Archive for February, 2008

The Gaff

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

I’m writing this from the main dining hall of The Gaff, the #1 cyber pub in Port Aransas, TX. A well-known local just walked in to a shout of acclaim. The owner then told us about the Thursday pirate raid pub crawls they do from here.

I don’t have much to say – or, actually, I could probably stay in this place and write a few bad novels over the course of a season. I did however feel compelled to blog from here.

The pizzas just came, as did Allie’s pirate-sized meatball sandwich, so I sort-of have to wrap this up.


The Gaff is everything you could want from a run-down beach hangout. The menu has like four things on it. The weirdly efficient bartendress puts the pizzas together and they were approx. of BB’s quality. Pyramid Wheat on tap. Belt sanders used in periodic belt sander races decorate the grimy windows. There’s an enormous bigscreen tv that doesn’t seem to work properly. They have free wireless, and this paean is good evidence of what a fine idea that is.

We walked in, and for some reason the kids immediately started exploring all 1000 square feet of the place, with many declamations of “Classic!” as the piratical denizens paused (briefly) from their beer-cigarette cocktails.

After sitting down, Pat loudly announced, “This is just like Las Vegas!”


Saturday, February 16th, 2008

I planned something maudlin. This rainy day swept into my head on a sharp cold wind, and there roiled bleak clouds of pathos. I wanted to write about the ephemera of memory, of tattered recollections I’d pay dearly to restore, of Friday parties, of lazy trips to Grapevine, laughing drives along the Secret Back Way, cuddling up with boxes of beer. I wanted to capture a thousand memories of a thousand moments, a thousand smiles.

I decided that was all dust, blown away. I won’t fail to take that sort of thing seriously when it’s happening any more. I’m a coward who hides behind a cheap cynical mask. I’m not an interesting coward so that’s not worth writing about. I stifle my desire to appreciate and wonder because I’m afraid about what happens when it ends, but I’m the only victim of that.

So, no more blah blah blah.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere
anstimmen, und freudenvollere!

From somewhere came into our house a potted Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis. (There are various sad legends associated with the flower, but I don’t want to get into that now.) It started blooming a few days ago, so I carried it up to the improvised studio and took a bunch of pictures.

The leaves and flowers contain all sorts of scary-sounding chemicals that have something to do with heart attacks. I’m not sure if that means you should keep the plant around so that you can stuff a handfull of it into the mouth of a quivering patient on the floor. Somehow, even if it’d be effective, I can’t imagine how you’d explain it all to the paramedics.

With the lights all set up I got some good pictures of the kids too, but I’ll save those.

Swimming the foreverness of a slow morning

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

One of the things that has contributed to the crack-up I’ve experienced (publically, now, and I’ll let you know eventually whether I recommend that) is a lack of patience. Conditioned by years sitting as I am now at the helm of an Internet-wired computer, I’ve gotten used to leaping instantly from wanting-to-know to knowing. The future, however, doesn’t send much e-mail.

It’s been hard to write this. I’ve been thinking a lot about being nuts, but for the past few days I’ve been feeling so not-nuts that the topic seems pointless and uninteresting. I keep testing myself with the various stimuli that for months fueled the darkness and confusion in my head, and while I still get twinges sometimes, they’re not making me stupid.

It’s definitely the case that I’ll never dismiss claims by my female friends that body chemistry is affecting their behavior. The only chemicals I have to worry about are whisky and cheese, and I don’t think they had much to do with most of my issues (though behavior-wise the drink hasn’t done me any favors). I’m such an emotional wimp that I can be driven into a bad state by a little world-is-changing stress, so I imagine that scary hormones would make me a complete wreck.

So this inability to know what’s going to happen – the natural state of existance, of course – gets on my nerves. Other stuff does too, and I know now that I’m really a giant baby. I don”t know how to improve that situation. I’m getting used to it, maybe.

Anyway today I went to a concert, sort-of. I think really you’d have to call it more of a church service fragment. I don’t know what you call those. I don’t consider myself a religious person, or a spiritual person, but I do consider myself a person. Being a person is strange and hard and amazing. For a while I was doing a really bad job.

Then, during this concert, a segment of poetry reading included the lines

I can only agree to open arms
of acceptance to imperfect friends,
explain as cogently as I can
that they are most certainly
alright as they are.

As the beneficiary of such commitments over the past few weeks, I found it suddenly very hard to keep my composure. I’m one imperfect friend, let me tell you. Sometimes I don’t even know why I feel I can think of myself as a “friend” to my friends. They’re such nice people, and I’m humbled by their support for me. Years ago, my home was often a focal point of activity among a circle of friends. I like cooking, and I cooked for friends who couldn’t or wouldn’t. Sometimes we’d just do nothing. For whatever reason this happened a lot less after we moved to Austin: I was working harder, maybe, or just getting older.

Having children of course changed things. It’s pretty easy to focus inwards, particularly in my case, gaining a complete clan in one step. The feeling of distance from people is something I got used to without even noticing it. I’m tired, my wife is tired (and her ears ring from every long day with three kids around), and it’s just so easy to be insular. What has that cost me?

Am I Depressed?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

That title isn’t really a question; it’s a joke. See there’s this guy, or there was this guy maybe, named Dan Ashwander, who was pretty, well, nuts, and he wrote this book called, Am I Insane? So I made the title of this blog post, “Am I Depressed?”. Funny.

Actually it is kind-of a question. I don’t know what it means to be “depressed.” other than the colloquial “gee I’m depressed because my sandwich got wet.” I’m sure that real depressed people who are unfortunate enough to land here probably think I’m a total poser. My apologies, really. My apologies also to anybody who’s wondering why, like the rest of the American population, I don’t go see a doctor who’ll tell me whether I’m depressed or not and send me on my way with a sack of pills appropriate to either answer. That’s not the kind of thing I ever imagined myself doing back when I wasn’t wondering whether I’m depressed, and I still have this quaint, feeble idea that clinging to that conviction gives me some connection to my ordinary sane self.

The chronic feeling that there’s a hedgehog inside my chest is so familiar now that I’m startled every now and then when it temporarily abates. When that feeling is strong I literally cannot eat, so of course the consequent lack of bodily nutrients only makes everything worse. My powers of rationalization and self-policing are all haywire, and I have periodically realized that the “good sense” I’ve been repeating to myself is completely wrong. That makes the hedgehog happy, of course, but it’s really starting to piss me off. Now I’m typing this, and I know that what I’m doing is burdening various nice people with having to think about me and this stupid rodent.

I have this sophomoric concept of the “meaning of everything.” I figure that the universe is just here, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Yet here I am, thinking, “Here I am,” and thinking about thinking, “Here I am.” Thus maybe those things go together: the universe is here to be thought about by creatures sitting there thinking, “Here I am.”

I asked Pat one day, “Pat if a big tree fell down in a forest, and there were no people or creatures near enough to hear it, would it make any noise?”

“Probably not,” was his immediate answer. That, I felt, strongly supported my theory. The universe needs me to think about it. It struck me back a while ago, while listening to a lecture about dromaeosaur taxonomy, that during the Mesozoic the Earth was covered with millions and millions of creatures running around gnawing on plants and eating each other, and yet none of them, nobody anywhere, was thinking about that reality, or thinking, “Here I am.” How did the world manage to exist? Day after day, year after year, like a model train setup in a store window, just existing without awareness. Well, I “reasoned,” maybe it works for there to be creatures somewhere, anywhere, thinking, “Here I am,” and thinking about thinking, “Here I am.” Maybe that makes things work out for the universe as a whole. Indeed, maybe me thinking now about the poor lonely Mesozoic is what made the Mesozoic exist.

Therefore, we have this obligation (so my infantile philosophy goes) to keep things rolling by thinking, “Here I am,” and by thinking about thinking, “Here I am.” It’s consequently important to be supportive and charitable to all those other people who need to be thinking, “Here I am” – my kids, wife, friends, and ultimately everybody. I now find myself in this situation where I’ve dropped the ball and kicked it into the neighbor’s yard. I’m leaning on kind normal people, hell virtually slobbering on them, stepping on their feet as I emotionally stagger around, and I have no business being such a mess. It’s totally unreasonable and horribly embarrassing. I know objectively that I’m not a super-being, impervious to mental maladies, but honestly it’s humiliating. Of course, feeling humiliated and weak doesn’t help my overall outlook.

OK so I don’t know where I’m going with this. The rodent is still there. I’m getting better at keeping a grip on things, and filtering out wildly inappropriate self-advice, but it takes a lot of energy and I can’t keep it up all day. I’ve never responded to stress this badly. I think the best I can do for now is sincerely apologize to the people who seem so inexplicably willing to put up with me. This really has got to stop, so please believe me when I say that I’m putting everything I can into snapping out of this funk, and I vow to make it up to everybody somehow eventually.

I should note in closing, as I proofread, that it’s extremely important to me that nobody take this too seriously. My innate fear of pain is a giant bulwark of strength, regardless of anything else going on in my head, so it’s absolutely not the case that I’m in danger of damaging myself. I’ll get better.