Friday, April 13, 2012

The Departure

Due to a finely-honed reflexive stupidity, I got to the Dallas Love airport about four hours before my flight was due to leave. In a semi-successful attempt at keeping my back from going out on me, I got up every half-hour or so and strolled around the vicinity.

I'd expected more culture shock from Texas, but my only real shock was a white woman wearing a concert T-shirt for a band called Lady Antebellum. I had to wonder how pro-slavery she was, exactly. I tried to assume cluelessness, but you never fucking know, do you? Walking around in front of God and everyone in that shirt -- there were black families right there where they could see her, but she seemed completely at ease. Everyone who thinks we're out from under the shadow of slavery, raise your hands and slap your stupid fucking self right in your stupid fucking face...

Not that it was any of my business, right? Lady fucking Antebellum, I shit you not.

Anyway, during one of these perambulations I felt something uncoil deep within me. During my trip, I'd been on an exceptionally light diet, and, to be delicate, I had no reason to expect an event of the magnitude implied by the heavy, curiously muscular sensations I was experiencing.

A trip to the men's room was in order, but the first one I ran across had a line for the stalls snaking ten feet through a dense cloud of shit-vapor. It was not an acceptable option; there were serious time constraints being brought to bear on my situation. The next bathroom was in a similar state.

The third was tucked under an escalator. Two stalls, one occupied by a pair of pale, scaly cowboy boots with pointed tips. As I hustled as fast as was compatible with dignity, an older black man POPPED out of a supply closet in front of me with a roll of toilet paper in his hand.

"Just a minute! Just a minute!" he said, and blocked my way to the stall. He went in, and the turd inside me squirmed, preparing itself for a show of force. He carefully took the half-full roll of toilet paper off the holder, unwrapped a new roll, installed it...

It was a tense moment for some of us, especially me.

... put the roll of toilet paper on the spindle, put in in place, and took the time to fold a point on the loose end of the paper. "There you go, boss," he said, and grinned at me.

I thought about that Lady Antebellum T-shirt.

When I got into the stall, I quickly dropped my trousers and sat down, only to find that because this was a handicapped stall, the toilet seat was about four inches higher than usual. Between the shift in angle and the extremely dense, clay-like texture of the issue at hand, my game was thrown completely off. It was like trying to force Plasticine through a pastry tube.

From the stall next door came a sharply punctuated, almost percussive hissing noise. Have you ever filled a cup of soda from a dispenser, and hit the button sharply to dispense just a little soda into a nearly-full cup? It was that noise exactly, followed instantly by the sound of a rattlesnake as the heels and toes of the cowboy boots vibrated against the floor in a tattoo that spoke plainly of deep internal discomfort, of ravaged valves and swollen, tender tubes.

Lifting my feet from the floor and balancing on my ass so as to achieve a functional angle, I speculated on the boots. Snakeskin? I've seen albino boas with that kind of patterning before. Maybe some kind of lizard?

As the turd emerged, slick and weighty, it seemed to do so with its own motive power; I had a distinct impression that I was passing a moray eel. It uncoiled endlessly; I'd eaten a bowl of oatmeal here, a meal-replacement beverage there, nothing that would produce a monster like this.

The man in the stall next door hissed and rattled, hissed and rattled. I had to admire his composure; a lesser man would surely have cried out against the clap or his prostate or whatever it was that held him in such a subtly expressive state of agony.

When the eel had dropped from my body, I looked down in curiosity. It was smooth, unbroken, a bowl-filling coil of glistening black. The trace it left on the paper was green.

Blood. This was a blood-turd.

How much blood was that?

Does this make me a cannibal?

When my friends had asked me how I had been, I told them I had thrown up tremendous quantities of blood. See, by using that phrase? They didn't actually think I meant as much blood as I did, so when they asked me if I needed to go to the hospital and I said no, they took me at my word.

"Tremendous quantities of blood." My policy of complete honesty is remarkably deceptive at times. Looking down at the moray, I had to consider that if I'd known I'd lost that much blood, I'd have let them take me to the hospital. Which I would have regretted, especially considering I got through things fine.

Still. That was a lot of blood. A lot.

The staccato rattle from next door was interrupted by the soft shuffle of footsteps outside the stalls, and the piss-hiss was punctuated by a series of soft puffs; I'm a former janitor, and I know what a spray can sounds like.

As the scent of pine drifted under the door, the man from the supply closet sighed, "Whoo-eee," as if he was the only person in the room when he knew damned well he was performing for me, Boots, and Lady fucking Antebellum.

This is a special moment, I said to myself, and filed it for future consideration. This kind of thing does not happen every day, and I had to wonder; was it me, or was it Texas?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Courting Spring Fever

Just a quick one to confirm that I'm alive and functioning.

One of the big advances I experienced this last year involves my relationship to the spring and fall phases of my seasonal shift in mood. In prior years, these were the worst times. Winters were hard, but in spring and fall, my volatility made for both the best and the worst times, and it was quite typical for the worst to follow the best inside the same second. Catastrophic emotional collapses were par for the course.

Following my diagnosis for (among other things) mixed-state bipolar disorder, I ran across this essay by Ayelet Waldman (synchronicity -- she once employed the woman who taught me scriptwriting). One of the symptoms of my bipolar stuff is hypomania, a sort of housebroken variation of mania.

Ms. Waldman's description of hypomania as a superpower struck a chord in me. It also linked up with a notion I've had for a long time now, which is that various odd neurological states are analogous with drug-induced states, extreme meditative states, and so on. A person regarded as being a prophet or being on a permanent acid trip might be healthier and easier to assimilate into society than one regarded as crazy or damaged. Not the most original thought, but I came to it through self-observation.

I've never had a taste for stimulants, not even coffee and chocolate. "I've already got plenty, thanks," has been my response. This has left me jealous of those whose tastes in recreational chemicals keep them working hard. From a careful selection of the morning's tea to an overflowing ashtray to Harry Crews' desktop jar of mixed amphetamines, most writers have something along these lines. I don't even have chocolate milk.

I'm too pressed for time to feel like doing a search, but sometime last year I decided to treat my seasonal hypomania as if it were a condition of intoxication -- one I intended to enjoy, even if I hadn't chosen to ingest it. And I regarded the exercise of my creative powers as the most important element of the pleasure I'd pursue.

Worked. Oh, man, did it work.

When I am in that state, if I have my head on right? I am constantly engaged in specific pursuits during my waking hours, of which I have plenty. I am boisterous, outgoing, compulsively witty, and disgustingly full of myself.

This state is contagious. When I'm hypomanic and feeling good, I'm great company. I radiate a sense of power, purpose, and pleasure to such a degree that strangers go out of their way to make contact with me on the street, just to get some of it to rub off.

All of a sudden, the worst passages of my year became the best.

So right now I'm at the point where I'm still dealing with the depression, but it is definitely lifting. My studio is almost clean enough to start photography, I've been editing a manuscript for a friend and my own is next on the block.

But right now, I am very impatient for my yearly dose of endogenous espresso. All of a sudden things like irritability and acne are welcome signs of the spring thaw, and a tendency toward braggadocio is to be cultivated rather than checked.

Basically, six months of hell is now six months of heaven. All I have to do is figure out a way to either reframe or manage winter, and I'll have a whole year of actual real human life. Wouldn't that just be something?