Who Is Crazy ?

My husband is insane.

I know a lot of people say this, but he truly is. He’s not dangerous. He’s not a narcissist. He’s a fundamentally decent person. But he’s insane.

4 years ago, he had an elective surgery that went horribly wrong. It left him with chronic pain, and it left him with crippling depression. Let me just state here that depression does not constitute insanity. I’ve been badly depressed in my life also. A lot of people have.

My husband has Aspberger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning version of autism. Think of Sheldon Cooper, but fundamentally kinder. This also does not make him insane. It makes him annoying, but it also makes him consistent. He can’t lie, because people on the spectrum generally cannot create fiction – their minds comprehend and process only facts. That means I’ll never have to worry about him having an affair, not that that would be impossible – it can happen to anyone for any number of reasons, but he would announce, “I’m having an affair, and we need to discuss it, because it affects our marriage.” As long as he doesn’t say that, I know he’s not. He always tells his truth. There is no reading between the lines, no “what did he mean by that?”. He says what he means. And he won’t say anything behind your back that he wouldn’t say to your face. At least, that’s how it used to be.

But he has something else. He’s been diagnosed with OCPD. This also does not make him insane, technically, but it makes everyone close to him disastrously broken.

Most people know about OCD, which is a mental illness, a neurotransmitter abnormality, like depression. It involves obsessions about things particular to the person. Common obsessions are germs, things involving numbers, and worrying about bad things that might happen. The compulsive part involves behaviors that the person feels compelled to perform to dispel these worries – washing their hands until they bleed, or having to touch the door frame perfectly, exactly 19 times before they walk through it, or returning to their house multiple times to make sure they’ve unplugged an iron that they already checked on and found unplugged 6 times before already. Society rewards OCD, to a certain degree. The perfectionism, the obsessions with organization and time are well received in the workplace. At some point, if the OCD becomes severe enough, the person begins to fail in life. Their germ obsession is such that they won’t leave their house (this particular thing seems to have become the “new normal”, forgive me for saying that); they don’t make it to work because they checked on the iron so many times. Generally these people feel uncomfortable because they can’t overcome their obsessions or compulsions, and obviously in the extreme, they lose jobs and relationships. These things feel like problems to that person.

OCPD is different. It stands for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. A personality disorder is typically something inborn, and is not a neurotransmitter problem. This person is the way they are for life. The other, most crucial, most destructive difference from OCD is that the affected person does not see their perfectionism AS A PROBLEM. The person believes that the problem is with the people all around them, who do not meet their high (ridiculous, over the top, rigid) standards, and they are constantly angry with the people around them for failing to meet what they believe should be standards for EVERYONE. This leaves the people in their lives feeling like constant failures. It’s gaslighting. You begin to question your abilities, your standards, your behavior, because the person is so persuasive that you have failed to meet standards again, and they will list reasons why, and those will sound reasonable, after a while, because you’ve heard them for so long, you begin to believe them.

My daughter has had a therapist since she was 7, because my husband’s control issues and perfectionism are so pervasive that in her reality, she has never done ANYTHING right. At least I am an adult, and I have other measuring sticks to assess my abilities. I have good self esteem, and STILL most days, I am left feeling wanting.

But the last three days – THIS is insanity. It seems my husband’s depression has been so crippling that he has done essentially NO WORK and NO BILLING for months. I did not know exactly how bad things were. But he has been asking me repeatedly to check in with him several times a day – text is not acceptable, I must CALL him – to check in with him and (I thought, just to help his depression with contact and support, not that he was literally NOT WORKING), the problem is, there is no such thing as a short conversation with him. When I was away working, I found myself avoiding calling him because I would be stuck on the phone for an hour every time, and believe me, an hour-long conversation about how a database code is not performing well is very boring indeed. He has gotten very angry in the past that I have not contacted him enough during the day. He has been so upset that he has yelled, and called me a horrible person for “not supporting him enough times”, despite maybe 4 lengthy calls a day. I did try to add texts in there as well, but he did not let them count.

My friends have told me that he is insane, my mom has told me that he is insane, that no one should need or demand so many daily calls, that it is unreasonable, but he tells me that “I don’t care enough about him and our marriage” because I am failing to do this simple thing, and I wonder if that is true, and if I really am a horrible, selfish person, and I am gaslit.

3 nights ago, he came to me in a rage, and I found out exactly how bad the not working and not billing is. I retired last summer, and he has always worked from home, so I’ve made an effort to walk into his office multiple times a day. He said I have to demand to know EXACTLY what he is doing, or he may say that he he is working on “something”; I have to be more specific and ask him if it is what he needs to be working on RIGHT NOW. Since our conversation 3 days ago (he knows exactly how many days, of course, probably even hours) I have gone into his office 5 or 6 times a day. Mind you, I have a household to clean and run, he expects me to make nightly meals because I’m not contributing a salary for the family now. (For 25 years, I was a doctor, but apparently that has bought me no credit at all – I’m just doing nothing now).

Last night (after checking on him 7 or 8 times that day, including 11 PM, because he said he had to be made to go to bed at that time), he came to bed in a rage last night because I had selfishly watched a movie for TWO AND A HALF HOURS without checking on him, and I was SUPPOSED to check on him at 10:30, so he can begin winding down for bed. You must understand, he works all the time (or he USED to, apparently he’s pretending now). Our entire marriage, he’s worked on his computer 7 days a week, 365 days a year. He used to be driven; he used to enjoy that. At first, my folks thought he was crazy and rude, because he would work on Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Easter, and that’s just how he’s always been. Except now, apparently, he’s screwing around on the computer and accomplishing shit-all. How the fuck was I to know? He looks like he’s working.

So this morning, he yelled at me because during his breakdown 3 days ago, he claims he told me that I needed to check on him EVERY HALF HOUR. I know he did not tell me this. Do you know WHY I know he did not say that? It’s because that’s A FUCKING INSANE THING TO SAY, and I’m damn sure I would have remembered it. He told me he will never ask me to help him with anything ever again, in our entire marriage, because he will just “fall apart” if I fail him one more time. That I don’t care about him. Fall apart?!? Excuse me?!? Has he fucking not fallen apart ALREADY?

Why don’t I leave him? If he’s this fucking depressed, he’ll probably kill himself. Failing that, we won’t have any income, because he’s cracked right the fuck up. Also, we have a teenage daughter (who is basically nuts, because of him), but I can’t raise her on my own. I can’t go back to work – 25 fucking years of working at least 80 hours a week – because I’m fucking burned out – and I WON’T go back, because I am NOT throwing myself into working in a pandemic. This virus terrifies me. Don’t worry, I’ll do a fucking post on that.

So, sobbing, I have set an alarm to go off every hour, all day, every day, I suppose, to go down and prove to him that I am NOT too selfish to help him, and because, apparently, if I don’t, we will lose our fucking house if he isn’t working at all. How am I supposed to get anything done? I have my own depression and motivation issues – I’m lucky if I get on a roll and am driven to accomplish a big checklist thing. Do you know what happens to getting into a rhythm and digging into something if you are CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTED? I know you do. You crap out, and you lose momentum. So… every fucking hour. Every goddamn hour. To prove I care about being an active partner in our marriage, to keep him working, I will do this every fucking hour.

He’s not insane. I am.

Pandemic Heart Block

I have been at my parents’ house since March 17, when my father called us because his chest pain made him feel he was going to die.

I left my husband and daughter at home and drove the two hours to Tuscaloosa. I didn’t speed more than 79 mph because I knew my ticket or wreck would mean I might miss the chance to see him alive, and also my death in a wreck would be even more useless. Second, Daddy made me promise I wouldn’t.

I kept myself from sobbing (and thence driving dangerously) by reciting all the dialog and scenes from the Witcher in order.

He was alive when I got there, and he is alive now, but not very. It is June 13, so come to think of it, I have been here exactly 4 months.

My husband and daughter joined us a month ago, around my birthday. Somehow they survived 2 months at home alone together without killing each other, which is impressive. My daughter made no significant (or dramatic) suicide attempts, so that is something.

My father does not have COVID. He has fucking everything else, and it is all strange. 10 or so years ago, everything hurt, he lost his balance, and went from hiking to a walker in about a year. He’s had afib but that was kinda treated by rfa 25 years ago. It’s come and gone. His inner ear has made him stagger and fall a lot.

He was sent to the hospital for a heart cath after the March incident, but he coughed once, so some helpful nurse tested him for COVID instead, and they had to wait for results, so he was sent home, and nothing at all was done. His test was negative.

It is just as well they didn’t magically fix his heart. This red lumpy growth on his scalp started a few months ago. At first we thought it was sebaceous cysts, then the dermatologist tried treating him for cellulitis, and then he took another look at more pictures Mom sent him, and guessed, probably rightly, that it was atherosarcoma. He suggested a biopsy, but by that time, he was too weak to put in the car. This cancer strikes one in a million, but without a biopsy, I’m pretty sure the derm is right. The Google images match exactly. My doctor’s gut says it is.

Redness spread around the lumps and now it has moved all across the top of his head and down onto his forehead. There is a new evil lump between his shoulders that sticks out like the horn of a demon. His eyelids are starting to itch. The way he’s slurring his speech and losing his thoughts, it could be damage from the couple of heart attacks I’m pretty sure he’s had, or he could be getting brain mets from the sarcoma.

Either way, he’s dying, and he’s been on home hospice for 2 weeks now, and I’m just fucking hoping his heart gives out before that fucking evil cancer gets somewhere that causes him terrible pain and fear.

He is nearly an infant now. He cannot sit up, he barely rolls over, he has to be fed. I tried to persuade Mom to let his brother talk on speaker to him, and tell him he doesn’t have to say anything, but somehow Mom doesn’t want this done. I think if I were in diapers and dying I would want to hear my favorite brother’s voice again, but what the fuck do I know?

So, we wait. COVID has us trapped anyway. I’d be perfectly happy to stay in a house for the rest of my life, but my daughter is 15 almost, and doesn’t deserve that life. 5 people in one house are beginning to grate. Mom can’t stand my husband. My husband is irritating as fuck, truly, but it’s Aspberger’s and I’m trying to deal with it. My mom is getting on my nerves horribly because she rejects almost any idea I have out of spite and out of hand, and rejects my husband more so. He is only here to help and support me and keep the family together.

I don’t know how long we’ll be here. I don’t know how long we’ll be able to get along. I don’t know how long it will take Daddy to die, but he sure as hell wants to. His dad died in his sleep after going to the state fair, and I sure as shit want to know why my good Daddy has to die like Flowers for Algernon in diapers.

For now, I think my daughter is handling the isolation because she is helping us ride out Daddy’s death, but my fear is that when that finally happens, she will realize it is COVID that has had her trapped all along, and that it is going to last forever.

It is a terrible way to die and I want to lock us in our house forever and live on beef jerky. But my husband and my daughter are going to insist on going out and doing things, and she’s a kid, she should get to, but I sure as fuck don’t want any of us to die horribly. * I * don’t want to die horribly.

I wrote this because I vowed I would do all this art and jewelry and writing while locked up, and instead I have done NOTHING. Nothing because I’m sad. Nothing because I feel sorry for myself. All this time. Wasted.

But I wrote this. If I write quick daily memories in here, I can art journal them later. If I don’t write things down, I won’t remember anything. I think I don’t want to remember anything. I will make myself do it. I have to leave a trace of me. I think I am worth it.

Against a wall

a woman asked a Man

what does a Man most Fear of us

He said

We’re Afraid you will Laugh at Us

she said

that’s funny because

we’re Afraid You’ll

Scare us

Stalk us

Hurt us

Break us

Rape us

Kill us

so while You’re Afraid of us Laughing at You

well, we’re

Afraid to Laugh at You too

because one day

we’re alone

against a wall

and we are Afraid

we didn’t know You at all


The Tragedy of Growing Up Smart in Alabama

You landed there by chance, probably.  Maybe your family started out there, but they probably didn’t.

You moved there when you were 3 years old.  One of your first memories in Alabama was thinking, as a toddler, I’m never going to sound like that.  One of your first tragedies moving towards middle school was realizing I’m going to have to try to sound like that.  Otherwise, like a test chicken with a red spot painted on, you’ll be pecked to death.  So, you stumble with that twang on your tongue, and it tastes like poison.  The second tragedy is when you realize that twang is in me.  And try as you might, you can’t flush it out.  You thought you were a safe chameleon, but it came with a price.  Almost your soul, not quite.

Tennis lessons in middle school, terrible popular girls who have reached that status not because they were raised with any care for grammar, or diction, or how to edit a piece of prose until it shines, but because their daddy has a car dealership.  Stupid medium fish, shallow murky pond.  It gets late; the mosquitoes bite.  You say we need some insect repellent, because that is what you need, and one of the smirky girls says, why can’t you say BUG SPRAY like everyone else, and the night is poisoned.  Never mind she married out of high school and faded, little consolation later, when you pick up a tennis racquet (which you spell with a q, which is also wrong) and not like everyone else is what you hear.

You hate these people.  Your parents are educated; they have class, and knowledge, and care about analyzing things before making decisions, or believing anything they hear.  They are a humiliating joke to your carpool mates, because the Chevy they pick us up in is embarrassingly old.  Years later you realize those were classic Chevys you helped Daddy work on, and then you hate yourself, because you were embarrassed too.

You try to make friends, but your mind is freakish, and your eidetic memory for words is freakish (and WordPress has flagged eidetic not because you spelled it wrong, but because it isn’t in their dictionary, and you have to add it), and the fact that you maintain an insect collection is beyond freakish, and apparently the way you carry your backpack isn’t right either, and you can’t say bug spray like everyone else. 

Most people make friends in church, or meet dates in church, but you don’t go to church.  Everyone knows you don’t go to church.  Everyone knows exactly where everyone goes to church.  There are even right and wrong Baptist churches to go to.  Everyone knew that First Baptist was better than Central Baptist.  First Baptist was bigger; more money dropped there into the collection plates.  You say it FIRST Baptist and CENTRAL Baptist, emphasis on the first, and the central, because you must declare allegiance, and obviously, the Baptist part doesn’t mean much, since it’s the FIRST and CENTRAL that you lean on.  There are maybe 15 Catholics in your whole school and they are viewed tolerantly as different.  You are not different, you are other.  Everyone knows.  You want to belong, but you don’t want to go to church, because apparently it makes you stupid.

You don’t escape.  You want to go away to college, but your folks both teach there, and you can get a good education for an insanely small amount of money, so you stay.

You don’t escape.  You get into medical school, and you are so very excited.  You’re still stuck there, but maybe there will be some forward thinkers, some real intelligent folks with whom you can have an intelligent conversation without having to say bug spray.  After all, they’re going to be doctors, right?  You don’t escape.  Some of the folks who have medical school study prayer group were in your high school, and everyone believes that medical school study prayer group is actually a thing.  You were not invited, and you didn’t want to go.

You escape.  For a blink.  You do your residency in New Orleans, and you fit.  Everyone is different.  It isn’t the south.  It’s other.  They have a Mardi Gras ball for people who don’t fit, called MOM’s Ball, which stands for Misfits, Orphans and Misfits, and it’s the best ball ever, because The Radiators play it every year, and you know them, because every time they’re at Tipitina’s, or anywhere else, you’re there with them, getting radiated.

You get a job in Atlanta, which is the biggest small-ass town you’ve ever lived in.  The hot chicks just come from families with bigger car dealerships.  Anyone who’s anyone knows each other, and I once heard a guy in a Buckhead bar say he couldn’t find beauty in anything bigger than a size 5 dress.  You ally yourself with your gay friends, and your black friends, and your pierced and tattooed friends, and hang out in Little Five, and eat at the Vortex, because the White Bread Brigade (your words) are beyond repugnant, and horrid.

And then you spin out. Because you don’t escape.  You’ve married, and had a baby, and your folks still live in Alabama, and they’re getting older, and can’t travel much, and so, back you go.  For 15 years now, you’ve swallowed bullshit and vomit back in the swamp, and worried when your daughter talks about being an atheist, and she’s only 12 and doesn’t know what that means, and you’re actually not an atheist at all, but you might as well be.  And you think that if your daughter says atheist one more time at school that they really will burn a cross on your fucking lawn.  And everyone knows she doesn’t go to church.

So now you travel, and people around say, oh yeah, I thought so, I hear some twang, and you want to go in the bathroom and make yourself puke.

And then trump happens.

You’ve spent most of your adult life trying to persuade yourself that these people aren’t that bad, it’s just a different ideology, surely you have more in common than not, and OK, so they don’t know what onomatopoeia means, or where Singapore is, or how to speak any other language, or what an adverb is even.  You know this because you accidentally said something in front of someone, who is a nurse, and you thought somehow she’d be smarter, because you still haven’t learned, and you say that you think the trend of naming your kids adverbs, like Heatherly or Amberly, or Fucking Stupidly, and just tacking “ly” on the end, or whatever, is dumb, and she says I have an Amberly, and I don’t even know what an adverb is.

And you said to yourself, I bet she knows I don’t go to FIRST Baptist.

And then trump happens.

And the worst thing ever happens, because you’ve spent your whole damn life getting along with them and telling yourself you won’t hate them because they’re rabid about church, or judgmental, because you’re better than that, and you try to turn that cynicism off, so you’ll be a better person.

And then trump happens.

And you realize your whole damn adult life, you’ve been lying to yourself, and it’s not cynicism if it’s true, and these people really ARE THIS FUCKING HORRIBLE, and you think to yourself, you’re not really sure that JESUS could be better than this, or forgive these money changers and lenders and worshipers of wanton stupidity and hypocrites and JUST GAWDAWFUL inhuman losers.

And then you realize you’ve been speaking to yourself in italics, and referring to yourself in the second person, and these people have no fucking clue what those are either.

And then you think, wow, Mom’s really healthy, and we may be lucky enough to have her for another 20 years, which would be amazing, and then you think Holy Christ, 20 more years.

Daily Prompt: Irrelevant

I could tell you
Humanity is fucked.

That an extinction level event is a thing
We may see before we see our children’s children be.

Sometimes I pray for our extinction
I would beautifully explode, taking all of us
And it would be worth the price of the last admission.

The unwashed huddled starving desperate masses think politics
And TV news and fights are about them
Little things are tossed at them reluctantly, hushpuppies to sled dogs
Small mercies smuggled into fine print by a few, who give a shit enough
To hide them in an infinity of rotting pork
While fatcat smug suspendered reapers give the elbow, side-eye
Wink wink, smirk and nudge nudge.

And we think we’re comets, crazy stars with possibilities
The forefathers promised us, but worried secretly, so much doubt
About the human sky, we think it’s up
And don’t look down where possibilities go
To die

The actual sky instead, some imagination there
We watch, not knowing that it is not what we think that we might see
Aliens or dystopian postapocalyptic fantasies that movies weave
Those themes might not turn out better, but at least differently
Pieces of thoughts that aliens and designer diseases and EMP’s
Might bring a world where fighting, honor and strength might matter again
We are imagining disasters that might change something
Because we can’t handle the truth of infinite lies.

Things down here are always worse and stranger than we thought.
The news is real.
Reality is fake,
And terrifying if you look into it
Like the abyss that looks back into you, and the cynicism you’re fighting
Tangles with the abyss, and breeds hate and rage and despair.

How dare anyone tell the truth of power,
Look into the stagnant murk and rot of too much everything
The throways are unaware, no foundation to understand
Lies, immorality, chortling yachted privilege
Greed, atrocities of mind and deed
Lust for platinum power controlling clutching things

Lust for serfs is so very cheap
Seeking emptiness and numbing pain, but thinking it something else
The lonely, broke, and broken stare at screens of grotesque couplings
Shiny infinite porn: the new opium of the masses
Nervous fingers on a button that hides the screen
Watching fake people having fake sex; the nickel freak show at the circus
But with a happy ending.

Religion was a little better.

The covetousness of the highest castes, paid-for, so-important
A terrifying appetite for more expensive things than money or sex
Souls and lives and steering future history for gain.
A magic show where all the things are stolen
The magician waves the shiny girl and flips the house, and cooks deliciously on TV
And the foolish dream that joining the show could make them someone
When no one understands what someone means.

Tenements left so lethal that the land will be ripe for shiny towers soon
The sweating, scorned, and feared child soldiers make
Distraction, an immediate fear that turns heads anywhere but up
Swaggering bullet holes suck anger into places, except where anger should be sent
The sad tiny creatures scrabble, make warring villages that shouldn’t be
Between colors in shades of suspicion, to distract, and
Oil and grease the wealthy’s sanction of inner city war
Failure Castes our country swears it doesn’t have.

The new American dream is a Wreck and a Check,
A spin of a wheel and the transfixing banging bouncing ping-pong balls
More dreams: frantic scratching silver wax on cardboard in bodegas
Gambling, a tax on those who can’t do math.
An unlucky break, a death, blame the tired docs
Who couldn’t stop the will of any god, makes them
Cough up from coffers they haven’t had for years and years, and
Deep pockets of no-shitgiving insurance
Run by yachts and James Bond cars.
The lawyers keep almost all, of course, and live in biggish homes with hopes for bigger
But you might afford a new bass boat, or a shiny new TV to take your mind away.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; a poor man’s Vegas
Craves lustful tales of desperate debauchery, frantic to be lame enough for reality TV
But only your money stays in Vegas; the nightmares follow you home.

There is a Power’s lust for glittering gold, possession and repression
Even the lust is beyond poverty’s imagination
Although the poor swear they can imagine it.

Fast things.

Did you know you can buy a hundred thousand dollar sapphire razor
With free resharpening for life, of course
Sleek shiny conveyances with fins and tails and dual exhausts
Flashy place to flashier place, fast boring anytime sex
Where the only price paid by the rich for whores and pretty stuff
Are the hopes of the aspiring clutching underbelly
Grabbing on coattails of fame, or shiny new wealth, star-fucking
It is said that things are only given to those who could buy them easily.

Despite the desperate hopes of the empty wallets day to day
It is not virtue and hard work, but monsters who have all the things
Who are taking more, despite having all of it already.
Screwing over those already screwed
Nailing them to jobs where you actually have to work, and pay for the privilege
Of having no privilege and often no work, but you still have to pay.

Trapped and terrified and stuck where light is always a train and lortabs slow it down
And taxes and taxes and cigarettes by the case and cheap beer with a tinny taste
While real yachts and swinging flapper beads and artful fleeting ice swans are
But only in movies do the tragic cannon fodder see
Through a wavy looking glass, opulence more real than film can capture and display
Where true wealth and power are worth a thousand words.

No, a million words.

A million moving pictures.

A billion dollars.

But that would be irrelevant.

via Daily Prompt: Irrelevant


Extreme(ly Unpleasant) Camping: Part 2

Cold camping.  The cold one.  Ahhh, the cold one.

I was dating an attorney from Atlanta; let’s call him M.  Crazy things happened to the guy, all the time. He expected weirdness, and was seldom disappointed. Any bizarre occurrence that was dealt, he dubbed “M’s World”.  For him, shit just happened.  He bought a brand new Corvette, and a week later, hit a deer on a stretch of road in the woods. He had it repaired, and a couple weeks later, hit another deer. He had never before hit a deer. While heading out on a date one night, the guard gate at my apartment smacked down on the hood of his Corvette.  I said, “That’s weird. That’s never happened before.” He told me he had spent his entire life hearing those words.

We were planning a camping trip – whitewater rafting with a bunch of people I had never met. Destination: West Virginia, in early October.  I grew up in the South; it never occurred to me that cold might happen.

We brought my two dogs. Bella (the Italian Greyhound) was dumb as a freaking post. (I found out AFTER I got her that her breed is “remarkably difficult to housebreak”).  The dogs ran around the campground while we pitched a lot of tents around a communal firepit.  I kept an eye on both of them   Nymo peed. Bella, I didn’t see. I was hoping I had just missed it.

That night, it snowed.


It snowed about an inch. I woke up FREAKING cold, despite our air mattress and warm sleeping bags. M woke up freaking cold and WET.  We had run Bella around and around the campground the night before, hoping that she would settle down and pee. Having failed this simple task. Bella crawled that night into M’s sleeping bag (despite not being his dog) and peed all down his leg, and into his sock. When he woke, he rocketed out of the sleeping bag (into the snow, which we did not know was there), holding aloft a dripping yellow sock.  He had never before been so close to dog-icide. He also had not brought a spare pair of socks. Also his sleeping bag was wet. And he was standing on a bare foot, waving a yellow sock, surrounded by snow. Another yell about the presence of the snow.  The phrase “M’s World” was invoked frequently.

After M dissuaded himself from killing my dog (I wouldn’t have blamed him), we put on wetsuits and drove to the boat loading site. It had also not occurred to me that the WATER would be horribly cold. I figured it would be reasonably temperate, since it had recently become fall (in the South). Hell frick no. Water flowed down from the mountains, where there was already snow, and it was FUCKING cold.  So cold.  I can’t stand being cold.  Cold is like death to me.

Despite a full wetsuit, I shook uncontrollably, the entire time. Pre-boat, boat, and post- boat.  Water splashed by gallons into the boat. My hair was soaked. The wetsuit had turned into a sponge that held every drop of icy water. I was so horribly miserable, I prayed that we would hit a rock and I would be thrown from the boat, smashing my head, because death would have been a better alternative.

After an interminable amount of time, which felt fatal, we finished our ice luge and at last returned to the car, where I thought I would get warm. Nope. I hadn’t brought a change of clothes, and was drenched, and my teeth were clacking all the way back. Then, we had to get out of the car and trek back through the snow to our camping site, still clad in drenched wetsuits.  Death.  I swear, I wished for death.

I plastered myself to the campfire that night.  I wouldn’t get any farther away than three feet. When one side of me got painfully roasted, I would flip the other side to the heat. Flip. Smoke. Flip. Brrr. Leaving the fire for the tent was like being wrenched away from a friend.

We turned the sleeping bag inside out that night, so the pee part would be on the outside. Unsurprisingly, we were stinking and cold.

The drive home the next morning, with dry clothes, and the heat in the car, was the highlight of the freaking trip.

If driving home in the cushioned, warm comfort of a car is the best part of a camping trip, camping is probably not for me. Thus, I don’t camp any more. Ever.

And if I need more solidification of anti-camping sentiment, I’m also terrified of bears. Campsites have bears. I have no desire to be on the wrong side of anyone’s food chain, thank you very much.  I’ve had enough camping drama as it is.  I feel strongly that if I am ever stupid enough to camp again, I will almost certainly be eaten.


Extreme(ly Unpleasant) Camping: Part 1

Is it possible to have two worst camping trips?  This is a rhetorical question. It is possible.

This, Part 1, is the Hot One.  Part 2 will be the Cold One, which my loyal readers will eagerly await, no doubt.

The hot one was hot. And sticky.  And sweaty.  I was living in New Orleans doing my residency, and I was dating a talented painter from the Mississippi coast. For July 4th weekend, he proposed a double date. We and another couple would sail to Horn Island, an uninhabited island off the Mississippi coast, and camp there.  He loved that island, and he idolized a painter who had camped alone on the island and had done several series of paintings of it. His dad loaned B his catamaran. We would sail, and camp there, and watch the Fourth of July fireworks over the beaches of the Gulf Coast.

On a beautiful day, we sailed across the bay to the island, replete with camping gear and a good deal of beer.  En route, we spotted a pod of dolphins cruising with the boat. They seemed curious. B let me get on the back ladder, which was not locked down. The boat was moving at a good clip, and the ladder pulled out horizontally.  I held on to the bottom rung.  I felt like Superman, flying.  The pod swam closer.  I think they were wondering about this land-bound creature, swimming so fast. They swam next to me until we were close to the island.  I knew they wouldn’t hurt me. They were more brown than the grey I expected, and some had barnacles on them. Maybe they did think I was a superhero.  I was sorry when I had to climb back up.  In hindsight,  I was “drinking and laddering”.  If I had slipped off the ladder, how long would it have been before I was missed?  God, as they say, protects drunks, fools, and little children.

We anchored off a shallow spot on Horn Island and waded in with our camping gear. We pitched the tents, and found wood for a fire. In the height of summer, on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, the heat and humidity were oppressive. On the island, there was little wind, and it was stuffy.  I didn’t so much notice during daylight, because we were busy chatting, and walking around the dunes, and looking at the pools with crabs in them, and gathering burnable wood. Evening came, and we sat around the fire, which was inconveniently hot, and cooked hot dogs and marshmallows. The big fireworks were set off over the beaches.  We had a great view, and beer, and life was good.

Eventually, we found our way to our tents. I tossed, fitfully, and realized after a few hours that there was no way I could sleep –  I was miserable. There was a mosquito in the tent.  Mosquitoes don’t bite me much, but they love to fly into my ears.  NYEEEE  NYEEEEE!  SWAT!  And a miss.  SWAT!  There is nothing more fun than boxing one’s own ears to smash a mosquito.  I wanted to open the tent flap,, but I knew the mosquito wouldn’t fly out, but more would come in.  I was hot.  I was sticky.  I couldn’t stand it.  I got up quietly, unzipped the tent flap, crept out, and zipped it back before flights of Valkyrie mosquitoes came in.  I walked down the sandy slope to the dark water. I was going to get in.  It was SO freaking hot, even at night. The shallows were proverbial bathwater. The bay was as hot and humid as I was.  My hope was to splash water, and maybe when I got out, it would evaporate off my skin and cool me.

I was waded in waist deep, and was scooping water over me when B spoke behind me, as close as the mosquito, and much more unexpected. “Watch out for the swimming logs!”  At first I didn’t understand.. “Alligators,” B said. “They pass right through here all the time.”

He didn’t seem at all concerned, but my exit from the water was expedient and less than graceful.  I was now left with no respite from the heat at all, but at least I had not been a snack for gators.  We got a couple beers from the cooler, and some water and ice, and we splashed and drank.  It helped so very little.  We crawled back into the tent and when I heard the inevitable mosquito, I sucked my head into the sleeping bag like a turtle.  Way too hot, but no mosquito.  I put my head back out. Still too hot, but still mosquito.  Nyeeee… nyeeee… nyeeee

Too early and too late, we got out of our tents and begin packing up all the things.  It was a tad too early for beer. Not much, because we did live in New Orleans.  Everywhere else, people say, “It’s 5:00 somewhere”, when they want to make excuses for drinking early.  In NOLA, we say that it is noon somewhere. The bars there are open all night and all day.

It was much too much work in the sticky heat to pack everything up.

At last we were on the boat, and the breeze over the water helped a lot.  We were getting closer, close enough to see the people on the beach, and we were passing a small catamaran race.  Suddenly, the little boats were tipping over, one after another, like dominoes. B knew exactly what this meant.  He was scrambling, frantic, to get the sail down. A squall line had come up suddenly.  If he didn’t get the sails down before it got to us, we were tipping over too, cabin and all. Suddenly there was lightning, and grey sky.  He got the sail down in time, and for a moment, we thought we would tip over anyway.  We crammed into the cabin and closed the hatch, out of the driving rain and lightning, in case we we tipped over into the waves.  We were little comforted by our tiny shelter, knowing that that metal mast went all the way into the boat next to us. The waves were huge and tossed us, slamming us and tipping us almost horizontal. The girl began moaning about how seasick she was.  I was thinking how awful it would be to be trapped in a swooping cabin with vomit. I found Benadryl and made her swallow it. That stuff is a miracle drug, useful for nausea, motion sickness in humans, dogs, and cats, and anxiety, and sleep. I made sure to tell her that it was super for nausea, hoping for additional placebo effect.  And thank God, she didn’t throw up. The thunder and thrashing water continued much longer.

At last, the swaying slowed, and the thunder got farther away. We ventured one at a time to the deck of the boat, and put the sail back up.  Alas, there was now no wind in the wake of the gust front.  None.  We were in our own small Horse Latitudes. B tried to start the small trolling motor in hopes of getting us home.  It wouldn’t start.  We were becalmed.

We had a nauseated girl, a clueless guy,  me, irate and certainly cursing the universe, and B, who was very concerned that his motor wouldn’t start. No one was happy. Magically, the motor sputtered awake at last. We were able to choke and hiccup our way toward shore, realizing that we might run out of gas, or be overcome by oily gas fumes. At last, we caught some wind.  We docked MANY hours after we had expected.  Then, we were left with a messy, soggy boat.  B firmly explained to us that despite the fact that we were exhausted, queasy,  hot, and pissed off, one never leaves a boat unswabbed and messy,  no matter what.  Our ground-kissing had to wait until everything was dry, clean, and put away.  Theoretically, I understood that this was something we had to do.  In practice, I was very very pissed at the universe.

We were very quiet on the ride home.



Hello Again

My last post was January, 2015. What the hell happened that January? I feel like a manned space capsule at the beginning of an Aliens movie. ” The last communication of the SS Stork was 31.01.2015 (cue sinister music). The ship is believed to have simply vanished – there has been no explanation for the disappearance.  (cue image of screaming person in space helmet). Then a distress call was received…”

I have a date tomorrow morning. I found a writer’s group through MeetUp, and they meet about 30 minutes away, every second Saturday. I am going to make myself get up off my ass, go meet some like-minded writerly people (too freaking early in the morning) and write the shit out of something. There. I am committed. See you all tomorrow.

My Husband, The Food Terrorist

My husband has, er, a strong opinion about the correct consumption of food.  It overwhelms any sense of shame he might have (he hasn’t).  He has embarrassed me so many times in so many food venues.  And his food rules are many and complex.

He once demanded to see a manager in a McDonald’s.

On a date, in a 5 star restaurant in Atlanta, he waved over the maître d’ to inform him that the baked potatoes had been sitting under the warmer for far too long and they were unacceptably dry.  I wanted to crawl under the table and yet… I married him.

Every time we go to Ruth’s Chris, he sends his steak back to be put back on the grill and done right, and he lectures the wait staff on the nuances of steak preparation.  He informs them that he wants no pepper on the steak rub, and he doesn’t want it to come with sizzling butter on the plate.  What possible food  would NOT be improved by the presence of sizzling butter?

I am Harry. He is Sally.

He always demands his dressing on the side, because “they put too much on”.  He requests no croutons.  And when the croutons come anyway, he piles them reproachfully on the side of his plate.

We were out to eat with my parents, and my mom leaned over and whispered, “Why does he DO that?”  She was referring to his highly odd practice of ordering a salad with chicken, and carefully removing the chicken and placing it on a separate plate.  I had already asked him. “Why in the hell would you order a salad with chicken, and then take it off?”  He looked at me as if I were dimwitted.  “The hot chicken wilts the lettuce.”  Seriously?

We have yet to buy food through a drive-through.  He refuses to drive his food home, because it will be “too cold to eat”. Alternately, he also refuses to get Blizzards in the drive-through, because they will be too MELTED when we get home.  He can’t eat melted ice cream.  I’m not sure what he think happens when it gets into his stomach.

When we were first married, he was obsessed with expiration dates on food.  He read everything in the pantry, and no matter what it was, he refused to eat it if it was one day past the expiration date.  The first time I brought him home to meet my parents, he informed my mom that the can she had just opened was past its due date.  My mother, who buys food and stocks her fridge and pantry as if she were preparing for Armageddon, clipping coupons and buying in massive bulk, looked at him like he had cabbages growing out of his ears.  Actually, she looked at him like she wanted to whack him with a spatula.  I know that look.

He has always been obsessed with sodium.  His dad was probably the last human being who was ever placed on a low sodium diet.  He scrutinizes everything he picks up in the supermarket and scowls.  “I can’t believe how much SODIUM they put in this!  It’s like the silent epidemic!”  I have told him innumerable times that no one really worries about sodium any more.  But I’m only a doctor, so what do I know?

Then there’s the fat thing.  To say that he eschews fat would indeed be putting it mildly.  He peels and scrapes and carves every bit of his meat which seems to be remotely white in color.  Even a very lean pork chop – he carefully minces off scarcely visible edges of fat and piles them on his plate, testament to his lack of confidence in the buyer’s ability to purchase a decent piece of meat.  He won’t eat a bite until the surgery is adequately performed.  I’m not sure what he would do if he ever accidentally put a morsel of fat into his mouth.  It would probably immediately induce vomiting.

And, there are the popsicles.  He consumes sugar-free popsicles, packs at a time.  He likes to bring them to TV time, so that the dialogue sounds like CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH rip, shred, rip, shred (him opening more popsicles).  He used to do the crunching and the rip-shredding in bed too, until I made him stop.  He leaves the wrappers everywhere, despite having a garbage can within arm’s reach.

He’s convinced that he has mercury poisoning, so he now rejects the “sulfur-forming” foods:  cruciate vegetables, eggs, basically everything that is good for you.  And he has another Bee in His Bonnet – after consulting multiple forums on mercury toxicity (but not a doctor), he now takes a chelating regimen of literally dozens of vitamins a day, to exorcise the evil toxin from his body.  I don’t want to know how much they cost, but unfortunately I have a pretty good idea. We even have vitamin packages arriving from South Africa.  He looks like an HIV patient – he has timers set on his phone, for these miracle workers must be taken at precise times.  I don’t know what will happen if he messes up a dose, but I am sure it is dire.  We have timers going off every four hours throughout the night.

Also, he refuses anything he had to eat in childhood.  His family was fairly poor, and he had to live with his grandparents a while.  They did a lot of living off the land; they had a garden and fished and hunted.  So to this day, he will eat NOTHING that they had in abundance when he was a kid.  No okra.  No spinach.  Only iceberg lettuce.  And no freshwater fish, because they caught and ate them.  They taste “too fishy”.  I have no idea what the heck else a fish is supposed to taste like.  He only eats top-of the-food-chain ocean fish, although he now rejects them as well because they contain mercury.

He goes on Atkins a lot, mainly when his 32’s get too tight.  He refuses to buy up a size in the face of his increasing age.  You would think, given his food obsessions, that he would eat a healthy diet.  Oh, no.  I think he would eat Mexican food every day if he could.  He eats like a pig:  ice cream, Blizzards, tangy Sweet Tarts, popcorn, until the 32’s get tight, then he slams on the brakes and eats only lunch meat and cheese.  Cooking for my family is impossible.  If you combine the fat-eschewing with the loathing of most domestic vegetables and fish and the fear of sodium, mercury and sulfur, and the no-carbs rule – big fun at meals in OUR house!

Just a little food OCD.  I will not, however, mention the fact that I eat six cartons of yogurt a day.  There’s NOTHING weird about that!  Nope.  Good times.