Squinting at the Light

I am the first one to realize how long I have had this blog on hiatus.  Over a month is very out of character for me.  I have no illusions that there are hordes of people who hang on every word I post here, the same way people crowded the docks of New York and Baltimore for new shipments of Dickens’ novels.  My blogging this afternoon is one of the positive signs that I’m emerging from a mental lethargy that has consumed me much of the summer.  For the past week, however, I feel like I’m emerging from the mental haze and back into life.  (Also, I’m doing a once-over-gently allusion to I Peter 2:9 here.)

The lack of blog entries is a sign of what I suspect may have been a serious bout of depression.  At no time was I suicidal, nor did I (or anyone else) think hospitalization would be necessary.  However, my inactivity and overall lack of energy and drive worried me.  One red flag was when I looked at the current volume of my diary.  It is a 200-page composition book, and I wrote in this volume for the first time on May 1.  Today is August 7, and I am only up to page 57.

Per my Casio Data Bank watch, it is now 2:26 in the afternoon, Eastern Daylight Savings Time.  I am not at work right now because my CPAP machine kept acting up, and it was nearly impossible for me to sleep.  I was finally dozing off into a restful state when my alarm sounded.  I had just enough strength to phone my supervisor and tell her I wouldn’t be coming in, and then fell back into bed… and was unable to sleep.  (This is due to a combination of the CPAP, which is in need of a new data card with new settings, and Nuvigil, the wakefulness drug I just started.  The Nuvigil may be working too well at the moment.  My body needs to get used to it.)

Getting out of the house and onto the trike worked pretty well for me.  A trike ride has yet to fail to rejuvenate me–I keep hoping I can get my psychiatrist to declare it medically necessary, so my insurance will pay for it.  I had a great ride to the Ohio State campus, and to Thompson Library, where I am sitting in the lab typing this.

A week from tomorrow, I will be on the road.  Susie has spent the summer in Florida with her mom, and I will be making my first journey to the Sunshine State on ther 15th.  On that night, I’m hopping a Greyhound to Orlando.  It’ll be a 22-hour trip, with an hour-long transfer in Atlanta.  I’ll spend two full days in Merritt Island, and on Sunday morning, Susie and I will fly back to Columbus via Southwest Airlines.  This will be the first time I’ve flown on an airplane since 1983, when I lived in Boston, and used airplanes semi-regularly to get to Ohio or to Washington, D.C.  I will have some pictures and blog entries from this trip.

A definite step in the right direction for me was my 26-hour road trip to Washington, D.C. the weekend before last.  A friend invited me on Facebook, and I accepted, and was surprised at how underwhelmed I was about the whole thing.  Usually a trip to Washington has me stoked with adrenaline from head to toe.

This was a rally to ban fracking, an issue which affects many natives of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and upstate New York.  In my childless days, I paid little attention to environmental issues, shrugging it off by saying, “The world can do what it wants after I’m dead,” but that whole picture changed once I became a parent.

The Stop the Frack Attack took place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.  We left Columbus just after midnight from the Franklin University parking lot, and made it to Washington (by way of Interstates 68 and 70) just after 8 a.m.

I like schedules like this.  The rally itself didn’t start until 1:30, so I had plenty of time for walking around Washington.  Washington is a very pedestrian-friendly city, although it is tropical in the summer.  I had no plans to join any guided tours.  They always try to hurry you through too many sites in too little time.  The bus dropped us off at Union Station, and I got my backpack and began walking toward Chinatown.

I had an 11:30 lunch date with my friend Robert Nedelkoff, the man the British Museum and the Library of Congress consults for accuracy.  We had several emails flying back and forth between Columbus and Silver Spring about just where we were going to meet for lunch.  My first choice had been The Tombs, a bar and restaurant in Georgetown a block or two from the famous Exorcist stairs.  Looking at a map made me realize that Georgetown was a little too off track for going to the rally.  I would have had to inhale my lunch and then catch the Metro toward Capitol Hill.  So we agreed to meet at Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy in Foggy Bottom, where we had eaten before.

My walk through Chinatown was to look at Wok and Roll, the Chinese restaurant at 604 H St. NW.  Robert and I had eaten there before, but my interest is because, in 1864 and 1865, it was the Surratt boarding house, the meeting place for John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators as they plotted the abduction (and eventual assassination) of Abraham Lincoln.  For her hospitality, the owner of the boarding house, Mrs. Mary Surratt, was hanged in July 1865, the first woman executed by the Federal Government.

The William Petersen House, also known as The House Where Lincoln Died, 516 10th St. NW in Washington.  Visting this place and Ford’s Theater (even when I don’t have the time to go inside) is, in a way, my equivalent of visiting the Western Wall.

Robert had asked me when was the last time I visited D.C. as a tourist.  I couldn’t pin down the date, except that it had to be pre-1994, because when I visited JFK’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Jackie was still alive and not buried there.  In 2000, when my dad died, I sent his obituary to the alumni office at his alma mater, the Catholic University of America.  A woman called me to let me know they were going to say a Mass in his honor.  I wanted to go to it, but a day or two before the Mass took place, I awoke with a very bad case of the flu and walking pneumonia, and my travel was restricted to the bedroom and the bathroom.  Trips between the two felt like climbing Everest.

Ancestors on my mother’s side owned and operated coal mines in Noble County, Ohio, and my late uncle, Glenn McKee, often wrote in his poetry about the mine fires and the mined-out coal country of that part of Ohio.  I took comfort in the fact they were probably rolling in their graves if they knew I was headed to Washington to protest fracking.

The truly joyous event of the trip to Washington was reuniting with an old friend.  The name Bill McKibben is quite familiar to anyone in environmental circles.  He is the founder of 350.org, an organization dedicated to solving the climate and earth crisis.  He is also the author of The End of Nature and The Age of Missing Information.  (The latter is the only book of his I have read, I confess.)

Bill graduated from Harvard in 1982, three months before my arrival in Boston.  He had been president of The Harvard Crimson, which would become my employer and the focus of my life and activity.  After he graduated from Harvard, he worked at The New Yorker, writing many of its “Talk of the Town” columns.  Bill grew up in Lexington, Mass., just outside of Cambridge, and he would often stop in The Crimson‘s building on Plympton St. to visit when he was up from New York to visit his parents.

While he worked for The New Yorker, he volunteered as an advisor for the newspaper for an inner-city Manhattan high school.  When the paper folded, he came to Cambridge and asked me, and one or two others, to typeset the farewell issue.  (This was also the night of The Crimson‘s annual Alumni Dinner.  After the fête at the Sheraton Commander Hotel, I went to work on the copy.  A true Kodak moment: I was sitting at the CRTronic Linotype, my jacket draped over the back of the chair, my sleeves rolled up, the knot of my tie hanging down to mid-breastbone, and a can of Michelob at one hand and a can of Coke at the other.  And yet the finished product looked beautiful.)

I suspected Bill would be one of the speakers, because he is a superstar in the environmental movement.  The center of activity was a small dais on the West Capitol lawn, facing toward the Washington Monument (closed since the 2010 minor earthquake).  And I was not disappointed.  Bill was the third or fourth speaker.

I was able to shoot a video of Bill’s speech, and my batteries miraculously lasted long enough to get the entire thing.  I had the foresight to bring extra batteries for the camera, so I was able to shoot even more video and still pictures.

This is not my video of Bill McKibben, however I do make a Hitchcock-like appearance in front of the platform.

Once Bill stepped off the platform, I went to meet him.  “Hey, Bill.  It’s Paul Evans, from The Crimson!”  He laughed and hugged me, and said, “How are you doing, brother?”  I thought he would remember me, because we had some common ground, however slight, other than The Crimson.  His mother was born in Parkersburg, W.Va., as was I.  (Whenever I’m tempted to ridicule West Virginia–a very popular sport when I was growing up–I try to bear in mind that I was born in Parkersburg because “advanced” Marietta had no obstetrician/gynecologist in 1963.)

I handed the camera to someone nearby, and immortalized the moment.


Your intrepid diarist and Bill McKibben, July 28, 2012, West Lawn of the United States Capitol.

What truly inspired me was the undercurrent of happiness and positive focus that guided this demonstration.  I am not echoing the thoughts of New Age gurus who will happily collect your money and tell you that the victims of Hurricane Katrina should have thought more positively, and that six million Jews died under the Nazis because they chose to.  Hubert Humphrey spoke (somewhat naïvely) about “the politics of joy” at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago as police were breaking protestors’ skulls with clubs and arresting reporters, delegates, and protestors en masse.  At many peace march and political gatherings, I have often felt an undercurrent of hostility, of people who were itching for fights, and who delibertely tried to “sow dragons’ teeth,” which my English teacher Mrs. Curtis always warned us never to do.
I witnessed this when it came to a head in November 1982, when a march against the Ku Klux Klan in Washington degenerated into rock-throwing, tear gas, vandalism, and arrests.  I was on the receiving end of tear gas, and have chronicled the experience here, in an earlier entry in this blog.
After the speakers left the podium, everyone took to the streets from Capitol Hill.  There were about 5000 people, shouting and displaying every pun based on the word frack you can imagine (My personal favorite: GOD HATES FRACKS, a variation on the signs the Westboro Baptist Church alleged humans carry).  There was no parade permit, but the police stood by and watched.  Since we weren’t all mobbing the streets like the rejects from Attila the Hun’s army, they could relax.  We were a celebratory mob.  A young woman who was on the bus from Columbus periodically stepped out of the street and gave water bottles, sandwiches, and bread to homeless people sitting on benches nearby.
Only one time did I fear that the march would veer out of control.  We converged on the American Petroleum Institute on L St. NW, on a Saturday when the doors were locked and no one was at work, save for a lone unarmed security guard in the lobby, who probably earned minimum wage.  I’m sure all he wanted was to listen to the baseball game on the radio, but then here comes this mob that surrounds the entrance in a semi-circle, chanting, “The water!  The water!  The water’s on fire!” with the responding, “We don’t need no fracking, let the corporations burn!”  (This was a parody of “The Roof Is On Fire,” by Rockmaster Scott & the Dynamic Three, which I heard way too many times in the bars when I was at Ohio University.)  The energy level was so high that I was afraid at some point someone would toss a trash can or brick through the glass doors.  That would have been my cue to leave.  (To echo the words of Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.”)
The march ended at Franklin Square, at 14th and K Sts., NW.  Many of the people opted to jump into the fountain in the center of the park.  This was pure spontaneity, and I doubt anything on the march was choreographed or pre-arranged.  There was no street theater or political statement to it.  The temperature was around 85° F., with relative humidity hovering around 82% all day.  (This, by D.C. standards, is cool for summertime.)  Only a person extremely self-disciplined and -denying would not have been tempted to get in the fountain.  (I didn’t get in, but I stayed near the lip of the fountain and was “accidentally” splashed a few times.)

Franklin Square, Washington, D.C.  “Whose water?”  “OUR WATER!!”  A far cry from the way the park appeared in The Lost Symbol.

Our bus was back in Columbus by 2 a.m. Sunday morning.  I thought about sleeping on the way home, but I was keyed up from the experience, and didn’t even read while we came home along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I was content to look out the window.  Once home, despite my exhaustion, I was up until well past dawn loading pictures and video to my Facebook page.
And I dreaded that a crash was coming.  After an event that is so exhilarating it stokes the adrenaline, once the stimuli disappears, the letdown is bad, especially for someone with bipolar disorder.  I tried to keep in mind the Facebook maxim “Don’t cry because it’s over, laugh because it happened,” and I was fortunate enough to have a full load of work when I came to work the following Monday.
This was important, because as much as I dread typing certain doctors (one sounds like he dictates after happy hour, another one sounds like he moonlights as an auctioneer), it is good for me to be busy.  Over the last several years, I have noticed that boredom leads to severe depression for me.  This is the type of situation that made me understand Sherlock Holmes’ rationalization of his cocaine habit in The Sign of Four.  Presented with problems, work, or crime, Sherlock Holmes could leave his syringe alone.  When his mind was idle (“My mind rebels at stagnation,” he told Dr. Watson), that was when he would turn to cocaine.
That route has not tempted me, neither cocaine nor anything else.  Since Susie was an infant, I have not had any beverage stronger than Diet Pepsi, nor used any unprescribed drug.  So, bored as I was, I never considered relapsing.  (The hardcore Straight Edge people, however, would not consider me one of their own, because of my excessive caffeine consumption and the fact that I eat meat.)
I have to constantly guard, however, against my current rejuvenated feeling veering off into a manic episode.  I have been conscientious about taking my lithium twice daily, but it can only control mania or depression, not stop it.  Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, I probably cannot legally own a firearm, because I have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility in the past.
That’s probably a good thing.  Gun control pro and con has been all over the news this summer, because of the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado and this Sunday’s massacre in the Sikh temple just outside Milwaukee.  When Mitt Romney and President Obama take to the campaign trail after Labor Day, I am sure there will be plenty of idiots who want to get their names in the history books by killing them.
As a bipolar person, I understand that it would be stupidity for me to have a handgun in the house.  Not because Susie would find it and play with it–when she was in Florida last December, Steph took her to a firing range and let her target shoot, and the paper target now hangs on Susie’s bedroom wall.  Either end of the bipolar pendulum could spell disaster for me.  I would not use a gun on someone else, but in a moment of extreme mania I could find myself thinking how much fun it would be to shoot out street lights, or to see what would happen if I blew a hole in the living room ceiling.  And on the extreme depressive end of the scale… use your imagination, gentle reader.
As long as I’ve been typing this, I feel like I’ve gone a few laps on a treadmill.  Maybe it is a good sign that once I logged on here and began typing a blog entry, the struggle was not to produce the next word, but the biggest difficulty was stopping. 
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NaNoWriMo – 30 –

And this year it ended triumphantly for both Susie and me!  Completely in character for me, I was working on my project until the bitter end, logging 50,028 words when I submitted it to the NaNoWriMo Website for verification.  I sent it in around 4:40 on Wednesday afternoon, and Susie followed around 9 p.m. the same evening.  Very little incentive to cheat, since bragging rights and a neat little graphic for your Facebook page are really the only “prizes” you win.

The contest has not been without cost.  Susie has been sick with a sore throat and a headache (she even stayed home from school today, which has been completely out of character for her since she started at The Graham School), and I have been rather draggy and unmotivated in both physical and mental energy.  I’ve had a hard time focusing at work, and seem to want to sleep more than usual.  I’ve always liked wintertime, so I can’t rightly attribute it to seasonal affective disorder, but I do find myself in a bit of a slump mentally.  My way of celebrating the completion of the project was going to bed before midnight for the first time in God knows how long.  I am hoping that this cafard will only be temporary, and, since Susie is going down to Florida for Christmas break, I really need to keep it from getting out of control.  (Again, cafard is a word that I picked up from reading The Journals of John Cheever.  He experienced enough of it for 10 people.)

Just by re-reading the two paragraphs I just typed, I can see that I’ve made some progress in coming out of NaNoWriMo mode.  To wit, I am using contractions again.  As a way to pad my word count, during the narrative of the novel, I stopped using contractions.  (I continued to use them in dialogue, and I admit that dialogue has never been my strong suit when it came to writing.)

My manuscript was called Founder’s Day, and Susie’s was/is Vengeance is Sweeter.  I am not sure what the fate of mine will be.  Even as I was writing it, I knew that I am capable of much better, and that I was pouring on the excess verbiage for the mere purpose of increasing my word count.  If you have ever seen You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, or listened to a recording of the music, you would understand what I was doing by following Lucy’s part in “The Book Report.”  Right now, Founder’s Day is hermetically sealed on my hard drive, and I can’t even bring myself to open the file, let alone start editing it.  I have a feeling that I may be working on it from the ground up if I ever decide to write it with an eye toward publication.  (And yes, I do have fantasies that it ends up being my breakthrough book, and then years later, I’ll do what Stephen King did with The Stand and publish “the NaNoWriMo edition.”)

I left work early today to run some errands (paying rent and getting a long overdue beard trim headed the list), and when I came back home, Susie was fast asleep in her bedroom.  I followed her lead and collapsed for an hour or so in my room.  But, she is awake now, and it is amazing what a little food did to perk her back up.  (I think the fact that she wants to go to the Marriage Equality rally downtown with me tomorrow morning, and see her friend in Romeo and Juliet at Dominion Middle School tomorrow night, may also have played a role.)

Another temporary casualty of NaNoWriMo has been that–completely out of character for me–I have barely written in my diary for all of November.  I guess what energy I did have, I poured into the NaNoWriMo project, and I was either too written out or too exhausted to turn my attention and energy to the pages of the composition book that always comes in my knapsack with me.  One of the reasons I’m writing in the blog tonight is to see if that will kick-start me toward resuming daily diary entries.  I don’t want to be as meticulous or as compulsive as the late Robert Shields, but when I go back and open the book, with my pen in hand, I am going to feel like I’m meeting someone and having to explain to them why I haven’t called them back.

I posted on Columbus Underground about needing to find someone to repair my Royal Royalite manual typewriter, and have yet to follow up on the suggestions folks posted in response.  I wish I could have used it for NaNoWriMo, but that would not have been practical, since you need to cut and paste your finished product into their Website so they can verify your word count.  Here is a picture of the Royalite, which has been on the receiving end of much abuse from me, in my old home office in Franklinton:

I loathed almost every TV series he produced, but, in the pre-YouTube days, I always loved seeing the ending credits of any Stephen J. Cannell program.  (Cannell, who died last year, produced 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The A-Team.)  It is especially appropriate to post, as someone who “won” NaNoWriMo:

(I can never decide which one I like best, so this one seems to be the most inclusive.)

Here I Come to Save the Day!

When the start-of-quarter rush ended at Columbus State Community College, I left the bookstore thinking I would not be back again until December.  I was grateful for the extra money, and usually the job is fun, but at the same time I felt bad about leaving Susie home alone.

Yesterday, I came back from lunch and read a panicked email from my supervisor at the Discovery Exchange. The night manager was unable to come in on Wednesday, Thursday, or Monday.  I know it’s last-minute, but could you possibly…?

It didn’t take long for me to hit Reply and say “yes,” I would be there.  I left Susie a voice-mail message, and typed an email to her, telling her I’d be home late, and to leave me some food in the Crock-Pot, and be sure her homework was finished.  And when 5 p.m. came, I did not head north to Baja Clintonville, but walked the 0.8 miles to the bookstore.

Once I stepped through the front door, it felt like I had only left the day before, not two weeks.  Cashiers who worked with me before said hi, the coordinator handed me my old apron (a black apron with my round name tag and my Buy Local! pin), and I had been upstairs less than a minute before I was pushing a book cart and shelving buybacks and returns.

No class at Columbus State uses this textbook, but the title is just too good not to share!

The temporary bookstore gig has also been helpful to my mood.  After the initial euphoria and adrenalin about the move, and the splendor of our new place, wore off, I began to sense the red flags that signal a depressive episode.  We often tell children, “Listen to your body” when we toilet-train them, so they don’t have accidents in their pants, but too often we don’t “listen” to the symptoms that indicate a depressive (or manic) episode is just around the corner.

The lack of energy, the urge to sleep all the time, no motivation (despite having a crap ton of work to do to get this place ready for visitors and to look like we live here–as opposed to crashing here), all of it was starting to worry me.  I made it a point to refill my lithium prescription at CVS on Tuesday, since this would not be the time to run out of it.

So, armed as I was with a 30-day supply of lithium carbonate, the email from my supervisor was an added bonus.  I felt honored that he turned to me in this semi-crisis.  It would be unrealistic for me to write or believe that I am unneeded–as a single parent, and as a full-time civil servant, it would be the epitome of self-pity, and completely unjustified at that.  Nevertheless, it improved my mood and my overall mental level of functioning when I received this email.  Feeling needed in a crisis is a positive supplement to the extra money I will earn as a result of this.

I’m glad to be inside.  The rain is falling outside.  No thunder or lightning, but there is a steady rainfall just outside my window, an interesting counterpoint to the crickets.  It’s 61 degrees outside–I walked from the bus stop to my house with my shirtsleeves up.  We had spaghetti ready to go in the Crock-Pot when I arrived home, but I had to run an errand to the little market around the corner to buy some vegetable oil and Parmesan cheese.  It was misting at that time, but the sky was cloudy.  Now the rain has begun to fall.  And it’s having a tranquilizing effect on me, which is a good thing.  (I was virtuous and drank Diet Rite this evening, which is caffeine-free and taste-free.)

Making Cracks in the Block

I never thought that I was subject to seasonal affective disorder.  Quite the opposite; as a child, I loved winter and couldn’t wait for the first snowfall.  I had a tolerance for cold that amazed many of the kids I knew.

I’m not sure if it was the winter solstice, or all of the events and the upcoming transitions in my life, but I am coming off of what I now see is a bout of major depression.  The return (hopefully to last awhile) of the warm weather, and the fact that it actually feels like spring here in Columbus, have perked up my mood quite a bit.  I am not euphoric–far from it–but in the last few days I’ve found myself wanting to do more than just crawl into bed once Susie’s asleep.

(With the advent of my single parenthood this summer, I have come to realize that slacking off on therapy, and being lackadaisical about medication, are luxuries that I can no longer indulge.  I have a lithium prescription in my wallet at this very moment, and as soon as my current supply runs low, my next stop is the Kroger pharmacy.  When I wasn’t much younger than Susie is now, I watched my mother cycling back and forth–often in very short intervals–from one pole to the other.  Her extremes were more frightening to watch than mine, but I want Susie to see as little of it as possible.)

After I was done sulking at the inaccessibility of the OSU card catalog to us common folk, I rooted around in the over-the-shoulder bag, the portable office, that I always have with me.  I was surprised to find that I had a blank spiral notebook with me.  (I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I’m more likely to leave the house minus my keys than minus a notebook–of any size–or a pen.  My fascination with notebooks is public record, after all.)  I sat down, took out my pen, and began jotting down ideas for a “sort of memoir.”  (That phrase is the subtitle of Stewart Alsop’s Stay of Execution, a book about his leukemia diagnosis.)

I’ve filled four or five single-spaced pages thus far.  I added more yesterday when Susie and I were at Travonna, a 24-hour coffee house on N. High St. just south of W. 5th Ave.  The working title of this project is My Night Life, using my nocturnal habits, activities, and escapades as a backdrop to an exposé of my parents’ (especially my father’s) non-existent parenting skills.  (For example, when I was 11, he would frequently disappear after dinner to the apartment of the woman who would become my stepmother, without a phone number or a way to reach him.  My mother was in the psychiatric hospital in Worthington at the time, so was of no help.  Dad thought nothing of the fact that he would come home at 10:30 or 11 and find me wide awake, school night or not.)  Other passages, which exist only in my head at present, will deal with my fascination with late-night television, especially movies.  I think the faithful readers of this blog figured that out long ago, with my repeated references to Nite Owl Theater and the All Night Theater in this blog and the earlier incarnation on LiveJournal.  (When I was 14 or so, I totally understood Howard Hughes’ turning Las Vegas TV station KLAS into his personal VCR.  Hughes, living reclusively in the penthouse of the Desert Inn, wanted the station to show movies all night.  Once the station played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and signed off for the night, there was no buffer between him and his many inner demons.  Hughes kept badgering KLAS’ owner to show all-night movies, and the owner said that if he wanted that, why didn’t he just buy the station?  Hughes did.  In recounting this anecdote, I’m wondering if I was watching TV late into the night for similar reasons.)

I am just glad to be writing again, even if it’s only a few pages here and there.  I have maintained the blog, and I’m thankful I never made any public (or private) commitment to post something here every day.  And I am managing to write in the holographic diary.  I’m now about halfway through the current 200-page composition book I use.  But these have been major projects.  While looking for a batch of CDs I had misplaced, I found the fat 1983 New Yorker diary that I used to plot the outline of a larger fiction project, and actually put off the search for the disks to jot down some new ideas.  It’s a start; best not to make any commitments about when I’m going to get back to work on the fiction itself.

Last week, I streamed an interview from WGBH-FM in Boston, from the Website for the movie Hypergraphia, the upcoming biopic about Arthur Crew Inman, the reclusive wealthy poet whose only talents were his 155-volume diary and wringing his hands about all his imaginary ailments.  One of the guests on The Callie Crossley Show was Alice Flaherty, a neurologist who has written a book about hypergraphia.  Frankly, I wish I had this condition (although some people have suggested I have a mild form of it).  I recently watched a DVD of a documentary, In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger, about a Chicago artist who died in 1973.  He escaped an orphange while a teenager, and earned a living at janitorial and unskilled labor jobs at various Catholic hospitals in Chicago.  When his landlords cleaned out his room after he died, they found literally millions of drawings and paintings, as well as a complete novel, over 14 thousand single-spaced typewritten pages.

Barely a tip of the iceberg of Henry Darger’s manuscripts.

I found the story fascinating, and went to see if the library had the book Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal.  They did, but only a reference copy that could not leave the library.  I was in for another shock: The cheapest used copy I could find online was $600!
Maybe I’m hoping his hypergraphia will rub off on me.

Entry C

This is the 100th entry in this blog since I jumped ship from LiveJournal.  (The C in the title is the Roman numeral for 100.)  It’s a momentous occasion, much like when I was a kid, watching the odometer roll over at 10 thousand miles and seeing all those zeros appear.  I’ve been at a loss as to how I can mark this event.

I would have posted this centennial entry sooner, except for the fact that my mood’s stability has not been reliable from one moment to the next.  I suspect that my desperate overuse of ibuprofen last week has wreaked havoc on my lithium balance, so my body is not properly processing the 600 mg I take daily.  I haven’t been in a constant state of depression (I always picture that as being like Joe Btfsplk, the Li’l Abner character who constantly dressed in black and had a dark rain cloud above him at all times), but when I’m in a good mood about something, I fall from it twice as far as usual.  (It’s analogous to using sugar as a stimulant.  Yes, it will make you feel more awake, but once it wears off, you feel twice as wiped out as you did previously.)

Over the weekend, my mood was all over the map, but some of the reasons were legitimate.  On Saturday afternoon, Susie and I went to the Northside library.  She left before I did so she could play at the Weinland Park playground, and we agreed to meet at “the dollar store” at 3:15, so she could buy Christmas wrapping paper and some presents for her friends.

Cutting right to the chase, our scheduled meeting didn’t happen.  I left the library on time, and hurried to Family Dollar, a few blocks south.  I waited around for a decent interval, and bought a Diet Coke, so it wouldn’t look like I’d been loitering, and made it a point to sprint home via Weinland Park.  No one was there, so I headed home, getting worried.

Susie came in about 15 minutes after I arrived.  The thought, “Thank God she’s all right, I’m gonna kill her!” passed through my mind, but I didn’t have time to worry about it.  Steve was on his way by soon to pick me up so we could go to the Qabalah Christmas celebration, something I was afraid I was going to cancel if Susie was still at large.  (As it turned out, Susie and I got our wires crossed because she was at Dollar Tree, just across the street from the library, and I was at Family Dollar, a short walk away.  We forgot there was more than one “dollar store” near the library.)

The celebration was a blessed way to wind down from the worry and frustration regarding my miscommunication with Susie.  It was a ceremony that quite lent itself to turning inward, centering, and decompressing, and I needed it at that moment.  I know very little about mysticism, and it’s nothing that can be explained while standing on one foot.  The service was a Builders of the Adytum ceremony (adytum is Latin for “holy of holies”).  (Before I reveal my lack of knowledge any further, I’ll refer you to the Wikipedia entry on Hermetic Qabalah.  If nothing else, remember this spelling during those Scrabble games when you have a lone Q sitting on your tray and there’s no open U anywhere on the board.)

Monday night, I was saddened, not depressed.  I came home from a meeting and opened my Facebook page, and there was a note from a classmate.  “Paul, you need to check Dan’s page.”  I did this, and found out that my friend Dan Bush, with whom I reconnected (thanks to Facebook) a year ago, died this week in Tennessee.  His sister posted this news on his page.

I have heard no further details since that time, and several scenarios and possibilities are going through my mind.  Dan and I re-established contact in 2009, and he called me several times in the week that I was recuperating from my gallbladder surgery in February.  Additionally, we had communicated by email, Skype, and IM, and he was a frequent follower of this blog.

Dan and I were both active in the Audio-Visual Club at Marietta High School.  I joined because of a fascination with magnetic tape recording, and I knew A-V was the place for me when I sneaked a look at Playboy and found myself mooning over the stereo equipment advertised more than the centerfolds.  We were front and center doing lights for school assemblies and plays, and in our sophomore year, Dan and I were immortalized as we were setting the lights (I was setting lights before I was setting type!) for a community theater production of Man of La Mancha.  This picture appeared in the yearbook, I suspect, because the idea of me on a scaffold was appealing to quite a few people when I was in high school.  The picture appeared in the 1979 edition of the Orion, MHS’ yearbook, and, in Dan’s honor, I’ll post it here.  The picture is flipped, because I never have worn my watch on my right wrist, as it is in this picture.  (Yes, that beardless beanpole in the checked shirt is me!)

Many thanks to Robin Lynn Pyatt
Bellamy (Class of ’80) for scanning this
photo from the yearbook and emailing
it to me.
Four days off from work are coming, for the next two consecutive weeks.  I’ve ranted about the 10 mandatory days off (“cost-saving days”) demanded by our current union contract; December 23 and 30 are two of them.  The Agency will also be closed Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, since Christmas and New Year’s Day are both on Saturday this year.  We’ll open presents on Christmas morning, and that night Steve is taking us to the third episode of Nite Owl Theater‘s return, where Fritz will be showing (what else?) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.  (I remember when I was a teen my private way of celebrating Christmas, as I braced myself to pretend I could tolerate being with my family, was to watch the Pope’s midnight Mass from St. Peter’s in Rome.)
It’s just after 11 p.m., and I am making a trip to Kroger, since I’ve just realized we’re out of milk and eggs.  The walk isn’t a long one, and the temperature (per the Weather Channel icon at the bottom of my screen) is 30 degrees, so I won’t have to worry about getting too cold on the short trip.

Independence Day Long Weekend Almost Over

And how did I spend most of it?  I slept.  I wish I could say it was cleansing and restorative sleep, but I slept mostly to escape.  Worries about finances (or the lack thereof) and debts (of which there are many) have kept me from focusing on anything else.  I haven’t written in my diary, haven’t typed a word of the short story I meant to finish in May, and can’t stay on task with much.  So I took to my bed.

On Sunday, I did stir enough to take Susie to the Doo Dah Parade, an annual Short North tradition that combines the nationalism inherent in Independence Day with political and social satire.  Everyone threw dignity and caution to the winds and marched in the parade in various costumes.  Susie was bored waiting for the parade to start (it was late getting going), but perked up a bit when she saw one of her friends, and they took part in an (attempted) mass jump-rope.

Susie is on the end, dressed in red top and shorts.

After the parade, we picked up a late lunch at Subway in Graceland Shopping Center and brought it home.  I ate my meatball sub and drank my Sprite, and then slept until almost midnight.  There is no pattern or duration to how much I slept this weekend–I didn’t log it, because I didn’t think I would be doing so much of it.  The snoring must be under control, because when I collapsed so early Friday night, Steph thought I had been out all night.  This morning–very early–I made a trip to White Castle for Steph and me.
To counterbalance this rather dismal entry, here are some more pics from the parade:
Susie, surrounded by soap bubbles.

I wanted to get the whole car and float,  but this
was what I thought was most worth recording for
posterity.  My ultimate dream: President Obama
appoints Andrew Vachss U.S. Ambassador to
the Vatican.

The Marching Fidels, a staple of the Doo Dah Parade
since its beginning.

This picture should appear in the dictionary by
the definition of ubiquitous.
Fresh from a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.

Much more appealing McDonald’s ad than
the ones featuring the Hamburglar and
Mayor McCheese that I remember from
childhood.

I pose with two escaped serial killers.

Closest I’ve Come to Imitating the Late Hunter S. Thompson

The hands of the clock near 2 a.m., I have to be at my desk at work at 8, and yet I am sitting at the laptop, typing this blog.  One eye is on the screen, the other is on a bottle of hydrocodone I filled at Walgreen in the evening.  Soon I can take another dose.  The back of my mouth and the hinges of my jaw hurt like mad right now, since I spent about two and a half hours in the dentist’s chair after work today (I know it’s after midnight, but in my mind it’s still Thursday night).

So how do I resemble the inimitable and invulnerable (or so we thought for years) Hunter S. Thompson?  I’m writing with an eye toward taking narcotics.  (I don’t smoke, I don’t own a muster of peacocks, I no longer drink–and never cared for Wild Turkey when I did, I hate guns, and I look idiotic in sunglasses, so the good Doctor of Journalism hasn’t been my role model.)  But I’m sitting here with a bottle of Sierra Mist and the hydrocodone bottle flanking the keyboard, waiting until I can take another two pills.  I am always conscientious about waiting the prescribed period of time between doses whenever I use prescription narcotics.

After going nuclear yesterday about terrible customer service I’ve experienced earlier in the day, and rehashing bad experiences from the past, wouldn’t you know someone throws me a curve!  I scheduled my July 1 appointment around Memorial Day, and when the dentist’s receptionist left voice mail messages reminding me the date was coming up, I called after hours on Wednesday and said I had to cancel the appointment.  Due to my financial condition, I would have to cancel the appointment.

SEMI-TANGENT ALERT: A major symptom of depression is neglect of personal hygiene.  Remedies are usually easy when the depression lifts–a shower and some clean clothes, and you’re ready to face the world.  Dental hygiene is different.  Undoing the damage from inattention to your teeth is expensive and can’t be solved all at once.  When I decided to finally do something about repairing the years of damage caused by my neglect, inattention, and apathy, the biggest roadblocks for me were pain and expense, in that order.  Until I saw an ad during the local news portion of Good Morning America last year, I did not know there was such a thing as gentle dentistry or sedation dentistry.  I “auditioned” two or three dentists before making my first appointment for dental work.

And here’s the curve which balances the horror stories I described in my last entry.  I came back from my 10 a.m. break, and there was a message from my dentist’s receptionist.  The doctor was willing to work out a $15-per-month payment plan with me for what my insurance doesn’t cover, and the appointment was still mine if I wanted it.  I called and said I’d be there after work.

(Since I’m complimenting him so effusively, I don’t think he’ll mind my posting his name.  He is Joshua Clark, DDS, and his practice is High Street Dental.  You can find his Website here, and if you schedule an appointment, mention this blog.)

My previous experience, a deep cleaning, was a good one.  I won’t lie and say it was fun, but Dr. Clark and his assistants and hygienists eased me considerably through the process.  Before the appointment started, Dr. Clark asked me if I had ever used nitrous oxide before.

I laid my cards on the table.  I have undergone general anesthesia three times (tonsillectomy, plastic surgery, and gallbladder removal), so I’m sure I’ve used it legitimately.  I told him that I have used it recreationally.

TANGENT ALERT:  Once was shortly after I moved to Boston.  When I lived in Boston U.’s student ghetto, I was coming home from work one night and there was a party in full swing in one of the houses around the corner from my apartment on Commonwealth Ave.  I merged into the crowd and was soon part of the revelry.  Besides two kegs of beer, the centerpiece of the living room was a tall metal cylinder.  The hosts had attached a long rubber hose to the nozzle, and people would insert the hose into their mouths, and the person controlling the flow would adjust the gauge as people gestured, usually by making an up-up-up motion with their flat palms.  I took my turn, and felt the room spin round and round.  I staggered back from the tank, and I remember someone catching me under the armpits and seating me in a chair before I fell.  (I did learn from watching a woman taking her turn at the cylinder that it’s prudent to go to the bathroom beforehand.)

That was my introduction to nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, chemical formula N2O.  One of the people who lived in the house was an anesthesiology student at Tufts Medical Center, and he “borrowed” one of the tanks for the party.  I had known about laughing gas, because I knew some kids at Marietta High School who loved to use whippits, but I had never tried them at that time.

My other prolonged experience was about a decade later.  I was visiting a friend in St. Louis for Thanksgiving, and wondered why his best friend and the best friend’s girlfriend seemed to buy Reddi-wip five or six cans at a time.  I was naïve enough to think they just loved pumpkin pie.  It was Thanksgiving, after all.  But that didn’t explain why they would let them soak in a kitchen sink full of hot water for several hours.

My friend’s friend was an able tutor.  Put the nozzle in your mouth, spray while inhaling, and keep spraying until your lungs were full.  The whipped cream was now a useless glob at the bottom of the can.  Reddi-wip (sometimes called “giggle cream”) uses nitrous oxide as a propellant, I learned.  I did as instructed, and all of us were in a living room with deep shag carpeting.  I remember noticing that my vision cleared up totally to 20/20 for that minute.  There was a lifting feeling, almost like I was straying from my body for a minute, and I lay back on the floor, keeping a firm grip on the shag carpeting, like I was hanging on during a fast ride.  There was total silence in the room.  I looked around, and everyone was lying on the floor, unmoving, intent on the ceiling, each in his/her own thoughts, and loving it.  It was over a minute before I felt like I was coming back to myself.  No hangover, no craving for seconds, and it would clear my system in minutes.

BACK ON POINT AT LAST: Dr. Clark fed me an almost continuous supply of nitrous oxide through a rubber nasal mask during the procedure.  He used a long Q-Tip to apply a topical gel, and during the procedure this evening I was totally oblivious to the fact that he had injected my gums with Novocaine.  At worst, it felt like he had nicked a canker sore.  My shut-eye last night was minimal, so I was soon fast asleep, but I was “with it” enough to respond to requests like “Tilt your head back, please” or “Open a little wider, please.”  He pulled several wisdom teeth, did a thorough cleaning, and when he was finished, switched the nitrous to pure oxygen to bring me around.

My tongue and lips felt very thick, and I was slurring my words.  This wasn’t because of the nitrous, but because I had two big pieces of gauze in my mouth.  Both Dr. Clark and the receptionist assured me my lips and tongue looked normal, which was good news.  I felt like I was wearing those brightly colored wax lips that kids used to like to wear on Hallowe’en when I was in grade school.

Nitrous’ effects clear when you walk out into fresh air, so I was able to walk to the nearby Kroger to pay my electric bill and buy my July bus pass.  (As you’ll recall from my previous entry, Fringe Benefits Management Company’s people are too busy playing Farmville and Sudoku online all day to call me to ask why my bus pass came back to them, and ask if there was another address they should use.)  Steph could see the residual effects of the nitrous oxide in the way I almost drifted into the front room when I came home.

More importantly, she was quite pleased with Dr. Clark’s handiwork.  Two or three appointments, and the work will be completed.