Green Grows

Two months into the season, and this is the springiest spring I can recall. Six months of especially wet fall and winter weather, although mild temperatures and no spectacular flooding or calamitous mudslides that I can think of, and now this: Wet and dry, a nice alternating pattern that, when looked at carefully, appears very spring-like. Things seem to be working, in other words.

This intermittency has made yard work actually sort of a pleasure this year. Of course, things are generally more pleasurable at the moment, having corrected (I assume) whatever chemical imbalance or deficiency I was inadvertently living with, having apparently decided that food was not all that important. Anyway. Talked enough about that. It’s much better.

So much better, in fact, that faced with a Saturday, with no alarms ringing anywhere in the house, I slept in. This is new; it used to be that once I woke, regardless of when or how long I’d been asleep, I was up. It’s been that way for years, but that was then and this is unconsciousness. I mean, it was almost 11 hours. I did a lot of physical labor and maybe it was that, or this sniffling and coughing that may be nothing or may be something else, but I’m not staying in bed because I want to avoid facing the world. I’m fine with the world these days. I just sleep more, or at least on some days.

And that’s good, I would say. But we were talking grass.

After one last mowing of the yard in November or early December, the battery in my electric lawnmower ran down, so I skipped a last pass over the back yard. Not a big deal.

But then February came, and March, and that battery just wouldn’t charge. I bought a new charger, which was inexpensive, and it did seem that the old one wasn’t working and this one was, but the charge wouldn’t hold and I got 20 minutes or so of stray power before kaput.

The battery is the thing, of course. And at over $300 for a new one, which had to be ordered from God knows where, with helpful but a little distant customer service, I just went and bought a new mower instead, for less than the price of the battery. It lasts less, but recharges in a couple of hours. I could probably do the entire lawn on one charge if it was just maintenance, or else do the front one day and the back the other. Not a problem.

Except during all this dilly-dallying about whether or not to buy a new battery or a new lawnmower, the grass still grew. Once I was fully equipped, the front wasn’t that big of a deal: A few passes over several days, bag, then mulch, then bag, etc., and we’re fine.

The back is where I’ve been wrestling, with one patch of grass at knee height by the time I started trying to attack it. This shouldn’t be possible, but with a combination of a line trimmer, occasionally some hedge trimmers (I was trying a lot of ideas), and just slow and steady, little bit at a time, helped by the weather to make it easier to do in sections, I got the rest of it yesterday. Not that it’s pretty, and there’s raking and more mowing and bagging, etc., still in store, but there’s a sense of accomplishment and some serious sleep at the end. I’ll take it.

None of this is important, except aesthetically. What’s important is I’m moving.


Otherwise, western Washington seems to be in good shape. Reservoirs are full, snowpack was normal, the lingering El Nino should give us plenty of warmth and sunshine this summer before we transition into another cycle, this one El Nina. And none of the weird political battles that seem to be going on in other parts of the country, radical legislatures and all sorts of alarm over bathrooms, are anywhere near.

Washington is sending the majority of its Democratic delegates as Bernie Sanders supporters, but other than the usual rallies and discussions, it all seems fairly calm. Bernie will come around, try to push the party left, and fight the Trumping of America. Hillary Clinton has been here before, in the equally rancorous nomination battle in 2008 (if you read back, particularly the comments, you’ll see the same sort of rhetoric; it’s kind of amazing). It’ll be OK, since the Democrats are definitely feeling Gryffindor facing off against Slytherin.

And there are plenty of Trump folks here, either enthusiastic or falling into line, but this is a done deal. Washington goes blue; no one will spend a lot of time here, from either campaign. That’s fine, too.

Me, I’m not so sure. Lots of resumes out there, no bites. And I’m applying for simple, clerical jobs, things I can do without thinking, just to bring in some money over the summer. I could do those jobs, although I admit to worrying about what kind of person I’d become. Maybe better. Maybe not. Not really a choice at this point.

For the time being, which I’m calling this rainy weekend, I’m considering my options open. I may watch the radar and attack some blackberry brambles. I might finally dig up a few areas of my lawn that need grass like they need…OK. They don’t need grass. None of this needs to be grass. Grass is just the default. This may be the year I scale that grass down to manageable, with bark and gravel and flower beds.

Or I’ll take the opportunity to deep clean the house as I can, mop and dust and do all those things that never seem appealing but won’t get done unless I do them.

And, again, the point is to keep moving. Sleep, check. Mood, check. Moving? Keep it up.

And keep my eyes on the prize. For a Muggle.


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Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

I don’t really understand feng shui, although the concept seems sound, even removed from the mystical and spiritual baggage. This is why we clean our kitchens. For example.

But yeah. I can see how rearranging things in a certain order can create a sense of serenity in a room that you hang out in a lot. It’s not a complicated idea.

So yesterday I took this room apart and put it together in a slightly different way. Moved my desk from one side to the other. TV the same. Shoved the stationary bike against a wall, easy enough to slide out should I desire to pound the virtual pavement.

And dusted and swept, and all that. It seems to make a difference. Maybe it’s just new. I do spend a lot of time in here, so that’s probably it. It’s just new.

New is the new old here, if that hasn’t been clear.


I feel sort of cavalier and maybe a little dense when I write about this, since most of us (including me, of course) have battled weight problems. I just got into a weird situation, with (I assume) the residual of most of my entire adult life spent eyeing the scale, fighting off tendencies. And then it zoomed up into the stratosphere, not helped at all by drinking a bunch of fermented calories, and then managed once I stopped drinking and had inspiration to change my life. You can’t just drum up that motivation; you might need some fear, and from my perspective optimism helps quite a bit.

But that was me and this is you, so I’m a little embarrassed about having a problem – especially given my history of obesity – keeping my weight at a healthy level. Meaning up.

I’d note, though, that this isn’t about weight, really. I can be healthy at 167 pounds, but also at 157 pounds. It’s about nutrition, and of course depression and lethargy and other things. Which will happen.

Water under the bridge. I’m much better, and I’m hoping this will look like a blip eventually, just a hiccup of disordered eating that was corrected.

I want to point out a couple of things, which are a little esoteric and probably not of interest to you, just to me, but here goes.

Being a tad anal retentive, or at least a little obsessive about this sort of things, what I consider my weight is the lowest it can be. That is, first thing in the morning, no clothes (maybe boxers if it’s chilly), fasting. What a scale might say at 2pm, for example, has so little to do with this that I’ve become desensitized. Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of moving all this furniture, I stepped on the scale, fully clothed, having eaten quite a bit throughout the day, and with shoes on, and it said 173 pounds. This morning it said 164, and really the dry weight is around 161-1/2. One day of eating light will get me back there. I could do it tomorrow.

A lot of this has to do with just eating more, which means more liquid in my body, along with food, at any given time. So I’m guessing I routinely carry three pounds of temporary stuff in my body.

None of this is important except to note that as the scale goes up, my actual weight goes up slower. But it goes up.

The second thing is, surprise surprise, technology has really helped. My tracking app (MyFitnessPal; been using it for five years) has improved dramatically, and now I can scan a lot of bar codes quickly and get all the nutritional information loaded immediately. If it’s a whole food, like a banana or chicken thigh or whatever, I just look up the numbers and add them manually, and then I can use that from now on. My diet is varied but not all that varied.

So I can see what I’m doing. If you’re interested in this subject, you may know about macronutrients, which just means the big three: Protein, fat, and carbohydrates. There’s an eating philosophy that aims to keep these three at steady percentages of your diet. If you want to eat 2000 calories, you figure out what percentage of each of these you’d like to get. Since it roughly works out to 4 calories per gram of protein and carbs, and 8 calories per gram of fat, you could construct a plan in any way you like.

Me, I’d prefer to keep the carbs – which is always going to involve sugar – at approximately 100 grams, or 400 calories, or 20% of my intake, then split the remainder between protein and fat. This is where the app helps. This is where my preferences do not, so much.

I mean, it’s hard to eat enough without delving into sugar. But at least it gives me something to aim for.


And in the big picture, as long as I recharge my batteries and get back on track, none of this matters. Happiness does, and joy, and peace. It’s hard to achieve when we live in a world with mirrors, but reflections are backwards anyway. I prefer forward. That’s where I’m looking, anyway.

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Six Weeks

I went in for my follow-up appointment with the doctor yesterday, six weeks to the day following The Big One. I’d been rehearsing for a while.

It’s just that my lines kept changing. As every week passed, and I noted something new, or transformed, or alarming, or positive, the script reflected it.

Until yesterday, and who knows? I forgot to set an alarm, so when my wife woke me at 6:15 I was dead to the world, as I usually am these days. Sound asleep, but not deeply, or not deep enough so that I lacked the energy, apparently, to do what I did.

Which was to groan, roll out of bed quickly, take a shower, get dressed, walk to the bus stop, get on a bus, and arrive right on time at the clinic.

This is unlike me, even given the necessity. I would have least been dragging my sorry butt to the bus stop, but no. So there’s that.

And maybe that sent my careful script out the window, but the truth is everything is fine, good, better. My weight was up 7 pounds, and I told her how weird that was, and how my body image, pretty objective as the weight went down (I got nervous at my reflection, but hoped the scrawny guy I saw was just my imagination; it wasn’t) but disoriented as it went up. It was as if alarm bells were ringing a fat alert, even if I weighed something I would have considered the bottom rung of normal.

It wasn’t until this week, in fact, that it all settled down, and I saw the correlation between the scale and the mirror. Whew. I understand pretty clearly now the twisted perspective that our brains can force on us, or some of us, all of it fed by the culture and the era. We’re all supposed to be thin; you can’t be too thin. And so on.

I just answered questions, then, and kept it short. It was all good news anyway. The medication has some antihistamine-y effects, with dry nasal passages, throat, and mouth, but this is really minor, usually at night, and only occasionally produces a slight cough when things get too scratchy. A glass of water easily takes care of it.

And I explained to her a couple of things, mostly that I no longer was interested in poring over my lab reports, trying to figure out a diagnosis. Absolutely no interest in that anymore, to which she nodded.

“Because that’s my job,” she said, gently. It sure is.

And I explained to her my feeling that to an alcoholic, especially one who watches his behavior like a hawk, the act of keeping meticulous track of how much I was eating while I was eating way too little to sustain myself was not a warning sign of compulsive behavior. It shot right past the warning. It was a relapse.

And it was, I think. It’s a little esoteric to get into the weeds here, but I think you get it. For whatever reason, I slipped. I didn’t drink, and have absolutely no desire or intention or even thoughts about that; absolutely. But anyone versed in conventional recovery philosophy, particularly 12-step philosophy, knows that alcohol was only a symptom. I just had another symptom.

But so much better now. Enough so that my doctor postponed further tests, opting for watchful waiting. Since I have a high deductible and would be paying out of pocket for any further testing, which is not enormously expensive but it’s real money, I’m happy to watch and wait.


My current column is here, rambling as always but familiar territory for those of you who read this blog. Keep on walking.


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On This Day

CaptureI also just realized that 2007 is the version of Word I own. And I know why: In the spring of 2009, when I was in Boston preparing to drive with Beth to Santa Fe, my laptop refused to tether to what passed for my cell phone in those days. Between me and the Verizon people, we finally came to the conclusion that there was something corrupted somewhere, and the easiest solution was to restore the computer to its original (factory) condition and start over. And that worked, and in those pre-cloud days I carried around an external drive with my back-ups, so restoring files wasn’t a problem.

Applications were something else. The copy of Word I’d been using had come from somewhere, a client or friend, and I needed Word, so I bought Word 2007. And I’ve been carrying it ever since, with no reason I can see to update at this moment.


How funny, then. I spent some time yesterday dancing around sentence structure until I figured out what was on my mind – in terms of writing a column – and wrote about that. And it bounced off of Facebook’s On This Day feature, which seems to be very popular.

At the same time, the story was breaking that a former Facebook “employee” (it could have been a contractor) anonymously claimed that there were actual people and not lines of code picking the news stories that flick through our feeds, and that conservative viewpoints were suppressed.

I could have added some more quotes up there. There are a lot of questions about this, but the biggest one seems to be: You get your news from Facebook?

Maybe so. I get it. Facebook’s apparent desire to be one-stop shopping for everything is seductive in a busy world, although it wasn’t that way in 2007. In 2007, in fact, Facebook was boring, or it was to me. The newsfeed wasn’t prominent, or maybe even there. Our posts had to be written in the third person (we were given the lead-in of Chuck Sigars is and were supposed to complete the sentence. I guess) and there were no pictures or links or videos or anything. Blogging was a lot more fun, and it wasn’t until that 2009 trip and the upcoming wedding that I remember Facebook becoming something closer to what it is now.

I don’t know what it is now. By the way.


We complain about the algorithm. Most of us don’t know what an algorithm is, and none of us know what this one is. We still complain.

There are tricks, and tweaks. I tried some of these but lost interest. I decided to hack my life instead. There was just too much noise, and I was adding to it. I put on headphones. I shut up. It’s been fascinating.

First, let’s just say that I know a thing or two about changing habits. Let’s just say.

Let’s also stipulate that I’m as engaged with, and dependent upon, our culture and technology as much as anyone. I panic easily, and usually when I don’t know where my phone is. It’s pathetic.

Guilty, then, of living in the 21st century, with its touch screens and always on mentality, with an unrepentant attraction to the bright and shiny. I’ve been swept away by the current and deposited on George Jetson’s treadmill. How do you stop this crazy thing?

I dunno. I just stopped.

For a week or so before I went dark, I ruthlessly hid any future posts from anyone who brought up politics or inspired controversy, or was so gullible and dumb about believing anything they read (apparently) that I felt embarrassed for them.

Not that this was their problem. I was the one who was looking for a fight. I was not in a good place, which helped this process immensely; much better now. Still, I’m surprised at how easy it was to kick the voyeur habit.

You write a post about your cat. Approximately a third of your 270 friends see it, half read it, nine click “like.” That’s your Facebook at work for you.

I just cut out the middle man. Who was also me, as it turned out.

I’ll probably see your cat post. If you put up pictures of your kids or grandchildren or garden or tool shed or a great sunset, I’ll see that, too. Or that’s what I see now, anyway. It’s fine.

It is, too. This is coming from a guy who’s spent the past six weeks trying to gain weight, which feels so counterculture and incorrect and un-American. Backing away from Facebook is nothing, trust me. If you’re feeling the same way, that it’s just too noisy and provocative, and you want to turn away but don’t know how that will go, I think you’ll be surprised. You don’t have to know everything about everyone, and you probably don’t want to.

And keep those cat pictures coming. They’re starting to grow on me.

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Eyes Wide Open

I’ve become what we used to call a lurker, although that sounds old-fashioned now and certainly more understandable behavior at any rate; there’s too much information to process now, from too many sources. Who has time to comment or acknowledge?

I’m referring to Facebook mostly, which has become an entirely different creature for me since I changed my ways. Scanning my newsfeed these days, it seems to have been curated by a random-number generator. I see innocuous posts from people I never see posts from, along with a few regulars. I post there on my author page, but nothing in particular. There’s nothing in particular I want to post there, I mean.

I thought maybe I’d spend more time on Twitter, but then I remembered. Twitter. Ugh.

That said, I do check it a couple of times a day, just to see what the few famous people I follow are up to, and now we have something to talk about.

Tom Hanks, who tweets the way he does everything else (self deprecating, humorous, clean and family friendly; also sort of odd), posted about watching the first episode of the new season of Maron, Marc Maron’s IFC (you can look it up) show based very loosely on himself. It got looser last season, and I thought they were making a mistake, and maybe they still are, but Hanks liked it and apparently liked an actor who played Maron’s young adversary:


And I had a Twitter mystery to solve, although I’m pretty sure I know the answer. Marc Maron retweeted Hanks (I think) with some fanboy-ish comment (“Tom Hanks watches my show!”), although I can’t find that now. But tweets can be deleted. And then there’s this:


I have no inside information at all. Of course. But this makes sense. The “kid” was Chet Hanks, Tom’s son with Rita Wilson, apparently playing some version of himself but doing an excellent job. And assuming I didn’t dream up the Maron tweet, maybe he just meant what he said. Sometimes mornings can be rough.


The antidepressant I’m taking has the standard side effect profile. In this case, I’m not all that certain what’s a side effect, an intended effect, and a special effect (just because that makes me laugh).

Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that gets most of the attention (norepinephrine is the other, in this case) in this scenario, mostly works in the gut, actually. Constipation can be a side effect, in other words. Another reason to avoid medication if you can.

It also is a histamine antagonist (an antihistamine), so drowsiness can happen and you’re supposed to take it at night before bed, which I do. This is a side effect but also an effect; since people with depression sometimes have trouble with insomnia, Remeron can be a good choice.

It works for me, anyway, even though insomnia wasn’t a big issue. That it was an issue at all, though, was telling. So I take this medication before bed, and from the first dose on I was dealing with Maron-like mornings, grogginess decreasing every day but still there. I sleep really soundly, it seems, with this, which is nice. It just takes me a little longer to get moving in the morning. A little sluggish. Maybe so sluggish I imagine retweets, who knows?

Not this morning, though. When my wife’s alarm went off, I was already waking up. Since she was driving to work and not taking transit, I didn’t have to drop her off at the bus and could sleep as late as I wanted to. I thought it probably was close to 9am, but it was 7.

So at least that mystery seems to be solved, assuming it was a mystery. I need an extra hour, maybe, and maybe that’s all. Simplest explanation and so on. Occam’s Razor again.

And maybe Marc Maron momentarily forgot, months after filming, that his fellow actor had an interesting lineage, which is a credit to Chet Hanks: He was very good. But again, simplicity is best. He’s the offspring of a couple of pretty good actors.

And the first episodes of Maron were pretty good, actually. Not sure if that’s a special effect or not.

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Scaling Away

Photo May 05, 8 57 39 AMThe above, which strikes me as part Star Trek (original; tricorder-ish) and part something Tony Stark would assemble out of stuff he found in the glove compartment, is a laptop cooling fan. My cheap Lenovo, now 5 years old, seems to be just fine these days and I’d prefer to keep it that way, for as long as I can. I noticed that it was running a little hot, nothing to be alarmed about but worth spending $12 on a gadget that, in fact, works as advertised. It fits over the vent and sucks out hot air.

It also fits over the VGA port, which is right next to the vent. Since I was using VGA to connect to my external monitor, which is pretty old itself and didn’t want to play with HDMI anymore, I had a problem.

This was solved by buying a cheap but actually pretty nice LED monitor, a little wider and thinner. It turns out that if you’re not interested in a touchscreen, 4K, or other bright and shiny things, you can get a decent monitor for under $100. Sometimes a lot under.

The other unfortunate event was that everything was too small. Icons, text, tabs. I tried a couple of work-arounds and then just scaled everything up, which is tricky but seems fine.


My personal upsizing, as bizarre as it is, seems to be coming along nicely also. I’ve been through five weeks since I had a physical exam and set off alarm bells, which didn’t get any better after lab work, and five stages of whatever, a couple of times, but this eventually seemed fixable and I’ve done what I could to fix it.

It’s bizarre only because we’re culturally trained to love to see the scale numbers go down. We could all stand to lose some weight, or that’s the message, and to reverse that is a conflict that never stops. Still, I’ve managed to put on about a pound a week. I eat more, I’m more active, I track every nutrient and bitch about how impossible it seems to eat enough without hundreds of grams of sugar.

Next week I see the doctor again, with probably more lab work, which is more expensive than a new monitor and I assume will be perfectly unremarkable, and I’ll get back to the business of being a human being, flawed and more than a little crazy but doing OK. OK is what we want. Everything needs to be scaled up, is all. I can do this.

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When The Music Stops

This is my current column, included here just because I felt like it. Also, I get to use my own paragraphs; it feels more important than you might think. Could just be me.


It’s been a longstanding practice of mine to stop listening when someone near me starts talking about the past in a particular way. This would be a nostalgic way, tinged with bitterness and resentment aimed at people who had nothing to do with the future. This would mostly be young people.

I stop listening because I’ve heard it all before, and because I think it’s nonsense. I’m as nostalgic as anyone, and there are things from yesterday that I might prefer to their 2016 versions, but I suspect most of us, if dropped back into the past, let’s say 30 years ago, would be mad.

You can’t pay for gas at the pump. You certainly can’t use a debit or credit card at the grocery store; cash or check, please. You have to rewind video tapes. I could go on.

Or let’s just be mean and put you back two centuries, to 1816, and tell you to head out from here to New York. Have a good trip. I hope you know how to make shoes and not get eaten. It should take you most of your life, too.

Today, it’s a little easier. You have to take your laptop out of the suitcase and maybe get x-rayed, thus clearly giving 2016 the win.

And if you’re one of those people who complain about the rest of the world going through life looking down at the screens in their hands, I have no idea what world you grew up in. What did people do in public before smart phones that was so wholesome and healthy in your eyes? If I mention that when I was a teenager, Americans watched an average of nearly 8 hours of television a day, would that change your mind about the good old days?

Never mind. I’ve just never understood why certain people find the activities of other people so alarming, or worth commenting on. And why they seem to lack the perspective one would hope comes naturally after a few decades of life, showing us that things always change, and that we’ve never had it so good.

We haven’t, either. We are safer, healthier, wealthier, smarter, taller, and in some cases fatter than in any time in human history.

We also have a million other problems, some threatening our very existence, but that’s nothing new. We’ve figured out solutions before; maybe we’ll do it again. But it won’t have anything to do with how much time we spend playing Minecraft or texting.

I will say this about time and change, though: Enough is enough.

I’ll say what we’re all thinking anyway, which is that too many people have died this year. Famous people, whose lives overlapped with ours in mysterious and also expected ways. People who made a difference in our culture, which makes a difference in everything else.

This happens all the time, of course. That’s why we have those “In Memoriam” films every year. People die.

And 2016 started out the usual way, with the death of Pat Harrington, Jr., a comic actor who entertained several generations. He was in his 80s and suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Doris Roberts, Abe Vigoda, Nancy Reagan, George Kennedy, Joseph Medicine Crow: These were people who amused and enlightened us, who were part of our lives and had their own ones, rich and long and full.

But the first quarter of 2016 will be remembered, I think, for the unexpected losses. The ones that froze us in place, numbed by sudden knowledge and in some cases struck with sudden grief.

Patty Duke? Garry Shandling? Alan Rickman? They were in their 60s, young by today’s standards, accomplished by any standards, and we lost them to mortality and bad luck.

But it’s been the musicians. We all know this. We were rocked, and rocked early.

David Bowie died, at the age of 69, on January 10, our shock intensified by the passing of the beloved Mr. Rickman five days later, but it didn’t stop there. Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey: This was the music of my life, and probably yours.

Frank Sinatra, Jr. held not only a strong tie to the most famous singer of the 20th century, but was an excellent musician himself, even with understanding the shadow he would stand in for a lifetime.

Sir George Martin, on the other hand, might have influenced the music of our era more than any other single person. His artistry was all over the Beatles, and the Beatles were all over us.

Merle Haggard was a road warrior from the old days, when country music had little glamour and quite a bit of steel guitar. I’d suggest that his influence and output surpassed even Johnny Cash, but no one wants to compare. We just know that he’s gone now, and something with him.

But Prince is enough. Thank you, Universe, for all you do, but Prince was enough.

Part of the triumvirate of pop all born in 1958, the same year I was, along with Madonna and Michael Jackson, Prince Rogers Nelson was our Mozart with no Salieri even close. Nobody was close.

So that’s enough, I think. Let us listen to the sounds of lost musicians, and grieve no more for a while. Let us remember the night last week when the whole world, it seemed, was momentarily bathed in purple, reminding us that for 57 too-short years, it had been.

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Rope A Dopamine

I knew last August that the next President of the U.S. was going to be Hillary Clinton. By Christmas I knew that her opponent would be Trump, which doesn’t really change anything except the scope of her victory. Otherwise, yawn.

I’m not particularly happy about this, but I don’t really mind and there’s nothing I can do about it. Ergo no interest to speak of, or at least not the kind of interest that leads me to speaking. Just this here is all.


A month of limited Facebook time has been interesting. I don’t think I’ve missed much, if anything. It keeps me even-tempered and away from temptation to comment or police the Internet for falsehoods and folklore. Be as gullible as you want, America.

I think that’s the issue, by the way. I suspect there’s something intrinsic to living in this country that takes something good – hope and optimism – and twists it into believing the baddest stuff out there. I’m not sure why or how this works, but it seems to. And it takes on the air of a paradox or puzzle, as intelligent people decide to believe the guy who says I’m the only one who tells the truth! and therefore ignore the others, some of whom might well be telling the truth.

I’m not talking about an actual guy. More like a network of guys (generic; lots of women).

But it also leads us to believe that Bill Gates is handing out a million bucks to everyone who hits “Like” on a Facebook post.

As for the rest, the quizzes and the reposts and the shares of bizarre things no one should waste time with? Nothing to miss there, either. I’m better off.


And I am better off, now that I’m swimming in serotonin. I don’t care much for this, since I suspect this isn’t just supplementing a strange lack of that particular neurotransmitter, but increasing it. This isn’t unfounded speculation, although it’s not especially founded. Just a suspicion.

I just felt I had to do something, and for the time being I’ll stick with this. I’m fairly certain I won’t stay on it for very long, but I’m practicing compliance and so I’ll be a good patient for the time being.

And six months will come and pass, including my 40th high school reunion, a couple of political conventions, surely some surprises, and then an election. I can see this summer stretching out before me, actually.

This is a new thing, by the way. Seeing ahead. Yay for serotonin, I guess.

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People have been helped. This is an important aspect, and one I don’t take lightly. Antidepressants, as troubled as the science seems to be at this point, has a degree of efficacy that makes lives easier. No argument here.

The other arguments I’ve heard. A lot I file under “crackpot” and ignore, but I can’t help reading. It is maybe not best for us, we human types, to be messing around with the self-correcting chemistry that our brain employs to keep us functioning. To keep us human.

That said, we come back to efficacy and pain. And serotonin, the magic happiness neurotransmitter, has a questionable side effect profile. It’s really complicated, and while I enjoy reading about brain chemistry it’s not my strong suit. I understand a little.

I’ve been taking mirtazapine (brand name Remeron), which is unlike the standard SSRIs (e.g., Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac). It heads right for the receptor and lets our brain swim in serotonin. Mirtazapine is atypical in this regard, as it doesn’t prevent reuptake; in simple terms, it activates receptors and produces more.

There other differences, but in general mirtazapine is used to treat major depression, along with side effects such as loss of appetite, loss of libido, and insomnia. It’s very difficult to overdose, and the drowsiness it produces in some (me) is alleviated by taking it before bed, and the fact that this seems to be an effect that becomes more tolerable as time goes by.

It also has a quicker antidepressant effect in many people, sometimes as quickly as a week. It’s been over a week for me. I may feel better. I sleep very well. There’s been some appetite increase, but not alarming and handy at the moment.

Still, I agreed to take it because I needed to do something. I fight my tendency toward rejection of this medication – actually, most medications – and try to be compliant. If I don’t care for it, we’ll stop it.

In the meantime, I’m groggy as hell in the mornings, remember nothing of dreams or the night, and have moments that I recognize as happiness.

This could be the golden ticket, the secret to keeping me stable and level, with less lethargy and more movement. With luck, I’ll start to feel creative again, and not quite so muted.

Again, I tend to be skeptical but also empirical: If it works, it works. This is a tricky business, and I know all about it. I’ll watch and wait, stick with my philosophy of harm reduction, and welcome my serotonin overloads.

And as much as I hate the idea of being on chronic medication, and a powerful one, there are other things I hate more. Some of those I can see in the mirror.  I stay with the program for the time being. The mirror is the message, at least for the moment.

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21 Days

On the last day of March, reeling a little from the experience of my past 35 minutes with modern medicine, I somehow made it upstairs and out to the parking lot before glancing at the lab sheet in my hand.

So back inside to get blood drawn, but an interesting flashback: Several times over the years, after a physical exam, I’d take similar lab orders with me and just go home. I didn’t want to know what my liver was up to, and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to know.

That was just a little nuance thrown into the denial stockpot, nothing remarkable for an addict who needed to protect his use.

And my liver is fine. Unremarkable itself, my liver is, after all of these years. At least for the moment.

The telling thing is that I went back inside. Of course. I wasn’t interested in protecting my self-destructive behavior; I was alarmed, frightened, and embarrassed by it, but I wasn’t consciously aware that I was doing something bad. Which is also kind of frightening.

But I wanted that part to stop. The self-destructive part. The part that had stopped eating so much and couldn’t figure out how to fix it until I started answering questions and heard the answers with my own ears, from my own mouth. Funny how that happens sometimes. The pieces are all there, waiting.

Behaving dangerously in this way for that long isn’t a warning sign to an alcoholic, at least not to my particular recovery philosophy. It’s not a sign at all. It’s a relapse.

That may even be a little theatrical, although I can make the case. A lot of us realize, after the chemical is gone and left in the dust, that the process remains. Here’s where we break ranks, some of us who probably think about it too much, but the theory is still sound, eloquently explained years ago by Dr. James Milam, a Northwest pioneer in treating alcoholism. Sure, he said, we all know that lots of cops have issues with alcohol. Doesn’t that seem obvious? Stress, fear, heightened senses, heightened everything. Trauma. It’s a tough job.

Milam says, yeah but. But, how about we look at what kind of people become cops? All sorts, I imagine, but I also imagine, as Milam did, that they share qualities that might shake up the stress=risk assessment. They might have been born at risk. They might actually like that risk.

I don’t have answers for what happened to me, just suspicions of possibilities. Schrödinger Syndrome starts to sound even more right.

Here’s what I think, though. Last year, I was at my daughter’s house and grabbed a can of diet coke from the fridge, popped the top, and took a big swig of what turned out to be bottom-shelf beer. Not good beer. And, beer.

I spit it out, yuk. No big deal. But there are people in recovery circles that would be eager to jump on that moment – a crowded refrigerator, similar labels, a simple and obvious mistake – as significant and a milestone. That is, they’d say, you have to start over. You’re on Day #1 of sobriety again, mister.

Seriously. There are people exactly like this.

I never understood it, not even in my early days. Someone with years of sobriety experiences extreme emotional distress, coupled with suddenly easy availability of alcohol, such as at a wake or other sad occasion, and they grab a bottle or carafe or glass spontaneously, wanting the alcohol for the same reasons others in the same situation would.

Then they drag their sorry selves back to a meeting the next day and say, I’ve got one day.

And I’d sit there with my 54 days or whatever and think, really? I’m more sober than this person, just because he had a moment of pain and wanted to numb it?

Anyway. Something happened. It felt, eventually, similar to compulsive drinking. Just different at the same time. Was my pleasure center, where the receptors for such fun things as nicotine, caffeine, booze, weed, opiates, and stimulants reside, tickled and activated by numbers on a scale that kept going down? Dunno. Maybe.

I just knew something was wrong. But it turns out – and this took me a few days at least to start to see – that I know how to fix wrong things now.

The existential stuff is still there. Getting older, worrying about money, etc. Not going anywhere.

Neither are the lab abnormalities, which are still hanging around as of the last tests, although probably OK. Still, I’ll give more blood in another three weeks and we’ll see. It’s possible something else is also going on.

I don’t think about that much, though. It does no good and I’m busy, anyway. Eating. And walking. I’ve been this way before. It’s always one foot in front of the other that gets the job done.

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