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…