Parkinson’s Poetry Spotlight: Alan Ascher

Apr 25, 2022

Los Angeles native Alan Ascher began writing poems shortly after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His story exemplifies the power of art, connection, and inspiration working together to empower those living with Parkinson’s. Plus, it demonstrates how living artistically enabled him to create and inspire others.

Life Before Parkinson’s

Alan always had two jobs. He worked as a chemist by day and played piano for different venues at night.

Additionally, he worked as a professional photographer, taking headshots of aspiring actors and actresses. The most famous person he ever photographed was actor Michael Clarke Duncan. Fun fact: Alan was known as the “the fastest photographer in LA” because he constructed his own darkroom.

Alan’s favorite type of photography to shoot was candid photography. A few of Alan’s favorite places he photographed were Anchorage, Alaska, and London, England. However, he decided to retire from his photography career as the industry moved primarily towards digital photography.

Getting Diagnosed

Female doctor speaking to a person about their Parkinson's Disease

Alan was 60 when he first started noticing symptoms. He went to the doctor after experiencing balance problems but didn’t think much of it. However, Alan’s doctor recognized the signs when he came in for a checkup. She immediately identified the disease as her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s over 25 years ago. Alan’s friend, also a doctor, reassured him that he would be able to manage well and that he could maintain it with medications.

The initial adjustment was not too difficult. However, Alan has had to make some adjustments to his life. For example, Alan doesn’t do the gym or physical therapy well, so he relies on basketball and walking to exercise and build balance. The biggest challenge Alan initially had was taking his pills four times a day, which he’s been doing for about five years now.

Plus, Alan has to adjust to the balance. It comes and goes. The occasional anxiety makes it more challenging from time to time. For example, he’ll be walking along the sidewalk and seeing a ground crack. Suddenly, his anxiety about falling will arise and make it much more challenging for him to avoid falling.

Life After Parkinson’s

As with most people living with PD, Alan has experienced obstacles and opportunities with Parkinson’s.

On the one hand, Alan can’t play piano like he used to. He would play all around L.A. at different diners, restaurants, and venues, but the tremors make it very difficult for him to play now. This is especially true when he plays in front of people because his anxiety about messing up or tremors will kick in and make it harder. Amazingly, Alan doesn’t read music; he plays by ear. He will hear a song playing and dissect it by listening to it. He will then create his own music and style from what he heard.

Man with Parkinson's Disease playing the piano

However, Alan continues to play basketball. He primarily plays pick-up games with other guys in their 60s and 70s. Everyone is having a good time and getting exercise at these games. Alan also loves walking around for around 1 to 2 hours a day.

Living Artistically with Poetry

Alan approaches poetry the same way he did with photography. Poetry is Alan’s main art form now!

He used to write in his 20s, but his sister enjoyed his writing and encouraged him to write more. Finally, after not writing for nearly 40 years, his sister brought it up and encouraged him to start writing again.

The first poem Alan ever wrote was about Parkinson’s. He read it at the PCLA convention in front of hundreds of people three years ago. Though he was very nervous about speaking in front of people, he was grateful. He was able to see the joy it brought everyone. It helped Alan see how many people go through the same challenges as him.

Alan’s said, “That’s the beauty of words and paper; you can make people feel something they never felt before.”

An open book with the pages making a heart

Alan hopes to bring happiness and joy to people through his poetry and music. He always had a passion for healing people. Through his artistic abilities, he wants to bring joy to as many people as possible through his poetry.

He has written around 300 poems and plans to write many more.

Alan Ascher is one of our notable Living Artistically: The Poetry of Parkinson’s contributors.

Alan participated in our 2022 Living Artistically Poetry Jam and Book Launch Event.


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