Lies

**I am publishing this as is. All errors result from a choice to write freely.

A friend bemoaned the coming blog postposts that will forthcoming in the wake of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide*. Posts that will question why someone would choose suicide, the state of mental illness treatment and support in the States, whether addiction (or, for that matter, depression) is a disease, character defect, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.

The last phrase is particularly apt at the moment for me, though it has nothing to do with Williams’ death.

I process the world–usually–through writing. When I don’t write, it probably means I am in denial or otherwise just not working my way through something. Which means, I suppose, that today is a good one.

And perhaps it is also a good one because so many of us are still standing and will remember the Robin-shaped hole–and, I hope, the holes left by the scores of other suicides today, tomorrow…

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. And we can pretend that addiction and mental illness are aberrations and character flaws. And we can decry the “choice.” And we can mourn the losses. And we can love those who remain here. Not always present, but here.

And running alongside the shock on my Twitter feed is the abhorrently less shocking news: kids who can’t get home because of a blockade, residents in fear of a heavily armed force shouting at them, attempts to fight back that are often swept aside in the reports for the sexier acts of destruction.

In Ferguson, MO. Racial tension explodes.

That which is forced into silence–externally or internally–will rise. The emotions that are drowned, denied, or belittled will take over. Eventually. And we can never really predict how, where, or who. We are all subject.

That Williams’ apparent suicide should come after a long stretch of working and time in rehab should come as little surprise. The masking of the highs–through whatever means–can result in pummeling, fatal lows. Worse still are those liminal spaces known as mixed episodes, when you are deeply depressed with the energy and –sometimes–delusion that make it possible to do something about the (lack of) feelings. That something is not necessarily going to look rational to those on the outside. But it might carry its own internal logic. And the end result is the same.

A hole.

That Ferguson’s apparent violence should come after a long stretch of increasing racial tensions and the warfeargasm (thanks, L7) fed by the media should come as little surprise. The masking of the threats and hostilities–through whatever means–can result in pummeling, fatal actions. Worse still are those liminal spaces between delusion and fear, when you are so terrified of your neighbor, the police, the kid on the street that bullets seem like the only way to do something about those feelings. The internal logic will be there. But the end result is the same.

A hole.

A death. A loss. More fear. More pain. More evasion of truth.

Evading the difficult conversations about race that are bound up in a political vision that triumphs noise over evidence. Evading the conversations that put on the table the simple truth that a black man in the Oval Office sent part of this country into a profound state of delusion. Evading the difficult conversation that some of those same delusions bind up the possibilities for treating mental illness and addiction because, like the black man in the Oval Office, too much of the discourse assumes black men, addiction, and mental illness to be something other. Too much of the discourse assumes whatever it is that white and normal are supposed to be.

Fuck that.

Depression kills. Fear kills. Delusion kills, be it the one mediated on TV or mediated in my head by the bipolar cycles that I work to balance every single day.

Cycles that killed a man this morning. Delusions that make us have to question ourselves when the energy is too high (did I see him? Is he real?). Delusions that there is no other way out.

Other kinds of cycles, just as subject to swings, killed a young man this weekend. Delusions, mediated by violent rhetoric and pervasive, inflamed fears that go unquestioned and too quickly smothered by the next great event–this delusion killed a young man this weekend. And the days before that. And before that. And before that.

How long do we let delusions destroy us? How many holes have to be left?

Depression lies.

Fear lies.

Both kill.

 


 

*the first line caught my eye on FB. That was too hideous to leave.

Conceptualizing Groupies, Bad Boys, Wonderbread and Water Sports.

In theory, I am writing a chapter proposal on Bad Girls this weekend. Whether or not this will come to fruition is a question that will best be answered on Monday. When the proposal is due.

My academic career and research curiosities (okay, so that comes out really badly) have led me to skirt around the subject on a number of occasions, riffing off of the stories of Lilith, the Queen of the Night, assorted fairy tales, video characters and Diamanda Galás at various times. There exists a thread between these fictional and real women, but I’ve never attempted to suss it out clearly, and I am not certain that what the call for critical responses to the “bad girl” in popular culture is looking for is this binding. I have the shape, the notes, but not that…whatever it is the yanks this together (that isn’t Benjamin).

(Before I move on. Diamanda Galás: “This is the Law of the Plague” and “Skótoseme“. Oh, hell…”Do You Take This Man“, for sport, particularly if you want to go for something more…straight. And the last two are with John Paul Jones. Plague Mass is also worth a listen. You’re welcome.)

Certainly there are elements of the big theme–redemption–is here, though that goes in dozens of directions (though, having typed it…this could be the starting point I was looking for. Violent redemptions. Redeeming bad girls–or not, as is the case so frequently, etc. ACK! I know what the damn thread is! I knew I’d find it if I stopped looking).  I was looking for a story about Joan Jett that I ran across a dozen or more times in the punk oral histories, and damned if I can’t lay hands on it this time.

What I kept returning to as I worked through an outline without the hook (I knew I should freewrite) was the narrative of the groupie.  I even reread parts of Roxana Shirazi’s book, Last Living Slut, reminding me just how degradation was framed throughout. Specifically, I reread a scene I have written about before (misspellings and all), when she depicts encouraging Synyster Gates to urinate on her breasts. (N.B.: Piss is apparently a theme for them. There is something here to unpack, but I suspect it ends around egotistical assholes who know how to play the roles. I swear, if the porn remark on the second link doesn’t scream “no, really, trying to be bad boy,” I’m not sure what does)**. She describes them, on the one hand, as so frightening that she can’t look at their pictures for long, particularly Shadows’ (Matt, though the stage name does seem relevant here). She does note that “though their look seemed aggressive at first glance, their reputation for excessive behavior unfortunately reeked of public-relations press release” (171).  See also, “World’s Most Dangerous Band” motifs.

Though she twice uses “serial killer” to describe one or more members of the band, she also uses “instant cake batter”, “cute as puppies” and “soft, Cheerios-fed, California beach boys,” which may be my favorite description ever. Brian gets an additional nod toward “blue collar machismo” (which is interesting in light of the rest of the chapter). With respect to Matt, she later remarks “[his] face was actually less of that of a ravaged serial killer than that of a lovely little boy. That damn marketing department didn’t do them justice” (173).  I’m still trying to figure out the ravaged serial killer bit–that marketing department (and the band) was never unaware–no matter the characterizations–of the, um, attractiveness of the band members (for the love of Pete, you need only see them once to recognize that they are perfectly aware of it too. Watch Brian identify the young ladies who are seeing the band for the first time. Trust me, he can. He flirts shamelessly and wins their hearts. Every. Single. Time. Man knows how to perform. Then there is that vocalist and his dimples. He can get away with pretty much anything with just a smile. I feel certain he’s known that since childhood).

The chapter’s structure seems to bear some of the dichotomy of bad boy/wonderbread out: Brian and Roxana go off alone, engaging in an act neither have done before and subsequently return to the bus in silence.  Her following descriptions of her infantilize him: “He was mumbling, and I just wanted to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay” (179). Here, she sees herself entirely empowered in the situation–he is merely following her lead. He subsequently disappears only to return in a bizarre…not sure what to call it here…Brian ex machina?  He stands at this point as the confirmation of the archetypal PR-created bad boy (heart of gold near the surface, of course) that she thought they would be in the first place.

He comes of as so much the little boy, which was, I suspect, the point, particularly as he serves as the foil to the Rev in the next scene. While the first scene was shrouded in sort of privacy–though outside, they were alone–this sequence is public (even though on the bus). She follows the Rev and her friend Lori upstairs… I can’t do justice to this paragraph in summary, so…here:

I can only describe what ensued in the next half hour as nerdy frustration. The Rev tried to fuck me while the singer, M. Shadows, watched [***]. When Synyster showed up, though, The Rev’s dick died. He kept trying to fuck, but his dick was spaghetti limp. He tried to shove it in again and again. (179)

That “nerdy frustration” apparently comes out as a fairly violent, perhaps drug-induced assault on Roxana by The Rev. She grabs Lori and her clothes and leaves furious…”because I hadn’t got proper sex’ (180). I don’t even know where to start with this. The humorous: where exactly was Lori (who goes unmentioned between upstairs and exit)? Unless bus lounges have gotten somewhat less cozy, we’ve got a considerable number of people stuffed in here. Not going to touch the Magical Brian ™ arrival. And then there is the obvious thing–she brushes off having had her head slammed into the ground, angry instead at sexual frustration. Granted, I’m making a judgement here about how she “should” react–certainly she has her own agency, but it’s troubling, particularly as it is hardly the only denial of violence.

Also…nerdy?

I confess that my recall of her depiction was off–I thought she had described Matt in some detail during this scene (including some reference to the omnipresent aviators), but I apparently made that part up. Which means I am rewriting this book in my head. I’m not sure I want to follow that too much further.  But, now that I think on it…The Rev and Brian are both framed as little boys, aren’t they?  One is shy and mumbling in the face of her empowered self, and the other is an angry little boy who doesn’t get what he wants (and, to that end, she doesn’t either). The whole damn chapter is about children, isn’t it? Right down to Matt as “lovely little boy.”

How in the blue hell did I end up here?

Well, at least it’s getting research out of my brain and into the ether. Even if it is research I would never submit.

Though apparently I’ll happily post it publicly.

W.T.F.


*What are the corollaries for bad girls on this? I suspect there are more similarities that I was assuming at first blush. Bad Boys with hearts of gold are, after all, stock in trade.

**Important reminder: immaturity. Eye-rolling, remarkable, immaturity. One hopes this is at least partially self-aware caricature. Actually, it’s damn difficult to ever read Zacky through any other frame. As the world’s finest internet troll (retired), he knows something about how to stay in character.

***Fits nicely with the porn remark, yes? Straight on, dude.

“There’s something in your eyes, a part of me that I recognize…”

Well, it must be getting on toward September, since I find myself wanting to write. Though, I admit, I haven’t the slightest idea what exactly it is I want to write about.  Perhaps I just need to hit the keys for a while (monkeys and typewriters and whatnot). 2014 has certainly been a hell of a lot more interesting than I thought it would be when I was pondering 38 and sanity last year. That I would be on the correct coast and in a new job, home, etc., would never have occurred to me, even as much as I may have wanted such changes. And here I am.

I’ve been trying to work through a call for a book chapter recently, and I have found myself stymied. I can’t even get pen to paper (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) to begin the damn thing.  Hell, I can’t even get my head around what it is I want to do, though I know what I want to do (these things are clearly related). It feels like starting my dissertation all over again (that right there is about the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed)–knowing where I wanted to go and getting stuck behind the first letter.

So, I’m here instead. Perhaps trying to tell any tale whatsoever.

Before I moved, I took a week to do something that could be regarded as absolutely nothing, but was something I’ve really wanted to do but never took the time nor had the money (well, the latter was probably still debatable).

Virginia Beach, May 2014

Virginia Beach, May 2014

I followed Avenged Sevenfold for 4 shows in 5 days, calling it something like “fangirl trip” as I posted pictures and the obligatory swoons. And then I got a chance to see them again in July. Twice. I’m familiar enough at this point to warrant being poked fun at by a certain vocalist, who (rightly) pointed out as he left the stage in that ever annoying “hey we’re done, bye-bye-get the crowd screaming before coming back for the “encore” we were going to do anyway” crap. Apparently, I made a face at them (lack of poker face?). Said vocalist looked at me and smirked, saying “you know we’ll be back.”  I am probably far more amused by this than I can or should explain, but I am. Seriously amused.

I’m grateful as hell that I’ve been able to follow them around so many places–even to Montreal, where they came on after GWAR (several hours after, but after no less). That was one of the first shows that I realized I had crossed into that familiar zone–hey, we just saw you… Only, I had pink hair from the stage blood (and, as it turned out, a considerable amount of said stage blood on my face. I was a hot mess. The dude at the sandwich shop after the show–well, that my French sucks ass did not keep me from being able to follow his remarks. At all), so I was on the receiving end of some very strange looks. And I really didn’t care.

Part of me wants to wander through these memories here, and part of me wants to keep them to myself. And I don’t know why that is. It is, however, strange.

At risk of running into the maudlin (I really need to find some topic to wander through that isn’t me), much of what has happened in my personal growth has come alongside various *things* (no idea what to say other than that) with respect to this band. It was extraordinarily difficult to make some of the choices I made to leave home to see them–ridiculous as it sounds, even to me,

 I’m not sure I could have made the steps to land here without having made the smaller ones that landed me in their pits over and again. Being able to say that I want this. That I am not too afraid to just launch myself in to whatever space or place is available and then just detach from the world for a few hours. That I can be a fan again. That I can be okay.

That’s not quite right. Not quite what I mean. It’ll have to do.

I’ve met some fantastic people in these travels. I have some wonderfully odd snapshot memories (I get so lost in the music that there is little space for more).

Montreal, August 2013

Montreal, August 2013

A squeezed hand, a laugh, an unexpected kindness, a hunt for a book, forgotten words, “you rock”–moments.

They are playing in Dallas in two nights, and I am not going, much as I want to. I need to settle in–wait until next Spring, when they’ll likely headline their own tour again (if they do more than one offs this fall–or even those, really–I’ll eat my still-dyed-pink hat). Be here now, in this gift. In this world.

And writing. Seriously, I need to get with damn writing.

Blogging 3.0: The Obligatory Resolution Post

In an attempt to make myself write regularly (I seem to do this all too often), I’ve set up the most self-serving challenge that I could think of for myself: do one thing for me every day.  This was inspired by my massage therapist (!) and that communal meeting I regularly attend.  Because active alcoholism (sidenote:  3 years sober on 12/28/13.  Yay!), I am a champion of constructing ridiculous rules for myself, so I thought I’d revisit that old and relatively harmless (albeit funny) quirk. So, the “thing” must be at least 10 minutes in length, is primarily for me (but can help others in the process), and I cannot judge the thing as selfish, etc (even if it totally is). It cannot hurt others (making sure I don’t use this to talk myself out of things will be…fun). It simply is/will be.  Cheap (as in, no cost) is better, but spending on thing is permissible (that said, it need not turn into shopping as therapy). Writing these updates does not count. Meditation doesn’t count b/c that’s a “supposed to,” as are the various forms of therapy that I engage in to make me an easier person to be around.  You’re welcome.

So, on Jan. 1, I got a hot stone massage.  I have recently returned to massage therapy to try to undo some significant damage I’ve done to myself over the last year of not doing massage therapy (my shoulders were residing somewhere in the vicinity of my temples).  Such therapy has the benefit of making me a generally easier person to be around.  You’re welcome.  But, I’ve never had a hot stone massage, and it did seem an interesting way to begin 2014 (especially given what 2013 was departing with), and it was definitely a groovy experience that I likely won’t do again (at least this year).

Today will be a touch harder.  I am working from home owing to what 2013 gifted me there at the end (yay, asthma), so whatever it is has to be here, which is fine, but I am presently baffled.  Surely I can manage to come up with something for today.  It’s only the second day of this…

 

Sanity

I’ve been sober 981 days today.  I’ve  been sane for considerably fewer.  I’d be hard-pressed to say when it starting getting better, but if forced, I’d pick when I started meds–though it was months before anything resembling sanity took hold.  So, maybe not January 18.  Let’s go with the day I ran the Portland half-marathon: May 19, 2013. Why?  Because I can.  I had recently increased to a dosage I’ve remained at since. And because I ran the fucking race dressed as Wonder Woman.

Ok, so maybe that isn’t my best example of sanity…but, it’s a date, and it was 108 days ago.  If we had chips to mark our time in sanity, I’d have three.

Go me.

My birthday (the natal one, not the sober one) is typically the herald of a fall decline. I probably first noticed that in these pages.  I was nearly always melancholy at my birthday.  Is this normal?  I’ve no idea.  I know I am not alone in this, but I’ve no idea how “normal” it is–especially unlinked from a fear of getting older.  Surprised?  Yes.  Afraid? No.

The shorter days play hell with my moods, and this is the first year I’ve known why, though the diagnosis we were working with last December, when I last bothered to write here, was modified around that same time to Bipolar I (I go for the big dogs, thank you)–additional proof that I am batshit crazy.   That I am aware of the “why” doesn’t really change the likelihood of an impending depression (and, in fact, I can say with some confidence that said depression is knocking on the proverbial door), but at least I can see it coming and know what it is.  Whether I can do anything other than–as a friend says–lay on the floor and be sane and sober–is another matter entirely.

If that is all I got that day, that’s all I got.  Feel free to wave.

Traditionally, I run the Virginia Beach half-marathon on Labor Day.  I missed it this year because, in my efforts to stave off the arrival of my annual fall depressive cycle (which needs a name.  Suggestions are welcome), I overtrained and screwed up my Achilles’ tendon.

Again, go me.  Spring: run half-marathon at PR.  Fall: yeah, well…you know.  And not being able to run plays additional hell with my moods. (Clarification for those who have to live, work, or otherwise deal with me: I’ve got this covered.  Not running, but I do have something.)

ImageI’d kind of like to imagine that 38 will be some sort of majestic improvement over 37.  I mean, the tail end of 37 did involve an amazing and excellent new album from him and his gang–>.

And, in related news, 38 will involve more fabulous live shows (complete with top-notch spectacle–screw Aristotle and his “less artistic”.  Spectacle is amazing, necessary, and Avenged does it with unabashed style and excitement). 37 did provide two–such as the one to the right and the day in Montreal that followed.  Heavy MTL was just…let me put it this way, when I say my feet were not in contact with the ground–that I was floating–during Avenged Sevenfold’s show, I am not being hyperbolic.  I really was not in contact with the ground for most of that show.  A terribly impressive pit, that one.

But, for whatever challenges 37 dished out–and it did, with ferocity, the year wasn’t exactly a failure, and I have to remember that–I did finally find out what was “wrong”.  37 brought me adventures with great friends in scattered places, Disneyland and glitter ears, and Foofighters & Pearl Jam & Duff.  I spent nearly 5 weeks total on the west coast, and most of that time was bathed in sunlight.  I short, I’ve been around long enough to know that expecting up, down, or stable is unreasonable.  38 will be what it will be.

It just might have a few more pits (the ones at live shows, not the ones in a Poe short story) in it.  And that, my friends, is the best sanity-inducer my money can buy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you–for all of you.

Two and Still Counting

Well, I sort of don’t believe that I made it to two, having hit one so many times before. But, here it is. When I started drafting this yesterday, I was of a far different mood than I am presently. But, I want to be true to what was real yesterday (absolute gratitude) because it still is true today, if rather masked by depression. Which sucks, but no one ever said that life got easy in sobriety, either. I’m weaving the two days together–I hope somewhat seamlessly.

So, if I may quote Volbeat in passing:

Counting all the assholes in the room
Well I´m definitely not alone, well I´m not alone

And that is perhaps the best thing about 2–the realization and recognition that I am not alone. Kind of beautiful.

The year has not been an easy one, certainly. It was filled with a great many troubles that I NEVER imagined, and more than a few that I suspected, but was a little dismayed and surprised to have them show up now. These revelations included major depression (not mine, but someone I dearly love), a radical and still-coming transition at work (including a campus move for me–ah, change. I handle that so well), more therapy and therapists than you can shake a stick at, and twin diagnoses (mine) of chronic fatigue (no surprise) and bipolar II (not a surprise, either, exactly, but I’m still working on that whole acceptance thing). And, on the upside, I am grateful beyond measure to all the people who reached out to me or who were there when I reached out through all of the above.

I am not alone, even when I feel like I am.

I was, for the most part, a solitary drinker. Social drinking ended for me at approximately my first drink, which, if my mother is to be believed, happened when I was about 6 months old. Thereafter I demanded–by her telling–demanded wine every time she had any. Mine! I was solitary in most adventures, and that remains true in many cases now, but not as much as before. Even when I venture off alone.

I am not alone anymore, even when I set off that way.

I traveled this year, rather more than I imagined I would (and all the more surprisingly, given the events of the year). Flew to such far flung places as a casino in Connecticut, an old airfield in New Jersey, to home in Virginia Beach, to a teen dream-come-true in Cleveland, and to a beach in Ireland. Several of these adventures saw me flying by myself. But, in Atlantic City, I met an elderly Irish man who was convinced I used to come to that restaurant all the time, a young woman who gave me an A7X bracelet because she saw my Matt-bat tattoo, and scores of folks who asked about the shiner I’d acquired at that casino during an Avenged show. In Cleveland, I celebrated Guns N’ Roses with some of my favorite people, and managed to thwart the (other) GNR fans lined up outside the hotel by leaving the van running and piling in the signed posters with as much dignity as Janean and I are capable of possessing (which is a fair amount, it turns out). In Virginia Beach, I ran what may turn out to be the worst and last half-marathon of my life, but I enjoyed every second of it. In Ireland, I got to visit a site I’d long intended to see–and, what’s more–unknowingly selected a hotel that was in sight of it.

Not the day I put my feet in the North Atlantic.

Not the day I put my feet in the North Atlantic.

I also got to put my bare feet in the North Atlantic, which amuses me more that I probably should admit.

Not alone, even in the struggles.

Work constituted a major part of my year–as we prepared for the consolidation of the institution with another. It came as a shock to most of us that we even had to do it, and I think the work-level in preparation for it came as a shock continually throughout the year. But, we were together in it, and we will forge the new togethers. One day at a time. The impending changes did force me to kickstart productive research again (that’s a positive), and I find myself composing a paper on punk, nostalgia, and anxiety. Sort of oddly fun. Academics are weird.

So, that’s it. A year in brief. Here’s to another day and another series of days that may bring us to another year. My thanks to you all for traveling these roads with me.

The Halcyon Days of Candy Canes

The adventures in limited foods continue apace, including a rather pitiful realization that candy canes are now verboten.  CANDY CANES.  Somehow both dramatic and terribly funny.  As a result, this unrepentant lover o’candy canes is on the hunt to find the how-can-I-have-December-without-them treats in a non-corn syrup variety.

And hope like heck the taste is worth it (I  have faith).

Last week turned into an adventure in “what, this too??” With respect to both food and “food” (such as non-stick spray) items.  Everywhere I turned in my diet, one of the blacklisted entities would show up–most commonly corn and soy.  Our typical Thanksgiving dinner was…necessarily modified (I still served wheat rolls, but I clearly didn’t eat them or the butter they demand).  I called a friend for help in determining what in the world to eat for breakfast, and after lamenting the egg-less existence, she brilliantly pointed out that it was easier to just think morning dinner, rather than remaining stuck in my apparently limited vision of what constitutes breakfast.  Or, as another friend put it: “did you eat cold pizza for breakfast in college?  Then what’s the problem here?” My friends, they got my back.  So, yesterday was Acorn Squash & Homemade Sausage (store-bought that we typically get has corn syrup–I’ve not yet evaluated others).  Other options will be Brussels Sprouts & Bacon (the concept of which delights me to no end).  Another morning adventure was the every-other-day-smoothie with blackberries and bananas (and spinach.  Awesome).

More amusingly, I realized this week that it was easier to cook after a long day than it was to figure out where in the world I an eat out (waaay too much brainpower needed.  Brainpower, which notably, is really lacking after 6:50 pm, which is why we kept defaulting to going out in the first place).

So, all three meals are lovingly prepared each day. A process which is not unlike the hell I put myself through when I was avoiding writing my dissertation, only I’m not eyeing the baseboards for deep cleaning and it feels rather more productive.  I was June Cleaver with a full-time job and a minivan, dammit.  Thank the powers that be that the minivan is gone (I never could live up to that ideal) and that the job has survived me.

In non-candy cane related news, I can report that I slept–like really slept–the other night.  I feel asleep quickly and stayed that way in what must be that thing you non-insomniacs call deep sleep.  Astounding.  Utterly astounding.  I assume, since I did nothing physical to warrant such things, that the Magnesium that has been ordered (by the same doc who cut me off from candy canes) is doing it’s thing and helping.

If you happen to have  a lead on candy-canes that I can eat (not that I’m obsessing or anything), please let me know.