Harvey

There are two forces which tend to influence my mood in the attempt to get me to take action: the first is the result of an over-analytical mind, which has limited powers of prognostication, and the other is a sense of self-hatred which desires, above all else, that I place my head into the lion’s mouth to boldly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But, because I am a biochemical meat sack propped up by a skeleton, both forces are relegated to a painfully simple vocabulary, The result of this is that, while my gut may be shouting, “Go! Danger!”, I’ve no idea from what I should be running, to where I should escape, or, most importantly, why. And due to the fact that this communication is carried out chemically, on a subconscious level, I have no clue from whom I’m being warned.

I am a  creature of habit, fearing change much as would a germophobic panhandler, and often remain in harmful situations because I’ve come to know that devil, and, for all his faults, he’s a hell of a conversationalist. In an attempt to keep me from the inevitable despair of stagnation, my Hippocamp Nostradamus will begin flooding my awareness with subtle signals of disgust and frustration, in the hope that I will lose control and either quit the scenario outright, or scorch the very earth so that the status quo cannot continue.

This has happened any number of times, and though the process has been painful, I have always landed on my feet, and even wound up coming out ahead. That’s not to say that I am grateful, for I carry the stress of my entire life upon the diminishing capacity of my shoulders, like a mistreated and forgotten Atlas. That, and the extra three stone I carry about within my gut (a nod to the fears of harder times ahead) can make it difficult at times to stand up straight, hold my head up high, and tell the world to just fuck off.

Now, my depression is another matter entirely. In the past, I jave likened it to a sensual seductress, enticing me to fail, or some rotund, alcoholic, and abusive heckler, reminding me of all my failures (including those which resulted in a net victory, but with the redemptive postscript deliberately removed). In reality, such as it is, it is no more anthropomorphic than yesterday’s underwear (if anything, slightly less). That feeling of self-worthlessness is best represented by a hand-stitched quilt (always just a tad too warm), made up of every memory of when I had failed to be the man I know I should have been (every shame, embarrassment, and lie, neatly stitched up embroidered in a dazzling display of craftsmanship), draped over my shoulders to remind me not to get above myself.

Though metaphysical in their description, these entities seem very real, especially to someone who walks the narrow line of sanity to peer into the hidden depths of insight which the human condition may provide.

Now, for the sake of carrying on, imagine these two, not as disparate enemies, one foul, the other fair, but rather, as identical twins, down to the dimple on their left cheek, Got that image firmly in your mind? Good. Now get rid of it because it’s completely wrong.

Neither foul nor fair, nor twins of DoubleMint, this pair of overactive malcontents are, in fact, one in the same. They are a double-headed coin*, tarnished a bit from all the years, yet worn smooth from countless handling. They both despise the status quo, and hate me for who I am. One side would prefer that I live up to my ideals, while the other is more interested in my baser natures. And they can both read past and present to glimpse into the future, and nudge me toward one of their preferred destinies.

This isn’t a campaign waged on a scale of weeks, or months, or years, although I’m fairly certain that they’ve both and endgame in mind for me.

No, these skirmishes within my psyche happen in the beats between the moments which eventually coalesce to become that thing that I call life.

Say “fuck this!” now, and lose out on that promotion they were about to offer, but couldn’t yet discuss because they were checking the financials, but say “fuck this!” now, and miss out on a massive clusterfuck of corporate restructuring resulting in a stagnant wage and overwork ad infinitum.

It’s all contained within the spaces between words, in that anxious moment between heartbeats, and rather than being immediately obvious and clear cut, it can often take months or years to assess the benefits of damages of any given choice.

And that’s just if I am able to decipher the rumblings and pains of my padded tummy enough to make a choice at all.

Then there are the times when it’s just gas**.


* Phew, almost wrote dildo there.

** For the sake of appearances, I’ll not mention into how may existential crises I have launched myself in a response to lactose intolerance.

Damn, Grandma? Damn?

Note: I originally wrote this eulogy for my grandmother and posted it last year, but when I overhauled my site, it was the one post to have vanished. I’ve saved it until now to republish on what would have been her 83rd birthday.

Thinking back to that service, and my delivery of the following, I’m kind of amazed that I made it all the way through.


I can’t believe that it’s been just three and a half months since I saw my grandmother. I was lucky enough to steal some time away from work to be able to come up for what would turn out to be my final Christmas with her. I always found a reason to let life get in the way, and I never came back up to visit as often as I’d like. It’s funny, but during these past twelve months, I’ve flown back up here more than I had in the past twelve years. Part of that was due to the fact that when my great-grandmother died, I knew that I had thrown away my chance to say my last goodbyes, too worried about work, and life, and somehow being a failure in her eyes.

Sure, I’ve done better for myself since then, but when I heard that my grandfather was beginning to fade, I knew I couldn’t just hide away down in California. And when he died, I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I was back up here to say farewell to my grandmother.

I’m sorry. This is harder than I expected. You see, my son came up with me this time, and this is his first real experience with death, the first time he has been exposed to the concept of a bittersweet celebration of a life well-lived. He is lucky to have spent as much time as he did with both of his great-grandparents, and I guess what I’m about to say, the stories I’m about to tell, are as much for him to learn a little more about them as they are for me to pay my respects.

The hardest part is knowing where to start. There are so very many things which I’d like to share with you, but right now they’re just a jumble in my head; lodged behind this lump in my throat.

Perhaps I should begin with how she taught me (quite inadvertently, I’m sure she’d insist I clearly mention) my very first four-letter word. That sort of thing tends to happen when a car door swings shut with only your leg betwixt it and its final destination. Later on, in an outing with my Grandfather, I used it in perfect context, to the effect of nearly causing him to have an accident (of either variety). Since then, I’ve been extremely cautious in my usage of… colorful metaphors while traveling by automobile.

In so many ways, I’ve found that I am like my Grandmother (and not just in my reaction to vehicular agony). She was the standard which I’d found I’d set for myself, when that sort of thing began to matter. But really, I think that the biggest impression she made on me was in treating me like a person when others could only see the symptoms of adolescence. It’s quite simple to dismiss someone when you know better, but it takes integrity and valor to see them as a human being- moreso when that human being is an abrasive, caustic malcontent. She had my back when no one else did, even when I walked on painful and lonely roads, beset on either side by buffalo too numerous to mention.

That’s not to say she didn’t speak her mind. Sure, she had my back, but she never hesitated to tell me when she thought that I was in the wrong. We used to argue all the time, on all range of matters, from the mundane to monumental, relishing not in the causing of pain, but rather the gamesmanship of passionate debate. There were times we got so into it, that my mother appeared to be upon the brink of nervous breakdown. But when we’d finished, there was no bitterness or anger left remaining, just a renewed connection between the both of us, and the unspoken eagerness to do it all again sometime.

It’s funny. One of the points on which we argued most since I left home, was my choice in paramours. She never missed a chance to speak her mind on the subject of the dubious ladies who had contrived to besmirch my honor and misdirect my virtue. Until she met my wife, that is. Not once, not even once, did I hear so much as even an uncertain word against my dearest one. She loved my wife as only someone who truly understands the concept of unconditional love might. She saw, perhaps even before I, that meeting and not driving my wife away was the best thing that I’d ever managed to accomplish.

One of the hardest things for me was to watch her health decline. 26 years ago, give or take a month, she had her first heart attack. So I suppose, in a very real way, she’d been declining for a while. But these past few years managed to steal away her vitality and stamina, and our debates, once lively and verging on a yet-undiscovered full-contact sport made up of naught but words, had fallen into carefully moderated disuse. They weren’t nearly as fun as they’d been before, as she required oxygen to even cross the living room, and so we’d lob our gentle jabs at one another until we both got bored.

As you can probably infer, we didn’t have the typical familial relationship, filled with loving words and niceties. Somewhere along the way, she expressed her affection toward me by reassuring me that she could rock-a-bye me with real rocks. I never failed to retort that there was still time to push an old lady down the stairs. A few years ago, out of gift ideas, and with time running out for Christmas shopping, I ordered her some polished rocks off Amazon, with an invitation for her to give me that rock-a-bye. I’ve been told that it was one of her most treasured possessions.

I’d love to say that my grandma was a sweet and kind little old lady, full of sunshine and other assorted flavors from the Whitman’s Condolence Sampler, but I don’t want to sell her short. She was her own person: proud, and fierce, and above all loving. Besides, if I say too many purely nice things, I’m sure tonight I’ll hear the wind carrying her message past my window of, “Oh, pooh!”

(sigh)

As has been observed, my Grandmother managed to transmute the simple expulsion of carbon dioxide from her lungs into a form of punctuation. If you were to base a film franchise upon her life, and for some inexplicable reason, cast Bruce Willis as the lead, you would be treated to such cinematic gems as: Sigh Hard, Sigh Hard With a Vengeance, and Live Free or Sigh Hard. There again, she and I share a bond.

It’s funny: my mother has repeated, on numerous occasions, that were it not for the pains of childbirth, she would have been convinced that I was her mother’s child. I suppose that’s why that last bit, originally a self-deprecating observational jab at myself, works so flawlessly with her.

So I says to this guy, I says…

(chuckle)

More jokes? I can almost hear you thinking, I’m not sure if this is the time or the place for that sort of thing.

But when, then, if not in a moment of despair?

The time for grief has come and gone, and will most likely come again, striking in those unguarded moments when we think that we’re alright. We do not grieve nor weep for her, for, regardless of your views on what comes after, it is an incontrovertible certainty that she is now finally free of pain. Our tears are shed only for ourselves, because we are human, and because we so very dearly miss her. We weep not because she made us feel that way, but rather for the laughter which in us she so easily inspired, and from which we find ourselves so suddenly bereft.

Death is not something to be feared, like an arbitrary cessation of festivities, nor some sort of adversary to be outwitted ‘til the end. It’s a natural closing of the story of our lives, our hopes, our dreams, one which will be continued in the tales of our children and grandchildren and in the hearts of all who’ve loved us. Death is but a liberator from endless pain and suffering, the final rest which we have sought since we were old enough to regret all those naps not taken in our youth.

Okay.

I’d like to end this with a story from years ago, from one of the many road trips I had the pleasure of taking with my grandparents. You know, I always found it amusing that my grandfather, who worked at Boeing, preferred to get somewhere behind the wheel of a car. Maybe he knew that it wasn’t just about the destination…

We were in Oregon at the beginning of the summer, right after school had gotten out. It must have been close to a hundred degrees, even as night began to fall. We’d had a particularly trying day, the three of us, especially my grandmother and I, an occupational hazard, I suppose, of one of the travelers suffering from his particularly potent form of adolescence.

We’d pulled up to the motel in the early evening, just as the sun was beginning its descent, and my grandparents decided that what they could really use, after a day cooped up with me, was a quiet evening out. Sure, they invited me to come, as they were obligated to at least offer me some sort of sustenance, but, as our room had air conditioning and HBO, I elected to stay behind. Let’s just say that no objections were made. I did what any red-blooded American boy would do, and flipped through the channels to see what sort of life I had been missing with Basic Cable, while my grandparents had an evening of civil conversation in an environment free of rolling eyes and a constant stream of sarcasm.

It must have been a couple of hours later when they returned, because I’d managed to get bored by the offerings of even Subscription Television. From the way they… let’s say… sauntered in, I knew something was amiss.

Driven by maternal (or gran-maternal instinct, I suppose), though it could have easily been the finest example of passive aggression which I’ve been honored to have witnessed in all my many years, my grandmother decided that she’d had enough that day. She snapped her fingers toward the cot, informed me it was time for bed, and, uncertain as to the duration of my safety, I skulked my way over and sat down upon it. Another snap of her fingers, and I laid down, immediately regretting my decision.

My grandmother then began piling blanket after blanket upon me, comforters used to ironic effect, until I began to sweat uncontrollably, both from the trapped in atmosphere and body heat, though I must say that stark terror played no small part. She tucked the many layers between the mattress and the frame, informing me that I was cold, and that I needed to bundle up. Had I the presence of mind, I might have voiced a concern that, in light of this apparent cold snap, said provisions would be best utilized by the those touched not entirely lightly by the eld.

My options rapidly evaporating, much as what moisture I’d managed to conserve, I turned my head (the only part of my body which I could move) toward the other side of the motel room, to where my grandfather was seated on the bed. I could just make out his face in the reflection from the mirror which stood adjacent to the bathroom. I shot him a pleading look, to which he responded with a small shake of his head, and non-verbal “I told you so.”

My eyes screamed at him for help, but by then it was already too late. I was beginning to suffer from heat stroke, and my eyes began to close. The last thing from that evening which I can reliably remember was that look upon my Grandpa’s face, and the smell of wine upon my Grandma’s breath.

My grandmother always had my back, but she felt it necessary, at times, to remind me not to run afoul of her good nature. Especially all day. In a confined space. Regardless of how many buffalo she pointed out (it was all of them). I’ve since taught this lesson to my son, though I refer to it as “not being that guy.”

I will miss my grandmother, and grandfather, who passed away not even one year ago. I never knew my dad, and therefore could almost be excused from understanding that two people could be so very much in love, were it not for the pair of them. They inspired me to look for someone with whom I could tolerate the idea of a togetherness spanning decades. In my heart, there is emptiness which is suspiciously their shape.

It’s tempting to despair that I won’t know what to do, should I one day need them again, but then I remember the love we shared, and all of our happy moments, and I realize that I’ve learned everything I needed from them (but nowhere close to what I wanted), and perhaps they left so that I could finally set aside the training wheels.

I love you Grandpa. I love you Grandma. Keep the car running, because I’m waiting on another road trip. And Grandma, I wouldn’t mind that rock-a-bye.

Some Sort of Broth with Pasta and Ingredients for the Sense of Self

I haven’t felt entirely well for months, though these past couple of weeks have been particularly trying. What with the constant call-outs at work, and my baseline level of stress, between matters domestic, financial, and existential, it’s a wonder that I haven’t collapsed well before. Last week I suffered from a bout of food poisoning, but it was only a matter of time before I fell before something a little more substantial.

Last month, following the factory fire in Richmond, I came down with a mild case of pneumonia, but I got over that fairly quickly, though I returned to work well before I should have.

This time, having been exposed to various illnesses from my employees, themselves suffering from the worst cold and flu season in recent memory, my body finally bowed to the inevitability of major illness. Even now, I feel that, instead of getting better, as my doctor assured me that I would, I am actually getting worse. But I know that one more day outside of work won’t actually do much more than cost me another eight hours of pay, and now that I’ve actually seen my primary care physician, I can communicate with her via the interwebz, and cut out the whole having to go to the doctor thing (which I hate).

All I have to do is make it through the end of the day on Monday without dying, and I’ll be okay.

I will say that the one advantage to a proper, physical illness is that it removes some of the oppressive strain of my bipolar disorder (diagnosed and verified) and anxiety (assumed, but I mean, come on). And, if you will mark this on your calendars, today marks the first day that my darling Wildflower has eschewed her traditional role of Master of mockery and insult and assumed a more loving and tolerant position.

Oh my god. Maybe she thinks I’m dying. This must mean that I actually look as terrible as I feel.

I was hoping to actually have something to say, but really this was just an exercise to gauge my mental faculties. It has been educational to say the least.

I now await my chicken soup with vegetables and (hopefully) twirly pasta, after the consumption of which, I can dose myself again with NyQuil and pass out into dreamless sleep.

Our Rob or Ross

I think that I may have made a friend today, as childish as that sounds, though when I was a child, there would have been far less uncertainty in my declaration. Back then, it seems, anyone not overtly hostile could easily be considered more affectionately than an acquaintance. Now, of course, there is so much nuance to every interaction, so many subtle subdivisions of the classifications into which I file away the human race, that I am, for the vast majority of any given moment, almost entirely unclear as to how I actually regard any certain person. Were I to factor in the uncertainty of their reciprocity of consideration for myself, the whole thing would descend into such sweet and agonizing improbability and madness that only Chaos Theory could be employed in trying to sort the whole mess out and make heads or tails of it.

That being said, I think I’ve made a friend.

This happens far and far less frequently with every passing year, and not only because I am a slave to overthinking the fine (if functionally irrelevant) details of the myriad minutiae of human interaction. Mainly, it’s because I have no time (or rather, allow myself none of it (aside from moments of explosive decompression)), and, to be honest, very little will to muster in dedication to a friendship.

It’s not that I’m a bad friend (or person, as Bad Leon Suave will likely say), though I’ve not much defense against the former accusation (and to the latter, I’ll politely invite him to just fuck off); I just have too many conflicting priorities, and I’m shit about maintaining any sort of balance. Of my closest friends, there is perhaps a cache of maybe half an hour which I’ve set aside each month to share amongst them. Unless, that is, I happen to be struck with inspiration or brought to breaking by some new or recently rediscovered need.

And who’s to say that this friendship will or will not last? It was discovered while at work, entirely by random happenstance, and in my life to date, those sort of friendships aren’t widely regarded for their longevity, no matter how much I might prefer that they should last. I have also learned, due to paralyzing indecision, and warm soaks in pools of pain and apathy, that sometimes friendships need not last a lifetime, but for just a perfect moment of humour, a convergence of interest, or the simple act of connecting, platonically, with another person.

I wish the recap of my actions could make me out as wise as the words which I can so (seemingly) effortlessly craft.

But all of this has merely been the tangentially connected prologue to that which I’ve truly wished to be rid of from off my chest: I’m pretty sure that I am falling in love (again) with my wonderful, if long-suffering, amazing, and enchanting wife. To clarify, if you’ll indulge me, I don’t mean to say that I ever found a way to stop loving her, despite the countless times my brain has twisted in upon itself to worry at its self-inflicted wounds, if only to ensure that they could never fully heal.

I mean to express nothing more than the simple truth that in thrusting my head so firmly up my ass for all these many years, I’ve passed the point of no return, and have begun to come out on the other side like an ouroboros of having missed the point entirely.

Free, for the moment, of the impositions of  my own obtusity, I can once again see her clearly for the wonder which she is, and find within me some sort of will to see my way to slice the knot (of the Gordian variety) which has bound us through misunderstanding, frustrations, and the divergence of opinion into a creature built only for the experience of misery, trim away the barbs and blood, and fashion from the transmuted chains of resentment, some sort of common bond (fancied up a bit), which we might employ much as a lifeline to, perchance, save one another from the vagaries of life, lost adrift upon the sea.

Yes, that whole monstrosity was just one sentence, and if you’re reading out loud at home, I sincerely hope you finished quickly enough to avoid passing out from oxygen deprivation.

We both swore ’til death (though actually, we didn’t, as our ceremony was entirely more modern) and one of us must die before the other gets to finally win without conditions. Until then, we’ll just have to keep on meeting in the middle, ill-satisfied with compromise, each of our respective win columns punctuated wildly by unsightly asterisks.

Well, Shit (Ah, Fuck It Part 2)

Yeah, so it’s looking grim for our hero, dear readers. When we last left you, Tex Batmart was facing the question as to how quickly he could boogie down from off of his mortal coil. At the moment, it’s not so much a worry that he will no longer be resident of this particular reality, but, rather, just how long he can endure it.

The current situation could still easily be described as “Continuing to Come Up Exclusively Milhouse.” It doesn’t help that I know that the vast majority of the melancholy exists entirely between the my sensory inputs and the biochemical tool which processes their reports.  I’ve almost grown accustomed to that, much in the same fashion as I learned to compensate for the warped billiards table in the local Teen Center when I was a youth. There are complex mathematical equations running constantly, adjusting the variables so that all I have to do is try to make the shot.

I wonder if, should I ever approach something like “normality”, I’ll be as hopeless at functioning within the world as I am at playing pool on a pristine table: still overcompensating for obstacles which are no longer there.

Of course, in addition to all of that, I have some objectively shitty things going on which, though not entirely caused by my perception of the world through smoked and fractured lenses, were at the very least, greatly exacerbated by it.

But even there, the temptation for self-recrimination is too great. With every problem (real or imagined), my first (as well as second third, and on until the 37th, where it takes a break for a quick moment, continuing on with 42nd) instinct is to blame myself for being such a generally shitty person. I mean, if I wasn’t such a complete fuck-up, I wouldn’t be faced with any of this bullshit.

Finances are rough, because I dared to risk everything on the pursuit of a lifelong dream, and now I’m left with repayment of failure with added interest due. And I was so fucking close…

Seriously. Look at the progress in my rust removal from December 2014 until May 2015. I got back to fucking form! I was doing things. I was so close to actually being able to write the book (or books) that I’d been waiting for, unable to fully articulate myself in a suit of armor which had very nearly completely oxidized. And then fucking life reared its goddamned head.

I had to grab whichever job took me first, which was Big! Lots!, and we all remember how that fucking fiasco went. I spent almost every other weekly paycheck on visits to the doctor and the medication she prescribed for the damage that job inflicted upon my body. When I got the news about a management gig at a restaurant in Berkeley, I was fucking stoked, despite my promise to myself that I would never again return to Food Service (or management).

Bear’s Lair Redux was, itself, a massive disappointment. A restaurant/bar should never be designed by committee, nor should it be operated and overseen by a soulless corporation. And while I met some cool people there, I was glad to bid it a fond farewell.

In the gap between that and Jupiter, I actually wrote something like 30,000 words (which I published in June (or was it July?) of this past year). Once again, I was really getting into my groove, when, suddenly, my life reverted to its relentless rhythms of: work too fucking much and then burn the fuck out.

Sure, there were other factors at play as well (including the death of my grandfather, which I have covered in several other posts), but if one is a huge fan of Oktoberfest, he should never take the backstage tour to see how the sausages are made.

There were a lot of good things about Jupiter, despite my current feelings, but it finally boiled down to lack of follow-through regarding their commitment to me in the form of salary level and insurance, especially the latter. This, combined with a very nearly complete nervous breakdown, made it almost certain that it wasn’t going to work out.

My current employer is great. There are things about the place that I don’t care for, but I’m fairly certain that’s true of any job. And I know that I have become an Expert in Curmudgeonry by now (I may or may not be fully disclosing the truth of the matter, due to the fact that one does not shit where one eats). There are some fundamental things with which I disagree, but I think that’s not really the issue.

You want to know?

Fine.

I’m not doing what I feel in my bones that I need to do, which is this, but more focused and, to be honest, better.

I don’t have the money to give this another go.

The financial issues have put my marriage on what could charitably be considered life support.

I am not happy.

 

That last part isn’t a huge problem, in and of itself, for dissatisfaction is often the impetus for positive change.

I just feel like I am fading away, and the only thing that’s left is for my body to get the fucking message.

I have a choice (well, I have several, but, you know, narrative conceit): Do I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to clean up after my financial missteps, or do I give this writing thing one last shot?

But wait, you say, didn’t you say that you couldn’t afford to write again like 850 words ago?

I could always disappear. Pack my shit and ride the waves while surfing on the couches of America. Trigger a cascade of financial avalanches that could only be remedied by me becoming the best-selling author in the history of ever. I’m not saying I couldn’t, mind you…

But that would also mean losing my wife and son. I mean for real. That’s not really something that you can come back from- abandoning your family to crippling debt, just to chase a dream. And no matter how successful I were to become, that sort of bullshit just doesn’t get forgiven.

With all of that, and my mental illness, you can see why I think that it would be easier were I to die.

 

Ah, Fuck It

Before anyone tries to reach out with sympathy, advice, or “thoughts and prayers,” let me just say one thing: Don’t. I’m not writing this in search of human connection. I’ve fucking had enough of that lately. This merely exists so that I can bleed some of this bullshit out of my fucking head.

This has been an incredibly trying couple of years.

I wasn’t prepared at all for when my grandfather died, and it completely fucking blindsided me. Since the early 90’s, I’d kind of known that my grandmother was going to pass, in a very real sense, but the rapid decline which led up to my grandfather’s end just outpaced my ability to prepare for it. In the end it took copious amounts of mushrooms and completely torching employment bridges to finally begin to reach a state of tranquility and acceptance.

And when I said just now that I’d known that my grandmother was tenuously grasping on to her mortality: yeah, I haven’t handled that all that much better, At the time, I broke down, cried, and channeled my grief into something funny and beautiful. But I never really felt it. Now, as the lead-up to 38 has come and gone (please see any number of other pieces I’ve written here for more information regarding the Fuckery of November), I find that I never really dealt with it at all. Writing her eulogy was cathartic, and but, at best, only a delaying tactic. And I didn’t even realize it until I went back up to the Island for my mother’s wedding.

It was just little things, like her not actually being there, despite the fact that she’d been an immovable fixture in my life for its entirety, especially in her home. Or when I walked up to the Jiffy Mart to buy my Red Bull because caffeine withdrawal is a complete and utter bitch, and got choked up as I made small talk with the owner, as I tried to screw up the courage to thank him for all the wonderful moments he provided to my grandfather for the many years he attended daily meetings of the Prevaricators’ Club at that location.

Or the fact that gave my mother away at her wedding. Or that I’m experiencing my first first holiday season with no living grandparents.

I know that many of you have lost grandparents, and that perhaps were unable to spend as much time with them as I was with mine. Perhaps, you’re thinking, I should appreciate all of the special times I had with them, and get the fuck over it.

To that, I so delicately respond, fuck you, and reread the first fucking paragraph. It’s there for a goddamned reason. Right fucking there, first thing where you cannot fucking miss it. Go ahead. Read it again, I’ll wait (Actually, I won’t because that’s not how fucking writing works).

But enough about external misery.

I also suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder, Type II. You know, not the cool, running-through-the-streets-naked mental illness, but the oh-wait-sorry-to-inform-you-but-that-guy-you-knew-who-was-on-top-of-everything-and-shining-like-a-fucking-star-was-just-a-manifestation-of-my-fucking-illness-and-you-don’t-get-to-fucking-complain-when-the-less-productive-symptoms-arrive-and-wreak-havoc-with-goddamned-everything. Fuck, that’s a lot of hyphens.

No one, aside from perhaps those who have been on this Merry-Go-Round with me countless times, really minds when I am firing at 235%. I am brilliant, charming, and goddamned invincible (except for the Summer Solstice of my Mania, where I am constantly mistaken for someone with a cocaine habit the likes of which even the 1970’s and 80’s cannot comprehend.

But it seems that everyone gets “concerned” and wants “to talk” or “check in” with me when the fucking bottom drops out. Fine, but please know that during these times, I cannot take even the nicest worded and most constructive of criticisms. Please understand that for weeks leading up to this conversation, I have been beating the shit out of myself for fucking daring to exist, and recalling in vivid detail all of the times I have gone and fucked literally everything up (whether or not any of those failures actually occurred outside the confines of my head).

And don’t fucking tell me to see a fucking doctor. I’m mentally ill, not fucking stupid.

Do you know why I avoid the doctors who might be able to help me? And don’t say because I have a mental illness, because that’s just fucking stupid.

The fact is, I have tried many times to see someone about the bullshit neurochemistry lurking within my gleaming noggin. I have tried, if not all, then most of the gimmicky pharmaceuticals they have to offer. To date, there has been only one medicine which has ever even come close to working: Lithium Carbonate, and even that is barely better than nothing at all.

You see, all the fancy and shiny new drugs are anti-depressants, which is great, but they don’t work for me. SSRI’s, such as Prozac and Zoloft, give me auditory hallucinations approximating, I am told, the symptoms of fucking schizophrenia. Gabapentin interacts with my system by dropping me into a pool of hypersexuality (and not even the useful, married-for-a-decade kind). Wellbutrin, an (and I had to look this up) aminoketone, flips the rage switch from “Selfie” to “Murder all Humans.” Tetracyclics, like Trazodone, actually make me feel insane (in a slightly different way from SSRI’s ), insofar as I feel that nothing is quite right, kind of like the universe is off by a quarter of an inch. What they all have in common is that they are the product of decades of research at an investment measured in the millions, if not billions.

Lithium carbonate is an antimanic agent, and the result of cosmic forces. It’s a fucking element. It is literally one the most generic drugs there is.

And do you know what never gets pushed by drug reps? Fucking shit that cannot help their company’s bottom line.

I have tried explaining this to doctors. I have begged to set up appointments for blood draws to monitor lithium levels to avoid toxicity. I have tried to be fucking responsible when it comes to the treatment of my fucking disease! And I’m tired. 

For the past three weeks, I have been actively contemplating suicide.

My major stopping point was that I didn’t want to fuck up my mother’s wedding.

And now I don’t want to fuck up my son’s Christmas.

And I just realized this evening that I wouldn’t be the first friend of my best friend’s (actually, friends’, as it’s applicable to both) to commit suicide.

I’ve been through this before, but this time I’m a little scared.

For the vast majority of these episodes, I merely wanted to not exist anymore. This time, I want to fucking hurt myself. Like fucking blades and shit.

Okay, stop! Put down your fucking phone. Do not fucking call me. I don’t want to talk about it. Every fucking reason you could give me to carry on is just another nail in my goddamned coffin. You think that knowing about all of those people who love me and who depend on me (in some fashion) is going to help? 

It won’t. That’s just more fucking pressure upon my shoulders.

Please. Please. Please listen to me when I say that there is nothing that anyone can say that will make things better, unless it involves several tens of thousands of dollars (with no obligation to repay) and the ability to fucking spend the time I need to do the one fucking thing that I have ever wanted to do with my life! So, unless you’re offering me, at the very minimum, $60,000, please don’t. Just… don’t.

I know that the inner monologue has shifted and whispers only lies. I get that. But I also have been dealing with this for over a quarter of a century, and I’ve kind of internalized the talking points. I may have an ego the size of a small geographically discrete mass, but I have almost zero self-esteem. I really do fucking despise myself.

No! Shut the fuck up! I’ll tell you when I’ve goddamned finished!

I am really good at precisely one thing (okay, two, but despising myself doesn’t really fall neatly under “Life Goals.”): exactly what the fuck I’m doing now (despite how disjointed and shitty this rant is).

Will I get through this? Probably.

Do I want to? Not particularly.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done.

Unless I kill myself tonight, I have to get to sleep soon so I can go into work tomorrow. And as I don’t want to fuck up Christmas for my son, I guess I ought to go to fucking bed.

Ah, Fuck It!

Apocalyptica apmb4c Post-Show

#apmb4c

It’s entirely possible that I may be getting too old for this, at least physically. Last night I was transported back twenty years, to when I went to see Metallica for the first time (technically, the only time, but as I bought tickets for the show in ’99, and was unable to attend through no fault of my own, I’m sticking with first time). I was singing, clapping, shouting, throwing the horns, and headbanging. But, even though we had seats (and amazing ones at that), and an intermission, I still feel completely wiped. I never used to need multiple days to recover from a show, and that was back when I was always itching to get in the pit.

This morning, I woke up to find that I had somehow become not only Batman, but the type of Batman to seriously injure his right pinky because he can’t ever seem to remember to take off his wedding ring before a show, and has the spatial awareness and coordination of intoxicated marmoset. At least I don’t have to try to make it through work today (one of the benefits of my schedule is that I can attend a Tuesday night show and still have a day to recover). On top of that, as I said in yesterday’s post, I’m still working through that bug which has been making the rounds, and last night gave it back a bit of hard-earned ground. Would have I rather stayed home last night, though? “Let me hear you say, ‘Fuck no, James!'”

Of the four Apocalyptica shows which I’ve attended, this was easily the best. Everyone was on their game, and, due to our seating (front row, center), we were spared from the massive output from the stacks of speakers hanging on either side of the stage. For the first time in my life, I went to an appropriately loud and heavy metal show, and walked away with perfect (or, more accurately, no net loss of) hearing. On top of that, in addition to it being the best Apocalyptica show I’ve seen, it’s a serious contender for having been the best Metallica show I’ve seen.

David and I left the venue last night around 10:30, and I was overwhelmed by just how much fun I’d had that night. David… well, David is David, and at least this time he managed to stay awake for the entire show (with a small resting of eyes during the intermission). When he’s at home, he can’t seem to get to sleep for shit, requiring a heavy dose of horse tranquilizer and a team of agitated rhinoceroses to put him down. Outside the apartment, however, he begins to tire around 5:30 in the evening, and wants to pass out no later than 8.

He’s only ten now, so I’m hoping by the next time we go to a show, he’s discovered how to store his energy for the show, as opposed to burning through it on the way there by fidgeting and whining more than a sommelier.

But enough of complaining about the inevitable. Here are some highlights from the show:

Hint: It was all highlights

For the first time since the mid-90’s, Enter Blandband sounded fresh and heavy. I know that A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica completely ruined that song for me, but, after last night, I can at least fight back the temptation to skip it or leave the room any time it comes on.

“Escape” was a pleasantly heavy surprise, with an enjoyable bit of introductory banter on how they’d never really played it live before the tour, but neither had Metallica…

I had a moment with Eicca as he was introducing “Battery” by explaining that he’d wanted to record it for their first album, but it was too hard for them to play. When I chuckled (in consolation, mind you, as I also find it too difficult to play), he looked right at me and said, “You can laugh, but it’s harder than it looks!”

When the second set started after intermission, Perttu discussed mentioned that they’d had no idea this genre would become popular, and if they’d known, they might have only looked for two cellists to play AC/DC covers. This was followed up at the end of “Seek and Destroy” when they broke into the intro to “Thunderstruck.”

They ended the night with “One”, dedicating it to the eradication of armed conflicts and a renewed interest in peace, especially in today’s geopolitical climate (a nice callback to Perttu explaining where Finland was, and how they were allies of the U.S., and not to worry about them). I wasn’t expecting political commentary at a metal show, at least not this metal show (or an amusing nod to North Korea), but it was well-played, and, I believe, resonated with the crowd.

During the Meet & Greet, I was able to chat a little with Paavo (my personal hero from the band- David’s, of course, is Perttu), and discovered that he has a daughter that’s David’s age. We joked that we were enjoying this time because it was still “easy” in the years before puberty.

This is the fourth Apocalyptica show that I’ve attended. The first two were at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, and the third was at the Fillmore. After the first show (which I attended with Wildflower), I decided that they were totally worth seeing again. It took a few years, but we caught them twice (once on either end) on their Shadowmaker tour, and after the Meet & Greet last time, where they singled out David for a solo photo to commemorate his first show, I vowed that I would see them whenever they came to town.

They are consummate musicians, engaging entertainers, and masterful performers (I know that these are mostly synonymous, but trust me: The nuance matters). They have helped to redefine a genre, and have done it with passion and professionalism.

So, to Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Antero Manninen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and Mikko Sirén, I say thank you for a wonderful evening. Thank you on behalf of myself, my son, and everyone there. I look forward to your next stop back here (finances permitting, of course, as, much like flying in First Class, once you’ve had the VIP experience, it’s hard to go back).

I would also like to give a small measure of thanks to the other VIP ticket holders sitting near us (some of whom I remember from the last show). Your engagement with David helped to really make him feel involved, and I appreciate that. Here’s to the next time!

And now, as promised (or at least implied), the rest of the photos:

That’s his Metal Face (I guess).
Waiting to go in, after meeting the band.
We had some pretty kick-ass seats.
A little B&W Perttu, Eicca, and Paavo.
Perttu looking Metal AF (left, Antero, right, Eicca)
Perttu’s Hero Pose

As you can see, we were literally feet from the stage.

And from the Meet & Greet:

I suppose I have to get a print of this one now, for next time. (Pictured L-R: Mikko, Paavo, The Minkey, Tex Batmart, Eicca, and Perttu)
This is now up on David’s wall, waiting for a frame.

For comparison, here is the original:

“One with just him…” (Pictured L-R: Perttu, Eicca, The Minkey, Mikko, and Paavo)

Okay, I seriously need a nap. I’m going back to bed.

-Tex

Apocalyptica apmb4c Pre-Show

There are times that I am jealous of my son. At the tender age of one decade, he’s got his own: TV, gaming console, computer, and full set of parents. And as of tonight, he will have gone to two metal shows. And met the band both times. Sure, I’ll have met them both times as well, but I’ve been to significantly more shows than he has.

His first show was the wrap-up of Apocalyptica’s Shadowmaker tour, and I decided to splurge on VIP tickets. That show was also the third time in which my wife and I had seen them (though it was our first VIP experience as well). The whole day, David was bouncing around, stoked that he was going to get to do something cool with mommy and daddy. And why shouldn’t he have been excited? At almost nine years of age, he was getting to stay out late and go see a show in person. Of course, he didn’t maintain his levels of indomitable energy, but that was a slight oversight on my part.

I’ve been going to the occasional show since I was thirteen (Endfest ’93, if you must know, was what officially popped my concert cherry), and the various smells which accompany them had long since passed from the forefront of my brain. No longer did my nose consider overwhelming B.O. or just the slightest wafting hint of marijuana worthy enough of my attention. So while I was enjoying the hell out of the concert, and Wildflower was patiently tolerating it (as it turns out, I’m up for epic walks to venues to save a few dollars, while she is most decidedly not), David was practically nodding off. I figured it was just a case of being burnt out, until I went down from the balcony seating (where Flor had insisted upon sitting) to the main floor where I could properly feel the spirit of Metallica covers played in San Francisco.

Once again, I barely registered the smell of a freshly lit joint, but it wasn’t until I followed the billowing smoke upwards, and caught sight of the balcony where my wife and son were sitting, that I finally figured out why my son, the Energizer Buddy, was so wiped. I walked back up the stairs at the end of the song to rejoin my family, to find David practically passed out, despite the roaring volume in the hall. I briefly let Wildflower know what was going on, and the look I received was murderous.

We finished out the show, and hung around to finally meet the band. Due to some sort of administrative cock-up, the Meet & Greet was held after the show, and it was like herding cats trying to keep David upright, and Wildflower moderately conscious. I could tell that both of them wanted to call it a night, but I felt (rightly so, I still believe) that, as I’d spent the money so that we could have the pleasure of meeting the band, that we should stick around and, you know, actually meet the band.

And I’m glad we did just that. It was a little crazy and disorganized, but Apocalyptica were good sports about it, and we had a nice little time. As they were coming by to do autographs, I mentioned to them that it was David’s very first show. We then lined up to do the photo-op, and after our picture was taken (the three of us), the band then asked to get a separate photo with just David.

I’d already liked the band, their music, and appreciated the quality of their live performances, but this kind of blew me away. They must have been at least a little exhausted (despite the adrenaline, lifting a cello over your head and bowing at Metallica speeds is still, I would imagine, quite an expenditure of energy), and there were quite a few people behind us, but they made a point of doing something special to make a little boy’s day, and that earned my loyalty and respect.

All in all, it was a fun evening, but by that point, even I was looking forward to the comfort of my bed. Due to the Meet & Greet happening after the show, we’d missed our chance to get back to a BART station in time for the last train back to the East Bay, so I sighed, pulled out my phone, and summoned an Uber. Forty dollars later, we arrived home, completely rocked out for the near future. Wildflower also informed me that, since I now had David as a companion, she would be bowing out from future events. And, as much as I’d enjoyed sharing these concerts with her, I understood. It’s just not as much fun when you’re exhausted and not terribly excited about hiking.

I promised David that the next time they were in town, I would take him to the show, and we’d bring a print of the picture with us so that they could autograph it. When the VIP tickets went on sale a few months ago, I snatched up two. I got a print of his “solo” photo, and picked up a pack of metallic sharpies.

So now, I am simply waiting for the day to be on its way. I am still feeling a little crummy from whatever bug has been going around work, but my boss gave me an extra sick day yesterday, and I’m feeling up to about 65% (which is only 10-15% worse than I normally feel on any given day). As of writing this, I’ve got three and a half hours until I get David from school, five hours until we leave for the show, six and a half hours until we pick up our tickets from Will Call, and just under nine hours until the show starts.

I’m watching a video from this tour on YouTube to psyche myself up. And, of course, I’ll be posting a Post-Show review of tonight’s experience.

“One with just him…”

Dreaming of the Abyss

Before I begin, I want to make something absolutely clear: This is not a cry for help. I don’t want you to ask me if I am doing okay, nor am I interested your suggestions for how to miraculously turn around my life. This is hard enough as it is, without people trying to help.

I want to be honest, which means I need to let myself be vulnerable. And for that to happen, I need to feel safe, I need to know that I can tell the truth, and that nothing will be okay.

It’s come to my attention that I am in the midst of my annual summer depressive cycle. Were it not for a record of my musings over the past several years, I would most likely still believe that I was simply inexplicably exhausted. The depression which comes in the weeks leading up to my birthday is well known to me, but I always manage to forget the misery which the Summer Solstice delivers.

This isn’t about committing suicide. Ironically, I have my depression to thank for my continued existence. The same apathy which overwhelms me also keeps me from the meager stores of energy I have left which I might use to end this bloody nightmare I call life.

Would that I could but fade away, slowly disappear from the tapestry of reality, painlessly, without fanfare, without being remembered at all.

Painlessly.

I would so very much like the ending of my life to be entirely unlike the rest of it.

I wish that I could just go to the doctor, get my pills, and pretend to be regular folk again. Cut off everything that makes me me and just get by.

My wife and son would probably appreciate that.

But I can’t. Hell, I can barely even force myself to take a shower, I feel so overwhelmed and beaten down.

I feel so torn apart and raw inside that I cannot even find a way to cry.

I just want all of this to end. I don’t care how things will work out. I’m sure that everyone will carry on without me. Hell, they’ll probably do better without having to keep dragging me on.

I keep trying to find a reason.

They tell me to stay for the sake of my son. They tell me to stay for the sake of my wife. They tell me to stay because of countless reasons which don’t mean a damn when I’m amazed that I somehow managed to get out of bed.

When it gets this bad, I don’t even want to write. You know, that thing that I’ve dreamed of doing since I was seven years of age.

The only reason this exists is that I need to remember. I need to remember how this feels when I come out on the other side, for I’m not so daft as to believe that this will be the end.

During the cycle of mania, I am blissfully incapable of of viscerally feeling what it’s like to never want to be. That’s the time of whispered lies and inflated dreams of glory. Those are the moments when I feel like everything will be okay.

 

I wanted to write more, but it seems that the Bi-Polar Bears have seen me typing and are closing in on me.

 

Hiraeth Excerpt (Chapter Eleven: Changes)

The following is an excerpt of:

Hiraeth: 

The Boy Who Dreamed and the Big Bad Wolf Which He Became

By Tex Batmart

If you haven’t been with us from the start, check out Chapter One here

Chapter Eleven: Changes

 

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch:

               

Things at home were also beginning to undergo a change as well, to much a similar effect. It hadn’t ever been truly easy or carefree for Batmart and his mother, but as he began to take the uncertain steps toward manhood, prodded on by puberty, things began to well and truly fall apart. He was old enough to know when someone was dismissing him out of hand, and no longer would accept the blanket statement of “Because I say so.” In concert with his developing cognitive abilities (one might say hand-in-hand with them), he started to feel the stirrings of what would eventually be diagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder (Type 2). He had been forced to see a counselor, as was already mentioned, and felt that no matter what had happened, someone was always looking to pin the blame upon him.

At the beginning of 1991, the situation had finally reached the point of no return. Tex had finally realized that there was nothing that his mother could truly do besides yell at him or hit him, and even if she was forced into such action, it was no guarantee that she would achieve the results which she wished of him. He had learned to put his foot down when it came to decisions which affected him, and wielded this newfound power with all of the responsibility of drunken despot. If he had managed to learn subtlety, or even a modicum of interpersonal grace, he might have been able to set his own course much earlier in life, and with far less opposition, but he was also discovering that he was filled with a righteous passion that would not be denied, no matter who might choose to stand in his way.

So it came to pass that, seeking safety in greater numbers, and banking on the respect which her son felt for his grandparents, Tex Batmart’s mother negotiated for, and won the opportunity to move them back in with her parents. She made no effort to conceal her motivations from her son, telling him up front that she felt him to be “completely out of control” and that she would use the full authority of people whom he still cared to bring him into line. Batmart shrugged off her threats, knowing that he would soon have a tribunal before which he could argue his case. He knew that, while it was no guarantee of a ruling in his favor, he was certain that his chances would improve from an abysmal automatic rejection, which is what he could count on from his mother.

The one part about the move which truly irritated him, and had been rubbing him quite raw for the past couple of years, was that, because he was so young it was automatically assumed that his mother was in the right, and it was he who had been responsible for making her life harder. He could see in the eyes of his family at every get-together, and often felt the rage building inside of him. How could they be so blind? he screamed internally, How was it possible that they couldn’t see what was going on? The opinions of his distant cousins and great-aunts and uncles were of no great import, but the look of shame in his uncle’s eyes, or in the frowns upon his grandmother’s lips very nearly broke his heart. He just could not understand why no one would listen to his side of things. Years before he would know the term, and decades before he saw the irony in claiming it, he felt that he was no better than a second-class citizen. It didn’t matter what he did or said, it was never good enough. And so he set thoughts of reconciliation behind him and began his campaign of total warfare.

It was more difficult than he had expected, as he was unprepared for the unconditional support which his grandparents automatically granted their daughter (which was, in itself, another slap in the face, for no one unconditionally supported him), and even when granted the occasional opportunity to make his case upon appeal, his frustration would frequently get the better of him, and all of his carefully crafted arguments against the tyranny under which he had been suffering fell apart, and came out as only fragmented ejaculations of “But she-!” and “It’s not fair!” Had his son been present to watch the power struggle, he would have been unable to contain his laughter in the face of his father breaking Rule Number One: Any argument reduced to the cry of “It’s not fair!” is automatically disqualified.

Ultimately, his childhood reached its inevitable conclusion. He had been determined since birth to be old enough to make his own decisions and forced himself to grow up far faster than, in retrospect, he might have otherwise have preferred. Every milestone had been reached because he had pushed himself, driven himself further. But it wasn’t until his declaration of war that he started to choose how to go about things. Up until that point, everything he’d done had been spontaneous, and yet wholly a product of who he was, at his very core, reaching out to make him who he felt he ought to become.

It became apparent that he would have to begin to plan his moves with more than a moment’s notice if he was to have any success. And though that very item remained at the top of his To-Do List for another three decades, he never had much luck with it. It would still be a number of years until he would be able to accept his inherent limitations, and begin to fashion contingency plans to compensate for them. For the foreseeable future, the only thing which he could do would be to make himself as smart as he could manage, soaking up everything at breakneck pace which would threaten to render meaningless all which he’d hoped to learn.

What he hadn’t been counting on, however, was the role which the girls around him began to play. Physiologically, he may have stepped upon the path through puberty a little early, but it wouldn’t be for a couple more years before he understood the significance of his changing body. He was no longer a little boy, and yet it felt like forever until he would finally be a man.

And that’s it… Aside from a paragraph in Chapter Twelve, that’s everything from the Original Run. Let’s see if I can keep this going…

-Tex

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