MR. NATURAL

a novel by Elizabeth Langdon Andrews

LINDA'S BLOG


WELCOME TO LINDA'S  BLOG!

I stole some of "Elizabeth's" space to chronicle my mental meanderings, mostly so that I could keep "The Parkie Chronicles" in one place ... along with  (very rare and infrequent) political rants that you'll either love or hate, and if you're the latter, then you should just ignore them.

I'd love for you to respond, but mostly I hope you'll find out all you want to know about my battle with the "the Parkie Beast" and then some!   Ready?  Let's roll!

                             

This blog is  written and copyrighted by Linda G. Lyle,  aka Elizabeth Langdon Andrews

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PARKIE CHRONICLES #7

Posted on May 7, 2017 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)


MAY 7: THE “WONDERWOMAN ILLUSION”

I’m delighted to report that I had a wonderful week: I spent most of it with Madison in Chicago and the rest traveling with Kerry. Now that my life is doubtless late into its third quarter at best, my most cherished moments are simply being with my husband and daughter, especially when the three of us can all be together “like old times.” Kerry had a conference in Wisconsin for part of the week, so Madison graciously invited me to stay with her while Dad was away. In return, I forked over upwards of $1K for a bona-fide upscale hotel getaway that we were all able to enjoy for a precious couple of days. I live for those times.

Given my recent knock-down-drag-outs with my meds, I was concerned about the PD Beast’s behavior on this visit – even though our hotel was virtually steps away from Feinberg Medical School (where Madison works as a Research Coordinator) -- an institution renowned for its Parkinson’s Center of Excellence. The Beast must have sensed some power in the place; it was quiet and caused no trouble at any time the whole week, even with the complication of a time zone change. Go figure. In fact, the meds worked a tad too well. Let me explain.

One side-effect that I have neither read nor heard much about, but have experienced countless times (maybe once a week), is what I call the Superwoman Illusion. It’s not like any other “high” I have ever experienced, seen, or heard tell of. Not exactly. Mind you, the PD gold standard drug is dopamine, a substance naturally produced in your brain; if your brain stops producing it, voila! You’re a Parkie. It’s pretty simple. What’s not simple are the countless ways that dopamine – which is also intimately linked to serotonin (the calming natural substance that we also produce and/or immediately follows our indulgence in, say, chocolate or sex or some other pleasure) – can affect the entire human organism. What seems to happen is that all systems align at peak performance simultaneously, which rarely happens to “normal” humanoids, let alone Parkies. Fact is, I don’t think it happens to “normal” beings simply because they don’t have synthetic dopamine (leading to enhanced serotonin), all wrapped up in a perfect storm and working as an enhacement.

Regardless, the ON feeling it produces is incredibly empowering. When I have it, I’m “superhumanly” insightful, calm, creative, and fearless. Never mind that 30 minutes earlier I may have been locked into a near-fetal position and could barely remember my name – let alone the fact that my “super” illusion lasts an hour at the outside: I feel as if I could do anything. Thankfully, my hobby is writing instead of knife-throwing, or I could do some real damage.

Anyway, it was in this stage of my daily routine that I wrote elsewhere on FB that I was so outraged by the healthcare mess that, by golly, I was gonna give Jimmy Duncan a run for all his money that he soon wouldn’t forget.

You may laugh now. The truth is that I couldn’t run for dog catcher without doing major damage to my stress level, and that’s only the start of what an idiotic idea I put forward! But in the hour I wrote about it, or if I were still normal, I truly believed, as the “old me” would have believed, that I could have made a difference, even if it were just creating havoc and kicking up dust. Those days are behind me. Besides, there are productive ways to raise hell with the status quo that will keep me backstage, where I belong now – although I was entirely delighted by my high school pal, Harlan Hambright’s observation that if I could get myself in Congress and look like an idiot, I’d fit right in.

Hmm. You think …? But no. The unvarnished truth is that I wouldn’t be writing this chronicle entry if I weren’t in an ON mode; that (and many even simpler tasks) would be impossible, both physically and cognitively. I’m not in my Superwoman mode today, either -- just enjoying some garden-variety ON time, and I’ll gladly take it! Fact is, when I compare any modicum of ON time to that hideous world the Parkies call “OFF TIME” – the one I’m constantly trying to outsmart, outdistance, or outdo – it’s no contest; when we’re ON, we Parkies tend to feel “superhuman,” if only for a few stolen minutes or hours in the day.

Re-reading this entry, it occurs to me how easy it is to recognize miracles once you’ve been on their flip side. Believe me when I insist that normal human motor skills and thought processes are miracles. Be grateful that you have any at all, and know that you are a walking miracle.

So, by now it should be obvious: although I’m both grateful for and flattered by your encouragement – I’m not running for Congress or anything else, Mr. Hambright’s observation notwithstanding. Congressman Duncan can rest easy.

For now.

PARKIE CHRONICLES 6

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

THE PARKIE CHRONICLES

4/30/2017

CHARLIE BROWN’S FOOTBALL

Likely, you know the story. Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to place kick, but without fail, just as his foot leaves the ground, she yanks the football out from under him and he hits the ground with a familiar thud.

I’ve always wondered what kind of a knucklehead could be so naïve. Lucy knows she will never change, the other kids know she’ll never change, and everybody knows that the best outcome Charlie can hope for is soft ground. That is, everybody but Charlie.

After Charles Schultz published that 'toon's swansong, he said he realized that Charlie Brown would never kick that football because having him succeed would have been a disservice to the character. This week, I finally got his point: Either Charlie Brown will not learn from the past, or he refuses to give up on the future. It struck me that I’m a knucklehead akin to Charlie: I refuse to give up on the future, no matter how easy it would be to let go, give in, give up. That doesn’t make me better or braver or superior to anybody for anything. In fact, being a Parkie, I’m like a Supreme Court Justice: this gig is a lifer, only I can't resign, retire, or be impeached.

In 2006, I didn’t have as much to fight as I do now, but I had the great good fortune of meeting Michael J. Fox – thanks to Madison’s being honored for her work with his Foundation, at a gala dinner at Tiffany’s in New York, and my being allowed to tag along. The best advice he gave me went something like this: 

"I figure I have two choices. I can either get in bed and pull the cover up over my head … or I can get up and see what’s going to happen today. You should always choose the latter, ‘cuz 50/50 its gonna be good, and you never want to miss a good day."

When the going gets rough, I think about Michael, and I know he is right. This past week was a good example. It started out as an utter disaster; yet another “football” in my treatment seemed to have been yanked out from under me. But I got up the next day, figured out part of what I was doing wrong – and as I write this, I’m in Chicago enjoying time with my daughter. And the past three days have been nearly blemish-free.

Like Michael, my role model, I never want to miss a good day. So like Charlie Brown, my only choice is to keep kicking.

PARKIE CHRONICLES 5

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

APRIL 23 -- ONE FORWARD, TWO BACK

This week's Chronicle is a day late because, well, I guess because last week's miraculous gift of functionality was an Easter miracle instead of a "fix" of some kind. Don't misunderstand; He Remains Risen, as do the the hope and "newness of life" that liturgical Christian congregations acknowledge by observing Easter for seven Sundays, followed by Pentecost, when the metaphorical "fire" of the Spirit comes to dwell with those who accept it. I think I had the 7 weeks of Easter crammed into this one week.

Bottom line is that halfway through the week, I found myself in a downward spiral, the likes of which I have never experienced, physically. It was as if my meds just packed up and went home. I had all the symptoms of overdose, as my brain demanded its mind-altering drugs, then when I dosed, it was a crapshoot as to whether they would help. . My doctor was unreachable (he's entitled to that; it was just bad timing), so I had to slug out alterations to eke out a modicum of physical peace. The pain wasn't pain; it was merely an unbearable paralysis in my legs and back. "Hold on!" I thought. "This isn't in the job description!" Whodathunk it? My PD is an overachiever!

When you know you're running out of options, you either have to be creative, get help, or both. As my assistant was helping me get through the long, tedious day, she suddenly noticed that I had failed to take my "adjunct meds" - ones that help the "headliners" do their job, at least in my case. So, that was a huge art of the puzzle solved -- and I can only wonder how the hell I could have made such a dangerous mistake. It also reminds me that Easter represents a far more subtle concept set: that we're all in this life together, a journey that has but one destination. Even so, we are called to celebrate this life together, to reach out to those who need us, and to be thankful for those who sustain us, especially during our times of trial.

I've had a lot of sustaining this week, and it's made a difference. So the story goes on. Easter isn't over yet.

PARKIE CHRONICLES #4

Posted on April 16, 2017 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)



“He is risen!”


This central tenant of the Christian faith has been much on my mind during 2017's Holy Week. I think it was no accident that the Christian church's founders designed Easter as a moveable feast whose date is determined on a lunisolar calendar, much akin to ancient Pagan rites that celebrated rebirth, renewal, and to some – an eternal life that decisively conquers death. Or as the poet Isiah wrote, “The dead shall be raised, incorruptible.”


If you have been reading my Parkie Chronicles, you know that I’ve had a rough time with my PD meds and messes for some time now. Fact is, you read the sugar-coated version. As my doubtless-exhausted husband, my faithful assistant, and probably my dog can confirm, I’ve been utterly consumed by the task of just getting through the day. When I signed off last week, I faintly expressed the hope that maybe Easter week would be different. Somehow, I thought, maybe this would be the week I could reclaim part of my life. All I had was hope at that point.


"He is risen!"


No change was in sight until Good Friday – and I shall always remember that in 2017, it was Great Friday for me. Cutting to the chase, one of my genius physicians called and said, “Here’s what I want you to do for a week. We’ll likely hit some rough spots, but we’re gonna fix this.” I hadn’t the wherewithal to do anything but comply.


And, lo and behold, a miracle started creating itself right then and there. I was functional an entire 18 hours with only a minor bump or two. I could feel part of what had seemed “dead” inside my essence coming to “life” again. I was quiet all day so I could savor the time – and I even managed to go with Kerry to meet Madison’s midnight plane at the airport, which would have been unheard of the previous day. And I thought, “He is risen."


Mind you, there will be rough times ahead. And someday I’ll take a quantum leap across a Greater Divide. But for now, I shall savor the morsels of life that have been restored to me, for as long as I possibly can.


It’s Easter. It’s spring. It's rebirth and renewal.    He is risen, indeed.

PARKIE CHRONICLES 3

Posted on April 11, 2017 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)



GRAPPLING WITH THE BEAST AND THEN SOME


Some cliffhanger.


The cliff is still there, just like last week, and I’m still hanging. I haven’t been able to try the generic Requip yet, and that's the least of my worly ries this week. I think this is called a “setback.”


Now, Parkies are accustomed to setbacks --- as in, we can be tooling along just fine when the bottom suddenly drops out of our entire life. We learn to start over on a daily basis, In fact, this week I finished putting together my Medicare package (for now) by enrolling in the one drug plan (out of 24 --remember? ) that covers my “lynchpin” drug – and it’s "only" going to cost me $150 a month on the average for that drug. Add up the premium, the other meds, the Part B Medicare premium, the Part B deductible, and whatever I’ve forgotten about – and I get out of the whole deal for $600 a month if I’m lucky. I’m just happy that I can afford the reliable label drug. Of course, only 1-2 critical decisions on Medicare’s or the drug company’s part to will put me in dire straits, but I’ll have plenty of time to worry about that if it happens. One learns to be grateful for small favors when battling a Beast like PD.


Besides, this week's setback was no gadfly;  suddenly, my medication’s “kick-in quotient” (ability to make me functional) went on a reaI bender, and I have no idea why. Moreover, I have yet to win the battle with insomnia, and (not least by any stretch) I still must get busy trying the Requip generics to see if I can find a “good” one. If I can only find one that works, I’ll be halfway where I need to be. Where is that? I’m not sure. I do know that my expectations have declined a tad; no longer can I expect and enjoy 4-5 blissfully medicated hours with smooth dosing between them, such that I could pretend I didn’t have PD much of the time. It’s as if I’m being chased by a tiger-like beast and the tiger is gaining ground. Since being diagnosed in 2001, I’ve stayed at least one length ahead of the Beast.  A couple of times lately, it’s caught me, but I’ve managed to escape. THAT'S what I ended up doing this week, and everything else went out the windiow.  The Beast is  especially ruthless in robbing us of what we love best, and it doesn’t “like” for us to fight it. Guess what, Beast? I don’t give a damn what you like; I’m all in -- and in case you haven't notiiced, I'm not the only one in this duo who has no intention of giving up.


“YOU HEAR THAT, BEAST? GO PICK ON SOMEBODY YOUR OWN SIZE WHO WON’T GIVE YOU SO MUCH GRIEF,” I hear myself saying.


The Beast lets out a wicked cackle: “Yes, but it’s worth my grief to see you suffer,” I can hear it saying -- as all evil beings do.


I always ignore this remark, because the only response other than to surrender is to keep resisting “by any means necessary.”  Unfortunately, aas I learned this week in dealiing with physical and economic setbacks, those means are becoming more and more limited (to say nothing of costly)..


But enough of my whining!


This Sunday will be Easter, and a day in the Christian calendar when hope quite literally springs eternal. Madison will be here, and I really hope my meds shape up so that I can go to church services with her. My wonderful brother and sister-in-law, Ben & Carla, have thankfully invited the fam to break bread (and inhale some thumbprint cookies, no doubt!) I hope the Beast will behave – as my friend Renda says, “Hell, honey, HOPE is what women live on!”


Just like Parkies.  See you next week!

THE PARKIE CHRONICLES #2

Posted on April 3, 2017 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (1)


NOTE:  THE "PARKIE" ARTICLES SHOULD BE READ IN SEQUENCE IF POSSIBLE. THE MOST RECENT APPEARS FIRST.)



 "...AND IT'S A HIGH SPIRALING PUNT.."


First, thanks for your messages during the week!   These are more meaningful than you can imagine!

 

Many of you asked about the chances of finding a cure. The short answer is that there’s no cure on the horizon, because Parkinson’s is not a disease – at least, not in the way we think about diseases.

 

Let me explain it this way. Suppose PD is a barrel full of mixed jelly beans. You and I go in, and we each grab a hand full of the beans. We both have “beans,” (“beans” being PD symptoms, in this example), but we will never grab exactly the same mix. We could repeat the same process all day long, and our “PD” (jelly beans) would never be made up of exactly the same colors (symptoms). So you might say that PD is “perfectly” customized, which is a real problem when it comes to treatment, let alone a cure. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know exactly what you’ll “get” --other than chocolate. Even then, you might open the box and find a misplaced Easter Peep or some other abnormality that the “chocolate cures” won’t help. I know; it’s complicated.


For now, the prime research focus is to find treatments that enable patients to “live with” Parkinson’s in much the same way one “lives with” diabetes. And great strides are being made in that direction! Someday, we’ll have treatments that will halt the disease in whatever track it’s discovered. Before then, we’ll have drugs that ease the worst symptoms. Tragically, however, a good 2/3 of the PD patients in the USA are on Medicare – which either doesn’t cover “label” drugs, or prices them out of most people’s reach. Until then, we do the best we can and move on. Which brings us to this week’s saga.

 

If you’re already “on” Medicare, you can skip this paragraph; if you aren’t, then you’d best listen up. Hardly anyone pays attention to Medicare’s limitations; most people just assume that it’s like any other insurance, and that it will likely pay for the drugs you need. Think again: Medicare doesn’t do anything of the kind, unless you’re either a magician, a billionaire (in which case you don’t need Medicare to begin with), or else you’ve figured out the fast lane through “hell and half of Georgia.”


Take PD for example: the gold standard drug is called SINEMET which is a derivative of L-dopa. If you saw the movie AWAKENINGS (Robin Williams) you know how magic a potion it is (and if not, hie thee to Netfliix and watch it!). Either way, recall my description of a duct-taped mummy on a bad trip ( last week’s story). Well, the bottom line is that SINEMET sets everything right (for a few hours at least, but I’ll get to that part later). Now for the kicker: Medicare generally doesn’t cover SINEMET! Yes, you read that right.

 

What Medicare covers are the generic brands of all drugs, period. Yes, some newer drugs without generics are technically covered, as are a few “label” drugs, but the costs are so outrageous that even well-off people can’t afford them, let along most of the “other” 95%. What’s worse, if you happen to luck into a Medicare plan that covers a non-generic drug that you need, your plan might cover it one month and not the next. Why? Tell me and we’ll both know.

 

As you’ll recall from last week’s lecture, generics are ‘way too imprecise to treat Parkies with anything near optimum function. So that’s what set off last week’s roller coaster: In my attempt to find a generic that would provide even a modicum of benefits, NOT for SINEMET, but for the drug that “boosts” SINEMET (like most Parkies, I must “boost” SINEMET for it to work properly), I crashed. The drug I was trying to convert to generic is called REQUIP. Its non-generic Medicare price is between $500-$600 a month, even if you can get it through Medicare, which you usually can’t. So it’s generic or nothing for me. (I’ll talk about other drugs when we get to that part of the story, but for now suffice to say that I’m allergic to a good many of them – for starters).


Anyway, you’ll recall from last week that my pharmacy “blended” the generic I was “trying out” (meaning that they gave me two different brands); what’s worse, they accidentally mislabeled one of the bottles, so I didn’t know I was shifting to a new brand in the middle of the stream. By pure luck, I had used the “good” brand first; then, when I took the BAD brand without knowing I’d done so, I not only crashed, but I had to waste an entire week of my “quest” to get back to square one. It’s like never being able to get out of jail in a Monopoly game gone tragic. So, I spent the whole week getting “out of jail” and trying to drug the “mummy” out of commission.

 

Cliffhanger over: I was successful enough to resume my quest and to remain functional all but about 2-3 hours in 24 – that is, if you count insomnia as functional. But I still MUST find the two drugs I need, or I might as well plan my memorial service. At least my cemetery plot is paid for (lame bid for a laugh there).

 

But there’s no point getting ahead of the game, because I still need to focus my energy toward finding a generic brand of REQUIP that works rather than crashes. Only then can I tackle the big kahuna: finding SINEMET.

 

The bad news is, I don’t know if a “good” generic for REQUIP exists, and to find it, I have to risk another “crash” when I haven’t fully recovered from last week’s yet. So that’s what I’ll be doing this week: trying out another generic REQUIP. There just has to be one out there. There has to be. Maybe I’ll find it this week! Or maybe I’ll have a worse crash than before. I have no idea, but I have to keep moving – because my time runs out on 1 July, when Medicare takes charge of my life. Literally.

 

Watch this space next Sunday if you want to know what happens.

 

 

THE PARKIE CHRONICLES BEGIN

Posted on April 3, 2017 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)


PREFACE TO THE PARKIE CHRONICLES

Believe it or not, I’m sick of politics. Actually, I’m sick of what passes for “logic” and “facts” and appropriate rhetoric, none of which would win so much as a high school debate back in the day, let alone be taken seriously.


SO I’ve decided to co-opt my FB page to write, as have some of my betters before me, about my life and times as a Parkie – a term that many of us hard-core Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients use to describe ourselves and each other.


Mind you, I'm not "fishing" for responses. I’m merely telling my story. Everybody has one or more of their own, somewhere along the way, and I certainly do not mean to imply that mine is more unique than most. But I’ve had so many questions about Parkinson’s over the years (dozens from FB friends), that I’ve decided to answer them in a dated, story-like series that appears every Sunday on my FB page before being logged in my blog.


You’re cordially invited to come along. I don’t know how enthralling the tale will be; if you choose to journey with me, you can make that call.

Ready? Let’s roll.



26 MARCH 2017: THE WEEK THAT WAS


To get a good sense of how much fun I’ve had the past seven days, you need some inside knowledge about Parkinson’s. One of my descriptions is that I feel like three faces of Eve four times a day – meaning that one minute my body – sans my permission! – does a perfect imitation of Lot’s wife. However, within an hour, I could be disco dancing at best and am usually able to move normally enough the rest of the time. This little number repeats itself in often-unpredictable intervals, oh, 4-5 times a day. Technically it’s called “motor fluctuations” but we Parkies just call it OFF time.


If you want to try it, buy some duct tape and ask a responsible adult to wrap you up like a mummy for an hour when you’re so stoned that your brain can’t function and often goes paranoid without warning. Oh, and don’t forget the gag because you can’t talk very well either. No Virginia, this is not a new bondage game. I guess it could be, but you’d have to be a total idiot to try it.


What causes this dark magic to happen? Simply put, the meds that enable Parkies to remain functional are also the source of our worst dysfunctions. So an OFF time is when our meds suddenly take an unscheduled break and quit working. Voila: We shut down faster than the quittin’ bell on Wall Street. More about that later; just remember the duct tape mummy part.


So this week, I had started out fairly well. Often you can outsmart the mummy by dividing your day in columbarium-sized-box-like compartments, so that’s my general MOD these days. I’d had three REALLY good weeks, considering that I’d finally figured out how to keep the OFF times at bay after at least six months’ worth of setbacks that I won’t bore you with. I had been ecstatic the whole time because I thought we’d had a breakthrough!


I should have known better.


By 3:00 this past Monday, I’d not only morphed into mummy-state thrice, but to top off the drama, my blood pressure started shooting up exponentially (like, from 128/70 to 160/99 and back!) as every OFF time ran its course. I felt like what I hear tell is how a heroin addict feels during withdrawal -- except my roller coaster at least had some breathing time between rides.


“What the hell caused all this?” you might rightly wonder. “Can’t Lyle even manage her own disease?” Well, yes and no. Let me explain one of the “no’s” that could have a simple fix, but for Big Pharma. Again more about that later. For now, I’m only talking about PD drugs.


Now, don’t get me wrong; generic drugs have their place. But that place is NOT among the gold-standard dopamine-centric drugs that treat PD. As any Parkie can tell you, those drugs have to be as precise as an atomic clock, or they will virtually set your hair on fire (while you’re a mummy to boot). Generics are by law allowed to vary some 45% -- meaning 20% weaker or 25% stronger than the “real label” brand. So my torture started with my testing generic versions of my drug … because the label drugs I’ve been paying $120/month for will cost more than my pension when I trip into Medicare come July. Big pharma sure has, and much to their benefit I might add.


The weird thing is, for three weeks I thought I’d found a generic PD drug that would work. Now I'm not so sure – because somehow in the cacophony of my meds file drawer, a “bad” generic brand had been labeled (by the drug store, mind you!) the same way as the presumptively “good” generic brand, and I didn’t notice the difference. I mean, who reads pill markings if the meds look the same and have the same label as the bottle you took yesterday? Now, that would be me! All it took to learn that one the hard way was a week of mummified torture, a severe bout of insomnia, and I don’t know what all, because I’ve seen only a few hours of sanity in the past 144.


So I’m going back to the label drug for a week, hoping to arrive back at square one by this time next week. Then I have to start the process all over again. Why? Because one of the two PD drugs I take has to be a generic for me to afford it; and even at that, my drugs alone going to cost me at least $500 smackers a MONTH – that is, if I want to have a life at all and function within and among the human race.


Watch this space to see what happens this week. Same time, same station.


HERE'S THE THING...

Posted on January 13, 2017 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

 


 It’s not as if I were an elite East Coast liberal writing for VANITY FAIR; I simply hold a Ph.D. in Communication from a decent state university. But even with the “Doc” attached to my name, I was born and raised (often kicking and screaming at the status quo), in South Knoxville, Tennessee. Most people who can make that claim are what my mom called “salt of the earth” souls (a good thing), and most days it seems like half of the people in my ‘hood are my former Doyle High students, or Young High classmates, or are somehow connected to my late Mom & Dad, both of whom hailed from Vestal.


 I often use the term “redneck” as an endearment, mostly because I loved hearing Billy K. Nicely sing country songs that he called “redneck anthems.” So if I have a high-falutin’ pedigree hiding out somewhere, I have no idea where to look for it. Fact is, one of my great-grand parents was a riverboat gambler and another held John Dillinger at bay with HER shotgun. Speaking of gun control, my Grandfather Lyle hung his hunting rifles in plain view, right over the dinner table, even though he was an FDR Democrat in East Tennessee, the nation’s most Republican backwoods. He and my grandmother, Mary Byrd Lyle, have at least four generations of progeny now living, meaning that the Elbert Lyle clan dates back at least 8 generations in these here parts.


Here's the thing:  To this day there’s nary a Republican among us, including the partners we married. That’s kinda smugly spooky if you ask me, but it’s true.  (And if it's not, now's an inopportune time to correct that false fact.)  Anyway,  my grandfather’s grandfather came to East Tennessee with Indiana’s Civil War troops, decided to stay, and started calling himself a Democrat (likely trying to fit in), Apparently my ancestor didn’t realize that his fellow-East-Tennesseans were more rabidly Republican than Abe Lincoln at the time. Regardless, Lyle family Democrats have proudly STUCK OUT like sore thumbs to this day; and little wonder:  We were raised to understand what unchecked power and obscene wealth on the other side of the table look like to ordinary people like us. A union boss during the Depression, my grandfather was nothing if not a hard-nosed realist. That kind of mindset tends to be contagious.

 

 In this context, I decided a few weeks ago to swear off social media’s fact-free-for-all, where it’s often impossible to distinguish the reprehensible from the righteous. I don’t know why I didn’t keep that resolution other than having run out of chocolate; I certainly don’t expect to change anyone or anything, even though the eternal teacher in me will always try. God only knows how much somebody needs to change something (anything!) for the simple reason that THE WORLD HAS SPUN OFF ITS AXIS.


Evidence continues to snowball -- from an avalanche of primary sources -- that Vladimir Putin, war criminal extraordinaire and head of the Russian state, ordered and directed an invasion of U.S. cyberspace with all the destructive power of a Pearl Harbor attack. By definition, this is an act of war. Yet we have a president-elect who gives the Ruskies more credence than the entire American intelligence community, which is speaking in unison for possibly the first time SINCE Pearl Harbor. As if that’s not bad enough, today’s news brought even more transparent evidence that DJT was ad is in bed with the Ruskies on this one; that would explain a lot.


 In other news, the renegade “alt right” media known as Britebart (whose headlines regularly refer to alien abductions) has a taxpayer-funded mole leading one flank of the Visigotht horde, under the guise of Chief Strategist. The problem here is – it’s obvious. Meanwhile, with Brite-barf in one ear and doubtless a Queen anthem in the other, prez-elect DJT suddenly brands CNN a purveyor of “false news” because they dared report published accounts of Trump’s several sok-hop dances with the Russian bear. One has to wonder just how much of WHAT it is that The Donald actually owes the once and future Evil Empire.

 

 Aaannnd….the nominee for Secretary of State actually claims that he “hasn’t talked to (Trump) about Russia” – which is in fact more credible than Trump’s claim that he turned down a billion-ish deal in Middle Eastern oil futures because he is “disinvolving” himself from his alleged business empire and will instead let his kids run the show. Uh huh. Like every tabloid in the world won’t start the day with the self-styled billionaire’s latest material conquest (except when Trump no doubt beats them to it by a tweet).

 

In other news, nine Americans were senselessly killed in Ft. Lauderdale by a “lone” gunman -- who’s no “loner” when he’s protected by the NRA, the US Congress, and the president-elect, none of whom can apparently read the Second Amendment’s first and definitionally qualifying phrase.

 

Not  least, here's a p.s. that should be page one news: An  icecap the size of Delaware is breaking away from Anarctica to free float at will, yet The Donald still insists that global warming is a Chinese plot, the nature of which I have yet to figure out (to say nothing of what possible motive would drive such a ridiculous conspiracy to begin with).


 While these travesties were simultaneously spinning themselves out, The Donald was consumed for an entire day by petulant sparring with The Arnold about “Apprentice” ratings, that and setting fire to freedom of the press, served up with lies du jour, to anyone who will suck them down. How the man cannot turn his own stomach, I cannot imagine.

 

 Have we truly devolved into the idiots we surely must be for putting this malignant narcissist in charge of our lives, our fortunes and whatever shreds of honor we may have left among us? Were Trump voters really and truly taken in by the snake oil , or did they just mindlessly register a protest vote that went bad? (To put it mildly). If nothing else, can we at least explain why this shyster was able to sell every shell game that he and/or Putin put on the market -- or do we have to admit we were either (a) too stupid to see through DJT’s smoky mirrors, or (b) too apathetic to care?

 

But there’s another salient question, and this is what makes me crazy: Most of the people I know, especially my beloved former students, genuinely want to do the right thing, SO HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT??  And worse … where can we possibly go from here?

 

MY TAKE?

For people who can tie a shoe without getting confused, optimism of any kind pales in comparison to an unmitigated fear that humanity (let alone democracy) is in more danger of annihilation than it’s been in my lifetime. I mean, what else can I possibly conclude when I see that so many of the students/friends I (still) adore are the very voters who allowed (ay, campaigned) for this – what? “Abomination” is proving to be too weak a descriptor, as every new day brings another outrage. Yes, I’m pessimistic. I see NO reason to be otherwise. 

 

 Fact is, for the first time in my 60+ years, I’m forced to admit that Alexander Hamilton was right: We are finally incapable of sustaining our republic. Even Thomas Jefferson didn’t think we’d last half this long. Are we going to put the final nails in our own coffin these next four years? Or will we manage to climb out of the casket and run screaming from the morgue?

 

THE ANSWER IS UP TO US.  YOU, ME, AND EVERY CITIZEN.


If there’s any strength in numbers, maybe, just maybe, those 3 million right-thinking souls who in fact outvoted the Trumpsters will, along with public outrage, collectively prompt the likes of a Senator Graham, McCain, ,and/or (no kidding), “Little Marco,” to cast votes that will save just enough of our political heritage so as to put it away (like yeast in a jar) until we can start rebuilding what we’re bound to lose. For in this foreign land, we are trapped as surely as if we were surrounded by fat, greedy crocodiles in the world’s sleekest swamp.

    

   In fact, that’s exactly where we are.

 

 


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