Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

BlogDay has arrived!

Barefoot Blogger
Originally uploaded by nicholasjon.
Today is BlogDay--one day set aside for bloggers from around the world to spread the word about five sites they have discovered in their travels through the blogosphere. Created by Israeli blogger Nir Ofir--founder of Israel's first commercial weblog service--BlogDay gives folks an opportunity to put the word out about cool sites they've come across and encourage others to check them out as well.

Although I could easily have doubled or tripled the list, I tried to choose blogs representing a range of countries and themes. Nevertheless, my personal interests in writing, outrageous and opinionated humor, blogging issues, and mental illness are amply represented here.

And here they are...

Tiny Voices in my Head: Straight from "Bumfuck Nowhere, Pennsylvania, USA" comes this hilarious and entertaining site featuring bizarre blogtech issues, drunken mayhem, psycho stalkers, spammer freaks, and more. I think Webmiztris puts it best herself: "What you read here will be generally unrefined, sarcastic, and humorous (if you are easily amused). If you are easily offended and masochistic, you've come to the right place." Now, that's my kind of blogger babe!

The Y Logs: French blogger, graphic designer and tech writer Yzabel's blog was recently feaatured as part of The Blog Herald's highly coveted 100 Blogs in 100 Days Project. Her excellent site tackles the "woes of the writer" as well as the "secret art of blogging," among other topics. In addition, the Y Logs boasts a clean, elegant, and super-readable format, which definitely doesn't hurt.

ProBlogger: Darren Rowse from Melbourne, Australia turned his blogging passion into a full time, very lucrative gig. This site--one of 16 odd ones Darren has created--is "dedicated to helping other bloggers learn the skills, share their own experiences, and promote the blogging medium." There is a wealth of information here for those who aspire to generate income from blogging--as well as the personal blogger who just wants to enhance and improve their site's exposure and traffic--including the series "31 Days to Building a Better Blog." Well worth checking out.

Hailing from Texas, USA, The Sarcastic Journalist found herself on the front page of the Washington Post after being fired for blogging last year. With one baby and another on the way, TSC's writings are divided into numerous categories, including baby mama drama, mindless rants, potentially offensive material, pure sarcasm, and this writer's life. Here is her caveat: "If you want a good recipe for chicken pot pie, I suggest you look elsewhere. But? If you want to see someone tell it like it is, use sarcasm and just talk of life openly, you've come to the right place." Feels like home to me!

Been Broken: From the UK comes this frank, moving and thought provoking blog which deals with mental illness from a personal and societal perspective. "Broke" tackles the struggles of dealing with a bewildering and sometimes terrifying health care system, shame and stigma, and knotty issues such as free will and choice as it relates to mental health issues. Broke, who has struggled with his illness for 30 years, eventually earned a Ph.D. and at long last landed a job he loves--but not before enduring "prolonged periods of homelessness, trouble with the police, repeated breakdowns," and substance abuse issues. A fascinating and inspiring read.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wednesday is BlogDay!

Yzabel at the Y Logs just posted an entry about BlogDay 2005. On August 31st, bloggers from all over the blogosphere will recommend five new blogs they have discovered, with a description and link on their site.

Yet another serendipitous event for me--I have discovered a number of great blogs in the past week, and was going to add them to my link list anyway, so it's all good.

For more info, check out Yzabel's post and her related links.

Nymphette snail mail

Sexy Lips 003
Originally uploaded by Foad 2Fun.
As I've mentioned before, I was a bit of a phreak as a kid--and a raving maniac now. But between the ages of 13 to 21, I had an exceptionally cool, normal social life.

When I got to junior high, I came out of my shell and made all sorts of girlfriends. Sometimes we'd hang together as a group; sometimes one on one at their respective houses (I didn't invite them to mine; it was too creepy).

The summer I turned sixteen, I'd been living with my aunt and uncle in Manhattan for a year, after my parents died. Once the school term ended, my aunt insisted I work as a CIT (counselor in training) at a camp in Bear Mountain, in upstate New York. I hated it--for starters, I'd just started smoking because all my best friends had, and I had to sneak out in the weeds to fuel my newfound habit. One time the senior counselor caught me, and raided my belongings looking for my stash. She didn't find it, because I'd cleverly hidden the pack in my box of tampons. Already exhibiting classic addictive behavior even as a young girl...

So I wrote letters of woe to all my friends, and in turn they sent me long letters back, along with packages containing contraband cigs. I'd just started seeing a cute new guy back home, and he wrote too (sigh). Meanwhile, it seemed like all my g/f's were keeping a running score in a mad competition to lose their virginity. (I've written in passing elsewhere about how my good friend O lost her maidenhood with my best guy friend in my aunt and uncle's king sized bed during a pot-fueled party weekend). But I was a late bloomer--didn't lose mine til I was 18, in college. What a bunch of sluts I hung with back then!

Anyway, one of my coolest, funniest friends was M. I used to love to sleep over at her house because she had the whole basement to herself instead of just a little bedroom. We used to listen to Joni Mitchell and Neil Young albums and go to art movies and just bullshit around. Her parents were very wierd--I hardly ever saw them because at about 6 pm like clockwork they would disappear for the night into their bedroom. M said she guessed they were having SEX in there every night--creepy!

In any case, M was in the same boat that summer, working as a CIT at some sucky camp in the wilds of New Jersey. The other day, I was going through my old shit, cleaning out my closet since my ex and I are selling our coop, and found a bag of old letters from that summer. This one from my friend M sums up the inimitable, sleazy innocence of that time, when we all started to discover the wonders and horrors of boys. I still get a laugh out of it.

Dear Elvira:

Hi--I wish I were! Shitman--I got so much to tell ya. I'll start off with this guy I met named S (if you already know via O or J just skip the next part).

OK-- I met him during the weekend whiile the kids weren't up here yet (it was called orientation weekend--as if it makes a difference.) Well I played cards with him the first 2 nights + I really liked him (or so I thought). Then that Sunday night we were playing poker in his bunk alone--and he goes, "The next round we play for a kiss." I thought: "This is it." So I pucker (or should I say puker) up for a kiss. Two minutes later he goes (get this line) "Let's go all the way." GIVE ME A BREAK!!! So of course I said no. And in walks his friend. And there I was too stunned to move. So he says, "Let's go." And like the stupid fool I am, I went.

So guess where we went, in back of the HANDBALL courts--the fuckin buggiest place in the whole goddamn world. Christ! It was awful! I got 4 mosquito bites in my cunt! FOUR! I hated every minute of it! He was incredibly crude! He said the most absolutely nauseating things--e.g. when he was giving me the old hand job, he was off the mark by quite a bit (to say the least)--so I moved his hand to my clit + he goes (get this) "Oh, so that's where it is." The worst was (besides the mosquito bites and the shit he passes for talk) is that I had to blow him for an hour straight before he came (I kept looking at my watch). But worse yet, while I was blowing him, I dozed off 6 or 7 times. I had 13 hours sleep the night before + I wasn't even tired, but I was bored out of my mind!

Since then, I've been avoiding him like the plague. The day before yesterday, I jumped into a giant garbage can just to avoid him. It was kind of hard explaining to my kids though, why I had Fruit Loops stuck to my ass. It's so hard to avoid him! Shit! Every time I turn around, he's there making a grab for me. Actually I've become quite experienced in the art of camouflage. I've also become good at nearsightedness ("Oh gee! Golly! Gee whiz! I didn't even see you, I must get glasses one of these days!" S-I-G-H...

Welp, I've really got to get to sleep. Write soon and I'll tell you what COMES of this sordid affair. Bye for now.


P.S. Tell me what (or twott) happened with K that time at J's house.

(What happened? I gave the guy (a college guy no less--woohoo!) a handjob under his pants and he fell madly in love with me! I didn't even know how the equipment worked back then but it seemed to do the trick.)

Looking through those old letters, it's hard to believe that I was once such a normal--even popular--teen. Though I live for e-mail, there's something about snail mail that is incomparable. Right here in front of me is the envelope M sent the letter in--complete with the stupid little inside joke she wrote on the back flap. And how to describe the little watercolor logo she put on the first page depicting a little sun with red and yellow rays--with "smile you fucker" inscribed in the middle?

Last time I saw M, decades ago, she had just married a guy who was going to seminary school. She had changed--my hilarious, boisterous, outrageous friend had become very subdued, and I thought her hubby and the marriage were a bit bizarre.

Oh well, I guess she found someone who didn't have sex on the brain as much as her old flame S did. I'd just love to look her up some day and rehash old times.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I'm not gonna be IGNORED...

Originally uploaded by Angel F. Santos.
Everyone remembers how well Alex (Glenn Close) endeared herself to Dan (Michael Douglas) in Fatal Attraction after their ill-fated, brief boink session:

"Well, what am I supposed to do? You won't answer my calls; you change your number. I mean, I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan!"

The irony is, I suppose, that it's hard to make someone not ignore you. There's the psychopath's approach, which makes others fear and despise you--and thus pay attention. But the most powerful way to deflect a stalker, or so I've heard, is to completely ignore them--don't engage them at all, because it will just encourage them. They're just looking for attention--even negative attention--and when they don't get it, hopefully, they'll move on.

But Dan, of course, had to proceed oh so delicately, as his cozy life--complete with beautiful wife, charming daughter, and gorgeous house in the country--might be at stake. So he couldn't just throw Alex out when she showed up at his office unannounced, or bitch slap her when she appeared at his home to meet with his wife under the pretext of buying his city apartment, newly up on the market. He had to pay attention to Alex, like it or not. But under other circumstances, ignoring others can be the deadliest weapon in the passive agressive individual's arsenal.

So here I am, feeling like a turd in the litterbox straight from BG's cat's anus, all sorry for myself because several of my old blogpals have been conspicuously absent from recent posts.

Sure, they have lives to lead and blogs to write. (Talk about your lame excuses!) But that doesn't stop me from wondering if I've said or done something wrong.

I can take being insulted a lot better than being ignored or shunned. At least when you're attacked, you have something to grab onto. If you're ignored, you're grasping at thin air.

In the interim, I've been doing some blogging "maintenance"--surfing the web for interesting blogs to comment to and searching out blogging techie info. I will be adding links to some of these new cool blogs shortly. But I have to say, I tend to lose interest in a blog or site that doesn't allow comments, or that allows comments but never responds to them. On the upside, I'm starting to trade comments back and forth with some more cool folks with bitchin' blogs.

I have been guilty in the past of falling behind on my comments to comments, but I've vowed not to do this again. Half the fun of visiting a blog is to return and see the response to your comment. Or is it just me?

In addition, one of my best blogger buds and I have been on the outs for awhile. Sucky.

As I've learned from experience, the result of my whining will probably be more stony silence from my tormentors. It is considered uncool and very bad form to beg or kvetch in this cheap manner. But this has been getting me down for a little while now, and I felt like I had to vent. So there you have it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Lost high way

Poor Judgement
Originally uploaded by A.Currell.
Being a sophisticated substance abuser requires experience, finesse, and nerves of steel. I'm sure 007 never spilled a drop of his extra dry martini on his exquisitely tailored tux under any circumstances. And who could imagine James Bond hugging the toilet, his "shaken, not stirred" stomach convulsing in spasms of barf? Never.

But onscreen and off, most of us mere mortals have had our share of substance-induced shame and degradation. Who can forget Ray Milland's foiled attempt to hide a gin bottle from the prying eyes of his brother--by tying it to a rope and hanging it out the window of his apartment building--in The Lost Weekend? Or Jack Lemmon in the Days of Wine and Roses--tied down, glassy eyed and sweating in the alkie ward, biting at the air, trying to ward off the little green men attacking him with pruning shears? And then there's Woody Allen in Annie Hall, sneezing onto a mound of coke at a hip LA party.

And then there's me. No one on my mother's side of the family drinks at all. But although I never saw him drunk, before he got married, my dad was quite the wild man. One night, he apparently had a disagreement with a knife wielding maniac at some southern roadhouse bar. His lifetime souvenier was a deep scar running down the entire length of one cheek. I vowed to learn from his mistake.

Consequently I've (almost) always been able to hold my liquor--both at the bar and in my stomach. But since my boyfriend BG is older and has been drinking longer, he's had a few more unfortunate "incidents" than I have. Aside from the catastrophe with brother Ubba covered previously, he's experienced a plethora of substance-related tragedies.

When BG was a tender youth, he got turned on to the wonders of Robitussin AC by his older sister's boyfriend, who hailed from NYC. You used to be able to go into a pharmacy and just sign a fake name, get your bottle of legal codeine, and be on your way. One time BG got two--each from a different drug store--and slipped the second one in his pocket. As he headed out the door, the bottle slid out onto the ground and smashed in a zillion pieces. Since codeine was apparently the ultimate drug of choice for BG--he still has fond memories of those days--he very nearly got down and licked the sidewalk. The lesson here is to keep in mind that the more eager and excited one is about getting a substance into your system, the more likely that your nervous anticipation will lead to broken bottles and shattered dreams. So take a few deep breaths and recite your mantra before purchasing.

Back in the summer of '69, BG had his first foray in NYC. He did tons of drugs, met scores of hippies, and experienced myriad adventures. One memorable one involved a road trip to Montauk Point, about a three hour drive from Manhattan. One of his pals had a big beautiful chunk of black hash that the gang were planning to smoke out there. Montauk Point is on the very eastern tip of Long Island, surrounded by the Atlantic--an apt setting for a mellow hash party. But just as they were about to set up shop, his friend dropped the whole chunk of doobage, and it fell on the rocks and into the undulating ocean below. A three hour trip to get wasted--wasted.

I used to have a great connec at work for bowleg (aka evil weed). I had been on a ten-year hiatus, and the first time I got my hands on some of the new, powerful homegrown stuff (shortly before meeting BG) it was quite an ephiphany. My colleague's merch consisted of huge buds that smelled so strong I was afraid a cop would apprehend me on the subway. In fact, one time I was heading to BG's and a drunk was swilling from his bottle when a cop spotted him and escorted him off. Meanwhile, I had my fragrant resinated "z" tucked away in my purse. From then on, I wrapped my precious treasure in a sheet of fabric softener before heading uptown.

As I mentioned in a previous pot-related post, BG used to fall on and off the wagon with regularity. Periodically, in a fit of remorse after yet another hellish hangover, BG would impulsively perform the morning after ritual of flushing the remainders of the booze and joints down the toilet--only to wind up kicking himself for his folly a few days hence. One time, in fact, we'd been buying so much weed from my work pal that we had amassed an impressive collection of roaches--many of them Mach II (roaches made from roaches) and even Mach III (roaches made from the roaches of the roaches). During one of his repentant intervals, I wound up giving my co-worker back a few prime leftover buds and the entire bag of uber-roaches. I felt like a schmuck on wheels a few days later.

For awhile, along with the cheap scotch BG insisted on buying, he developed a penchant for Mr. Boston's blackberry brandy. The stuff is tasty as hell--esp. poured chilled straight from the freezer--but it produces hallucinatory hangovers. One fall, his brother Ubba was up visiting. BG was recovering from another wicked night of rotgut-and-brandy induced hell. Ubba took him aside and said: "BG, you're my brother and I love you. Listen to me. Don't buy that off-brand whiskey. And ixnay on the Old Mr. Boston's. That stuff is what a Bowery bum drinks when he's lost his windshield-wiping job."

BG agreed, and admitted that the mere thought of the brandy was giving him the dry heaves. We headed off to the neighborhood bar for some hair of the dog. After sitting there awhile, we heard a crash, and an all-too-familiar, sickeningly sweet smell wafted through the air. Sure enough, the old codger sitting two stools down from us had sneaked in a bottle of Old Mister Boston's blackberry brandy, and dropped it on the floor. Oh, the humanity!

Sometimes, BG's drinking would even drive him to the psych ward. Since he's schizophrenic anyway, the booze only made it that much more likely that he'd do the old cutting his wrists routine before heading off to the VA for a little R & R. One morning, after a three day BG bender, we took a cab to the Manhattan VA hospital. BG, wrist wounds wrapped in gauze, asked me to take him to the bar across the street for a final drink. He ordered a double scotch, but his hands were shaking so badly that he promptly spilled it all over the bar. The old timers sitting there at 10 in the morning--many of them wizened vets--nodded in sympathy. One put his arm around BG's shoulder soothingly, and said: "There, there, my boy. Happens to the best of us." The bartender prompty poured him another on the house.

If a young person just starting out on their drinking/drugging career were to ask my advice, I'd tell him something like this: If you can't drink lightly, hold onto your glass tightly. Try to slow down before the room starts spinning and your face meets the bar floor. Avoid bar patrons with switchblades. Stock up for Sunday, when the NYC liquor stores are closed and you can't buy beer til noon. Skip the tasty Old Mister Bostons, and use the extra few bucks to get a decent bottle of scotch that doesn't sport a skull and crossbones on a crooked label. Don't be Mr. Fumblefingers with the hash, and if you must smoke, stay away from large bodies of water. Try not to drink for three days straight--give the old brain cells a little break. And even in the throes of a screeching hangover, think long and hard before you flush.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Let's talk about drugs

Me and my drugs
Originally uploaded by knautia.

There's no getting around it--I was a weird kid--but I did have my good points. Thanks to my dad, I started to read before they taught me in school, which at least gave me the moniker of "best reader in the class"--and was probably one of the reasons I eventually became a writer.

But aside from that, my name was mud in grade school. I was always "daydreaming." Although I was in the "smart" class, and always did well academically, I remember blanking out whenever the teacher would give directions for a project or exercise. Then I would try to ask a classmate what it was all about, and they would sometimes help me, but I do remember a lot of "ooh, you're gonna get in big trouble" remarks. Thanks, kid.

When I was stressed--in situations like that--I remember that I used to get this burning sensation that seemed to extend from my face into my brain. Panic, anxiety, whatever it was, it sucked.

Now that they have a label for everything--the DSM has fancy sounding names for many "disorders" that just used to be called "being an asshole"--I've tried to imagine in retrospect what my problem was.

When looking on Wikipedia for info on Syd Barret for an older post, I followed a link to Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism, or autism spectrum disorder, to be exact. Of course, since it had a cachet of glamor surrounding it, I decided that this was what I had back then. See their cool link to a list of prominent people--including Steven Spielberg, Andy Warhol, Dan Ackroyd, Michelangelo, and Isaac Newton-- who were either diagnosed with, or have symptoms consistent with, autistic spectrum disorder. This made me feel cool and hip. (And Henry, here's a special link for you--featuring a debate over whether Albert Einstein and Bill Gates were/are autistic. Enjoy!)

Although they are often intelligent and proficient in many ways, Asperger's sufferers often have significant problems functioning socially, and are often the target of bullies. The theory is that there is some kind of deficit involving processing social information correctly and deciphering such things as tone of voice and body language. A super-simple question can confuse and frustrate an Asperger's sufferer. And sure enough, I recall instances where this seemed to happen to me. Here are two that stand out:

On the first day of school--I guess kindergarten or first grade--the teacher took attendance. She slightly mispronounced my first name, which set off a paralyzing dilemma in my mind. One part of me said--she must be referring to me. Another part of my brain said--maybe there's another person with the same name but a different pronunciation. She had to call my name three times before I finally said "here."

Another time a neighborhood mom offered me cookies or something. For some reason, I couldn't answer "yes" or "no thank you." . After an long, awkward pause, she finally turned away with a disgusted/exasperated look on her face. What was going through my mind--I don't know. The question somehow just seemed too complex for me.

Here's a quote from Wikipedia, giving an example I can relate to:

"When a teacher asks a child with Asperger's, "Did the dog eat your homework?", the child with Asperger's will remain silent if they don't understand the expression, trying to figure out if they need to explain to the teacher that they don't have a dog and also that dogs don't generally like paper. The child doesn't understand what the teacher is asking, cannot deduce the teacher's meaning, or the fact that there is a non-literal meaning, from the tone of voice, posture or facial expression, and is faced with a question which makes as much sense to him as "Did the glacier in the library bounce today?". The teacher may walk away from the experience frustrated and thinking the child is arrogant, spiteful, and insubordinate. The child sits there mutely, feeling frustrated and wronged."

I can dig it.

Although I had a friend or two outside of school, and I loved to visit my cousins, I was an only child, and since my mom also suffered from depression, and my dad sometimes worked weird shifts, I wound up spending a lot of time alone--to read, listen to music, ride my bike, examine cool bugs, watch horror movies on Saturday night, and mull life over. I was essentially a loner until I reached junior high. Then, somehow, I turned "normal." But I do think that kids who spend a lot of time with their own thoughts and left to their own devices may have an advantage later in life. They may not be "normal," in the sense of being very straight and super popular and always knowing how to make small talk and feeling comfy talking to new people. But the misfits who don't learn how to conform and follow the flock are, I think, sometimes quite interesting individualists later in life. At least, I like to think so, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, the point of all this talk about ME is that firstly, if I were in grade school today with the same "symptoms," I am fairly certain they'd be pumping me full of Ritalin right now. And secondly, without the help of meds, I somehow (apparently) managed to get over it. Attention deficit disorder, indeed.

I have an excellent shrink. He is a dying breed--although he prescribes my meds, he takes the time to really talk with me in the half-hour I see him. He asks me how I'm feeling, we review the meds I'm on and consider whether they need to be adjusted, and then I"m free to let him know what's going on with me in more detail. He can rattle off drug effects and side effects and always knows the latest scoop, pharmaceutically speaking.

But during my last appointment, when I mentioned I'd been feeling particularly sluggish, he asked me what I thought about taking a small dose of Ritalin or dexedrine.

Frankly, I was kind of surprised. I told him that since ups had been my drug of choice as a reckless youth, I didn't think it was a good idea. He admitted that although it helped some of his patients, others started to take more than was prescribed and had to be tapered off. I just didn't want to go there.

I'm not a doctor, of course, but I always thought that Ritalin was basically used for Attention Deficit Disorder, primarily in kids. It is basically a stimulant--similar to amphetamine, but perhaps milder. My feeling--partly based on first-hand experience-- was that stimulants might make you feel good initially, but when you came down, you'd likely crash and feel shittier than before--or simply start to take more and more to get that good old feeling again. Ritalin, amphetamines, and other stimulants are Schedule II drugs, which are considered to have therapeutic applications but can nevertheless be abused. In fact, some schoolkids sell each other some of their stash, and some crush up the tabs and snort them for greater recreational effect. According to my Bible in all things au courant--New York Magazine--the latest trend among the hip rich New York kids is to sell and abuse assorted prescription meds, which sometimes involves raiding mom and dad's medicine cabinets-- and swapping different pharmaceuticals for a nice clean American buzz.

I did a search on Ritalin side effects, and found a website by Peter R. Breggin, a psychiatrist trying to put the word out that many psych meds are potentially quite dangerous and overprescribed. He felt that the combination of overcrowded classrooms and perhaps inattentive parents who didn't want to put up with a little natural rambunctiousness were turning kids into drugged, but well behaved, robots. And I quote:

"Dr. Breggin has been informing the professions, media and the public about the potential dangers of drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery, involuntary treatment, and the biological theories of psychiatry for over three decades... For thirty years Dr. Breggin has served as a medical expert in many civil and criminal suits including individual malpractice cases and product liability suits against the manufacturers of psychiatric drugs. His work provided the scientific basis for the original combined Prozac suits, for the more recent Ritalin class action suits, and for label changes in many psychiatric drugs."

His full credentials, which are very impressive, are included on the website. For a nice good scare, take a look at some of the many articles included here. (There is also a very illuminating and alarming, albeit old, article from Policy Review entitled Why Ritalin Rules.

The thing is, that many of the players in the drug/antidrug game have motives that are far from pure. Everyone is making a killing--the drug companies, the insurance companies, the shrinks, the school counselors. And the pushers of natural alternative supplements play on the fears of the public about the side effects of pharmaceuticals. But of course, the fact that a substance is "natural" is no guarantee it is safe. (Can you say Ephedra?) The Scientologists have an excellent motive for opposing drugs--they have the non-medical answer for anyone who joins their cult. And of course, there are the lawyers--always the lawyers--ready to step in as soon as a drug is pulled from the market, or sometimes before. And although Dr. Breggin's efforts certainly seem laudable, I'm sure he gets paid a pretty penny to testify in all those class-action suits.

On the other hand, I've read of a drug that has been used in Europe for years and has just been approved, finally, by the FDA. It is used in the treatment of alcoholism. Mind you, it's not a magic pill--I think it works best on those who have been sober for a year and wish to remain so--but have you ever heard of it? Didn't think so. Where are the ads for this drug on tv? Haven't seen a one. Wonder why? Hmmm--could it have anything to do with the fact that the AA/rehab industry is so profitable and ubiquitous? (Not to mention that the US drug manufacturers don't hold the patent on the med, thus making it much less profitable?) Imagine telling an AA'er that there might be a pill that could help them stay sober. Blasphemy!

What I find particularly ironic are those "parents--the anti-drug" ads. The best one shows a dad pacing the floor, wracked with guilt and shame. The voiceover is something to the effect of: just because you toked your brains out when you were younger is no reason not to prevent your kids from having some fun. That's one of the many reasons I never had children--how do you tell your kids not to have sex or party when you'd been there yourself?

But meanwhile, while medical marijuana is still not accepted in most states, parents, shrinks, and schools are pumping millions of kids full of Ritalin to make them more manageable. The pharmaceutical companies have taken their case directly to the consumer (ask your doctor about...)--and there is, indeed, a pill for everything. Of course, the commercials will tell you upfront about common and rare side effects--some of which may include death--but that's all cool.

I'm no Tom Cruise. I do think that drugs save countless lives and help restore many people to sanity. My boyfriend BG might not be alive if it weren't for the HIV meds he takes twice a day. But drugs are crude, and hormones and brain chemicals are infinitely complex and interconnected. Thus, bizarro side effects are possible with almost any drug. I even read of a case where someone died by taking one too many 12-hour cold tabs. As for me, after taking Lithium for many years, I now have to take Synthroid--a synthetic thyroid med--for the rest of my life.

As a crazy person, I've heard people say "take your meds." (I do, I do). I've heard other people say you don't need those silly meds (I do, I do). I'm just very, very thankful they didn't have all the kiddie pills around when I was a youngster. I've already been through electroshock, and I'm taking enough pills for several lifetimes right now.

What do YOU think? Drugged up minds want to know!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Here's looking at Jew, kid

Bogie as BG sees him
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."--Humprey Bogart, attributed last words.

"My one regret in life is that I am not someone else."--Woody Allen

As an emotionally challenged New York Jew, I identify with Woody Allen. As an American, steeped in its popular culture, I also revere Humphrey Bogart.

Like Allen, Bogart was a short New York native who, after multiple marriages, finally settled down with a partner many years his junior. In Allen's case, it was Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Allen's long-time love, Mia Farrow. In Bogart's, it was the breathtakingly beautiful, glamorous, (and Jewish) actress Lauren Bacall. Nevertheless, the Bogie persona was as quintessentially goyish (that's Gentile to all you gentiles) as Allen's is over the top Jewish.

Allen's films are steeped in the cultural anxieties of the Jew struggling to fit into a gentile world. Of course, in Jew York City, that's easier to do than it might be in Lynchburg, Virginia. But make no mistake--us wandering Jews are everywhere. It's just that New York City is the American capital of the Chosen People, hands down. Here, we can be much more comfy about getting in touch with our inner Jew without feeling like alien beings.

Allen addresses the Jew/goy divide in many of his films. In Annie Hall, when he first meets up with ultra-shiksa (non-Jewish woman) Annie, she quickly declares that he is what her Granny Hall would call "a real Jew." While visiting Annie's family, Allen demonstrates, via split screen, the steeotypical cultural chasm between Jew and Wasp. Annie's family is polite and reserved, not a hair out of place, choosing their words with care and constraint; Allen's family is noisy, messy, and generally chaotic. Annie's family talks of hunts and swap meets; Allen's family might talk, perhaps, of the relative who developed a large goiter, as the children throw food and chase each other around the dining room. Flung into this alien goyish world, with Granny Hall periodically looking up from her plate to glare at him with unadulterated anti-Semitic contempt, Allen is clearly both out of his element and in it-- because his role as the striving but insecure outsider is part of what makes Woody, well, Woody. The struggle for identity is part of Allen's identity.

Zelig goes even further--documenting a Jewish born man with no sense of self whatsoever. A human chamelion, he takes on the appearance of anyone he comes into contact with. He literally transforms himself, by turns, into an Asian, an African-American, an Orthodox rabbi, an obese man, a Native American, a psychiatrist--even a Nazi, sitting behind Hitler at the podium during one of his rallies. With the help of his shrink (played by Mia Farrow) he struggles to discover who he really is beneath all the briefly acquired facades.

Play it Again Sam (1972) is director Herbert Ross' adaptation of Allen's own Broadway play. and the first film that pairs Allen and future long-time lover Diane Keaton, who went on to star in many of his films. Originally slated to be filmed in New York, the production was moved to San Francisco due to a New York filmmakers' strike in the summer of 1971.

Allen plays Allan Felix, a movie buff whose job is writing film-crit for magazines. Having just endured a painful divorce, he turns for solace to married friends Linda and Dick--played by Keaton and Tony Roberts--who repeatedly try to fix him up. But Allan's nervousness and lack of self-esteem sabotage any and all efforts they make to get him laid (or even to master a successful first date.) Plagued with anxiety and insecurity, Allen laments, "How will I be able to get a woman into bed? I won't even be able to get her into a chair." (Note: quotes throughout are occasionally paraphrased).

In times of stress, he conjures up the apparition of his idol Bogey, circa Casablanca. Bogey attempts to advise Allen in the fine art of bagging "dames." When Allen reveretially asks if Bogie he was crushed at the end of Casablanca when his love Elsa got back on the plane with her Nazi-fighting husband Victor Laslow, he laconically replies: "Nothing a little bourbon and soda wouldn't fix." Being the antithesis of Bogie, Allen of course fails miserably at drinking and any other Bogie-ism. In one scene, for example, Bogie advises him not to let his date know about the non-drinking thing or "she'll think you're a boy scout." Allen, the quintessentially nerdy and tentative Jew, is just not built to be the Goyishe shikker (drinker) and heroic risk taker his film idol embodies.

Allen's inadequacies are further exposed in a scene where his ex-wife, tired of her cloistered existence with a man who is a "watcher" rather than a "doer," proclaims her newfound freedom by getting on the back on a chopper with a "tall,, blond eyed man." Perturbed by her quick transformation, Allen laments: "we've been divorced two weeks and she's dating a Nazi."

Linda's hubby Dick is preoccupied with work, constantly discussing real estate deals on the phone. One of the funniest running gags in the film concerns Dick's Type A, pre-cell phone wheeling and dealing. As soon as Dick arrives at any new location, he has to call in to let his colleagues know his number. ("I'll be at 362-9296 for a while; then I'll be at 648-0024 for about fifteen minutes; then I'll be at 752-0420; and then I'll be home, at 621-4598. Yeah, right George, bye-bye.")

Feeling neglected and insecure, Linda winds up spending a lot of time with Allen. Both hypochondriacs (it's a Jewish thing; Bogie would never take a trank, just a drink), they compare notes about their shrinks and the use of aspirin and tranquilizers.

Allan: You want a Fresca with a Darvon?
Linda: Unless you have apple juice.
Allan: Apple juice and Darvon is fantastic together!
Linda: Have you ever had Librium and tomato juice?
Allan: No, I haven't personally, but another neurotic tells me they're unbelievable.

Observing their banter, Dick remarks: "You two should get married and move to a hospital."

Eventually, Allen realizes he has fallen in love with Linda, and is advised by Bogie in how to properly seduce her. In preparation for a romantic dinner at his apartment, complete with champagne, Bogie has to reprimand him as he shops for supplies: ("Don't get those candles. Those are for a Jewish holiday.") As the time for Linda to come approaches, Allen is plagued with anxiety:

Allan: I can't do it. How does it look? I invite her over and then come on like a sex degenerate. What am I, a rapist?
Bogart: You're getting carried away. You think too much. Just do it.
Allan: We're platonic friends. I can't spoil that by coming on. She'll slap my face.
Bogart: Oh, I've had my face slapped plenty of times.
Allan: Yeah, but your glasses don't go flying across the room.

With "Bogey" egging him on, Allan scores--by modifying Bogey's pick up lines to match his own more sensitive persona. Ironically, it is Allan's non-Bogieish sweetness and sincere romanticism that ultimately captivates Keaton.

The film culminates with Allan reenacting the final scene from Casablanca, running to the airport after Linda, who is trying to catch up with Dick before he boards a plane for a business trip to Cleveland. In the dark, smoke-filled air, as the plane's propellers whirl a la Casablanca, Allan and Linda acknowledge their love for each other, but agree that Linda, who also still loves her husband, belongs with Dick--that she's essential for his life and work--the thing that keeps him going--just as Bergman's Elsa was to Victor Laslo.

Allan: If that plane leaves the ground, and you're not on it with him, you'll regret it - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.
Linda: That's beautiful!
Allan: It's from Casablanca; I waited my whole life to say it.

After the plane takes off, Bogie congratulates Allan, saying, "Everyone is Bogie, sometimes. There's more to life than dames. You did the right thing for a pal. You're a stand-up guy." Allan acknowleges that he can't be Bogie, but can succeed very nicely if he will just be true to himself.

You don't have to be Jewish to relate to this dialectic of identity. Virtually all Americans have roots elsewhere in the world. Part of the American experience for all immigrants and ethnic groups involves balancing the desire to become assimilated, "real" Americans with the urge to retain some of their heritage.

And thus it is that Woody Allen--a skinny, short, nerdy, bespectacled, Brooklyn born Jew--became, like Bogie, an icon of American cinema.

Plus, he's bagged a bunch of swell dames.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Shithouse tidbits

A few little odds and ends about my site map, comments, and last but not least, a bitchin' BG mini-tale.

My site map (see the right column) is new and improved. It features two lists: one shows all my posts in reverse chronological order. The second features posts by category. Some of it is hyperlinked; I should be finished shortly, for ultimate user-friendliness.

Mad about psychos? Check out the posts under PSYCHOS, WACKOS, AND SHRINKS and CRAZY GENIUSES. Dysfunctional families your thing? Look under FAMILY MATTERS. Dig cigs, drugs, alcohol, AA horror stories, and tattoos? See SHAMEFUL, SINFUL, ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS. Not interested in my drivel, but want to see some cool artwork? Check out BG'S ART. Even more FASCINATING, RIVETING categories are just a click away!

Praise be to Henry for unveiling the mysteries of hyperlinks, as well as his subsequent tip about a nifty bit of code (target="gnu" inserted after the URL code but before the closing bracket) that brings linking wanderers back to home base by keeping the orig. window open underneath. You go, Henry!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: comments both nasty and nice, long and short are welcome, coveted, and adored. So far, I've never deleted a comment, except for COMMENT SPAM. Any comment spam or freeloading commenters ("Like your blog. Come to my site at http:love my") will be deleted without further dispatch. It's ok to list your site, but you must leave a legitimate comment too--i.e. at least one complete sentence with more than 3 words.

I aim to reply with comments to all commenters, but I have fallen behind. If anyone gives a shit, I'm going back and adding comments as I can, even to ancient posts. So if you've left a comment and have not seen a response from me, rest assured that one will almost certainly appear at some point.

My boyfriend BG and his brother UBBA were both staying with the folks for awhile to regain their sanity after wild forays in New York. (This was decades before I met BG.) BG's mom is a very devout Catholic, and goes to church virtually every day. She insisted the boys go to church on Sunday, but they refused to go to mass with mom and dad. Mom said that's fine, but you must go to the 5:30 mass later. They agreed.

Five o'clock rolled around, and BG and Ubba, dressed up in their finest churchgoing duds, rode on out. First stop was the church, where Ubba would go in and grab one of the weekly church bulletins. This listed all the details they needed if quizzed later by mom: the sermon, the mass, even the names of the altar boys.

This task done, they proceed to McDonalds where they chilled out for a few hours, drinking coffee and smoking cigs. At that time, smoking was allowed at Mickey D's--they even supplied cute little tinfoil ashtrays for this purpose. Sometimes, after mass let out, a few of the church ladies might stop by and say: "Aren't you momma BG's boys? We didn't see you in church." Ubba would mumble something about them being in the back row (where the really bad sinners sat in shame).

Then they would head back home. Momma BG would ask: "How was church?"


"Did you enjoy the sermon?"

"Oh yeah."

"Which part did you enjoy most?"

"Oh, lessee, the part about burning in hell for eternity was very enlightening."

"Good, boys. Dinner's ready. Time for some meatloaf!"

That's what you get for lying to your momma, boys!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sid out to lunch

Sid out to lunch
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
In part because I'm in a lazy mood; in part because this is a good pretext to show one of BG's latest paintings; and in part because Wikipedia says it all (well, not really; the Sid link that follows has a very detailed, juicy account of Sid and his crimes and misdemeanors as well, with more links to come), here are some excerpts from their entry on Sid Vicious:

John Simon Ritchie-Beverly (May 10, 1957, London - February 2, 1979, New York), better known as Sid Vicious, was an English punk rock musician and member of the band the Sex Pistols. He died from a drug overdose at the age of 21.

Described by peers as 'slender and likable', Richie's stage name of Sid Vicious was allegedly derived from Lydon's pet hamster (Sid the Vicious, for his habit of biting people) as an ironic joke. However the implications of this nom de plume would turn deadly as he tried to live up to the media myths that grew up around him. Indeed, as far back as 1974 he had begun using drugs intravenously in the company of his mother as a darker side to his character emerged, and by 1975 he had begun to self harm.Accounts of his life have related that he strangled a cat and assaulted a pensioner around this time.

Described as being "the ultimate Sex Pistols fan", Vicious joined the group after the departure of bass player Glen Matlock in February 1977. Legend has it that manager Malcolm McLaren wanted Vicious in the band because of his looks and punk attitude. It was said "If Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the look." This "punk persona" counted far more than any actual playing ability. In fact Vicious was notoriously inept musically, and according to Jon Savage's biography of the Sex Pistols, England's Dreaming, most of the bass parts on the band's later recordings were actually played by guitarist Steve Jones, and at live performances his amplifier was often switched off.

In November 1977 Vicious met and soon after began a relationship with American Nancy Laura Spungen, who had come to London looking for Jerry Nolan of The Heartbreakers, but ended up with Vicious. Spungen was a heroin addict, and inevitably Vicious, who was already believing in his own "live fast, die young" mythology, came to share this dependence. Although deeply in love with each other, their often violent relationship had a disastrous effect on the Sex Pistols, with both the group and Vicious visibly deteriorating throughout the course of their 1978 American tour. Things finally came to a head at their concert at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco on January 14, when Rotten walked out of the band. Vicious also left shortly afterwards, and with Spungen acting as his 'manager', embarked upon a short and ignoble "solo career". Some of the musicians he performed with included Mick Jones of the Clash, Tony Blackplait, and members of the New York Dolls.

By this time Vicious and Spungen had become locked in their own world of drug addiction and self-destruction. Interview footage shows the couple attempting to answer questions from their bed: Spungen is barely coherent whilst Vicious lapses in and out of consciousness. Vicious also came very close to death following a heroin overdose and was hospitalised for a time.

On the morning of October 12, 1978 Vicious allegedly awoke from a drug-induced stupour to find Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of room 100 in the Hotel Chelsea in New York. She had received a single stab wound to her abdomen and apparently bled to death. Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder although he said he had no memory of having done so. However, he later claimed to have "killed her because I'm a dirty dog." There are also unsubstantiated theories the murder was committed by a third party, usually said to be one of the many drug dealers who frequented the apartment.

Bail of $50,000 was put up by Virgin Records at the request of Malcolm McLaren, and in February 1979, a party was held at the home of his new girlfriend Michelle Robinson to celebrate his release. During his time at Rikers Island prison, Vicious had undergone drug rehabilitation therapy and was supposedly "clean". However, at the party, he was able to obtain some heroin (supplied by his mother, Ann Beverley, herself an ex-addict) and was discovered dead the following morning, having taken a large overdose. Speculation has persisted that Vicious, unable to live without his beloved Nancy, took his own life. He wrote the following poem about her:

You were my little baby girl,
I knew all your fears.
Such joy to hold you in my arms
and kiss away your tears.
But now you're gone, there's only pain
and nothing I can do.
And I don't want to live this life,
If I can't live for you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The end of the world as we know it?

Bio Hazard
Originally uploaded by mewmoocouw.
As a reaction to the London bombings, New York City has employed police to do random searches at subway stations. Here's an excerpt of an e-mail I sent to my good buddy Henry, slightly edited, on this horrific dilemma.

There's a whole big debate going on here re; the cops stopping people at random (like every five or ten people or something) before they enter the subway turnstiles and checking their backpacks, bags, etc. Thing is, one Brooklyn assemblyman has suggested that in this instance, there SHOULD be racial profiling, since he feels chances are if there is a terrorist, he will probably fit the Middle Eastern looking profile. Whadda you think? Have you had any similar things going on where you are?

Horribly enough, that was the first thing that came to mind when I heard about the searches--like, yeah, to do that would be profiling, and that rubs me the wrong way big time (like when they had the intern camps for Japanese Americans during WW II). But on the other hand, I think that stopping little old Upper East Side ladies and checking their purses and knitting bags is probably a waste of time. It's a real dilemma--esp. during such life and death times. I'd be interested in your take on it.

Oh also--there was this one young guy featured on my local station, NY 1--I think he was perhaps of Indian descent--who was stopped three times in one day, and started to feel like it might not be too "random." I think the guy was American, or had lived here a long time--no real accent, just a young student, I think from Columbia U. Yeah, I'd feel pretty bad if that happened to me. Shit, what a world!

There was another program on NY 1 tonight where they interviewed some Arab-American spokesmen and they pointed out that they feel Al Queda et. al. will soon figure out how to get around the whole thing by employing white or white-looking folks to carry their deadly cargo for them. They cited the examples of Richard Reid (your personal fave) and a few others, as well as instances where apparently devices, etc. were smuggled in via kids and babies.

Sometimes I'm amazed that downtown Manhattan isn't a wasteland. Instead, the real estate prices keep going through the roof, and on the Lower East Side there are more luxe hotels and apts going up every day. After 9/ll, I remember thinking that we probably wouldn't want to mention it at my job in our college promo brochures--that it would be taboo because it might scare prospective students (and their parents) away. But as it turns out, the admin. felt it was good to openly show how NYC had been steadfast and unintimidated--how the recovery from 9/ll demonstrated how NYC and America refused to be cowered by these maniacs. And as far as I know, the university's enrollment figs just continue to rise and rise.

But I also can't help but feel like we may be living on borrowed time. NYC is such an obvious target. Maybe it's a little safer at BG's place in the Bronx--what are they going to do, blow up the Zoo or the Botanical Gardens? (LOL).

Do you feel "safer" where you are? As far as Islamic terrorists, that is--not the domestic/neighborhood "terrorists" you've been dealing with--LOL.

BG often says you don't have to go halfway around the world to meet your enemy--your enemy is right next door, on the street, in the subway. He just says that when he's in one of his more paranoid states of mind--like when crackheads bang on his door at 5 am. None of that going on now, knock wood--but these days, after the London bombings, your enemy could very well be sitting next to you on the train.

I'll bet anything that Al Queda et. al. are rubbing their hands together in glee over this. After all, the dilemma over profiling is just the kind of thing that one could see as a great way to divide and conquer--to compromise American's jealously guarded and hard won gifts of individual freedom and civil liberties.

It is terrifying to think that a madman headed for the subways intent on wreaking havoc could be overlooked. It is also terrifying to contemplate the horrifying repercussions of racial profiling.

What do YOU think?