Tag Archives: essential tremors

Becoming a Switch Hitter

I am a southpaw, a left-hander. Big time! So much so that when my father tried to get me to golf right-handed (he said golf courses were built to favor righties) I just wasn’t able to do it. I played a little—he even bought me a beginner’s set of left-handed clubs—when I was 15, but came to the conclusion surfing was more my speed and gave up golf.

I actually have no plan to become a right-handed golfer, assuming I can ever golf again (that’s another story.)

When I took it up again at the tender age of 46, I still played left-handed, though I realized it would be helpful to my game if I spent a little time strengthening my right side, as well as improving my right-handed coordination. I set about doing some exercises and using my right hand more frequently. It was a bit haphazard, but I managed to become a bit more comfortable with it as time went by.

Last night I believe I came to the conclusion I need to change my handedness from left to right. The reason for this has nothing to do with golf, however. Sometime around a decade ago, I began to experience the effects of what is known as essential tremors. Also called familial tremors, the malady is genetic and generally affects one or more of three areas: the neck muscles, the hands and fingers, and vocal chords. My mother had them in her neck; she was, in her last years, a bobble-head.

My tremors show up in my hands and, ironically, they are worst in my left (dominant) hand. I am almost certain sometime in the next few years, I will experience them in my neck muscles as well. I can feel it coming on when I’m drinking any liquid I don’t sip. Not all the time; my hands don’t shake all the time either. When they do, though, it can be pretty had to do certain things. For instance, typing becomes next to impossible when they’re shaking, as is eating with a fork or a spoon.

Ironically, eating with hashi (chopsticks, in Japanese; my wife is Sansei) is much easier than eating with a fork. It might present a bit of a problem if grabbing whatever it is I wish to lift to my lips, but once I’ve got it grasped I can hang onto it because they shake in the same amount and same direction, and the food is securely pinched between the two pieces. This does not work with a fork or a spoon unless whatever it is I’m eating can be stabbed with the fork. Spoons are even worse because one eats things that are liquid and can spray all over the place when shaken as thoroughly as my left hand is capable of when it gets going.

For example, when I was in the midst of my battle with Covid-19, at the beginning of the year, I didn’t eat for a couple of days. Even though I could neither smell nor taste, I finally got hungry and my wife brought me a bowl of homemade chicken soup. She served it with one of the large, Chinese soup spoons we have, which are reasonably deep. As I raised a spoonful to my mouth, my hand began to shake violently and I sprayed hot soup all over myself and the bed. It was frustrating.

Last night I was eating some canned pears and cottage cheese; one of my favorite comfort foods (actually pineapple is my real fave, mixed with cottage cheese) and I was having a difficult time getting the spoon to my mouth without dropping or flinging the food hither and yon. Having done it once or twice before, I decided to try eating right-handed. It went much better than I had hoped for. So now, difficult as it may be at 73 years old, I’m going to start re-training myself to be right-handed. It won’t help with my typing, but I’m pretty sure it will improve my dining satisfaction … and that’s important. I may even begin eating with hashi right-handed as well. I’ve done it before and I know I can.

PS – Did you know that all the synonyms for “southpaw” are negative? According to thesaurus.com, these words are: ambilevous; awkward; clumsy; dubious; gauche; insincere; maladroit; sinister; and sinistral.


A Return Engagement

I quite accidentally came across an old Facebook post, which I’m pasting in below, that I wrote and shared a little over six years ago. I’m a little ashamed (embarrassed might be a better word) that I announced my intention, only to not complete what I said I had started. I truly had started but, shortly after doing so I was approached by a former colleague at Rocketdyne and was offered a job.

Here Comes the Bar Mitzvah Boy

Since my primary goal at the time was to bring in enough supplemental income to allow us to maintain our modest, yet comfortable, lifestyle, I dove into the job head first. I had also gotten an editing gig shortly after the post, which took a great deal of my time and overlapped with my return to Rocketdyne. For a couple of weeks I was working up to 13 or 14 hours per day.

So, here I am six years later and I have begun serious work on what I used to think were my memoirs. This past Wednesday I woke up thinking I needed to better understand the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. After a moment’s worth of research I realized I was not working on my memoirs; rather, I was working on my autobiography.

A Favorite Award

I have, therefore, decided I am now working on three projects. The most ambitious is my autobiography. Ancillary to that effort are two subsets of my life, which I will write and publish as memoirs: one surrounding my experiences of more than 50 years of drug use and what I learned about myself and others; the other about my experiences with the Peace & Justice movement during the late sixties and early seventies and how it’s affected my politics and my philosophy of life.

I had done a fair amount of work on an outline, which currently consists of 158 entries (many of which are partially written, some recently and others copied from blog posts that are relevant to the subjects I cover. Many of the blog posts need to be somewhat re-tooled to fit the format of either a memoir or an autobiography, and much needs to be added, but I’m currently at almost 16,000 words. My Peace & Justice movement project is currently at nearly 3,800 words, and my drug use project currently consists primarily of a reasonably thorough outline.

Some Political Collectibles

Previously, I was deeply concerned about our household income. I am not as concerned now and a couple of things are driving me to complete these projects reasonably soon. The first is my age and the age of others who were substantial parts of my life. As far as my political activities back in the day go, at least three of the people I am writing about are no longer with us, with two of them passing in the last few years. I was hoping to interview them. That’s no longer possible. Fortunately, they’ve all left a legacy and there’s plenty of material for me to glean from and help me remember the activities I shared with them, as well as others who we worked with who are still available.

The second reason isn’t directly related to my age, but is nevertheless a result of it. As I’ve written about previously, I have what are called “essential” or “familial” tremors. There are three areas in which these tremors affect those who suffer from them: the neck muscles (my mother was a “bobblehead”); the vocal cords (think Bette Davis); and the hands. My experience is mostly with my hands, though on occasion I can swear I feel it coming on in my neck muscles as well.

You Can Call Me Reverend Ricky

I want to finish these projects before I can’t type at all. There were times, during my two-year return to Rocketdyne, when my left hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t log on to my computer. I had to enter my user name and password with one finger on one hand. There are times when my left hand shakes so much I can’t possibly type like I’m used to.

I’ve already contacted a half dozen people, including former roommates, a former girlfriend, and my first wife. They have all not only expressed a willingness to be part of this, they have already provided me with recollections I had forgotten, all of which will surely improve the quality of the stories I plan on writing.

My Brother’s Wedding With Me Officiating

So I’ve set a goal for myself. Currently, it’s 500 words per day but I’m going to probably up that to 1,000 words per day. It’s not really all that difficult once I get going, especially since my outline now is quite thorough and all I need do is tell my stories. Another goal is to, as I mentioned in my post of six years ago, stand up a Kickstarter campaign to see if I can raise any money. I don’t need a lot and I think I have a fairly interesting story (actually stories) to tell.

For the first time in my life, this IS my job. If nothing else, I will leave a legacy for my two daughters, to whom these works will be dedicated.



I am on the verge of taking on what I believe to be an important project. I’ve been thinking about it for well over a year and I have discussed it with several old friends who were part of the experiences the project will speak to.

I plan on writing a book. It will be a combination of my memoirs, as well as a history, of a part of the peace & justice movement, specifically in Southern California, from about 1968 until 1973. At the time I was part of a group of amateur, yet reasonably well-trained, people who provided much of the security for rallies, demonstrations, and numerous cultural events. We provided building and personal security, including occasional armed bodyguard work, for people like Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsworth, Tony Russo, a group of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S., Roger McAfee and family (they put their ranch up for Angela Davis’s bail after Jonathan Jackson’s disastrous attempt to break his brother, George, out of the Marin County Courthouse), Mrs. Salvador Allende, and cultural groups such as Quilapayun, Arco Iris, and Holly Near – to name a few.

The book I propose to write would be a combination of my memoirs and those of many others (some of whom I have recently contacted and who expressed great interest in seeing this happen) who I worked with. I was a member of groups such as The Peace Action Council with Irv Sarnoff, The Indochina Peace Campaign with Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, and Bruce Gilbert, Vietnam Veterans Against the War with Ron Kovic, as well as individuals such as Dorothy Healey, Frank Wilkinson, and others – many of whom I will need to do some research on to refresh my memory.

Part of this piece will be aimed at setting the record straight. Part of it will be pointing out the many sacrifices lots of people made in speaking and acting out during that time. We thank members of the military for their “service”, regardless of what they did and what their motives truly were, yet the people who risked so much during those difficult times were – and frequently still are – vilified as traitors and un-American. I’d like to help set the record straight.

Those of my friends who have any experience or thoughts about those times and the activities I will be addressing are welcome – actually, encouraged – to share them with me. While I am willing to read, even address, contrary opinion, anyone who attempts to engage me in frivolous argumentation will be asked to stop and, if that doesn’t work, will be unfriended. I am interested in useful, thoughtful opinion even if it doesn’t agree with how I see or remember those days, but only if it helps me understand my perspective more completely. I have a well-established POV after all these years and I’m not interested in useless argumentation over its validity.

This also means I will be incrementally backing off of Facebook; posting far less and paying less attention to others, even with the all-important mid-term elections looming. I want to get this done while I’m still able to and I will have a lot of reading, interviewing, and writing to do. I’m also thinking of using Kickstarter to raise some money so I don’t have to worry about further depleting what savings we’ve managed to accumulate prior to my somewhat forced retirement. I’m thinking, if a guy who’s merely making potato salad can raise $70,000, I might be able to find enough interest to get $15 – $20,000. I’m anticipating the need to travel for some interviews. Many of the people involved at that time likely won’t be available via online technology.

I will probably share this more than a few times in the next couple of days or so. Knowing there’s only a small percentage of my friends who will see this at any given time, I think it will be useful to share it at different times. Please forgive me if I annoy you. Feedback is, of course, more than welcome. I’ll also be sharing my progress as I go along.


Simple, Stupid, & Punny

I’m glad we decided to purchase Photoshop. I’ve been playing with it and sometimes I even get a little serious, spending some time learning how to use a tool I’m unfamiliar with. This wasn’t one of those times, though being able to select a small part of one photo and layering onto another requires a bit of patience and a reasonably steady hand. The latter I find difficult at times, as I have inherited essential (or familial) tremors from my mother, and there are times when I have a great deal of difficulty pointing and clicking in the right place. When I was back at Rocketdyne (2015 – 2017) there were times when I couldn’t easily log onto my computer in the morning because me hands were shaking so bad. At any rate, this here should be clear to anyone who knows a little Russian history and something about hand tools.

If you’ve seen one Russian, you’ve seen ’em all

PS – I’m not posting this for any reason other than I created it, it’s been shared on FB and Twitter, and I just want to have it somewhere that doesn’t disappear essentially forever. There’s nothing special about it, other than that it marks another bit of practice I had using Photoshop.


Shake, Rattle, and Rolling Along

 I’m beginning to see the effects of aging on my proficiency in much of my work; not just the slow and inexorable deterioration of mental acuity, but the slight discomfort I sometimes experience when either writing or typing. Due to my essential tremors, and the loss of flexibility and dexterity that can’t be avoided with aging, I frequently find there are times when I can barely do either. I have experienced instances when the shaking has been so bad I had to stop, stand up, and walk away until the shaking subsides.

For many years I’ve believed as long as I had the ability to type and use a computer, I would be able to communicate and, more importantly, work and earn at least a bit of income to supplement what retirement income I have. Now I’m faced with the possibility a time will come – perhaps not for another decade – when I will not easily be able to do so. I’ve experimented over the years with apps like Dragon Dictate, but I’m so much more comfortable actually having my fingers on a keyboard. If I am forced to do it, I suppose I’ll adapt. The prospect isn’t terribly exciting though.


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