Just After Dawn

Posted on April 22, 2017 in Geology Recent Writing Exercises

square954We had gone on one of those boats that take you to where the lava flows and drips into the sea, a beautiful experience that left me with memories of the orange and yellow streams, floating rocks, and gas that made me barf. On the way back, we headed into the rising sun. Someone started talking about fishing. “You know,” I said, “I once caught a shark on light line. Eight pound test.” Everyone turned to marvel. I held my hands about a foot apart. “It was only this long, but it was a shark. The passengers burst out in laughter. I smiled then photographed the startling red of the sun erupting in the East.

Events Before My First Episode

Posted on April 21, 2017 in ADD Childhood Depression Writing/Darkness

square953I was a tangerine. Sometimes I was a grapefruit. Actually, I was a little boy, living in the summer between first and second grades. That segment of time is blank for me. I can tell you what happened — two of my cousins came to live with us — but that is a fact not a memory. I had to move to my brother’s bedroom so the two girls could have mine. Their names were Ann and Jennifer. My mother fixated on Ann. She kept that focus to the end of her life. That is when I began to feel her resentment towards me for being a boy. That began after they left, but I felt the depression creeping in that Fall while I was in school. The first tears happened that September and the kids, my parents, my brother, and the nun who taught me mocked me. They never went away. Neither did the depression which came with the seasons. The first signs of the heaviness in my brow and the resignation of my body showed themselves. The first difficult weeks of my ADD arrived that same year when I could not focus during arithmetic lessons. My attention fluttered to other subjects. Sister Annette put me next to a bookcase. I read every book which she talked about seas of numbers. I became unpeeled and oblivious.


An Insulting Question for Tall People

Posted on March 27, 2017 in Clueless Oafs Encounters Reflections

square952I walk into a room, shake the hand of the interviewer, and take my seat. First question out of his mouth: “Did you play basketball?” I have asked other tall men if they hear the question and they say yes. It is just as annoying with them as it is to me. But how to answer it?

No, I can hear myself say. But — I add mercifully — that does not mean that I don’t know how to be a team member. I learned this in high school when I was part of the speech and debate team. I learned this when I took part in club projects that required me to follow a leader and carry out instructions. I learned this in my first jobs as a fry cook and a grill cook, doing my part to get the meal out to the customer. As an administrator, I did my part to create information that was used by the companies to make decisions about employment, ordering supplies, and assignment of jobs to machinery stations. Then as a club officer, I worked to create an environment where members could thrive.

There is a darker enquiry behind this: are you a tall drink of water without the intelligence to do a job? I think my record speaks for itself: I went to the tenth best college in America according to Forbes Magazine. I got there based on my high school performance, SAT scores, and nonsports extracurricular activities. I got through it with a B average. Since then, I have engaged myself in learning as I could afford it: sometimes books, sometimes courses. My mind has been active since the day I tossed off my black cap and gown.

This is what tall men and women endure from those of average height. We may have the minds, but not their respect. That contempt is, for some, automatic.

One thing I know is that if I hear the basketball question at an interview, my interest in working for that boss declines geometrically. It shows me that he is shallowly judgemental and superficial about his judgements. Can I tell him what I think and get hired? I doubt it. But it may educate him.


Beyond my diagnosis – A Speech at Toastmasters

Posted on March 2, 2017 in Agitation Mixed States Suicide

This is a speech that I gave for our club’s International Speech Contest. I am afraid that it did not come out as neat as this text — about two thirds of the way through I lost track of where I was. But I came in second nontheless.

square951My rage was volcanic; my despair, oceanic in its depth. I texted my last will and testament to my wife, then found a log in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park where I could sit and map out the best way to cut my wrists. That was the whole plan. That is how I decided to end the pain. Alone.

But then my cell phone rang. I picked it up. It was my psychiatrist. She asked “Are you all right?” I let her talk me into going to South Coast Medical Center. I agreed to put my mind – my brain – in a place where my opinions about its wellness could be measured against the opinions of trained outsiders.

First thing I did when I got there was demand my diabetes medications. The nurses stared at me, then made some notes that I can only presume mentioned the fact that I had almost carried out a suicide and now wanted drugs that would keep my pancreas healthy for an indefinite length of time. The next day I met my in-patient psychiatrist. He leafed through my charts, then looked up at me with tired, kind eyes and said “Has anyone ever told you that you were bipolar?”

This was when my recovery began. I finally received the right diagnosis. But to understand what happened next, let me share with you a concept out of medical anthropology and biopsychosocial psychology, that of the disease versus the illness.

Now I have a disease – it is called bipolar disorder. My brain is compromised. It’s something that I handle through medication. Around this kernel are other things like the anxiety I feel when I am in episode, the bad habits I follow as a way of coping. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also the effect that my disease and my handling of it has on my wife, on my friends, and my extended family. How my culture sees that disease, especially in negative sense of “stigma”. All of that plus the actual disease is my illness.

The first thing I had to learn – the thing that anyone with half a resolve to overcome bipolar disorder has to learn – was that while there are parts of having this illness that only I could fix, there are many more parts that I needed to get help to fix. I had to turn to others if I was to muddle my way through.

One day, I decided to go to a support group. I was scared to death. Two women got into a fight! Then I looked around the room, took a deep breath, and said to myself “Everyone here is mentally ill. Including me.” I listened and I not only heard my story, but I heard of better ways to cope. I opened my mind to being helped by others, help that went beyond my secretive appointments with my psychiatrist and my therapist. Eventually I reached beyond the support group and participated, once more, in the world.

It is the great lie of our time that we can do it all by ourselves, that we just unlock our hidden potential and become super humans. I know of no one in my experience – and you can’t name anyone – who has gotten where they are without help from others. It was the nature of my illness, in part, to believe that I did not need other people, that it was in my power to become a god.

In psychiatry, that is called grandiosity. Eventually it leads to depression. My recovery depended on letting go of that delusion as soon as my medication and insight allowed. To get beyond my diagnosis, I had to trust others.

And isn’t that what Toastmasters is all about? Yes, we put in the work to become better speakers by practicing in front of the mirror, but we come here every week to get beyond that poor, silly diagnosis of glossophobia – fear of public speaking. We come here to see our story play out before an audience. We come here to gain insight from others about our affliction and how we can overcome it. We come here to share our experience to help others. That is how we succeed. Together.

I could not control my symptoms, overcome my anxiety for public speaking, or become a Mensch – a better human being – without engaging in a grand contract between me and the world. You are part of that world. I am part of yours. Together let us flourish.


Keen Ocelot

Posted on February 17, 2017 in Originality & Creativity Poems

I cut my mixmasters and all the computer hears mouse;
I screech my shrews and all is howl again.
(I storm I walk you up inside my harlot.)

The penises go running out in turbulent and grim,
And hard uterus chomps in:
I chew my aardvark and all the hamster imagines treason.

I heaved that you lofted me into hole
And trick me faint, bleated me quite hollow.
(I storm I walk you up inside my harlot.)

skyscraper manages from the house fire, cell phone’s pools screw:
sandpaper bar and menagerie’s bolt:
I chew my aardvark and all the hamsters imagine treason.

I sandwiched you’d sniff the way you seal,
But I drift rough and I drum your pancreas.
(I storm I walk you up inside my harlot.)

I should have pacifisted a nail instead;
At least when finger phrases they photograph back again.
I chew my aardvark and all the hamsters imagine treason.

(I storm I walk you up inside my harlot.)

– Joel & Sylvia Plath

Create Your Own Madlib on LanguageIsAVirus.com


Write about saying goodbye

Posted on February 9, 2017 in Prose Arcana Relationships Writing/Darkness

square950I never said goodbye to her, never broke the connection properly. We had one last difficult conversation and that was it. She slammed the phone down as a screw you and that was it. I didn’t want her to marry that German. As far as I know, she did. I thought there was something special, something divinely sanctioned because we met in the Sistine Chapel. Shouldn’t that have been a kind of imprimatur? But time apart worked its fell magic on the little pieces of a relationship that we had. Damn Time, damn Love. I had fallen into a funk and wasn’t able to act properly.


Where the road leads

Posted on February 6, 2017 in Prose Arcana Travel Writing/Darkness

square949I love to travel, especially to drive. The Miles. That is my name for it, for the black asphalt leading on and on, the yellow or white lines down the middle, and the sense of euphoric freedom even though I am constrained to the limits of the highway. But I can stop at any time to walk a bit in the sagebrush or a forest or a prairie to enjoy the little things one finds at one’s feet: new grass, a few yellow wildflowers, a lizard, or a pretty agate worth picking up and pocketing. A road is an adventure, the reason why the journey exhilarates me so much. I love arriving, but I love going, too.


National Delurking Day

Posted on January 14, 2017 in Festivals Site News Web Sites

square948Today is National Delurking Day. This is an invitation to all those who give a quick scan to blogs but never comment to break the silence and let mystified and unpraised bloggers such as myself know that you are here. Not on our Facebook pages where likes are cheap, not on Twitter, not with the like and dislike buttons at the top of this article, but in the comments.

I am supposed to have hundreds of hits every time I post an article, but I rarely hear from my readers. Are you bored? Offended? Fascinated? Blown away? Is there something you want me to write about? Ring a bell, blow a horn, and comment!

Delurkers delurk!



Posted on January 11, 2017 in Dreams

square947My niece (I won’t say which one because I think my mind just pulled one of them out of a fold in my brain) tells me that she is divorcing me. I take this very hard and move to the streets because I think the whole family is against me. A friend of mine — who is also homeless — announces that she is going to move to the mountains. I prepare to follow her. The niece apologizes and begs me to come back to the family, but I am set in my ways and remain one of the homeless.


After the Rain Stopped

Posted on January 10, 2017 in Hope and Joy Weather Writing Exercises

square946I looked up into the winter sky — rain is our snow here — and saw Vega, alone in the darkness like a tiny hole someone had pierced with a pin to let the light through a piece of black satin. I stared at it, then made out filaments of cloud portending the next storm, which was forecast for just a few hours hence. After this rain, I knew there would be other rain, other storms. A few hours later, after I had come home, Vega had disappeared behind a new bank of clouds. I had lost my friend in the night. She was gone. Later I heard the finger taps of the next front on our skylight. Rain led to rain. We found peace together, the hidden firmament, the weather, and me.


He was the kind of man who….

Posted on January 9, 2017 in Abuse Adolescence Childhood PTSD Relationships Writing Exercises

square945lost his temper and then worried that I sometimes exploded in return. It was uneven. He wanted to be honored as a father — he quoted the commandment incessantly as if he were a river in flood. Not for a moment did he consider the example he set by his violence towards his children or the arguments he had with his wife. The war had warped him, perhaps — he was one of only three survivors of his company of one hundred men to survive the [[Battle of San Pietro]] — but there was a template he followed laid out, I was told, by his father. My heritage is filled with mysteries — why in a family filled with nice gentlemen was my grandfather so mean? My father was the defender of his brother and sister: he knew to blunt the sword of abuse, so why was he so cruel to us?

Whenever I speak of the terrors of my childhood, my mother used to lay the entire blame on him. This was not fair. She contributed as much if not more. He also had his moments of kindness.

There are things that I wish to say that I am not ready to share. If I can get them down in a journal, I will be sure to post them here.

A movie by John Huston about the Battle of San Pietro.


The person I most admire

Posted on January 2, 2017 in Recent Silicon Valley

square944I’ve lost him. The whole family has lost him. One time at a wedding, someone was filming us. I said to the camera: “Denos is one of those disgusting people who everyone loves and, dammit, so do I!” What he had survived! Nazi occupation during World War II was an early one. Then at the end of his life, multiple myeloma, a painful bone cancer. He kept a smile on his face until shortly before the end when he told his daughters “I an not feeling very well.” When I was struggling with depression, he took me in as his son because he knew I had lost my father. Denos, you were proud of me or so you said. Thank you for living.

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