A mixed bipolar episode, for those who don’t know, means the afflicted is suffering from down-in-the-dumps depression along with higher-than-high aspirations at the same time. For the past few months, I’ve wanted nothing more than to jump headfirst into an active volcano and erase all that is Robin from the face of the earth. While thinking that, I also managed to write a book of poems. I still don’t know what I’ll call the collection but I’m hoping it’ll be in print by this summer or fall. I really have in mind one publisher to handle my book, Copper Canyon Press right here in Port Townsend. Their requirement is some of my poems had to have been published by other concerns. I’ve thus taken the liberty of sending out my poems for consideration in the hope that, if I get at least five or ten of them published, Copper Canyon would sign my book. We’ll see.
With all the news and hubbub over Amazon being denied the greenlight to set up HQ2 in NY, as well as Amazon being seen as a contributor to the homelessness crisis in Seattle, you’d think the number one online retailer would be labeled as The Evil Empire. I’m sure quite a lot of folks view them that way and their overlord, Jeff Bezos, as being nothing more than a steel-spined, mace-wielding dungeon master. But all is not so graven, though. Amazon is now so big, I’m actually surprised they haven’t branched out and started selling other items you can’t usually buy online, like cars. Or hot food. And that’s what makes them a recluse’s dream – almost.
As a near recluse, it’s easy to see why people become this way. Enya, the multi-millionaire singer/songwriter who lives as a recluse in a well-protected castle in Dublin, is an example of this. Who wants to deal with all the ornery, subjugating personalities that you encounter every day? People can be ruthless and smothering, and I’ve found that, over the years, it was best to avoid them all personally. I’ve actually given it a shot, several times in fact, from when I lived in an isolated reservoir in upstate NY to my lengthy stays in my car on the highways and byways of America. I really wish I could stay hidden forever, but one thing keeps dragging me out of my castle – restaurants.
I have a history of buying food and items in bulk from Amazon; they’re perfect for that sort of thing. 100 cans of chili here, 150 cans of Chef Boyardee there – all that goes a long way with the 100 rolls of toilet paper that’ll get delivered promptly to your door, no questions asked. But, if you’re like me, and you sometimes get tired of eating the same things day in, day out, you have no choice but to dine in one of the local eateries every so often. I suppose getting in a little sunlight now and then is probably good for the soul, so I shouldn’t complain. Still, I have a prediction: Amazon will offer a drone service where you can order any meal from any restaurant and have it delivered to your site, remote or not, within, say, 30 minutes. Now that would be the perfect recluse’s dream.
Yawn. I don’t know if I can get used to this. Let’s see. I’m 56 years old. In a sense, I’ve been to hell and back. I’ve suffered a stroke. I’ve been a drug addict. I’ve been homeless for years. I’ve been stabbed (left forearm) and shot (left shin). I’ve had my life threatened by a crazy drug dealer in L.A. and have hanged out with the worse people in the worst places in NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle. I’ve owned many musical instruments over the years which I eventually sold to pawn shops for a pittance. Did I mention I’ve been homeless in Rhode Island, NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle? I’ve been hospitalized for psychotic breaks and am now diagnosed as being autistic, diabetic, and suffering from PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea and gouty arthritis. Yes, I have abandonment issues and I’ve made one serious suicide attempt which landed me in a now-defunct psychiatric hospital (Creedmor) for two months. I’ve also been a tortured, miserable nurse for about 30 years and have had my share of near-death experiences driving a cab in snowy weather. Hell, I wanted to end it all when I became ultra-dehydrated and weak from riding my old, clothes-laden bike for two days (about 100 miles) in the hot sun from White Plains, NY to Saugerties, NY. Through it all, I somehow managed to study Jainism, play in bands, record a few albums, drive around the country, and write and publish some novels, screenplays, audio books, short stories, and so on.
Then, two days ago, everything stopped.
I’m complacent now. Thanks to SSDI, I don ‘t have to worry about food or a place to live. As a matter of fact, I’m in my dream home – an adult community in a safe, quiet, artistic, progressive town on the waterfront. I have good doctors and, even though I don’t have a car anymore, the bus service is pretty adequate around here. And even though I should, I don’t get out as much as I’d like – except to the food bank every week – because I have a big ass ROKU TV and Android TV to entertain me, as well as two computers (including this one month old, spanking brand new HP), a new 88-note semi-weighted keyboard, new audio monitors, and enough audio creation software, music, movies and games to keep me busy for the next 20 years or so. So what have I been doing for the past two days? Sleeping.
Maybe I miss the days when danger was just a few steps down the way, when, at any given moment, the police could suddenly roll up on me as they’ve done several times in NY, LA and Seattle. Maybe I miss freezing to near death in my car and then being forced against my will to do crazy things like break into a bank, a church, an abandoned building, or a police station. Maybe I miss the decrepit, dangerous, dark crack houses dotting the thorniest places from coast to coast. Sigh. I do miss ambling about naked in public parks and supermarkets, but that was my bipolar talking, not me. As it stands, technically, I don’t have to write books or music to try to make a living anymore; I’m already there. I suppose I can just get wasted every day and watch the world go by. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to be too thrilling, though. I hope all this complacency is just my depression, and our rainy/snowy winter weather, talking. If not, I don’t think I could last too long this way.
Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve made an entry on this site. I’m proud to say I’ve maintained this blog, albeit haphazardly, for five years or so. In all that time, I’ve left homelessness and stabilized my life around a sleepy Victorian town (Port Townsend). I have a doctor I see every three or four months, take my pills regularly, eat and drink like a champ, watch movies and TV, and every so often, go for an afternoon constitutional around the block. I wish I still had my car, but oh well. Things change.
I’ve been domiciled for about seven months now so I’m not complaining; I got too old for all this sleeping in the back of the car/wandering the streets nonsense anyway. I go to the local food bank relatively frequently, I’d say about 2-3 times a month. It really helps out since the majority of my SSDI goes to the rent.
So here we have a new near coming up. I have two TV’s – A 55″ Roku and an Android box hooked up via HDMI to the Roku which, in essence, gives me two TV’s. For the past few months I’ve been programming the Android box to where I now get about 10,000 channels. But guess what? Watching TV can still be a bore so I decided to get back into one of my earlier hobbies – writing and recording music. Since I won’t be working with a band, I figure it’d be easier and simpler to just record electronic dance music. So, to that end, I have an electronic keyboard and monitors coming here from Amazon in a few days. And I can’t wait!
Basically speaking, I live in a nursing home. At 56, I’m still the youngest bloke here. I’ve been thrilled to find out that quite a few of my neighbors have reduced hearing because of their advanced age; this bodes well for me and makes it possible, I hope, to build a home recording studio here. Anyway, that’s where I am now. Things aren’t too bad; my health is relatively okay except for my gout-weakened legs. I can’t complain, though. Bombs aren’t flying overhead and there’s no imminent threat of a Pacific tsunami to Port Townsend any time soon. What does 2019 have in store for us? Only time will tell. Stay tuned.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder not once or twice but three times by three different diagnosticians. One psychiatrist even went so far as to specify my variation as Bipolar I, the extreme flavor. I’ve taken Risperdal in the past but never felt its effect. Lithium made me gain weight, turned me into a human balloon. Lamictal mad my hands shake. Seroquel was worthless. Abilify made me diabetic and turned me into a compulsive gambler. Latuda gave me syncope. I was sitting in the Northgate mall and suddenly I had double vision. For the life of me I couldn’t sync the two images together. When I tried to stand up I just fell back into the seat. Horrible drug. I’ve also briefly experimented with Geodon and Zyprexa. Those were wastes of time. It just seems like antipsychotics refuse to work in my body, or if they do, give me such bad side effects that I eschew them altogether. So what keeps me grounded? Beer. Not the best therapy but at least it works.
So what am I like when I’m in manic mode? Two years ago I turned into Hemingway. I was an unstoppable force when it came to writing. Over a relatively short period of time I wrote two novels, nine novellas, four screenplays, about 40 or 50 short stories, and a handful of poems. My brain just couldn’t slow down. Always click-clacking like a runaway telegraph machine, I was researching and writing in various libraries around the Seattle area like there was no tomorrow. From sun up to sun down, words just effortlessly flowed from me like rain out of the Fountains of Rome. But then came the crash.
Around the time this manic episode subsided, I had begun promoting my various works using the internet and retail stores in Seattle. When I started settling into some kind of depression, my promoting came to a halt. It suddenly didn’t matter if the world knew about my creative output. I turned into the proverbial tortoise yanking its head back into its shell. This cloud of depression has swept over me so strongly that, even though I’m now domiciled, I just can’t find the wherewithal to get my promotional and creative juices flowing again. I isolate to the point I’m turning into Chris McCandless. I’m Alex Supertramp without the Alaskan frontier or the broken down bus. My activity level is nil and I simply just lack the energy. And, yes, I probably sleep too much and think about death way too often as well. I’m guessing this depressive wave will come to and end soon, and man, I can’t wait. I know there’s another story in me waiting to be told.
My life hasn’t been an easy one. I suffered abuses of all kinds while growing up in Trinidad & Tobago only to be followed by more abuses when I immigrated to the U.S. You might say that I was an angry person, and trying to wring a smile out of my stone face was probably like trying to climb K2 in the buff.
I was 16 years old and in 11th grade back in 1977. Sitting at home watching the news on TV, the announcer began talking about a new social movement that had hit young London. It was called punk. The kids were loud, reckless and anti-establishment, played and listened to a brand of music that was equally loud, guttural and abrasive, and wore the wildest fashions such as pins through their tattered clothes and faces, spiky hair cuts, and Doc Marten boots. The popular bands at that time were The Damned, The Clash and the Sex Pistols. The report hit me like a ton of bricks. A whole segment of society existed that was angry like me? I’d better give this punk business a looksee.
Around that time, I had already recently discovered bands like KISS, Boston, Aerosmith and Foghat. Lo and behold, checking the record bins in the local library, to my amazement, they already had an album by one of those punk bands. It was “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.” I immediately borrowed it and took it home. I was nervous to play it because I didn’t know what to expect. Was it going to be so loud and abrasive that it would upset my delicate constitution? Oh my. Can’t have that. Nevertheless, after taking a few deep breaths, I delicately placed the needle on the vinyl. The first thing I heard was the marching of feet – STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! Then a crashing guitar chord, followed by another, and another, then the entire band stormed in as Johnny Rotten yelled, “Cheap holiday in other people’s misery!” I was floored. Song after song, I quickly got into the Pistols. Hell, I was even dancing to tracks like “Anarchy In The U.K.” and “God Save The Queen.” Punk had arrived to save me, and I was determined to explore it fully.
It wasn’t long before I started dressing like a punk, not with the spiky Mohawk or safety pins through my cheek, but black shoes, black jeans, and a black leather jacket I think I bought 2nd hand in a thrift shop in The Village of NYC. I acquired more punk records in 12th grade and college and even hosted a radio show on KPGY-FM at Iowa State University called “New Music Experience.” My playlists included Dead Kennedys, Bauhaus, Plasmatics, Joy Division, Lene Lovich, The Jam, DEVO, English Beat, The B-52’s, Iggy Pop, Agent Orange, Ultravox, The Stepmothers, Black Flag, and many others. I even had a paddle made back then that had the inscription “Punk Lord” on it. I was proud of that leather jacket, too, being that it was adorned with buttons like The Specials, Sex Pistols and The Clash.
I’ve always been into punk but things shifted a little when I was introduced to Iron Maiden. Their musicianship absolutely floored me and I got into them right away. Needless to say I became an ardent admirer of metal and that still exists till this day.
It’s interesting now to look back on how I’d grown up and the various musical styles I’d been exposed to. In Trinidad it was calypso and pop. In the U.S. I’d get into punk, classical (I’d seen “Amadeus” when I was 16 or 17 and it wiped the floor with me), metal and R&B. Jazz and blues came along a bit later when I started expanding my own guitar vocabulary. And you know, it’s kind of tragic that I no longer play guitar. I think it’s been five years since I did. Who knows? Maybe I can get back into it before I drop dead. If I did, I don’t think I’d play punk, though. Wouldn’t wanna rattle my elder neighbors’ nerves.
I should be. I’m not fighting in a vicious, endless war somewhere. I’m not in jail or homeless. Physically, I’m relatively okay except for my knees which have been giving me gout pains for months. My rent gets paid every month thanks to the Social Security Administration. I have food in my cupboard thanks to the SSA, food stamps, and the Port Townsend Food Bank. I have a big ass 55″ 4K Smart TV and this laptop which I’ve had for years. I have a bed, a sofa, a microwave oven, a toaster and a vacuum cleaner which I’d gotten from OlyCAP (Olympic Community Action Programs). So, nothing to complain about, right? Then why am I so damned depressed?
I recently got rid of my car which I’d had for five years. As you know, it wasn’t just a car; it was my home as well. Because where I live is a bit of a distance from downtown where all the stores are, I’m dependent on the buses. That isn’t a problem, though, because they do run every hour during the day, none on Sunday. I spend my entire days alone. I’m not exactly isolated, but I’d just rather be by myself. Less angst and turmoil that way.
The anti-depressants and anti-psychotics didn’t work for me. All they did was give me horrible side effects so I had to discontinue them. Meditation is a waste of time because my mind never slows down. It wanders and wanders, always thinking about something. Basically, I can’t concentrate. It seems like the only way for me to sit still and watch a movie is to have a beer or two beneath my belt. Not that I necessarily like drinking, but it does slow me down enough to where I can see a flick all the way through. Hopefully this funk, this dark cloud and doom of despair, won’t last.