Der Schlaf Krieg: Fighting, to get some sleep

zzzzpanzerOne of the more exciting symptoms of having the bipolars is the inability to get anything out of your head. I often refer to my brain as a Mobius Strip because no matter how far I follow a thought, how much I think I turn it over, I always end up back at the beginning. Then I repeat. They can be profound, or they can be mundane. What they all have in common is presence:

  • Why didn’t [insert friend here] return that text? Is [insert friend here] mad at me? What did I do to piss off [insert friend here]? Why do I even have friends? I certainly don’t deserve them.
  • How am I ever going to find a job? How will I explain all the holes in my resume because of the bipolars? You’ve made a mess of your finances? You’re gonna end up homeless or made into Soylent Green. If there’s ever medical rationing, I definitely won’t qualify for
  • Why don’t people ever play Elton John’s “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road together when it’s obvious from the album that they are meant to be played together? There’s no space between them on the album. What’s wrong with people? Is this why people never let you DJ? Your taste in music sucks, and people are just being nice when they don’t point that out.
  • Is the cat mad at me?
  • They’re really gonna screw up that X-Files reboot, aren’t they.
  • Did I talk to my stepmom enough before she died? I know I could’ve done more.

The upshot is that I more often than not I just lay in bed, upsetting the cat by not slumbering. Yes, the cat is mad at me. The cat is always mad at me; she bites my toes to punish me for not sleeping. My brain punishes me for not thinking.

I lay looking up at the ceiling, the patterns in the spackle forming islands and cows and mocking popes. And the tiny ambient noises – traffic, the house settling, some animal scurrying in the woods –organize themselves into whispers that offer rebuttals to the thoughts running thru my head. “When have you ever heard those two songs played together except on the album? No one likes it when you DJ.”

Ambien and NyQuil lose their effectiveness after a few days, plus you don’t ever want NyQuil to lose its effectiveness. I’ve tried white noise machines and such, but I begin to hear patterns forming which keep me awake. And, of course, there’s music, but music makes me think. “Seriously, they’re one song! They should be played as such!”

But a couple years ago, I discovered the one thing that did the trick: WORLD WAR II Continue reading

Manners maketh the hump.

People sometimes accuse me of being overly obsessed with manners. I have my reasons.

Table_SettingI was reminiscing the other night with my friend Chloe. Her birthday was the next day, and I brought up celebrating with her back in 2005. A bunch of us sat on grass next to the East River in Brooklyn, watched the sun go down over Lower Manhattan, and drank copious amounts of wine. I brought a bottle of Smoking Loon Viognier. That day Chloe was turning 23; I had turned 39 three months earlier.

I remarked how wonderful it was that I was able to become such long-term friends with someone so much younger than me. Well, the fact that she was dating and eventually married one of my best friends certainly helped. However, I would have gladly been friends with Chloe regardless of that. (Though that would have probably involved a 39yr old man hanging around the Pratt campus).

“I just wasn’t into the typical college bullshit,” she said.

“True. I remember telling someone I had found a 35yr old 22yr old friend.”

“Yeah, I didn’t do crap like fuck in front of my roommate.” Well, that was out of nowhere, but I understood.

It’s all about manners, and nothing says ill breeding like fucking in front of one’s college roommate. College is the first time many people are away from the manner-enforcing mommies, and sometimes they go insane with improper etiquette.

Manners exist for a reason.

During my first term at Wittenberg after transferring in, they existed for the very necessary reason that I needed to be able to walk into my dorm room or fall asleep without seeing my new roommate Sheldon and his girlfriend Denise having sex. Continue reading

A necessary palate cleanse with groundhog and Klonopin

Wherein some things are too close to write about, but you gotta write anyways…

klnohogIt’s odd, but in the middle of a panic attack, even the worst one in seventeen years, one is still capable of a lucid thought or two or three. A couple of weeks ago I was at a new psychiatrist’s office attempting to get my meds refilled. However, Dr. Bela Agabalyan thought I was an alcoholic whose only purpose for being in her office was to score Klonopin. You know, because the three-hour nap Klonopin brings on really gets a party going.

She refused to listen to me, even when I pointed out that I didn’t need the Klonopin refilled anyways, and could we please talk about my bipolars. “I see two diseases here: bipolar and excessive alcohol use!” she snapped. It should be pointed out that according to the info available to her I drank three times a week for a total of five drinks a week. I’m really not much of a drinker. My interaction with her proved that weird corollary that the more one says they don’t drink all that much, the more people think you have a flask of Beam strapped to your thigh.

Nothing is more frustrating than when people who are wrong don’t listen to me. And when you don’t listen to me, your reward is a panic attack. Usually, these consist of me storming out of a room in a huff, but I needed my meds. I was trapped. Trapped in a room with a stupid person gets you a doozy of a panic attack. I might even punch a wall (or in this case a Purell dispenser). Trap me in a room with stupid person the same day I receive the news that I’m wildly diabetic and a few days after my beloved stepmom dies, Katie bar the door.

Literally bar the door Katie, because I’m going to start beating my head into it. Which is what I did, well over a dozen times. Yet, even though I was having by what any standard was a psychotic break, I was still capable of some lucid thoughts…

  • This has got to look bad.
  • Why isn’t Dr. Bela Agabalyan telling me to stop? People always tell me to stop banging my head. What is her problem?
  • I’m lucky I don’t need the Klonopin filled because she’s never gonna fill that scrip now, is she?
  • I’m gonna get some good writing out of this.

That’s the solace I take out of whatever misfortune, real or manufactured, life hands me: I can always write about. The universe didn’t give me many gifts when it came to dealing with the world, but it gave me the ability to describe my feelings thru stringing together words and sentences in a pleasing manner, hopefully funny, that helps me understand what went on. And hopefully it helps others, too. Continue reading

Pride Thought 2015: Your Brick and Mortar Pride

Photo by Stonewall Columbus

Photo by Stonewall Columbus

The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

–Justice Clarence Thomas (Yeah, I just quoted the second biggest judicial prick on the planet, and I realize that the above was surrounded by thought turds of the highest order. Please bear with me.)

STONEWALL NYC

IMG_1776

Copyright: ME

Yesterday as soon as the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges came down, my Facebook feed exploded into rainbows. Friends –the gay ones, the straight ones, and the ones whose whatever they do is none of my business –were busy expressing their approval. Rainbow filters got a work out, from profile pics to some idiot who decided the American Gladiators needed gayulating. As ton of my FB friends are gay guys who live in NYC, by far the most common setting for pictures was the street and park in front of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in the West Village.

But for all the pictures with the bar’s facade in the background, not a single one was taken on the inside.

Zero.

Earlier this week the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission declared the building that houses the Stonewall Inn an OFFICIAL LANDMARK™. Apparently, this is the first building to be designated as such for its role in the struggle for LGBT rights, even though I’m told Fraunces Tavern regularly featured men in wigs and made a killer appletini back in day. If you are reading this, and you are not aware of the significance of the Stonewall Inn, stop right now and look it up.

It is incredibly heartening that Stonewall Inn is being recognized for its importance. Civil rights never move forward in a slow, steady fashion. There are flashpoints, and these physical flashpoints need to be preserved. Tearing down the Stonewall building and putting up condos called The Lofts at Stonewall would, for me, be the equivalent of tearing down the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma and putting up Marty K’s Alabama River ZipLine Adventure in its place.

People need a physical place to rally and remember.

But don’t believe anyone who tells you that the bar called “Stonewall Inn” that has nested inside the building that held the bar involved with the Stonewall uprising has anything to do with pride. It may be a big part of PRIDE, but there is little pride inside. I do not hesitate to say that it is probably the shittiest gay bar in NYC. It’s cramped inside. Continue reading

121 More Valedictorians Than Dalmatians

The high school from which I graduated just named 222 valedictorians; this former valedictorian is mildly chagrined.

This is NOT going to be an

This is NOT going to be an “everyone gets a trophy” rant, but…

On June 3, 1984 I spoke at my graduation from Dublin High School. At that time, Dublin had less than 4000 inhabitants, there was only one high school, and the sole traffic light on Sawmill Road south of I-270 was at Rt. 161.

That's my inspiration face.

That’s my inspiration face.

That day, my co-valedictorian and I gave what has been described as “an inspiring, well-prepared valedictorian speech” to a crowded set of football bleachers. Now Dublin has over 43,000 residents, there are three high schools, and driving on Sawmill frightens me down to my Shamrocks. My high school is now called Coffman, and the bleachers I spoke before are now the visitors’ seats at the shiny bajillion-dollar football “complex” they built on the other side of the school. Moreover, the school I went to is now invisible behind masses of additional wings.

Oh, and there are also 111 times as many valedictorians. From the Columbus Dispatch on June 3rd of this year:

Graduation ceremonies might still be going on if Dublin schools had asked all of its valedictorians to speak.

There were 222 of them.

That means two out of every 10 graduates at Dublin’s three high schools received top honors this year. Dublin Scioto had 44 valedictorians, Dublin Jerome had 82, and Dublin Coffman had 96.

Or to put it another way, the Dublin City School district now has 40 more valedictorians than it had graduating seniors in 1984. Yes, the district now has over 1100 grads, but at that same ratio, my class of 182 would have had 36 valedictorians.

Or yet another way, 121 more valedictorian than Dalmatians.

Even The Today Show’s toothy people who populate the show’s misbegotten third hour, had a laugh at Dublin’s expense. My alma mater is now a laughing stock.

This isn’t going to be some lament about how “everybody gets a trophy.” If you look at the comments section of the Dispatch article, a quick scansion shows approximately 850 mentions of that phrase. And, yes, I know I used “scansion” incorrectly. Would anyone but a valedictorian know it’s used incorrectly? I don’t think so.

No, my lament is about how this development cheapens one of my better cocktail-party lines. For some reason, mentioning this fact elicits a very pleasing “Well, isn’t that nice, but, again, please tell me what that has to do with Caitlyn Jenner?” Now I’m scared that dropping this tidbit will now only brings a cascade of “Me too’s” from the entire room. Continue reading

Grindrin’ and Growlrin’ Me Down

[In which I apparently date incorrectly]

My delete screen from Growlr.
My delete screen from Growlr.

I went and checked out a different bar in Columbus Thursday night. I didn’t bring my book into the bar. This was new territory, and I didn’t know if it would have a good place to flash the glittery raccoon. [No, this is not a euphemism. Click on a link once in a while, people.] Needless to say, I was bored almost immediately. So, out came the phone. Thank god for Instagram and the endless twiddle-worthiness of its filters, or I would’ve been tempted to re-up with any one of the several “location-based dating apps” that used to litter my phone. I cannot go back to having things on my phone that make me feel bad about myself. That’s what the rear-facing camera is for.

A few weeks prior to my move from Brooklyn to Columbus, I deleted my profiles in those various apps and sites that supposedly would help me find a geographically convenient guy with whom to do anatomically inconvenient things. They go by names like Scruff, Manhunt, Recon, Grindr, Growlr, Lepr, Regrettr, Alienatr, etc. It’s too easy to just mindlessly scroll thru the endless parade of thumbnail photos of body parts, judging people based on pictures smaller than one-inch square. And if I’m judging, I know I’m being judged right back.

In all of these, I am very specific that I am not interested in a random hook-up. I need some connection before the depravity begins. I also add something along the lines of: “There is no greater aphrodisiac than a complete sentence.”

So, I would obsessively flip between the apps, allowing that weird repetitive behavior aspect that’s somehow part of my bipolar to take over. Of course I never actually initiate contact with people because then they might actually respond. So I wait. The replies of course are slow to come in because, despite my childlike demeanor and that cement truck full of Just For Men I regularly back up onto my face, I refuse to lie about my age.

But eventually replies trickle in. Continue reading

Reading Books in Bars with Bears

bearmontage2 copy

It’s going to take me a few words and sentences of ever-so-pertinent background until I get to the part where I actually read a book in a bar. You’ll probably also notice, if you notice these types of things, that this is the first post since mid-February. There’s been a massive amount of writer’s block –even grocery lists were an exercise in futility. I punched myself in the head a lot. Literally. It’s a lousy coping mechanism, but at least it doesn’t work.

I always forget what reading and feeling on the same wavelength of a book can do to get one writing again. A good and museful friend who works at a major publishing house located in an architecturally significant triangular building sent me an advanced reading copy of an upcoming book from an author whom I’m admire but am not allowed mention because it’s not my place to promote this book. Also, my good and museful fears that the great and powerful editor of this book will hurl him from the roof of this architecturally significant triangular building if I reveal the name of the author.

This book has made me [adverbially] happy and has given me a “Hey let’s turn the barn into a stage and put on a SHOW!” attitude towards writing. Plus the heady scent of the cheap Scholastic Books paper on which they print advanced reading copies has fired up my wordy part of my brain stem.

And the author of the above-not-mentioned book does this kind of preamble stuff, and it works for them. So, consider the previous couple of paragraphs homage.

At the beginning of April I moved back to my hometown of Columbus to live with my sister for a while. The bipolar had been acting up for quite a while my last months in Brooklyn. Nothing made sense; everything made noise. There seemed no escape. Suicides were being planned. In the lead was a very Romantic one to be held in Green-Wood Cemetery that involved finding a tombstone with the right combo of a funny 19th century name like Hortense and an angel decaying in a pleasing manner.

However, I decided that offing myself was not really fair to the cat. Yeah, yeah, and loved ones, too. But, really the cat. Like her owner, she’s kind of obese, middle-aged, and makes a lousy first impression. A death sentence for me would’ve been a death sentence for her. Yet, the status quo could not remain. When your cat is your most definite connection to this mortal coil, maybe it’s time for a change.

My first thought when I moved to Ohio was that I was going to live some sort of monastic lifestyle. I dwelled on the disconnect: How I missed my friends in NYC; how people on a certain location-based “dating” app think phonetically typing out animalistic grunting noises counts as a complete sentence; how pedestrians are invisible to most drivers in Columbus; and how crappy that online writing workshop I signed up for through [insert name of oh-so-creatively named nonfiction magazine here] turned out to be. But when I found myself four thousand words into an essay I had titled “The Ouroboros of Disconnect,” I figured it was time for a change. Stuff was just happening TO me –sometimes even AT me. That’s not the formula for interesting wordsmithing. Besides, I couldn’t figure out a way to end the piece.

Get it? Yeah, it was four thousand words of ouroboros metaphors. And puns. Ouroboring!

Stop it!

So, I made a decision to seek out connection. During all this disconnect, I have come to the conclusion that I am not, in fact, an introvert. I am an extrovert with crippling social anxiety. I draw energy from people, yet I don’t understand how one is expected to deal with them. Continue reading

Last 1973 a D.J. Saved My Life. [Part #1: Introduction; Dad]

Recently I made what I trust is a correct decision and opted against that suicide I was planning. [Don’t worry; everything’s great now, even if everything still sucks.] I cannot possibly overstate to you one factor in my decision: I have serious reservations about the availability of popular music in the afterlife, be it as cherub or as wormfood. I would miss music too much.

This close call has led me to think a lot of grateful thoughts about how music got to be such an integral part of my life.

It always knocks me slightly off kilter to walk into someone’s place and not hear music. Why don’t they have music on? They’re just walking around their apartment in silence? Is their version of silence actually silent? They have to have voices like everyone else, right? I would kill to swap the voices in my head with the voices in their head for five minutes. How can these people walk around not wanting to have the voices in their heads silenced? Do their voices tell them things like “You’re lookin’ swell today, Greg! Keep up the good work!”? When they close their eyes do they see one of those old Successories™ posters from the 90s? Do they recite to themselves that “Footprints in the Sand” tale?

My voices say things like, “You know you’ll be first on the conveyor belt when they start up the Soylent Green factories. Let better people snack on you.” I could try to drown that out with “Footprints in the Sand,” but that story just reminds me that the middle toe on my left foot has been hurting for weeks now. I assume it will need to be amputated. That’s why I always have music on whenever I can help it. Right now it’s the “Mellow New Years” playlist and The Posies’ version of “O-o-h Child.”

As a lot of bipolar folks will tell you, our minds tend to wander. Music is a low fence that keeps me from sauntering out of the yard and into dark traffic. Eventually I get back to the task at hand.

As soon as I got a radio in my room around the age of 8 or so, it went on, and it stayed on. The only reason I ever turned it off was I was leaving the room, and I only did that grudgingly because President Ford told us to. I would lay awake at night tuning in far away AM stations, feeling an electricity whenever I tuned in a station that began not with a boring W, but with the exotic K or even the weird-tingly-feeling causing C. Even in far away Canada they listen to the same music we do. Somewhere, some other kid was listening to “Kung Fu Fighting” at the exact same time. I’ll take connection where I can get it. Continue reading

Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

For the roughly five years after my mom passed away, from junior year of high school then through three different undergraduate institutions, a quick tally comes up with at least a dozen trips to the emergency room. Of course, some of these were for bona-fide emergencies, but way too many times I ended up in the back of an ambulance because of –for lack of a better word –“escalations.” In this case, at the 1983 Buckeye Boys State at Bowling Green, I had run into a doorjamb… Continue reading

The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

The white cassette tape with no writing came from that particularly messy corner of my bedroom. I knew exactly what was on it without playing it: Me singing Paper Lace’s #1 hit from 1974, “The Night Chicago Died” in a karaoke bar. In Burbank. With seven vodka tonics in me.

It’s not perfect.  It starts late and drops out once or twice.  Also, I suck.  Come, discover why my brother-in-law wouldn’t allow me to sing the “Please don’t eat all the morsels” song to my future-niece in utero:

 

But, you have to admit, those voddys sure gave me some stage presence. Continue reading