New Project

I am about to start guest blogging on Parkinson’s, I hope more amusingly than not, at the UNM Health Science Center’s new blog .  (My neurologist, who appears above, works there and has encouraged me to write for them). The link goes to Lauren Lewis’s excellent intro; the film above is not a bad intro to Casa Q either. My own post there may be up by the time you read this.

Short hiatus

Off to Kansas City on the train tomorrow to get blood drawn and God knows what else in a Parkinson’s study. Soon I hope to have a tablet or laptop, which may (or not) encourage more impulsive posting; but not yet, so blogging is hereby suspended for a couple of days. I will report anything of interest…

Returning to Service

Mostly polishing off, with endless revisions, the Book O’ Books, done for months but still being tweaked, also endless Good- But- Endless visitors, end of holiday and other serious food, arthritis and steroids and two major dog operations and too much to drink, and far too little to chase…

Any weariness in these lines is less about telling stories which I still love but about having to spend far too much packaging them, and knowing that if you don’t watch out, they will sink without a trace. Or as frontier ornithologist Elliot Coues said, way back during the Indian Wars; “I have seen a mule’s ears disappear in genuine mud…”

So, before resuming serious broadcasting on anything from literature to guns (can’t have too many/ much of either) a few images. First: Bosque del Apache; the Rio’s & the Fed’s farm for wildlife, at Christmas, by John Wilson:

“Life has really not stopped, and the world is really not a museum yet”*. Old men still chase hounds, even if they need strong drink after…

All over the world…

Older men and younger women make art (“Their eyes, their ancient glittering eyes**…”

Peace still may need an AK 47 (The Madins with appropriate props near Hovdsgol)

But the old can still amaze the young: Joel Becktell, mother Niki, and Eli Frishman Dec 2012, Magdalena

All this & more coming in Q, 2013. Thanks all! * is Ted Hughes and I bet everybody knows ** is Yeats in Lapis Lazuli.

I’m OK!

I am getting some vague hints that people are everything from worried to flat- out saying I am in bad shape– not from any who have actually been here like Paul or Rebecca, but by those who hear rumors from those that speculate or ??? I am here to say: such rumors are EMPHATICALLY not true!

Fitness: for walking and treadmill I customarily do an absolute minimum of a half mile a day(well, sometimes skip Sunday for a big breakfast), most usually a half each of on- the ground and aerobic treadmill. I have found a full mile on treadmill every day hurts my back so cut that a bit. Which means I am in better shape than I have been in two years.

I have cut my bench press top weight to only (!) 225, and shifted the heavier part to legs for walking.I was bulking up too much and putting on too much weight to suit, and am now down to a lean 175, exactly where I was before I got sick but probably more muscular.

Mood, activities: I am probably drinking the least I have in my adult life though enjoying it socially a couple of times a week, sleeping the best ever (exercise I suspect), and have almost no tremors unless I try something intricate– doubt I’ll tie flies much, but I know plenty who can. I am shooting rifle well, shotgun erratically but well when I’m “on”-’twas always so. Getting dogs out less than I want because the truck still won’t run; slow on peregrine because dexterity is off and because– a problem at last!– I avoid COLD, which makes for muscle rigidity and tremors.

Typing lousy many days. Dictation program better but still has gremlins if not a demon. turns itself on and records scraps of conversation when I don’t realize it…

Am I 100%? Nope! And sometimes I hate it. But I see both a PD specialist and an internal med doc (both female, young, and intellectual– the only kind worth seeing IMAO), and all my tests & signs are good. Do I have problems? Balance ain’t perfect, and I get painful cramps. Can I hunt? You bet! If you are down my way take me out with hawk or hound or bird dog & gun, please.

Progress: My Days These Days

How I am doing, adapted from a few letters to friends and relatives: basically well if sometimes a bit frustrated, with only occasional moments of terror (;-)

I was never a couch potato before, but my undiagnosed symptoms slowed to stopped me for almost a year and I had to work to get back. Now of course I am rather at the other extreme, but there are worse things to be. Fitting it all into ones’ schedule may be the hardest part even for childless under and self- employed me. I start with about an hour of stretches and the mile walk every AM (and first I must wake up, take meds, and have serious coffee, usually over the computer). I also do half the pigeons and all the hawk work, and some of the dog walking; Libby the other animal chores, most of the garden, and (infuriatingly for me if not her) has more or less taken over cooking because of my lack of dexterity and slowness. She of course also works more or less full time.

Then at 530 MW &F, I go off to the gym for an hour to work out (after a second lunch to keep my weight up–a new one!), returning so pumped up and high on endorphins it usually takes me two stiff vodkas and an hour before I can relax enough to eat! Then, though I am sleeping through the night for the first time in years, it usually takes another drink or two before I can fall asleep at 12 (I get up at 6 and am NEVER tired; before this exercise regime, at least for my “sick year”, I was tired all the time and nodded off constantly– go figure!)

Oddly, the meds, which I take at meals, give me two quick sleepy periods right after; coffee apparently blocks this– thank God!– after breakfast.

(On the gym; a ridiculous success so far. It is still improving, and not all that slowly. I was warned that though the weightlifting would probably help my general condition and strength, and stop or roll back symptoms, it might not affect my minor motor movements. For instance I would still type badly, which had been a problem, since I kept hitting the wrong keys. But a few weeks after starting lifting weights, I became able to type again, at least until I got tired– certainly well enough to write letters and notes. I think that the dictation software will be a lot of help for professional– length work, at least once I get it trained. But though I find the high–tech software exciting, I am even more amazed that being able to bench press three eight- rep sets of 180 pounds makes it easier to type. I am always enough of a naturalist that neurology astounds me more than technology).

After less than six weeks of this regimen (not JUST the weights– stretches & meds too of course), I have not only gained back the 20 pounds I lost during the last nine months or so, but added another 10, all pure muscle as far as I can tell. I probably have the best muscle tone I have ever had. Tremors often don’t even start until evening and are minor then. Cramps are almost nonexistent. And I am sleeping the best I have in years. My appetite is ridiculous. I can walk without the Parkinson’s shuffle. Everyone says I look great, including people that thought I was dying six months ago.

Exaggerated? Sometimes I don’t believe it myself, and I still get bad moments– the road is sometimes bumpy. But consider my inspiration for finding out about this “therapy”, Mark “Flyover Country” Churchill’s uncle, whose ambitious weight program i showed to my instructor– after 20 months, he’s painting again!

Between all this, I have to find time to work (and correspond and blog, which feeds it) and do things to write about– well, I have memories and notes for my Asia- travel- dog book already done, so that helps.

But the “how” is still being worked out because I am physically slower– must find the right tech. The dictation software is the long- term thing I think and I am already using it even for long letters, but the right hardware becomes vastly more important when you are not 100% functional. I have this ergonomic wireless keyboard I like, but they are not cheap, break easily, and I am on my 2nd in 6 months. Two days ago my space bar started sticking so that it either made nospacebetweenwordslikethis, or, if I SLAMMED it (and broke my rhythm, which any writer can tell you is an obstacle to saying what you are trying to say), it made looong spaces, like this. (Apparently Blogger won’t allow the illustrative two- inch break I wanted to put there!)

So I got out this regular keyboard, which we got in trade for something from our Mac maven in Socorro, who must have 50 computers– a real geek’s geek. It types fine, but the mouse, which I have never used, is FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE- I just can’t click it, and it has a translucent panel on it that, if I touch it, instantly bounces me to the top or the bottom of the page. WTF?? It is so bad that I will write my letters in the AM with this board (maybe cutting and pasting things of interest–like this?– into notes to other friends!), then put back the other keyboard in the afternoon and use the still sometimes surreal voice control (I am tempted to keep a log of its suggestions, including “church” for perch and “hugging”–!- for hawking), which should hopefully minimize my use of the space bar as much as possible. Write until late afternoon, feed the falcon, lift weights, begin again.

Only a perpetual half- day behind, as usual. And I still have to go to Socorro and get a different mouse, and/ or either fix the @#$%^& space bar or replace the board!

Seriously though, present problems are lighter than any for an age; many are funnier than sad. As my friend the Montana mystery writer and fellow pauper Peter Bowen says; “Writers! Whine, whine, whine– we’ll be rich when we’re dead!” If I get my tech refined, become able to walk another mile a day, maybe get a shorter range hawk for fall or drink a bit less vodka (though my “new metabolism” seems to burn it right off, not like last depressed year) I’d feel I was improving even more. And if I ever sell the Asia- dog book– or even “revive” Querencia- the-book– a whole other project I’ll talk more about when I figure more out but which I think I can do, at least in NM– I would feel like a success, even with Parkinson’s!

Enough of what Libby calls “the organ recital”– I’ll keep it rare, but people have been asking. Besides, time is pushing on me– no more blogging for now, as I must feed the hawk and go off to the gym!

Back to Blogging

Slowly. Until I tame the voice dictation software graciously given me by a friend the two hardest things to do are typing (five typos a line!)and cramped arthritic handwriting. Small movements are affected more than big ones.

Though those lost ground too, I am gaining. A bike provided by another friend and a membership in the Magdalena gym (!– thanks to Mark Churchill for the suggestion) are helping. Let’s hope strength comes back– I am one of those writers who seems to need to walk to write– “solvitur ambulando” in Bruce Chatwin’s elegant borrowing– and I cannot without great effort or for long– yet. But I have good specialist doc, the best in NM (female, usually more of a fit for me), a good PT instructor (a Mormon cowboy from Wyoming) and a gym guy with the personality of a drill instructor and all are optimistic.

Other plans: short range waiting- on hawking with the Barb-teita (GS gone to a friend– two mile chases a problem). Acquiring an Aplo for car hawking– more when I know more. More hawking with dogs than long courses. More doves at waterholes than quail at 8000 feet. Deer at waterholes as well, and more organic lamb and barren ewe from my friend Pieter’s local Dunhill ranch (posted about before– search if you want pix– too hard for HTML right now). Free elk from guides and wardens. Maybe a more efficient wood stove than our eighty- plus year old cookstove with its breadbox size log chamber!

Cutting down pigeon numbers but specializing in ones I can breed and sell, especially our “new” North American (“thief”) Pouter. More on this as they evolve.

I WILL get by. Oh and– all fly rods and a little hardy Perfect reel for sale at Jim Adams’ in Berkeley CA. Two are unused spey rods- read about speys in the Spring 2010 Fly Rod and Reel. I’m continuing to fish bait for carp & catfish– much easier.

Posts will be short for a while–pix (birds, guns) and a book and website review for John and Eileen Barsness’s excellent new stuff– but I am back.

Of Illness, Facebook, and a Dog: Announcements

First: readers have doubtless noticed a falling off in the number of posts this last six months, and in the number of adventures that leads to them. For all this time I have been having difficulty walking (which I initially put down to arthritis) and also sitting in the hard chair I had here.

It turns out it is all down to Parkinson’s, which was “formally” diagnosed last week, as some of you know. I have a great neurologist in Albuquerque and he has every hope that new medicines will make a lot of difference. Meanwhile I will be making some changes. I will sell some shotguns and most of my fly rods, though not my spinning rods (has to do with dexterity)– details provided to those interested. My pursuit falcon BB must go to a new home– two mile chases seem problematical. The little waiting on falcon, the dogs who will work close as well as far and retrieve, will stay. I am cutting back on pigeons slightly and going commercial on Thief Pouters for falconers. I am going to expand my collecting of native bees. In general I am looking for things to do that are interesting and don’t require as much physical effort– and maybe pay a little too.

One other thing to go must be Facebook– IMAO a time- waster par exellance. It collected a few old friends but also a lot of people who WOULD NOT understand my blog feed was from four people, and I got tired answering them. Also it lacked intimacy and I felt it was full of strangers– I did NOT want to announce my medical news there. While this is a site that is open to the public I feel that it is also a sort of community of common interests– I did not feel that at Facebook at all. I hope some of my Facebook readers move over here but if they don’t I can’t help them.

Finally some good news– Irbis has been given a clean bill of health and is racing around the yard. Interestingly Ray intends to take the plate out in a month, apparently a minor deal– he does this in hard- hunting field dogs lest the steel provide a lever for breakage. Pix soon!