The latest rage

I mentioned the other day how I regularly trip off into these mindless rages. I call it my “Donald Duck mode” (ya know? Donald Duck would hit his thumb with a hammer and then go flailing across the room in this mindless rage). And few things trip me off MORE than dealing with the stuff in my storage locker.

I’ve got all my stuff — all my worldly possessions — stashed in this 6-foot-by-6-foot storage locker. And when I’m dealing with it, it’s the one time when I seriously question whether my life really works, and whether my daily lifestyle might actually be completely insane. I’ve got all these big heavy plastic boxes jammed in there, stacked up from floor to ceiling. And I swear to God, whenever I’m looking for something it’s INVARIABLY in the very bottom of the stacks (and why is that? is there some irrefutable law of nature about that??). And the other thing that drives me nuts. When I’m pulling all the boxes out, they’re all neatly stacked and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. But when I’m trying to put the boxes back in, the jigsaw puzzle never fits back together the same way.

So today I’m trying to get one of the boxes wedged back into its place. It weighs a ton — it’s like a load of bricks — and I’m breaking my back trying to hoist the thing over my head and wedge it in there. But no matter how hard I try to cram the thing in there the damn thing just won’t fit in there. And then one of the other stack of boxes starts collapsing on me. So I’m trying to hold that stack of boxes in place with one hand while I’m trying to jam the other box back into place with my other hand. And I’m like that kid in the fable who didn’t have enough fingers to plug up all the holes in the dam. So the whole thing — all the damn boxes — collapse on me. And on top of that I shredded one of my hands in the process.¬†

So now I’m standing there amongst the rubble, huffing and puffing and red-faced in rage and sweating like a pig. And I just lost it (OK?). I start screaming at the top of my lungs. “FUCKKKKK!” “SHITTTT” and “AAAIIGGHHHH!” This wordless shriek of pure agony.

And evidently I was shrieking a little louder than I realized and they could hear me all the way down in the office downstairs. Because one of the workers at the storage locker company — this young black woman — comes trotting up the stairs and she gingerly points her head in my direction and says:

“Excuse me, sir. Are you OK??” (a good question)

“Oh I apologize,” I said with a sheepish smile and a chuckle (one thing in my favor is I can turn it off and on in a split second). “I was just blowing off steam. It drives me nuts trying to get all this stuff back into my locker. I apologize for causing a disturbance.”

I gave her my big, winning, charming, affable smile. To hopefully convey they I’m not a lunatic and there’s no need to come at me with butterfly nets and straightjackets and I’m a good America just like you.

“Oh. OK,” she said with a smile (or was that a grimace?). And she trotted back down the stairs.

It was embarrassing. But what the hell. I think it’s very unhealthy to bottle up and repress your emotions — it may even be a major cause of diseases. So it’s a good thing to find an outlet where you can express your emotions. Whether it’s anger, grief, love or joy. And hopefully in a mode that doesn’t end up getting you locked up in a cage.

A dark period wandering in the desert — both literally and figuratively

For some reason I was thinking about a particularly dark period in my life. 2009. I had a complete nervous breakdown around December of 2009. Everything that had been working in my life stopped working all at once. My best friend died. My street vending job came to a bitter end. My latest book (which I thought was going to be the answer to all my prayers) bombed commercially. And my artistic career (so-called) grinded to a halt. My life had hit a complete dead-end in every way.

Adding to my misery, I had been homeless for 3 years at that point. And the rainy season was about to hit. And what with all my other existential woes I wasn’t up to dealing with that, too.

So — for lack of anything better to do– I decided to get the hell out of town. Maybe if I got out of Berkeley, and got some distance from my situation, I could get some kind of perspective on the wreckage that my life had become. I had $5,000 bucks saved up from my vending job, so the plan was to just hole up somewhere, lick my wounds, and see if I could come up with a Plan B. So I got on a Greyhound bus and moved to this little town in the middle of the Arizona desert, and rented out a little apartment at this one-story motel/trailer park.

My apartment had a kitchenette, a living room with a bed in it, and a bathroom. When I looked out my window I could see all the RVs parked in the courtyard. And beyond that, miles and miles of Arizona desert. It was like being in the middle of nowhere.

I got drunk by myself in my apartment almost everything night. Mostly OE malt liquor. But occasionally I’d get a pint of Jack Daniels to add some fire to my fuel.

And I binged on cable TV. I must have watched TV about 12 hours a day. Which was a weird experience. Because I hadn’t watched any TV in nearly 20 years. The last time I had a TV in 1990 there was the 3 networks, PBS, and a local channel and that was about it. And now suddenly there were hundreds of channels. The one show I really got into, oddly, was The Kardashians. I must have watched an entire season of that show. I vaguely remembered Bruce Jenner from back when he was the Wheaties All-American Boy of the ’70s, and now his skin was all tight and shiny from too much plastic surgery, and he had fake hair, and when he smiled he looked sort of like the Joker from Batman (this was well before he became a woman). And one of the Kardashian sister was married to an NBA player from the Los Angeles Lakers, so that was interesting to me as a hoops freak, getting an inside look at that stuff. And for the big season finale this guy Scott, who was the boyfriend of one of the Kardashian sisters got drunk at a swanky Las Vegas casino and when the waiter wouldn’t serve him because he was too drunk he made an ass out of himself by trying to stuff a wad a bills down the waiter’s throat (which was grotesque) and ended up getting excommunicated from the family. But then his girlfriend had a baby — they brought the cameras right into the hospital and filmed her at her hospital bed grunting out the baby while everyone looked on in awe and shit. And the boyfriend showed up and they decided to let him back in the family since he was the father (so they were stuck with him for better or worse). And that’s how the season ended on this choreographed note of so-called inspiration. I don’t know what happened after that with the Kardashians. But as a natural voyeur it was fascinating to me to see how these rich Hollywood media creatures and vampires lived and related to each other behind closed doors.

The other show I used to sometimes watch was the cable news guy with the square head Keith Olbermann. He sort of played the part of the righteous, crusading liberal. So it was interesting to get up to date as to what the liberal were outraged about at the time. . . And I liked “The Dave Chapelle Show.” He was pretty funny. And he just seemed like one of the guys you’d be hanging out with on a street corner, and then he gets up on stage and does his own TV show. . . And then late at night I would watch the “Girls Gone Wild” info-commercials. Because that was the only thing I could find that had sex and nudity in it.

Sometimes late at night, after many hours of drinking, when I was really starting to get a good buzz going, I’d come up with some great idea for how I could turn my life around. And I’d get all excited and start making all these big plans and it was great because I had finally come up with a new direction to go in. But when I woke up the next morning I’d realize my idea was stupid and hopeless. So it was back to the drawing board.

After three months living in that motel apartment in the middle of nowhere, I started to run out of money. So I decided I better pack up my bags and move back to Berkeley. So that’s what I did. And here I still am.

 

Some days you’d be better off not even getting out of bed — or in my case out of my sleeping bag

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It’s one of those mornings where I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown and if one more little thing goes wrong I might just snap and go berserk and go on a killing spree or just start screaming at the top of my lungs and never stop screaming. One of THOSE mornings..

The main stress is because the Post Office — because of their screw up — locked me out of my PO Box — a box I’ve had for 20 years and get very important mail at. And even though it was their screw up I’m locked in a buerocratic Catch-22 where I can’t get my box back.So now all of my mail is being sent back to sender. And I now I have to rent out a new PO Box which also entails all sorts of convoluted complications (starting with trying to prove I’m a Berkeley “resident” when I’m homeless — they refuse to take my feral cats word for it for one thing).

So I just got done with trying to reason with the Post Office supervisor (no luck). So I’m already tense and as high strung as an over-tuned guitar string that is about to snap.

So I go to this cafe to get a cup of coffee (I just woke up an hour ago). And there’s one person on line ahead of me. But the cashier isn’t at her station she’s running around taking care of other chores. So we’re just standing there for five minutes (which seemed like at least an Eternity from my perspective). Even worse the guy standing on line isn’t standing forward he’s standing backwards staring right at me (he’s actually watching his 3 year old daughter who is playing around right outside the cafe so he’s not really watching me but it SEEMS like he’s watching me since he’s staring right in my direction so I’m getting even MORE stressed.

FINALLY the cashier takes his order and of course it’s several complicated coffee drinks that takes another 5 minutes for her to mix up.

FINALLY she gets to me. But no. “I’ll be right with you sir. I have to do blah blah blah first.” She clears some of used plates off the counter, gets somebody else a refill of coffee and then disappears into the back room.

FINALLY she returns with a big smile on her face. “What can I do for you sir?”

“I’d like a large coffee to go” I said with a big smile that was more like gritting teeth.

She says something else to me but I can’t hear what she’s saying because she’s talking so softly and my hearing isn’t so great. FINALLY after much confusion I realize she’s saying “Would you like room for cream?” Which always annoys me. Just give me my damn cup of coffee. But I say “Yes just a little room.”

So finally she fetches my coffee. And I go to the condiments table. And you guessed it. THERES NO CREAM IN THE CREAM CONTAINER!!!!!

So I take the empty cream container back up to the counter. Wait another five minutes to get her attention. “There’s no cream,” I said. “Oh,” she said. She takes the empty cream container and then goes back to dealing with her other customers she’s dealing with. So now I’m standing there waiting for my cream.

And then this is the point where I almost snapped. This woman — this mild-mannered middle-aged lady¬† — steps in front of me and gestures towards the cashier. She has a black cup of to-go coffee in her hand so I can immediately tell what she wants. Like me she too wants cream for her coffee. But she doesn’t realize that I too am waiting for the cream. So it’s not like she purposely cut in front of me. So I can’t kill her. It wouldn’t be a justified homicide. So I just have to stand there staring daggers at the back of her head as the cashier gives HER the cream container so now I have to wait for HER to prepare her coffee before I can prepare mine. And if you had seen me standing there at that moment you would have seen a very tense person standing very rigidly, stiff as a board, my arms at my side, in the middle of the cafe with a very peculiar grimace on my face.

Now I’m sitting here with my coffee. So I lived happily ever after. The end.

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It’s easy to snap, and many people do

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I’m way too high-strung and tightly-wound these days. I’ll give you an example.

This morning when I woke up at my campsite, I get up, and put on my clothes. But the zipper on my blue jeans snags. I spend 5 minutes struggling with the goddamn zipper trying to get it to work. Finally I scream at the top of my lungs in very real anguish and pain: “FUCK!! FUCK!! FUUUUUCKKKK!!!!!”

It was a little thing. Yes. But it was one of a long SERIES of little things that were each driving me nuts with aggravation. Its like water torture. Its not the one little drop that gets you. But the seemingly endless series of drops. Or as Bukowski put it: “It’s not the big things that drive a man to the madhouse. But the shoelace that snaps when there’s not enough time.”

When I read accounts in the newspaper about, say, “road rage,” where somebody completely snaps and goes berserk over a relatively trivial offense. I NEVER think “How could they DO something like that??” I usually think, “I’m surprised this kind of stuff doesn’t happen more often.”

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My 19th Nervous Breakdown

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I had a nervous breakdown this morning. It’s no big deal. I’m an “overly emotional” person. And I have them all the time. It’s a way of blowing off steam and releasing the backlog of repressed emotions.

I had been sick as a dog with the flu for the last 2 weeks. And then dealing with the crappy weather, the cold and rain. Peaking yesterday when it rained non-stop all day and we got 2 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. You can’t afford to deal with your emotions when you’re dealing with that shit. You can’t afford to drain what little energy you have by indulging in depression, anger or sadness. So you just go numb. And slog forward. Repress the misery you’re feeling. And soldier on.

Then last night I had this long involved dream. I was in a recording studio trying to record music for a big festival on Telegraph Avenue. All my attempts sucked. And I felt like the loser of all time. Until finally I hit on some magic. Then I’m standing on top of this hill over looking Telegraph. And I can see Duncan and all my friends set up at our vending table. Just like in the Good Old Days. And it’s like a joyous happy ending.

Then I wake up. Pack up my campsite. And I’m walking down Telegraph early in the morning. For real. None of my friends are there. They’re all dead or gone. It’s just scattered homeless people waking up in doorways. A pretty barren scene. Compared to how Telegraph used to be.

So I start crying as I’m walking down Telegraph. Which is embarrassing. But like I said I’m having an unexpected nervous breakdown. And I’m using all my will power to control myself. Because I could easily start screaming and wailing and loud sobbing and have a complete breakdown if I don’t control myself. Which would be embarrassing. Publicly losing my shit. Plus they might come after you with butterfly nets and lock you up if you act too weird in public. So I’m keeping my head down as I walk down Telegraph. So nobody can see my contorted facial expression. And the tears running down my face.

And as I’m walking down Telegraph I’m remembering a million triumphs and tragedies I had experienced on Telegraph over the years. All the memories. But now it’s all gone. This barren harvest I am reaping as I walked down Telegraph on this early morning after the storm.

I walked down to the car wash by Shattuck and bought a coffee and jelly donut. And felt strangely better from having experienced something in the morning. Even if I wasn’t sure quite what I had experienced.

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