My World of Parkinsonian Delights

Posts tagged “books

You Never Miss the Dopamine Until the Brain Runs Dry

“You Never Miss the Dopamine Until the Brain Runs Dry.”  Catchy title for my next book.  Except there ain’t gonna BE a next book.

Oh, don’t blame yourselves.  A few of you actually DID purchase a hardcover or paperback or Kindle or ebook cover of either “Deep Brain Diary” or “No Doorway Wide Enough.”  And as soon as I get my meager royalty checks for those purchases, I’ll cut a fancy check for $45 each to the National Parkinson Foundation and the Charles DBS Research Fund at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

My mistake was misunderstanding the market.  And this would also explain why I had to take the self-publishing route.  Agents KNEW folks wouldn’t be interested in a patient’s first-person story about Parkinson’s disease.  Publishers KNOW your name has to be Michael J. Fox before they’d publish such a book because otherwise they’d be wasting their money printing a book written by some unknown mook where the ultimate outcome for the writer would likely be worsening disease, dementia and then death.

I mean, Jesus!  Who wants to read a downer book like THAT when there are Vampire/Werewolf movies and Harry Potter and self-help books about how you can stop dating the wrong kind of man out there?

I’ve written about this before.  You don’t see telethons for Parkinson’s disease because there aren’t any cute, chubby little children with Parkinson’s for Jerry Lewis to roll out on a wheelchair to make you feel sorry for.  You don’t see a coordinated “Susan B. Kolman Race for the Cure” effort to raise money for Parkinson’s research, because there aren’t a whole lot of vigorous folks at this stage of PD who look bright, clear-eyed, and seem otherwise healthy and vibrant except for that killer cancer that your donations will help cure.  You don’t see a national campaign for Parkinson’s like you do for Autism because, for God’s sake, Autism happens to KIDS!  And who wouldn’t want to do something for the KIDS?  You don’t even see the kind of campaign that the ASPCA has on TV now with the sad puppies and kitties in cages because who WOULDN’T feel sad about the sad puppies and kitties, and the little kids in Africa who have to get their daily drinking water from a stream full of water buffalo excrement, or little Maria Guadalupe who can’t go to school because she has no shoes?

Best WE could do would be to show what Parkinson’s does to people.  And since consumer testing shows that, by and large, people don’t LIKE even LOOKING at old folks… even HEALTHY ones… that idea is a loser.

Look at your TV, for God’s sake.  Even the commercials that cater to the elderly show older folks who look like they could run a 5K without even bothering to stretch first.  Long, lean women with a few wrinkles and nicely greyed hair.  Handsome, rugged men with rippling muscles and a thick crop of silver on their heads.  THAT’S what the public WANTS to see in its old folks!  THAT’s the image that SELLS!

Maybe if we concentrated on Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.  Show folks how 10 years of Parkinson’s can turn this…

A happy, carefree guy, loving life (and apparently a plate full of veggies and fruit or something)…

Into… this…

A guy with just as much going on upstairs as before, as bright, as intelligent, as witty as he ever was, but due to Parkinson’s masking, he can’t show the emotions he’s feeling,  He has trouble sitting up straight, he’s fully aware of how his body is betraying him and he tries to be cheerful about it — hell, he even wrote a BOOK about it — but to the public at large he’s just another old man who shuffles when he walks with his cane or his walker, who stops and freezes when he comes to a doorway or a narrow passage or a change in the pattern on the floor, or a change from a level to a sloping surface.  Just another old guy.  Why bother.  Old people are gonna die anyway.

Except, I’m not old.  I’m 55 years old.  I’ve had this bastard of a disease since I was 45.  And if this year is like any other, 50,000 Americans… many of them in their early 40s… will ALSO get this diagnosis.  And in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, YOU could look like this… OK, maybe not quite so chubby and with a bit more hair on your head.  But you get the picture.

And THAT is why you SHOULD CARE!  If not for altruistic reasons, for SELFISH reasons.  Don’t wait for your dad or mom, your uncle or aunt, your brother or sister, your cousin, your SON or DAUGHTER for God’s sake, to tell you, “The doctor says I have Parkinson’s.”  CARE ABOUT IT NOW!

Here’s where you can get more info.

The National Parkinson Foundation
The Michael J. Fox Foundation
The American Parkinson’s Disease Association
The National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke

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Oh, Just So Many QUESTIONS This Afternoon

I have, oh, just SO many QUESTIONS this afternoon!

Fortunately, I also have ANSWERS!

Q:  If nobody else gives a rat’s ass, then why should I?

A:  Because I’m the one it’s happening to, that’s why.

Q:  If I could find it in my heart to forgive a woman for her serial unfaithfulness and forge something of a Facebook relationship with her for over a year for the sake of my children with her, making pleasant conversation, joking and jesting, why does SHE feel like she has to hide from ME?  My daughter’s #1 fan on FB?  “Facebook User.”   That means, she’s still on Facebook, but she’s blocked me.  One would think that I was the one who couldn’t stay out of bed with HER best friend.  I’ve never even gotten an “I’m sorry for cheating on you all the time” from her.  Why is that?

A:  Talking to me reminds her of her unfaithfulness?  That’s all I got on that one.

Q: On that note, I have a daughter who is angry at ME that she is the product of my ex-wife’s unfaithfulness. Like this was somehow my fault. Does this make sense?

A: Not even a little bit.

Q:  Am I running out of time?

A:  God only knows.  But I have my suspicions.

Q:  What did I ever do to deserve the love and faithful friendship of my wife of the past 20 years, someone who has stuck by my through good times and bad even though there were times I wasn’t the best husband (or even the best man) in the world?  How can she be so calm and reassuring in the face of this decline in my physical and mental abilities and make me feel like she will always be there for me, no matter what, and even if everyone else in the world fails me, she never would, and somehow — just somehow — everything is going to be OK?

A:  Beats the bloody hell out of me.

Q:  Is the world going to hell in a handbasket.

A:  Yes.  A nice, wicker one.

Q:  Why do I bother with the books, with this blog?

A:  On the off chance that it helps someone.  Even one person.  That would make it worth my while.

Q:  Why does the guy in the “Forman Mills” commercial always YELL at me?

A:  It’s his job.

Q:  How long will I continue to tilt at windmills?

A:  And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,

That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm, when I’m laid to my rest …

And the world will be better for this:

That one man, scorned and covered with scars,

Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,

To reach … the unreachable star …

Besides… like… what’s the alternative?

Happy Birthday, Nina!

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The Story Behind "No Doorway Wide Enough"

Sometimes ya gotta toot your own horn to get noticed.  Hence, this press release.

Bill Schmalfeldt thought his story was worth telling. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, having experimental deep brain stimulation surgery in 2007, Bill wrote a manuscript about the experience. Not only could he not find a literary agent willing to even look at it, publishers rejected it without even reading sample chapters. Believing the story needed to be told, Bill dug into his own pockets and took the self-publishing route. Now he’s donating the author proceeds to the PD organizations that helped him.

After writing a book about his experience as a brain surgery volunteer, a Maryland Parkinson’s disease patient believed his story would make an interesting book. But after years of failing to interest numerous book agents and getting rejection slips from publishers who didn’t even request sample chapters, Bill Schmalfeldt decided to take matters into his own hands. Reaching into his own pocket, he has self-published his story and is donating 100 percent of the author’s proceeds from the book’s sale to help find a cure for this crippling, degenerative neurological disease.

No Doorway Wide Enough” is Schmalfeldt’s personal story about living with a neurological disease that afflicts over a million Americans. 100 percent of the author proceeds will be donated to the National Parkinson Foundation and the Charles DBS Research Fund at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“I was diagnosed at an NPF clinic in Miami and Vanderbilt’s Neurology Department is looking to expand their DBS clinical trial from its current 30 patients to a nationwide trial involving hundreds, if not thousands of folks like me. I felt I should help any way I could,” Schmalfeldt said.

“The title comes from my days as a Navy hospital corpsman at the former U.S. Navy Home in Gulfport, Ms.,” the 55-year old author said. “I used to wonder why it was that some of the older folks tended to stop and ‘size up’ a doorway before walking through. I did a spot-on impression of this effect for my friends at parties. Got lots of laughs. Now I know the reason for it.”

Written in the style of a diary, Schmalfeldt weaves a tale that starts with being diagnosed at age 45, why he decided to participate in an experimental clinical trial that involved brain surgery, and his recovery and life afterwards. With a wry and sardonic sense of humor and writing style, Schmalfeldt weaves an easy-to-read tale of his personal struggle with the disease, pulling no punches over his frustration over the mixed results of his surgery. “It’s the story of my Parkinson’s decade — 2000 to 2010,” Schmalfeldt said.

“This book is written not only for the Parkinson’s disease patient,” Schmalfeldt said, “but for anyone who knows, cares for, or loves someone who has this beast of a disease. The one thing I want people to take away from this book is that Parkinson’s disease is not a death sentence. It’s a life sentence.”

Schmalfeldt said that the book was also meant to highlight the importance of clinical trials in medical research. In 2007, Schmalfeldt volunteered for a clinical trial at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to test the safety and tolerabilty of deep brain stimulation in early PD.

“Clinical trials are vital in the search for new treatments and cures in a variety of diseases,” said Schmalfeldt, who works from home as a writer-editor for the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. “Without people volunteering to take part in this kind of research, scientists would have a much harder time finding new drugs, treatments and outright cures for the diseases that have plagued mankind throughout the years.”

Schmalfeldt learned about the clinical trial at Vanderbilt in the course of his duties at NIH. “I write and produce podcasts about the importance of clinical trials,” he said. “What kind of hypocrite would I be if I saw a trial that I was qualified for and didn’t participate?”

This is Schmalfeldt’s first try at non-fiction. His previous works, “…by the people…”, “Undercover Trucker: How I Saved America by Truckin’ Towels for the Taliban,” and “Hunky Dunk,” are available at his author’s website, Books O’ Billy.

Now buy a damn book!  🙂

A Parkinson’s disease patient who underwent experimental brain surgery is donating 100 percent of the author’s proceeds from a book he has written on the subject to the people who helped diagnose and treat his condition.

“Deep Brain Diary: My Life as a Guy with Parkinson’s Disease and Brain Surgery Volunteer” is Bill Schmalfeldt’s personal story about living with a neurological disease that afflicts over a million Americans.

Written in the style of a diary, Schmalfeldt talks about how he discovered he had the disease at age 45, why he decided to participate in an experimental clinical trial that involved brain surgery, and his recovery and life afterwards. With a wry and sardonic sense of humor and writing style, Schmalfeldt weaves an easy-to-read tale of his personal struggle with the disease, pulling no punches over his frustration over the mixed results of his surgery.

Now, “Deep Brain Diary” is available not only in hardcover, but as a paperback, a PDF download, an Amazon “Kindle” book, and soon, as an iPad book offering.

“This book is written not only for the Parkinson’s disease patient,” Schmalfeldt said, “but for anyone who knows, cares for, or loves someone who has this beast of a disease. The one thing I want people to take away from this book is that Parkinson’s disease is Not a death sentence. It’s a Life sentence.”

Schmalfeldt said that the book was also meant to highlight the importance of clinical trials in medical research. In 2007, Schmalfeldt volunteered for a clinical trial at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to test the safety and tolerabilty of deep brain stimulation in early PD. Schmalfeldt said 100 percent of the author proceeds from sale of his book will be donated to the National Parkinson Foundation as well as the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s DBS Research Fund.

“I was diagnosed at an NPF clinic in Miami and Vanderbilt’s Neurology Department is looking to expand their DBS clinical trial from its current 30 patients to a nationwide trial involving hundreds, if not thousands of folks like me. I felt I should help any way I could,” Schmalfeldt said.

So far, the reviews posted on Schmalfeldt’s Amazon.com page have been positive.

From Belle W.

“Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 45, Bill Schmalfeldt refused to go quietly. Instead, he volunteered for experimental Deep Brain Stimulation surgery.

“‘I make a living telling people about the benefits of clinical research,” writes Schmalfeldt, a former Navy corpsman, now a media guy, author, and blogger. “What kind of a hypocrite would I be if I didn’t take the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is?’

“Still, being a DBS clinical trial volunteer takes moxie. Neither Schmalfeldt nor his doctors could predict how things would turn out. He doesn’t flinch from blunt appraisals of living with an incurable, degenerative disease, and deploys gallows humor for those special moments: the drilling-holes-in-the-head part; how his deep brain sounds via implanted electrodes, in real time; how even the best hospital does inscrutable things to scrambled eggs; and how to deal with able-bodied slackers in the handicapped seats.

“You’ve heard of ‘being a partner in your own care’? Schmalfeldt’s the poster guy for that, and an advocate for other “Parky” people. In choosing to be a clinical trial volunteer, then persisting in writing about it and its aftermath, he’s rejected the role of passive patient. Whether he’s ribbing the staff, loving his wife, or querying God (without a whiff of proselytizing, thank you), this is a hero’s story. Best of luck, Bill!”

This From Harrison W.

“I worked with Bill some years ago when he hosted audio programs about health topics for a federal agency. I learned a lot from him, and was curious to read about his experiences with Parkinson’s Disease, particularly his participation in a clinical trial of deep brain surgery. Bill tells his story both with brutal honesty and with humor, without ever getting maudlin. He explains why he chose to enter the study and details his progress. In the end, though, this is more than a book about the course of a disease. You get a window into the daily life of a remarkable man and a warm, loving couple that can sustain a fighting spirit and sheer joy in being together, whatever the challenges they face.”

This From Cindy M.

“After reading this first chapter of this book to review it…I was surprised by the way Bill could add humor and emotion to a difficult disease. His writing is engaging to the point I want to read more. PD is a disease that presents itself in many ways to many people. We need to educate ourselves in order to contribute anything to our own life as well as others suffering from PD. Thank you, Bill. Excellent job!”

“Deep Brain Diary” is available as a 249-page hardback at Lulu.com as well as from online booksellers such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and Booksamillion.com for $35. The paperback version is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million for $15. A PDF download is available for $5 at Lulu. An Amazon “Kindle” version is available for $5. The book is available from Apple’s iPad book store as well. Review copies are available by request from the author’s website.

“Deep Brain Diary” is Schmalfeldt’s first try at non-fiction. His previous works, “.by the people.”, “Undercover Trucker: How I Saved America by Truckin’ Towels for the Taliban,” and “Hunky Dunk,” are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

He blogs daily at http://parkinsondiary.com.

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Everything is "Hunky Dunk"

It was a state of mind as much as it was a song title.  And it made a couple of simple Iowa boys very, very rich indeed.

“Hunky Dunk” is the story of Mud and Jake Klemper.  They live in the little city of Slope Oak, Iowa, along the Mississippi River.  They would have lived and died unnoticed had it not been for a sound Mud heard one day while rocking on his front porch rocking chair.

It was a summer day — hotter than a lot of them, not as hot as some, and definitely not very humid.  It helps to remember that fact.  Sometimes here in Slope Oak the summer afternoons are so hot and muggy you feel like you could grab yourself a handful of air and just wring the dirty water right out of it.

But this wasn’t that kind of day.  It was a dry, hot day.  And I was sitting on the rocking chair on the front porch.  There must have been a loose board or something under one of the rockers, because every time I rocked back and forth, the chair and the board made kind of a “hunky dunk” sound.  Sort of like this…

HUNK-ee-dunk

HUNK-ee-dunk

Now, if it had been a humid day, the board wouldn’t have been dry enough to make that sound.  And if it had been rainy, I would have been in the house and not on the front porch rocking and hearing that “hunky dunk” sound over and over again.  Funny, ain’t it, how a twist of fate can hang on something so simple as whether or not it was humid, dry or rainy outside?  Life is full of stuff like that, I’ve come to learn.

It was such a nice day and since it was Sunday, I didn’t have to work since the gut factory was closed on the Lord’s Day.  I had absolutely nothing on my mind and nothing to do but drink cheap beer and rock the hot, dry afternoon away on that front porch rocking chair.  For hours I sat and drank and rocked and sat and drank and rocked with my mind a total blank and that “hunky dunk” sound just sort of working its way into my subconscious.

And I started sort of repeating that sound in my head as I was rocking.  “Hunky dunk, hunky dunk,” you know how it’s like when you get an idea that just won’t go away?  So anyway, I was just sitting and rocking and saying “hunky dunk” to myself when I just started to, I guess, make stuff up.  I mean, only an idiot would just sit there hour after hour saying “hunky dunk” to himself in his head without trying to make some kind of sense out of it, right?  So I figured I’d try to make up some words to go along with it.

I suppose it’s because I was feeling pretty good that day.  None of the neighbors had been mad at us for a while.  Jake was busy in the kitchen whipping up a nice apple pie to go with the chicken we were having for dinner, and it was such a bright, clear, hot sunny day that everything seemed pretty much OK.    And then I decided that “hunky dunk” might be a pretty good word to describe such a feeling as I had.

So, as I rocked back and forth, I just started adding words to the “hunky dunk” sound the rocker and the loose board were making.

“Clear blue sky is hunky dunk.”

“Apple pie is hunky dunk.”

“Birds and bees are hunky dunk.”

“Cherry trees are hunky dunk.”

Yep!  That’s where those Grammy Award-winning lyrics came from.  And I started singing them out loud.  I must have been getting pretty carried away with myself, too, because Jake came out and yelled at me to shut the hell up.

Eventually, Jake caught on to the song and together they recorded it.  It became a hit single and led to a whole new world being opened up for the Klemper brothers, who maintained their state of simple grace despite it all.

There were other strange things about that hotel room, especially in the bathroom.  Now we’ve had indoor plumbing since 1964, so I know a toilet when I see one.  But there was this thing next to the toilet.  It looked kind of like a toilet but without a flip-down seat.  And when you press the lever, a jet of water comes out at you.  So, I figured out what it must have been used for.  But I guess I was wrong.  That next morning I was washing my face in the thing when the housekeeping lady waltzed in.   She saw me soaping up my face and rinsing it off in the jet of water and I thought she was fit to have a stroke.  She said that’s not what a “bi-day” is used for.  I asked her what it was for then, and she just got all flustered and left the room.

“Foreigners!” Jake giggled as he sipped his cup of hotel room coffee.  I giggled too, but to this day I still have no idea what kind of contraption I was washing my face in.

Well, the memo from the TV guy said we would have the morning and afternoon to scout around the city some but we decided to just stay in the hotel as it pretty much had everything we wanted.  Then at about 3 in the afternoon the phone rang and the guy at the desk told us there was a limo waiting for us.  After he explained that it was just another word for a big car, I agreed to come downstairs.

Jake and I were dressed to the nines, each in our brand new pair of blue jeans and our favorite flannel shirts.  The guy who met us at the limo must have been pretty impressed too because he looked at us and said, “Is that what you’re gonna wear?”  Well, Jake and I hate to brag, so we just nodded and smiled.

The people at the TV show were pretty impressed, too.  They also asked if that was what we were gonna wear, and frankly, I got just a little bit tired of answering the question after awhile.  Finally I said, “We could go on naked, if you want us to!”  Jake accentuated the point by unbuttoning his flannel until the wardrobe lady said we were just fine as we were.  I think she got a little scared by the chicken/egg tattoos on Jake’s chest.  Can’t say as I blame her as I been looking at those things for years and they still give me the willies.

They took us to what they called the “Green Room” although I didn’t see anything green in there except for Jake’s shirt.  There was a couple other people in there that were gonna be on the show, including a lady singer and some people who brought their pets on the show to do tricks.  And that’s a good thing, because at first Jake couldn’t take his eyes off the lady singer and I could see she was getting a little nervous about it.  So I asked one of the pet owners about his dog and Jake started petting the dog and everything worked out just fine.

Well, we got to go on last, which is good because we got the donut cart to ourselves after everyone else was gone.

Finally we got called on.  And this Dave fella was just as nice as nice could be.  He just laughed and laughed and laughed the whole time we were out there.  I told them how I wrote the words and how Jake came up with the music and how we had gotten an agent to help us get to the bottom of this “alternative rock” deal and Dave just sat there and laughed and laughed and laughed!

Jake kind of surprised me a little, like he was sort of warming up to the whole thing.  First he pulled up his shirt sleeve and made the naked girl tattoo on his forearm dance while the little bald-headed music guy played a hootchie-kootchie number.  Then he offered to wrestle this Dave fella to see who was gonna get to ask the lady singer out to dinner after the show.  Dave looked a little scared at first when Jake started peeling off his shirt, but then I told him Jake was just kidding even though I knew he was dead serious.  I got a little mad when Jake pointed over to the little bald-headed music guy and said something about how his head looked just like mine only without dandruff scabs, and it was only the fact that we were on TV that kept me from punching him in the mush.

We went back to the hotel, had another dinner, ordered up some whiskey, and took the return flight back to Iowa the next day without incident.

As their fortune grew, so did their fame.  People were drawn to the brothers as if they were modern day messiahs.  Then, along came Sammy.

“Look,” I said, “there are rules and regulations and…”

“Sometimes you have to change the rules.  Make them work in your favor.”

The voice came from behind me.  It was a high-pitched, kind of whiny voice with an accent like I’ve never heard before.  I turned around and saw a little guy standing behind me.  He was wearing one of those three-piece suits like you see bankers wearing.  He had flaming red hair, except for there wasn’t that much of it.  His black glasses and pale face made him look kind of like that Woody Allen fella you see on TV sometimes.  Behind him, parked on the street in front of our doublewide, was a Volkswagen bus, like the kind hippies used to drive in the 60s.

“Who the hell are you?” I asked.  He extended his right hand, a girly, small right hand.  I didn’t take it.  He just held it out there.

“Sammy Lund,” he said, his hand hanging out on the end of his arm.  “I’m here because I have to be.”

I just looked at him.  Then I heard Jake from behind me.

“What’d he say he was?”

“Shut up a minute,” I growled over my shoulder.  Then I returned my attention to the little fella.  He finally got the idea I wasn’t gonna shake his hand and lowered it to his side.

“Now, what did you say your business with us might be?” I asked, making it clear by the tone of my voice that I was not feeling particularly friendly at the moment.

“I’m here because I have to be here,” he said.  “I’ve been drawn to you.  I’ve been called to you.  You and your brother are the freaking Star of Bethlehem and I have followed you like one of the Three Kings of old.  I am here because I’m on a mission, a quest, a crusade…”

“We don’t need no religion,” I started to say.

“You and your brother, you are it!  You are what’s what!  You are the be all to end all, but you’re not focused!”  He sort of spat out that last word.  “You’re here, you’re there, you’re everywhere and no one is driving the train!”

“Mud, what’s he talking about?” Jake asked from behind me.

The little guy looked past me at Jake and smiled.  He walked past me and over to where Jake stood with his hand still stuffed into the box of cereal.

“Just look at you,” the little guy said, his voice almost sounding like he was singing.  “You are a god!  A big, wild, scruffy god with hair all over your head and, what, I don’t know, things in your beard!”  He put his hands on Jake’s upper arms and gave him a shake.  “You are wild, you are wonderful, you are genuine!”

As the little guy shook him, Jake looked at me.  His features started to darken.

“Mud.  I think I have to kill this little man now.  He’s scaring me.”

This sentiment put a bit of a chill down my spine.  Now, I can’t honestly tell you whether or not Jake has ever actually killed a man before.  For one thing, there’s no statute of limitations on murder, whether or not the rat bastard had it coming and even if there’s no way anyone is ever gonna find the body.  Still, laws are laws.

“Hold your temper, Jake,” I said as I walked over and pulled the little guy off of my brother.

“Mister, we ain’t got time for this,” I started to say.  But he put his hands on my upper arms, too, and started shaking me like he was doing to Jake.

“And you,” he said, “just look at you!  Beard cleaner than your brother’s, but still wild and free!  And a big, shiny head all bald and grand and natural!  My God!  You two sing to me of America!  You are both gods!  Big, scruffy gods!  You are kings!”

I was starting to reconsider my admonition to Jake, when the little guy finally let me go.

“I am here because you need me!  I am here, because I need you!  We are, as of this moment, a single unit!  A triad!  A cooperative!”

“Mister, you’d better start making sense…” I started to say.

“Good!” he barked.  “Sense!  You want sense!  How’s this for sense?”  He pointed a finger in my face, and for a moment I considered biting it off.  But I don’t think that would have stopped him.

“You two are, what?  Singers?  Wrestlers?  TV stars?  A cartoon?  Faces on food packages?  None of the above?  All of the above?  What?  What are you?  I don’t know!  You don’t know!  You want to say something but you don’t know what.  You don’t know how!  Nobody knows because there is no FOCUS!”  He shrieked out that last word.

“There’s an America out there that wants to love you!  To follow you!  But they don’t know how to love you or follow you because you don’t tell them how!  They want to eat you up!  They want to put you in a bowl, cover you with milk, and eat you by the spoonful…”

“We already got a cereal,” Jake said, holding up the box.

“That’s good!  A cereal!  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  You are not faces on a cereal box!  You, Jake and Mud Klemper, are forces of nature!  You are a comet, an earthquake, a tidal wave.  An asteroid crashing into the earth leaving not death and destruction but love and happiness in your wake.”

The little guy was walking between me and Jake, waving his arms, his voice getting higher and higher as he continued.

“But there is no direction to you!  You are here and then you are there.  You have no focus!  That’s where I come in!  I am the lens that will focus your sunbeam into a single, cutting pinpoint of white-hot light.  I am the one to show you how to harness the thing that you are to where every small child in America will go to bed at night praying to Almighty God above that he or she will turn out to be like you.”

He was sweating now.  He stopped for a moment and smiled, his even, white teeth glimmering in the afternoon sunlight.  I started to get the idea that I knew what he was talking about.

“Look, Mr. Lund did you you say your name was?  We already got us an agent and a bookkeeper and all that…”

“Yes!” he screamed.  “And they’ve done well by you!  You have money, you have property.  You even have worldwide fame! But you haven’t evolved into GLORY yet!  You have THINGS!  But they haven’t given you focus!”

“But we’ve been doing all right,” Jake said.  “We already got more money than you can shake a cat at…”

“Ah!  But are you BIG?”

Jake looked at me with an expression that told me he had no clue whatsoever as to how to answer that question.

This Lund fella started preaching.  I swear, that’s what it sounded like.

“Mud and Jake Klemper.  Do those four words conjure an image?  An idea?  If I were to say those words in Botswana or Pago Pago would the unwashed savages’ eyes light up with recognition?  When Egyptian families sit down to dinner tonight, will the name of the Klemper Brothers come up in casual conversation?  Tonight, as Eskimo fathers cut blubber from the bodies of walruses they’ve killed, will they speak to each other of the Klempers?  No.  No, I say!  And until they do, you’ll never be BIG!  I’m here to change that!  I’m here to make you BIG!”

I stared at the little guy.  I have to admit, my mouth was wide open in surprise.

“Mud, the little man scares me,” Jake said.  “Please, let’s kill him and go have dinner.”

I shot a glance at Jake that he knew from experience meant “shut your cake hole”.  Then I looked at Lund.

“How you gonna go about doing that?” I asked.  “How are you gonna make us that big?”

He threw both arms in the air, tossed back his head and screamed the word.

“MARKETING!”

Then he put his hands on my shoulder and his face within inches of mine.

“Let me do what I have to do, what the universal force compels me to do.  And by this time next year you and your brother will be BIG!  Michael Jordan BIG!  Bugs Bunny BIG!”

“Three Stooges big?” I asked.

“BINGO!” he screamed.

Well, all I could do after that was invite him to come in and have dinner with us.

But success didn’t sit well with the Klempers.  They felt the need to get back to what they were — simple Iowa brothers with a special gift.  A gift their father said they must never use.

Now it’s not I think that we were really anything special.  I mean, we certainly weren’t the sharpest nails in the hardware store or anything like that, if you know what I mean.  And I suppose that some of our success had to do with being at the right place at the right time and all.  I suppose you could wonder if breeding had anything to do with it.  One thing us Klempers are real proud of is the fact that we are Klempers.  There’s always been something special about me and my brother.  Pap said there was a special glow in the air the night Jake was born, and same thing for the night I came into the world.  It was even wrote up about in the paper.  Scientists said it was probably swamp gas or something.  Pap said it was just a coincidence, not the fuckin’ Star of Bethlehem or anything like that, but still a guy can’t help but be proud when the sky lights up on the occasion of his birth.  We’ve always sorta felt set apart from the folks that surround us.  We try not to let it go to our heads or nothing, but that’s just the way it is.  We’re Klempers and we’re proud.

I guess most of that attitude comes from our father, the late Luther Klemper.  Our Pap was a proud man.  And he had a lot to be proud of.  His family came over from some country in Europe back in the 1800s and decided to settle in the rich farmlands of eastern Iowa.  Now that might seem kinda peculiar since none of the pioneer Klempers had farms in Europe or even knew so much as a tinker’s damn about dirt, except for the fact that it tended to gather under their fingernails.  They were mostly beggars and criminals, truth be told.  And the further truth is that they left Europe because it was either that or go to jail.  But they had it set in their minds that they were gonna be the most successful cotton farmers in the whole state of Iowa.

Along the way, they become the tag-team wrestling champions of the world (for a few minutes), visit a sex club in Japan, inspire a line of canned spaghetti and breakfast cereal, a cartoon series, and create a conglomerate that would put Donald Trump to shame.  But could they ever get back to the simplicity they craved?

FIND OUT IN “HUNKY DUNK” AVAILABLE AT BOOKS O’BILLY!  Also at:

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Who is Billy Big Rig? And How Did He Save America?

For obvious reasons, his real name cannot be revealed.  You’ll understand when you read the improbable and hilarious adventures of “Billy Big Rig” in “Undercover Trucker: How I Saved America by Truckin’ Towels for the Taliban.”

Read about his fall from grace in the world of truck driving:

For this part of the story I need to rely on the police reports because frankly the last thing I can clearly recall was climbing back into the truck.  From what the reports say, I flipped the truck over on its side trying to make the turn from the highway to the chemical company.  It’s true what they say about God looking out for drunks and idiots, because if I had flipped that truck over coming OUT of that plant with the stuff I was going to load up on, instead of going in empty like I was, the chemical would have created what the newspapers called “a kill zone with a fifty-mile radius” where nothing would grow for at least thirty years.  So, if there’s anything good to come out of this story (besides my being in a position to save America later on), it was that.

The cops finally found me, naked, shivering and blind in a concrete culvert near Butler, Pennsylvania.  That’s nearly fifteen miles away.  I have no idea how I got there.  My sight returned (much to the surprise of the prison doctor) some time later, and being able to see the people I met in the gray bar hotel was clearly instrumental in what happened next.

Read how he was asked by prison officials — and a very prominent American — to infiltrate an Al Qaeda sleeper cell in the prison:

“If I can’t talk you into it, maybe someone else can,” the warden said.  He walked to one of the walls and pushed a button.  A door slid open in the same way that doors slide open on “Star Trek” and into the room stepped Bill Clinton, President of the United States of America.  Evil incarnate!  It made my skin crawl to gaze upon him.

Clinton walked to the center of the room.  He handed a cigar to the warden, then to each of the Freightliner guards.  They all lit up, filling the room with delicious smoke.  Clinton sat down in a chair facing mine — a safe, non-kicking distance away.
“How ‘bout you, Billy?  Want a see-gar?” Clinton asked.

“Take that see-gar and stick it somewhere,” I told him.  I laughed at the politically satirical nature of my retort, having read the Ken Starr that said where it was Clinton actually did enjoy sticking them things from time to time although it did seem like a sad waste of tobacco to me.

(Actually, out of all the things that asshole Clinton did while he was president, that probably made me madder than anything.  Of course a man’s gonna chase after the little fat girls from time to time.  A man ain’t a man unless he’s chasin’ down some freelance tail.  It’s all a matter of what you DO with it when you CATCH it.  And Bill Clinton weren’t no gentleman.  Now, I don’t blame him for lying!  Hell, that’s what men DO when they’s caught dippin’ the wick where they oughta not be dippin’ it.  I don’t even blame him for lying to the court about it.  It’s their job to prove you did it, not yours to prove it for ‘em.  And the merciful God in Heaven above knows I put MY hand on a Bible or two (actually, 17) in my time and swore I didn’t do what God and me BOTH know I did.  So it ain’t that!  And neither do I really blame him for messin’ up the little fat girl’s purty blue dress for her, though the least thing a gentleman shoulda done was at least NOTICE he landed a shot on the cloth and offer her a tissue or sumthin’.  No, the thing that gets me madder than a wet skunk is the way he wasted a perfectly good cigar by puttin’ it – up THERE!  And this weren’t probably no Swisher Sweet or Rum Soaked Crook or any other cheap cigar made from the floor-sweepin’ leftovers from when they makes cigarettes with all the wood chips and rat poop and toenails what goes into them cheap stogies that you can git over the counter at the truck stop for $4 per box.  You just GOTTA know that the President of the United States is gonna be chewin’ on some FINE cigars.  Maybe even CUBAN, although they’s illegal.  So the thought of this red-cheeked, soft-handed, bulby-nosed asshole treatin’ a $35 cigar like a 75-cent tampon made me right sore.  Still does.)

“I like your spirit,” he said with that little chuckle that made real Americans want to strangle him.  “You from Arkansas by any chance?”

I told him I was from Iowa and that the one by-God reasons that Iowans tolerate the state of Missouri was that it kept Iowa from having to bump borders with his God-forsaken hell hole of a state.

Clinton looked back over his shoulder at the warden.  “This here’s shithead’s a sassy one, ain’t he?”

“Want me to have Bingo and Chuck knock some of the sass out of him?” the warden asked and that’s how I learned the names of the two Freightliner guards.

“Naw, I don’t think that will be necessary once our friend here understands just what it is America needs for him to do,” Clinton said, and then he put his elbows on his knees and leaned toward me and for just an instant I thought I might be able to kick the cigar out of his yap.  I tried, but he jerked his head back just out of reach of my pointy yellow toenails.

“I don’t gotta understand one single goddam thing,” I sneered.  “I happen to know fer a fact that you is a ‘lame duck’ and that last month America finally wised up and voted you out of office and that in just a little bit more than a month there will once again be an honorable man in the White House when George W. Bush Jr. takes that there oath of office and becomes the rightful President of these United States that I loves so much and that you have beslimed with yer filth.  So whatever yer selling, Bubba, I sure as hell ain’t buying.”

“Oh, I think you’ll buy it once you hear what it is, Billy.  Tell me.  How much do you love America?”

Well, I told him how much I love America.  I love it from sea to shining sea!  I love its purple mountains’ majesty and its amber waves of grain.  I love it from California to the New York island, because THIS land was made for you and me!  THAT’s how much Billy Big Rig loves America.

“Then you don’t wanna see it destroyed,” Clinton said with a serious look on his face.

“That’s why in 1992 I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush,” I said.  “And that’s why in 1996 I voted for that great American Bob Dole, and that’s why last month I woulda voted for that brave warrior George W. Bush Jr. if convicted felons was allowed to vote, you draft-dodging, pot-non-inhaling, barbeque-eating, lesbian-marrying, ugly-daughter-fathering, cat-owning, poor excuse for a yellow-livered Democrat,” I snarled.

Bingo and Chuck started toward me with mayhem in their eyes but they was halted by an upraised presidential hand.
“That’s just the kind of attitude that might keep you alive – in Afghanistan,” Clinton said with that goofy-ass smile on his face that always made me want to punch the TV.

“Why in the hell would I be going to Afghanistan?” I asked.

He told me.

And along the way, Billy teaches you proper public bathroom etiquette:

Of utmost importance is the ability to ignore the sounds generated by other users of the public facilities as well as their accompanying odors.  Public rest rooms is, by their nature, loud and stinky places.  (This is especially true in Texas, home of the enchilada pie.)  You needs to keep in mind that this is ain’t the time nor the place to be a critic!  There are certain sentiments you would not wish to utter upon hearing the butt trumpeting of a fellow rest room user.  For instance:
— Yow!  Gabriel’s Trumpet!  The Good Lord’s calling us home!
— I’ll bet YOU feel better now!
— Do you want fries with that?
— That’s the buzzer!  It’s half-time and the Knicks lead the Celtics 68-57!
— Lord, fella… Whatever it was you ate, don’t eat it again!
And there is sentiments you would not wish to utter when you makes the porcelain ring with yer own hardcore poop blasts:
— Funny.  I don’t remember eating that!
— Yikes!  I wish I had eaten something that smelled this good!
— Yes SIR, Mr. President!
— Mommy!  Come wipe me now!
— Hey!  Corn!
Utterances like those described above is not only silly, but they could lead to a physical altercation with that dangerous looking dude you saw hunkered down in the corner when you first came in.

What NOT to say to a cop when he pulls you over for speeding:

Don’t Be a Jerk to the Cops!

When the cops pull you over – and the cops WILL pull you over – get off yer high horse and knock off the attitude.
I learned this early on in my career, including one incident I’ll talk about later that ended up with me getting married.  But please understand that because yer a truck driver, the cop is already expectin’you to be an asshole.  Do not prove him correct!

Now, from personal experience, here is a list of things you should never, ever, NEVER say to a cop when he walks up to the side of yer truck after he pulls you over:

* * * *
Do I know how fast I was going?  Yer the idiot with the radar gun, stupid!  You tell ME how fast I was going!

Does yer mama know yer a cop?  She didn’t say nothing to me about it when I had her ankles up by her ears back there at the truck stop.

Oh, good!  A moron in a cop hat!

Shit!  Now I’m gonna have to break that promise I made to my probation supervisor about not beating up cops no more!

Listen, officer, before you start asking questions – what’s yer blood type and have you been tested for AIDS?

No, I ain’t staring at you officer.  I’m just trying to figger out how much of yer corpse I’m gonna be able to fit in my cooler.

Would you mind telling me yer name, officer?  Next time I’m in Washington, DC, I wanna check and see if it’s on the Police Memorial yet.

Yeah, you can see my license and registration… just so long as you can get to yer gun before I get to mine!

Whatsamatter, officer?  Didn’t I get yer wife home by curfew last night?

Oh, and when you DO talk to yer wife, make sure and tell her the little bumps she noticed on my crotch was “crabs” and not “herpes.

And then, see for yourself even AFTER he saved America how the Government still wants him dead.

“That’s fine, Billy!  That’s fine,” President Bush Jr. said.  “Now, I’m gonna have a couple agents drive you down to Bethesda.  From there you’re on your own to start your new life.  I’d ride along but I’m pretty busy being a war president and all.  It’s hard work.”

I told him I understood and I went to shake his hand.  He pulled back.  “Sorry, Billy, but you kinda squeezed my hand a little too hard when we met.  Hurts some.”

I told him I was sorry, that sometimes I was just a little bit too manly for my own good but that I was sure he understood how that was being a manly man his own self and that I hoped to meet him again sometime.

“You never know, Billy,” he said.  “You never know.”  Then he turned to one of the Secret Service guys.

“Make sure, OK?” he said.  The Secret Service guy nodded.

Well, they showed me back out to the presidential limo and we all got in.  The two guards faced me in the jump seat and we rolled out of the presidential compound.  I just watched the scenery roll by.  After a few minutes the driver spoke up.

“This far enough?” he asked one of the guards.

“This should do,” the guard answered.

“OK,” the driver said.  Then his voice changed some.  “Oh no!” he said.  “The ‘Check Engine Soon’ light just came on.  I’d better pull over and check the engine!”

“Yes.  Check the engine,” one of the guards said.

“Good idea.  Pull over and check the engine,” the other one said.

“Check it soon,” the first one said.

“That is what I will do then and I am currently pulling over to check the engine,” the driver said.

“Want me to take a look at ‘er for ya?” I asked.  “I used to drive a truck and know a thing or two…”

“No,” one of the guards said, a little too abruptly I thought.

“Classified,” the driver said.

“Secret engine,” the other guard said.  “Our eyes only.”  I figgered that made sense, this being a presidential limo and all.  Wouldn’t want the evil-doers having information about how presidential limos operate.  Who knows what they could do with knowledge like that?

The car rolled to a stop.  I looked around.  It was a beautiful area.  Lots of trees.  No signs of civilization for miles and miles.

“Tell you what,” the first guard said with a smile.  “Why don’t you hop out and stretch your legs a bit while we check it out?”

I said I thought that was a pretty good idea as the lemonade I drank back there at Camp David was already putting a hurt on my bladder.

I got out of the car and stretched then headed into the woods a bit.  It was quiet, peaceful and very deserted so I didn’t worry about nobody seeing me when I walked over to a tree, pulled down my zipper, produced “Little Billy” (although the nickname is clearly just a nickname as dozens of women who know better would swear to…) and proceeded to wet down the side of a tree.

That’s when I heard the first gunshot.

You’ll learn about his many marriages, his thoughts about modern day truckstops and his politically incorrect philosophy of life when you read “Undercover Trucker: How I Saved America by Truckin’ Towels for the Taliban.”

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