Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gifts of the Season

Hello all,

It's been a while since I posted. It's good to be back on this space. Most of the fall I was caught up in election fever: glued to CNN, poring over print and online media, holding my breath as states' projected outcomes switched back and forth between blue and red. What an election. Who would have dreamed this country could engage in this process with such seriousness, intensity, and commitment...that my kids (in their 20s) and their peers would do a 180° turn from their position of disaffection, cynicism, and apathy...that I and my fellow baby boomers would see such a resounding repudiation of the racism that permeated the United States into which we were born.

It was a shining moment.

Now, as we get ready for the hard work and the big unknowns ahead of us, we find ourselves again in the shiny season, considerably toned down this year. Many of us are struggling, many of us are insecure. Yet in the season of giving, give we will, whatever we can. If you give to someone with Parkinson's—or if you have Parkinson's and need some items to put on your wish list—here are some things I have enjoyed that you might, too. And they are all available on the internet. Fa la la!

The Electrolux Pronto 2 in 1 Stick Vacuum

Seriously folks, what says love better than a vacuum cleaner? This featherlight, self charging, no-cord-to-trip-on, easily emptied, handy-dandy little sucker will make you want to tidy up the floor endlessly. It’s plenty powerful…won’t pick up a tennis ball but it works just fine for basic household schmutz, and it won’t endanger your toes or the cat’s tail.

Housed on the stick vacuum is a handheld vacuum that you can detach to clean up your car, your furniture, etc. Hence the “2 in 1” designation. Way practical, way cool.

I've had mine for over a year and I use it every single day. The fun never ends.

The 2 in 1 comes in festive candy red, and it's pretty spiffy. Add a bow and watch faces light up at the sight of this baby.

At, $83.48.

Cosco's 2-Step Folding Ladder

Admittedly, we people with Parkinson’s should be wary of ladders, but every so often, darn it all, I need something that is stashed way up high and I don’t want to wait for my tall spouse to get it for me. When that happens, I slide my Cosco stepladder out of its little space between a kitchen cabinet and a wall, unfold it, and confidently (though carefully) make my way up two broad and sturdy steps, secure in the knowledge that they will support me well and firmly. Then I grab the ice bucket, or the vase, or whatever, and savor another small triumph as I proceed, unscathed.

In ever-popular white with black steps, this item dresses up nicely.

At Office Depot, $26.59.

Buster Keaton’s Silent Comedies

Laughter is great medicine, and who better to make us laugh than Buster Keaton? Better than anyone before or since, Keaton understood the comic possibilities of a world in which inanimate objects are out to get you. Sound familiar?

For us people with Parkinson’s, Keaton resonates: his stoic demeanor, his persistence and hopefulness, his flashes of brilliance and grace. He also makes audiences fall over laughing, so make sure you are seated with your safety belt securely fastened.

If you are new to Keaton and you want to try him out, you could go for one of the great full-length features: The General, Our Hospitality, Steamboat Bill Jr., The Navigator. But I swear you won’t be sorry if you go for the big boxed set. Once you develop a taste for Keaton, which will happen within five minutes, you’ll want to see them all.

The films of Buster Keaton are available from a company called Kino.

Uproarious Reads Department: David Sedaris

There are some pretty funny books out there, too. In the personal essay category, I vote for David Sedaris as the writer most likely to induce cardiac arrest from hyper-laughing, and I am partial to his recent collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. (I dare you to read “Stadium Pal” aloud beside the Yule log, and to get through it without collapsing.) Even better than reading Sedaris is hearing him read himself, so it might be worth considering a gift of the audiobook.

At Amazon, $23.09.

Easy Listening with

Speaking of audiobooks, for all eyes and especially for eyes with Parkinson’s, it’s great to get a rest from reading. It’s also wonderful to hear every word a writer took the trouble to write. Listening is just a different experience from reading. It feels somehow sybaritic, self-indulgent, as a human voice does all the work and draws you in. is a service that offers digital spoken versions of over 18,000 audiobooks and audio programs. For a gold membership at $14.95 a month, you accumulate credits that can be traded for an audio downloads. Members also receive a 30 percent discount on audiobooks and a complimentary subscription to the audio version of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

When I first joined audible, I tended to forget I had it. Now I’ve gotten into the swing of using it, and it’s a joy. With cheering regularity, I get hours of high-quality listening…and serious reduction in eye strain.

Everybody Needs an iPod

Do you find the above statement a bit sweeping, a tad hyperbolic? Well, consider: Who goes to the dentist? Just about everybody, right? During a recent dental marathon (don't ask), the only thing that saved me from meltdown was my trusty iPod, which covered the noise and vibrations with blues, country, and girl groups of the 60s. I just had to consciously refrain from humming along, lest my dentist think I was in pain.

There are many kinds of iPods and Mp3 players you can buy. But for simplicity, ease of use, and peerless Parkinson's-related name-irony, I'll take the Shuffle. It has room for lots of songs and podcasts, the controls are basic and easy to manipulate, and it's tiny, light, and unobtrusive.

It's also therapeutic. The positive effects of music on gait and balance are well documented. Hook yourself up to some musical accompaniment and your shuffle just might try to turn into a sashay.

The iPod Shuffle will work with either a PC or a Mac and is available at most electronics stores.

At Amazon, it goes for $46-$49 for the 1G model. (Price varies for different colors.)

Speaking of music: You can sample some of my favorites, thanks to, by scrolling to the bottom of this window and clicking on the playlist called Moodswings. Just be aware that you get a limited number of skips. Then you have to listen to whatever comes up. That's the price of free music!

photo by wan • der • lust at

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Here is a placeholder comment, just to make it clear where comments are.

Real comments are welcome!

Reading Matter

  • David Howes, editor. Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader. NY: Berg, 2005.