I see that the cops in Fresno worked over, cuffed and arrested a kid having a seizure. Resisting arrest. Have a seizure in public and you risk being taken down hard by the cops. Your flailing will be seen as resisting, your failure to respond will compound it. Sometimes they drop the charges. Sometimes they haul you into court. If it gets into the press it will have a news cycle for a few hours and then disappear, as epilepsy is not one of the socially acceptable disabilities. In the twenty years I’ve been following these incidents this has never changed. Same police ignorance and cruelty, same media inattention, same public indifference. A uniquely American phenomenon, I might add. We’re notorious for it. The last developed country that can’t shake its fear of our demonic possession. Progressives are just as weirded out by seizures as white extremists, though progressives at least have given up on euthanasia as the solution. We’re even allowed to marry now.
I’ve been asked about this quite a few times and blew it off, but here goes.
I don’t know where my writing ideas come from. They seem to happen on their own. I don’t think about writing when I’m not writing. And there’s no inspiration or spark or preparation. I just start typing and essays come out, fully formed. Everything you read by me is first draft and unedited. I check for typos, homonyms, dropped words. I may go back and alter the punctuation slightly. On rare occasions one of my long trumpet solo sentences may be too long and I’ll bust it up, but that involves merely deleting a word or a comma, no rewriting. That’s it for editing.
I try to keep everything simple, I never put anything in quotation marks, try and avoid parentheses, and don’t boldface, italicize or underline. I have a very spare palette of punctuation—commas, periods, ellipses and em dashes, and I use exclamation points and question marks as little as possible. I try to do everything with words and pauses.
I write almost everything in an implied second person. That is, I write in the first person but through the eyes of the reader. And I avoid adjectives and adverbs whenever possible, and emphasize verbs. Nearly everything I write is in terms of action or movement.
And like this, the things always seem to know when to end on their own. So I let them finish. I leave a lot of them hanging, unresolved, something I picked up from bossa nova. But I never go beyond where the thing ends, I never try to outthink the writing.
That’s it, without getting into all the linguistics and neurology.
Watched a Jazz Messengers gig from Paris in ‘59 and Lee Morgan, all of 21 years old, was unbelievable. Astonishing creativity. The chances he took and never flubbed in those solos, leaping over precipices, seeing around corners, weaving a short story’s worth of narrative into every solo…. damn. When you’re that young all this stuff is new and you’re seeing these things for the first time; your brain is a huge mass of neurons you’re exploring for the first time, and the neural pathways you follow can become established routes you’ll follow again and again. You could hear those in his playing, the licks and ideas that would come up over and over again during his career. And you’d hear things he might have explored just that once and never gone back to. As you get older and older you do that less and less, the brain hardwires into distinct paths that you perfect and improve and the other synapses wither and disappear and ideas you had at 21 will never be there again. Possibilities disappear. Eventually you don’t even see those pathways anymore. You read stuff you wrote forty years ago and have no idea of all the possibilities that were before you then but you weren’t yet good enough to write them down. A twenty something brain is a marvelous thing, a mass of neuronal potential just waiting to be shaped, trillions upon trillions upon trillions of possible thoughts, and we will never have that range of cognitive possibilities before us again.
[This is from 2010, and I just found it buried on BrickWahl.com. This reads so epileptic to me now.]
Last night words kept me up, some piece coming together that I couldn’t shake. It developed paragraph by unwritten paragraph inside my skull till finally it completed itself and let me sleep after two in the fucking morning. That happens a lot. When my med levels are off it happens more. I dreamed another story, dreamed I was writing it, till it woke me around 5 am. I laid there sleepy with this fucking story going through my head. A ridiculous 5 am story…I never use 5 am stories. Men are crazy at 5 am. Maybe you’ve noticed.
No writing today, nothing. No emails today, but this one. Hopefully no stories tonite. I wish I knew why that happens, but it’s always happened. Just words, man. It’s like I’m practicing. Working things out. Well, not me practicing, but it, the language. It sits up there in our brain, an actual thing, and it sometimes make us do things that not to our advantage. This isn’t LSD talking…it’s actually neuro-linguistic theory, one rather difficult to grasp. It’s just too weird. Anyway, this language thing gets stirred all up in there round that hole in my brain in the Broca’s region and doesn’t give a flying fuck about what the rest of the body needs, or wants. Namely sleep. But tonite I sleep. I promise.
I’ve heard of musicians tormented by the music in their heads. It’s the same thing, I bet. The music being created incessantly and the poor bastard whose brain contauins it wishes it wasn’t there. Creativity, it’s wildly overrated.
Anyway I have more to do before I go home. Then I watch a hockey game and we order a pizza and drink beer and talk and I go to sleep.
Not going to delete the blogs, tho’ I’d love to. It’s not the solution, tho’ it seemed like a great terrible idea at the time. Seriously, I was all ready to get rid of 90% of everything I’d ever written to reduce clutter. How’s that for a revolutionary act? The Pol Pol approach to website management. It would have been so easy too….
The problem for me is that what’s left of my epileptic brain must have everything as spare and orderly and uncluttered as possible or it gets thoroughly discombobulated, and dealing with one blog, let alone six, is as discombobulating and un-uncluttered as anything. Sort of like that sentence. There’s just too much there on a blog, too many options, too many zillions of words a link away. Too much past thinking sparked to life again. Stuff that didn’t bother me just a couple years ago is a problem now. I was planning to deal with my own hypergraphic literary output like I’ve dealt with the rest of my life, by minimizing everything. Part of my excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle therapy. Which works, actually. Destroying all that writing would have been quite epileptically therapeutic. Nor would it have bothered me much. Things would be much simpler, and I can always just write more. After all, it’s not about the writing, it’s about writing. What’s written doesn’t matter, but writing it does. That’s hypergraphia in a nutshell, a phrase I can’t stand, but it is.
It also shows that I see all this writing as a symptom of my epilepsy. For instance, I’ve had a mild bug these past couple days. A very mild bug, one of those things I’d never notice except that, as bugs will, it’s kept the liver busy dealing with it and interferes in the metabolization of my seizure meds, reducing their effectiveness, which leads to an increase in synaptic overstimulation which invariably increases symptoms of hypergraphia. Thus lots of posts on Facebook and a sudden increase in blog activity. When I look though my blog I can see the epilepsy. I can see it in the long paragraphs, in the sharing of absurdly detailed personal discussions, in the self obsession, and in words like un-uncluttered. Neurologists have asked me questions about my writing because it is such a classic symptom.
When the bug departs the posts will slow, the blogs will see me only occasionally, my mind will not be awash in language. And over a lifetime I’ve learned not to give in to epileptic whims. So no purging of the blog. It was fun to think about, but I’ll have to think up something else.
As part of my excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle I had to cut off contact with some people who, through no fault of their own, were really bad for my epilepsy. Just too intense, too volatile. I never told them. I just sort of slipped away. Now I’m having to do the same on Facebook, where a few people are too intense and volatile, too aggro, too competitive and too serious for my epileptic brain. So I just quietly unfriend them. It’s a creepy way to go about it, but I have to avoid confrontation. It’s not that my ego or feelings or anything like that were hurt. I have such a limited emotional range left after decades of epileptic damage that it’s pretty hard to hurt anything. But it does cause epilepsy problems. It’s just that it’s really not a good idea to go off on an epileptic. It causes us brain damage. Synapses fry, memories are lost, we get confused. Let’s just say it heightens the epileptic experience.
Anyway, I just had to unfriend a couple friends. What can I say.
So sitting on the couch goofing around on the iPhone I suddenly realized I had jelly on my hand. And my arm. Both arms. Both hands. Sticky strawberry jam. I’d had a couple crackers with jam for dessert and apparently some had slipped from the Akmak and dolloped onto my shirt.
Panic. I leaped to my feet, ran into the kitchen, removed the radioactive shirt, rolled it into a ball with the jelly inside and dropped it into the washer. Then I returned to the kitchen sink with the hot water on full blast and lathered soap all over my hands, scrubbing furiously, then up and down both arms, then my torso where the stickiness theoretically could’ve come into contact with my bare skin. Finally, scrubbed like a surgeon, I dried off and put on a clean shirt. I could still feel the tackiness, the hint if stickiness all over, on me, on everything. Hallucinating stickiness. Me, still this huge giant deep voiced dude at 62, completely losing it because of maybe a quarter of a tea spoon of strawberry preserves on my shirt.
Some things don’t change. To think I had believed I’d gotten beyond all of this. I’d made progress. I stay clear of maple syrup but I use honey. I wash the outside of the jar and thoroughly wash my hands afterward, and if–horror!–a drop of honey (or jelly) gets on my shirt it goes immediately into the washing machine, but I do use honey. Just not those hideous squeeze bottles. I won’t go near them. They shouldn’t even be legal.
It’s a phobia, yes. I guess everyone’s allowed one without necessarily being a nut and this is mine. And though it is as stupid as any phobia at least it’s sanitary, and easy to conceal. People think I just don’t like pancakes, though actually I love pancakes. I had some a couple years ago, feeling like a person with a fear of heights going skydiving. What a rush.
But as delicious as they were I just hate the stickiness of the syrup even more. Tactile trumps taste every time. Touch came before taste. I doubt critters in the Pre-Cambrian were savoring the flavors of the stromatolites they munching. They could feel them, though. My hypersensitivity to stickiness is evolutionary atavism, touch over taste, reeling from the icky like some vastly ancient invertebrate. It’s in my DNA. Or so I told myself in one night of overthinking. Though I don’t think I believed it. This is a fucked up Homo sapien sapien thing. Maybe one of Richard Dawkin’s memes. As our frontal lobes got bigger and bigger all sorts of ridiculous things get blown way out of proportion. Breast size. Religion. Cats. Stickiness. Though that’s still a rare one. Otherwise everyone would be as terrified of maple syrup as we are of spiders. Though I’m not scared of spiders, actually.
It does have a name, this stickyphobia, but it’s impossible to say and utterly unspellable and refers mainly to the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth, which is just stupid. How can anyone be scared of peanut butter? It’s like being scared of clowns. Get over it. And no, I don’t want to go to IHOP. Not until they steam clean the place. And stop selling pancakes.
Me in the epilepsy ward at Kaiser in 1994 getting ready to have the biggest seizure they’d ever seen. Apparently I was quite awesome, and seven or eight doctors, nurses, techs and some orderlies big as football players were unable to restrain me. I sat up and they fell off me, my neurologist told me, like ants. Just as security was called the seizure ended and fell back asleep. I made a mess of the place, yanked out all the leads and there was blood and destruction. Not that I had any idea. I was unconscious. But that was still nearly a week away. My main concerns here were boredom, itchy scalp, inedible food and especially the camera recording me 24/7 which would faithfully record for posterity any erections I had while asleep to the delight of an army of UCLA med school interns tasked with monitoring me. Somehow that seemed infinitely more embarrassing than any seizure….
I’ve been taking seizure meds three times a day for nearly forty years and I have all these ways to keep track of taking them to make sure I don’t miss a dose or stupidly take two doses and I have to try really hard to double dose myself. Really hard. Which is what makes the fact that I double dosed myself this morning all the more impressive. Last time I did this was in South Dakota. We’d driven hours and hours the day before, circumambulated Devil’s Tower which is even more manly in real life than in Close Encounters, visited Mount Rushmore, which was nothing like North By Northwest at all. We pulled into Rapid City very late, managed to stay at the only motel in town with actual prostitutes and had Sonic take out for dinner because it was either that or McDonalds. Fell asleep to the sound of a truck driver having an orgasm next door. Left my morning pills out on the nightstand, gulped them down first thing upon waking, showered, ate the free breakfast and then took pills again without thinking about it. It was crazy hot and humid for so early in the morning but we stopped at Dinosaur Park right there in Rapid City, which is full of the huge crazy dinosaur sculptures and was built at the same time as Mount Rushmore was carved and is the coolest hokiest thing. Mandatory stop for dinosaur obsessives. Then we split eastward. Those plains are something, they just swallow you up, and we were in the middle of fucking nowhere when I realized I’d double dosed. The Tegretol comes down like a blanket, soft and sleepy, while the Lamictal is like steroids for the frontal lobe, you think and think and think (or write and write and write) with a testosterone surge. Add half a dozen cups of coffee to that and suddenly I was sleepy, wired, brilliant and very manly. Now there’s a rush. But the sleepiness was winning. Finally had to stop at Wall Drug where I passed out in the car in the blazing Great Plains heat while Fyl wandered through the endless maze of shops. Lots of socks, she said. She watched the dinosaur twice. Bought me some socks. Then revived somewhat we headed into Badlands National Park where I managed to dump a mini cooler full of ice water into my lap, never losing control of the car but freezing my balls solid. That’ll wake you up. It’s an idea, but I’ll probably just nap this time.
One of the coolest things about “Laura” is that the utterly loathsome writer Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb at his Clifton Webbiest) is an epileptic. I hope you forgive my wee touch of epilepsy, he says to the beautiful Laura (Gene Tierney at her most luscious) creeping even me out, tho’ I’ve said the exact same thing.