Here I sit at my computer, stiff, achey, rank from three days unable to shower, my swollen eyes black as a panda bear’s and a blood-soaked, brown-crusted bandage over my broken nose.

This is no portrait of a guy who tried to stop a train wreck by getting between two oncoming locomotives on the same track, but who just had one of those falls Parkinson’s patients are prone to experience.

They feel and may look worse in reality than they sound, politely explained in educational handout leaflets, especially two days later when everything stiffens up and aches.Parkinson's

You can imagine it.

I hope you can avoid it.

But having had several minor tumbles where I took an awkward step and tangled my feet–typical of PD mishaps–I’ll bet this headlong dive last week was a pure faulty sidewalk accident with no PD blame. Others have fallen here. The hazard has existed for years along San Pedro’s Western Avenue with its uneven cracks and ridges, easy to miss in dim light.

Since my Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis I’ve prided myself on pretty careful walking. Somehow at three score and ten, I’ve always hoped for pride in something more tangible, such as best-selling novels, a reputation as a elegant watercolor artist, a renowned architect, a restaurateur or perhaps a statesman.      

Instead I strive to do well at walking upright, which Neanderthals managed ages ago. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because I just hate so to fall on my face.

It happened again about 6 p.m last Wednesday, as I strode carefully (I thought) past a burger joint. I avoid fancier cafes to keep grass stains off my tuxedo, if I ever get one. Suddenly that night the toe of my right shoe struck a protruding nubbin of concrete sidewalk with all the force of the mighty Titanic ramming the iceberg.

I felt myself launched pretty well airborne by the impact, with both hands flailing but not far or fast enough to effectively break my fall. That’s about all that didn’t get broken in my sickeningly quick, face-first plunge to the rough concrete.

I actually remember a second as I watched the sidewalk coming up to meet me. This play-by-play is really kind of cool, the way things register in memory. My nose hit first, since it sticks out, although it’s not big as noses go, but it’s swollen a bit bigger this week.

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My head snapped back after that first impact, wrenching my neck. The rest of me bounced, banging both knee caps and bruising them. Now four days later, they are stiffest and sorest parts. While my head was up I could see blood all over hands, arms and clothes, so I grabbed my handkerchief, but that was quickly soaked.

I grasped my nose while at it and wiggled it all over and there was no pain so I figured the schnozz was all systems go, but there’s no pain because fractured cartilage has no nerves. Something had gone skittering away when my head hit the concrete the first time, so I felt around and it was my new pair of VA eyeglasses, totally demolished. The frames are horribly bent (better them than my head) and one lens was scraped against cement so it’s opaque.

I finally pulled myself up against a palm tree trunk by the McDonald’s drive-through window and realized I’d need some help onto my feet. Because I’d eaten nothing since breakfast; it was 7 p.m. and I was in no shape to hit a cafe, with visible shakes from shock and low blood sugar.  

……. And without my glasses I was unable to read a menu.

Now that I was standing up, blood from the forehead laceration I didn’t know I had was running into the one good eye I can see through without a corrective lens.

I had no real idea yet what a ghastly wreck I appeared to the public.

A local commuter bus had arrived nearby and a matronly lady came walking down Western Avenue, eyeing  me from a distance with revulsion and reproach, but mostly I believe, reproach.

“I’m okay. I just tripped on the sidewalk.” I hailed jovially, but she made a great effort to walk far around me, sneering slightly. 

My car was parked nearby and I was hoping for enough strength and stamina  to make it the 16 blocks home to clean up, eat something and have a long sleep. I hoped desperately no LAPD cruiser would cross my path.

But an older African American gentleman intervened in my rash plan, stepping up and removing a cell phone from his fin n’t overcoat and persuaded me to wait.

“Man, you are bleeding bad! You need the paramedics and some stitches,” he insisted. Realizing I was utterly spent, I leaned against the palm tree and waited for help.

So I gave up my rash plan to slip away to my car and drive home 16 blocks, patch myself up, eat something and sleep for 12 hours. The city communications center took three full minutes to find Western Avenue and Crestwood Street on their map and dispatch a fire truck and the meat wagon for me.

“Oh my, you are a sight!,” said the charming Little Company of Mary Hospital emergency room charge nurse when she saw what the paramedics had dragged in for three cat scans, considerable washing,and bandaging.Parkinson's

She and her aide turned me loose five hours later with complimentary instructions on how to salvage my brand new sweater with a soak in a tub of cold water and a little peroxide.

I haven’t had a drink for nearly 24 years. but I felt like one when I saw myself in the mirror.

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