’re seeking to bolster our arguments with genius backing.

I asked friends their opinions. Their answers prove many people confuse the accumulation of wealth with intelligence.

Many said the late Steve Jobs. They’re mistaken. Just because you put GENIUS on employee T-shirts doesn’t mean you are one.

This, I understand, is a vast oversimplification, but it seems to me Jobs awoke every morning consumed with thoughts on how to cram another 500 songs in our pockets. He did this as climate change raged and pandemics loomed.

Yes, the world is going to hell but, thanks to Jobs, we’ll all be groovin’ when we get there.

I kept waiting — fool that I am — for Jobs to declare, “Okay enough nonsense for now. Me and my fellow geniuses are going back into the garage and we’re not coming out until we invent a ‘green’ internal combustion engine that runs on all the perfectly functional old iPhone versions we’ve suckered you into buying over the years. See you in six months.”

If you were a genius, wouldn’t you want to be working on something historic — something like extending the life of the planet.

I think it’s what Einstein would have urged. 

One of my favorite stories on Einstein involved when he got a letter from a 12-year-old girl who posed  to him the all-time puzzler: What is the meaning of life?

In so many words he said, I’ve thought about it and all I can conclude is we’re not here to make money or accumulate wealth.

The only reasonable conclusion, he said, must be we’re here to help one another.

Gee, even poor, stupid people can do that.

Which brings us back to Christopher Langan. At a time when the oceans are rising and the West is burning, what is this man who some tests say is more intelligent than Einstein doing?

He raises cattle in Missouri.

It seems like yet another tremendous waste of a precious natural resouce. 

So I have at least one thing in common with the world’s smartest man

We’re both engaged in ultimately pointless activities that result in huge piles of crap. Him equine, me this blog.

How does the admission make me feel?

It smarts!

• Interested in reading more on Christopher Langan? Here’s an interesting Esquire story, “The Smartest Man in America.