Michael J. Fox On Why He Calls Latest Book "Cranky" + The Story Behind His Sea Turtle Tattoo

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Michael J. Fox (one of Rach's all-time favorite guests!) has written three memoirs—but there's something different about his latest book, No Time Like The Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality. And Michael explains why. Plus, he tells the story behind his first tattoo — a sea turtle, which appears as a symbol throughout his book. 

On how & why No Time Like The Future is different than his other books:
"I wrote Lucky Man, which is about the first years of my life, when I was first diagnosed [with Parkinson's Disease] and how I dealt with it. And Always Looking Up, which was about optimism generally. This was a cranky book. This was a book that came out of some issues I had beyond Parkinson's. I kind of figured out Parkinson's, how to deal with it and fit it into my life, get the things I need to do around it done — like my foundation, and I started working again. I had a wonderful family life, still do, with Tracy, and all that was good. But then I get this spine thing. I find out I have this tumor on my spine and it was affecting my ability to walk and stretch my limbs. And I found out that if I didn't get it operated on, I was going to be paralyzed. I had a hard time finding people that wanted to do it, because it was a little risky. But I found this doctor at Johns Hopkins who was fantastic, and he did this operation, but I had to learn how to walk again."

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On breaking his arm & hitting a necessary low: 
"Everybody told me, 'Don't fall, just don't fall. Whatever you do.' And I kept falling all the time. But I was falling in a way that I was okay. And then I finally convinced somebody to leave me alone. 'Give me some independence, give me some room. I'm going to New York. I'm going on my own and doing it myself.' And then as soon as I'm left alone, I wake up the next morning, I walk into the kitchen, I fall down and I shattered my arm. I wait for the ambulance to come, on the floor in the kitchen and I'm telling myself, 'But everything's going to be okay.' [But] everything's not going to be okay. I thought, 'I'm out of the lemonade business.' I [had always] commodified hope, I offered up optimism as a panacea. And I went through all these thoughts with a broken arm on the kitchen floor. And it took me a long time to come out of that. It was good for me to get to that low and to get to that place where I complained about things and I was cranky and remote. I needed to go through that. I kind of took notes when I went through it. I was just thinking about writing a book about golf a couple years ago, but my book about golf turned into this book." 

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On getting his first tattoo at 57 — a sea turtle, which appears as a symbol throughout his book:
"It was New Year's Eve 1999 into 2000 and I was trying to figure out whether to continue doing 'Spin City.' People knew I had Parkinson's at that point and I had done some political stuff. I wanted to start [The Michael J. Fox Foundation], but I needed to put all my effort into it to get it going, and I couldn't split time with the show, so I sort of decided to leave the show and start the foundation. I went on this last swim of 1999. I went in the water and out of the weeds came a sea turtle. And it had a chunk taken out of its fin and it had a scar on its nose, its beak. It looked at me and kept swimming on. And I thought, 'This guy is just doing the next right thing. He's taking his shots and he's just going ahead and doing what he thinks he's supposed to do.' So I got out of the water and I went to Tracy, 'I'm going to leave the show and start the foundation.'"


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