Rikky was skinny. The way Michael Jackson was skinny. All rubbery, loose, yet with enough gristle and sinew to look like a man. And he danced like Michael Jackson, too. On the marble steps of our apartment building in Oakland, California, he’d spin, make a little “ch ch” sound and flip his hand and hip out, posing on the last beat.

My boyfriend, Scott, and I managed the apartment. It was the late nineteen-eighties, we were finishing college, working and saving all our money to buy a house. In return for a free apartment, we rented out the vacant apartments, collected the checks each month, and called the maintenance man, a coarse, cauliflower-skinned old man, who would never use Scott’s name, only referring to him as “college boy.” We mostly rented to people we wanted to be friends with: Keesha and Darril, a couple from Atlanta, she was into fashion design, he was into computers. Courtney and Danny, graduate students at Berkeley. Pierre and Suzanne; she was teaching, he was in law school. And then there was Rikky.

The building was newly renovated, Art Deco, the wood floors refinished, everything freshly painted. But it wasn’t a particularly nice neighborhood. The high-rise next door rented by the week. A baby was dropped down the stairwell there, killed on impact. One night, Scott and I watched a man beat a woman in the parking lot between our building and the neighboring building. When Scott lowered his voice and yelled out the window, “Leave her alone, I’m calling the police!” the woman who was being beaten looked up toward our apartment and yelled, “Mind your own fucking business!” We quickly shut the blinds and hid out in the bedroom, afraid of a rock or bullet that might come flying through the window. The man in the little market on the ground floor of the neighboring building was shot to death one night. He was a nice man, who said, “Thank you very muuuch,” after each purchase, with an accent like Bela Lugosi. There was what we called a “Drug in the Box” across the street. People walked down the street, stuck their hand in a ground floor window and then walked away, quickly. Young boys hung out on the corners whistling and cooing and making all sorts of noises that signaled where the police or any other threat was at any particular moment.  And a pit bull was shot in the head on the sidewalk in front of our apartment one day. The dog was attacking the maintenance man who held it back with a push broom. The police pulled over, got out of their car.  One cop drew his gun, shot the pit bull, put his gun back and returned to the car. They drove away. No report, no words. Just a dead pit bull under my bedroom window.

The day after Rikky signed the lease, an Emporium Capwell truck pulled up in front of the building and began unloading furniture into his studio apartment. Rikky bought the room on display in the department store, including the knick-knacks. He invited Scott and me to come over and see, once the rooms had been set up. Everything was black, white and grey; feathery, dappled, shiny. There was even a silver framed painting on the wall: an abstract of splattered black paint. A price tag hung off each piece of furniture; white sticker tags glared from the corners of each object. In the obsidian ashtray, a wide sticker sat where a stubbed cigarette should have been: $16.99.

“I just went into that store,” Rikky explained, “and stood in the middle of the showroom pointing. I want this, this, this, and this.” Rikky pivoted on one leg, nodding his lanky, limp index finger.

A couple people suggested Rikky might be a male prostitute—for men. He claimed he wasn’t gay but, again like Michael Jackson, his sexuality was ambiguous, his appeal androgynous. Most people thought he was a drug dealer, in spite of his fragile looks and feathery wardrobe. If he was prostituting or dealing drugs, he wasn’t doing it out of the apartment, so in fact, he turned out to be a pretty good tenant. He always paid his rent on the first of the month, always in cash. And then we began to worry about having cash in the apartment—who knew what Rikky’s friends might do for a few hundred dollars? We told Rikky he had to pay the rent by check, like everyone else in the building. The next month’s rent came on a check, but it didn’t have Rikky’s name anywhere on it. The name was similar to Rikky’s, same number of syllables, same metric rhythm. And the address was correct, down to the apartment number.

“Who’s this?” I asked Rikky.

“That’s my brother,” he said, and he did a little Michael Jackson dance in my entrance hall. “Man, we were at a club last night,” Rikky said, “and you should have seen me, you should have seen me dancing, girl, everyone was all over me; boys, girls, they all wanted me when they saw me dance.”

“You told me you don’t have any brothers,” I said.

“The check’s good, don’t worry about! And Huey Newton was there,” Rikky said, spinning around twice and turning his head like a ballerina so he wouldn’t get dizzy.  “He likes hookers. There must have been ten hookers at our table. Oh, and the mayor was there, too.”

“You were partying with the mayor?” I asked.

“Hell yes,” Rikky said. “I only hang out with the finest people.”

The check was good and all the checks that followed were also good.

Sometime in the beginning of the summer, right after Scott and I graduated from school, Rikky bought a brand-new, white Saab. It had every upgrade possible: a black bra across the front, a built-in cell phone at a time when no one we knew had a cell phone, leather seats, sun roof, everything electric.  Rikky stood on the stoop twirling the keys around his finger as he told a few of us the story.

“I walked into that dealership and said, ‘How much.’ Then this white guy there, big belly, puffy face, he gives me a look like, ‘Ain’t no colored boy from Lafayette, Louisiana, gonna be buying a vehicle like this.’”

“How’d he know you were from Louisiana?” my friend, Keesha, asked.

“Girl, he didn’t know nothin’! That’s what I’m saying, he was just givin’ me the look and I was reading his mind!”

“How fast does that thing go?” Scott asked. He’d been admiring the car all day. We didn’t have a car, we took the bus, or the BART train, or we walked.

“Fast, girlfriend, it goes fast! So, this white guy is looking at me and he gives me a price and I say, ‘Fine, I’ll take it.’”

“Did you test drive it?” Scott wanted to know.

“Fuck, no! The only way to let them know you ain’t no dumb punk is when you don’t even test drive the motherfucker you’re gonna buy!”

“So you didn’t drive it till you took it off the lot?” Scott was incredulous.

“No, girlfriend, I told you, no! I just whipped out my little Fendi bag, see?” Rikky flipped his purse-like sack from his back to his side to show us.  “And I pulled out cash, motherfuckers, cold, hard, cash and paid for the thing right then and there.”

“How much was it?” Scott asked.

The car cost more than what we were trying to save for a down payment on a house. Scott wanted the car.  I wanted the cash Rikky spent buying it—I wanted a house.

Scott and I worked hard that summer. I was taking the BART to I.Magnin, an upscale department store in San Francisco where I sold Ladies’ Dresses. He was taking the bus to Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, working as a janitor, making far more money than I. We both were working on our resumes, looking for real jobs now that we’d finished school.

One day near the end of the summer, Rikky came knocking on my door.

“Girl,” he said, “I’m in a little bit of trouble and I need some cash fast.”

“I don’t have any money,” I said.

Rikky was sweating, fidgeting instead of dancing. We were in the hall outside my apartment; he kept looking down to the glass front door of the building as if he were waiting for someone.

“Can I have something to drink?” he asked.

We went into the apartment and he whistled out a long breath, like he’d just finished a difficult chore—changing a tire or fixing a toaster.

“So what’s up?” I opened the fridge and pulled out the orange juice.   “Juice?”

“No, I don’t want anything.” Rikky sat at my kitchen table.

“I thought you wanted something to drink.”

“No, I’m not thirsty.”

“You okay?”

“Girl,” he said, “I need to get some money, fast. I was thinking I’d sell you and Scott the Saab. At a discount, of course.”

“We don’t have any money.” I was grateful Scott wasn’t home. He would have gouged out our house-savings to buy it at a bargain price. He would have reiterated his you-gotta-spend-money-to-make-money theory. A car, according to Scott, would give us broader job opportunities, which would in turn bring in more money, which would lead to a better house than what we were currently scrimping for. In short, Scott had no willpower or self-control when it came to money. (Before we managed the building, he once took the rent money to the racetrack with the plan of doubling it before paying the rent. A poor plan, indeed. He even lost the bus fare he had set aside to get home and ended up hitching a ride with a stumpy middle-aged man who tried to slip his right thumb up Scott’s shorts while maintaining steering wheel control with his left palm).

“Ten thousand dollars,” Rikky said. “You can have the whole mother-fucking thing for ten thousand. That’s a bargain, girlfriend. That’s ghetto dollars.”

I thought about how happy Scott would be with that car. He was from Boston, kind of preppy-looking; he liked the props that matched the look.

“I’ll give you five-hundred dollars.” It was all I could bear to part with.

“Girlfriend!” Rikky stood, snorting and half-laughing. “There have got to be a hundred motherfuckers on this block who would give me ten thousand dollars today for that car!”

“So go find them,” I said.

Rikky didn’t hang around. He dashed out of my apartment, no stories, no dances. It was as if the dial that generated his energy had been turned to a different mode: panic.

In order to safeguard our savings, I didn’t tell Scott about the car offer. But a couple days later, I was sitting in the kitchen reading the paper, when Scott called me to the living room window. A white truck with no company name or logo was backed in front of the building. Four pro-wrestler-sized men walked in and out of the building carrying the contents of Rikky’s apartment. Rikky was nowhere in sight. It was the second week of the month, and for the first time since he had moved in, Rikky was late with the rent.

The next day, Friday, Rikky was knocking at my door again.

“Girl, I need money right now. How about five thousand for the Saab?”

“I only have five hundred dollars,” I said.

“Do you have a credit card?”


“How ‘bout this. You give me the five hundred dollars, and charge on your credit card a one-way ticket to Lafayette, Louisiana, and I’ll give you the car.”

“You’ll sell me the Saab for five hundred dollars?”

“Five hundred and a one-way ticket to Louisiana.”

“One-way?  You leaving?”

“Forever, girlfriend.”

“You haven’t paid your rent,” I said.

“Paid my rent? Rent is the last thing I’m thinking about right now! I will worry about my manicure before I worry about my rent!” Rikky flapped his hands in front of me as if he were chasing away birds.

“I’ll take it out of your deposit,” I said, and Rikky rolled his eyes and clucked his tongue as if I were some kind of traitor.

Scott was thrilled, stunned, really, but cautious. Although he was twice the size of Rikky, he didn’t trust that he wouldn’t carry a gun, or at least, have friends with guns. The following day Rikky came to our apartment with two alligator carpetbags and a leather duffel bag.

He didn’t have the pink slip for the car.

“It’s at my house in Louisiana,” Rikky said, “I swear on my mother’s life.”

“Why would it be there?” Scott asked. “You bought the car here.”

“I ship all my important papers to my mother to keep. I swear to god, I wouldn’t lie to you two.”

“I’ll write out a contract,” I said, and I took a piece of yellow, lined paper and wrote, “I, Rikky Carnegie, agree to sell my Saab 900S, license plate number 1K5 J36 to Jessica Blau for five-hundred dollars. I do not have the pink slip but I will mail it when I find it. This agreement is legal and binding. Signed, Rikky Carnegie.”

Rikky signed the paper, then pushed the two carpetbags aside and said, “Look, I’ll even leave all this stuff here as collateral.”

“Jessica drives,” Scott said, as we walked to the parking lot, “and I’ll sit in back.”

I’m not sure if Rikky saw Scott pick up the piece of old pipe that was lying on the ground in the parking lot. In the rearview mirror I could see that Scott was cocked like a gun, ready to bash Rikky with the pipe if anything should happen.

I drove to San Francisco International and waited in the car while Scott went in to charge Rikky’s one-way ticket. Scott wanted to drive the car home, of course.

Here’s the missing piece of the story that Rikky never anticipated. Tucked behind our building, at the far end of the parking lot, was a vacant warehouse. The warehouse had no windows and a rollaway steel door. It was a former Brink’s truck warehouse—an impenetrable fortress through which millions of dollars once regularly passed. The owner of our building owned this warehouse. When we were given the keys to the building, we were also given the keys to the warehouse. “Just in case,” the owner had said. In case of what, I wasn’t sure, but driving Rikky’s former white Saab with black-tinted windows, a black bra, and a thick black antennae on the trunk through Oakland didn’t feel safe to either Scott or me. If the police wanted him and pulled the car over, we had no pink slip to prove the car was ours now. And why did he suddenly have to flee town? Surely someone wanted to kill him—killing seemed a part of his world; he had told us about a friend who was killed one night, shot on the steps of a nightclub while Rikky, unknowing, was mirthfully dancing inside. And whoever wanted to kill him wouldn’t be able to see that it wasn’t Rikky behind the black windows until he came close enough to the car to inspect the body. Additionally, he only gave us one key. Who had the other key? And did that person also have the pink slip? Did he sell the car to two people at once: Us, the faux-yuppie couple who were earnestly saving for a house, and . . . someone who would have no problem picking up their new vehicle in the parking lot of our building around, say, four a.m.?

When we came home from the airport, Scott pulled the car into the warehouse and immediately closed the steel door behind him. He drove circles in forward, then reverse, around the warehouse, while I sat in the passenger seat and watched him smile.

The next day, we went to Rikky’s apartment to see what condition it had been left in. It wasn’t particularly destroyed; didn’t need to be repainted as had other recently vacated apartments. The rooms were shadowy empty boxes, save the mattress in the center of the living room. Cockroaches scattered under the refrigerator and stove when we walked in the kitchen. In the bathroom a cockroach sat in the tub, seeming to watch me as I opened the medicine cabinet. A single tube of red lipstick sat there.  The lid off, the pointy, cracked tip rolled up. Somehow it seemed as ominous, or sinister, as a bullet.

Scott and I went into the warehouse as least once a day to drive the Saab in circles. We’d take our friends in there, people who lived in the building, people who had known Rikky. We’d hang out for hours, drinking beer, laughing, while we took turns careening around the warehouse. I always gave up my turn and sat in the passenger seat instead while Scott did a few more laps. Scott would drop his mouth open in an expression of crazy glee, then holler as he spun into the turns while I hung onto the safety strap as if I were standing on a runaway subway car.

Every day I checked the mail for an envelope from Lafayette, Louisiana. Every day I wasn’t surprised, but a bit hurt, that the pink slip wasn’t there. And then the phone calls started coming. Always a woman, same dull voice, but different identity each time she called.

The first time, she asked for Rikky.

“Hey, is Rikky there?”

“Rikky Carnegie?” I asked.


“No, this isn’t his apartment and he doesn’t live in town anymore.”

“Oh, really?! He gave me this number once and said I could find him there.”


“He was so cute.”


“Drove that cute white Saab.”


“Didn’t he sell it to you?”

“Oh, he told you that?”

“Yeah, I think he said he sold you that car.”

“Well, how do you know who I am?”

“Aren’t you the sup?”

“We manage the building,” I said.

“So he sold his car to you, then.”

“Yeah, he did.”

“Where do you park it? I drive by your building all the time and I never see that car around.”

I was tempted to ask if the plan was to steal the car and return it to Rikky, who perhaps had found his way back from Louisiana? Or if the person calling was going to steal the car for herself? But a question like that would reveal too much, take too much away from us, diminish the fervor Scott and I were putting into our role as a hopeful, young couple.

“I park it in the parking lot by the building,” I said.

“Really? I never see it. Do you drive it to work? You work at I.Magnin, right?”

“No, I take the BART. We leave it in the parking lot all day.”

A woman claiming to be his sister called a couple of days later. She wanted to know if we’d heard from Rikky. And then she wanted to confirm that we were the people who bought his car, and were we keeping it in good condition, parking it in a garage somewhere?

And another friend of Rikky called. She thought she saw us driving the car on the Bay Bridge, and was that us, and where we going with the car and where did we keep the car anyway?

A couple weeks later I called the California DMV.

“I bought a car,” I said, “and we wrote out a signed contract, but the owner lost the pink slip. What can I do?”

The woman told me that eight weeks from the date of the signed contract, if I still didn’t have a pink slip, I could register the car in my name and they would issue me a pink slip, which would, in effect, void the old pink slip.  We had four weeks to wait.

The day before the four weeks was up, Rikky called.

“Girlfriend, how are you?!” He was back to his high spirits.

“Good,” I told him. “How come you never sent me the pink slip?”

“Girl, I couldn’t find it. But now I got it and I’m sending it to you. So can you send me my bags?”

Rikky’s snakeskin carpetbags had been sitting like two monuments to Rikky in our entrance hall since the day he left. Scott and I had started to look through them one night, but each item we pulled out was sadder, more forlorn than the last—a soiled lavender, suede boot; lace-up leather pants missing the lace; a yellowed, formerly white, ruffled blouse, like what Prince wore on the cover of the Purple Rain album. Scott finally lifted his hands as if to block the sight of blood, and said, “Just pack it all away, I can’t look anymore!” I never opened the bags again.

“Give me your address,” I said. “I’ll send them to you.”

“Girl where you keepin’ that car? My friends drive by the building and they say they’ve never seen that car no how!”

“It’s in the parking lot,” I said. “Just below the living room window where Scott can see it.”



“Okay, well, the pink slip is coming, so you are the true owner now—feel free to drive that car around town, girl. There ain’t no point in owning it if you aint gonna show it off!”

“We’re driving it,” I said.  “We drive it all over the place.”



“Girl, my friends say that car has flat-out disappeared!”

“I gotta go Rikky,” I said. “Give me your address and I’ll send you your stuff.”

The pink slip never came, but the DMV issued me a new one in my name. That day, Scott and I drove to the Saab dealership in Oakland and traded the car in for some cash (to please me) and a used Saab (to please him). It was brown, nothing fancy, nothing electric, but Scott still thought it was cool; much sexier than the 51 bus.

And the following month, using the money we’d saved and the money we got for the Saab, we bought our first house. It was in Oakland, on a hill with smaller, more broken down houses below it and larger, nicer houses above it. From the front of the house there was a view of the Oakland Coliseum down the hill, and what was then called Candlestick Park farther out in the distance.

We didn’t own a TV, and with the expenses of a house, we rarely had extra money to go to a baseball game. So when the A’s or the Giants were playing, Scott and I would sit in the Saab parked in the driveway facing the stadiums, one or the other of them lit like a birthday cake in the landscape, and listen to the ballgame on the radio. Sometimes we’d drink a beer out there and the car would have that glorious smell of being raced in a secret hidden warehouse.

We’d been out of the country for five years and now there was grocery shopping to be done.We planned on eating out of a poorly-bolted kitchen area in a rented campervan for the next three months and needed to shove off with the whole thing stocked.I’d been anticipating these travels ever since abandoning my home turf.But at the return, I found myself itching to roam the aisles of an American suburban supermarket.It was the first of several minor homecomings.I suggested we get up at 2 AM for a glimpse of the illuminated Open 24 hours sign with a cashier still sitting beside a register waiting for commerce to continue, just to prove that such visions existed.

It starts when we’re children, the desire to be older than we are. We “lie up” for the first two decades. We tack on a year or two depending on the situation, whether it’s to impress someone we’re talking to or to reap the benefits awarded to an older person. I used to lie about being older a lot. Somewhere though, and I don’t remember when exactly, I caught on. “I see where this is going,” I told myself.

You don’t get any of those days back. Not the ones that actually pass anyway. I’ve written a thousand things in the past explaining why I have ended up doing what I do for a living. The underlying theme to it all is that ultimately I cannot wrap my mind around the concept of waking up at the same time every morning and driving to some office to play some other person’s silly little games in exchange for a set sum of money.

I want to remain Pan.

I am content to continue to trick the world into paying me to do what I do now, which is basically just to travel and think. In my head I’m still a seven year old kid laying on the living room floor dreaming of dinosaurs and booby traps and foods covered in ketchup. I don’t want to grow up. I won’t. They can’t make me. They can make me pay taxes and tickets and they can hold me accountable legally for a bunch of ridiculous laws and rules, but they can’t take my days from me. I keep telling myself that anyway.

I may have found a way to keep the vultures at bay mentally, but physically… physically they are beating their wings at the walls and doors like the end of a Hitchcock movie. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been neglectful of my body, but I also have not done the greatest job of self-preservation. If the body is a temple mine is one of those that the Incas abandoned centuries ago.

Fifteen years ago I was in amazing shape. I was young. I had never touched a cigarette. I was running a sub five minute mile. When I think of the last fifteen years however, I am surprised any part of me is still mobile. A decade and a half passed where I ate fast food literally three times a day. That rhythm was only broken if someone I knew cooked. It certainly wasn’t going to be me. I was been anything but inactive over that particular stretch, but that was my competitive streak and not an attempt at actually exercising.

Even after all of that abuse, I managed to squeak out an eight minute mile a year ago, ending with me throwing up and almost drowning in fountain in Dallas while my “friends” Titus and Rachel laughed at my convulsions… but I was really proud of that eight minutes. **

And then I quit smoking. My body started making decisions for me. My body decided that if I was going to deprive it of one vice then it was going to force me to fix all the rest. And now we’re mad at each other.

We had an agreement, I thought. It would keep my metabolism an ungodly high rate and I would continue to feed it delicious What-a-Chicken sandwiches with cheese. That was the contract. You fix whatever I do to you and I’ll make sure it’s worth it. Well, one of us reneged on our end of the deal. I took the cigarettes away and it slowed down my metabolism. In return I had to cut out the relentless pursuit of double cheeseburgers. When those went my body decided it would jab at me with hunger pangs. I met those with attempts at running to distract myself and that was met with knee pain. My body is resistant to anything healthy. It fights it like a virus. We’ve battled every day for over a year now.

I still won’t eat vegetables but I am over the fast food part.

I realize it may appear a little whiny to be upset over what has never been more than a ten pound swing in my weight, but it is principle. Other people deal with these things, not me. The people with regular jobs and kids and mortgages. Not me. I have to find a way to justify growing up in this one regard. I have to convince myself that I have to make these adjustments now in order to better run my little Neverland.

That will all sort itself out though. I’m going to take my motorcycle out and go play in the sun. I’ve wasted enough of my day already.


** The rest of that story can be read here:

What a long strange trip it’s been for the inline skate.

It all started nearly 250 years ago, with a prodigious inventor, musician, and mechanic named John Joseph Merlin. Merlin relocated from Belgium to London in 1760, where he opened a museum and rubbed elbows with Samuel Johnson and Johann Sebastian Bach. Merlin invented the first pair of inline skates, and used them as a publicity tool, attracting curious Londoners to his museum of musical and mechanical wonders.

A news story of the time illustrates one unfortunate incident involving Merlin and his inline skates:

One of his ingenious novelties was a pair of skates contrived to run on small metallic wheels. Supplied with a pair of skates and a violin he mixed in the motley group of one of the celebrated Mrs. Corneily’s masquerades at Carlisle House, Soho Square; when not having provided the means of retarding his velocity or commanding his direction, he impelled himself against a mirror of more than 500 Pounds value, dashed it to atoms, broke his instrument to pieces and wounded himself severely.

Jump forward to 1979, the year two brothers, Brennan and Scott Olson, gave the inline skate a facelift. They called it the Rollerblade. This updated version of the inline skate included a rubber heel brake, and was designed primarily for off-ice hockey and ski training. But the Olsons saw the market potential and sold the Rollerblade company in 1984. The rest is history. Rollerblades became so popular they became a brandnomer for any in-line skate—you didn’t inline skate, you went rollerblading.

But popularity of inline skating has declined steeply since the late-1990’s. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association (SGMA) inline skate usage has dropped nearly 50% from 2000 to 2008.

So what exactly killed the Rollerblade?

The answer to this question seems patently obvious. Rollerblading was a heavily-marketed fad, iconic of the 1980’s. Images of neon-colored Spandex, clunky safety pads, and “extreme” Sunny Delight commercials come to mind. Of more recent vintage: Napoleon Dynamite pulling his Rollerblade-clad brother Kip into town with his ten-speed bicycle. Rollerblading has fallen so out of vogue it hurts.

Hockey may have something to do with inline skating’s common neurosis. Homophobia and racism has plagued hockey for most of its professional existence. NHL great Gordie Howe once famously remarked that hockey was “a man’s game.”

Inline skating is essentially the hybrid of ice skating and roller skating—two sports that have been ridiculed for their overt femininity.

In a recently published USA Today column, former minor-league hockey player Justin Bourne writes about the need for hockey culture to address its insecurities. Bourne, who played briefly in the New York Islanders system, regrets his silence in the presence of homophobia in the locker room.

“The lack of a homosexual presence in hockey must mean one of two things,” Bourne writes, “either homosexual men don’t play the game or they don’t feel comfortable admitting it.”

But homophobia thrives in inline skating too. Particularly, in the extreme sport of aggressive inline skating. (Notice the use of the adjective aggressive to further distance the sport from any homoerotic connotations.) Pro in-line skater and openly gay athlete Ryan Carillo experienced verbal and physical threats that eventually drove him out of professional competition. “I intimidate some them because I am not shy about my sexuality,” Carillo said in a 2003 interview with Genre magazine.

Did homophobia the kill the Rollerblade?

When I think about the death of inline skating the Hanson brothers come to mind. Not the three bespectacled bruisers from Slap Shot—but the pop band from Tulsa.

In the video for their massive hit “MMMBop” the three golden-haired Hansons are shown hamming it up in Los Angeles. Included, are several clips of Hanson rollerblading around an L.A. strip mall. Lest we forget: 1997 is the same year Limp Bizkit released their testosterone-soaked rap-metal debut Three Dollar Bill, Yall$. The late-90’s were no time for any self-respecting male teenager to be caught rollerblading or listening to Hanson.

The arrival of Hanson momentarily ruined my teenage life. I had long blond hair and played in a band. “MMMBop” appeared, and—as a matter of survival—I begrudgingly cut my hair. Three years after Pavement warned me not to. You can’t win them all.

Nevertheless, Hanson never bothered me too much, and neither did inline skating. In my younger teens, inline skating was an incredibly efficient travel option. The skates themselves required little maintenance. I played a lot of roller hockey, and preferred inline skating to bicycling because I didn’t have to worry about chains and gears and flat tires. I retired my inline skates sometime before I acquired a driver’s license. Little did I know how stressful dealing with car repair would someday be.

So it’s 2009. Homophobia is as revered as Fred Durst. Are Americans ready for the return on the inline skate?

Probably not. According to the SGMA the core group of inline skaters remains a low figure, at 1.9 million. Compare that to the 76.8 million Americans walking and the 29 million using treadmills. It would take some miracle of marketing for the inline skate to be considered anything but completely embarrassing.

Still, there seems to be no more opportune time for inline skating to rise from the ashes. In the next fifty years or so, America will not be able to sustain its automobile-centric communities. We’ll have to be on our feet more often. Why not strap on wheels and speed up the process?

Imagine that: Instead of apocalyptic images of smoldering rubble and leather-clad brutes battling each other for gasoline, picture millions of Americans strapping wheels to their feet and zipping around like it’s 1989. Either way you look at it, it’s kinda gay.

Sound silly? A little embarrassing? Maybe. But we’ve all got face our fears some time.

This has been what I call the Year of Ice. Colder than a shaved polar bear. Sayonara 2009. It’s been a year of pills, pills and more pills, until finally I seem to have reached some kind of treaty with bipolar disorder, which barely warrants discussion given that virtually everyone is now diagnosed as bipolar. Still, it’s important to note that when I write “ice,” I mean anxiety, yet when I write “anxiety,” I do not describe all attributes of “ice.”

Nevertheless, anxiety is my nemesis. I’ve got enough anxiety to give the jimmies the jimmies. I hate it. I will suffer any indignity to avoid extreme anxiety. I’ll take anything. If the pill bottle has an orange label, hand it over; it’s probably worth the swallowing.

Let us probe. The Year of Ice warrants a pharmaceutical prelude. Here’s a list of the drugs I’ve been prescribed at one time or another over the past twelve months or so:

  • Lamictal
  • Invega
  • Lithium
  • Celexa
  • Paxil
  • Celesta
  • Thorazine
  • Risperdal
  • Invega
  • Klonopin
  • Valium
  • Seroquel

Happily, as mentioned, I’ve recently found the best formula to date: Lithium + Seroquel + Celexa + Valium. Since bipolar involves trying to regulate high and low moods, finding the right combination of drugs is far more difficult than it would be for depression or other “unipolar” mental disorders. In the case of depression, it’s mainly a matter of finding the right SSRI or SSNI. But with bipolar, too much of an antidepressant causes mania or at least agitation, while too little obviously leads to depression. It’s something like living at the end of a bungee cord. It’s ironic in that I would never bungee jump, parachute, climb mountains, or, at my worst, leave the apartment.

I neither seek nor encourage sympathy. Bipolar is biological, neurological, chemical: In short, it’s got nothing to do with me. Or it does if one assumes I’ve a Siamese twin attached who’s a real pain in the ass…still it isn’t me, exactly. Yet, like a Siamese twin, it’s close enough.

Then, as if some god had gotten into one of those drunkenly-enraged states of mind, down a’tumbling came boulders from the mountains. Too many fell for me to play Sisyphus. What do I care if they stay where they are? As Tom Verlaine put it, “I won’t be breaking no rocks.” Thus, surrounding me in this apartment are giant stones. They’re all over the damn place. There’s one in front of the door. I can get out if I really need to leave, but how much easier it is to convince myself that a trip isn’t necessary.

Because those rocks have been inscribed with personal information regarding others, I won’t describe their exact nature. In the end, they’re just rocks; I’m no geologist. Nor am I a memoir writer. Self-disclosure by  others remains their choice. I won’t make it for them in an attempt to render this heartrending. I mean to rend no hearts. I don’t even care to mend them; I’m not a surgeon, either.

That’s that. No more detail is necessary regarding my conditions or my world. But what does remain important is the effect the drugs had, both when they worked and when they didn’t. For one, I completed a novel in a spastic fit of mania. It now remains to be revised, but the mania’s gone. Some of my juice is gone, too. That’s partly, if not even more so, related to the fate of my fourth novel, which I had considered to be the best novel I would probably ever write. Publication has eluded me, so far, and this put a foot in my ego’s ass. My failure to get that revision going is like a union strike against myself. “Fuck it,” I think. “What’s the point when the last one accumulated the most glowing ‘reviews’ possible from major publishers, followed by the last two sentences, nearly always the same: ‘But this isn’t for us. Good luck finding a publisher.'” Next time, how about starting with that line? The worst of the bunch compared me to John Kennedy Toole; I think the writer was suggesting that I kill myself. Sorry; I’m more likely to kill you, you son of a bitch.

Fortunately, I am still able to focus on nonfiction, poems and short stories. Rejections of those don’t replicate having one’s spleen ripped out. It’s not that I’m afraid of rejection. It’s not that I think I’m above rejection. It’s just that I have a fear of the publishers’ accountants calculating my novels’ chances for the current definition of success: “Ah, this contains one sympathetic character; however, it lacks two more sympathetic characters. That’s to say it doesn’t match my algebraic formula, in which X being a novel that’s already been published and sold well equals Y the next novel we’re going to publish, which resembles X to the utmost.”

So I’m left with the thought that writing, like most things, is driving me crazy. Well, I’m happy to contribute what I can before my brain no longer controls my fingers. Actually, perhaps that will be the moment when I write a postmodern masterpiece. The opening line will go something like this: “Schuhefms.” It’s a play on “shoes” and “radio” in German, and I didn’t even know it…but that’s not my job.

In the meantime, if you’d like to visit me, just go to the Target pharmacy in Sarasota. You’re likely to find me there, waiting for my prescriptions.

I come from a long line of unenthusiastic housekeepers. My maternal grandmother was known for blowing up kitchens (a particularly awkward situation as my grandfather was a clergyman and they were therefore always residents in church-owned homes). My paternal grandmother’s culinary ambitions began and ended with Jell-o mold, albeit the dressed-up variety with fruit cocktail bits suspended within like edible gems. Growing up, my house was a preferred place to play among my friends because you could make a mess, which made it ideal for craft projects of all sorts.


So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I have turned out to be the kind of stay-at-home mom (I mean, I work but let’s face it, I’m at home with the baby all day) whose attitude towards housework could be best described as “fatalistic.” I’ll be on knees flaking shingles of dried squash and baby oatmeal off the kitchen floor and think, Meh, this is just going to get dirty again later, leaving an opaque ghost of the original mess. Because, I mean, it is. Whether I do a stellar job cleaning it or a crappy one, tomorrow the baby is just going to joyfully fling more food onto that same floor. Lying on the floor playing with Harper I’ll go into a kind of a trance looking at the inch of dust underneath the couch. Man. Gross. Someone should really sweep that. But the kind of cleaning that involves actually moving furniture is just completely beyond my capabilities. I will passionately vacuum the living room rug, because I hate linty rugs (aesthetically speaking – our colorful Iranian rug that does a better job of camouflaging dog hair goes basically untouched), but every time I look at the couch and think, Nah. Because, I mean, I just moved the couch and mopped beneath it in, um September. Last September. How I wish I were exaggerating here for comic effect.

The sad part is, I actually like things to be clean and tidy. Maybe this is true of everyone, although I am pretty sure I count among my friends some slobs who truly don’t mind their own slobby piles and clutter. I hate open cabinets. I hate crumpled pieces of paper and stacks of mail, to the point that, much to my husband’s dismay, I would rather stow mail in a closed drawer or send it straight to the recycling rather than actually go through it. I hate an unmade bed, but I do not much enjoy making beds either. I love a sparkling clean countertop, but I also tend to scatter water glasses and mugs around the apartment to the point that when my husband comes home it looks like I’ve had a rollicking tea party.

To me, one of the mysteries of life has therefore always been, does anyone actually like cleaning? And if so, would any of these people like to come over and wash my city-dust-dimmed curtains? (Just kidding! I washed them. Last spring. No, the last last spring.) I always suspected that no, no body likes cleaning, and that some are just more disciplined than I. Then I met my mother-in-law, who seems to actually enjoy it. This woman’s house is spotless, and she knows tricks like how to get out weird stains using only baking soda and positive energy. I know she reads this blog, so maybe this is as good a time as any to find out once and for all: Ellen, do you actually like cleaning? If so, do you think it is possible to learn to like it? If not, how do you get yourself to do it?

Luckily for me, most people seem to expect very little of a household containing a small baby. I rarely have many people , anyway – the weird exception being a writing workshop I teach out of the apartment one night a week. Fortunately this class is at night, and the room is not terribly well-lit, and I’m hoping most of the people are too preoccupied with their life’s work being dissected in front of them in that inevitable, wonderful, dreadful manner of workshops to examine very closely the tops of my bookshelves, which I have never personally seen but which I expect might be quite dusty.

In the end, I feel that is a kind of curse to both like tidiness and feel overcome by a lethargic sense of hopeless when performing the Sisiphysean task of cleaning the toilet (which, I’m sorry, but is just going to get crapped in again anyway, probably sooner rather than later). My only hope is to strike it rich and get a cleaning lady, or maybe to hypnotize my husband, or possibly to wait until Harper is old enough to bribe with allowance. Then I’ll be sitting pretty, reading a novel with my feet up while she wipes down the refrigerator handle blackened with fingerprints. I’m pretty sure this is how it works once babies become children, and I’ll thank any parents of older kids not to disabuse me of this delicious notion.

I’ve been thinking about blood a lot lately.

Blood I’ve spilt, and blood I’ve seen spilt. The red fluid gushing out of a beheaded rattlesnake’s body, sizzling as it splattered onto the hot Mexican soil. The crimson seeping out of the crushed chest of a fourteen year-old boy, opened up like a book as the doctors tried to massage his heart back into life. We cut the snake into strips and fried the meat over an open fire. And as for the boy, there was simply too much of him smeared across the front grill of a wrecked car, and his poor heart had nothing left to pump.

I think about my own, the biological magma that during the summers of my childhood would spontaneously erupt in a series of unpredictable nosebleeds, leaving permanent stains on my shirts and pillowcases. Once, as a teenager, I awoke from a particularly vivid dream about murder and mayhem to find my face and hands coated with blood, momentarily horrified to think I had become some murderous somnambulist.

Some of those bleeds were so strong they seeped through my fingers, even though I pinched my nostrils closed hard enough to make my fingers ache. My pediatrician could never find anything medically wrong. It was as though my body was just too small a container for my life.

These days I give it away, one pint of Matt-brand O+ offered up every nine weeks or so. The ladies in the blood mobile love my large, generous veins, so easy to hit with the needle.

It’s a strange thing, blood. You can never predict how a person will respond to the sight of it. Some people faint, some vomit, some are ambivalent, some are fascinated, some stimulated into a state of extreme sexual arousal. Once a month its appearance is a sign of healthy fertility, yet in many cultures menstruating women have been forced to spend this time in exile, somehow marked as “unclean” by their ability to create life. For Indo-European pagans, the act of sprinkling blood on a person during a ritual sacrifice was called bleodosian, a term later co-opted and transmuted by the Christian church into the word blessing.

It never really comes out. Eight years ago my sister’s ex-boyfriend shot two people on our front porch. We sold the house and moved on, but the stains on the concrete remain, enduring sun and rain and the passage of time.

Among its other contents, my blood contains the proper genetic alchemy for brown hair and eyes, astigmatism, male-pattern baldness, a predilection towards cancer, and a susceptibility to chemical dependency. If certain parties are to be believed, it may also contain the right codes for a greater abundance of melanin in my skin, a longer stride, congenital heart disease, and…a susceptibility to chemical dependency. But while being an O+ means I can give to anyone else with a positive blood type, I can only receive from other Os. My blood marks me as a giver, not a taker.

But is that me, these components? If you were to unspool the chain of my DNA and climb it, what would be waiting at the far end? A set of model kit instructions for assembling my physical self, certainly, but while all those pieces make me, do they define me?

They say blood—and thus, DNA—is thicker than water. That it is the inseparable bond which holds families together, the ultimate yardstick for measuring loyalty and allegiance. To feel particularly close to someone is to love them like family. And to go against the family is to commit the worst trespass.

They say an oath written in blood is one that cannot be broken.

I say, fuck that.

For my 1000 Words entry, I detailed the revelation that I might in fact be the bastard child of my abusive stepfather, an event that was pivotal in the formation of my identity as an adult. One of the larger bits of fallout from the detonation of that particular emotional atom bomb was the development of my belief that people don’t get a free pass simply because we happen to share genetic material. This belief, and my willingness to act on it by writing that essay, has cemented my position as the family pariah. Most of them no longer speak to me, and I am not invited to holiday gatherings. I’ve gone against the blood.

Maybe this should upset me, but it doesn’t. Part of this status is self-imposed. The truth is, I’ve long felt closer to those I call “friend.” The people I’ve chosen to have in my life have often felt more like the traditional definition of “family” than the one I was born into.

I suspect that I am expected to cover up or avoid the question of my conception and birth, out of deference to someone else’s embarrassment or shame, but I won’t. I’ll discuss it with anyone who’s curious, and have done so for years. During the recent TNB gathering in Los Angeles, it came up in separate discussions with Lenore, Duke, Simon and Zara, each conversation inevitably coiling around to the question everybody asks: “Don’t you want to know? Aren’t you curious?”

No, I don’t. I reject the notion that my blood—my genetics, my DNA—define my identity. These things may be what I am, but they are not who I am. I’m a being of will and choice. The qualities—and flaws—of my character belong to me, and no one else. The quantitative concept of my Self cannot be measured under a microscope. I would gain nothing from this knowledge.

And yet….

….and yet….

These conversations started the little hamster in my head busily spinning on his wheel. The denial of my stepfather’s claim to parentage has been ongoing for so long that it has, like my blood, simply become another part of me. But things have changed. I became the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree, survived a natural disaster, turned thirty and (hopefully) shed the last of my post-adolescent angst. I’m comfortable enough now with my identity to understand that it doesn’t need to shaped around a question mark. I must admit that I am curious after all.

Regardless of the outcome, I’ll still be my own bastard, not anyone else’s.

My blood, it seems, is relevant again.

I spoke with a coworker, a geneticist by trade, about getting a DNA test done, envisioning some sterile, CSI-like scene: a scientist spinning vials of the red stuff through a centrifuge in some chromed, blue-lit lab while a Massive Attack tune plays in the background. I was crushed to learn that for about $30 I could purchase a kit from any pharmacy in the U.S. All that was required was a cheek swab from myself and another willing donor and a processing fee of about $125, all of which I could mail in. No blood required.

For less than $200 out-of-pocket I could know, conclusively. “Willing donor,” however, is a stickler. The few members of my family who maintain contact with me are either from my mother’s side of the fence, are too distantly related to be a viable candidate, or live too far upstate.

Except one.

I have stepsister, my stepfather’s daughter from a previous marriage, and the knowledge that she may actually be my half-sister weighs on my mind. It’s like a patina of dust, barely there yet persistently reappearing every time you think you’ve wiped it away. Though we are only six months apart, I did not include mention of her in my 1000-word piece because by that point she had written herself out of the story of my life. She went to live full-time with her mother when I was fourteen, and aside from a few letters and one phone call during our freshman year of college, we have not communicated with each other since.

More than anything else now I want to know if the substance that runs in her veins is anything like mine.

She lives here in town. I obtained her phone number a few years ago. It’s written down in my address book, and even programmed into my cell phone. But I’ve never called it. After so much time we’d be strangers to each other. Were it not for the question of a few red cells suspended in plasma we would not be entering each other’s orbit at all. It’s unlikely there would be any sort of joyous reunion in learning we’re really siblings, or that she would even care enough to donate a sample. Her battle into adulthood wasn’t bloodless either, and as someone who has had his own wounds forcibly reopened for another’s benefit, I find that I cannot bring myself to risk potentially doing so to her.

For over ten years I’ve been content, and even proud, to live without knowing. I think I’ve got it in me to keep going a while yet. She is who she is, and I am who I am.

A little blood isn’t going to change that.


A note from the Dept. of Credit Where Credit’s Due: This essay was inspired in part by my recent re-reading of Zara Potts’s excellent “Bloodless.” You do yourself a disservice by not reading it.

I left home when I was in high school without a diploma and shacked up with a floozie. I call her a floozie not just because my mother called her that, but because she was a floozie. She was a floozie to end all floozies. If being a floozie was anything like being in the Army she’d have been a general. And instead of painting skulls on her helmet to represent vanquished opponents, she’d have painted dicks, to represent vanquished dicks. And to accommodate all the dicks she’d need something like a million helmets and a whole convoy just to transport them.

When I left I had no means to support myself other than an almost uncanny ability to make chicken wings, which I’d learned from a brief apprenticeship at Skeet’s Wing shack. I didn’t make the wings all the way though. I wasn’t worth a damn as the fry man. I battered them and put the hot sauce on. And let me tell you, it takes a special touch to understand the subtle graduations between hot and atomic.

Well, anyway. I used to brag to my floozie girlfriend about my chicken wing making abilities. This was before we ran off. I was still working at the restaurant and on occasion she’d come in all coked up and I’d slip her a few wings on the sly. After I got off work we’d go out into the parking lot and drink beers. Then she’d let me do lines of coke off her tits. Man, what times.

But now it was 2:00 am and man, did she have a hankering for some wings.

“Baby, can’t you make some?” she asked as she held in a rather large bong hit.

I tell her that our motel room, while very nice, lacked the basic facilities of a proper chicken wing making outfit. She looks at me, all disappointed-like and returns to doing drugs.

Later that night I must have gotten really drunk or stoned or something. At one point I remember standing on top of the sink in my underwear raving about how chicken wings were going to save us. I told her that I’d be famous and we’d be rich.

She asked me if she’d still be a floozie once we were rich.  I said yes. She seemed satisfied with that.


Chicken wings? What the fuck was I thinking? I woke up the next morning on the floor wondering what happened. My girlfriend was in the tub. I went in to see her. She was passed out. Even asleep she looked like a big floozie.

Then, there was some banging at the door.

“Come out of there you slut! Leave my brother alone!” yelled a voice from outside. Seeing as she called me her brother, I had no choice but to assume it was my sister. I looked out of the peephole. My sister was in the parking lot with a tire iron in her hand. She was making some mondo menacing gestures.

My girlfriend got  out of the tub, applied some lipstick in the mirror, and went to look out of the peephole.

My girlfriend yelled back, “Get out of here you crazed bitch! I’m calling the cops! Stay away from Joe! He’s happy now!”

Then she lit up a cigarette. She appeared to be considering the situation.

My sister was still out in the parking lot. She was going from car to car trying to figure out which was my girlfriend’s.  She was still waving around the tire iron, and something, call it a hunch, told me she didn’t just have a hankering to change a tire.

“Aren’t you going to do something?” my floozie girlfriend asked.

“She’s my sister!” I said.

My girlfriend knew my sister long before she knew me. They used to clean houses together. My sister used to complain a lot because, most of the time, my girlfriend was either too drunk or too high to tell the difference between a vacuum and a boa constrictor.

“Come out or I’ll smash the door down,” my sister yelled.

“You still owe me twenty bucks, bitch!”

This really sent my sister over the edge. She started smashing up everything that could be smashed: car windows, discarded beer bottles, whatever. When she ran out of things to smash she began assaulting the concrete.

In the course of smashing up everything she’d managed to smash out the windows to my girlfriend’s car. My girlfriend, still in her underwear, ran outside and tackled my sister in the parking lot.  Soon the other low-life tenants of the motel were outside watching the two girls wrestle in the parking lot.

During the struggle, my sister ripped off my girlfriend’s top and threw it down.

Now, everybody was watching. Some people even started throwing money. I ran around to collect it.  As I picked up a five I thought about how these men were flat-out ogling my girlfriend. Ogling! Didn’t she feel the least bit ashamed to be half naked in a parking lot with strangers looking at her! God, what a floozie, I reminded myself.  She could have at least covered her tits between swings! As I watched her I wondered if she was secretly enjoying the attention.

Then, the cops showed up.


There was this slogan on the side of the police cruiser that pulled up. It said: “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect.” The words were right on top of one another so that they formed an acrostic. CPR. Cute, huh? Well, apparently these cops had never even read the side of their own car.

They got out and beat my sister and my floozie girlfriend to the ground. Then they handcuffed them and threw them into the back of the police cruiser. CPR my ass.

Then they started asking questions.

I was staying at a pretty shady motel so by the time the police showed up everyone was back in their rooms. I stayed outside, but I shut the door to my room so as to conceal the almost unimaginable quantity of illegal drugs I had inside.

“What the fuck happened here, son?” one of them asked me.

I looked at my sister and my floozie girlfriend. They were in the back of the cruiser head-butting one other. Then I thought about the wings. Then I thought about my floozie girlfriend’s tits. Then I remembered the wad of cash I’d just collected during the wrestling match.

I looked the cop square in the eye and said, “Know any good wing joints around here?”

Author’s Note: For those interested, no, I’m not the guy in the story. But I do enjoy a good chicken wing now and then.

There is no point to this. The point is that I’m getting sick. I just noticed it an hour ago. Suddenly I am blowing my nose. Out of nowhere. And now feeling a little wonky. So I took some vitamin C and ate about 14 pounds of sautéed spinach and now I am sitting here waiting to die. If the pig flu gets me tell them I was an okay guy. Kind of quiet and not very good at tennis, but basically decent.

1c./1d. An irresistible impulse to act, regardless of the rationality of the motivation. / An act or acts performed in response to such an impulse.

I, a full-tilt Virgo, have been inclined since the tender age of five, back when my chore of choice was folding laundry, keen (hell-bent?) on matching corner to corner, edge to edge, of The Wonderfully Right-Angled Bath Towel, to observe an indulgent amount of order in the course of a day. I’ve never really seen this as an impediment, however, considering the routine straightening of pictures, aligning of chairs, and, yes, still the fastidious towel folding, have never, like, axed friendships or lost me jobs or sent lovers fleeing in abject horror. At most/worst, these and other related behaviors have brought about the conspicuous rearranging of my office desk fixtures at the hand(s) of knowing coworkers. And that’s just kinda funny, you know? (Not that said fixtures aren’t promptly and vigorously returned to their rightful homes. Heh.)

Anyway, yeah: I’m scrupulously neat and I’m okay with it. It evens me out.

My friend Jenn has similar inclinations when it comes to linin’ shit up.

“My office/desk must be in order when I leave for the night. For example, when I worked in a law firm and had an entire room to myself, I could not leave at night unless the guest chair was angled just right and the pillow on top was fluffed and perfectly centered. Stacks of paper on my desk or side tables had to be so that all of the edges lined up exactly.”

Like me, Jenn covets the tension-relieving powers of a color-coded bookca—wha? Ur…

“It’s totally satisfying. When things in my spaces, especially my work spaces, become momentarily the opposite (i.e., disordered), I am physically tense and emotionally cranky. When things get back to order, I am at peace.”

And even though “things in order” doesn’t always equate with straight-up efficiency—“sometimes it makes me lose track of items because I order them for the sake of order itself and not for the purpose of later finding things”—Jenn says that chasing down “one clean line of papers’ edges” isn’t a bother. She doesn’t mind it at all.

“It makes me feel like I have control.”

Which I totally get. And as long as behaviors such as these outlie the parameters of certain diagnostic criteria, I say so be it: Let the wild ordering rumpus continue!

My friend Sandy has a thing of a different nature—definitely irrational, somewhat irresistible, and freakin’ adorable—a thing she has no name for but can logically be termed “crack jumping.” In her words:

“When I’m riding in a car and there are seams or cracks in the road, or if there aren’t any but there are driveways and intersections and crosswalks, I think of the ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back’ thing. And since I can’t ‘step’ over the crack, I instead shift my body weight so as to mimic jumping over it. I also like to think of it as some weird sort of rhythmic exercise: up and down, up and down.”

Asked if this is a behavior she’s ever consciously tried to reign in, the woman’s emphatic.

“When I decide to do it or notice that I’m doing it, I just don’t stop. I’ve never even thought about it—it’s too fun. Actually, I think I may have tried stopping before, but it’s kind of hard to so I don’t bother. Anyway, it’s such a little thing. And I can carry on complete conversations while doing it, no problem.”

The word “quirk” dawns on me, and I’m surprised it didn’t occur off the bat. A logical descriptor—“a peculiarity of action, behavior, or personality”—and with an easy cuteness about it.  Yet I miss the specificity of, the appeal to mechanics in “an irresistible impulse to act, regardless of rationality.” It seems so… human. Especially if amended slightly to read “an irresistible impulse to act or think, regardless of rationality.”

Another friend, Matt, wrote me about his “number thing”: irrational and irresistible and (potentially) satisfying as hell.

“I am the proud owner of a Zenith DVD-2200 model DVD player—gift from my parents, Christmas 1999. In what I guess is kind of a throwback nod to the previous generation’s dominant home video technology, the VCR features an extremely large and absurdly bright digital display on its face, showing DVD chapter, time expired, and a small, rather unconvincing two-frame animation of a disc, spinning. That’s neither here nor there, except for the fact that its size and brightness make it kind of distracting, in the dark, when I’m trying to catch a flick. The point, really, is that I often become mesmerized looking for patterns in the display’s numbers. Sequences are good; the most basic is also one of the most satisfying—1:23:45. Sadly, our silly base-60 clock makes a long Fibonacci string impossible; 0:11:23 is there, but I’m sure that a decimal clock would provide a real adrenaline-loaded, fight-or-flight-type thrill.”

Surely. He continues, to dazzling effect—

“I also dig snagging a set of three primes, like 1:17:05 or 1:03:13. The good shit, though, is palindromes—1:00:01, 0:47:40. Every palindrome I catch is tasty, but my favorites are palindromes that are visual, not numeric. What I mean: on your everyday digital alarm clock/DVD player/whatever, each digit is rendered by selective illumination of an array of seven little bars, which means all the numbers look sort of boxy. One consequence of the boxy digits is that 2 and 5 are mirror images of each other: when that fucker hits 1:21:51 I experience a little symmetry-gasm that is approximately as satisfying as getting the perfect ratio of buttery crunchy sugary blueberry-crumb muffin and hot black coffee in one mouthful, while receiving oral sex and scratching the hell out of a fresh mosquito bite, damn the consequences. Anyway.”

Although even in the wake of an analogy like that, Matt notes that “visual palindromes” isn’t all blueberry-crumb muffins and blowjobs. It can also be downright distracting, leaving him “unable to give a film a fair shake because of it.”

My boyfriend Ray has anything but love for his own “making triplicates,” viewing the practice with utter contempt.

“I hate it. It’s only enjoyable in the sense that I’m completely used to it. It’s sometimes satisfying, I guess, but it’s like an addiction—not ultimately satisfying.”

Explained: “Nearly everything I take in (read, hear) undergoes a rapid metric scan, and that which fails to conform to a trisyllabic pattern I manipulate with additional words or sounds until it does. ‘Buy it tomorrow’ might become ‘buy it tomorrow yeah.’ Slightly less pressing is adherence to the typical beat emphasis of Western musical notation. So while ‘President Obama’ is good, ‘walking the dog today,’ with its front-loaded ‘measures,’ is great.”

Yikes. Problematic no doubt, but intriguing, foreign.

Me, I have this “looped thing,” which lies somewhere between neutral and positive on the experience continuum. It’s dropped off considerably in recent years, and in fact, I can’t recall the last time it surfaced. But man, back when it did routinely, it would really take hold. Strange and suggestive.

Basically, the only condition that had to be met in order for it to appear was some degree of out-of-it-ness, whether due to being drunk, stoned, sleepy, or otherwise impaired. In these scenarios, I would potentially encounter the following mental image: a small and slightly asymmetrical looping figure, which, some time after and no longer impaired, I came to associate with a whimsical bow like the one shown in the final illustrated square of a shoelace-tying tutorial, laces’ ends winking upwards. There was also a sortof “handshake” quality about the image, although this could’ve had more to do with the incredibly tactile nature of the thing as it presented in my brain (my “grip” on it was exquisite and complete and extremely satisfying) than with anything aesthetic.

Especially interesting personally was the implication of “something sought.” I would see the loop—see it and really scrutinize it—and always I would feel so close to figuring “it” out, to identifying and consequently deciphering the meaning behind this peculiar mental piece. It was an attempt to unlock something very familiar (and not simply due to past mental “sightings” of it), and I always came up just short. In the aftermath of the experience I would dig around more, though not being able to see the loop in the moment, the pursuit was for naught. At some point I convinced myself—or began playing with the thrilling and romantic notion—that if I could just get to the bottom of it, some profound self-discovery awaited me. I still like this idea.

Anyhow, it’s not really like crack jumping or visual palindromes or making triplicates; it’s hazier and less applied. But it has in common the recurrent and compelling nature of these behaviors and segues nicely into my friend Alex’s “spinning cube”: a persistent and poetic dream sequence.

“Every Christmas Eve from when I was a young child up through high school, I had the same dream—sometimes multiple times in the same evening as the adrenaline of anticipation coursing through my veins would dispel sleep as only it can in the mind of an only-child aware of the imminent prospect of tearing open presents! It was the simplest thing—gradations of gray, geometric, atmospheric—a cube of indeterminate size rotating top-like, spinning on one corner. It was if this cube had everything: untapped power and yet irresistible force, hypnotic slowness yet palpable menace, perfect smoothness of surface and yet a sense that it’d be made of the softest fabric if I could just touch it.

“If anything it seemed a simple monochromatic representation of desire. If my breath accelerated on account of impatience, frustration, I have a feeling it started spinning faster and approaching, but there was something in me that knew that if I let it get out of control, my self-preservation-drive would kick in and I would have to wake myself up, thus sabotaging the distorted dream time speeding me towards presents. I think it was those moments of subconscious and rational sides battling, that I could feel myself either encompassing or being encapsulated by the figure. It was another type of heartbeat almost.”

Asked about his feelings toward the spinning cube years later, Alex recalls a marked anxiety.

“I’d say it was more distressing than anything else. … On these nights of heightened anticipation, I was demanding something, trying to bend my subconscious to my greedy little will and most of the time I was simply toyed with.”

About a year ago, I came across this exhilarating little wonder. I’ve read it again and again since, and have feverishly passed it on a handful of times, eager to share its magic with people who won’t just think it’s weird and/or pointless. Because to me, it’s anything but that. To me, it’s sweet, funny, odd. Painstaking, lovely, painstakingly lovely. It’s terribly intimate. At least, that’s the way I receive it. And I think that’s what it boils down to: as much about the author’s willingness to put it out there—to give it language—as it is the thing/act/quirk itself. And although this Shya alludes to conversations about it among friends, it’s still no “what’s new in politics/the economy/my relationship/etc.” It’s not usual.

I don’t know—it’s sort of like reading a Lorrie Moore story, how I relate to these things. If you’ve read Moore, you know her knack for slipping in inner-monologue stuff that on initial read takes you aback, because it seems to come out of nowhere. Left field. But then, seconds later, you realize, wait, this is how it works. Nothing’s ever completely linear in my head, at least not for very long stretches at a time, so why shouldn’t these made-up people skip and trip through the day any differently? And, come to think, why don’t we see this more often in literature? Isn’t it sort of, like, the truest thing there is? Big beating (and small pulsing) thoughts that sprawl and skid and meander? Anyway, bit of a tangent there maybe, but what I’m getting at is the beauty of these non-sequiturs—the sharing of them—be them one-offs or more persistent, compulsion-type behaviors as those graciously offered up by a few of my friends.

It’s what prompted me to reach out in the first place, to pose the question, “What do you do that’s like this? And although I initially got caught up in the semantics stuff (the “what the hell are they?”), ultimately I was just touched. Deeply. Touched in a similar way to how I was on hearing my retiring boss’s speech at last week’s in-office party, all of us gathered in a drab conference room as David took a chance on a story about, several months prior, standing in a room on the top floor of the building, staring out at a series of water towers—strong and steely, wood-braced—and having this dawn on him: I want to be out there with them. Maybe it’s time to be out there with them.

Perhaps that sounds unrelated, but it’s very much not. It was, like the other shared experiences herein, something not easily described in a way likely to make perfect sense, maybe in part because it’s not all that sensible to the person expressing it. But it can still be understood—by you the expresser, and by others, vis-à-vis a shared humanity.

That, then, seems to be the connecting piece: that we’re all prey to this less-than-rational part of ourselves, and it can bring us closer.

If I’d known the word vegetarian when I was a kid, I wonder if the shift would have happened sooner. Back then, there was no Lisa Simpson giving pop culture credence, no easily available information, and no role models in my social circle.

I was an unusual tyke in that I liked almost every fruit or vegetable I tried. Steamed artichokes, smooth avocadoes, fresh cherries with pit and stem, even maligned Brussels sprouts.

I jog around five days a week.

I have two routes.

One route is my neighborhood and it consists of a giant square through a few neighborhoods that are infested with chihuahuas, faded houses, and small apartments.

The other is Sunset Park. A large park loaded with baseball fields, volleyball and basketball courts, etc, and a jogging/walking trail that weaves around a lake. One lap, one mile. Two laps, two miles. You get the idea.

The park is right down the street from Wayne Newton’s house. He calls his house—or rather, his estate—Casa de Shenandoah.

From what I hear it’s packed with horses and a whole slew of other creatures. It’s like a zoo. On the outside of his compound, on the corner of Sunset and Pecos, he has this giant sculpture/mural-type thing announcing where he lives.

It consists of a giant pair of bull horns and some black-eyed horses jumping out of a concrete wall.

It’s ugly.

Danke Schoen.

Before I started running Sunset Park I was lapping my neighborhood. It’s not a pretty run. No beautiful trees or running rivers to look at. Just a bunch of old houses, singed grass, and cracked sidewalks.

But it’s an entertaining run because of the chihuahuas that harass me. There are two packs in particular that do a stellar job in giving me batches of crap for passing their yard.

The first pack, Team One, is a three-man outfit. Cute and mean as fuck. They live right around the corner from my house and smell me putting on my running shoes. They know my every move before I move.

They come at me like bullets from their carport and run along the fence showing their teeth and barking like hyenas. It’s hilarious. Sometimes I’ll hear someone scream at them from inside the house. I scoot by them and hear their last barks popping off like firecrackers.

Team Two is made up of five pure killers that live on the last stretch of the run. They prowl an ugly backyard full of rusted appliances, ants, garbage cans, and hard Vegas dirt.

These little bastards don’t come charging after me but wait at the fence and when I hit their sights they raise all hell. It may sound odd, but I think they’re offended by me. They don’t care for me on a personal level.

I stand for something that pisses them off.

They think I’m an asshole, a punk.

One of them just looks at my shoes and gnashes his teeth. Another has some spring in his legs and snaps through the air like a shark.

One day their owner (some fat guy with eyes the size of large chicken eggs) was with them. The dogs saw me and started a riot. They kicked up dirt and bitched.

“I think they like you,” he said, smiling.

Sunset Park is a pretty run. Beautiful pine trees and thick green grass line the jogging trail. A lake dotted with geese and ducks. Big Nevada sky sweeping to Utah, Barstow. Sparks to New Mexico. It’s always pleasant.

There are no packs of crazy dogs there.

But there are people.

That’s where the shows at.

The running culture is an interesting one. The runner’s mindset. The sleek shoes. The lightweight shorts and fast sunglasses. The stretching, the technique.

Running is a lifestyle.

And one hell of a good buzz.

“I got in twenty-five miles last week. Light week. Ankle was acting up,” I heard one of them say.

“The other day I was in the zone, bro. I hit that far corner, coming down, and was just chugging,” another said, jumping from foot to foot and shaking out his hands, getting ready to nail another bout of miles.

The corner he was referring to is on the backside of the trail and has a mild decline. If you hit that turn running at a good clip you’ll get whipped into a straight away like a train, the pine trees flashing by in a blur.

For all you 440 relay people who ran the 3rd leg (the turn), this is the same push you get if you hit that turn kicking. Bam. Zip. Gone.


Sunset Park has its regulars. I have names for them. Like Frankenstein and the Trucker. Like the Bee Lady and Silver. Like the Big Mexican Dude and the Woman That Doesn’t Smile.

They’re always there, always putting in the miles.

Frankenstein is a big man with longish hair. He straps these huge weights to his angles and lurches when he runs. He’s a slow mover, but he gets it done.

The Bee Lady is a walker. She wears a large beige hat that casts a long round shadow on the trail. She dresses real cute, looks like she has some money, and wears too much make-up. She might be a celebrity. Regardless, she laps the lake like a machine and hauls ass.

The Trucker is a stocky dude with bushy eyebrows and fat hands. He sweats like a lineman and cuts the sleeves off his shirts. Yeah, one of those. He might be Russian.

The Woman That Doesn’t Smile? Well, she doesn’t smile. What can I say? She has a very aggressive running style, wears a fuzzy brown baseball cap, and gets it done in a nice pair of running shoes. We’ve ran what seems like a thousand miles together. She’s never said hello to me.

I think the Big Mexican Dude is gay. He hasn’t said so, but I get the feeling that if we sat down and talked about some of the cute girls running along side of us he’d want to change the topic and talk about some of the pecker kicking up dust.

By far the most impressive runner out there is Silver. Silver is this dude somewhere in his sixties. Maybe his seventies. Who knows. But he runs without a shirt, has tanned muscled legs, silver hair, and glides around the lake at a controlled meditative pace.

He’s a serious runner.

He’ll jack you up.

“Sloppy,” he says, looking at us floundering around the lake. “Fucking rookies. I’ll bury all of you.”

Or something like that.

Tomorrow will make it thirteen miles so far this week. If I get off my ass I’ll strap them up tomorrow and get in fifteen, maybe sixteen.

Got to keep going.


Head straight.

Eyes pinned.

Arms pushing from the hips.

Foot after foot.

Mile after mile.

Got to get Silver.

Got to get Franky Baby.

Got to get myself.


Happy running.

Although I am loath to admit it, I am a prude.  I never would have thought myself to be uptight before now but being faced with the Freikörper Kultur has brought me up to speed.  I am 100% American prude.  What is the Free Body Culture, you might ask?  Why it’s the Society of Naked Germans, of course!  And with the advent of summer, the parks and lakes are overflowing with frolicking, happy nudists.

I have never before been even slightly weirded out by the thought that anyone would want to lie naked in the sun.  It sounds rather naughty and delicious, actually.  That being said, I have rarely been faced with an entire city of people who can’t wait to publicly shed their clothing at the slightest opportunity.  Summer is here or at least June is and even though it hasn’t been anything even approaching warm enough to be called bathing suit weather, anything above 60 degrees Fahrenheit is apparently warm enough to bare it all.  Nobody worries about shrinkage.  One day I was happily cruising around Berlin admiring the greenery and suddenly the next, the view had changed entirely.  One might have fancied oneself in a veritable Garden of Eden were it not for the tattoos and lack of strategically placed fig leaves.

In truth, this year I was well prepared.  Last summer on a visit the boyfriend took me to a lake to replenish our vitamin D deficiency.  He had warned me that everyone would be nude and that was fine, I’d said, but it wasn’t going to be me.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t what was.  We were surrounded by everyone and anyone you could imagine, as long as you could imagine they were all white; Germany not being the most color diverse country in the world.  There were tall, short, fat, thin, old, young, beautiful, those not traditionally considered good looking, some obese folks, someone going through chemo, someone who’d undergone a double mastectomy, someone who was clearly anorexic, spider veins abounded, cellulite glistened in the sunshine, waxed and unwaxed, shaved and unshaved, if you can think of it, it was there.

As I looked around I was overcome with admiration for the group of people so comfortable in their own skin.  So unashamed of their bodies as they existed; a foreign concept for most Americans, let alone New Yorkers who are constantly under pressure to stay at the forefront of the fashion and body beautiful trends.  And I realized I was more conspicuous as the only one with clothes on than I would be if I just let go of my Puritanism and freed my body from its spandex confines.  It was elating to lie naked and unnoticed in a park full of people doing the same.  But I didn’t kid myself either.  The only reason I could do this at all was because other than my equally naked boyfriend, I didn’t know a soul.  There is courage in anonymity.

This year for my birthday, he took me to a spa to relax a little.  Once again I was prepared ahead of time for the lack of clothing.  Given the park experience, I no longer felt the need to take a suit.  But when we got to the spa and into the co-ed dressing room I found I was a little bugged out.  I mean, yeah it makes sense.  We’re all about to be naked together anyway, why separate us for the donning and removal phase?  But regardless of the rationality, I somehow felt more exposed fully undressing that close to strange men.  Then in walked the Swedish bombshells who parked themselves directly next to my boyfriend and proceeded to disrobe.  Wait, what happened to all the every-bodies I saw at the lake?  Where were they?  Why was I wobbling my sizable nether parts next to Sweden’s Next Top Model?  This wasn’t what I’d signed up for.

But we wandered down to the sauna anyway.  Walking through the rooms filled with spa-goers, I felt awkward and uncomfortable.  I couldn’t understand why at first.  It shouldn’t feel so much different than it had the last time, after all I didn’t know anyone there.  But as I took a seat in the very crowded sauna, I began to be conscious of the people around me.  These weren’t the naked folks I’d been at the lake with.  Nearly everyone there was under 40, somewhat toned or put together and were all painfully, horribly, nakedly close together.

I am a natural voyeur, a people watcher.  I love to openly gaze and wonder at the happenings around me.  But when you’re sweating together in a small room packed full of fellow nudists, you somehow lose the freedom to do that.  If you spend too much time looking at someone, you could be quickly labeled a sicko letch and excommunicated.  So there we all sat, carefully avoiding each other’s eyes, peeking out of the corners of our own to somehow get the bearings of our surroundings and not talking.  It was awful.

Today I went to a beach with some friends and was shocked to see the sand bursting with colorful bikinis and trunks.

“Where are all the naked Berliners?” I asked.

A fellow sunbather indicated a sign that said in big, black lettering, Freikörper Kultur, and pointed down the beach.  In that moment I knew.  I knew I was a prude because I was relieved.  I was so relieved not to be faced with the pressure to be naked with my friends.  I knew I couldn’t do it.  As they say, some things are better left unsaid, but there are an equal number of things better left dressed on my body and I decided to agree with my friend Juan’s assessment.  There’s something sexy about a little guesswork, even if it is just a little.  So although I may again lie naked in the sun it won’t be anywhere I might run into someone I know and you can rest assured my blanket will be far enough away from the next guy so I can take in the beauty of a park full of everyone basking in their own glory.  Just don’t tell my mother.

El Camino. 1984. V8 engine. 350. I never had one and I still don’t. But my just-graduated-son Landen gave me and a six-year-old punk girl named Jai Ann our first El Camino joyride. Destination: McDonald’s.

It goes like this: We hit Gosford Road and flew like the Furies were chasing us. Clouds rolled past. Time slowed. This was our video game. Pull out the joystick. Hit the fire button. Blast some asteroids. Jump like Frogger. Fly like the Pacman family. Donkey Kong it. You get the picture. Soaring Xervious adventure. This was old school.

We hit the drive-thru in style. Jai Ann had no idea what was soaring through my veins. She couldn’t feel the 80s. But she could feel something: 80s Generation X energy. After two Sprites, oh, and a coffee-for-the-old-man later, we pulled out. But suddenly Lando (as I usually call him) swerved back into the lot. “What’s going on?” I say.

“You’re drivin’.” Damn if he ain’t the captain.

Aw, hell yeah. My kid does love me. My foot still tingles as I remember. I imagine pressing down on the gas, the fuzzy dice above the dash, the fuzzy steering wheel cover in my grip like a puppy coming for a lick. I think about the tires on the road, the El Camino zooming toward the horizon. Yeah, Gran Torino should have been playing on my boy’s iPod followed by Fast and the Furious, Gone in Sixty Seconds and the highlights of Tron.

The next day my eyes were wider than usual. I’m standing around the car with he and his brother Jordo (Real name Jordan). The hood is up. We’re glaring into that secret of the universe that mechanics and teen boys dream about. We’re electricity zoomin’ through the distributor, fuel slippin’ through the filter, belts searing in hot passion, pulling by the radiator. “Aw yeah. I got it,” I say. My boys look over. “Candy apple red. White stripes up the hood.”

“Oh yeah,” Lando says then adds, “Can’t though. Cops would target that.”

I give him the I-don’t-care shrug as if I should be yelling out: “Murder is worse. Let’s do this thing. Let’s paint the town when we’re done with the car.”

While I’m tired and my head is spinning from having just pushed the El Camino through a busy intersection at Ming Avenue and Oak Street—as if JELL-O legs could ever attach to a robot—that doesn’t matter, I’m right back to dreaming: this car is a rocketship. “Oh yeah.”

VIDEO: El Camino, Lando On Guitar, At Intersection Right Before Breakdown

I have no memory of “the scene.” My entire neighborhood was standing around me in a circle, apparently, and I was bleeding everywhere.

This makes me experience two decidedly conflicting emotions: massive embarrassment and pure badass.

The source of the blood was mostly my face and my feet. Of course, my brain was bleeding as well, but that was internal and likely the cause of my fogginess and confusion.

I am very excited that my brain was bleeding. This is a rite-of-passage injury. I am now bona fide.

So I don’t remember a thing, not a single thing, until one fleeting moment in an ambulance. I was being restrained, and things were being inserted into my arms and my pants were being ripped from my body and I said: “But I don’t remember buying a scooter!”

I bought a scooter. An ex-boyfriend had one, and I intended to buy one from the moment I rode on the back of his for the first time. It was fun as hell. But then, he knew how to drive one.

It’s not as much fun when you drive your scooter into a parked car at 20 miles per hour and stop yourself with your head.

Though, really, since I don’t remember it, I guess it’s safe to say that I might have enjoyed it. I do so many stupid things, it seems, that I must enjoy doing them – at least on some level.

I was in the ambulance, insisting that I did not buy a scooter and being restrained and stripped, and then the next thing I remember is being prepped for a CAT scan.

“Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” The stranger asked me.

“I fucking hope not,” I said.

“Okay, we’re going to put this lead blanket on you to protect your uterus,” he said to me, while I clawed at my neck brace.

“Fuck, go ahead and leave it off, for all I care,” I slurred.

Then the next thing I remember is being placed in another room, when a man with a computer on wheels came to terrify me by telling me I was not covered by insurance.

You see, my health insurance payment was due May 1st. This was May 2nd. I’d forgotten to pay. And at the time, I didn’t know about the grace period (thank god for the grace period) you were granted before your coverage lapsed.

I will never forget to pay my health insurance bill again. Not ever again.

So the mean man came and told me “you’re screwed!” and then a neurosurgeon came into the room and said a bunch of stuff. What I heard was “You have bleeding in your brain. You need brain surgery. You have to pay for it out of pocket because you’re stupid and you didn’t pay your insurance. Brain surgery costs somewhere around $100,000. You are very stupid, and by the way, you are a major disappointment to your mother and father.”

I started crying. I was really confused and I was bleeding everywhere and I was a disappointment.

What the neurosurgeon actually said was that I had petechial hemorrhaging and I needed to be kept overnight for observation. No brain surgery. Sounds worse than it is. But man, the headaches for the days following….

Another doctor: “I’m going to give you pain medication now.”

Me: “What? What are you giving me?”

“What do you want? Morphine?”

I refused pain medication. Three reasons:

(1) I was confused, and I didn’t want to be more confused. I didn’t know what was happening or why it was happening. I wanted to piece things together, not become more foggy.
(2) I didn’t know how much morphine costs, and I assumed it would be too expensive, especially since I thought I was now paying out of pocket for all of these expenses.
(3) If the doctor didn’t know which medication I needed and wanted my input, I didn’t want her to give me anything at all.

According to my many friends who were with me, though I wasn’t exactly aware of their presence, I had spent most of my time in the emergency room up to this point cussing and cracking jokes at the hospital staff.

This is incredible to me, because in my memory, I was very frightened. I was terrified. Imagine, you’re in the hospital and you’re bleeding and there are people doing things to you and you have no idea why you’re there or what happened. At one point, I remember wondering if I’d experienced a dissociative fugue, but head trauma seemed more likely given my surroundings.

Another doctor came in to X-ray my feet. I fought tooth and nail with him, claiming that I did not need this service, that it cost too much, that they needed to let me go home. He proceeded to X-ray my feet regardless.

My chin was stitched up. Six stitches. I squeezed my friend Lisa’s hand while they did it. Moments prior to the stitching, the doctor had confused Lisa for my mother, so she was very angry. Lisa does not look any older than I look. My theory is that she looks twenty years more mature than I look, especially given the way I am told I was behaving.

Apparently I made a few phone calls around this time. My little brother, my friend Jeremy, and possibly a few others. To my little brother, I hysterically cried. To Jeremy, I laughed and made fun of myself.

I remember wanting to call my sister, because she is a doctor and she is smart and she would tell me what to do. But in my disorientation, I came to the conclusion that I could not call her because she would be asleep and her husband and kids would be asleep and they all needed the rest.

They took me to the room I was to spend the night in. I had no pants on. I was wearing underwear and my white v-neck, which was covered in blood and iodine. I was still very bloody.

My friends, Sadie and Dach, accompanied me into my room.

A few nurses came in. They were supposed to wash out the wounds on my feet. I thought they were indentured servants.

This, I found to be very offensive, so I refused to let them wash my feet. “It’s degrading to them!” I argued.

Sadie had to wash my feet.

Then there was about ten minutes of arguing with Sadie because she wanted to help me out of my bloody shirt and into a fresh shirt she’d brought for me from home.

“No! I want to wear this one! It’s cool! I like it! It’s cool!”

The nurse told me my other friends were going to my apartment to get me some things, and asked me if I wanted anything special from home.

“Sexual Murder! Sexual Murder! Sexual Murder!”

This is the book I am reading. Luckily my friends pieced that together and explained what I was talking about to the nurse.

I also insisted my friends bring me my night cream and my It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia DVDs.

A nurse tried to give me Vicodin and some anti-anxiety medication. I refused both, because I didn’t want anything habit-forming and I didn’t want to pay for it. I stumbled through a not-so-eloquent explanation of how I worked in a clinic with many clients who struggled with addictions to painkillers and benzodiazepines and how I’d seen too many people fight that battle to start it myself.

The nurse told me that’s why she didn’t ride motorcycles.

Jason arrived. He was staying the night with me in my hospital room. I was standing, refusing to get into bed, bleeding and babbling.

The nurse asked me if I had any allergies.

“I can’t have lobster. I’m allergic to lobster. Don’t give me lobster,” I said.

I was at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. It’s a Jewish hospital. And it’s a hospital. They aren’t serving shellfish, and they’re definitely not serving lobster.

Jason was the best. He stayed up all night with me, held me and calmed me down when the doctors came in to do things that scared me. He explained what they were doing to me and why, and got me ice packs for my feet and sent the nurses away when they came to do vital checks once I had finally fallen asleep for a moment.

He didn’t seem to mind that I bled on him, or that I was even afraid when the nurses came to take my temperature, or that I looked like a corpse, or that I cried on and off all night long.

Men, pay attention. This is how all men should be.

A neurosurgeon came into my room with about six residents. He did the checks that I had gone through every half hour with a different neurosurgeon, and then said to me: “Great. Everything looks great. You’re looking great.”

“Yeah, this is the best I’ve ever looked. I’m going to the prom tomorrow,” I said.

Outside my room, there were two policemen with guns. They were guarding the room next to mine. There was a criminal in it. They wouldn’t tell me what he’d done.

In the morning, Jason had to go to work, so Dach came and switched places with him. I tried to talk to Dach for a while, but they gave me more anti-seizure medication and that stuff makes you sleepy, so I passed out. Sadie arrived while I was sleeping. Sadie made up a song about my injuries and Dach told me stories about how he’d injured himself in the past.

I was taken to have another CAT scan. An old lady was being wheeled around on her hospital bed by a black dude. She was complaining to him. “Don’t go over bumps! Be careful! Not so fast!”

He looked at me and said: “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Later he read the tattoo on my back and told me he’d heard about me, that I was making all the folks in the hospital laugh. I didn’t remember being that much of a clown, but I’m not at all surprised.

They released me in the afternoon. I went home and fell asleep.

I went to work the next day. I was still very out of it, very spotty.

To be perfectly honest, today is the first day I feel actually lucid. I think I’m back to normal again. Of course, I can’t walk well, and I have a giant stitched up wound on my chin and I have a bruise that still continues to grow on my inner thigh (I’m fascinated by this bruise) and my feet are tore the fuck up and I have a chipped tooth and I have a constant, terrible headache from the head trauma. But I feel pretty awesome.

There is something almost thrilling about having control completely ripped away from you, about being unaware of your surroundings, about not being able to account for nearly ten hours of your life, and then only have fleeting moments of understanding for the following twenty hours. It is horrifying at first. But at some point, when you start to gather yourself, it becomes fascinating, and it’s almost disappointing when you begin to pull it back together. You have to go back to being responsible for yourself. No more excuses. No more tales of what you’ve done while you were temporarily “away.” No more pleasant dissociation. In a way, I love to lose control. In that same way, I love when I learn that I’ve lost moments of time. And also in that same way, I love being injured.

It’s something new. It’s not boring. It’s a story to tell. It’s mixing up the routine.

And I finally told my parents. They were pissed I didn’t tell them sooner. Mom never wanted me to get a scooter in the first place. I promised I’d mention that.

I made it clear to my brothers that they had to wait two weeks before making fun of me. After two weeks, they are free to make fun of me for the rest of my life. But I get two weeks to heal.

I already want to get on the scooter again.