It’s an unfortunate ride

My morning began, as it usually does, with a bout of irritation: I had fallen down the rabbit hole whilst watching YouTube, and found myself faced with yet another person who doesn’t understand the meaning of the term, “decimate.”

He was discussing theories for the upcoming Avengers film, and described how Thanos had “decimated” the MCU, whereas the plot point, the actual stated intent of Thanos was to halve the universe’s population. That got me wondering about the state of the English language, and the stupidity of those who voluntarily venture before a camera’s lens. I can’t remember the first time it began to bother me when someone confused decimation for devastation, but it’s got to have been several years now. Needless to say, this got me thinking about lawns, and how I’d like to have one, if only so that I might have the opportunity to shout at the youth of today to get off of it.

This isn’t like the anal tampon vodka shots or the Tide Pod challenge, or even the razor blades in Halloween candy or Satanism scare. This is a genuine concern from an older [citation needed] American, who frets over the future of communication in the world. I mean, hell- we’re back to hieroglyphs. And on that subject- an eggplant?!!! Really? Am I missing out on something, or am I merely inadequate?

I took to Facebook to vent my frustration, when I came across an article I’d seen floating around for a couple of days, mentioning FDA approval for the use of Ketamine in bi-polar patients as measure against suicidal thoughts. Throw the news that psilocybin can push back depression (or at least its symptoms) for up to six months, and the massive push for medicinally legal marijuana throughout the country, and a disturbing realization began to dawn on me:

All the things I used to do recreationally are now being introduced as therapeutic measures to treat my illness. For the life of me, I can’t decide if this is a positive development, or the loss of edgy counter-culture to the forward march of banality. And seriously, where the hell’s my lawn?

I mentioned all of this to my best friend, Fed, who responded to my assertion that getting older wasn’t really for me: “It’s an unfortunate ride.”

And speaking of unfortunate rides, apparently my step-dad has to go to Yakima today to get his… I want to say eyes or ears or something head-related, at the very least… checked out. I apologized for his unfortunate ride, and my mom answered on his behalf that Yakima was, and I quote “not so bad.”

Did you know that Yakima’s slogan (and I am not making this up) is “The Palm Springs of Washington?”

I wasn’t sure about the placement of that question mark, but I like as part of the official slogan. So yeah, it stays.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in his epic retort to yet another Dan Quayle misstep, “I’ve been to Palm Springs. I know Palm Springs. Palm Springs was a place I’ve been. Yakima, you’re no Palm Springs. “

My mother then asked if Palm Springs described itself as the Yakima of California, to which I responded that not even Yakima described itself as “The Yakima of Yakima.”

“But they have a Panda Express, and I like that,” my mother interjected.

“Great,” I shot back, “now I’m going to have to go to Yakima and vandalize every instance of their Palm Springs nonsense to reflect a more accurate advertisement:

“‘Yakima- It’s Not So Bad. I mean, it’s no Palm Springs, but it’s alright, I guess, and we’ve got a Panda Express, which people kinda like.'”

Of course, now that I’ve posted this, I absolutely cannot go and do that, and absolutely cannot be seen to be advocating this sort of vandalism, so let me be perfectly clear:

I am in no way suggesting, nor endorsing the vandalism of Yakima’s official signs, placards, and letterheads to reflect a more accurate portrait of this Eastern Washington (boom)town.

I mean, if it happens, I’ll be tickled pink, but don’t do it on my account.

On Anxiety and Depression

So, I’ve managed, once again, to completely ruin the holidays for my wife. Why this would come as a surprise to either of us is anyone’s guess, but it still stings that I couldn’t help but do it.

Christmas was pretty much a fiasco, but I kind of knew it would be, as I was unexpectedly devastated by a fierce attack of bittersweet sentiment of grief, and the fact that, from a personally selfish point of view, Christmas has been, for the past decade and a half, generally disappointing.

But I’d really been hoping that I could get it together yesterday for my wife’s birthday. I’d spoken with my psychiatrist, and stocked up on my anxiety meds with the expectation that I could deaden the nonsense inside of my brain long enough to appear to be a functional human being, of whom my wife was not ashamed, and for whose absence she would have to make no apologies.

To be fair, I was running off of very little sleep, and despite the fact that I got home several hours earlier than my normal workday allows, I was completely wiped. She insisted that I try to rest, but I was afraid that if I let my body dictate my affairs, I would sleep through the changing of the year. Would that that had been the case.

I went to the store to grab a couple of highly caffeinated beverages (which I didn’t consume until much later), and a couple of canned cocktails which I felt that she might enjoy, and then took her advice to lay down for awhile to try to rest.

Hours later, I was still dicking around on my phone, and trying to squeeze in some last-minute reading to pad out my 2018 reading list. Basically doing anything to avoid doing anything positive to mend my mental state and growing unease at the notion of being surrounded by entirely too many people (which is apparently any number over 3 or 4). I dutifully took my medication and waited for the numbing to begin.

As the sun sank beneath the horizon and the shadows of dusk became evening’s darkness, I could hear people beginning to arrive outside my bedroom door. I decided to wait awhile for the meds to kick in, but the longer I waited, the harder it became to engage some form of social inertia required to launch myself into the orbit of these people (with most of whom I had no real connection, or even previous knowledge). I could hear the conversations and laughter beyond the door, and felt that it would be unfair for me to make an appearance just to bring them down,

Eventually, I did manage to abandon my seclusion for a bit to hide out in the kitchen, where I was asked for my expertise about the cooking ham. A few test chunks later, I proclaimed it ready and delicious, only to finally truly notice all of the additional people in my apartment.

I’d told Wildflower that she should have the people over that she wanted, as it was her birthday, and that I would try to cope with it as best I could. My best, apparently, was to quickly exit stage right and briskly make my way back into the safety and solitude of my bedroom.

At some point (though where on the evening’s chronology it fell, I cannot for certain say), Wildflower did come in and ask for help removing a table which we’d been storing there (presumably for occasions like last night). I should have been more conscious of my reactions: irritability, inability to work out simple geometry, and entirely misplaced anger, but I couldn’t. Apparently it takes the next day’s anguish and depression at having failed so completely at such a simple task (and by this, I am not only referring to the passage of the table, but at my inability to be an actual fucking human being for any length of time) to realize that there was no way that I could have been of any use in that moment.

The longer I remained secluded, the more the shame and terror built. In between the bursts of laughter and merriment, I could plainly hear the silent recriminations of my absence, and the shame my wife most assuredly was feeling as her useless husband hid away like some sort of antisocial personification of rudeness.

I watched the clock inch closer to midnight, just praying for the year to finally be done with; hoping that, somehow, at the year’s end, I would be washed clean of everything, and that I could join them in their celebrations as if nothing had ever happened (though, I suppose, that should read as if something had actually happened). Alas, it was not to be.

Toasts and cheers were made, and I turned off the light and wept myself to sleep, for I had missed my opportunity to spend yet another special moment with my wife.

When I woke, sometime in the early morning, she was snuggled up beside me.

When I woke again, she was gone.

As the daylight grew, I could hear the voices again, the noises of a household already waking up. By the time my nicotine addiction had given me the courage to try to make it out the front door of my apartment, I still found that I could not bear to face the people I’d managed to let down. So I left my phone to charge, that no one could reach me on the chance that I allowed my melancholia to win, plugged my headphones into one of my old and dead phones (with which I can never seem to find the courage to part ways), and pretended to have a conversation with someone while walking through the living room, past all of those judgmental eyes (author’s note: I’m pretty sure the intent which I’ve ascribed was entirely in my head), and out the door, waving meekly at those with whom I’d failed to completely avoid eye contact.

At that point, my intention was to rid myself of the burden of myself which I have, for a dozen years, inflicted on my wife. But, as I wandered in the outside world, free of the physical and social claustrophobia I’d been enduring for so many hours, I felt that, perhaps, it wouldn’t be fair to my wife for me to end my failure to her with an even larger one.

I bought a beverage for myself, and a pack of snack cakes for her, and came back to the apartment.

I wish that I could say that I managed to be sociable, or that she wasn’t deeply hurt by all I’d failed to do the night before, but I think we all know how these type of stories wind up ending.

And so I sit here in my bedroom, typing up my failures, and generally avoiding the family to which I pledged myself when I married Wildflower.

‘I wish that I could be someone who deserved her. I wish that I could be someone whom she deserved. But I remain myself, and seem destined to ruin everything between us until the day she meets someone who makes her happy (without a preponderance of tears), and decides to leave me.

Believe me when I say that this is not my ideal outcome, in terms of positive life choices, but I am honest enough with myself to recognize that she deserves some modicum of happiness (especially having had to endure over a decade of Tex Batmart), and this velvet voice inside my brain (the one I know to be a master misinterpreter of truths) assures me that I will never be the one to give that to her, nor, for that matter, am I even capable of providing her with that.

tl;dr- I suck as a human being, and especially as a husband.

Quod est dicere cum gravibus corde suo qui non est paternitas (and other poor translations)

We’re going to concede that this sweeping melancholia may, in fact, be a reaction to the increase in my medication, as well as the time of year. Despite the fact that this is the first year in a while in which I’ve not lost someone to the icy hands of death, I seem overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Nothing is going quite as I had hoped, and with every passing day, it seems that I can no longer recognize my victories, however insignificant.

Perhaps it’s that the house in which I spent the majority of formative years is passing into the hands of someone (as yet to be determined) else. Perhaps it’s that my expectations of my personal life are unrealistic, and that my dreams are simply too lofty for my ability to achieve them. Or perhaps it is the knowledge that I have failed my son in ways which I have not yet begun to comprehend. Regardless, it all seems to boil down to a single common denominator: the man who abdicated his role as my father.

Somehow, no matter how hard I try to convince myself, it seems that I cannot get over his absence, and what it meant for me. Was it my mother he was escaping, or was it myself? Had he remained, would I have grown up in toxic home, somewhere in Boise, Idaho, or would fatherhood have helped him to discover something within himself that would have transformed his pain to joy? Then again, have I?

How can I be an effective father, or for that matter, husband, if I still have yet to have made peace with myself? I must have written this dozens of times, but what if I’m not cut out for this? If I cannot figure out how to live with myself, how can I expect others to live with me? If I cannot figure out how to help myself get past the pains of adolescence, how can I hope to help David survive his own?

I have been in stasis since the onset of my disease, and, despite the strides I’ve made toward understanding the secrets of reality, that’s been merely and intellectual exercise. I’ve stagnated emotionally, and face the world, and all it holds, not with wisdom, but with the terror only a child can muster. And now I must square the circle, and reconcile these disparate parts within myself to become greater than the sum of my parts. 


My psychiatrist is worried that I’ll do something stupid, as I have made the mistake of being candid with her, but if I am to find a medication which works, I feel that honesty is probably best. But as much as she is concerned about the risk of self-harm, I cannot seem to get through to her that I have dreamed of little else but the cessation of existence for as long as I can recall.  For some reason, this answer doesn’t seem to satisfy her, no matter how many times I try to tell her that my desire for the end is not an active one, which I am seeking out, but rather a passive hope that one day I will permanently fail to wake. Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for her to have noticed, not that that should surprise me.


I have built up a coping mechanism over the years, though I wouldn’t say it’s healthy. I have found that humour, especially that involving wordplay, is am extremely effective balm for those around me. I slip silently into the mask of a clown, disarming the worry of those around me, and allowing them to believe that I’m okay. For me, however, it’s not as simple as screaming Dad Jokes into the Void. I mean it is that simple, but it’s not terribly effective at relieving the existential pain.

I suppose I should find it amusing that I am using Dad Jokes to combat the ache inside me where the love of a father should have been, but it only compounds the misery, and lets loose a sigh from betwixt my lips.

The only thing my father ever gave me was an inheritance of mental illness, which he, in turn, had been gifted by his father. And it looks as though I’ve regifted it once more to my own son. They say it’s better to give than to receive, but having lived these nearly three decades with Bi-Polar Disorder (Type 2- Neurochemical Bugaloo), I wish that I’d been able to hold on to it a while longer, instead of lavishing it upon my son.

So instead of facing this head-on, I merely cry at any presentation of interactions between fathers and sons, be they cinematic or literary, and seek out catharsis by proxy in the words and images of others. I would ask why there seems to be such a prevalence of estrangement, but I think I know the answer. Either that, or I am like a salmon, returning home to hurt, and allowing it to spawn. 

I cannot help but wonder how things might have been, had they been different from the start. Would I have loved my grandparents as much as I did? Would I have even known them? Would I have survived my adolescence? 

I am, at best, an ineffective husband, and a distant father. It’s easier for me to throw myself into work, than face having so fundamentally disappointed those who love me. 


I was hoping that by the time I’d reached this point, I would have come to one, or at the very least, managed to maintain on topic, but alas, it seems that my depression has held the reins all along, weaving me erratically between self-recriminations as I’ve tried to make my point. 

Depression lies, but it’s not really that.

Depression wouldn’t be deceptive if it could get caught in its own lies, for it is a master of half-truths, brutal and incapable of giving quarter. It reminds me of all of my failures, which I know are not untruths, but it also fails to allow me to acknowledge my victories, which is where its brilliance lies.

We are human, bound to the wheel of uncertainty and doubt, capable not only of exceeding expectations for unlikely successes, but for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Whispers in the dark remind me of my fears, but also cloud the revelations of the light of day.

Shall I step boldly forward toward the future, or cut my losses and congratulate this indifferent universe upon a game well-played? The candle which burns as proof against the monsters in the night is almost gone, and I don’t know if I’ve got it within me to find another before the light has finished sputtering and gone out.

But I will try. I will try for as long as I can, until the weight of it all will no longer let me rise. I will keep doing what my father never could: being there for my son. 


It’s one day at a time, which means no promises. But it also means no worries, at least not for today.

A Philosophical Exploration of the Reality of Self

I was in a spirited discussion  the other day regarding the nature of the conscious mind. My friend put forth the proposition (the Lord with prayer) that each day was a fresh start, and that we reinvent our selves (or should) constantly in an attempt to find and be our best selves, whereas I countered with the belief that we are narrative monkey fancypants who need a continuity of self and, while more than the sum of those parts, are in fact rooted to the memories of the past, informed and burdened by all that has gone before. To be fair, I’m making it sound like we were complete stoner nerds who were engaged in navel-contemplation, when, in fact, it was a tad less structured and slightly more respectable than that.

I am willing to concede that memories are ephemeral, and that, like time, at a fundamental level, it is merely a subjective concept, much as free will, or morality. In a sense, we do recreate our selves every day, constantly adrift in the ever-shifting concept of the present. As the past and future are constructs of the conscious mind, the only possible existence is of the present moment, albeit with a small delay for processing, and discounting, of course, all of the heavy editing that our brains engage in to keep us from going mad by sensory overload (such as eliminating our noses from our field of vision or blurring a bunch of still frames played at high speed to create the illusion of witnessable events occurring in “real time”.

If you factor in the predictive software that we are constantly running, allowing us to do simple things such as catch a ball or engage in anything moderately athletic, and it gets even weirder.

What we perceive, then, is not the present, but the amalgamation of events transpiring microseconds in a scatter plot surrounding the now.

Given this, it is my hypothesis that, due to the fact that we are bizarrely evolved apes, we must construct a narrative built of the past, of everything which has transpired (whether or not it actually happened) in order to give ourselves meaning. This is how lessons are learned, progress is made, society is formed, and neuroses are developed.

We are the stories we tell ourselves, be they novels or collections of short stories. Seasons of television with story arcs, or a jumble of episodes held together by a cast of characters and similar settings. We are Westworld or we are Cheers, and there is no spoon.

But is there a middle path, threading the needle between the extremes? Is it possible that there is some common ground between constant reinvention and thralldom to the storied which we tell ourselves? And if there is no spoon, how are we to eat soup or cereal, or even ice cream?

The answer is that we must create the spoon, while understanding that it is but a tool, an artifice of ape-based genius, and not something which exists in its own right.

We must learn to dream lucidly, aware that we are but stories we tell ourselves, both protagonist and author. And while we cannot change what’s come before (even though we do it every day), we can and must interfere with our own narratives from time to time if we are to take control of the trajectories of our own lives.

We are the principles upon which Heisenberg built his uncertainties. My friend knew who she was, and therefore could no longer see the countless possibilities of where it was that she might go, where as I know the arc of the narrative which I’ve come to know as me, and yet have not a clue as to where exactly within it I am now,

This is oversimplification, obviously, for she has hopes and dreams, and has learned from what has come before, while on occasion, I have been known to have some sense of what is going on within me at any given moment.

The fact is that we are neither wholly creatures of the now, nor are we neverending stories that we tell. We are chimeras of subjective reality. We are both the spirit and the flesh. Ghosts in meat sacks, held up by skeletons, fueled by our consumption of the dead. Fine-haired monkeys, crippled by anxiety.

We are who we were and what we choose to be.

So curl up with a good book about yourself, sip your warm evening beverage, and tell yourself a bedtime story about who you’ll be tomorrow.


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!”


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…


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.


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?


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!

Exploring the Universe through Snark

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