Archive for category Lies

Al and Bruce fall like dominoes

For the entire 16 years of our marriage, Daisy was a terrible flirt. I thought it was cute (and harmless), and then one day she became sexually involved with some guy she met at the horse ranch just outside of town where she boarded her horses—a broken-down and arthritic ex rodeo clown linoleum installer named Al—which was not cute at all and hurt like hell. He had beautiful glimmering blue eyes and a rare wit, and an unrideable, trained burro named Lucida, left over from his clown days. Fickly enough, at the same time as she was making her getaway from our marriage she was letting the air out of Al’s parade, and none too gently at that, i.e., she cut him off on the same day, his fate and mine sealed simultaneously in one single, fell quash. Neither Al nor I ever tumbled to what had befallen us, and for a long time after she was gone, I’d get these rather forlorn (and most often drunken) phone calls from him wanting to know where Daze was and could he have her phone number, PLEASE.  Her parting remark to me was that by the end of our marriage, she didn’t care if I lived or died. I don’t know what her parting shot at Al was. He never said or maybe he didn’t remember, or maybe he didn’t want to remember. She never dated much after that, never remarried, lives alone now with 4 dogs and 9 cats in the really seamy part of west Modesto. Her horses are her life now. I know I’m bipolar and all, but come on, give me a break, how bad could it have been for her?


Duane and Aldo

When I was growing up in Fields Landing, of the raft of older boys, mostly loners, mostly high school drops outs, Duane and Aldo hung together, but only when getting laid seemed in the offing. Aldo, whose given name was actually Gesualdo, was half car nerd and half hood; Duane, whose given name was Duane Bob, was half redneck and half thug and half voyeur. They made strange bedfellows. Between them they hadn’t enough brains to rub together, if that’s how the expression goes. And Aldo wore hefty, coke bottle bottom specs, which were forever sliding down his nose, making him lean his head back when he talked to anyone, rendering him slack-jawed, with his upper lip sliding up and over his crooked and tobacco stained front teeth; a right doofus he looked and was. When it wasn’t in his shop being customized, Aldo cruised the gravel paved streets of our town in an old Ford Crestliner trying to hit on the local females as they walked home after high school.

Aldo had the mad, passionate hots for my sister Olive, but then a lot of the boys did, for she strongly resembled the National Velvet vintage Elizabeth Taylor, and how humiliated Olive was by his attention. The school bus ‘d drop her off on the shoulder of US101, and she’d walk the long block to home every day after high school let out. And Aldo took to accompanying her whilst ensconced in the front seat of the Crestliner. There were almost no sidewalks in this town; everybody just used the streets, and the same right of way rules applied then as apply now—logging trucks always have the right of way. And he’d be slouched down in the seat, elbow out the window, driving it down the wrong side of the street, its pipes rumbling and rapping, whipping up a smallish could of dust off its stern, trying to chat up Olive as she walked home. And of course all her friends saw this happening, and she was so embarrassed and irritated, because he was so geeky. But Aldo couldn’t take a hint. Nothing she said put a dent in his ardor. I’m trying to think did she actually go out with him once. It seems to me she did once, one time. She must’ve felt sorry for him or something.

Duane was a fledgling sexual deviant, and his dad—an established one—was an old scam artist who’d con the cancer ridden out of their life savings by, for a fee, shining sunlight passed through a variety of colored panes of glass, mounted into a metal frame that last saw duty holding sheet music for someone taking lap steel lessons, onto the afflicted spots.

His mom was a Miles Nervine addict.

Duane and his parents rented our upstairs apartment back in the early 50s. And my nubile sisters complained that just about every school day morning, as they left their bedrooms upon dressing for school, they’d encounter creepy Duane and/or his even creepier dad loitering in the hallway just outside their door. My mama asked the county sheriff if there wasn’t something she could do to deter this pastime of theirs. He said that since she was operating an apartment house out of her home (just the one apartment), the stairs leading up to this apartment and all the interconnecting hallways were public. “But if you do decide to shoot one of them,” the sheriff counseled, “be sure you’ve dragged their dead body into one of the girl’s bedrooms before you call me.” Yep, that’s what Fields Landing was like.

The Stihls lived across the street from us and a person could keep track of everything that went on over there from the vantage point of my sister Wilma’s upstairs bedroom window, which was situated directly opposite their ancient and rickety garage with a sagging, rotting, wood shingled roof and old fashioned double doors which were almost never opened, both doors not blessed with more than three  hinges between them. The Stihls were both drunks, and just about every weekend, starting Friday night, drunk finally, they’d get into a horrendous fight, with lots of screaming punctuated with lots of threats. These fights would last the entire weekend, and on Saturday or Sunday morning we’d sometimes awake to find all of his clothes, including his underwear, scattered all over their front yard and out into the street, and there they’d remain until retrieved by the two of them late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Well, this one Saturday night, around midnight, things were eerily quite over at the Stihl’s, but Wilma knew they were home, because the light was on in the garage, which was standing with one of its two doors partially open, hanging precariously from a single hinge, supported in the main by the dirt driveway. Just as I was about to call it a day and climb into bed, there was a sudden scurrying of bare feet just outside my bedroom door. Someone knocked cautiously and quietly. I opened it. There stood Wilma flanked by Janice, our younger sister. They seemed really excited. “Mr. Stihl has murdered his wife,” Janice whispered, “and has hung her up naked in the garage,” Wilma continued. The hair stood up on my neck. We ran to look out Wilma’s bedroom window and down into Stihl’s garage, its doors partially open on one side. The lone interior light consisted of a bare 60 watt bulb hanging down from the rafters by a long cord. It was swaying, causing shadows to dance about in the half light, and there, hanging from the rafters a few feet from the light cord was Mrs. Stihl’s headless, naked body, and there was lots of blood.

We crouched there watching and listening. Mr Stihl was holding a long knife, bloody. We didn’t know what to do. I about fouled my jammies. He was obviously drunk. This time he’d gone too far and was finally making good on his often voiced threat to do her in. And then the strangest thing happened. We could hear Mrs. Stihl’s muffled voice grousing at him, from the ‘wings’ as it were, and then suddenly her head appeared, center stage, peering around the partially open door, in the doorway leading from the garage towards the house. “You’re an asshole,” she yelled drunkenly, “only as asshole would dress out a deer in the dead of night; when are you coming to bed?” “Oh go to hell,” he screamed back at her, his favorite epithet where she was concerned. With that her head disappeared and we heard no more from her for the rest of that weekend.

I chided my sisters for not being able to tell the difference between the skinned body of a large deer and that of a scrawny, alcoholic female human, naked and missing its head, and went back to bed. It took me an hour or so to calm down enough to go to sleep. Of course, the next morning, just to underscore our hysteria of the previous night, Stihl’s clothes decorated the hedges in his front yard and were being run over by the traffic in the adjoining, dusty street.

They had one son, Gary, a gangly lad, and though he was near me in age and lived just across the street we didn’t hang together. He was a loner, and would idle away an idle moment throwing rocks. With arms of Simian proportions, he could throw a rock farther than anybody I’ve ever seen, before or since. He was a nice enough guy, and along with  Ronnie and me, regarded Duane and Aldo as ominous and possibly dangerous miscreants.


Poor Duane. It seems he was carrying on with Judy Boise (pr. BOYZ), one of Ronnie’s 4 sisters, the second oldest and just behind Celina in age, and the promiscuous one. Though both Aldo and Duane had tried their hands at regularly chatting her up on her way home from school, Duane being considerably less geeky than his buddy got the nod. And right off they got pregnant and had to get married. Duane moved out of our upstairs apartment, and he and Judy moved into a converted garage down the street from us. What happened next is all kind of murky, but sometime during their child’s first months of life, Judy had an affair, and Duane became so distraught at being thrown over, that one afternoon, in the presence of his estranged wife and child, he blew his brains out with an ancient Luger P.08 that had once belonged to his dad who had given it to him as a sort of wedding present, because he had so coveted the piece ever since it was brought home from the War as a trophy, and because it made sense to his father that he should have it, for he was a father now and had a family to protect. Judy and her child moved back in with her mother, 3 sisters and 3 brothers, and shortly after that the whole Boise clan left Fields Landing. They had to; Duane’s suicide left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and the whole town held the bride’s entire family indirectly, if not directly, responsible.

I had gotten to know Duane a little bit during the time his family lived upstairs in our house. He was taking a mail order course in electronics, and once he found out that I was a science major in high school, he’d come to me for help with his homework. I just remember that he was trying so hard to make headway with this course, with his life. It was all so sad. If all that was required for a successful career in electronics was will and desire, he would’ve ended up a latter day Thomas Edison. But alas, Duane’s brain wouldn’t cooperate, it couldn’t, and so after a few months of struggle and the investment of many hundreds of dollars in course materials and electronic equipment, he left off studying electronics, part time, and fell, as near as I could tell, to brooding, full time. It was during this period of brooding and his hiatus from his studies that Judy Boise entered his picture. She must’ve seemed like a ray of hope, for he got a job in one of the local saw mills once it was clear they had to get married and that he would be their sole support. He was a hard worker and put in lots of hours of overtime that summer what with the mills operating 24/7, and this left his new bride alone for much of every day. It wasn’t long before she got pregnant again, only this time the father didn’t work out to be Duane Bob.

Did Aldo ever get laid? Yes, and more. He moved in with the town manic depressive, Lola Wiltz, who lived with her grandmother kitty corner across the street from us and next to the Stihls. Lola, who cycled in and out of Agnews State Mental Hospital, was by all accounts deranged; she was violent and promiscuous as hell. To a man, woman and child, the entire town feared her. As far as she was concerned, we were all fair game of one sort or another, especially my sisters because they lived just across the street, rode the same bus to school, and were her contemporaries. Aldo and Lola were later married, and this set the town’s tongues to wagging and speculating about what kind of children they’d produce. Would they be doofuses or over-sexed bullies, or, God forbid, both? They needn’t have concerned themselves so much, for Lola had been but one of the thousands of Californians who were legally and mandatorily sterilized by the State’s mental facilities, at the behest of the State Lunacy Commission, a number that would eventually swell to more than 20,000 before the practice was abandoned.


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I’m a wee, tad mad today—easily over stimulated and all of that. And touched a bit, but not with fire as Kay Jamison has opined, but more with a surge of enthusiasm, a gruesome surge of enthusiasm, in the manner of Robert Lowell. These surges are indeed gruesome affairs, laden as they are with dysphoria and excitement at the same time. My psychiatrist defines dysphoria as a general shitty feeling, euphoria and dysphoria being antonyms of each other. Antonyms yes, yet here they are now commingling in me in a single moment, for such is the nature of Bipolar I, Mixed, my diagnosis. These surges can come on rather abruptly and with no apparent trigger. You can be right as rain one second, and a second later, actively looking for all the sharp knives in the house. Knives? Yes, to cut with. I can’t tell you why, in such moments as these, that cutting seems like the right thing to do, it just does, for it simultaneously resolves sorrow and vents excitement. And if you once give into the urge, it can quickly become habitual, the thing you turn to most often when you’re in torment. Torment?, you ask. “But hey, aren’t you being overly dramatic here?” you suggest to me next. I don’t think so. Torment seems an apt word in such moments, for to simultaneously experience joy and sorrow, enthusiasm and depression, excitement and dejection is, I maintain, to be tormented, and that, thoroughly so. Cutting seems to be an antidote, albeit an all too brief one, for torment.

The last time I cut, I made a deal, a pact with myself, that in exchange for giving it up, I’d treat myself to a proper scarification, rendered by no less a personage than Dave Gilstrap himself—a Celtic knot, about the size of a half dollar, incised in my under forearm. So, though I’m often in torment, I don’t cut now, because to do so would mess up the real estate I’ve set aside for my knot. Alas it’s only in moments of sheer torment that I’d have the courage to pay old Dave a visit, so I’m at a bit of an impasse here. Yet I swear that I will one day have my knot, my badge, an insignia of my madness, and let all who will, look and marvel how a man can seem so sane and yet be so friggin’ crazy. Yes, seemingly sane, yet mad just the same, i.e., bipolar. And once I have my knot, I promise you I will feel good.

05/10/12—The madness continues from yesterday, was it? I feel undone and unfocused, though I’m plenty focused, now, on my interior turmoil. “What’s up?” I wonder. Or is it that I’m easily distracted by interior matters? I was reading the lyrics to Katie Cruel (, and with each stanza could feel my mind drifting away-a-way-a-way-a-way-a-way—ricochet, enter Ulysses, “Mouth to her mouth’s kiss. His lips lipped and mouthed fleshless lips of air; mouth to her moomb, oomb, all-wombing tomb. His mouth molded issuing breath unspeeched: oooo-eee-ahhhh: roar of cataractic planets, globed,  blazing, roaring way-a-way-a-way-a-way-a-way.” And now suddenly moved to tears, shutting my office door lest someone should come by and find me weeping. Why tears? “She trusts me, her hand gentle, the long lashed eyes. Touch me. Soft eyes. Soft, soft, soft hand. I am lonely here. O, touch me soon,now. I am quiet here alone. Sad too. Touch, touch me.” And so it is and weep more; I ping pong twixt the lyrics of Katie Cruel and the prose of Ulysses to banjo accompaniment, but a banjo like one seldom heard—haunting, haltingly plucked a single string at a time. And how I now revel in my being mad, how it restores me and makes whole my life, but with a wholeness that keeps me apart from all others. “Even the virgin at Hodges Figgis’ window?” I wonder. Even her? Am I to be held apart even from her, “a lady of letters,” even though “she wears those curse of God stays suspenders and yellow stockings, darned with lumpy  wool.” And it’s just as well that my meds have rendered me impotent and therefore immobilized me, taken me out of play, as it were, for I would indeed be a menace to women everywhere, breaking all their hearts like troding on so much shattered glass, not able to help it or myself, for my need is great. “What need?” you wonder. I need to be set free again. That need. “Oh, that need,” you think. “And can the virgin at Hodges Figgis window set you free?” you continue.  “Yes,” I sigh, “If only for a moment.” There is something in sexual consummation that hearkens to the release felt by the manic depressive as mania sets in. It is exhilarating in a way that nothing else is or can be. God whispering in your ear that you could not die wouldn’t raise more ecstasy in one than this. So, how I long for such moments, and oh how I rail against the meds that constantly keep them at bay. “Why not give in, and quit your meds?” you suggest. Well, babies, you see it’s like this. My mania has a dark, dark side—rage. And so it is for the sake of all who love me, and the sake of my dog, and my sake too, that I eschew madness and continue on with my meds. How many innocent lives must he harm, how many faithful dogs beat, before I reign in the beast? So, now that the monster is shackled and can roam no more, love is safe, and I am consumed with longing—I am not free.


What’s it like, this madness?

Well, babies, that’s a fair question, one I’ve tried to answer to myself and to my friends, over and over, but you see I can’t quite get there. The problem is that it’s a love-hate thing. Perhaps the closest expression of my sentiments to date is the old Motown classic, Martha and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to run:”


Like I said, it’s a love-hate thing.



I found a new way to amuse myself—making up the names for and descriptions of fictitious diseases. Today’s contribution Scachycephardia. It comes from, compliments of wikipedia:
Scaphocephaly (Pronunciation: skaf-O-sef-aly), derived from the Greek skaphe (a light boat or skiff), describes a specific variety of a long narrow head that resembles an inverted boat. It is a type of cephalic disorder  which occurs when there is a premature fusion of the sagittal suture.  The sagittal suture joins together the two parietal bones of skull. Scaphocephaly is the most common of the craniosynostosis conditions and is characterized by a long, narrow head.
Tachycardia which comes from the Greek words tachys (rapid or accelerated) and kardia (of the heart). Tachycardia typically refers to a heart rate that exceeds the normal range for a resting heart rate (heart rate in an inactive or sleeping individual). It can be dangerous depending on the speed and type of rhythm.

Yes, well and good, but what does it mean? Simply put, scachycephardia is a mental condition wherein the sufferer is afflicted with an abiding fondness for klezmorim and craving for klezmir music.

Well I never said I wasn’t crazy, now did I?

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Hypomania—What’s it like?

At first glance the term hypomania seems like an oxymoron, i.e., a little bit of a lot, but in my world, the hypomanic mood state is a real one. In it, the “victim” experiences what psychiatrists and psychologists like to refer to as a reduced (hypo-) form of an extreme state (mania). But their jargon tends to gloss the truly significant differences between the two. In mania, the victim has no or very little control over his/her thoughts, emotions and reactions. Their innate sexuality and/or moral convictions give way to hyper-sexuality and/or hyper-religiosity, and this is just for starters. They have a propensity, unless they are Scottish, to spend and/or give away large sums of money; one might even say ‘with abandon.’ They are compulsive and impulsive to a fault, and as their lives converge on the shambolic, their lives become indistinguishable from chaos, and this to the extent that their speech, and even their thoughts, grow increasingly incoherent, incoherent but yet not disorganized as in schizophrenia, but I may be splitting hairs here.

“Yes,” you say, “That’s all well and good, but what does mania feel like?” Well, for one thing, while it may feel pretty grand at the outset, by the time it reaches full-blown status, it feels pretty damned dreadful, like the difference between ‘warm’ and ‘fucking, scalding hot,’ or the difference between feeling animated and energetic, and feeling totally taken over by frenzy. Make no mistake, the manic state is damned dangerous and likely to wreak great destruction in the lives of its victims and their families—”tornado in a trailer park” I like to think of it as. And that’s why psychiatrists are so quick to pounce on the hypomanic state, because they see it as nothing more than a “wide spot” in a very narrow road that leads straight to hell—mania. And for the most part, their view is the correct one, although I know a few manic depressives who are living their entire lives (so far) in a hypomanic state. They lead happy, energetic, creative and productive lives, but do so only for as long as they can elude the frenzy of which hypomania is so often the harbinger. “All their sanity and wit they will have vanished, I promise, it’s just a matter of time,” and they rip off all their clothes and run naked down the middle of the street singing (if they’re lucky) or screaming (if not).

But what of hypomania; that’s what I really want to talk about. “What’s it like?” I’m sometimes asked. “You feel like you’re in love,” I say to them then.  But with whom? You’re in love with someone you have yet to meet but hope to meet soon, very soon, and the expectations exude from every aspect of your being leaving you thoroughly intoxicated with anticipation and enthusiasm. And it feels like you’ve been set free. It’s as if God has just whispered in your ear that you cannot die. And in your very soul you know that there is nothing beyond your capabilities. “Nothing,” you repeat to yourself as your head fills with plans and projects, one piled upon another. Needless to say, hypomania is addicting, addicting as hell—as addicting as meth, I’m told by the few bipolar tweakers (crack heads) who cross my path—in that, like meth, having experienced it once is enough, more than enough, to leave you longing for its return ever after.

I had been actively manic-depressive for the better part of 6 decades, before someone noticed—my family doctor—and sent me to a psychiatrist, so, in some sense then, that qualifies me, or should, as an expert, of sorts, at least among the laity, on what it’s actually like to be hypomanic. (The aforementioned laity, it seems, is very uninterested in what it’s like to be depressed.) So, over the years since my diagnosis, I have been asked many times what it’s like, and have tried many, many times to explain and describe the experience. I’ve not been successful according to my family and normy-friends. The claim is, they say, that it’s not possible to make them understand, sort of in analogy to the impossibility of making the deaf understand what it’s like to hear one’s  friends laugh, say, or what it’s like to hear Beethoven’s 9th for the first time . Still I persist. My latest stab at it: when mania takes you that all-pervasive feeling of emptiness that is always there will vanish, the weight of it lifted from your shoulders leaving you light as the air we breathe. And life will suddenly have meaning, a meaning which had always eluded you in the past, but what that meaning is is not clear, but that there is a meaning is a given.

I’m thinking now, back to a time before doctors were permanent personae in the drama of my life, and while my affliction was present even then, for I seemed to be affected by everything in the universe. I didn’t think constantly about it. For that to happen, it had to have been given a name, and this required the active participation of doctors—doctors have names for everything, and I suppose I should be reassured by that, but I am not.

And now that they have put a name to it, I find myself thinking about it all the time; it has assumed a role in my life, one commensurate with its effect—it’s in my every waking, idle thought. “But surely you are more than it,” others are fond of reminding me, and while I agree with that in principle, the truth of the matter is that much of the time it holds sway. It’s as if my soul came equipped with an ear trumpet tuned to detect every sound in the universe, down to the last audible tick, click and creek. How can I not think constantly about my madness when its cacophony, furious at times, if not altogether ardent, constantly reminds me of its presence like the shrills of one tormented by love—supremely seductive and yet somehow tainted? And of its attendant hypomania, what of it? The longing that used to fill my heart to overflowing has in time given way to melancholy, and I am often overcome with sorrow at the loss of my beloved hypomania, now denied to me forever by modern medicine. It’s in moments of reflection such as these that the tears are quick to come.

I keep a mood chart, and as I look back over this chart which extends backwards in time clear to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, I see how each day’s entry begins with “Okay.” Occasionally there’ll be a “Not Okay.” I’m such a simple soul, I dutifully keep my mood chart every day, rain or shine. I keep hoping one day my entry will start with “Wow!” or “Holy shit” or, may it please God, best of all, “I’m back!”. What do you think? It’s manic depression at its poignant best, no? “I’m back!” will be the first words out of my mouth when once my beloved hypomania returns. I ache for it. God forbid I ever come down with cancer, but if I do, swear to God, I’m coming off my fucking meds. If I have to die, let me die a free man and not all doped up on meds. Let me die the way God made me and intended me to be—crazy!


What can we say?

What can we say about a course of treatment whose success relies, in part, upon the patient forgetting the person they once were, and what it was like to be them? Monstrous, obscene, evil, a sacrilege, a crime against humanity?

And yet we submit to it, but why? Because the disorder itself can manifest in monstrous, obscene and evil ways, as sacrilege and crimes against families.

We are trapped. All we can do is hope that we never forget what it was like to be free. Small wonder we sometimes want out of our cages, i.e., refuse to take our meds.

Nope, for me, and for others too, I suspect, ‘hate’ doesn’t begin to capture the full extent of what I really feel towards my madness, for in some respects I truly love it and cherish it. It has enriched my life beyond measure. And to know that in some not so small way I have something, however indiscernible, in common with the Beethovens, Plaths, Twains, and Van Goghs of the world  brings me joy and takes some of the sting out of being mad, no?

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