…but you can’t take the poverty out of the boy.

Money.

Fucking money.

It drives me to drink. I just attempted to purchase an item from a fairly large retail chain, online, and the site simply wouldn’t allow me to proceed through. The indication on the screen was that the security code was wrong. For the credit card. I called. The kind man on the phone indicated that, indeed, this sort of thing happens on that site…but we could process the order over the phone and it’s never an issue.

The problem?

I started with gift cards, and had a balance.  My stupid ass shredded the physical cards after having successfully put them in the online checkout. They were there. I shredded them. Then the site wouldn’t process the credit card to cover the remaining balance…and there was no way to get the gift cards back. My choice? Either accept my utter fucking numbskullery by having shredded the gift cards before completing a transaction & pay full price for the item…or delete the whole thing, relinquish the gift cards, and sulk like a struggling twenty-something scraping together pennies.

Here’s what I did…I ended up placing the order, without the gift cards. Then, I sent an email to the company’s help desk. And, I’m sitting here like a whining little shithead, unable to enjoy life or the fact that I’m supposed to be having a cheat day…enjoying friends and family, drinking copious amounts of whatever-the-fuck-I’m-given and eating equally copious amounts of sugar, flour, and processed food-like products.

And my friends are texting me. My family is there. There is delicious beer and food and people who love me…and me? I’m going to be a teenage boy stomping his feet and pouting. Because I lost $40 in gift cards. Because I shredded the fucking things before I was through the entire process. Because I have the maturity of a toddler Kardashian.  The maturity, but sure as hell NOT the money.

Actually, what I have is the brain and experience of a poor person. Not destitute. Never food or shelter insecure. (Though, what the fuck do I know. My mother busted her ass and never transferred, shared, or even hinted at her anxiety and problems.) But poor nonetheless. I grew up in extremely “affordable” apartments. It was a time when one could have free lunch (…and I had a free lunch card until the day I graduated high school…), food stamps (check), and partial welfare (check) and not be viewed by society immediately and unequivocally as a human parasite. Single parent home. Mom working two full time jobs. Here’s what she would do…drop me off at my Nanny’s (…not “Oh, yes…we have a Nanny helping us to raise young Gregory,” but my Grandmother…) in the evening, tuck me in, kiss me goodnight, and go to work at an all-night convenience store. Then, I’d wake up with her in the house. She came straight to me after her graveyard shift at the “shittymart” or whatever the fuck it was called. She’d take me to school, then take the bus to the local dry-cleaners. School let out, Mom was home by then. Wash, rinse, repeat. I can’t say I really knew we were poor. The neighborhood was low-income. The school district had all poor people. Shades of poor, but we’ll put it this way…generally “vacation” meant time to sit, do nothing, contemplate the minimum-wage shit-hole to which one would be returning soon, and maybe drink Iron City beer. Life just was what it was, and we were all riding on the same economy row boat down the Allegheny river.

It wasn’t until I somehow landed in Shaler Area school district in 9th grade that I realized, “Oh shit, we don’t have any fucking money.” Shaler’s feeder communities were distinguished by zip code…lower income in Etna, Millvale, and parts of Reserve; upper income in Glenshaw. And that shit was obvious in the way we, the free lunch gang, were treated, and also which zip codes populated which classes. One fucknut teacher, the Advanced Placement (AP) English teacher, actually taught a lesson through which he wrote 15116 (Glenshaw) and then 15223 (Etna) and explained how his AP and general education classes were populated with 15116 kids, and the remedial classes were full of 15223 students. At the time, I lived in a hobbit-sized after-thought apartment/house/bivouac situation. In Etna. I sat there in class listening, boiling on the inside, halfway embarrassed and halfway furious at the free lunch card in my pocket, of my consignment or Marshall’s clothes. I worked 20 hours a week at Wendy’s just to keep up with whomever the fuck I decided it was important to keep up with. But it became clear…there at Shaler Area High School…there in Etna…in advanced placement English…that I was poor. Money mattered. And then, we ended up in a real house in Glenshaw, paying approximately the same amount of rent that we’d been paying in Etna, due to family kindness and the need to upkeep a deceased uncle’s house. We knew the house would eventually be sold, but we also knew we’d be there through high school. And there I was, living among the rich, but paying de facto subsidized rent and knowing that really, we were still poor. Cigarettes and lottery tickets poor. Gallons of Turner’s iced tea (…on sale for $1.00…) poor. One piece-of-shit car always-on-the-precipice-of-breaking-down poor. No…we can remove those stumps, build a retaining wall, reframe the door, and do the electrical wiring ourselves (…but, no we can’t…) poor.

I’m not looking for pity. Not looking for sympathy. I’m just explaining, perhaps even for myself, why I remain with this interesting, unhealthy, worrisome relationship with money. It still controls me, and currently I’m in a stable position with decent income and reliable housing and transportation. As overused as this quip may be, I suppose one can take the kid out of poverty but one can’t take the poverty out of the kid.

And I think…why was I the only Etna kid in that class? Am I special? (No, I’m not.) What about all of the Etna kids in remedial or vocational tracts? Did they want to be where they were? Did they all actually deserve to be there? And the Glenshaw kids. Were they just smarter than the poor kids? (No, a polo shirt, hundred-dollar penny loafers, and a new car at 16 do not equal actual ability or intelligence.) This shit careened through my brain almost every day that I lived and attended high school in Shaler after having seen that display of classism in AP English.

There are clearly reasons beyond ability, beyond potential, beyond even performance, that dictate which people will move through the academic system in a tract that will place them in positions of power, wealth, and conventional professionalism. There is no true meritocracy. I mean, we often (…sometimes? typically?…) choose people based upon ability…but how any person arrives at a place of skill or ability to then BE chosen is inextricably related to socio-economic and historical factors that I’m certain are more nefarious than equitable, honest, and transparent.

Money.

Fucking money.

Oh, and happy holidays.

-G

Shipyard Gingerbread Head in a Duvel glass

Shipyard Gingerbread Head in a Lovely, Mildly Disturbing Duvel Tulip Glass

Turning 40

I’m 40.

And…fuck you, 40.

I’m in the best shape of my life. I exercise, meditate, and laugh often. My resting heart rate generally hovers around 50 bpm, plus or minus 5 beats. My diet is mostly healthy and includes minimally processed foods. Negligible cane sugar, artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, and processed grains. I supplement with tumeric, fish oil, B12, and a probiotic daily.

I have a cheat day on which I eat anything I want. I have 3 scheduled “drink days” per week (…my phone reminds me to, “drink up, bitches,” on these days…), one of which coincides with my larger cheat day. I love beer, wine, and spirit…and moderation is not a concept in my frontal cortex unless I rigidly structure life externally. Same with food and the cheat day scenario. Will power, moderation’s mythical and utterly elusive mate, also does not reside in my facilities. (I adore, and often resemble, Louie C.K.’s line, “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.” He’s got hilarious bits on turning 40. Here’s one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzEhoyXpqzQ) I will, unless I enforce a strict diet, eat like the self-loathing, sugar-addicted, starchy fat-ass (…sorry, they used to call me, “husky,” or “big boned,” or my fucking ironic favorite, “healthy”…) that I was most of my early life, then on-and-off throughout the rest.

So why am I laying this all out?

Because, when 40 comes…watch the fuck out, because life will never be the same. All that shit that I described above…which seemed like the self-congratulatory musings of a vain douchebag…are my oftentimes futile attempts to throw a fresh coat of paint on the molding, splintering siding of my aging body. The parts are 40, and that’s a cold-hard motherfucking fact, Jack.

And if you’re reading this…at 50, or 60, or 70 and smiling, perhaps laughing, rolling your eyes at my musings and complaints…please just let me have this. You may not remember, precisely, all that happened when your body turned 2 score, nor do you give a shit since you’re contending with whatever it is you’re currently contending with. But let me remind you that 40 is the very first time in one’s life that it becomes unavoidably evident that, at least from a biological perspective, it’s all downhill from here.

Let’s start with the eyes. I wear glasses, and my vision’s not only stabilized but improved over the past few years. The doctor warned me, though, “This is what generally happens in the several years preceding 40, and then it’ll go the opposite direction. In fact,” Nostra-anus continued, “I predict you’ll need bifocals sooner than later.” And? I’m not sure if it was the day or even the month of my 40th birthday, but fairly immediately after that day I found myself reading the directions for some recipe with my head tilted up so that I could look down under my glasses. I tilted my head down to see how things looked through the lens. Back up. Down. Up. (Ever seen an older person doing this shit? Eyebrows raised as if in surprise each time he looks under his glasses to find the words suddenly and miraculously legible. Then the tilt down, which serves only to emphasize the double chin and fucking theatrical wrinkles that are unavoidable since, apparently, skin loses like half of its elasticity on day 14,600. You look, smile to yourself. “Sorry old bastard. Hope he doesn’t walk into a wall trying to figure out his smart phone.”) Now? You’re that old bastard. There’s a pre-teen staring at you, with her friends, and laughing . At you. Karma…sometimes she needs a little time, but she will reveal herself…and apparently not until you have to take off your glasses to see her.

Skin. Three options. 1. Do nothing. Let it go. Look like one of those black-and-white portraits of some long-dead Apache leader with facial skin that rivals only that of a fat Basset Hound staring down at something. 2. Fight like hell with botox, chemical peels, surgeries, and expensive creams that come from lamb-ass secretions and preserved dodo bird fetuses, and quickly begin to look like Bruce Jenner. Or 3. Eat right, stay as lean as you can manage, keep stress low, exercise, exfoliate, use lotion (…and fairly liberally and often, particularly if you’re a sun-weathered white guy like me who didn’t do much of anything to “be healthy” until his 30s…), and pray or hope that this will be enough to ensure that #1 doesn’t happen anyway. Because it can. You do all you can to ensure health, well-being, and preservation…and then your genes take a big shit on your dreams. Google search, “Image of Steve Buscemi.” Any age.

Interestingly, I was blessed with several opportunities to have a proctologist, my PCP, and also a young female medical resident (…there was, I assure you, absolutely NOTHING arousing about it…) shove lubed and gloved fingers into my asshole and probe around my prostate well before my 40th birthday, so I was spared that indignity and eventuality. (“What I’m doing now,” the assman said from behind me, my pants at my ankles, goosebumps on my pasty thighs, one khaki argyle sock sagging and downtrodden like my dignity, “you should just feel pressure, it shouldn’t burn. Let me know if it burns.” “It burns.” “Oh. Well, you likely have prostatitis. I’ll give you a prescription for that.” Wet finger exits the anus, leaving a sensation of having just sat on a broken bidet. An ungloved hand reaches around with a box of sandpapery tissues. “You can clean up. I’ll be just out here. Open the door when you’re ready.” I think I used the entire box of tissues, half of them to accommodate my tears of unexpected and bewildering shame.) Nonetheless, the yearly physical examination becomes exponentially more involved at this age. I know it gets worse…but again, this is the very first experience with new and very different. With, “What the fuck do we need to do that for?!” With, “Really, that blood test costs as much as my television?”

Joints and muscles. There comes a point in every car door’s life when the damn thing needs some lube. For our arms and legs, that point is 40. Unfortunately, there’s no lube for that. (Untrue. We can take care of our joints through diet and exercise. But again, genetics are often a cruel master with complete disregard for fish oil and kale smoothies.) Things that used to be pliable and well-oiled apparently cross the threshold between okay and not-okay at 40, becoming just rigid and stodgy enough to cause cracks and creaks and aches that simply never existed before. And the muscle soreness. That’s some bullshit. At and beyond 40, one needs to exercise like a college quarterback just to maintain the body and fitness of said quarterback’s head coach. And the muscle soreness runs deeper and longer than ever. Honestly, I’m in a constant state of muscle soreness. There are days my fucking thumb cramps up while opening a water bottle. I never knew that one’s entire abdominal area could cramp (…you know those foot cramps that feel like the inside part of your foot is going to break through the skin? You have to twist and twirl and massage just to return the foot to a state of mild discomfort. Yeah, think that, but abdominal…) leaving one doubled over in excruciating pain, moaning and breathing heavily, a bunch of pre-teens laughing at you because you can’t even get up from a seated position without apparently pulling a groin.

And 40 is really the first time, at least for me, when I hit a moment of, “I wish I could be X, again.” (X=30-35) It’s the best 5-year-frame as far as I’m concerned. You’re a grown-ass person. You’ve got stability. You can do what you please. But, you’re still young. You get carded, and you can brag about that shit. (They don’t card you when you’re 40. They laugh at you if you even feign to pull out ID. Even bars that are attempting to be kind and generous will post signs that say something like, “If you appear to be in your 30s, we will card you. 40? Go straight the fuck in.”) Between 30 – 35, you can do all the shit you used to do in your 20s without any serious repercussions (i.e. hangovers, soreness, exhaustion) but you’re a bona fide adult. And you can stay up late. And I don’t mean like 11, which is late for me now. I mean “close the bar” late. Watch “Twilight Zone” reruns while eating a bag of Doritos late. Then pop up the next morning ready for work or whatever late. THAT kind of late. If I make it to 10 p.m. these days I count myself lucky. It’s like the body, at 40, says, “Whoa there, fella! You need your sleepies. And I’m going to make sure you get ’em,” and releases several milliliters of neuro-chemical quick-acting Benadryl into the bloodstream at approximately 9:10 every night.

But really, I’m 40…and I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m happier than ever. I’m successfully self-employed. Each day brings new lessons and surprises. I have a constant desire for growth and truth, and have yet to get bored seeking and receiving these things. I love people, and those people love me in return. I skip. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I still find myself often with a reflex to skip like little Opie Griffith heading down to the stream on a clear Summer day with my fishing rod and all the cares of the world anywhere but there. When I’m bringing my groceries back to the car, I push off and jump up on the cart. I don’t trust a person who can’t find enjoyment riding on the back of a cart. There is joy to be found. And one should feel pleasantly surprised often. It’s the only way to remain sane and content as the physical body deteriorates. Do not leave childish things behind. Seek them.
Then we can all say, “Fuck you, 40,” with wisdom, contentment, and humor.

-G

Blanton's in a Mason Jar

(Blanton’s bourbon and water in a mason jar)

All Senses Gone

I floated in a sensory deprivation tank last week. Honestly, I think the world would be a better place if every adult floated at least once. I’ve heard similar arguments regarding psychedelic medicines, including edible cannabis. The challenge, of course, as Jen brings up in the podcast (“Floating in a Sensory Deprivation Tank“), is that for a person who is unable to relax, unable to honestly self-reflect (i.e. look critically [but gently, always gently] in the mirror instead of out the window), unable to ultimately “come clean,” the likelihood of a positive “trip” is minimized. And that’s true. Within an hour in the tank (…and I know that because about 60 minutes into my float I twitched and got what seemed like hot knives but in reality was densely salted water in my eyes, thus precipitating a quick, splashy, and disoriented exit to find the dry towel and clean water bowl on top of the tank…) my consciousness had disassociated from my body. Really…I felt absolutely nothing from a sensory perspective. So I was left with…my mind. It was indescribable beyond the superficial words inadequately captioning the experience. The reason, I think, that I was able to get even this deep so quickly relates to my life experiences. With anxiety and perfectionism and extreme self-doubt and a hair-trigger temper…which then precipitated truth- and peace-seeking. With Yoga. With meditation. With Buddhism and Taoism. With counseling. With a marriage to an amazing, supportive, and deep woman. And, full disclosure, with daily Prozak. Had I floated just after the drying-rack incident (…see my post, “Insomnia, Temper Tantrums, and A$$hole Cats,” posted November 23rd…) perhaps I would’ve been thrust into a dissociative nightmare. Luke, the owner of the tank in which I floated, told me a story of a young man who exited the tank in quite a real panic that he was being stalked by sharks. The mind is amazing, will remain the last great frontier I’m sure. But set and setting matter…the place, the aesthetics, the mood, one’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being (…or lack thereof…) all matter critically to how the mind will deliver each of our versions of reality in any moment. Perception is reality…that’s all it can be, at least when we’re taking in the world through our senses. And that’s the amazing thing about these tanks. They offer a medicine and drug free way of removing all sensory input, and one is left with ONLY self as defined by consciousness.

The following is a bit of technical and logistical information for anyone interested in floating. There is no doubt that I recommend it unabashedly. The tank I floated in is a Samadhi Tank. The following link is a fantastic introduction to the company, to sensory deprivation floating in general, and the history of sensory deprivation research. (http://www.samadhitank.com/sensorydep.html) I floated in Pittsburgh, in one of only two locations in the area to have this experience. I was guided by the wonderful Luke Raymer. He also allowed me to process the experience, with him, for 10+ minutes after my float. This is Luke’s website: http://www.pittsburghfloat.com/. The tank is located in the Capristo spa on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside.
These folks, at Pittsburgh Massage Works (PMW) in the Northside of Pittsburgh, (http://pittsburghmassageworks.abmp.com/pittsburgh-floatation-tank-pittsburgh-sensory-deprivation-tank) have the same tank but the cost is less than at Pittsburgh Float. I paid $90 for a 90 minute session. (Pittsburgh Float also offers 60 minute sessions for $70) At PMW the cost is $70 for 90 minutes, and $90 for 120 minutes. (I like the option of having 2 hours, particularly as I float more often and find ways to go deeper and perhaps meditate in different ways.) Pittsburgh Float also offers packages of 5 90-minute sessions for $400. At PMW, one can purchase 3 90-minute floats for $200 (…or 3 120-minute floats for $250), which is again both a discount AND also allows for a smaller, more financially manageable package. The folks at PMW also offer float-plus-massage packages. It all sounds wonderful, but I haven’t yet met these folks…so I don’t know about the overall experience. I can, however, fully recommend Luke…his energy is peaceful, positive, and enthusiastic. Also, he offered wonderful initial guidance and the opportunity to talk about the experience after the float.

Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I’m 84.

When I’m much much older, when my hearing is failing me, when complete incontinence has finally caught up with me, making me smell like a gas station toilet, when I can no longer keep up with my unibrow and the hairs growing out of my nose and ear, when I reach that point that Sean Connery recently crossed (“Sean Connery sure is aging well.  He’s a handsome older man.”  “Have you seen him recently?”  “No.”  “Here, look at this.”  “Yikes!  Who stole Sean Connery and replaced him with an ancient leathery elf creature?”)…please, for the love of all that is good and right and humane in the world, please talk to me like a fucking adult human.  Please don’t telegraph your speech.  (“Papa…want…more…pizza!?”  “Oh Pappy…you need…diappy change.”)  Don’t reduce your rate, raise your pitch as if communicating with a puppy, make every statement an excited question by increasing your pitch and volume on the final word (“You…have…to take…SHOWER!?”), and talk to me like a piss-soaked alien just arrived from the galaxy of dementia.  Really…talk to me like you prefer being talked to.  Don’t talk to me in a way that, if anyone spoke to you in a similar fashion, you’d deliver an immediate and deserved throat punch.  If I tell you the same story again and again and again…dammit listen to it and respond as if it is the first time.  Or, try once to remind me, kindly if you don’t mind, that I’ve already told this story.  If your first attempt works, lovely.  You win.  If not…back off and let me explain (again) how I once ran straight into a standing herd of Zebra while jogging in Kenya.  (I mean, c’mon!  That’s a cool fucking story, right?  You can handle that a handful of times, right?  Ask new questions, take a different angle…perhaps you’ll get additional facts from me.)

Near me are two middle-aged women with their Mother.  I assume that, at least.  If I hadn’t walked by the three I might have assumed they were talking to a limited-verbal child with an intellectual disability.  (And I’ll tell you…I wouldn’t even talk to a limited-verbal child with an intellectual disability this way.  Perhaps for another day…how I’m also driven to drink by the way supposed professionals interact with children with disabilities and uniquenesses that makes them different than the boring lot of the rest of us.)

I’m not angry at these women…not really.  But, there’s just no reason to talk to and treat a person like a feeble child.  I believe that somewhere deeply embedded in the frontal cortex, even the oldest, deafest, slowest, most impacted individuals have a sense of self-worth and self-identity and don’t want to be treated like completely incompetent human anchors.  Really.  I see the distant looks.  The fact that people who are treated this way generally don’t give visual regard (eye gaze) and don’t travel with even the spirit of pep or enthusiasm.  I think we can infuse enthusiasm, provide love, and communicate authentically by quite simply treating people like (…drum roll, please…) people.  In the inclusion community we often say, “assume competence.”  What’s the worst that can happen?  The person doesn’t understand you?  The person doesn’t do what you expect?  That’s it.  But if we assume incompetence, we are assuredly going to get incompetence…and/or anger…and/or depression…and/or frustration.

So please…take me by the elbow…gently,  pretend that I don’t smell like stale urine cakes and uncleansed dentures, make sure my zipper’s up, turn to me and talk to me, laugh at me, ask about details about whatever in the hell I’m relating…for the 14th time, and nod like you give a shit.  Quality of life is the only thing that matters.

-G

Of Gym Rats and Jackasses

On today’s episode of the d2dpod, Jen and Greg discuss the preparation of an “Old Fashioned” cocktail and the spirits within it, Jen bemoans the linguistics of drink/drank/drunk, both get mired in the muck of scapulas, scalpels, and speculums; a Bassett Hound tap dances with her tiny dinosaur paws; and an old man sits spread-eagle at the gym admiring his physique.  Enjoy.

Insomnia, Temper Tantrums, and A$$hole Cats

It’s three in the morning.  My jaw’s all fucked up from clenching and grinding on a thick bite guard.  I’ve gnashed  (…biblical, right?…) my teeth throughout most of my life, increasingly into my 30s.  And acid reflux.  Laying flat plus reflux equals a rude wake-up, and me chewing on chalky antacids and sitting upright in front of a computer screen.  And the break in my sleep routine causes the cats to believe it’s time to eat, so every time I move one or both of them begins the process of racing to the food stations.  They’re disappointed every time.  But…they’re assholes.  (Cats are assholes.  I love them…but they’re assholes.  There’s no denying this fact.  They are domesticated only in that they’ve decided to shack up because it’s generally easier to get food, water, and shelter from us.  They tolerate our neediness, and on occasion they come to enjoy us as well.  But they’re fickle…and will just as soon bite the shit out of you, leaving their bacteria-filled saliva deep in your forearm muscles, as nuzzle you.)

I woke up sweating.  Gnashing. Burping volcanic stomach juices.

I went to the dentist a few years back and, quite out of nowhere, the hygienist asked, “Do you have reflux?”  It was a question…but it really wasn’t a question.  “Do I?”  I volleyed with an actual question.  “You do…and you’re grinding your teeth.”  I’ve been anxious all of my life, with a hair-trigger temper.  Road rage.  Perfectly circular holes in walls from doors being slammed open.  Shit thrown across rooms.  One time, I savaged a cheap wooden clothes drying rack because it wouldn’t behave for me.  I mean…I fucking raged on that thing.  It was Hulk-like.  I remember snapping. I can clearly replay the first blind throw, the initial primal scream…time lapse…then the next thought was, “What the fuck did I just do?”  In between step one and, “What the fuck did I just do?” it’s all a fuzzy, rageful haze.  I frightened the cats into hiding for hours. (Assholes.)  Heavy breathing, shards of wood all over the place, pieces sticking in the ceiling, cuts and splinters in my hands and arms.  (Later that night, my wife asked me, “Where’s the drying rack?  And why are the ceiling tiles punctured down there?” I admitted the deed, embarrassed.  Prozak came soon afterward.)  And teeth clenching.  I did that a lot.  I held the anger in.  Choked it down.  Each time something opened the flood gates to rage, and leading up to the drying-rack incident it was happening hourly, I would gnash my teeth.  Hard.  This apparently isn’t good for teeth.  Or Jaw muscles. Or my emotional stability. Or drying racks.  And apparently at night, in my sleep, I’d chatter and grind.  Like the fucking Chattering Cenobite from Hellraiser.  Like Savion Glover’s mouth.  This all wreaked havoc inside of my mouth.  Acid washing over the back teeth.  Gnashing and Gnawing wearing down bite surfaces.  Emotional stability perched on a telephone wire during a tornado.  And then came the bite guard.  They make a tiny little one, and it costs like $400 because…well, because fuck you I’m a dentist and anything that we need to fit specifically to your mouth requires a payment plan.  Or, one can get a store-bought guard for $40.  I went with that one.  Here’s how it works.  Boil water.  Drop that bad boy in.  Carefully pluck it out and place the nearly 200-degree now-softened plastic into your mouth…and hold tight, but not too tight, and steady.  It cools, but not nearly quickly enough.  Fun.  I suppose that’s the trade-off…you either engage in oral masochism or tithe to Hermie, the elf who wanted to be a dentist but needed to repay student loan debt and still drive a Mercedes Benz.  But the bite guard.  It’s big.  Really big.  It’s so big that when I have these (now thankfully occasional) jags with nighttime clenching and grinding, it throws my jaw out of whack.  I have to open and close and massage it to get it back into alignment.

And through a combination of pharmaceutical, fitness, meditative, and dietary changes…I’ve arrived at a general place of decent sleep, minimal reflux, low anxiety, and a slower-burning temper of which I have awareness and control.  Except just about an hour ago.  For now, the antacid has kicked in, I’ve put some water in my gut, and I’m feeling tired again.  And this venue, putting word to screen, is a good one for mitigating further an already mitigated temper.  And a purring cat near one’s neck, even if she be an asshole 90% of the time, is a furry sack of instant relaxation.  Goodnight.

-G

A Brussels Sprouts’ Stalk is a Cruel, Cruel Mistress

In this, the inaugural episode of the Driven to Drink podcast (d2dpod), Jennifer and I discuss an unexpected adventure with four Brussels Sprouts’ stalks (…with winds whipping and temperatures dipping below freezing outdoors and the furnace on the fritz indoors…), the booze in our glasses, the absurdity of the very phrase, “Brussels Sprouts’ Stalks”  (Is that how you’d write that, grammatically?!?!), the anatomy of said stalks, and the tap-dancing of a canine little person with ass balls.  I hope you enjoy:

Driven to Drink

What drives you to drink?  Or, if you don’t drink, what drives you to emotional places in which you need to suppress the desire to curse, to scream, to snatch a person’s phone from their hands and throw it vehemently across a room?  Or, if you are feeling quite calm, have internal homeostasis…what drives you to put in an extra 5k, a second 45 minute spin class, yoga, or a hot cup of herbal tea with pan flute arrangements playing in the background of a candle-filled, incense-fogged room?  What makes you want to bury your head under the covers, ball up in a fetal position, and pray for a reset?  But really, what drives you to drink?

For me, it’s a multitude of things.  For me, the accumulation of rigid and often inconceivable pet peeves (…losing a momentarily favorite pen can usurp most of my attention, throw me into a sympathetic nervous system sweat, and ultimately cause me to rear-end the elderly person ahead of me cautiously rolling through a four-way stop sign…) amounts to an actual mountain consisting of hundreds of insignificant molehills.  But my brain is a catastrophizer, much like the emotional stability of a 12 year old girl attempting to move through a pre-pubescence full of consecutive emergencies.

Today, and really right now…the thing that is driving me to clench my teeth, drink hot coffee like an angry, rabid dog, and contemplate violence…is Russian.  A person?  Yes.  The language?  Yes.  And really this tiny problem fits into a larger set of D2D moments that occur for a self-employed clinician who must use his car as a phone booth/lunch room/meditation space and various coffee shops as offices to compose notes and complete silent tasks in a gentle atmosphere with a clean toilet.  (A clean toilet.  Just as the little things in life can drive us to drink, so can the little things bring a sublime peace and total emotional comfort.)  In my brain, there are certain etiquette behaviors that seem fairly obvious to me…in public spaces.  The rule currently being broken is occurring two feet to my right.  Blue tooth headset.  (Generally, anyone who walks around with a blue tooth headset in their ear is someone to be avoided.)  This tyolka (…please pardon my Russian…) is having a boisterous, laughter-filled, high-decibel conversation.  In Russian.  If the conversation were in English, it would still be annoying…but wouldn’t rank quite in the territory with Russian.  (Or any language I don’t speak/understand.)  I think that’s it.  Loud conversations in foreign languages.  You really shouldn’t be doing this anyway.  I realize it’s cold and raining outside, but this is not the place nor the time to take this call…and then to continue with this call for 10+ minutes.  And here I must apologize to any native Russian speakers.  I’m neither happy nor proud that my rage-buttons are pressed by loud Russian conversations…but I cannot deny a fact.  Spanish?  I’m fine.  French?  Okay.  German?  You’re losing me now.  But Russian?  I can’t find any amount of peace in the midst of this language.  I cannot explain it.  Neither can anyone else.  Putin help them if they try to do it in Russian.

But now the conversation is done and the woman has exited…and I’m left with my brain.

Small stuff.

But then, there is also larger stuff, important stuff, professional and global stuff…behaviors and systems and interactions that I see and experience that also drive me to drink.  I want to explore these larger, more important topics as well.  The actual mountains…not the ones created by my anxious, judgmental, worrisome, self-doubtful, slightly obsessive and compulsive brain.  And we will venture there.  I’d love to engage in real dialogue, over drinks, treading lightly enough that we can experience laughter, perhaps tears, and where we can be entirely honest without worrying about offending or saying the “wrong thing.”  The goal is honesty.  The goal is truth.  We’ll see how that works out.  For now, I’m left with my caffeine.

-G

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