The Dopamine Chronicles No. 1 – Class Reunion

Hi there. In case you’ve forgotten – an understandable lapse – my name is Michael Jewel Haley. We’ve met before, you and I. Here, within these pages at ANewsCafe, I once offered the occasional opinion about films and popular music – and you liked it. It was my desire at the outset of our relationship to make this more of a regular thing, something you could depend on. My plan was to share my takes on art, music, film and literature, and alert you to cool pop culture events happening here in the north state and around the world. However, for various reasons – which we can discuss later – it’s been a few years since we last connected. You’ve probably moved on. No hard feelings. I understand.

All kidding aside, the point is this: I have returned to ANewsCafe. My intention is to pick up where I left off in January of 2016 (a piece on the death of David Bowie) and continue writing opinion pieces on the work of artists and writers that interest me – and, I hope, you as well. One significant change will be the occasional inclusion of material of a more personal nature, stories – like the one that follows below – that will shed some light on the reason for my extended absence from “The Café”. I look forward to sharing with the readership here at ANewsCafe, and exchanging ideas and opinions about words written, published, sung, and filmed. I have never had a conversation I didn’t learn something from. Let’s continue that tradition.

But first, a little backstory…

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The Dopamine Chronicles No. 1 – Class Reunion

My body’s odometer will click over to 58 next week. I’m a middle-aged white guy. Public Enemy Number One in this, the age of #MeToo. I’m sorry. None of us choose the demographic we’re born into, but I’m sorry nonetheless. My crimes are plenty, but they have tended to be sins of ignorance. Thus, you will never see them enumerated in a Federal indictment or scrolling across the bottom of the screen in a CNN newsfeed while Wolf Blitzer interviews a weather-beaten survivor of some mid-western tornado. No doubt though, they’ve taken a toll. My son looked at me one day many, many years ago and – with a look reflecting the dawning of a new understanding – said to me, “You’re old.” It was his particular emphasis on that second word that made me laugh. He was joking, of course (sort of). Neither of us knew then how prescient his words would prove to be.

I first noticed something was amiss in my body while attending my 20-year high school class reunion in Redding in the summer of 1998. My left arm would shake uncontrollably for a few seconds and then stop. Hours would go by and then, without warning, it would begin shaking again. The reunion lasted three days, during which none of my classmates noticed or commented on the tremors. Perhaps I was imagining all of this, I considered. I tended to be hyper-aware of every otherwise normal change in my body; little ever escaped my notice.

Robin Rowan, my girlfriend at the time, brought her video camera along on our trip from the Bay Area. She recorded our tour of all the places where I’d once lived – and taverns my father frequented – as I provided a running commentary on my misspent youth in Shasta County. Several weeks later, I sat down to watch the recording. At one point, I am walking through a cemetery, waxing unpoetically about my mother while Robin follows a short distance behind with the camera. It is clear in the video that my left arm hangs from my shoulder in a stiff angle, as though it is holding an invisible purse. My right arm hangs straight down, as rigid as a mannequin. Neither arm swings in sync with my gait. There is no arm swing, period. How is it possible nobody else has noticed this? I look like I am limping; recovering from a body full of hurt.

In truth, I wasn’t sick or in any pain, so I just carefully inserted my head into the sand and carried on.

To be continued…

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Michael Jewel Haley
Michael Jewel Haley is a Bay Area artist, photographer and writer.  He grew up in Redding, and developed his love of movies during Saturday matinees at the Cascade Theater. See samples of his artwork here.
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15 Responses

  1. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    There is this cliff, and I’m hanging from it. This doesn’t seem like it’s going in a good direction, but I guess that’s the point of a cliffhanger—we’ll see.

    I remember that Bowie column from a couple years back. I might have gone on a bit about how I discovered his genius through my appreciation of Iggy Pop.

    • Yes, it’s a cliffhanger. Michael’s an excellent writer, and he’ll make it worth your while to hang in there.

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        I lectured on central nervous system physiology at UCD for a couple of years, so from the title of the series and the symptoms I feel pretty certain I know where the diagnosis is going. I’m hanging on for the journey.

    • Michael Jewel Haley Michael Jewel Haley says:

      Thanks for the response, Steven.

      As you noted, we lost a genius when David Bowie died. And then, to lose Prince only three months later made for a dual blow to the music world.

      I made a pilgrimage to Paisley Park in suburban Minneapolis three months after Prince’s death. It was a most affecting, most emotional experience. I still feel it today.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Sounds like Parkinson’s. Have you looked into Focused Ultrasound?

    • Beverly, patience, my dear. This is a series. The story will unfold with each column and he’ll share more about his diagnosis, which he’s had for years. (Hint: “The Dopamine Chronicles”)

      Stay tuned. It’s worth it.

    • Michael Jewel Haley Michael Jewel Haley says:

      Hi Beverly! It sounds exactly like Parkinson’s Disease, doesn’t it? That’s where my mind went, too.

  3. Avatar sue says:

    Waiting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Michael Jewel Haley Michael Jewel Haley says:

      Thank you for your interest, Sue. I hope the series is ultimately a satisfying read for you.

  4. AJ AJ says:

    My breath is baited . . . . I know, I know, if I brushed my teeth, my breath wouldn’t smell like that.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      My husband calls it, “Waiting with tainted breath.”

    • Michael Jewel Haley Michael Jewel Haley says:

      Hi AJ. The New York Times Sunday Magazine has a fantastic weekly feature called “Diagnosis” that showcases a series of real-life chin scratching medical puzzlers. This is not that column. The focus of The Dopamine Chronicles isn’t “What is it?” The focus here is, ultimately, “Okay. What now?”

  5. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I’m am hooked on this story. I’m ready for the next installment. Thank you Michael for sharing a link to your art work. I love your work…..I book marked your page so I can go back and look again.