Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bloody January again!

I'm reminded of that great song by Flanders and Swann, "A Song of the Weather," a parody of an 1834 English nursery rhyme that recites the months as they change with the seasons: 

"January brings the snow,/ Makes our feet and fingers glow...April brings the primrose sweet, / Scatters daisies at our feet." Etc. 

In the F and S recitation of dismal British weather, on the other hand, there's not a hell of a lot of difference between the months: 

"January brings the snow / Makes your feet and fingers glow. / February's ice and sleet / Freeze the toes right off your feet"...all the way through to "Freezing wet December; then / Bloody January again!"

Well, we elected it month number one, and it's a reasonable choice, bearing the name of the god of doors, gates, and portals: two-visaged Janus, with one face looking back at the past, and the other looking to the future. Just too bad its present is so bleak and dark and cold. (1/22/14, 12:08 AM. Presently we Bostonians are enduring a slightly overhyped snowstorm that has truly been given the name Janus.)

Here in the Hemisphere of Indirect Sunlight, January starts bravely with mournful-sounding vuvuzelas and other silly tooters, shiny top hats, balloons, and confetti, and then it settles down and gets contrarily January-like. Weather events, regimes of inhospitable temperatures interrupted by confusing spells of hospitable ones; and then, worst of all, weather robbed of color, not cold enough or mild enough to warrant an opinion, but only an annoyed shrug. Raw weather. Meh weather. Persistent gray parking lot snow weather. It's plenty enough to use as an excuse to not have anything particular to comment about in this blog for eleven days.

Except for one fun fact.                               

Maybe you heard about this. During the Golden Globes, the website for the E! network was covering the pre-awards "red carpet" event during which celebs arrive and submit to interviews conducted by would-be celeb journalists. And while the captive star was so ensnared, the E! folks would post a graphic on-screen--a Fun Fact about the famous personage. So apparently Michael J. Fox, who was up for a TV award, was walking the media gauntlet and up goes this Fun Fact: MichaelJ. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1991.

E! got an earful on Twitter and quickly issued an apology, assuring everyone that they knew there was nothing particularly fun about Parkinson's Disease and deeply regretted the folly, etc. Meanwhile, across the Twitterverse, people were tweeting their own "Fun Facts." To wit:

Fun Fact: In 5,000 million years, the Sun will run out of hydrogen and Earth will die.

Years ago, I would have snorted at this as a smarter-than-thou cultural observer with the same non-PD perspective as E!.  But—Fun Fact—having been diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2009, I was on Michael J. Fox's squad. I felt compelled to react. Maybe this was the opening I'd been looking for to write about my own situation, in which slower is the new normal— distinctly slower than the pace of most folks out there, which used to be my pace, too, more or less. And while in itself Parkinson's does not constitute a fun fact, the fact is that there is something funny about getting used to a new standard of normalcy not shared by the mass of humanity. The time it takes to stuff a couple of dollar bills in a wallet; the time it takes to extract said wallet from the back pocket as we approach a toll booth. A well-meaning stranger asking "Are you gonna make it?"as she observes me extracting myself from a car. "Oh, yeah," I assure her.

The fact also is that Michael J. Fox is currently starring in a situation comedy about a guy with Parkinson's Disease coping with his physical and mental quiddities and with the reactions of friends and co-workers.  It's not fun, but you can make fun of it, or from it. 

So I will give E! the benefit of a deliberate misinterpretation and say, your honors, they were being ironic. "Fun fact"? Hardly. But if life is a sitcom, and it almost is, then what are you gonna do but call a PD diagnosis a fun fact, slap your forehead, and cue the laugh track.

Or wait for the English bloke on the telly, maybe one of those Downton Abbey footmen, to clomp in from outside dripping rain and mutter, "Bloody January again!"


  1. Great blog! I hope you'll write more this year about your life with Parkinson's.

  2. Brilliantly written. Slow, deliberate applause follows... You rock Hal.