The Fountain

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I recently found myself in Ana Ruby Falls in North Georgia near the Hellishly Kitsch town of Helen. I am a big fan of Kitsch, so I managed to enjoy myself. Walking around this park is a tourist must do, and I remembered seeing pictures of the Falls from my parents Mountain souvenirs they collected over the years. They visited the place on their honeymoon.

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Since dad died, those memories are hard to revisit. Finding myself in north Georgia amongst even slightly familiar locales was like smelling a ghost. I felt his footsteps behind me and walked with somber steps up the paved hiking trail. Mom frequents the park and spends hours haunting the falls, listening to the whispering waters and mindless twittering of birds in the oak canopies.

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The falls usually whisper, but today they raged with rare passion. A tropical storm had recently moved through, flooding the basin at the top of the mountain and dumping a torrent down the mountain side. Mom’s description of the falls were somewhat inaccurate. The wind twisting through the trees and the wet, cold mists wrapped around me. The smells of ozone and earth took me, lifted me to a place of long buried memory. I couldn’t shake the feeling I had been here before, though I was sure I never had.

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The trees laid scattered like a child’s blocks, the earth had twisted and piled in odd clumps as small pools leaked from the now furious river on it’s mad dash down the mountain. What shocked me the most about this sight was not the white water rapids tearing through rocks, but rather the sheer height visible through the green leaves. The fall usually trickles down, and the split where two creeks merge to form the main stream almost always drips from the right while the one on the left flows gently.

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Both torrents screamed with primal force. Above them, so far up as to dizzy my brain, was the main fall obscured through the forest canopy. I could not fathom the altitude, that the beauty and savagery of this place started from such a precipice. It made me feel small. I contemplated all the places in this world I could never reach. What remains inaccessible to me. There are mysteries left still. Our hubris can always be dulled with the sight nature’s cruelty and grace.

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I have struggled to find words. I spend many hours pouring ink onto a page no reader will ever see. I lament my inability to write and fear my fountain has run dry. Could my brain simply empty? Could my words stifle and drip with impotent whispers? For now, I have hope that my words and my writing cycle with seasons, that now is a time of calm and whispering echoes. What storm must rage to set my river to madness again? For now I hope and wait…and prepare.

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No Sense of Self or Place: Life in the Corridors of South Georgia

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Effingham County is a land of no distinction. Virtually no hills dot it’s acres and a homogeneity of slash pines arranged in neat, over planted-plots lulls the brain into a sleepy, meandering labyrinth. There is history here, but it scrawls on rusty plaques funded by the state. Almost every historical marker goes on and on about the specific locations of Sherman’s troops on certain dates. The Salzburgers landed at Ebenezer and nearly everyone can trace an ancestor to them. The occasional town stalks the winding roads and if you’re lucky, there is a semi-decent Barbecue restaurant lurking there.  

I grew up driving on the roads of Effingham and Bulloch county. Dirt was a friend to us because police rarely patrolled the more isolated areas lacking pavement. We could pick up absurd speed on the red paths, dodging oak trees and spinning out at the hairpin turn on Go-Kart Road. No story to that name, there was literally a karting supply shop and go-kart track among the mossy limbs and cow pastures.

It was just land. People lived there. Before those people, others lived there before them. They left nothing but foundations where some kept the home, but others let the pines surround their rotting husks to lurk as black shadows in the gathering heaps of straw. I always wanted to call the place ghostly, but ghosts have more presence and one can usually find out from whence a ghost has come. This place was haunted by the fragmented remains of memory, dissipating in neurons long dead and only held together by the degrading filaments of protein in a corpse.

Ebenezer Road was supposedly the origin of my family. Neidlinger, Bailey, Grovenstein, and something else. Grandfather was adopted. Grandma was a bastard daughter likely born to a carpet bagger or God-forbid a cousin. It was better for us to not dig to deep into our past. Ebenezer, the retreat built around the historical landing of the Salzburger clans. It had a pool, tennis courts, trails, and a pavilion where family reunions boiled in Georgia shade. Paddle boats dotted the tiny dock where a gator once attacked a cousin fishing from the bank. That was the same spot my foot sank into sopping wet moss and I ruined my new dress shoes.

I never felt that connection to Ebenezer. It was a place like any other. It could have been the lonely isolation of Low-Ground road which flooded with even a light sprinkling of spring rain. It could have been Courthouse road where the mobile homes huddled in the clay, grassless patches. It could even have been Grovenstein lane, the two ruts named out of our county’s necessity to label all paths between property, no matter how unused or remote. Nothing dwelled on those roads except an occasional hunting club and more corridors of pine. We were left permanently lost, unable to draw a distinction between our here and our there. The past and the future mingled in an unending procession of turns and returns. The pines swallow all, plows, bullet shells, the remains of a pug that never did anything but annoy the neighbor, our wrestling action figures, love notes never exchanged, stumps dad always promised to pull up, rabbit cages, christmas lights, golf cart batteries, and the graves of infants at the feet of their mother who died giving birth to them.

On these roads, you will lose your sense of self, and learn that there was nothing there to begin with.

 

Denim Blue Dragonfly

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A poem about mourning.

 

Denim Blue Dragonfly

 

I.

 

Heaven’s fairytale seduces even the most heartless

Damned atheist when his/her father falls

Asleep at the wheel and dies.

 

Futile efforts to convince oneself that “dad” would never

Be missed collapse into a blasted heath of ash.

Somehow, you mourn with devotion anyway.

 

Bruce and his German Clan cling to a yet stranger

Superstition. “They send butterflies and birds. Their

Eyes see

 

Through many. Look for them. You will feel

Their presence and be glad.” The whorish

Charlatán Sylvia Browne said something similiar.

 

I didn’t believe her either.

The morning they buried my dad,

A congregation of dragonflies

 

Choked the air above us. I tried

To feign strength, reading “And Death Shall

Have No Dominion.” But it did.

 

He is gone. I believe there is no heaven

 

To receive him.

 

He worse denim shirts and pants

When he left for work. The times

He hurt me most, he wore

 

Denim. He smelled of ozone

And Aquavelva, fire

And the chemicals

 

In freezers.

 

He is dead. I touched his cheek

Once upon the table where he

Died, second within his casket.

 

He was cold. There was no smell

To him at all. There was more than

Death in that shell.

 

It was empty.

 

Emptiness, palpable and almost

Tangible. I never fancied

Myself as the kind of man

 

That would leave things at a grave.

Occasionally, I bring him Chocolate

Pinwheels and leave them

 

Beside fading silk flowers

Just above the Indian motorbike

Medallion

 

My uncle surely placed before

He left that wet, buzzing

Morning.

 

I have screamed at his name-plate,

(we can’t afford a grave)

And cursed his name as a man

 

In a bathrobe from the tan, stucco

House nearby takes his vomit

Brown Dachshund by the cemetery

 

To piss. And what reason has

A dull blue dragonfly

To rest

 

Upon flowers that never knew life?

Why is it always there as I rage?

When my eyes spit and my

 

Breath staggers, it keeps

Vigil.

 

Buy the book here.

Cyclops: A Memoir of Mental Health Crisis

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This is a short exert of my upcoming memoir exploring my time in a psychiatric center. Can’t wait to share more. My hope is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health facilities and start a bold new conversation about mental illness and wellness.

Sanctum by the Sea

 

There is a jarring snap when the staff sit you down in front of that blank white wall and snap the picture. Before this moment, the reflection has lived. The eyes move in panic and sweat beads just below the wrinkles of the forehead. The image itself couldn’t be described as “pretty,” but it is alive. The perpetual state of panic nursed over weeks in some ways creates a nightmarish “hyper life” and leads the oppressed to react to all manner of stimuli the way a dog does after multiple surgeries at the same vet. It’s easy to grow accustomed to the image of oneself as broken, afraid and failing at the laborious task of masking all of those things.

But the picture depicts something shocking in it’s unfamiliarity. The figure looks dead. Eyes locked forward, the mouth hanging open with chapped lips cracked and slightly swollen. The hair parts down the middle, but the line revealing the scalp shivers it’s way up from the widow’s peak. The man doesn’t look into the camera, but rather stares straight past it. It’s not quite a mugshot as there is no sense of guilt or defiance. The face is empty, frozen in a moment where all the emotions simply failed.

I am in triage at a psychiatric institution. I will never again be a person who has not been in this place. The photo is the bottom, a memorialized testament to the -single worst moment of my life. I realize the doors have shut and there is no leaving the now collapsing beige walls. The hospital itself is in the process of remodeling. Exposed silver, red, and copper wires dangle from missing ceiling tiles and piss yellow insulation lies piled on the floor of intake. The lady helps me fill out the last bits of paper work. She isn’t as nice as the younger girl who broke the news earlier.

“There is someone coming to pick up your wife right?” She chews gum as she types in furious bursts. “She was pretty upset.”

“I don’t know.” The sound of my voice is faint. I feel like an actor in a terrible made for TV movie. “I shouldn’t have…”

“It’s not like it matters now. You should have known better than to pack razors.” She rifles through my things as she speaks. She separates out my toothbrush, looks through the pockets of my pants and opens a long box that once held trading cards. Now it contains deodorant and a pen. She flicks the pen into a wastebasket.

“Take off your shoes.” She spits out her gum and begins to unwrap another piece.

My arms extend and my fingers work the laces. I am not processing these things. It is as if I can see my own sluggish limbs from within the collapsing ceiling. They call this dissociation and it can drive you crazy. I don’t need any extra help with that.

“Take out the laces.”

I imagine how awful it must be to hang oneself with shoelaces. They are thin. The skin of my neck burns as I imagine them cutting not only through my skin, but straight into the muscle. I could honestly see this decapitating a person, especially one as fat and tall as me. My mind has been a gruesome place for a long time.

She takes the shoes and returns to the computer. I am left to bask in this thick and monstrous moment once again. My shoes feel wrong without the laces. The chair is wooden, and my ass has begun to go numb. I begin to register the sounds of my new home for the first time. We aren’t alone. Triage is apparently within the structure of the facility. Patients in bathrobes walk up and down the halls aimlessly. An occasional shout floats from somewhere deeper within. Laughs haunt the air, but the sound of an older woman weeping also rises and falls amongst the mirth. Fox News blares its typical cacophony and an old man screams for his mother. He just wants to know where his mother is.      

I had hoped Sanctum by the Sea would offer refuge or at least a quiet place to think. I lie to myself so often that my brain actually believes all it needs is silence to put the pieces back into their lost positions. Now as the the mix of cream tiles and broken hardwood floors shine the harsh brightness of flickering fluorescent bulbs into my already bloodshot eyes, I see that silence will be an even rarer commodity here. I have no energy left to feel despair. I simply am. The commotion includes me regardless of how little of myself remains.

A man about my age walks up. His beard scraggles like unkempt pubes and his brown eyes dart back and forth with speed. He chews the inside of his cheek and asks when the next smoke break is.

“If you ask again, there won’t be a smoke break at all.”

He winces, pulls up the hood on his baggy, grey sweater and turns his eyes to me. His hands drift to his pockets. The hair around his lips curves around a wide smile as he speaks.

“You seen them titties?” His teeth crawl out from behind his lips. He sways back and forth in anticipation of my answer.

“Um…no…I haven’t seen the titties.” Somewhere even further down the hall a lady screams for her medication. He looks a bit dejected, as if I had told him his cigarette break was cancelled.

“You know how to kill that Cyclops?” Conversations like this are still new to me. I have no answer. “You poke them motherfuckers in the eye.” His smile returns. He is pleased with himself for sharing this information.

The woman handling my paperwork gets up. She moves toward the voice yelling for pills. I am alone with the bearer of monster combat tactics. He suddenly becomes still.

“They gave you a real pen?”

I completely forgot about the pen sitting between my gnarled, callused fingers. There is still a flake of moist flesh slipping in and out of my teeth. I am likely bleeding out the tip of my thumb. Moving my hand is difficult, like reaching through water. I place the pen on the counter, careful to not let it roll off. These actions are slow like cane syrup dripping from a fork.

The man takes the pen with enthusiasm and giggles. He drifts back down the hallway to the center of the noise. I realize what I have done and begin to panic. My breathing tears at my chest and I begin to cry for what feels like the ninth time today. I can’t stop thinking of him taking the pen to someone’s throat. Maybe his own. I can see red ink blots spilling down his throat. They are real to me, dancing and blooming as vile flowers. There is blood on my shirt. I forgot about my thumb. I bite into it more and can feel the red patch of dermis rip as I chew flesh.

The lady returns with a huff. She sees my distress. This is obviously normal for her.

“It seems bad at first, but you will get used to it. Everyone is shocked when they first come in, completely normal.”

It’s not. I have already made another gigantic mistake in a long series of life crippling turns of idiocy. I am a sniffling mess.

“That guy. With the beard.” I stutter as I speak.

“William? Yeah he won’t hurt you.” She smiles. This is the nicest she has been to me. She is going to hate me in approximately three seconds.

I gather my courage. “He…he took my pen. The one…”

I didn’t finish. She acts without thinking, calls to two men not in the cliche white, but blue scrubs. They walk, not run. Their steps are strong and quick with purpose. There is no panic. Only purpose. I envy the distinction between panic and purpose. I have forgotten it.

There is no fight. There are no screams. She returns with the pen. She sits down in her chair and returns to my paperwork. “That boy. I swear to God.”

I am crying. I cannot breathe.

“Oh, oh God you didn’t do anything wrong David. It’s okay. I shouldn’t have left. It’s okay. William is fine. He wouldn’t be walking around if he wasn’t. Oh I’m sorry. That was the last thing you needed right now wasn’t it?” She laughs. A tech nearby laughs. He is a black male: tall, athletic, a smile almost bigger than my father’s. His face is the friendliest I have seen in months. His voice is deep but soft and quiet.

“Did William tell you about the Harpies? Or the Centaurs?”

I have stopped weeping. A sense of normalcy settles on my psyche. “The cyclops,” I say with a small tremor in my hands.

He laughs again. “Oh yeah, that cyclops is a real mother fucker.  

Anxiety and the Demands of Fandom

 

I had the most severe migraine the day Disney announced the creation of a new canon in Star Wars. Star Wars is not simply a series of films for me, and it never has been. The Galaxy Far Far Away forms a kind of vocabulary, a set of archetypes and images I have very much used in an effort to greater understand the world around me. As some theorists claim, I almost consider Star Wars a religion, and I used to pride myself on the insane trivia and detail that I could speak in the pursuit of that religion’s understanding. Then it’s like Joseph Smith showed up with a whole new testament to Skywalker and all of my sage-like ponderance was rendered fanfiction-level trash.

 

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This character doesn’t even exist anymore…

 

It’s hard to communicate the physical sensations I feel when tremors erupt within the many fictional worlds I have attempted to internalize. I have come to the realization that I have been giving myself mental distress based solely on the content I try to consume, which is honestly the weirdest mental problem I can even imagine. Let’s take Wrestling for another example. WWE is without a doubt the most dense fandom one can adopt in the form of video. Signing up for the WWE Network brought with it another type of shock, but this time the sensation began as an almost drug-like high. Getting access to a literally inexhaustible load of wrestling content through decades and decades of storyline left me feeling gorged, swollen with moves to memorize, story-lines to catch up on, and doomed franchises to experience in entirety (RIP WCW).

 

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My action figure roster will probably never be complete…

 

Meanwhile, hours and hours of new content appear on Hulu every week (which I also have a subscription for). Monthly pay per view programs are the hallmarks for story advancement, but maintaining a current awareness of stats, superstar highlights, and feud progress means missing one SmackDown can leave the viewer adjusting to a new, nauseating Champion (Jinder Mahal) and feud’s fizzled to nothingness due to untimely injury or even the firing of a superstar leaving a title vacated (Enzo sucks).

 

Last (and most certainly the paramount stressor) is video games. Gaming is a fandom designed to fragment and erect barriers to its members. The revolving door of consoles, genres, sequels and mediums makes any entrypoint perilous. I get dizzy just considering Far Cry 5 when I think of how much I preferred 2 to 3 and the amount of shit I have received for voicing that preference. The price tag of the modern console all but guarantees I will be Forting no Nites, and raising children cuts so deep into my anemic “gaming time” that I am starting to worry Borderlands 2 will never end, and my GOD why did I pick Salvador to dump hours and hours into when his skill tree is as dynamic as the first iterations of Pong?!

 

Books pile up. Miniatures stay unpainted. Dice never roll, and stories I have outlined stay foggy in my head, locked away from the world. When I bring myself to act I freeze, locked in a cyclone of self doubt and obsession over the tasks, media, and texts I must neglect.

 

Choice is supposed to be a good thing. And it is. The problem is in my own damn head, just like most of my problems.

 

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My coping mechanisms need their own coping mechanisms…

 

I am a man whose natural, default state is anxious. I fret, I worry, I cringe, and I despair at the broken pieces of my own entertainment ambition. Somehow the goals and obligations of my life get mixed into this tornado and the simple decision of what to watch on Netflix collapses into an hour of surfing titles on Netflix, chewing on the guilt over the story I failed to write that week. It’s not Netflix’ fault either, though for a long time I convinced myself it was. The drowning in content was killing me, ruining my enjoyment of material with overabundance of options. That’s not particularly rational.

 

I am learning that sometimes, it’s important to make a NOT to do list. I tend to watch political videos on youtube, and after a careful review of my time online, I was not happy with the sheer load of time I dumped reviewing eight pundits opinions on the same Trump flub. I once struggled with a near addiction to a wrestling based gem swap game and it took a personal time audit to see the gargantuan investment I was making into that one app. The only symptoms I had at the time, was a general dissatisfaction with everything else I tried to devote time to. I got depressed, struggling with a heavy unhappiness I didn’t quite understand.

 

Once I identified the time sucks, I made a conscious effort to cut down on those things. It was refreshing to feel a sense of discovery again. To have time to explore old topics, and create new goals. It was like my mind had become a weed infested garden, but I spent my time raging at the flowers that wouldn’t bloom while ignoring the thorns choking them to death.

 

Take some time out today to tend your mental garden. Don’t worry so much about going in the gate and cleaning up rubbish. Walk in and take a seat. Consider your thoughts, measure the time you spend with mental tasks. Understand yourself or at least ask questions of your behavior. We make no effort to cleanse our minds or even check them for sickness or weariness. A little weeding can do a lot to bring your innerlife out again.

New Collection of Poetry: Bury What Never Was

This book is the product of two years struggling with grief and depression. The photography is a backdrop from my hometown. I experienced a nervous breakdown after the death of my father and a nightmarish round of Active Shooter Drills at my work.

Anxiety disorders and the ever persistent haunt of false memories dot the landscape of my mental health. It is now on the other side of the worst two years of my life that I offer up this artifact of my journey. Every day I struggle to Bury What Never Was.

Pinball Palace Reviews: Part 2

Ball Park

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Man, this game was a sheer joy to play even if it took me a good five minutes of play to figure the damn thing out. This machine really should be hailed as a crown jewel of the Pinball Palace collection. It’s hard to get all of the facts straight about this game as there seem to be many versions of it. This looks like a very early concept for Pinball and was manufactured around 1966. There is only one flipper that simulates the batter’s swing and the player chooses which type of pitch they wish to hit.There are many targets at the top of the play field and with a little practice, a player can rack up an impressive score.

The gameplay is simple, but the real draw is the Marquee. Inside the large box displaying the title also sits a diorama of a baseball field.  As the player hits the ball into the targets, small figurines appear and run the bases according to the value assigned to each target. Score a single and the runner will take first. Hit a double and a new runner will appear while the original darts to third. Score racks up as runners hit home base. It’s rudimentary fun, and I would love to get a look into the mechanics of this machine to see how designers from the 60’s made this contraption work.

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Find a friend and have a quick competition. Great game to play with an audience and delicious slice of history.

 

Space Invaders

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Another first which patrons should put at the top of their list, Space Invaders was the first pinball machine to be based on a video game, which is an odd concept when you stop and think about it. This game was manufactured in 1979 which looks to have been an innovative period for the pinball industry. Ramps still haven’t materialized, but the playfield is ridiculously wide. I felt disoriented the first time I launched the ball. The game features four flippers at the bottom in staggered arrangement. It’s odd because the angles offered with this setup don’t seem diverse.

This machine is unforgiving and an excellent challenge for someone who considers themselves a wizard. I can’t emphasize enough how strange the play area is on this thing. The traditional bumpers bounce the ball in and out of various lanes and the sound effects are taken directly from the classic arcade game. The artwork on the marquee and play area is simply fantastic. It is reminiscent of H.R. Geiger and reeks of Ridley Scott’s film Alien. The traditional Space Invader sprite does appear, but it’s hidden behind more detailed bio nightmares. It’s another great piece of history and the sheer size of this beast must be experienced.

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Captain Fantastic

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It’s amazing that Elton John had his own Pinball machine so long before the damn things could even speak. I was shocked to find out this thing was manufactured in 1976. Because it feels far older. The play area is quite basic with only a few bumpers and targets to hit. The flipper placement is also quite strange. There are two staggered on the immediate left with one lone flipper on the right side. High up the field another is placed vertically which seems to give the player a better angle on the targets to the left. This machine’s right flipper has what seems to be a hangup on the right flippers, but a player will get used to the delay quick.

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I hated this machine as it’s simple and a pain to work. But I will admit the experience of hearing the scoreboard reset at the beginning of play was quite cool. There are no digital aspects to the game at all. Sounds are relegated to actual bells and metallic snaps, which is funny because this predates the game’s ability to capitalize on the music of Elton John. It just feels so out of place and weird amongst the other machines. I felt like it was going to break as I played it.

 

Part 3 coming soon!