I first crossed paths with Kenny Kramer
in the early 70's on a volleyball court in the Coconut Grove Apartment complex where we both lived. He was tall and thin with the biggest afro I had ever seen on a white man. There was an onshore breeze from Biscayne Bay, and I half expected the wind to lift him up and float him away through the palm trees like a hippy Mary Poppins. Coconut Grove in those days was the Haight Asbury of the east coast. we enjoyed all it had to offer to the fullest hedonistic maximum. Eventually
the Grove Hill
Gang, as we called ourselves, split up and we all went our separate ways. Kenny and I stayed in touch,
and the friendship renewed when I lived in Manhattan for a time
in the mid-80's. Years later another friend, a comedy writer who lived next door to Kenny in Manhattan, wrote a pilot for a network sit-com and based a character on Kenny. The writer was Larry David, the sitcom Seinfeld, and the character was named Kramer. When Kenny started Kramer's Reality Tour, he invited me to New York to help launch his new enterprise. My job was that of consultant. I would tell him what he should do and explain why. Kenny would listen carefully, ask questions if anything wasn't clear, and then do the exact opposite of what I had recommended. It worked beautifully. Kramer's Reality Tour was and is a big success.
CHECK IT OUT
As I am sure is obvious to the reader by now, Kenny and I share an irreverent, unconventional, at times cynical, sense of humour. Nothing is exempt, nothing verboten, nothing censored... even incurable disease.
An Instant Message Conversation with the Original Kramer
Thoughts on celebrity and disease
Hey Tom. What'appening?
Tom: Hi Kenny. It's been a rather depressing day, a really shitty day as a matter of fact.
Tom: I've just been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
Tom: And I thought I had a rotator cuff injury. It's progressive, degenerative, and there's no cure.
Kramer: You got nothing to worry about!
Tom: Not until I start drooling and flapping around. What do you mean, nothing to worry about?
Kramer: Well, Michael J. Fox has it too. Haven't you seen the coverage? It's been all over the news and TV.
Tom: What's that got to do with me for Christ's sake?
Kramer: Well, he's a big celebrity.
Tom: Bigger even than you?
Kramer: I'll ignore
Tom: So? What's celebrity got to do with it?
Kramer: So they'll find a cure!
Tom: Kenny, Pope John Paul has Parkinson's. He's a lot bigger celebrity than Michael J. Fox, and he's got a lot better connections.
Kramer: What do I know! I'm Jewish.
Kramer So, what do you think about the Yankee's trading Dave Wells?
Tom: Kenny, I gotta sign off now. I'm gonna go take a drug overdose, or maybe slit my wrists.
Kramer: Okay man. Catch you later.
BE SERIOUS FOR A BRIEF MOMENT ABOUT PARKINSON'S.
People sometimes ask what it is
like to have Parkinson's. Here is the best answer
I've come across....
"The body starts to tremble uncontrollably, limbs stiffen up
like boards, movements are painfully slow and jerky, speech is
slurred, maintaining balance is impossible and even the simplest
task becomes a living hell. This is Parkinson's Disease.
Currently, there's no evidence to say why it occurs and who will
be its next victim. And there's no cure. The only hope is
rehabilitation and research for a cure.
TOM'S PARKINSON'S DIARY....
diary is not for the faint of heart or anyone easily offended. Go read
something else, one of my short stories. At the moment, I am hanging on by
my fingernails, and I am in a lousy mood.)
I had not planned to do this. to keep a diary about struggling to live with
this disease. Plenty of other victims or family members and /or carers
have already done that. Most of them are poorly written by amateurs, soppy
emotional self--serving diatribes about their 'courageous battle’. The
same term is often used in the obits. 'So and so died after a courageous battle
Stop right there. Battle? What battle? That is bullshit. There is no battle.
Parkinson's whips your ass, kicks you when you are down, and gives you a
thorough thrashing just short of killing you. I know about battles.
I used to throw rednecks out of the oldest and one of the toughest bars in
Florida. No battle, just a good old southern style stomping.
All the aces in the deck are in the
cards held by the devil.
Things friends have said to
"Oh Tom, I'll pray
for you". 'Gee thanks' I thought. What the hell good is that
going to do. She probably voted for George Bush ' I'm agnostic, Be sure and burn
some incense. I'm an old hippy and Buddhism is the closest I get to
believing in an afterlife. I want to come back as grasshopper in a kung fu
" Tom, you look great. I
would not have known you had the disease."
"Sorry to disappoint you."
I replied. " Stick around long enough and I promise to
drool on you when I
reach that stage."
"Tom, you know Parkinson's
won't kill you." said a friend who is a gp.
"No" I replied, " It
just makes me wish I was dead."
(sorry gotta stop there.
I am going into hospital for back surgery and will continue
when I am able .)
MASTHEAD PHOTO NOTES he blue cat scan is my brain. The white area surrounded by red
shows where I am loosing dopamine producing nerve cells.
That's not good. Sometimes I feel like one of those other
bunnies in the Eveready battery commercial. I have no way
of knowing how far or how long I can keep going. The other
photo is of the brain collection at Cornell University. In
the early 1900's a professor there did a study on brain size
correlation to intelligence. It was really intended to
prove a racist theory that white people
were smarter than other
races because their brains were bigger. After years of
measuring brains, the professor conceded his theory was false.
Incidentally, the biggest brain in the collection was
that of a mass murderer.