Friday, November 5, 2010

Lip Service West

We'll see if Rob is going to be able to print this. If so, we're off to the races.

So there's exciting news. As usual. But this isn't as usual!

As usual.

Anyway. I've got exciting news! I've been asked to participate in Lip Service West. It will be on December 10. I can't tell you how excited I am about this.

If you aren't familiar with Lip Service, it's a fairly high-end program devoted to live readings of autobiographical material by literary writers. It tends toward the gritty and transgressive. Sounds within my range, if a bit ambitious. Which I am.

I was familiar with Lip Service long before I began writing seriously, and remember in detail some readings that were broadcast on NPR. When my writing pal Allison Landa (You have read her piece on Salon, haven't you?) read, I attended and was impressed past what I'd expected. It was a rock solid program.

It gave me that itch. I wanted in. So I threw a few pieces at Joe Clifford, the organizer. And he expressed interest, and I expressed interest, and things have gotten to such a pass as to have me saying, hey.

Show the fuck up on December 10, and you will hear about how I...

Ah. I'll tell you then.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mental Commercial

I'm coming to realize that I've stacked up so many images that even if I don't have an original image for a post, I can probably find something wiggy that hasn't been seen for a while...

Just like the rest of you, I am saturated in mass media. I've had the forms of the ad and the commercial ingrained so thoroughly in my mind that my brain will from time to time emit an ad or commercial spontaneously.

My subconscious has the same techniques as the regular ad houses. It just has different concerns.

I'm in an interesting state, what with everything, and my brain just shot a television spot into the visual cortex that I would kill to see on the screen.

It's a standard battery office, a regular cubical farm, right? Warm white walls, lots of blues... people pecking away in front of their monitors...

The door comes off its hinges with a bang and the cops just flow in.

"Everybody freeze! You! Cardigan! On the floor!"

Cop looks at the monitor. "Oh, yeah. He's the one."

Close up of Cardigan's face to the carpet, gun to the back of his head. And then the written message goes up, with sound effects, block letters top and bottom.





See, that's the thing about my subconscious. Throws me into the emergency room, then turns around and gives me a treat like that. Brain, you are indeed a wacky pal.

(Holy shit. What a movie idea! Cops find out that busting white-collar criminals is easy, safe, and gets them brownie points from the public! Cop Rampage! Once the parasites are pulled from the public body, the swine once again grows fat. Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson for the lead?)

Why They Thought I Was A Dipso

So. I was in the emergency room yesterday. And there was something weird going on there. The people were wonderful, make no mistake. And they were able to communicate very sensitive issues in a completely comfortable atmosphere.

It wasn't so much that I was offended when they repeatedly asked me questions about 'withdrawal from alchohol,' and my drinking habits, as puzzled by their persistence.

The thing is, that wasn't there from the start. They asked me about my drinking at the initial interview, and it wasn't mentioned for a few hours. During that time they did my blood work, and they'd spoken of my liver in tones of golden praise. If they had physical symptoms to lead them to that conclusion, they would have brought them up as the tests were being delivered to me.

But when I was talking to the doctor, there was a moment of silence in the conversation, and suddenly she stared at me intently. It was brief, but I could see her thinking hard. And she says, "Are you a writer?"

I was, of course, stunned by her insight. (If you haven't noticed by now, I'm a sap, and I've written this same story with a different cast of characters quite recently.) "Yeah. Yeah, I am."

"So, have you ever experienced withdrawal from alchohol?"

And I had to answer that question three more times from different people while I was there.

I thought about it. And I thought about it. Okay, the symptoms I was displaying -- nausea, in an emergency-room format, you provide your own details -- were consistent with alcohol withdrawal. Fair enough. But they were consistent with a lot of other things that were mentioned and dropped.

It wasn't until I went to bed that I put the last piece in place.

When the doctor stared at me, she was reading my T-shirt. T-shirt communication is a tricky thing.

I had been wearing my Viable Paradise Writer's Workshop T-shirt. Which marked me as a writer. Writer = Dipso, as is well-known.

So here's a new writer's workshop T-shirt rule.

Running around town? Cool.

Social event? Uncool.

Professional event? Required.

Times when you don't want to be mistaken for some kind of sterno-guzzling wet-brained flammable sot?

Leave it in the drawer, my friends. Leave it in the drawer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Emergency Room!

Guess where I've been?

And so. To get the real issue out of the way. Everyone who wanted me to see a doctor? I saw a doctor. There is no serious emergency, just further evidence of the same old villain at work.

If you aren't familiar with the ongoing drama, part of my new identity is Dude Who Pukes. A Lot. And There's Blood.

I got to choose a lot of aspects of the emerging persona. I did not pick this one. It started off as a persistent vague feeling of nausea that would spike during moments of stress, causing me to rush from the room from time to time.

Then came Taos. Hey, everyone at Taos? I admire your forbearance in letting me stay in the room while vomiting almost constantly, but if this comes up again, I'd suggest just pitching me over the rail into the parking lot.

This was followed in July or August by the stomach flu that inspired me to a frenzy that actually ripped a little opening somewhere in my esophagus. Which is where the blood comes from.

Since then, there have been two times when a combination of drinking and overeating have caused me to go into serious pukeathons. This last one started Sunday afternoon, and the missus made me go to the emergency room today.

The Missus: That's a lot of blood. That's pretty scary.

The Oaf: I got more.

The Missus: Doesn't that scare you?

The Oaf: You're not gonna like this, but I simply do not have a healthy regard for my own physical well-being. I take care of myself so I don't screw over the people around me, but it's not like I really care.

The Missus: You're right. I hate that.

She started asking me to go in last night, but at that point my physical state was so wretched that I couldn't imagine the car ride, let alone the time spent in the waiting room.

(As an aside, the music my brain played during my delirium was the Richard Thompson version of I Live In Trafalgar Square.)

But this morning, when she asked me again, I was both well enough to imagine completing the trip, and weak enough to be manipulated. (Yes, the Oaf is as putty in the hands of a stronger will, when you can find one.)

Glad I did it. Partially, I was pleased to find out that despite feeling crappy all the time, I still am possessed of a healthy body. No HIV, no cancer, liver is rockin'.

One thing that I found interesting, was that of course questions about drinking showed up early. But then at one point the physician asked me if I was a writer, and when I said yes, the drinking questions went up about two notches in terrifying implications -- "So, how often have you experienced withdrawal from alchohol?" "Not so far, not likely ever." This came up a few times, and given that I told them what my drinking habits were, I have no idea where this came from.

The final tentative diagnosis? "There's a whole bunch of stuff in here. I think you probably have what we used to call an ulcer in your esophagus. Your drinking and eating habits are going to irritate your digestive tract. But mostly, I think it's stress and anxiety."

This is where I ask the trombone player to step out and play that familiar melody:


Basically, when I hit the point where I am in a sweat-drenched writhing delirium for hours and hours and hours? That's not so much a puking problem as puking setting off a psycho problem. I do experience those episodes as visionary though unpleasant...

I knew this. And I knew that addressing my diet and drinking more deliberately would keep me from experiencing a lot of these episodes. But hearing confirmation from a number of different medical personnel kinda settles things. I don't have the option of knowing but refraining. The missus knows I know.

Thing is, is I went in complaining about puking blood, and the medicos made it plain that my real problem is my crazy. "So, given your condition, are you able to go out at all or do you have to stay at home?" seemed a tad harsh, but actually? The combination of chronic pain and depression has kept a lot of nasty little bedrooms occupied full-time. I ain't doing that. But I'll tell you what. If I liked opiates, I could have gone that way.

They also threw some antacids my way.

As an aside, the people at the county hospital were genuinely wonderful. If it weren't for the extreme physical discomfort (they gave me morphine, and people don't believe me when I tell them that opiates agitate me), it would have been a lovely day.

But just for the record. Home remedies suck. Orally-administered anti-emetics? Are you familiar with the concept of the design flaw? And I am sorry, I don't give a shit how many pediatricians love the stuff. Pedialite is unbelievably nasty. There are moments in life that are not enhanced by the presence of artificial grape flavor. Give me blue Gatorade. It does not make you think of food even a little bit. Instead, it tastes the way those curiously appealing blue disinfectants smell. Mmmmmmmm....

Still. I preferred being the guy who could eat or drink anything without puking. Oh, well. One step closer to the grave.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Cats and a Cockroach

So here's a little unit I scored at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago. Two bucks. What caught my eye was the cover art. It's by Rube Goldberg. But it wasn't just the artist -- it was the subject matter.

So when I flip it over, I find this -- the damned thing has actually been through the mail. This edition was dated 1909. I wonder if those stamps might be of interest to someone. And note that gorgeous cursive. Dip pens rule. I find it interesting that it's addressed to Omar, which is the name of the cat on the cover.

Let me be honest. The book itself looks dreadful. It's about a pampered cat's wild night out on the town, and it's got that dated us-guys humor that makes a feller want to slink into the corner and weep for his gender.

But the scratchy caricature and subject matter reminded me of the works of another writer and artist. So I looked up A Night Out, and found that it had been reprinted into the twenties. Which means that there's an excellent chance that it exerted an influence on one of my favorite works of US letters.

Poor ol' Marquis. (Not to mention the Herriman.) He was a genuinely good writer. Top-shelf stuff. But the poor bastard had to go and be funny, and now all that anyone remembers him for is this.

The pieces in this book were cranked out for a newspaper column, and from what I've read, Marquis didn't think too highly of them. He was wrong, of course, but if you read his other stuff you can understand why he was frustrated.

The pieces are all supposedly written by a cockroach who was a reincarnated free-verse poet. It's kind of like a more sophisticated Damon Runyon, written for exterminators. It's fascinating to think of something as basically dumb as A Night Out influencing something as smart as Archie and Mehitabel.

There's a lot of missing links out there we'll never find out about.