More Drug Follies

Not the fun ones.

I’m talking crazymeds again.

Last night I began my withdrawal from Clozapine and began transitioning to a milder, somewhat analogous anti-psychotic, Zyprexa.

It was a hard night, marked by chest pressure and dreadful squirming anxiety. I have nine more nights of that to go. I am hoping it works itself out along the way. However, the good news is that I did wake up as myself this morning (I left open the possibility I would be delusional and hospitalized) and almost felt good about it. I put my Olly Stress Gummies, a Klonopin and my Koi CBD tincture on board, which if you are looking for an efficacious way to deal with stress the product works like a motherfucking charm. Lots of folks don’t seem to get anything from CBD, but I believe in the compound 100%. Caveat emptor though-you get what you pay for when looking for effective CBD. But anyway, today feels normal-not completely so as I will not be free of Clozapine for another sixteen days, but as I said, better than expected.

I’ve been on Zyprexa before, and if I recall I didn’t have the side effects that were common at all. That’s a stark contrast to my experience with Clozapine, where I suffered from several of the known side effects. Zyprexa has a lighter touch overall, which is weird because its side effect sheet is a mile long. It doesn’t carry a black box warning for me, and that’s a bit of a relief. It’s formulated to control bipolar with mania, and that’s exactly what turned my life upside down in that grim summer of 2008. Since then I’ve been on a lot of shit trying to figure what works best. If I recall right, Zyprexa didn’t do a whole lot to calm my ass so we’re going to have to work on that once I am truly free from Clozapine. That is the main thing I need to concentrate on. I am not going to tell my provider at this point that I regard Zyprexa as a bridge drug.

What I don’t like about this switch is that it’s going to do nothing to help some emergent liver issues I’m having. As antipsychotics go, Clozapine is the reigning king for necrotizing the liver, and Zyprexa follows close behind. So I’m gonna keep pestering my providers to find something that doesn’t put so much of a hurt on it. There’s things like Abilify that control bipolar with mania and is not metabolized at all by the liver.

One thing at a time, though. Eventually I will find a balance for mind and body, being mindful that in the end no drug regimen will be perfect.

The Worst Debate That This Planet Has Ever Known

Despite an anxiety condition, I decided to put the debate on.

That was the wrong move. I was up all night with palpitations.

I expressed the thought that Trump was going to turn it into a circus to a friend, but I never thought it would get as out of hand as it did.

Ever hear of the Gish Gallop?

That’s what Trump did for the 50 minutes of the debate that I could stand. He launched fusillades of filibustering untruths and they came so fast and so furious that it would take Joe Biden days to refute all of it.

Chirs Wallace lost control of the debate completely. Each candidate could have two minutes to respond to an issue he brought up. But Donald Trump steamrolled right over that rule. He wouldn’t give anyone, including Wallace, a chance to speak.

I don’t know what’s worse; a terrible moderator or a terrible debater. But both of those were on display last night.

Regarding Joe; he was a little nervous at the start, offering a shaky answer as to why Coney-Barrett was the wrong choice for the Court. He could have elucidated the hypocrisy of the Republicans for creating the rule that no president should seat a nominee in an election year. Instead, he offered two reasons: Obamacare and Roe. OK.

And that was the end of the sanity.

It devolved rather quickly into a crosstalking, grating miasma. And Wallace let it all happen. Biden couldn’t get a word in edgewise; at one point he asked the president to shut up because of his incessant babbling.

I hear there were other moments but I called time of death of the debate at 9:50pm. Forty more minutes of that shit was a bridge too far for me.

I imagine there will be calls for moderators to mute microphones to obviate whatever it was that happened last night. I also think Joe Biden has standing to decline debating Trump again. There’s clearly nothing we can learn when these two men get in a room together. Frankly, I am surprised Joe didn’t swear, leave the stage or pop Trump for denigrating the lives of his boys.

Trumpers will be thrilled at the outcome of the debate; to them, he must have “dominated” since he threw everything but the kitchen sink. The more reasonable among us will disagree because he showed a serious lack of self control unbound by rules and custom. It’s alright for a debate to get a little contentious, that’s expected. But one was reminded here of the proverbial pigeon who walks around shitting on the chessboard claiming victory. We’re reminded of what a piss poor president he truly is; a man not confident at all to state his positions calmly. A man with no command of facts or depth. Insults instead of insight.

In 2016, we deserved Donald Trump for one reason or another. This is 21st century America and it turns out that it’s a suckier place to live than one might have thought. But I would like to think some of us have learned a little over the course of these godforsaken years since then.

One thing is clear: the fact that this election is going to be anything less than a runaway for Joe Biden is cause for lots of fucking worry.

Forty Days And Forty Nights

That’s a long time to go without writing on a blog. I’ve seriously thought about quitting, but it’s not necessarily because I want to. There are a couple of factors limiting my output.

#1: I’m getting off Clozapine. I intimated in some recent blog posts that the heady atypical antipsychotic was actually helping me gain perspective on some “stuck” memories, events and situations I involuntarily flash to that torture me in ways large and small mostly when I try to sleep. They turned out to be OK stories, some of my longest work. So why am I getting off this drug? The side effects became too much to bear. I was fine over the summer at my highest dose of 250mg. When school time for the kids rolled around, finding it incompatible with that schedule was a mild understatement. Every fucking night I had a fit an hour into sleep that would sit me bolt upright, heart pounding, mouth dry, clutching for breath. I would often fall asleep sitting upright to stop it from happening. An then there was the mornings. It took my wife twenty minutes to a half hour to get me out of bed, yelling my name loudly at least 40 times. And when I did fall out of bed, I went straight to the couch downstairs and fell asleep again. I was no use to my learn from home children whatsoever. And when I tried to help them or let the dogs out when I woke up, I was unsteady on my feet. Orthostatic hypotension became my new horrible symptom. I nearly passed out standing up too quickly. I could not make the 8 foot trek to the bathroom at night without seriously screwing up some courage. I decided this was not going to work anymore. I am crazy, but I might switch a little crazy with some of these symptoms, I thought.

So I stepped down 50 mg without consulting the pharmacologist, who really, really wants me to stay on this shit, even going so far as to say I needed 100mg more and I’d be better. I can’t imagine what that would feel like. It feels like a trip to the psychiatric ward is what. The thing is, I am not schizophrenic, and I imagine this drug is handy for shutting some voices up. That is what Clozapine was developed for. However, I am just bipolar. I did have a wild journey into schizoaffective disorder about a decade ago that ended in a locked ward trip for three weeks, where I experienced all kinds of delusions and hallucinations that still boggle my mind. The important thing is that I came back somehow. But anyway, down 50 was the only way I was going to get out of bed without being yelled at. Instead of going straight to the couch, I stayed upright until the wife left for work and then I would doze until 11 on the couch. Again, not much use to my learners. So I couldn’t seem to win.

Along with the drop in clozapine came serious symptoms. Neurons hungry for the homeostatic neurotransmitters they needed were being cut off from the drug that helped them along their way. The physical symptoms from that brought huge amounts of panic, and I became unable to get across a room without wanting to go back where I came from because I was going to fall down otherwise. I couldn’t do the shower for more than two minutes. My only safe spot was downstairs at the computer chair. And even there anxiety threatened constantly. I couldn’t get up to get the mail because I didn’t think I was going to make it back and no one would be around to notice that I was knocked out in my driveway. I became very concerned for my wife because everything had come undone so quickly. She’s been a champ putting up with me.

I decided enough was enough. I was out, and told my shrink I was done. He listened and is going to put me back on Zyprexa, which I had some success with in the past. It didn’t always put a damper on my daily bipolar struggles, but I didn’t feel like shit when I took it. Again, I think I’d rather that than be in some quasi-vegetative state.

In order to get through the gauntlet of getting off Clozapine, I am employing several natural remedies. I started off using Charlotte’s Web CBD gummies and that’s been a game changer, real good for calming down. I am also using L-theanine, an amino acid with proven results to tamp down stress levels. Also, lemon balm seems to be somewhat helpful. But the hero so far has been my old Klonopin prescription, which I abandoned over the summer because it can be dangerous with Clozapine. But I kept the bottle. I was desperate and wanted to try anything and everything to not feel bad, so I popped one.

Wow. I’m almost alive again!

I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for that discarded prescription. I haven’t informed the doctor yet but I will soon. It’s good news because now I can step down further and have plenty of backstops to combat the withdrawal. I have enough Klonopin to get me through a month.

Bottom line, things have been looking up after being so nightmarish.

Oooh. I forgot I was doing a list! Let’s see, what else has got my shit fucked up?

#2: Donald Motherfucking Trump. I’m having trouble finding non-four letter words for some of his antics. I’m struck dumb. At this point I am just trying to keep my head screwed on straight until it is time for me to vote. I can’t keep up with the outrages, which may be by design.

#3: Twitter. Once upon a time, not long ago I moved to Twitter because I was hooked on Facebook. Hah! Turns out that’s like going from fentanyl to heroin. I’m now a full blown social media junkie again and I don’t know how to turn that around. I miss the blog days where I could get my news from them, but so many of my favorite bloggers now eschew the medium and have Twitter accounts instead. Is there any way out from using social media to get my news fix?

I’d love to hear about your struggles with any of the three phenomena above. We, so often atomized by the cult of individualism, need each other more than ever.

Don’t Get Wrapped Around The Axle About Kamala Harris

The whackadoodles from both sides of the political spectrum have knives out for Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris for Vice President Of The United States.

Was this avoidable with a different choice?

Shit no.

You know Trump and the right are going to vilify anyone chosen. They never miss an opportunity to smear someone. I fully expect that behavior from them.

But I expect a little more from the left, who is on balance much smarter or at least better educated than those of the conservative bent. Often missing however, from their political approach is the ability to be pragmatic. Making the perfect the enemy of the good and cutting off noses seems to be the order of the day.

I’m hearing talk from them that this is a “cynical” choice. I’m afraid I don’t follow.

Let’s talk for a second about identity politics.

Where did this phrase come from anyway?

It used to be a positive thing or a harmless observation. Now it’s nothing but a negative buzzphrase which left and right routinely abuse.

The fact is that there couldn’t not be politics based on one’s cultural affiliation in America. Disenfranchised voters have similar experiences in the culture and that is the reason why people tend to gather politically according to their status in said culture. Black voters know from their own history how hard whites worked to make sure they had no voice at the ballot box, and the same went for women. We (white males) created these divisions by treating them as less than equal. It’s a bell that we can’t un-ring.

Harris, as it happens, checks both of those boxes. Yet we are still hearing that it’s a “political” calculation.

Of course the fuck it is! And by gum, it’s a force multiplier. Not only did Joe pick someone with class, tenacity and dangerous smarts, he’s poised to win the ironclad support of several demographics which cannot be ignored if we want to win big. She’s also relatively young and that’s important if we don’t want another doddering fool like Trump or Reagan in the White House for 2024, 2028, or 2032. Or ever again.

I would love it if someone could tell me why Harris is a bad choice. God forbid she did her job as AG. As for me, I haven’t been this psyched about a VP nom in my sweet short life. I mean, look back at recent history and consider the embarrassing, tone deaf choices members of both parties have put forth:

Al Gore, Dan Quayle, Tim Kaine, John Edwards, Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, Joe Lieberman, Bob Dole to name but a few. I almost fell asleep typing their names. I’m half tempted to put Biden in this pool because I do recall being rather underwhelmed by Obama’s pick.

The rest of them were utterly charmless and vanilla who added squat to the ticket’s chances. Parties aren’t always known for their ability to take chances when it comes to a veep choice and I’m unsure why. It is undeniable, however that it is about time that a presidential candidate chose someone potentially more consequential and dare I say more popular than themselves. We can now look forward to more of Biden’s decision making- because we sure could use a president right now who will get the fuck out of his own way, someone 180 degrees from the insane bloated bastard billeted in the White House right now.

In Which I Burn My Bridges

I guess it is time to write a little about Joel.

When I was about twenty-three or so, I made a jump from New Jersey to Florida. I wanted to escape Morristown partly because the town has a way of keeping you where you are, and I found that unacceptable. My malformed brain told me I was better than my too-familiar hometown scenes and coteries. I certainly wasn’t getting anywhere fast in Morristown; I had a raging drinking problem and was living above a golf club kitchen. I probably decided to flee after, as fate would have it, the golf club’s boss came up the hill from the clubhouse to the pool where I slung hot dogs and sodas to thirsty rich mothers and their children to see how were doing one day. Elliott and I were not sober for a minute of our poolside gig that summer. The head chef was irritated by my perennial hungover act in his kitchen during the off seasons and had probably given the administrator a hot tip that I was stealing and drinking on the job. It was only a matter of time before I got caught breathing cheap beer into someone’s face, ending my tenure. David was kind enough to wait to torpedo me at the end of the season.

It was time to reinvent. I lost everything, and I didn’t have much. I had to take evasive action. Morristown simply didn’t fit me anymore. I had no more moves to make. I had done a shit job at every hustle I ever did there and there were few places to turn. I pretended to myself and others that I had simply outgrown it when in actuality it was done with me.

My father had done an evacuation to Florida under similar terms. He felt that after the divorce my mother had poisoned all of his relations with people around town. I don’t know how true that was-he was also suffering from untreated bipolar disorder. But he fled to Largo, where he could be closer to his mother who would proceed to do the things he could not get another woman to do.

So I went there to be with him. Dad wasn’t thrilled about my arrival, but he did clear the way for me to live in his apartment complex because he sure didn’t want my constant company for long. I found a couple of part time jobs, one at a grocery store stocking the frozen section, and an overnight shift at Target stuffing a few of the household goods aisles. With my first checks I secured the apartment and bought a little furniture, a bike, and a radio with which I would play CDs. That radio would eventually undo me, because the occupant of the apartment to my left had bat hearing and complained about me constantly. Either that or the walls were paper thin.

Our development, lucky for alcoholic me, had a bar a few blocks away. And I became a regular quickly. All the fruit loops from my dad’s community parked their carcasses on a barstool there. I remember Eric, a nerdy guy good with his hands who I enjoyed shooting stick with, and some white dude Jim with a ruddy tan who claimed to be an Indian of some sort. When he drank too much he would become irascible and unpredictable. He told me once that he hated the bartender because she was a “Blackfoot”, and that they were traitors to the Indian cause. You definitely didn’t mess around with him.

It was there that I bumped into Joel for the first time. I don’t remember why anymore, but we hit it off. I think we were talking about books and music and our tastes matched up. He and I began hanging out at my apartment in earnest. We’d stay up all night recording ourselves talking and drinking and playing CDs on that damned box. To make a long story short, the noise got me evicted. I couldn’t win. But Joel said he had a place, a small bungalow behind a house proper not far away. We loaded what little belongings I had out of my apartment into his tiny abode.

Joel told me he was from the West Coast and that he had played as a “hired gun” guitarist in a couple of grunge bands, the names of whom he kept concealed. He had written a few songs which I was not impressed by. He would come to dismiss my writing as “twaddle” (and it was). I think me mocking his art set the course as to how he was going to start treating me. I wasn’t talented, who the fuck was I to run down his stuff? He told me he had a heroin problem too. Yeah, I should have red flagged that, but I didn’t have anywhere to go.

We had one more occupant in the house, a cat he named Zooey-like the Salinger novel. It came and went as it pleased. But I liked to pick Zoe up and pet her, and eventually she developed this habit of licking one spot on my shirt. Zooey was probably not weaned properly.

Joel was disgusted. He said that I “ruined” his cat, and that she was practicing some sort of perversion upon me and that I was loathsome for letting her do that. We began to dislike being in the same room with each other, which was hard since there was only one room partitioned by sheets. The only time we were having a good time was when we were stinking drunk. And even that did not deter Joel from deriding me every chance he got. I eventually lost both of my jobs and we began living on my credit card. It was an amazing card, one that I never had to make payments on and they would just steady keep increasing my credit limit. Joel refused to bring in an income so it was up to me to keep us in food, shelter and booze. He thought work was above him and that is was better for him to drink and read Richard Brautigan all day. Our diet mostly consisted of pressed Cuban sandwiches, Natural Ice and rye whiskey.

Our drinking rituals and run-ins became more bizarre as time went by, because after a time Joel became bored with people and he needed more to amuse himself. We’d get hammered on Cisco and I would yell Tom Waits songs outdoors while he poured alcohol all over me. We’d call up Tennessee and repeat the crooning for her. One night were wasted and we took broom handles to the ceiling of the house. We once got stoned and drunk with some dude who Joel maybe wanted to play guitar with but instead he decided to make fun of the guy. He gave Joel a count of three to vacate the premises then leapt out of his chair like a feral animal and proceeded to kick the shit out of Joel.

Ours was an abusive relationship. When I could no longer stand Joel’s verbal attacks on me, I would break down emotionally and he would change into a penitent creature who didn’t want to hurt me because I was his friend. Maybe he was so myopic that he didn’t realize what an asshole he could be. It’s more likely that succoring his enabler was what he was up to.

After several months of this behavior the cruelty came to a head. He locked me in the bathroom and told me that he had some heroin and he was going to use it because I made him unhappy. I got out somehow to find him on the nod. I used this time to call my father who immediately picked me up while Joel slept. I think I took my tennis racket and that was it, I was out of there. It was at this point that Dad told me to join the Army, a solution he had proffered before but I couldn’t ever see myself doing that kind of shit for a living. I fancied myself as a rebel and wouldn’t conform. But as in Morristown, I had failed to obey the rules in Largo and I had no choice but to take the armed services to the ball. But before that, I had to go to a two week rehab for alcohol, a halfway house where roaches freely crawled on my dinner plates, lose another apartment, and finally share a house with three drama free folks until it was time for me to ship out to basic.

I’ll get to the service someday. There’s lots of stories there.

Weeks later I was out on the town with Dad after I left Joel and spotted him lurking at some bar, so we quickly split the scene. I’m sure he was looking for someone else he could leech onto. Make no mistake, Joel could put on the charm and get you to do things. But at bottom he was a miserable piece of trash. Fuck that fucking guy.

Backward To Death

It is not a good time to be a Georgian with two kids of school age.

If you are paying the least bit of attention at all, you know that the South is about to get a fresh shellacking from the novel coronavirus. The southeastern seaboard in particular is in the crosshairs, thanks to a triad of feckless and incompetent Trumpite governors from South Cackalackee to Florida who give no fucks about life so long as someone’s bottom line is achieved. This is a bad long term solution; once people start dropping from too much exposure to the marketplace, they, um…well, they don’t come back.

As a nation, we have failed utterly to tamp down this virus. Only a malevolent, insane swamp creature like Donald Trump could have mishandled our response to COVID the way he did. In point of fact, it’s a bit of a stretch to say he fucked it up or even handled it. Fucking it up implies agency and since he’s literally done nothing, it cannot really be said that he bungled it. We survive to the degree that we do in spite of him. The federal government has ground to a halt at the worst possible time in our nation’s history. We know, now more than ever, that we are on our own. Our citizenry is bonkers too. A significant percentage of brainwashed zombie people are convinced that wearing a mask during a pandemic equals a loss of freedom or, ironically, a health hazard. Observe these Karens and Kens (all white) losing their shit because they can’t deal with a piece of fabric on their face:

I’m not joking about zombies:

The internet is rife with these Don and Donna Quixotes raging against the machine, so you can continue to laugh or cringe when you are done here.

Now, back to my kids in Georgia.

As of this writing, they are expected to show up for school on August 3rd. That’s less than three weeks. They want to go- lockdown has been hard on them.

But new cases are on a steep incline here. And soon, the number of deaths will rise in proportion. They call fatalities a “lagging indicator”, which I believe is fancy speak for a statistic that hasn’t yet caught up to other related statistics. Trump and the GOP want to point to a flat death rate as evidence that the danger is waning. They won’t be able to do that soon enough. We simply haven’t done anything positive in particular that would cause the death rate to stay miraculously low. It’s not like we are tracing or quarantining, so we are at the same place we were in March, except we’re running around like nothing happened. This virus appears to have an incubation time of approximately 3-14 days, and that is the reason for the lack of current dead. It’s coming.

And in this climate, I am nonetheless expected to have my children attend full time- right when cases are spiking with death following close behind. It’s wrong and it’s dumb and I hope our Board of Education is watching closely but I suspect that they will not be as perspicacious as San Diego and Los Angeles. My oldest, 17, struggles with depression and when last we told him that we are under lockdown, he fainted and busted his lip open. It could have been worse, he went down like a sack of potatoes and my dresser, thankfully, broke his fall. So I have that to contend with.

I have to give thanks to my father, who is occasionally nothing short of oracular when he’s not watching titty flicks and Fox News, reminded me that I will never be able to live down one of them dying from a bad decision I made. I can’t argue with this logic. The choice seems clear, I just have to figure out how to frame my decision so that both boys understand that I am trying to protect them. I need time to watch what happens in the schools before I put them back in. I have to have a semester to be sure sending them back is an acceptable idea. This isn’t Florida, so I can still choose.

The Times Are-A-Changin’

Fresh off the heels of a damaging paper-wide crisis that gave voice to Tommy Cotton’s most virulent monkeyshines, the New York Times nevertheless has redeemed itself and gone to bat in the service of the truth by blowing open the story that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US soldiers. Furthermore, the “President” was told in March and he probably couldn’t bother to get off his phone long enough to figure out a way to deal with the situation. Instead, he lobbied for Russia to be able to join the G-7.

I’m loath to call things treasonous because that word gets tossed about too lightly for my tastes, but I think we’ve reached an event horizon we can no longer ignore: there’s a Russian mole in the White House, and he sits in the Oval Office. You don’t have to dig too far to know, because the creep now knows there are no consequences to his behavior and does all of his dirt above board. This scandal will probably raise a few eyebrows from GOP leadership, but that’s about all. It couldn’t mean a thing. They will voice a little concern and then pretend it never happened. Think about that. I guarantee that the party that trades in hyperpatriotism and military genuflection is going to sweep this ugliness under the rug because they really don’t care about the troops. They’re nothing but pawns in a political game to them.

There’s just too much tying this “President” to Russia for me to think that all the skulduggery that’s been reported on is simply a matter of coincidence anymore. This new insane story makes everything pale in comparison. It’s now much easier, for example, to believe that Trump utilized foreign intelligence in the run-up to 2016 to smear his much more competent opponent. And it should shock no one that he did it again this time around, asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens. You can reasonably assume that there is probably another swiftboating op in the works, one that Trump had better avail himself of soon because he’s losing serious ground in the polls. The fact is, there’s no perfect storm that brings us Trump 2.0-no e-mailgate, no Republican boobs to easily defeat, no Comey, no Stein, no presidential blowjob, no Benghaaazi. Of course, Joe Biden is certainly not immune to attack from a number of vectors, having been in the public eye since the seventies. He did not always make the right choices from a progressive standpoint, or even a moderately liberal one.

But I’m not here to list his sins. The Trump campaign will do quite enough of that, won’t it?

Bottom line, I am not interested one bit in making the perfect the enemy of the good. I want the good to be the enemy of evil- and it’s not hyperbole anymore to call Trump exactly what he is. He’s the most bloodless, amoral ghoul ever to occupy a prominent federal position of power who never met a quid he couldn’t quo, no matter who else gets hurt. We’ve got to get behind the person who will stop this reign of error.

We are all far from perfect. Bear that in mind when you want to balk at the choices we have. Joe Biden wouldn’t sell out our soldiers to stay in the good graces of a ruthless competitor. Bet on it.

There Ain’t A Fan Without Shit On It

I thought my life was going to be sort of “normal” the whole way through. I mean, even a cursory examination shows my life to be rather unusual at any point in my timeline, but I never imagined that it would be because of external wall to wall American crises everywhere I look.

Silly me.

I don’t know why. Perhaps I lack the historical sense to know that calamity is cyclical, and comically predictable in ways. And just because we have become technologically advanced and have all the information we could possibly want doesn’t mean we apes know what’s good for us.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about what’s been happening in America at the moment. It isn’t that I don’t care; it’s just that better writers have beaten me to the hot takes, and that probably comes as no surprise to those few weirdos who lurk here. You’re all watching it unfold in the same manner as I am, you don’t need me to point at all. It’s a full on FUBAR situation without a clear end. Americans are pinned between a psychotic virus and a psychotic police presence in its midst. Scylla and fucking Charybdis. Judging from the protests in other countries, we are not the only citizenry who has had enough with the brutality at the hands of the ruling class. We are no longer reacting to a few bad apples drunk on power. In biblical terms, the whole system is in the balance and found wanting.

I started this entry last night at about 7pm while I was trying to cancel my New York Times subscription. It’s now two o’ clock on the following day and I am still on fucking hold. I first began with a text message, to spare myself having to explain why I wanted out. I wanted out because I can’t enable the paper to give voice to fascists who want the US military to crack down on protests anymore with my money. It is not the first time they’ve lent seditious barking lunatic and senator from Arkansas Tommy Cotton a platform. He likes to play fast and loose with the truth, choosing instead incendiary rhetoric and I am still not sure to this day whether we are dealing with an idiot here or a Harvard educated soldier (those categories are not mutually exclusive). Either way, he’s a sadistic geek who was probably on the business end of a few wallings against lockers in school, and how better to avenge your wounded pride by joining the military and dehumanizing someone else at gunpoint? As a lanky geek myself, I know I flirted with the idea of joining the Marines to get tough and show people what I was made of but decided to downshift to regular Army at the wire, content that it would do what I wanted it to. I was lucky, embedded with medical units when I went to Iraq. Cotton went on to be an ranger, airborne and air assault infantryman and did Iraq and Afghanistan in that capacity. For that I give him props, he’s accomplished a lot as a soldier. I figure in time he must have developed that contempt for the powerless people he was supposed to protect that so many doorkicking units develop. I don’t know how better to apprehend his moral compass. He’s from Arkansas, but so is Bill Clinton.

Here’s some words I’ve already cobbled together about Senator Cotton. That’s thousands too many.

Now that the times has finally granted me release from my monthly subscription (at frigging four o’ clock today, about 21 hours wait), I’m going to speak no more of Tom Cotton for now (I am pretty sure this won’t be the last we hear of him-he’s got GOP presidential candidate written all over him) and give my newfound 16 dollars a month and bring it to Raw Story, who won’t be giving voice to violent authoritarians any time soon.

Tennessee, Tennessee

One of the dumbest things I have ever done is try to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I damn near killed myself one night.

When I was 19, I got pinched for driving drunk from a party in a fancy neighborhood. It was past 2 in the morning, and the cop said I changed lanes without signaling. I couldn’t have made it easier for him if I tried- not only was I driving like a one-eyed fool, my nearly new pickup sported a bumper sticker that said “Liquor In The Front, Poker In The Rear”. Har-dee-har. I took the officer up on the offer to do the alphabet backwards, blew a .18, and was promptly arrested at the scene. They brought the canine squad to investigate the vehicle, hoping I guess for a banner night with one collar, and they found and seized my Whip-It canisters. I had acid somewhere in the vehicle, but that was not found. I was released on my own recognizance after processing, and my Whip-Its were returned to me because I guess it isn’t a crime to have chef’s equipment on you.

New Jersey slams you pretty hard for a Dewey-they have insurance trouble there, you see, and in addition to the fines and suspension you have to chuck $3,000 into the insurance pool to get your license back. I was a part timer at a grocery store near home at that point, and I believe my response to the insurance “surcharge” was Fuck That. Having a car was seriously not worth the scratch. I just walked everywhere like I did B.C. (Before Car) since everything in Morristown was 10 minutes from home. Soon, going to college in Union became difficult, though. I lost focus and dropped out. What followed were some dark times I’d rather forget. Thanks, Clozapine.

Fast forward a few years, and I am in the chat rooms of Yahoo! looking for women to talk to. I found one in Tennessee who thought I was amusing, a few years older than I was and a teacher. This had to be about 1993-94.

Raise your hand high if you found love in those A/S/L-spangled rooms regardless of the distance.

No, don’t, that’s embarrassing. I would find my more local wife through it several years later in Georgia, and that has a happy ending. But it was kinda ridiculous to chat up someone 700 miles away. We should have stayed friends to avoid even further embarrassment. But eventually we got to chatting so much that we professed our love on Messenger. Phone numbers were exchanged. She sounded cute! I would eventually hatch a plan to go to Tennessee and sweep her off her feet. Major mistake. I would not be lifting her off anything. Four hundred pounds of gross- I’m not a catch but this was more than I could do. There wasn’t enough moonshine in the state that would have gotten me into bed with her. It was a rough couple of days there, having to stay with a woman you said you loved who obviously knew you thought her too corpulent to get near.

I changed my job situation several times during this period. I guess I was working a lot more than when I first gave some thought to this story. At one point I had a full time gig at a bank processing deposits and I was working at the local country club as a cook. I would end up fired from the bank and living above the kitchen, ejected from my home- partly because of a stepfather whose hearing bordered on bat-like and partly because I was an inconsiderate, thoughtless, drunk asshole who took all of his sainted mother’s goodwill and squandered it by closing the bars and coming home rattling doors and fumbling up the stairs wasted every night.

My job at the kitchen was the scene for quite a cast of characters. The head chef, David, came to every shift coked up and high but he was a cool cat, one of the funniest off-the cuff people I’ve ever known. His sous chef was a tall, hardworking rednecky type named Wade. Next in line was Roy, a real spaced-out character with a particularly large head who was not all there upstairs. David was merciless to Roy, christening him “The Rock”, which was shorthand for rockhead. I don’t know how Roy bore up under David’s daily withering wit. I was glad for Roy, because I am certain I would have been David’s target without him around. Now Wade picked on me a little (and there’s no blaming him-I could not even put a sandwich together, as hungover as I was daily) but was generally a nice guy/father figure who at the end of the day had a kind word or two to say to me to help a damfool out and I owed both him and David a lot for putting up with me.

My time at the club would not be possible without Helen and Elliott. Helen was a big drinker at my preferred pub who took me in when I got kicked out of my house. Helen, a blonde in her late-thirties I’d say, had a little wear on her treads. You could tell she had been a looker in some faraway decade but being a drunk took its toll and had hardened her natural beauty. When I found myself homeless, she would put me up behind her couch for $50 a month-rooms in town were running $400 or more and I couldn’t afford that at all. So I took what I was given, lacking the self respect to do better. Helen and I were both itinerant waiters and we worked a couple of gigs together, and then she introduced me to her on/off boyfriend Elliott, a burly tough who got me a cooking job at the local country club she waited at. I soon learned that Helen had more than one vice. She and Elliott would smoke crack, fight and fuck regularly, while I fought Helen’s Yorkie for breathing space. I still hate those little yip-yip dogs to this day. Elliott was David’s connect so a friend of Elliott’s was a friend of his no matter how many times I failed to do the simplest of tasks. Thank goodness for connects.

But the story is about my all-too brief stint as a motorcyclist.

I was still living at home at this point, early in my storied career at the country club. Like I said, I didn’t want to drive a car again. Wade said he was looking to sell a motorcycle real cheap though, and I thought that might be the answer to my problems. I would still not be street legal until I paid that surcharge, but as an old moped enthusiast I figured, could a motorcycle be any different? I could get away with it.

Those familiar with the workings of a motorcycle knows this is hilarious. They aren’t the same thing at all. They both have two wheels and the similarities more or less end with its structure.

At first, I could barely get through my eight minute commute to the bank without stalling that damn thing because I lacked the hand/foot coordination to switch gears. Not a good thing if you are trying to hide yourself from the traffic cops. But I still rode daily, never fully mastering its machinations but I remember developing a bit of confidence on it as long as I didn’t have to go far or go fast.

I only had the ‘cycle about two months, though. One night when I was on the phone at home with my new Tennessee love, I ran out of beer at some ungodly hour and got the dumb idea to hit package goods, merely two miles away. I was drunk as a skunk, and reasoned like one- the plan was to hop on the motorcycle with minimal exposure and be back home in two shakes of a lamb’s tail before anyone noticed me. Now those of you who have ridden know that once you do “get” your motorcycle, it’s damn fun to drive. There’s a certain ergonomics to riding that feels just right when it all pops into place. I got kinda brave on it at the end there, leaning lazily into tough turns like a pro. But this night, I was ill-prepared to handle the loose gravel that salted the runup to the bridge over the interstate. I leaned in to the left deep without braking, six tall boys of Bud between my legs and the wheels couldn’t get traction on the gravel. Unable to steer, I began to careen toward the tall curb on the other side of the road.

BAM. I hit it doing at least thirty. I flew over the handlebars, skidding and tumbling across the sidewalk with exposed skin all over. If it weren’t for the helmet, this would have been a hospital trip or death. The riderless ‘cycle went over me and crash landed into a hedge in someone’s front yard.

I was drunk, so my first impulse was to leave the scene. I wasn’t ready for my second DWI just yet. I ran home and called a friend with a pickup, who helped me get the twisted wreckage out of the yard. Miraculously, no one in that house had heard my entrance into and out of their property. The Lord protects drunks and fools. I got back home, unloaded and hid the motorcycle.

It was time to look at my raspberries in the upstairs bathroom. And I had fucked myself up but good. I got some supplies for bandaging from the hall closet, because I was bleeding in at least three or four places.

Tape, tape, gauze gauze, band aids, gauze. Here. There. Everywhere.

I must’ve looked absurd, because my poor mother came into my room not long after I finished and was aghast at the condition I was in. I told her it was no big deal, but she did not agree. My strained efforts at first aid were not appreciated even a whit. I got back on the phone with Tennessee and relayed my adventure. We laughed it off. Someone should have lost respect for somebody somewhere.

You know what? I can’t tell you what happened to my package goods. I don’t remember rescuing them from the scene. Kinda out of character for a drunk. My little story would have a tidier, perhaps more humorous ending if I had searched the yard for my tallboys before I ran from the scene of the accident. I sure could have used the anesthetic.

Youthful Transgressions

I’m on 250mg of Clozapine for my bipolar disorder/GAD. An extra 25mg bump of it is supposed to keep my anxiety down, rather than continuing Klonopin or putting me on a different benzo to respond to difficulties. I was reticent to change it, but I think the Clozapine is doing what is supposed to do. My anxiety level has been unusually high lately as we collectively watch this virus decimate the world with its rapacious need to copy itself. That’s what life does, ultimately.

Changing Clozapine levels for me makes me worry if I am becoming another version of myself. It’s a peculiar drug, and a strong one. I joke with my wife about it, who doesn’t think it’s funny. I guess if I were her, it wouldn’t be-after all, she has had to hospitalize me several times. Anyway, it brings on a desire to reflect, and sometimes those burning recollections make you wonder why you are still alive, or perhaps more specifically, wonder whether you should exist at all after what you have done what you have done with said existence. My back pages are filled with things and occurrences that I should not have been allowed to get away with. Are they all that unusual? I don’t really know. I have “friends” but I don’t have many with whom I share deep secrets with. This digital page is much easier to talk to, helping me keep my distance from people as I have often been wont to do. It allows me to slowly compose my thoughts, and revise them into a narrative that makes sense. This way, anxiety is held at bay.

What’s so bad about people, you say?

We’re embarrassing, that’s what. You know it, I know it. And each of us has to live with that. Yet somehow, our complex minds typically shield us from ever having to feel bad about it. Forgetting becomes the only way to keep your head up.

But brains often work against their owner. An embarrassing remembrance unlocked could dog you right outta the blue. And I got ’em in spades.

The year is 1986. It’s the New Jersey suburbs. I am all of fourteen. I have a baseball card habit, and as such I am a frequent customer of a little place called T&T Sports Cards. The owner, Al, who is the age I am now, had an acrimonious split with his investment partner, and it would be a while before his wife Patricia became the other T. I don’t remember why this information was shared with me. Al took a shine to me, but I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps it was our shared Italian ethnicity, or or it might have been because he was into my mom. I cannot quite remember. Now Al had two jobs because you can’t make any real money selling memorabilia. It was a small burb, Morristown, and he had fierce competition from another shop a few miles away in the next town. My friend Mike and I were good paying customers and so he shot the shit with us straight up about the politics of the business. We knew more about his life and his occupation than perhaps we should have.

A few words about the The Lumpster.

The Lumpster was who minded the shop in the afternoon while Al went to his first gig. He was probably the first Goth I ever met. He was a tall, pale, somewhat doughy kid not much for conversation who needed a haircut and wore black. I’d say he was two or three years older than me. The Lumpster was weird and awkward, as Goths are, and when Al arrived at the shop, he’d pick on the Lumpster while we me and Mike were there. We ate it up with a spoon, snickering as Al jibed him. The Lumpster did not offer much in the way of self defense. Anyway, I guess Al got tired of his weirdness and lack of self-respect, and I received a clandestine offer to replace The Lumpster. Al just needed to find the right time to let him go. And he did. The job was open the store after school and mind it until about five or six o ‘clock. I had my own set of keys to the place, the codes to the alarm and a tutorial of the cash register.

Wow. What a great gig for a teenager! And good for Al, too-he practically didn’t have to pay me because he paid in cash and had I would usually turn that money right back over to him to feed my habit. I would spend the time tidying the store, selling merch and making sets from packs of cards. A set was about 800 cards long, containing cards for every player that year. I’d sit at a small table, open 3 or four boxes of the year’s bubblegum packs before I could assemble an entire set. The baseball card industry was having a renaissance at the time, and collections like whole sets were in high demand. Everything was in demand, actually. Real money was starting to change hands for singles too. Al would take me to memorabilia shows and you would not believe what some of these new cards were commanding pricewise. The hobby had evolved its own economy, and its own stock market. Prices were tethered to the athlete’s performance at first, and then there came a whole speculative market on who would become the hot new stars. A player like Jose Canseco who could reliably knock the shit out of the ball in the minors would have a card worth sixty dollars before they even faced their first pitch in the show. There were the old standby brands like Topps and Fleer, and soon there were “boutique” cards on the scene like the ones offered by Donruss, who at first derived their value from scarcity and then began to produce a slick, loud, superglossy product that had a limited run. The industry peaked and was on life support by 1991, and then all the speculation ended when we collectively realized that our stuff wasn’t as scarce as we thought. Most of it turned out to be worthless. Insane amounts of demand became intolerable to the producers of the little cardboard wonders and they flooded the markets with common, easily procured cards.

I was never destined to become a really good collector, or seller. Why?

I had no love for the game it was based upon. Weird, huh? I grew up in a sports household, but by this time I was estranged from my abusive father and would not sit with him when the games were on. So I didn’t have the foggiest idea why Eric Davis and Roger Clemens card prices soared; I was the last to get in on a hot card because I only developed an interest in a card when the card increased in value well after the players’ notable performance. I couldn’t see the nuances that a fan of baseball did. I was, to put it mildly, a terrible investor, late to the hot buys, purchasing at high points. It may seem strange that I could be so heavily into something like baseball cards without an inkling of what drove the industry, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one into it for the money and pride of ownership.

Al’s hole in the wall was a reet cool place to be in the years between 1986 and 1989, sharing a storefront with a Chinese laundry, owned by a Mr. Chin. It was very hard to understand Mr. Chin. Al would often do his impression of the old man who ran the place. “Chingity-chang-ching-chong-Chin’, he’d chortle mockingly, and it was pure comedy gold to my 14 year old Truly Tasteless Jokes-telling ass.

In time, though, I became a liability for Al, kind of in the way that The Lumpster was, maybe much worse-and needed to be let go. I did some really fucked up things that I wish I could forget. I mean, yes, I was a young teen but there was no excuse for some parts of my time at T&T.

First off, I had to constantly told to turn down the music. Al had cassette tapes of MOR bands like America and Wings, and the little boom box was there to play quiet quasi-Muzak while customers shopped. Not when I was working. I’d crank that shit up, and often brought my own awful teenage cassettes, from old school rap to Dire Straits to Dokken. I did not have the ability at the time to step back and realize that the volume of the music was distracting commerce and I probably alienated a lot of business because it was irritating to be there. I began writing for a punk fanzine around 1987-1988 and “staff meetings” were often held at the store table where I was supposed to be making sets. My friends were freaks and looked the part. Again, I did not understand what that may have looked like to people who wanted to spend money in the store. I was letting my boss down in a big way.

That’s not all, of course. There was the stealing. I’m trying to figure out where my mother went wrong that I became a thief. It wasn’t the first time I had stolen, though. I had a car wash gig the year before in ’85 and I would routinely steal the quarters from the car consoles while I was drying and detailing for video game money. Never caught. I also had a hustle with Mike where we’d make Xerox copies of dollar bills and shove them into the easily fooled change machines in the lobby of the hospital across the street from my apartment complex. Worked like a motherfucking charm-more video game money. Also never caught.

I got caught stealing from Al, though. And I didn’t like it one bit. My hustle at the card store was to replace a “near mint” card of my own with a “mint” card from Al. It was important that your shit was immaculate in condition, otherwise its value is lessened. And I couldn’t bear having gnarly cards. So I took them from Al. I’ll never forget the day he called me on it. What did I do? Well, I could think of only one thing-deny it, even though my efforts to retain mint copies of my cards was probably obvious. I got indignant and pretended I couldn’t believe that he did not trust me, friend as I was to him. I raised my voice at him in disgust, shocked that he should say something like that to me. At sixteen, to a grown adult. It was a ballsy gambit and it may have worked. He studied me for a few seconds, unsure of what to do with me. The he backed off of the accusation. Either he was being magnanimous or he believed me. I wasn’t long for the job after that spat. My relationship with Al was inexorably strained after this. He brought in his young son to do some of my shifts with me, and eventually his wife took over duties and my tenure ended.

But what really stands out is the masturbation.

I had, like most boys my age, developed quite a fascination for pornographic magazines. It began in earnest as young as twelve. My fucking barber Salvatore had crazy amounts of the stuff at his shop, real raw nasty European smut like Oui and Prive that I got caught perusing a couple of times while I waited for my turn in the chair. Why did I, and not my mother know this about my barber? Also, you could spend half a day at the local convenience store and put a porn mag inside a regular mag and ogle and ogle until you were chased out. The dumpster in my apartment complexes were also of great interest to us as unsupervised male children. Any refuse we liked was spirited off into the woods behind the garage rows. We found a porn collection or two and we left them in a particular spot for each other in case we wanted to furtively rub one out. While I was ruining Al’s business between the noise and the degradation of his merchandise, I found that old Al himself had a secret collection of his own that he kept at the store, above the doorway of the back room. It wasn’t long before I began to masturbate to them at the store. Back then I could shoot my wad 2-3 times in the space of a few hours and that’s exactly what the fuck I did every day at T&T, hovering over the toilet in the tiny bathroom, pecker in one hand, tissue paper in another, Penthouse or Playboy opened up to the girls that turned me on the most-hoping I wouldn’t get caught in flagrante delicto by the magnetic bell that signaled a customer had arrived. I resented that bell.

I masturbated so much to those women that I can assuredly point out to you thirty years later the exact Playmates or Pets out of a pile of pics today that I used to jerk my gherkin to. That’s how demented porn will make you.

What was Al doing with them? The same, I can only assume. Either that or he was trying to jumpstart his erotic desires which he could then take to his marriage bed. I sure can’t say. His wife was pretty enough but whatever. That doesn’t matter. Men are pathetic, needing the levels of fantasy the way they do. The situation was so bad back then that having a Playboy subscription didn’t necessarily mean you had a porn problem. Such plebeian sexual peccadilloes done above ground were tolerated by wives back then. But Al had a habit out of the home, so I figure maybe we were both beating our bishops to the stash and Patricia, who you could tell you didn’t want to piss off, wouldn’t have liked his collection of fantasies one bit.

It’s memories like this that make me wonder what in hell is wrong with me. I came up with all this bad behavior between my own ears. I was my mother’s pride and joy but having a good wholesome momma doesn’t always mean you raise a good kid. Maybe it’s best that I do become a different version of myself, you know, rack up a few more years of being relatively decent bit by bit so I can stop remembering the things that make me so remarkably awful.

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