Thursday, March 27, 2008


I took a swim today. First I hit the weight room. Now, because I have little foresight and also have a nasty streak of laziness which I'm sure I inherited from one of my parents, even though both get up at five A.M. and work the day through, I always forget to renew my Paxil prescription when I run out. The upshot is, there's a few days every few months, where SSRI-wise, I'm running on fumes. I break the pills into smaller and smaller doses to make 'em last, and eventually just run out. One time this happened when I was helping my friend Drew (ah Drew, I haven't returned your email even though it's on my mind, I'm such a dick) move to Bloomington. I told Drew.

He said: "You're not going to go crazy or anything, are you?"

"Nah," said I, "It's a subtler effect."

Later that night, I sneaked into Drew's room, clamped two slabs of bread around his left leg along with a toupee of lettuce and some mustard blots, and took a bite out of his calve. "Mmm, gastrocnemius sandwich!" I squealed, and that's how you get back at someone for calling you crazy.

The point is today, I was feeling a little dizzy. So I called a doctor, who couldn't help, then a pharmacy, who couldn't help, had the pharmacy call the doctor, presented my insurance card, and voilĂ : pills.

And part of the reason I hold off on the pills is because I'm curious just what will happen if I don't take them. It's been four years I've been on them, and without, of course there was the soul-gnawing depression, terminal mopeyness, and much more, but maybe there were some good parts of dysthymic me that I've forgotten. Manic-depressives always complain about their medication taking the colors out of their lives; perhaps I've lost something, too.

May well be, but I've got stuff to do, and I can't afford wild psychotropic flights of fancy. So I popped 40 mg and went to the gym.

Maybe it was the withdrawal, maybe it was the Billy Goat I had beforehand, but while I was in the weight room (though I did show marked improvement) I felt like I was going to vomit or pass out. Not that I mind--I like feelings like that, physical exertion, panting, lungs burning, cold sweat, hitting walls of your potential. That is the gnawing hint of being alive. It's a wonder, with a taste for altered states, I've never gotten into drugs. But drugs are one of those many things in life that strike me as interesting but not worth doing when I could be reading a good book.

Then I tried swimming. You wouldn't think swimming would be hard--hell, maybe it isn't--but after two laps, I've got to rest. I did ten laps, and I was dead. The last lap I was sucking in water (freestyle), caught in an illusion where I was treading water and getting no closer to the end. So... I've left room for improvement.

I finished Stephen King's It today, for the second time. My gut reaction is to put out lots of provisos, saying I know he doesn't write the best, and sometimes it is kind of pulpy, and sometimes overly obvious and sometimes repetitive--and that's all true, mind you--but damn, what a story. Probably my favorite book.

Someday, some cute, smart girl will ask me what my favorite book is, and I'll look deep in her eyes, and say without wavering The Unbearable Lightness of Being or Love in the Time of Cholera, because I'm genetically programmed to lie in the interests of procreation and to feel no remorse. But blog readers will know the truth.

Now, to quote an email I wrote today, to an old friend:

"So, summer after I graduated high school: by this time I'm in love with [her] (the way Ben loved Beverley, I swear it) and was very happy with this, even though she was dating someone else, I didn't care, because I loved the feeling. My family's on a trip out in Yellowstone and thereabouts, and I find a copy of King's Gerald's Game at one of the hotels we're staying at. This is also the trip I read Atlas Shrugged, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hearts in Atlantis (good book), and probably some others. I'm reading the King book, while everyone's eating lunch, and of course I'm enraptured and can't put it down. Then the novel gets to a very gruesome part--involves cutting one's hand and stripping away skin to get out of handcuffs. The simile that struck me was a comparison to a cooked piece of turkey and the skin being pulled off the drumstick.

"That does it for me. My body goes cold. My parents ask me if I'm all right, say my face is bleached white. I'm dizzy. They lead me out to the car so I can lie down. I wait until the feeling passes. Dr. Bauman, who's vacationing with us... diagnoses this immediately: I was going to faint. I don't, but I almost did. Later I finish the book--even go back over the same passage until I can read it without being upset.

"Isn't it amazing how much power that has! Here's something else amazing. Last night, I was reading It and I'm 8 years older, understand. I've seen blood--I was in a horrible car crash last year around this time and had a concussion that knocked me out. I get a little twinge when I have to give blood at the doctor's, or donate at the Red Cross, but I swallow that and make myself watch them stick the needle in--some deep-seated urge to be brave.

"Nonetheless, I arrive at the chapter of It when Patrick Hockstetter dies, attacked by a swarm of flying leaches. I remembered some details, how one stuck its proboscis through his eyelid, but I rediscover others, e.g. how one landed in his mouth and gorged until it burst. Incidentally, this whole passage is very finely written, I say with no reserve. Reading it, last night, I felt my body go cold again. I felt my hands--they're icy. And I started laughing, amazed at how much power was in the book. I was actually starting to faint again. This delighted me--delights me to think a bunch of words could do so much.

"I didn't faint this time either."

The email was to my high school English teacher, who I was very fond of. Still am.

Tonight, I was out walking, because the weather's turned warmed, and after a while decided to jog. There was a tin of Altoids in my pocket, so as I'm running through the Arlington streets, the parks, around the mall, I go by in the dark like a ghost with maracas, like a pissed-off rattlesnake. I run for longer than I expected, and instead of aiming for any goal, just enjoy the pain that starts creeping up my chest, the ache in my legs.

I also wrote David. Quote:

"Not a bad feeling. A good feeling--in a way. Definitely a big feeling. And my philosophy is, doesn't matter if the feeling's bad or good, so long as it's a big feeling--that's the important thing."

Listening to Mahler's 7th. The finale is spectacular. Now turned to my new reading quest: back in time through Hugo Award winning novels, starting with a Vinge book from 2007.


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