Conversation With My Crazy

Six years ago today my Crazy whispered, “Sobriety? Sure, Pal. Let’s spend the rest of our life as a tragic bore. It’s all crosswords and tea cups from here on out.”

I replied from my slumped fetal position under the hard florescent lights in a psychological-observation lazy-boy betwixt two other mad-hatters, “Have you seen where we are right now?”

“Exactly. You need to figure out how to get us out of here pronto. We’ve managed our way out of worse together. You’re good with the words, let’s make with the apologies and promises and see if we can’t be excused. Better yet, when they move us out of this room, let’s just make a run for it. Maybe with a little luck we can still make it to JFK to hop a flight to Austin and catch the Texas/Missouri game with your old man,”  my Crazy replied.

“They’ve got my wallet,” I said. “Not sure how we’d manage that.”

“You’re not using your head—think, Dude.”

“Well, I think my credit card information is saved on the JetBlue website site, so we could probably buy a ticket to Austin online.”

“Keep talkin’.”

“And, my passport is at home, so we’ve still got an ID. I’m not even sure what hospital this is though, we could be miles from the apartment.”

“We’ve walked longer distances, I’m sure of it.”

“True, but not in a hospital gown.”

“This is New York City, no one is going to think twice about us. And if we had to, we could hail a cab and ditch it at a light. You are a fast runner, Peter.”

“Yeah, I am pretty fast. Even barefoot. They’ve got my keys, but my landlord is probably home, he could let us in—hell, he might even give us a ride to JFK if I told him it was an emergency,” I suggested.

My Crazy conspired with the part of my brain that was responsible for doling out what little adrenaline my body was still capable of producing. “Alright then, we’ve got a plan. Let’s do this!”

“What do we do when get to Austin?” I asked. “We don’t have any money, and unless I can convince the staff here to let us leave peacefully so that we can have our things back, I’m not sure how we’d get any.”

“Lots of pawn shops on the way to JFK, my friend.” Crazy insinuated. “You are a man with one too many guitars, aren’t you?”

“Genius,” I said. “We’ll hock the Fender, it’s worth like four grand. I bet we can get at least a grand for it.”

“See, Peter? And here you thought we’d no options. Let’s get going.”

“We tried to run last night though, remember?” I warned.

“Not your best effort, that.” my Crazy scolded. “You’ve got more ‘oomph’ in you now. Let’s stand up, see if the door is still locked, and go from there.”

I stood up, shuffled across the room with my blackberry between my butt-cheeks, to test the door, keeping a watchful eye on the attendant through the observation room’s glass. Locked.

“It’s locked.” I informed.

“Thanks for the update, Chief.”

I gazed through the small window on the door, out at the long hallway we’d have to sprint through if somehow magically the lock just popped to open in the next few moments. “Well, the dude behind the glass already told us we had to wait for the doctor to show up. He seemed pretty perturbed the last time we bothered him. What now?”

“Remember the time we faked being ill to get out of that Bronx jail cell?” my Crazy reminded.

“Oh yeah, we did do that.”

“Same thing here, should be even easier, don’t you think?”

“It’s not really apples to apples, but yeah, I get what your saying.”

“Alright then, enough talk.”

“This all sounds like an awful lot of effort just to see a football game,” I said.

“QUIT FUCKIN’ STALLING!”

“We aren’t trying to escape to go to Austin, are we?”

My Crazy regained its composure, though its desperation was still evident in the trembles that punctuated its words, “Come on, Rosch. You know the answer to that.”

“This is about the three tallboys still sitting in the fridge from last night?”

“If you say so, Peter.”

“There’s always the chance we already drank those and we only think they are still there,” I warned.

“Well, we won’t know until we know.”

“True. Okay. When we get back to the apartment, we’ll drink those, get cleaned up, either have the landlord drive us to JFK or convince a cabby to take us to a pawnshop on the way to JFK, and then once we are in Austin we can call the banks and get new credit cards, bank cards, and figure the rest of this out—BUT, right after that, we are getting sober.”

“Absolutely. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” my Crazy assured. “I mean, we pull this escape off, we deserve a drink, but after that drink—after just enough to keep us sane on our way down to Texas—we’re done with it and on to the crossword puzzles and church choir or whatever it is you’ve decided our life is going to be.”

“Cool. Let’s eat the Froot Loops they set next to us while we were sleeping, and then we’ll head out. I’m starving.”

“I like this idea. I’m no doctor, but I suspect your stomach isn’t really going to be too psyched about its re-introduction to milk, sugar, red no. 5 and the rest of it. You puke that up and it’s win/win.”

“Agreed.”

 

Beware of The Bean

spiffCan’t say for sure how many more days our little lad will stay snuggly-safe within the womb of the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. You don’t have to be a paranoid freakazoid to wonder and worry what kind of world, life, and situations your current kids, newborns, or future spawn will endure, take-on, or even conquer. I half-jokingly said to Ariele the other day that I thought our boy would be the kind of genius who’d ultimately do some padded-white wall time. It didn’t go over well, even though I’d meant it as the highest compliment possible. “How so,” you say? I guess I’m a firm believer that (at times) if you are really in-tune with everything going on around us, the good and the bad, that you would go nuts, you’d have to go nuts, I’ve gone nuts and I am most assuredly no genius. “Oh sure, Rosch, you would think your kid was going to be gifted,” some Frenemy might be condemning. Yeah, I’ve got a big ego. Which is odd, because I’m also acutely aware of my simultaneous esteem issues. I’ve also put into the works the possibility that he could just end up being another constructive cog in the machine. A kind cog, hard worker, responsible, respectful, etc. but no more special than shoes. Though recently I heard the phrase, “You’re as cool as shoes.” Think about it, they actually are pretty f’in cool when you remember what they do. Either way, I can’t shut off the brain on this anymore than I can shut it off on any of it. I can meditate it out, run it off, carb-load it out of my system momentarily, but ultimately the endless spirals of what-ifs will always come crawling back. And so then, I got to thinking: maybe The Bean will lead the resistance against the robots or machines. Maybe he’ll be part of a larger group of people his age who actually change politics as usual. Maybe there’ll be no politics. Maybe he and his generation won’t even have to read an article about an NYC development with Rich/Poor entrances. One can hope. Will he write ads for a living? I doubt it. I’ve got a feeling computers are damn close to having the IQs and algorithms necessary to deliver marketing that isn’t too far removed from the shlock and drivel that inhabits a good deal of whatever space me and my cohorts can stick it in, on, and around. I’m not damning the fine-advertising, the kinds that inform and entertain (hopefully both), but if Amazon is working on programs that write books based off of collective-human narrative preferences, you can be sure shorter communications about the latest x, y, and z aren’t far behind. Like so many before me, I’m jumping the gun by twenty years of course. Who can say if he’ll be a rockstar, a writer, a fighter or a lover, or something not yet a thing? But, until he decides in some future unrealized reality on what to “be?” Well, I’m kind of vibe-ing on the notion that he might just become the guy whose decision or insight almost singlehandedly ends wars forever. I mean human wars obviously. After all, by then we’ve got to be taking on locust-like aliens hellbent on devouring what natural resources The Bean and his cohorts have managed to restore and protect, right?

Dead Bird Gets The BookWorm

cropped-level9paranoialogo.jpgIn the first few weeks after putting a book into the world, I’ll admit there is very little I won’t consider in the name of pushing my blather into the psyche of friends and strangers. I used the word “consider” because ultimately there are umpteen-million services (free or paid) that all claim to be the magic bullet you need to climb the charts. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m suspicious of most, as that part of the self-publishing world has become a repugnant place for the shysters who pray upon the desperate get-read-quick-get-rich-quick hoards. Like the paid programming infomercials of the ’90s that promised steady income via tiny classified ads, the internet is littered with Don Lapre style boasts about how to get read and reviewed fast.

If you aren’t reading this because you, like me, have managed to make it to even the fifth or sixth page of Google search results for things like, “blogs that write reviews for the self-published,” than you might be utterly put-off by the idea that the world is abundant with writers teeming at the gills to feed the review machine that Amazon has created. I won’t go into too much, if any, detail on how that all works, and some of its absurdities, because I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. Without them, I’d likely have one-hundred or more paperbacks in the trunk of my car that I’d long given up on hocking to local bookstores and co-workers. All you need to know is that for a new book, getting read and reviewed, mostly reviewed, feeds the machine. More reviews, higher the better, but any of it will eventually work your sweet words into the system that shovels suggestions to buyers at a better clip. Or so I’ve been told.

I returned from an early morning run yesterday, my brain spinning delightfully as is usually the case. Random bits of inspiration all vying for my attention, colliding with each other, often this is the moment where the most original of ideas are born. The pattern to my thinking at this time is far less structured, and the absurd often gets married to the logical. So it’s really no surprise that I hatched the ultimate plan of plans. Let’s call it the Stieg Larsson approach: basically, it became crystal-clear to me that, in fact, the best and easiest way to get But I Love You screaming up the charts, would be to be dead. Yes, yes—the book still has to be good for that plan to work. Trust me, my own assessment of the writing might be the only thing keeping me from seriously contemplating an alternative version of that plan that is far more attractive and egomaniacal: FAKE MY DEATH! Ah-Ha!

Now, I’ve no idea the lengths one must go to in order to successfully fake their demise in the most public of fashions, but I can assure you that it might be on par with the effort it takes to get people to part with the price of a cup of coffee to take a chance on your book. And, the best part of faking my death as opposed to actually dying (beside not being dead), is that I’d get to see the impact of those efforts as well. Would the news of my demise make a significant difference? Could I manage to log into one of the half-dozen or so cruel author-helper-sites that Amazon so dutifully puts into our hands to watch our babies flounder in real-time? Doubtful. And even if I did, from some internet cafe in the deepest regions of Columbia, I feel certain that my Amazon author-rank tracking graph would still leave me feeling utterly defeated. Hourly updates, seriously guys?

Truth is, I’ve no idea how to fake my death to begin with. The truthier-truth is, I won’t be Googling it to find out because I’m certain that the very act would bring black suits to my door quickly and put a white padded room into my future.

Oh, also, just between us, it’s interesting how much less I like poking fun about my own real-world ending now that I’m six or seven or eight weeks removed from having a son. So, you know, wood knocks and what not. After all, it’s just a book.

 

The Best Lie You Ever Told

I heard a while back that the average person tells three lies every ten minutes. When my friend told me the statistic, I was astonished. In fact, I wondered if she was lying just to help us boost stats for our project. We were relating it to strangers meeting strangers when dating or trying to land a date, and so it seemed more believable as a number in the setting of men and women trying to impress/attract/bed other men and women. It’s possible even the stat itself, which litters the internet, was fabricated just to get more clicks.

Nonetheless, for some time, it really had me thinking hard as I spoke, concerned about the validity of every word I put forward during a day. It took me out of the interactions I’d had with others, as I listened carefully to their words, trying to discern what might possibly be lies, mistruths, and minor-bendings-of-reality—some made in the service of advancing agendas, others made in the name of protecting the innocent, and the daily embellishments used to bolster a good tale or fill in the gaps when we can’t quite remember the whole story of a story we are inclined to modern-day campfire with our friends.

Like so many recent subjects bouncing around my head, I got to thinking about lying again as I speculated, hypothesized, “roll-played” in my head how I might address dishonesty with my future boy. As a child, I was notorious for my ridiculous fabrications. As a young adult I think I told my fair share, though I’d imagine it pales in comparison to the total told by much larger fish in this global pond. The phrase “Honesty is always the best policy” has stuck with me since the day some poster in some elementary school classroom introduced the notion. And, of course, now I agree. But I got to thinking in a horrible Carrie Bradshaw kind of way, “Is lying sometimes the best policy?”

Entertaining the thought of writing a book on lying. Non-fiction. More of a collection of stories from people, rather than a bunch of musings from my own head. I wonder how open people would be to discussing their lies. I think we’ve all told at least one or two. Big ones, little ones. Even if it was just to spare feelings or keep a child as a child for a while longer. If you have absolutely, never, ever, not in your whole life, told a lie—well, I’d certainly be interested in your story too. But what I’d really like to know, in a somehow anonymous way, is what lie a person told that had the biggest benefit to either them, a family member, a friend, or even the world I suppose. In other words, perhaps you told the single lie that saved the world from destruction many moons ago? Would you even know? Perhaps some minor fib you told had a butterfly effect, and without it, we’d have already gone into a The Road-like type of existence. (Never miss an opportunity to plug my fear of mass cannibalism).

Conversely, what if you only think the lie you once told has served you or whomever else well? By which I mean, you look at the reality you know that exists around that lie, it seems awesome because it is, but perhaps without the lie, the reality that would have spun forward without your fib might have been even more amazing. Or, what it someone else’s reality is a living hell all because of that lie you told?

I’ll give you an example: You told a lie in college to keep up with the path you were expected to take. The lie worked, you moved forward as had always been the plan. You graduated in a timely fashion and went on to get a job, and other jobs, climbed ladders and so forth. You can look at your life now, it’s pretty fucking perfect, you’ve no issues with it whatsoever, but… what if that tiny fib you told to stay on track cost you your chance at some other even more meaningful existence? Or, perhaps you were never meant to be in the spot you are now, your lie somehow pushed you into the fated spot of another, leaving them out in the figurative cold.

Maybe I’ll need to create a system of measurement in order to keep everyone’s judging on par with the rest, if anyone decided to participate at all. How many of us are ready to cop to the best lie we ever told?

Sing Sing for my Son

A quick-ish lesson in the train of thought that leads one man to decide that, yes, he is capable of serving hard time for his unborn son. The Mrs. and I went to see Transcendence this past weekend. If you haven’t seen it, I’m recommending you wait until it’s on one of modern day’s home viewing options. Save your thirty to forty bucks for the umpteenth remake of Godzilla. Not sure why that trailer has me hooked, but it does. Now then, the Johnny Depp flick has nothing to do with child rearing specifically, but even if you haven’t seen it, you can deduce that it does construct a story that dances around notions of what the future might hold for our civilization.

And so, if you are me, you are watching and thinking in the voice of a ninety year old man, “Hurumph, lots of changes comin’, yes sir, yes sir!”

You continue this conversation with yourself, recalling a brief back and forth with a parenting friend about the impossibilities of knowing exactly what technologies you’ll be disallowing your children to use in the near to not-so-far futures of their lives. And if you’d been reading about haptic suits and a life lived almost exclusively as an avatar online in a book like Ready Player One, you start wondering if your future son will even go outside at all. You start thinking about what you’ll ban, remembering that all pre-parents had similar conversations about video games, cellphones, and the lot, only to ultimately be confronted with newer things you couldn’t have fathomed that come along with the pleas of, “But so-and-so-friend’s parents let he or she have a blankity-blank already, come on, I’m eight or nine or ten or five!”

You move forward, remembering that because you only intend on having the one that it’s important to put him into social situations with other babies, children, and grow-ups. You don’t want him to be a shut-in. Suddenly, all thought deviates to an entirely different possibility, “No way my kid is going to be living in a haptic suit, he’ll be a chip off the ol’ block. Very charming, a real go getter. Devilishly handsome too.” You condemn yourself momentarily for letting your ego turn your child into the inwardly projected image of yourself. Somehow, age fourteen comes into play. You wonder how you’ll convince him to have protected sex if he has sex at all. You didn’t have sex at fourteen, but your mind tends to bolster the prediction with its vague recollection of scattered news mentions of promiscuity occurring at younger and younger ages.

“I hope he’ll be smart enough to not take the risk so young,” you say, but before you can even finish the thought you’ve already scripted a scenario in which this young-man-about-town of yours has dazzled the pants off of some young lady at age fourteen. You change the age to fifteen to feel better about yourself. Next thing you know she’s pregnant. He didn’t listen. You think about how you’d handle that situation, and then with no invitation to the thought party whatsoever, the thought, “What if he feels trapped? Kills her and hides the body?” pops into your head. You know almost certainly that this won’t happen, but even as you watch Johnny Depp “die” (oops, Spoiler Alert) on a table in front of you, you can’t help but shake the possible reality that you’ll be faced with that difficult decision of either turning your pride-and-joy in to the authorities, helping him live a life on the lam, or figuring out a way to take the fall for the atrocity he has committed.

“I’d turn that lil’ shit-head in,” you reassure yourself, even as you begin to accept what your remaining years look like in the slammer. “It’d have been an act committed under intense duress. My son is a good boy. He’s a good boy. It won’t happen again,” you repeat to yourself. “It was my fault. I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the consequences of the birds and the bees. This is how it has to be.” And so there, under the darkness that accompanies the screening of a so-so film that isn’t holding your attention, you silently proclaim, “It’s all good. I can do the time.”

Ga-Ga-Voo-Doo

It's Alive (B&W)

Will our baby be smart? Will our baby be handsome? Will he be healthy? Will he try to kill me?

Yes, I’ve done thunk it. The baby inside my wife’s belly could kill me. Could kill you. Could try to kill us all. 

If you are my age, give or take a year or two, there’s a good chance that you too spent some parts of your summers between the grades of elementary school and junior high watching a few things that maybe your prepubescent brain wasn’t quite ready to reasonably consume on what used to pass for HBO, Showtime, and The Movie Channel. I’m not talking about the soft-core porn, aka what I used to refer to as “The Happy Music Movies,” though I’m sure plenty of us only accidentally managed to view some of that as well. I’ve referenced some of the films from those salad days of my youth in previous posts. Clockwork Orange, Motel Hell, The Tin Drum, just to name a few. Many of my most disturbing daydreams are certainly the direct result of those three specifically. I’m fascinated by the idea that a handful of prophetic, polarizing, and/or horror films seen at a too-soon-age might have formed long lasting sinister effects on my gray matter.

It’s Alive was released in 1974, but must have been in heavy rotation a decade or so later for me to have seen it. If you were to study up on the film, you might decide that there is some credible subtext to this B horror film regarding the rights of the unborn, some segment of society’s ethical implications revolving around the use of fertility drugs, and possibly even abortion itself. All of that might be a stretch, but I’ve seen a few things suggesting as much on the internet. For me though, it was a simple story about a horrible demon baby that was just cute enough for you to not root against completely as it tore through the city on an unintentionally murderous rampage. “The child is just frightened,” Lenore Davis (the mother) was fond of saying throughout the film—the baby monster would coo just enough in between its blood curdling screams to keep you from rooting for it to be captured and killed. At least I remember wanting it to live despite all of the horrible atrocities it had committed.

I imagine far more people have seen Alien than It’s Alive, and so I’m guessing a far more common and utterly disturbing vision had when observing your baby momma’s belly is the infamous emergence of the true star of that futuristic film. I ping-pong between the two narratives, though thankfully not on a daily basis.

Spoiler Alert: The fanged little nipper from It’s Alive didn’t kill its Pops. In fact, by the end, and despite Frank’s (the father) original intention of killing it, their bond was pretty strong. The majority of this post has been a soft-set-up for the real question that’s been on my mind. Maybe it’s too dark a suggestion to make on a blog that was original born to playfully mock my madness and whet the appetites of what I’d hoped would be a growing readership patiently waiting for new musings in the form of novels—but has it ever occurred to you that once you commit to brining a new life into the world, that it’s possible—I’m not saying probable—but possible that the added being may very well be the one that takes you out of this physical realm? I’ve not bothered to look up the odds, though foggy memories of statistical analysis done against murder does seem to conjure up some claim that a good many of them are perpetrated against the victim by some one they knew.

As macabre as it may be, it seems to this odd duck that along with what I’m guessing are the fairly typical concerns of a would-be parent, that a sort of peaceful acceptance of the possibility of your own demise by its hands is about the only sane way to move forward.

 

 

BlackBerry Between the ButtCheeks

Five years ago today, I awoke to find myself in what had basically become my home away from home–the psych ward in yet another New York City hospital. I lay shivering in the fetal position on top of an over-sized Lazy Boy recliner coated in plastic wearing nothing but my skivvies, suicide socks, and a hospital issue gown. As my body shifted in its state of semi-consciousness, I realized there was something stuffed in my drawers. “Ahh, my BlackBerry.” I’d outsmarted yet another intake team, and managed to sneak my cellular salvation into the observation room. “I’ll have myself out of here in no time,” I thought.

I pushed myself off of the chair gently in order to make sure the device didn’t find its way to the floor with a crash that would most certainly alert the gentleman seated on the other side of the plexiglass window to my possession of it. Success! The phone stayed neatly snug between the thin cotton layer of my over-worn Hanes and my lilly white cheeks. I shuffled like a crippled sloth, past the third of three occupants sharing the room with me that morning, and into the attached bathroom without making anyone the wiser.

Surprisingly, that restroom had a door you could shut for privacy. And once I’d closed it, I reached into my underwear to retrieve the phone so that I could go about the business of texting friends and family with a familiar refrain: “I need help, but I don’t need to be in this hospital.” Followed by what I’m sure would have been desperate digital pleas to my locals to come and pick my sorry ass up. I held the BlackBerry up, in, and around every square inch of that bathroom–no luck though–like a stranded honeymooner desperately fighting their way out of The Grand Canyon, I was teased with the occasional single bar indicating that just enough reception would soon be mine. And then, the track ball popped out of the phone and into the toilet itself. Did I fish it out? Hell yes. Did it matter? Not one bit.

Later in the day I would attempt for the third time in as many years to convince the doctor and or shrink that I had no business being there–that I’d simply had too much to drink the night before and that my friends mistook my mention of committing suicide as the truth. Had I been sitting on the floor of my apartment with a knife, pushing it into my wrist to test out the idea? My memory seems to suggest that was the case. Either way–I had no intention of staying put and the way out was simple. Twice before I’d managed to get myself out two Manhattan psych wards, my spiel was well rehearsed, and so I sat shivery in wait for my opportunity to speak to the next city rube who’d decide to allow a mad man back out onto the streets in order to make room for the real head cases.

I’ll never remember the doctor’s name, and while my brain can sometimes reconstruct hints of his thick accent, I’d only be guessing when I say that I believe he was from some part of Africa. He was kind, patient, and relentless. No amount of bullshit I shoveled his way could penetrate his firm belief that I was in need of help, and despite what seemed like an hour’s worth of cleverly constructed pleas made by me, he finished our meeting by simply stating, “You aren’t going anywhere.” I had finally been defeated. Bested by a stranger who didn’t care about the threats I’d made of lawsuits, powerful friends–who ignored the typical city protocol of making a quick assessment and just sending another citizen back out into the world to fend for himself.

24 hours later, you’d have found me on a flight from NYC to SF in order to attend my second rehab. And while my successful sobriety is the complex creation of many many things, to this day I hold that stranger who looked me in the eyes and said, “I believe you are lying” in very high regard.

And yes, when he was finished, I did go right back to the bathroom and try to put that little poo-pee-covered track ball back into my phone in order to find the signal that had previously eluded me.