The Ping Pong Parkinson Musicology Committee (finally some transparency)

     Several members of our group have inquired about how music is chosen for the final segment of our Wednesday sessions.  Up until this time, this matter has been kept under wraps, but a full disclosure decision has been adopted by the Board in order to combat any distrust and lack of confidence in this decision-making process.

     The Ping Pong Parkinson Musicology Committee (PPPMC) is composed of 5 members appointed for life (like the Supreme Court) by the PPP Board.  They meet on a monthly basis at a secret location, at which time they select all the songs to be sung by PPP for the following month (for all of our national and international affiliates).   

     All five members, with one exception, have notable musical resumes, are highly esteemed and are preeminent in their respective fields of music. Though we maintain their anonymity, suffice to say that two committee members begin their names with “Sir,” and two others are well known to the public relating to their musical achievements (TV and concerts).  The fifth …. the fifth got his regrettable  appointment due to nepotism, as he had befriended the PPP founder and president (NB), and begged him for the position on the Committee.  (He bolstered his chances at getting selected, by consenting to donate some empty soup cans to be used for drumming, which amounted to a shameless, bold-faced bribe.)

     Since the vote count for approving a song selection has been consistently four to one, it was of interest to probe the dissenting voter’s credentials and to examine and investigate his purported musical expertise – especially since this person (henceforth ‘the Briber’ or “LD”) seemed to favor Lawrence Welk (his ‘Champgne Music Makers) and elevator music (musak) from Montovani.  We are deeply indebted to the Briber’s family (his much older siblings) for providing us with information heretofore hidden from the public.  The following is what we discovered relating to his so-called musical background:

     In February 1954, the Briber’s parents gave him a clarinet and hired a musician for weekly lessons.  In May of that year, the music teacher was abruptly fired and the clarinet was suddenly yanked out of LD’s mouth in the middle of his rendition of Frere Jacques by his own mother.  She was screaming at the top of her lungs at the time, while holding her hands to her ears.  She kept repeating that she couldn’t take it anymore, that her migraines had grown too intense.  Surprisingly, LD took this convulsive act in stride.  He seemed much relieved at the prospect of not having to ‘practice’ any longer, and saw the termination of his musical career as an opportunity to play more stickball…  although he insisted his embouchure was getting real good, and that he’d been well on his way to becoming the next Benny Goodman.  

     The family also granted us the privilege of examining other files, photographs and printed materials.  We learned that LD had  subsequently attempted to learn how to play the piano on three separate occasions, but after 3 days on the first attempt, 1 day on the second, and 5 minutes on the third effort, he gave it all up.  He reportedly said he aspired to play Chopin’s Polonaise, but came up precipitously short with  Comin’ Round The Mountain … and playing that one with only one hand.  The baby grand was sold shortly afterward, and LD was ‘fostered out’, according to the elder sister, to make absolutely, 100% sure that there wouldn’t be a fourth attempt at Chopin.  (Note:  no adoptive parents were willing to take LD, so he was summarily deposited at the Old Faithful campsite in Yellowstone National Park, where a pair of tenderhearted coyotes took the feral child and nurtured him for several years until his SAT scores were respectable.)

     The question as to why LD, the Briber, was chosen in the first place to be a member of the venerable Musicology Committee, was finally put to NB, the President and founder of PPP.  Very defensively he responded:  Well, he gave us the soup cans and was threatening to dump a load of oak branches in front of the club that were supposed to be used as drumsticks and percussion instruments. At the time, we just couldn’t afford to hire a junk removal company, so LD consented to leave the sticks and debris on his own property if we placed him on the Committee.  Of course, I regret it now, but the position is for life.  The only way of getting him out of there, is if he selects one of his favorite bubblegum tunes from the late 60’s.  If that happens, one of the other 4 members is likely to kill him.

Getting Old

     I have vitreous floaters – an age-related thing that permits me to see bugs, one-eyed monsters and balls zipping (flashing) around in my vision.  These are not hallucinations – it’s all real – although when people see me swatting invisible bees and flies and, yes, ping pong balls, they might think I was an off the rocker Dr. Strangelove slapping myself.  (But I can assure you, my precious bodily fluids are pure).  It’s another handicap I don’t need, because now I have to hit the regular ping pong ball, and then take a swipe at a ‘virtual’ ball that only I can see to get it outta the way, while my lucky opponent only has to hit one sphere at a time.  That’s not fair; I should get two points every time I score a regular point.  (Ah, forget it – these pampered millennials I play with will never go for it.)

    They say that “improving your lifestyle” can mitigate the problem of floaters.  To me, that means winning more often at ping pong.  But how can I win when all these things are flying around in front of me?  I’m greeted with fantastical goblins on a daily basis. It’s worse than a Disney ghoulish cartoon meant to scare little kiddies.

     I got another problem – yeah, another one!  I fall asleep all the time.  I’m reading the newspaper, sitting in front of the TV or the computer, and before I know what’s happening, I doze off.  Worse than that, and I’m almost ashamed to say this, but yesterday, mid afternoon,  I fell asleep on the can!  Now that’s a fine how-do-ya-do!  So far, thank goodness, I haven’t fallen asleep while playing some of my table tennis adversaries at the club.  If the fatigue doesn’t get to me, the absolute boredom does and, honestly, these days I have difficulty keeping my eyes open.  But I’m not one to insult anyone (my mommy told me to be nice), so I drink a coke to remain conscious when I lose to these guys.  (Well, how can I win when grotesque, evil eyes are flying circles around me.)

So, what would you do if you were seeing things that aren’t there?  Would you go see an ophthalmologist or a shrink?  I chose the former, of course, because I didn’t want to chance being hospitalized against my will. The eye doctor gave me a prescription for some glasses, and then when I returned for my second copay, he asked me if the witches and supernatural creatures were still there.  I told him the truth, confident that he wouldn’t blab to a psychiatrist anything incriminating because of doctor-patient confidentiality.  I told him that things were much clearer than before, thank you for the glasses – that I could now make out the horns on the unicorns and see the brooms the witches were flying.  Lao Du

Editor:  The phenomenon of fatigue is often overlooked in Parkinson’s Disease.  It’s not a subject often discussed the same way as the main motor symptoms (tremor, slowness, stiffness) of the disease, but it’s commonly encountered and there are some reports (The American Parkinson Association) that chronicle  1/3 of PwP considering  it as their major number one problem. 

     Clinical depression, common in PD, can cause fatigue, but one can suffer fatigue and lack of energy without being depressed.  Medications can also cause tiredness.  As a result of lacking energy and loss of motivation to “do things,” a pernicious social withdrawal can result,  spiraling down to a level of dangerous disengagement from family, friends and exercise.  For this complaint of chronic fatigue, see your physician… and don’t give Lao Du any mercy points.

Who Was That Masked Man?

     The CDC just announced that you don’t have to wear a mask.  Of course, this is not all good news, as this makes it much harder to pull a stickup at your neighborhood Seven Eleven.  It also means I’ll have to shave more often, fix my teeth and cut my nose hairs.  Jeese, I dunno – I was starting  to get used to all of the mask advantages.  And I was kinda feeling like the Lone Ranger, too – you know, like being a legendary kind of guy.  People were saying:  Who was that masked man? as I disappeared into the sunset.  Now I’m not afforded that respectability.  Worse than that, people can see me crying when I lose playing ping pong.  I really hate that, so please,  CDC, at least let us rejoice about defeating Covid-19 by proclaiming a … masquerade party.   I’ll wear my elegant black Hanes mask.  Please, let me pretend to be Zorro for just a little longer.  Lao Du

Editor:  Although the CDC has changed its guidelines and no longer requires masks in any venues, Ping Pong Parkinson will follow the New York State directive, which still mandates wearing masks indoors.

You Say Your Arm Hurts, Bunky?

     I’ve got a frozen shoulder.  Naturally, there are some wannabe doctors wandering through our ranks at the ping pong club, and advice is freely offered (if not well received).  So, one guy in particular (not to be named – “this story is true but the names have been changed to protect the innocent”) comes over to me and says that I have to put ice on it in the form of a bag of frozen peas. That sounded totally ludicrous to me, because frozen broccoli should work, too, right?  And I only buy frozen broccoli – you know, the Birds Eye broccoli florets.  But this frozen vegetable expert, Pea Brain (this is not his real name, by the way), insisted on only ice peas.  I kind of rebuffed him with this:  Thanks for your help, but I don’t need any ice – my shoulder is already frozen!  

     The guy this pea-brained  doofus was playing ping pong with, his equal as an unrestrained  unqualified medical advisor  (a boastful buffoon), asserted unflinchingly  that I needed heat, not ice.  I sent him packing with this:  Thanks, but the cops are already after me, I don’t need any more heat! (Ed.  total flapdoodle/screwy-hooey). 

    Then there was this other sage, who said I needed an injection of some gooey stuff, the name of which he couldn’t remember, only that his next door neighbor got it and his shoulder was okay in a matter of minutes.  He said it gives you a cushion.  And still another know-it-all – an unemployed  lawyah, no less – told me I needed to have my shoulder massaged, and then not to do anything for a month (like him).

    I think the person who made the most sense, however, was the 11 year old son of one of my neighbors, who heard me complaining about my shoulder pain to his father.  This kid said he thinks it would be a good idea if I went to a bone doctor.   Sounded like good advice, so …. I did.  To an orthopod (orthopedic surgeon) I went, to have a consultation with one Dr. Glenoid Fossa.  After spending a few seconds discussing stretching and anti-inflammatory medication, this guy with the caduceus on his white coat was talking about a shoulder replacement.  Whoa! Whoa!  Hold on just a second, Kimosabe!  You mean you can’t do anything else?  I mean something less drastic?  Well, he says shaking his head negatively,  saying You’ve (me) got an advanced case of adhesive capsulitis here.  You’ve already loss some mobility and range of motion, which probably accounts for why you’re losing to everyone at the table tennis club lately.  Yes, your arthritis predisposes you to this unfortunate state of affairs, and if we don’t do something aggressive, this could be permanent.  Well,  I pooh-poohed the great white-haired  healer’s advice, because he was also counseling a brain transplant, which I told him was totally out of the question and unprofessional, considering he wasn’t even a neurosurgeon.

    Ah, well, my shoulder was still aching bad.  Real bad!  I couldn’t sleep on my right side or my left side … or on any side.  So I tried sleeping standing up.  It made sense, don’t knock it.  Well, I tried it for a couple of nights, but it didn’t work too good.  My feet fell asleep, alright, but not the rest of me.

Editor:  So, Lau Du, what happened?  Did you end up going for surgery?

Lao Du:  Hell no!  The guy wanted 21 grand for a 3 hour procedure, and said he was going to use a plastic implant.  I told him I wanted titanium, and would pay only a 25 dollar copay and Medicare would take care of the rest.  He used an expletive – I won’t repeat it here – and he threatened to call hospital security if I didn’t skedaddle real quick.  

Editor:  Then what happened?

Lao Du:  I skedaddled!


Editor:  I’ve done a little research on frozen shoulder.  The relevance to people with Parkinson’s Disease (PwP), is that they, along with those suffering from diabetes,  hyperthyroidism,  heart disease, arthritis and trauma (overuse) are predisposed to suffering  this disorder.  A frozen shoulder causing loss of mobility and a reduced range of motion can be dangerous (can cause permanent damage), usually affecting individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 and disproportionately affecting women.  Physical therapy is the key element in treating it, and can include ultrasound, electrical stimulation, weight/strengthening exercises as well as stretching to increase range of motion.  (And some even recommend ice.)  Recovery can be slow (months and years).  See your physician.  And … if you see Lau Du at the club, tell him to try frozen corn, of which he obviously has an abundant supply.

The Robot Man

     There’s a guy in the side room at the club who hogs the robot machine.  This guy, Robot Man (Gort?), doesn’t play with hominids – he only plays against the robot.  Day in, day out, always with the robot.  So, I asked this guy, doesn’t it get boring only playing against a machine spitting  balls at you the same way 30 to 50 times a minute?   And ya know what he said?  He said, Absolutely not!  And I love her.  Yes! He said her anthropomorphically.  Apparently he thinks the robot machine is alive … and that he has a romantic relationship with it.  Scary!  It’s freaking me out.  

     When I went into that room to retrieve a ball that had accidentally gotten beyond the barrier curtains of my table the other day, he was in there, of course, and I overheard him talking out loud.  He was talking to the machine, can you believe it!  And what he said was stupefying.  He said nice shot!  Are you hearing this?  He said nice shot to a ping pong robot after he missed a ball fired at his back hand.  And then I heard him say too good (!) when another ball went flying past him on the forehand side.  (Apparently the guy had the machine on the random mode.)  Now, I didn’t stick around to see if he kissed or hugged the head of this ball-chucking  contraption, but I wouldn’t put it passed this nut to do it. 

     Here’s the source of the difficulty, the crux of the matter:  the Robot Man just won’t relinquish the use of the table.  He monopolizes it.  That’s a real problem for Ping Pong Parkinson, because our members enjoy using the robot as one of the rotating stations during the main ping pong segment of our sessions.  If Gort is practicing his flick – or, possibly,  making  love to the apparatus – it’s impossible to get in there and practice.  So, I have counseled our group to recite these secret words  which should work to have him vacate the machine for a while:  “Klaatu Barada Nikto,”  (It’s robotspeak.)  If that incantation doesn’t work, I’ve instructed our ‘Pongers’ to get a bat, a golf club or a sword or a nightstick, and go in there and threaten this guy to vamoose for a half hour.  And I’ve also instructed the group to be sure  not to tell Robot Man that I sent them in there with all those weapons, because … well,  I can’t run that fast anymore.   I mean that guy is spooky!  And if he finds out that I was saying bad things about his girlfriend  (that she don’t kiss too good) somethin’ awful might happen to me.  Lao Du        

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