Some Days are Just Depressing

I don’t mean that the day itself is depressing.  Today, for example, the sky is a perfect blue and the greenery out the window is lush.   As Sekhnet’s mother used to say, about someone who was kind to her “she couldn’t have been nicer!”.  Today, for example, really couldn’t be nicer.

Still, drinking my coffee, looking at the headlines, considering various things on my mind that weigh on my life (seeming estrangement from certain loved ones, for example) — and without the balm of work (and pay — pay is not to be sneezed at) to otherwise occupy the sullen mind– I feel a bit of depression well up, like the stomach acid I’m churning with this strong black coffee on an empty stomach.    I know what you’re thinking: Christ, man, have a piece of toast with that coffee– or better yet, some steel cut oatmeal.

I sip the slightly bitter (OK, bitter) brew and consider things about my life that are not quite right.   There is no bot that can help me today, certainly not at the moment.   If suddenly 10,000 people read one of these posts today I’d feel a surge of transient hope.   After all, if your “platform” attracts a million eyeballs a week, chances are you can get a book deal, since publishers look at that when considering who to give a contract to.   If you get a book deal you can, you know, get an advance to write the book.   Paid!    We are trained that way, to react to positive reinforcement (and money is that), one reason our LIKE/LOL culture is so seductive. 

In the relative silence of this room where I type, the only real sound my fingers clattering on the keys, it is easy to imagine the best, and the worst.  Certain days are just depressing– fact of life.   On those days it’s much easier to imagine the worst than the best.   Trying times, yo.

Time marches on

Thoughts clogged, stagnant, the metal of this laptop uncomfortably warm under my hands.   It’s not the heat, I tell myself, or even this impressive humidity the fan is pushing against me, slapping stickily up against my side.   Sure it’s 99 or more up here, OK, but still.    Isn’t human imagination up to this?

Human imagination is not up to this.    When your basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid of human needs are not met, it’s hard for thoughts to take wing and soar.   After a while all you can think about is your thirst, if you’re parched long enough, or your hunger, if you haven’t eaten in a while.  That’s part of the hellish trap of poverty, very hard to get to the highest levels of creativity and potential when you’re urgently looking for a place to go to the bathroom without being arrested, or killed.  

At noon I was watching a summary of some of the day’s news, news of a world gone mad, in free fall, crowds chanting incoherently.   Then I stumbled on a guitar player named Josh Smith, playing the hell out of a guitar, explaining the beautiful things he was doing in a way that made only so much sense.   Left out of the explanation were the thousands of hours, and the hunger, to get all that under your fingers, into your playing.   Then there was more news about Jeffrey Epstein’s death, new details from his autopsy, apparently.   That’s what the teaser for the youTube clip said, with a picture of fucking Bagpiper Bill Barr, firing somebody, or ordering the speedy federal execution of somebody else.   Now, I see, it is 3:51, day spent mostly in this chair, and I’m as listless as I was before lunch, a delicious salad.

Imagine the place hotter still.   The ice of the great northern ice caps is disappearing at a much faster rate than predicted, shearing off cliffs of melting ice in huge chunks.   Mosquitos are now born year-round, thirstier than ever, they have even started sucking on my previously unappetizing flesh, leaving giant, itchy welts where the large veins are closest to the surface.   One species after another of the  little predators who used to eat the mosquitos are disappearing along with the sheets of ice that shear off ever smaller cliffs of it and splash into the sea to melt.  It’s all connected, all this destruction, denial, distraction. 

The world does not care, as it all crashes into the sea amid thousands of tons of discarded plastic.   Birds choke, seals drown, entire species are wiped out, every fish eats micro-plastic, which becomes part of the flesh we eat when the big fish we like to eat have eaten generations of ever smaller micro-plastic eaters.  

My teeth are shifting in my mouth, half of them already sideways and brittle as crystal made of sugar.  I think about the world people being born now are going to be living in.  I think about the unquestionable, heedless powers that make sure nothing is more important than their unquestionable, heedless powers.   I read history, helpless to cause so much as a ripple in its progress.

One day even hotter than this, perhaps, will be the last day for older people like me.  Simply too fucking hard to breathe, yo, time to give it all up.   Then the arguments over my millions will begin, by the many who will rush forward to make a claim on my fortune.   I probably should have put it into writing that it should all be invested in the building of a monument to me, for my perpetual memory, you understand.   So that one day cockroaches, the only ones left here on the earth, may wonder “what is this fucking huge thing?”.  Insect awe optional.

An Excellent Short Discussion of Depresssion

Johann Hari, writer of the excellent dissection of the drug wars, and drug addiction, called Chasing the Scream,  gives a short, remarkably common sense description of why we feel depression and anxiety.   Check it out here. 

We seem unable to grasp the simplicity of so many perplexing human riddles.   A person who feels loved, has a place in the world, work that is appreciated and a life without terror is unlikely to be chronically depressed or anxious.   It is the brutality of our tyrannically Free Market, a forum of endless, unfair competition,  that isolates us and fills us with dread of a bleak future.  There is no safety net.  Not for losers, safety nets are for winners.   Get over it, motherfucker, fear and insecurity is good for our bottom line.   Pick up your prescription over there.   NEXT!

Why Do You Bother?

A voice started nagging me the other day, a familiar voice with famously bad breath.  “What the hell are you doing?” the voice said, with annoying, random inflection, the words arriving unpleasantly warm and fetid in my ear after wafting past my nostrils.

“You continue, day after day, to sit and write.  You seem to write about whatever comes into your head.   You write clearly enough, we’ll stipulate to that, but the larger question is ‘what the fuck’?   Seriously– what is your plan?”

A fair enough question, ass breath.

“More than fair, really.  If you are writing literally every day, taking the trouble to clearly set out all these things that are on your mind, document your long wrestling matches with anger, futility, depression, vexation with the ongoing triumph of incoherent narratives… why are you not spending as much time every day branding, marketing and selling your content?   Why are you not monetizing the skill you’ve been honing for decades?”

Nicely summarized, my inscrutable dilemma, there, toe cheese breath.    

“You can sit there asyntactically smarting me all you like, as you worry about the warranty for the nib of a very expensive fountain pen you love, the fairly new acoustic/electric guitar that is no longer electric, trying to overcome the frustrations of a smart phone that is smarting you daily, having failed to write down the robotically delivered authorization code for PT that the health insurance company robot read to you– foolishly assuming that same code had been sent to PT (it hadn’t, of course) and now you can’t make an appointment for tomorrow’s session since they are no longer picking up the phone, after you called Healthfirst back and were eventually connected to the third party who had the authorization number you need to continue rehabbing your sore knees…”  

I get it, sweat gland breath.  

“A blessing that you can’t smell your own breath, my decomposing friend. I’m just giving you a little friendly advice: you’re not a writer just because you write, even if you write clearly and convincingly, even if you do it every single day of your life. You are a writer if your writing is in print, paid for by somebody else, and with a check written to you for writing whatever the hell it is. Period.”  

Sure thing.

 

Death sneaks in again

It is sometimes tempting to call the workings of our corporate world evil.  A ninety year-old woman, until her recent broken hip fiercely independent, lives out her last days in a bare bones hospital ward where her needs are ignored, though she is kept miserably alive, her tab paid by Medicaid.   There may or may not be a government agency that can help her.  Sekhnet and I lack legal standing to advocate for her, though I got two numbers today that may allow Margaret to advocate for herself.    

The ACA, which right-wing zealots and “Birthers” are still bent on abolishing as an illegitimate “Negro” plan, mandates that low income citizens buy private insurance on their state’s health exchange.  New York State of Health Marketplace was designed by Kafka, during an LSD nightmare.  The agency is run by an unaccountable political appointee director (Donna Frescatore) who has made it her agency’s policy for no worker to divulge her name.   They have no effective method of correcting their many errors, the wait for an “appeal” is months’ long.  

A more vexing collection of useless, low-paid motherfuckers I have never encountered, and I am a veteran of Adult Protective Services, the New York Housing Authority and the Housing Court’s Guardian ad Litem program.  I have seen hideous bureaucracies.   The unaccountable agency entrusted with providing health care to low income citizens in New York State is by far the worst.  

Had a nice chat today with a guy from NYS of Health Marketplace Appeals, Patrick, very patient– though even he had his limits in that regard.   My appeal should be conducted over the phone in a month or two, after that, presumably, I should be allowed to pay only what the law requires and not twice what the law requires, as I have been paying since an erroneous denial in January.

While talking to a social worker at the Department for the Aging, who spoke on the QT since I lacked legal standing to have the conversation on behalf of a mere friend, I had a call from Sekhnet.   Sekhnet has been overwhelmed and tearful lately, in part due to the steroids she’s taking for her breathing troubles.   She has been worried about my potentially dangerous kidney disease, and the fact that virtually my entire vegetarian diet is composed of foods, I learned yesterday,  very bad for compromised kidneys.  She’s been crying because Skaynes, our beloved cat, had test results the other day that showed his one kidney is in trouble, this in addition to a flare up of pancreatitis.  

I broke away from the kind, long-winded social worker, put her on a brief hold, and took Sekhnet’s call.   She was sobbing.   “Liz is dead,” she told me.  I expressed my sorrow, told her who I was talking to and said I’d call her right back.

Liz was the long-time partner of Tony, a gregarious fellow we met while he stood smoking cigarettes in front of Sekhnet’s building.   It emerged that Tony lived on the second floor with a shy, agoraphobic woman named Liz, a lover of cats (they hosted two former strays, Sid and Gus), and that it would be great for us to get together some time.   Tony explained that he’d have to work on Liz, and his work seemed to be a success.  We had dinner, after researching what Liz, a diabetic, could safely eat.   I think it was garbanzo bean pasta we finally made.  (To be strictly accurate, this dinner occurred after we returned from our trip).

Shortly after we first chatted with Liz and Tony, Skaynes began vomiting frequently and rarely coming out of his bed.  We were scheduled to leave for a two week trip to Israel in a few days.   Liz, Tony and our old friends’ son Avram generously stepped in to take care of Skaynes.   They wrangled the cantankerous cat into his carrier and ferried him back and forth to the vet for treatments.   The treatments were daily for a week or more.  Skaynes recovered while we were in Israel, we got their medical updates by email.  Liz and Tony (and the indefatigable Avram) had saved his life, and enabled our long-planned trip to happen, and we felt very grateful.  

We got together with them another couple of times.  Then they were having troubles, Tony had resumed drinking, after years on the wagon and in AA.  Liz had a past that included drug addiction and she could not tolerate this relapse.  There was tension.  Tony moved out, moved back in, was on a job in New Jersey when he had a fatal heart attack.  

Liz affected an air of stoicism, but the tragedy made her no more zealous about checking her diabetes monitor.  She’d been found in a diabetic coma before.  Tony said the beeping of her monitor annoyed her and she’d often turn the machine off rather than do what the beeping was reminding her to do.

After Tony died, Liz lived alone with Sid and Gus, in the apartment owned by her mother.  Her mother lives in Florida and needs money, is in the process of selling Liz’s longtime home.  Packages sat outside Liz’s apartment door for days at a time.   I followed up with Sekhnet who contacted Liz.  She was reassured when Liz finally returned a call, sent her some adorable animal emails (Liz volunteered at a cat shelter) with a funny note and also inquired about Skaynes.     More packages outside her door the other day.  Sekhnet could get no answer from Liz lately.  She convinced a neighbor with the key to have a look today.

The neighbor discovered Liz’s dead body.  One of the cats was sitting next to her dead body.  The cats had not been fed for several days.  The last email from Liz, about a week ago, noted that a dog will sit sadly by their master’s dead body and starve, too depressed to eat.  A cat will do the same, until they get unbearably hungry and start eating the dead master’s face.   The neighbor fed the cats and called Sekhnet.  

When I got off the phone with the social worker I called Sekhnet back and did my best to soothe her, though there is not that much real soothing to be given under terrible circumstances like this.   The world can be a cold and cruel place and one must count oneself fortunate only to be fighting with corporate cocksuckers, while Death, smug and implacable, waits with the infinite patience of one who has never been denied, to snuff out your last breath.

Why So Glum?

“Why so glum?” she asked.  It seemed to her that he had many reasons to be cheerful.   His work was moving steadily forward, even if he was no closer to getting paid for any of it.

“Because I live in a giant toilet bowl where the biggest pieces of shit make the biggest splash,” he said.  

“That’s pretty good,” she said, “did you make that up?”   

“I don’t fucking know,” he said, and she recoiled as if struck.

“Don’t forget to flush,” he added, to the empty room.