Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I was at MUSC Hospital today for a "tune-up" of my DBS units.  Since the appointment took less time than anticipated, I found myself with an hours' free time, which, coincidentally, was lunch time.  I decided to have lunch in the employee Cafe, which is open to the public.
I entered the cafeteria style line, and was was very quickly disappointed.  There was nothing there that I could eat!

For those of you who don't know me, I am a fairly strict Vegetarian - not a Vegan, mind you - because I will eat eggs and dairy.

Lets see, amongst the choices availableto me were  Beef Macaroni, Fried Chicken, a Hamburger or Cheeseburger, a hot dog, and a few other like things.  The thing which impressed me was that all of the entrees were high fat items.

Oh yes, there was a "Wilted Iceburg Lettuce and Cardboard Tomato(e) Salad"...

So, thought I, I can at least have a soft drink and a bag of chips.

No sirree.

I don't like to drink anything which is caffeinated; it keeps me awake at night.  About half of the drinks had caffeine.  The other half contained Splenda or Aspartame, to which I am violently allergic.  And even if that were not the case, I don't particularly enjoy the idea of imbibing rat poison.

So my choice was Mountain Dew, or Mountain Don't, as I call it, for it doesnt have the grace to be sugar-sweetened,  but uses the ubiquitous Corn Syrup.  Unless you have Diet Mountain Don't.

As a last resort, I looked at the chips.  There were no plain, old, ordinary Potato(e) Chips.

There was a dozen or more chips of various flavors, but no healthy, honest-to-god potato(e) chips...

Then I reached the checkout and, the person attending to it not being very appetizing, I took my leave empty-handed and with my tummy complaining vociferously.

My bus awaited, and I thoght about what I would eat all the way home.

Whereupon reaching same, I attacked and violently ate a helpless, unsuspecting Three Musketeers bar... It may not have been particularly healthy, but it sure was GOOD!

Jus' doin' the Charleston - -


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Going Home

Everyone has a place which is called home.

For some, it is a place where one rests his head at night not thinking where it might be on the morrow.

For others it is the place where one lives, knowing that, barring tradgedy, it will be there.

There is a third place called home; and not many people have it.  It is a place where one retreats from time to time.  It is a place which helps to recharge and energise the mind and the imagination.   It is a place which exists more in mind than in reality, but is really there.

I attended my 45th college reunion last week.  It is held in Princeton, NJ, leading some people to assume that I am a Princeton University grad.  But no, I am not.  It is held at a little college, which is now become the golden stepchild of a major university.  Many have heard of Rider University, but not many have heard of Westminster Choir College of Rider University.  They should.  You should.

It is located at the intersection of Hamilton and Walnut Streets in the town of Princeton.  It has a brick gateway leading up a shrot curving drive to the main building, Williamson Hall.  It is named after the founder of the college, a man known as a fine musician and choral conductor.

Why is this such a special place?  Because there is always music there.

If you stand in the middle of the Quadrangle in the wee hours of the morning, they say you will hear the distant echoes of all those singers, pianists and organists. and music educators who have passed along the Quad on their way to and from a class, or a lesson, or a choir rehearsal.  Much more than the sheer numbers of people, though, is the level of achievement  exemplified by those people.  There are few students to this day who are not better than average.  And a few of them show signs of genius.

What does this have to do with home?

The Choir College is one of those places which exists primarily in the mind.  It is a place of bright red robes.  It is a place of bright faces waiting for the downbeat.  It is a place far removed from the mundane.  It is a place back to which we all wish to go to recharge those worn batteries: to emerge full of life and hope.

Full once again of music.


just doing the Charleston...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Budding Composer

When I was in my senior year of High School, I was accepted by Westminster Choir College. I remember feeling awestruck, and decided to try my hand at composing. I took the "Veni Creator" as my text and launched in. I came up with what I thought was a great piece of music, but did not show it to anyone.   Time marches on...

I had completely forgot about that work until I was sorting through a box of music recently. There it was: the somewhat faded manuscript from 1965 - hand written, as we could only dream of computers in those days.

I sat at my keyboard and went through it. Oh my. The counterpoint is primitive, the modulations graceless, there is no theme to which the piece anchors itself, "wrong-note" chords everywhere... And then I started to giggle. My great work! Oh deary me...

Yet, in retrospect, there were glimmers of the future evident. A future to emerge after further study of theory, counterpoint, and the critical listening to hundreds, maybe thousands, of works by the great composers who have gone before.

Later, at Westminster, I asked my dear teacher, Dr. York, about this. And he reassured me that every composer, perhaps even Bach, did this. It is called Juvenilia, and often goes up the chimney on a cold winter day, at the hand of the composer.

Mine is still extant, and the later works show a remarkable resemblence to Herbert Howells' writing. My Artistic Executor has directions to burn before reading...

Then one day, something happens. You sit down and write a piece. Then you feel compelled to edit it, once, twice, thrice, or more. You know when it is ready.

And then you write at the top of the manuscript, underneath your name: "Op. 1"

Friday, March 21, 2014

I Tremble at the Thought . . .

We who have Parkinsons Disease refer to each day as a "Good day" or a "Bad day" depending on the whim of our bodies, the phase if the moon, and whether or not Golden Crackers won in the 4th at Hialeah...

We don't know whether the day will be a productive one or a bust.

I am now the possessor of a new machine to help those with Parkinsons and Familial Tremor and other motion disorders. It is called a "Deep Brain Stimulator" (DBS) and it bids fair to revolutionize the approach to the treatment of this incurable and progressive set of diseases we call Parkinsonism..

I have possessed this machine for less than 48 hours, and already it has changed my life.

The installation of the unit took 3 stages spaced over about 2 months..

Surgical implantation of the probe within the skull and within the brain but staying outside the membranes of the brain so as not to cause a stroke.

We had an interesting development occur during this stage.

I had been given an anesthetic which was reputed to allow the patient to be instantaneously awakened  if necessary.  Came the time the Doctor needed my input, I was given the "antidote" and lo and behold...I didn't awaken.  I was given another shot of the antidote and...I didn't awaken.  They were getting nervous, and people were starting to crowd into the OR to be of help.  They tried a third time, and I came awake.  Phew!  We did the usual PD repertoire of gestures and I went back to sleep.

But they didn't know the half of it...What actually happened was that I was in my other guise of secret agent, and I was battling my way through the bush in order to connect up with another agent to whom I would sign (in gestures) the intelligence I had collected.  Finally, after struggling through thick swampy ground I was able to see the other agent, approach her, and sign the data to her.  After she left, I was able to get some needed sleep...

Isn't it wonderful  what the brain can do to make the most of a potentially bad situation.  And the sets were really not bad...sorry Doctors, but you will have to wait for the rerun on Netflix.

The Docs must run a conduit of sorts from the side of the skull, down to the collarbone, and under the skin to the back of the breast. At this area, above the bra line, are the power pack and processor, called a "Generator". which are implanted just under the skin.

Testing installation and doing initial programming.

Inside the skull, thereis a probe having 4 transmitters and 4 times as many receivers.  Through these sensors the Doctor has control of the tansmitters on an individal basis.

There is a remote contol, similar to that found on any home theatre setup but far less daunting. The remote is pressed against the Generator (with or without clothing on) and the Send button pushed, and it turns on.

The Doctor supervising the installation has a remote of much greater capacity and capability.

The Patient (me!) does not take any of her Parkinsons medicines for 12 hours before the session. I was pretty miserable by the time I got to see the good Doctor Revuelta. I was shaking like a leaf.  My right foot lurch and shook so much that I could barely shuffle/walk down the corridor.

He turned on the units, arranged the external antennae, then, using his remote, he began to apply voltage in a simple manner. At about 1 volt the general shaking subsided, and at about 2 volts the leg suddenly stoped shaking! OMG. Just like that. I was nearly in tears.

We took about 1 1/2 hours to check through the 4 channels of the unit and see just how the basic settings affected the tremor, and what side effects there might be. Fortunately, I had only two settings which produced a physical reaction which I found unpleasant. Then he got to the creative part, where he combined the signals and changed their voltage, their signal strength, their band width, their frequency, and other arcane electronic things, all based on my reactions to what he did...  It was a musical performance with the Doctor conducting.

He explained that through the receptors on the probes, he could focus in on a given brain cell anda actually listen to it working. Can you imagine? Listening to brain cells individually.

He then was going to teach me to use my remote, but one thing got in the way. I said "Doc, I have to pee." He said "Wait", grabbed his remote, pressed it against my chest and clicked the button. He then said "Go..."

I took about two lurching, unsteady, agonizing steps and suddenly my legs were free, there was NO tremor, and I could walk  totally unaided and almost normally to the bathroom.  I broke down and cried.

That was my first setting.  I woud have two: one for stressful times, and another for the rest of the time.

When we finished doing everything he said that it was a thrill seeing each person react to the machine and what it does.

And to what it would do...  Believe me, it changes your life.

I have rediscovered my world in those 48+ hours.  It is once again bright, and focused, and my thoughts are clearer and more lucid.  And those strange little people whom I thought were there but really weren't have begun to take their leave.

This is a real blessing, and I am fortunate indeed to have got it through the work of the Medical University of SC Hospital, and their newly-formed Department of Motion Disorders. I received the ministrations of Dr. Gonzalo Javier Revuelta, DO, the attending physician and programming guru, Dr. Istven Takacs MD, the neurosurgeon, and Nurse Practitioner Amy DeLambbo who kept it all going. They, and the rest of their team all performed beautifully and with great professionalism.

This whole enterprise took close to three years.  A short time relatively, but a long time for a miracle to occur.

For about 18 years previous to that I was totally under the care of one Neurologist.  His conservative but wise decisions regarding my therapy, made it possible for me to continue my life's work throughout this stressful time.  I give you Dr. David Bachman, MD.

Thanks are due to my many friends whose constant emails and phone calls have given me support through their good thoughts and prayers.

I have been greatly blessed by Jehovah God, and give Him the credit for ultimately guiding me in the way I should go.

'Jus doin' the Charleston!


Friday, March 25, 2011


I was chatting online with Lowcountry author Richard Cote about what he terms "gentle death". This was in response to his Facebook posting about the assisted death of well-known right-to-die activist Nan Maitland.

Since then I have had a chance to think more about this subject, and have come to the conclusion that I am definitely ambivolent about it at this point in my life.


Because I like to watch.

I like to watch events unfold. I like to watch the seasons change. I like to watch politicians continually make fools of themselves. I like to watch the light change as I drive from Charleston to Florida. I like to watch the tides rise and fall. I like to watch my friends having a good time at a party. I like to watch the moon rise above the treeline. I like to watch the Milky Way slide smoothly across the clear Winter sky.

And I haven't even got started.

I said to Richard, "I believe that we all have the responsibility to live our lives to the absolute fullest. Anything less is perhaps one of the deadliest sins. I hear people saying how bored they are... how can anyone be bored with a whole universe just sitting there waiting to be explored?"
And what have I found in my explorations?

For one thing, I have found that one can avoid getting bored in a Doctor's waiting room, or in a gov'mint office, or in the auto salesmans' Closing Room (you know...the one with no inside handle on the door...). Simply put: watch people.

I like to watch people. They are inscrutable, unpredictable, generally entertaining entities, However, people are at their most uninteresting if there is a television in the room. Go into a restaurant with televisions sprouting from the crown moulding like an insidious vine. See the people stare blankly at the screen, not paying any attention to their friends, their servers, or their lives.

So what is the answer to the question I posed in the title?

The answer is that we die when we give up living. Some people do it by never looking around themselves. Others entertain themselves to death to the background of a bluish flickering screen. Some die in a cubicle in an office building, but they still manage to get up and go home at five o'clock.

And a few live their lives as though they will never die. They tend to smile a lot.

I smile a lot, even when the going gets tough. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. But that is another blog in itself...

Here are a few pithy quotations I shall leave you to ponder.

"We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is.’" - Rev. Leroy Allison

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song." - Chinese proverb

"There is the risk you cannot afford to take and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take." - Peter Drucker

"Excessive self-esteem is the greatest rein on genius." - French organist Marcel Dupre

"They can't say 'Yes' unless you ask them..." - moi

Now go out and live...there will be time enough to die in a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a lifetime...


Jus' doin' the Charleston...

PS - Look for Richard Cote's new book "In Search of Gentle Death", due to be published later this year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some personal thoughts after Valentine's Day

It was interesting watching my FBFriends yesterday...

There was not a great deal of heart-on-sleeve emotionalism.

- A few couples made understated comment about their relationship.

- A few sent the to-them obligatory blanket Happy Valentine's Day message: a Loretta Young style sweep-down-the-circular-staircase-and-MWAH sort of gesture. (Gawd, I WANTED that dress...)

- One or two were almost belligerent about their for-the-moment partner.

- Most went about their lives without comment.

Does that mean we didn't have love for our friends? Or they for us? Not at all. I count it to be a good Valentine's day if I dont get any special cards,letters, or FB messages. Yesterday was very good.

I went about my day's living uncomplicated by mass-media guilt or hysteria.

There are a few people out there who know that they are loved, not just on 14 February, but on 14 March and 14 April, too. Without cavil, without fail. And their love travels back to me every day, and I am replete.


Jus' doin' the Charleston

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What are those buildings?

A few people who don't live in Charleston (I won't embarrass them by naming them...) have asked what all the buildings are at the top of this page...

Charleston is known as "The Holy City" because of the large number of churches located in the city. It is also known for the number of world-class concert pipe organs housed in many of those churches.

So, I will identify them...from left to right and coincidentally downtown to uptown...

First Baptist Church...............................................[Wicks Organ]
First (Scots) Presbyterian Church.......................[Ontko Organ]
St. Michaels Church..................[Ontko/Kenneth Jones Organ]
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Catholic)...[Bedient Organ]
The French Huguenot Church.................[Henry Erben Organ]
The Unitarian Church ....................................[Johannus Organ]
St. Johns Lutheran Church................................[Schantz Organ]
St. Mary's Catholic Church.................................[Jardine Organ]
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim..................................[Ontko Organ]
Grace Episcopal Church.......................................[Reuter Organ]
St. Matthews Lutheran Church...........................[Austin Organ]
Cathedral of St.Luke & St. Paul (Episcopal).........[Kney Organ]

This list comprises about 20% of the churches on the lower peninsula. With all those pipe organs it can get a tad noisy downtown on Sunday mornings, but God does not appear to mind...


'Jus doin' the Charleston