5.28.2010

Joe Being Plagiarized? How WierdNOdd!

I've really enjoyed doing my column on AOLNews. It's been fun letting loose with my silly, sometimes enraged views of current events. I've found it very rewarding to have the opportunity to blah blah blah look: Someone's been wholesale copy-pasting my shit on his own site. I'm aggravated. And as you all know, an aggravated Joe is not something anyone wants on their ass.

The offending site: WeirdNOdd.com. The asshole responsible: one Mr. Charles Young of Midland, TX.

Case in point: This article I wrote which includes a bit about a man following GPS turn-by-turn directions a little too closely was lifted wholesale and reprinted here. The only reason there's any attribution whatsoever is because AOLNews insists that the disclaimer stating that I'm a loose cannon be in every article.

He's done this with a LOT of content. Apparently this is how the internet works for Mr. Charles Young. Well, I'm going to teach him a few more lessons on how the net works. For instance, did you know I can get all of Mr. Charles Young's location and contact information through WHOIS. And you can also post that information on your blog, if you're an author who has been stolen from. And lastly, the IP lawyers employed by AOLNews and myself are both very bored and have been looking for something to do. They love when people start trying to figure out how writing on the internet works, especially dumb people who think theft is a viable business model.

I'll let you guys know what comes of this. In the meantime, if you're bored and have a throwaway Google Voice number, feel free to alleviate that boredom in any way you see fit.

5.27.2010

I Dreamed A Dream

I hadn't had a nightmare since I was about 13 years old, until last night. And it was a stupid nightmare.

I define "nightmare" as a terrifying dream. Not a "night terror" - that's a wholly different thing. To me, bad dreams are just unpleasant things that happen while dreaming. Nightmares, however, induce fear. And last night's nightmare found me in my upstairs hallway. None of the lights would turn on, and none of the doors would open. I couldn't go anywhere. And there was a voice booming in my head yelling "NO." Over and over, like a techno song.

I can't make heads or tails of it. Nothing truly insane appeared or happened. Just that. And the entire time it was happening, I was utterly terrified. Paralyzed with fear, even.

I can't explain it. But it's stuck with me all day, half because of what it was (and that I can't figure it out), and half because it's the first time in 20 years that I have had one.

Which is why I'll probably be up all night tonight, playing Red Dead: Redemption. Come join me if you like.

5.26.2010

How To Stop Sack-Tapping (And All Bullying)

I read this story on Fark.com today about a kid whose right testicle had to be amputated after a particularly vicious round of "Sack Tapping." For the uninitiated, "Sack Tapping" is the name bullies have given to the act of punching unsuspecting victims in the balls. It's pretty popular with the "OMG THE JACKASS GUYS ARE MY HEROES!" set in junior and high schools.

When I was in school, we had similar games, all intended to section our base monkey-brained selves into our relative positions in the herd based on how much pain we could take. There was "Buttermilk," where anyone who said a word beginning with the letter 'B' had to immediately say "Buttermilk" after it or risk being punched. There was "Open Chest," where anyone caught walking without something blocking or obscuring their chest (usually their left arm) was susceptible to being punched square in the middle of it. "Bloody Knuckles," "Mercy," and others - basically, boys being boys.

The thing is, in my day, you had to opt-in to those games, otherwise you were just being a fucking bully. And back then, being a bully brought with it the "respect" garnered from fear, meaning more milk money stolen and homework done for the alpha.

I think the YouTube generation has a whole new set of difficulties - namely, "clicks." These videos depict a pretty reprehensible thing, and those who find it funny love it, and those who find it disgusting watch it to see just how much they hate it. But clicks are garnered. So now, it's just as much a "fame" play as it is a dominance thing. Not that I think it should be censored or removed. That does no good. The bullying will continue.

So here's what I suggest to schools and administrations across the nation: Hire me.

Yes, that's right, me. Hire me to come to your school and seek out anyone who appears in a "Sack Tap" video (or any other video depicting bullying). Give me a signed document explicitly granting me permission to play the same game with your students. Hell, video it if you want, and run ads against the video on YouTube to help fund your school so you can quit firing teachers. I promise you - one shot to one kid's ballsack, and this shit will stop.

Or, if you can't afford me, FUCKING STOP IT YOURSELVES. You know what's going on, you assholes. You do, don't even pretend you don't. You know these kids are being tortured and beaten up. You CAN stop this shit. You can segment the parties involved and not allow them to partner up in your schools. You can force parents to pick up the bullies, or face manditory after-school suspension every single day that the parents' can't make it on time. You can get in their face and tell them to knock it the fuck off.

You can expel their asses.

You guys are the reason Dylan Klebold and Matt Harris shot up Columbine, you know. Yes, those kids were fucked up and needed all sorts of help... But they never got any, which is the point. The fact that they were driven to kill shows that they had fractured psyches, but what fractured them? I'd argue it wasn't just the bullying, it was the blind eye turned to it for years.

It's time that you guys quit being pussies and start protecting these kids. THEY NEED YOUR HELP. Quit arguing whether it's your job or not and just help a weaker person to stop being tormented. It's not about your job description, it's about your civility and your ability to be a decent human being.

Or, if you're really that weak and pathetic, sure, hire me. I'm cheap. In fact, all you pay for is transport and lodging for the one and only day you'll need me there.

5.24.2010

The New Book Project - A Decision

Okay, so the verdict is to do the project as individual "notes", reminiscent of this journal. Because of this, and the fact that I'm intending to fill a book with them, I'm going to set the page count at 240. Why 240? Because that's a fine number, 240. It's what I'd like to weigh one day (of course, they'll have to carve out a considerable mount of muscle from both my legs to accomplish this, but whatever). Plus it's an ideal book page count. That may mean 240 notes, or 200 notes allowing for a few to be 2 or 3 pages long. I dunno. I'm making this up as I go along. But let's just say that there'll be at least 240 pages worth of crap for you to read.

Now, as for how this is going to happen - that's a bit of a secret for now, but what I can tell you is that all 240 of these "notes" will be put on the web before being made into a book, just like Mentally Incontinent was. And just like MI was, there'll be a heavily-involved "social" component. I won't be so brave as to state I was the first one to do a "social book," but I was. It's a contradiction. You'll get over it. But it does occur to me that that's where I'm most comfortable; interacting with people as I create things.

Another decision I've made is to "trickle" the content, like I did with MI (but this time, without the 5 and 6 month delays between posts :) ). I will likely work on 10 pages at a time, get those posted, then do the next 10. That way, you guys have stuff to look at for a while.

What I do need, however, is help. What I have in mind may require the assistance of trusted folk across our fair nation. This will involve a little legwork - no more than a Saturday's worth - and the taking of some photos. If you're up for that, and you're trustworthy, and you like the idea of helping me out on another mad idea, email me and let me know.

So, now that the decision's been made, I guess all there is to do is launch the sucker.

Some Clarity On The Depression Post Thing Whatever

(Note: if you're bored with the whole "depression" thing, skip ahead to the other blog post for today.)

I've gotten a ton of email (well, not really a ton - email doesn't actually weigh anything... But I bet if I printed it all out and weighed it, it still wouldn't be a ton. At least a pound, but that doesn't sound great, does it? A pound of email? Whatever) about the depression post from last week. And to my surprise, not a single one of them was negative. In fact, I'm overwhelmed by the kind words and support you guys expressed.

But I'm also dismayed by just how many of you wrote to say something on the order of "Thank you for putting into words what I've been feeling." I'm dismayed because of how many of you are actually feeling that way. It's a horrible, sick feeling. Literally a disease. And it hurts to know that so many people in my proximity are experiencing it.

I was also inundated with curiosity from people who couldn't quite relate to how things were, or why I never asked for help, or how I could let things get that way. So I've decided to do a little bit of a follow-up on that post, explaining a bit of how I felt, why it went the way it did, and how I got the hell out of it. Those of you who wrote to tell me how your experience was will be able to relate to some of this. Those who wrote who are experiencing it now, hopefully this helps. And those who've never felt it and were genuinely curious about it all... Well, here you go.

For those of you uninterested in this crap, I've also posted another post today, about my new book project (which by the way is pretty much step one toward overcoming depression. Depression LOVES inertia, and the longer you stay unmoving, the worse it gets. So step one to solving it - get busy. Very, very busy).

How I felt:

Sad. Not "death of a relative" sad... Worse, actually. The death of someone meaningful to you has a clear and concrete cause. They died. This lacked such a luxury. In fact, I found myself wishing for a reason. If there's one thing that can send sadness into a perpetual spin, it's a clear lack of reason for it. Because now you're feeling unjustified feelings, which if you're not menstruating at the time, means you're probably crazy. Real crazy, not the insane wacky Wile E. Coyote crazy. Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys crazy.

There were days where I lamented the fact that my body couldn't sleep 24 hours at a stretch. I cursed the sun. I cursed the alarm clock. But in truth, I needed neither. I didn't sleep. Not restfully, anyway. My mind never stopped grinding on what I perceived was the problem.

The problem was a variable, susceptible to change at any moment. It was like taking on a nest of hornets with a fly swatter. You kill one, another is right there waiting to sting you. I drove myself mad day after day isolating on each and every feeling, trying to figure out what caused it. I was looking for answers to riddles written in dead languages. Every time I'd address what I thought the problem was, I'd argue it out with whomever I felt was able to fix it... Usually Andrea. We'd talk for hours about it, and at the end, the problem that was being discussed was solved. But my feelings were still there.

The metaphors are infinite. An itch I couldn't scratch. A splinter in my soul. I could bore you for months with the crap I wrote in my journals about how I was feeling. But looking back on it, I know that the worst part of the worst moment in my life was that I had no idea why I was feeling what I was feeling. I only knew that it was sad and it was real and I was absolutely unable to handle it.

It never left me. At the movies, on a run, during workouts, while writing and working. Airplane rides were awful, because you aren't allowed distraction before takeoff or landing. The moments between when I decided to turn off the TV or Xbox or computer and actually attempt sleep, and the moments just after I awoke began to terrorize me every single day. I'd dread either of those times, like dreading recess due to the bullies.

Pulling out of it was hard. When you hit rock bottom, you don't just go "splat" - you bounce a few times. I hit rock bottom on December 19, 2009 on an 18 degree night in Indianapolis, IN. I remember the night clearly, even now. Every single second of it. I found myself crying on the shoulder of a parking attendant while sitting on a curbside at a garage in the Indianapolis "square." The reasons why are many. As I explained in my first post, this was The Perfect Storm of events in my life that triggered every irrational fear I have. Every single time one problem would look like it could be solved, two more showed up which dragged me away from the first. And that night, everything peaked.


How it got so bad (or, the difference between feeling depressed and Depression):

First, a lot of "like I said's" and a bunch of metaphors:

Like I said, I had no idea why I was REALLY feeling this feeling. I saw every symptom as the cause, like seeing a runny nose as the cause of your flu. I lacked adequate understanding to actually discover the virus, and even once I found it, I lacked the ability to kill it.

Like I said, I tried addressing every single issue that happened, as it happened... But everyone has a point of exhaustion. In boxing, they teach you to find that point and exploit it - it doesn't matter how strong or big or powerful your opponent is, if you can outlast his need to breathe, you're going to beat him. This outlasted my ability to fight it. I ran out of steam - and that's when the piling on began.

Like I said, you don't just hit bottom and then boom, decide to start climbing again. You bounce. It hit me in waves for days afterward. You get a gulp of air, and then brace yourself for the next one. You can finally see the shore off in the distance and you want nothing more than to swim toward it... But these damn waves, they keep coming.

Eventually they stop. Eventually, you float in the middle of your ocean and you realize you're either going to have to start swimming back to shore or just sink into oblivion. So I swam. And this is where the REALLY weird stuff starts - the echoes. Every time I began to think about other things, I remembered suddenly "Hey, I just took my mind off of feeling bad." And just like telling you you're not thinking of a pink elephant covered in peanut butter right now, you can't help but suddenly do so.

How I got out of it:

Friends and therapy.  Period.

I talked things out as often as my friends would let me. Eventually, they got to the point where they realized that what I was saying was making me sad or angry or nervous wasn't actually what was affecting me, because unlike every other time in my past, I didn't immediately perk up when I found the "solution" - I just kept finding more problems.

So I finally went to a therapist. I talked with him about everything that was hurting me. He listened over multiple sessions, until he also realized I was just flinging things at the wall without figuring out why. Eventually, he seized on my irrational fears and helped me to deal with them.

Now, its not magic - I knew about both of my irrational fears. I've known about them since I was first lead to Jung and Focault and Nietzsche as a teenager. It's not hard to understand that a boy who was abandoned by his father and bullied his entire young life because he drew and wrote has issues with abandonment and creative anxiety. Duh. But dealing with that stuff? That's an entirely different matter. And I never did. And just like any callous, the layers get deeper and harder the longer it's allowed to form. And when it's finally scraped off or peeled back, the skin underneath is VERY tender.

Therapy is vital. While I won't ever pretend that my therapist "really knows me" - he doesn't, and we both admit that directly (how can he? He's not me) - I will state with impunity that he helped guide me to and through the forest of my emotions to figure out what was really at the core. From there, he gave me tools to help deal with it.

It's very important to realize that NO ONE CAN TAKE YOUR PAIN AWAY. If you feel like they do, you're simply masking what's wrong. Only you can fix you, period, end of story. It's every bit the same as losing weight or running a marathon or writing a book. No one can do it for you. You must do it yourself, or else you haven't done it.

But what they can do in all of those instances is support you, coach you, and give you the understanding and knowledge to deal with the problem. Anyone who's had a successful encounter with a personal trainer will tell you that they probably started thinking a trainer would fix them, but they ended realizing that the trainers themselves aren't responsible for the success. They were simply coaches.

It's the same here. And I fixed myself by realizing a few things: 1) I wanted to get better, honest and genuinely, 2) I had no idea how to do that myself, 3) I sought help and found it, and 4) I rewrote every single piece of programming I'd recently put in place that caused certain stimuluses to cause certain responses.

Every time a negative thought came into my head, I smiled. Seriously. It helps. Every time I'd start remembering that I felt bad a few minutes/hours/days ago, I'd simply say "STOP." I'd actually say it aloud. I'd backtrack to the beginning of whatever train of thought led me there, rethink it very deliberately, and where I veered into self-loathing and sadness before, I'd steer off in another much more productive direction. I looked at myself in the mirror, right in my own eyes, and remind myself that I love myself, and regardless of who else loved me - as nice as it was - loving myself is all I really need in life. Everything else is ultimately just luxury.

Eventually, you stop being sad every single second. You go entire minutes thinking other thoughts. The minutes turn into days, and now you're remembering you were sad instead of feeling sad right then and there. Then it's weeks between feelings or remeberances, and then at some point, you're looking back and saying "Jesus, I'm so glad I'm done with that."

To broaden the time periods between "flutters" of depression, I got very, very busy. I worked my ass off, in fact. I started doing a column for AOLNews. I finally launched The Art of Akira Exhibit. I started pounding away at new ideas for books and projects. I designed a whole bunch of stuff. I read a lot of books.

And it wasn't easy, either. I had to force myself to stay focused nearly every minute I was doing something besides feeling sorry for myself. Every. Single. Minute. But I couldn't blog or write stories about myself during that time, because every single thing I wrote, no matter what it was, began devolving into some sort of breakdown of feeling sad or why this thing sucks or that thing blows or why everyone hates me or why do I even have a career, I should just give this up and go back to software development. So that's why the very inconsistent posting on the blog. But here I am again, writing things that aren't so mopey -- and actually loving it.

That's not to say I haven't been sad or down since I pulled out of the Depression. I have. But those moments have actual reasons, and I can deal with them and move on immediately. And I'm not "Good Ol' Joe" - I'll never be the man I was before last October, when all this started. And I'm glad for that. I've dealt with some pretty severe emotions, events and issues, and I'm forever changed for that. For one thing, a very real truth was revealed - that a lot of people in my life did a lot of damage when it came to my self-image and my confidence in my ability to create. They still do. So I've taken steps to either distance myself from them or remove them from my life outright. Life's too short to spend it wishing the people you love loved you back, and anyone who tells you you can't be who you are doesn't actually love you.

I only have one regret in the entire experience: that my wife felt helpless for a brief period. I don't regret sharing any of this with her. She now knows me more completely than before, and our love is stronger than ever. We conquered another mountain together. There's something incredible in that. I just wish that I didn't have to put her in a position where, for the first time since we met, she had to wonder what was wrong with me because what I was saying was wrong wasn't actually the problem.

Anyway, there it is, all the questions you guys have been asking, piled into one big followup post. Thanks for reading this.

5.20.2010

I So So SO Hate The Dentist

Today, I sat through a ton of drilling, filling, and capping due to a tooth I broke a few days ago.

I hate drilling. I hate filling. And I hate capping. I hate the dentist, period. I can't stand even talking someone to one, much less go in myself. But I couldn't deal with the pain or the sharp edges on the tooth for long, and went ahead through with it.

It brought to mind the story of what happened the last time I went to the dentist. It was such a horrific experience, it spawned a 12-part story on Mentally Incontinent circa 2004 or so. And I thought, given how long it's been, I'd share here with you guys. I hope you enjoy it.



Tales of Dental Woe (in 12 parts)



PART ONE

Whereupon Joe cracks a filling, which leads to cracking a tooth (which leads to a root canal that you will read about in part 2)



Now, there is something you must know about me right from the very, very start:

I HATE THE DENTIST.

I cannot stand anything even remotely relating to dentists or dental work. I've done enough in my life to practically guarantee that I will be going to hell, and knowing hell as it has been described to me by every Baptist I've ever met, I know that I have an eternity of unpleasantness to look forward to. I fully expect my little corner of hell to be a dentist's chair with a speaker piping in the "All ‘American Idol Losers’ Radio Network" directly overhead (although, to be fair, I’m not so sure that the “All ‘American Idol Winners’ Radio Network would be any better).

My hatred for the dentist started way back when I was just a little tyke. I can remember doing everything within my power to avoid going to the dentist - which usually meant misbehaving so badly that the dentist du jour would forbid my mother ever bring me back into his / her office. I'd squirt the water pik at the dental assistant, I'd spit on the lamps to watch the bulb steam and eventually break, I'd mess with the chair to the point of the adjustment motors grinding to a halt - I was TERRIBLE.

That is, until I met Dr. Bob.

Dr. Bob wasn't like the other dentists. He actually understood kids. He knew what made them tick and what made them respond -- and that was putting the fear of Almighty God into them so they'd stop screwing around with his stuff. He'd routinely tell me that God was watching and "Jesus didn't die in agonizing pain on the cross to forgive sins like playing with my dental tools, so you’d better just stop right now, young man." Yeah, I guess it was probably a horrible thing to do; convincing a child that Jesus was selective in the sins he forgave, but hey - it made me sit still. And when I sat still enough that he could poke whatever needles he needed to into my mouth without gashing my cheeks or impaling my tongue, it actually wasn't THAT bad.

As a result, Dr. Bob was the only dentist I would visit for the next 20 years. Literally - from age 6 until age 26, he was the only person I'd ever go to. It didn't matter where in the country I was working or how far away from him I lived - if I had an issue with teeth, I flew home and drove to Decatur to see Dr. Bob. He was the ONLY dentist I trusted. So, imagine my dismay when, one night about a year and a half ago, I discovered that I had a cracked filling by way of biting into a piece of steak (yes, a piece of steak - and not a tough piece, either, just a nice juicy piece of steak) and breaking a tooth right in half. Immediately, I hopped on Yellowpages.com and looked up Dr. Klein's number and found out - *GASP* that there was none listed.

I immediately called my mom who, between inquiries as to why I was moaning in agonizing pain, found the only number we knew of that he had. I called it up and got the worst news of my life:

"Dr. Klein passed about six months ago, sir. I'm... I'm terribly sorry."

Well, crap.



PART TWO

Whereupon Joe is a whiny brat (which leads to the root canal I said you'd read about in this part, but to teach you a lesson, I will make you wait until part 3 to meet) 



"Docthor Bobh Kleinh ish deadh," I told my wife with my palm held to my mouth.

"Who's that?" She asked.

I gave her an irritated look. "My denthisth," I stated. "Wait - Well, noh anymorth..."

She gasped and smacked my arm. "God, you're terrible," She replied. "The poor man passed away, and you're making jokes."

"Well it's noh fair!" I lisped. "He can't be deah! My tooh hurs!"

"Uh... What?" She asked.

"My tooh hurs!"

"Your WHAT?" She said, smirking.

"Tooh! TOOH!" I said, gesturing toward my cheek.

"Ohhh, your TOOTH," She said. “Yes. Indeed. He simply CAN’T be dead, because your tooth hurts. It all makes sense.”

I glared at her. "Shuh Uh,” I tried to yell. “Thih isn’h funneh! My tooh! It HURS!!!!! Goh... Whah will I do now?"

"I dunno," she said. "Call the dentist, maybe?"

"He's deah," I replied plainly. "It's terribullhy inconveinhenh."

She sighed. "Not him, you jerk. ANOTHER dentist… A LIVE dentist."

"Noh Noh Noh," I insisted. "No fuhhin' wayh."

"Why NOT?" She inquired.

"I don't goh to anyhonh elsh buh Docthor Bobh," I answered. "Fuh THAH shiih!"

"Oh, you big baby!" She answered, remembering my long diatribe about dentists and my hatred for them. "So what are you going to do, go around with a broken tooth for the rest of your life? Just grow up and call another dentist."

And you know what? I actually considered it for a moment. For just a brief point in time, I entertained the thought of just foregoing the dentist and dealing with the pain of the broken tooth... And then I inhaled once more and the rush of wind against the exposed nerve convinced me otherwise. She was right. I would have to see another dentist.

I say again... Well, crap.



PART THREE

Whereupon Joe's dead dentist forces him to visit another (which is where that stupid root canal you've been promised for 2 parts finally happens, but not in this part, you now have to wait until part 4) 



There's something else you should know about me: I'm EXTREMELY lazy.

For instance, I have to choose a new dentist, right? I've been going to the same one for 20 years simply because I HATE going to the dentist and he's the only one who'd actually make me comfortable enough to go. So you'd think that, after his death, I'd spend days, weeks... Months, even, researching every dentist in the tri-county area to find one that might meet with my approval.

You know how long I spent? Ten seconds. Yep, just long enough to type three w's, the words "yellow" and "pages", and a period with a "com" following it into my browser window (which, incidentally, was Firefox, because Internet Explorer is dumb. I just thought I'd mention that). I picked my state, chose "Dentists" from the dropdown and clicked "Go". Oh, look, there's one 2.4 miles from my house. Guess what that means? New dentist found, mission accomplished, all that jazz.

It's like I said - I'm lazy. Once I've resigned myself to the fact that I have no choice but to do something, I look for the absolute quickest way to get it done... Damn the consequences.

So I called, told them it was an emergency, and secured an appointment for the following morning with Dr. Lucile Fur. And that, ladies and germs, is how Satan became my new dentist (get it? Lucile Fur? LuciFur? It's funny! And it's also TRUE because she was the DEVIL).

As you'd probably expect, Satan's dental office was hot as... Wait. No. You know what? I'm not going to pun there. Nope, not gonna do it, no matter how much you might want me to. You can just imagine it yourself, you pun-lover, because I refuse to grab at such low-hanging fruit. But yes, it was very, very hot in there. They made me wait for nearly an hour, during which time I was forced to read three-month old copies of People and Sports Illustrated to keep my mind from getting SO bored, it would lift the lid to my skull and scamper giddily out the window, daring me to chase it (which of course would go horribly, not having a brain and all. I'd just fall over, and really, what kind of game is THAT??). Finally, Satan's assistant poked her little horned head from behind the portal into the torture rooms.

"Mr. Peacock?"

"Yuh," I said, still holding my palm to my jaw.

"Dr. Fur will see you now. Come with me."



PART FOUR

Whereupon Joe FINALLY tells about the stupid root canal (but not before he gets into trouble, which is what happens in this part, leaving the actual root canal for part 5) 



I followed Satan's little minion down the hall and into a stark white room with a horribly-situated beige dental chair in the rear corner, facing the doorway. She curtly bade me sit and, having read my bible, I knew better than to cross a demon -- especially one which had easy access to those little scythe-like dental pick things that they shove under your gums and laugh while they make you cry for your mommy. So, I took my place in the one-size-too-small-for-Joe dental chair and awaited what was coming for me here in the sixth-and-a-half level of hell.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

And I grew bored (much like you are with this story... Only there's no novocaine for you). So I began doing what I always do in the dentist's office when I get bored -- I began playing with the little "toys" littering the office. I flipped on the suction thingy and began squirting water from the water pik directly into it, causing it to go "Gurgle Gurrsh Gurahhallla Gurg" -- and boy, was it fun! I don't know if you've ever done that, the whole "mess with the expensive equipment" bit, but man, you should try sometime! It's nearly hypnotic, the sounds that come from the suction straw when you squirt the water into it. OH! OH! And also, you can blow little bits of paper or lift the cover on magazines from across the room with the little air blower thingy on the other side of the water pik! It's SO COOL! You can make a game out of it - rip off a corner of your dental bib, roll it into a ball, and place it in your open and flat palm. Then, blow it across the room with the blower thingy! For added fun, squirt it first so it becomes a super-cool makeshift spitball. See how many you can get to stick on the wall opposite you before the dentist walks --

"Mr. Peacock!" the stout woman stated from behind a light blue mask and safety goggles, her latex-clad hands on her hips.

"Uh... Yuh..." I responded, a still wet wad of apron in my hand.

"Entertaining ourselves, are we?" Dr. Fur asked rhetorically.

Embarrassed, I dropped the wet ball and attempted to replace the water pik / blower thingy to it’s proper place on the tray, but failed miserably and accidentally let it fall where it was pulled taught at the end of it's cord. "Uh... Sorruh..." I said, replacing my hand to my cheek in some sort of physical sign of pain.

"Oh, it's okay," She responded. And then she said six words (see? SIX! She is the devil!) that sent a chill down my spine:

"You're about to get your punishment."

I yelped -- literally yelped, out loud - as she laughed and took her place on the stool beside me.



PART FIVE

Whereupon Joe-Joe suffers for his sins (and learns a valuable lesson about root canals performed on dead teeth, which he will relate in part 6) 



She was just joking about the punishment, she said.

Right. Whatever. That's why the next two hours were filled with a special kind of agony reserved for only super, super, super bad kids.

First, Satan scraped and poked and prodded the dead area of my broken tooth. She shoved a spikey thing in there, she blew air on the exposed nerve, she wiggled the hunk of remaining tooth -- honestly, the only thing there was left for her to do to cause me unimaginable pain was kick me swiftly in the balls. One of those giant, WWE-style axe kicks where she waves her hand to the crowd who chants her name – "SATAN! SATAN!" – as she winds her leg up and then brings it right down on my round-and-tenders.

After doing all of her initial digging around, she administered a few shots of novocaine to deaden the area. When I asked, she assured me that there would be no feeling and all I'd really be aware of is some "light pressure."

SHE WAS LYING. Oh, not about the pressure -- I felt pressure, alright. I felt pressure like you wouldn't believe when she pulled out her industrial-sized angle grinder and sawed my tooth apart. But I also felt sharp, stabbing pain. She told me that it was psychosomatic. She assured me I shouldn't be feeling any pain whatsoever.

"BUH I AHH! I SWEAHH!" I screamed through the mouth-holdy-opener thingy.

"But you shouldn't," She replied, and kept right on drilling. I tried to focus on other things to take my mind off of the oil prospecting taking place in my poor molar -- like the smell of burning bone matter as she drilled, or the taste of my own tooth dust mixed with blood and small hints of novocaine that escaped the needle as it was inserted and landed on my tongue.

As you can imagine, it didn't help.

Eventually, it all came to an end. My jaw felt like it'd been held open by a tire jack for a month. My upper-left gum felt like there was some sort of latin dance of love performed on it by a hot-blooded woman wearing spiked stiletto heels. But it was over -- all of the pulpy decay, along with the nerve of the tooth, were excavated and I was left with a temporary crown on top of a hollow shell of what was once a molar. The suffering was finally over.

Or so I wished.



PART SIX

Whereupon Joe is in much pain - both from the root canal in Part 5 AND from something else (which you will discover in Part 7 and must be dealt with in Parts 9, 10 and 11) 



"So, how was it?" My darling wife asked as I groggily opened the door and stumbled inside.

"It SHUCKED," I replied, my lips numb with novocaine.

"Well, it was a root canal," She answered. "They don't tickle."

"Yesh, buh thish dhenshih... She wush th' DEBIL," I stated.

She laughed. "Well, at least you got the crown put on on the same day, so you don't have to go back," she replied. "Why don't you go on upstairs and get some rest... I'll be up there shortly."

And that's exactly what I did. It didn't take much time at all for the heavy anvil of sleep to fly through the air as if launched from one of Wile E. Coyote's slingshots and land on my head, and in no time at all, I was drooling blood and blowing spit bubbles all over my pillow. When I woke up a few hours later, I stirred through the haze and immediately clamped on with both hands to one thought pounding in my head:

"OW."

I got up and took some ibuprofen, attempted to drink a little water, and went back to sleep, where I slept for another six hours or so. Sometime around 4:00AM, I woke back up and was once again greeted by the same thought as before.

"OWW."

This pattern repeated itself throughout the entire next day, as well as the day after and the day after that. In fact, the pain - in varying degrees of assorted levels - persisted for a little over a year. Yes, a year. Of tooth pain. That's 365 days of pain in the tooth. That's no good. But there's this interesting phenomenon that takes place when something hurts in a place where you've pretty much sworn off allowing anyone to poke or prod in again forever: You just grow used to it. You allow it to persist, because the alternative is just THAT much worse. So even though I had this pain in my tooth, I could handle it because there was no way in hell I was going back to the dentist unless some particularly skilled necromancer could raise Dr. Bob from the dead.

But somewhere around a year into this exercise in futility, my attention on my canalled molar began to grow - as did a particularly large abscess.



PART SEVEN

Whereupon Joe sees nasty white goo seep from under his crowned tooth, forcing him to go back to a dentist (whom you don't have to wait until part 8 to meet, thankfully) 



"NO," I insisted. "There is NO WAY I'm going back to a dentist."

Andrea sighed. "Joe, there is pus oozing from a tooth. I'd say you really have no choice."

"Oh, I have a choice alright," I replied. "Why don’t you go to the garage and get the ball-peen hammer… I’ll get started hitting myself in the head with a brick to deaden the pain."

"Don't be ridiculous," she answered. "I've seen enough Animal Planet to know an abscess when I see it, and if you let it go too long, you're going to end up with a huge hole in your gum."

"What?" I asked, shocked. "What the heck do you mean?"

"Well, when an abscess ruptures, it leaves a pretty gigantic hole in the spot where it popped," She answered.

I cringed. "God... are you serious?"

"Go to the dentist and find out yourself," She answered.

Well, crappity crap.

So once again, I hit yellowpages.com and did a quick search. I scanned the list for a dentist near me, skipping immediately over Dr. Fur's Infernal House of Mouth Pain and hitting the next dentist on the list -- which, ironically, was less than .10 of a mile down the road from the House O' Dental Hell. So I called, explained my situation, and made an appointment for the next day.

I knew the second I walked into this new dental office that I was going to like it, because situated in the corner of the waiting area was a free internet terminal. There were TV's in each corner, each one playing a different channel. The magazines were from THIS MONTH. And the best part:

There was air conditioning.

But really, I didn't get to enjoy any of these things, since it took less than 10 minutes before I was taken back into Dr. Tom's office and seated in a very cushy and comfortable "oversized" dental chair made specifically for gigantic dudes my size. The room had its own TV hanging from the ceiling that was playing CNN, although I didn't get to watch much of it because Dr. Tom was in to see me almost immediately.

"Hey there, Mr. Peacock," he said in greeting. "My name is Dr. Williams. What seems to be the problem?"

"Well," I said, full of trepidation, "I have this crown, and... Wait. First, you need to know something."

"What's that?" he asked.

"I HATE going to the dentist," I answered.

"Oh," He said casually. "Well, you're in luck. I specialize in people who hate me."

I looked at him quizzically, like he just solved an algebraic equation using an abacus. "Well," I said, and continued to explain my situation.

"Well, let's take a look-see," He said softly as he flipped down what looked like the scope on a pair of night-vision goggles that rested on his head and changed the channel on the TV to what shortly became The Joe's Mouth Network.



PART EIGHT

Whereupon Joe finds out that there's something wrong in toothville (that will be rectified in parts 10 and 11, but only after he finds out even worse news in part 9) 



"Oh, my," Dr. Tom said in such a manner as to leave no doubt that this was most definitely not a good "oh my".

"Whuh?" I asked, feeling my lips and tongue slightly wrap around his latex-clad thumb.

"This is definitely no good," he replied, confirming my suspicions. "I'm going to have to remove this crown to see what's going on in here."

"Whaih!" I cried as he removed his thumb. "Thih... *cough* This crown cost nearly a thousand bucks to put in the first time!"

"Yes. It's definitely a nice crown... very well done," he answered from behind his dental mask, reaching for some sort of weird device that looked like a cross between a pair of pliers and something you'd see in a Vietnamese POW camp. "It's too bad I have to pulverize it."

"PULVERIZE?!?" I said with a gulp. "But... But... Pulverize sounds like it hurts!"

"Well, if you're small, made of porcelain and glued to the molar slot of a nervous young man's mouth, then yes, it'll probably hurt. Otherwise, all you'll feel is a bit of pressure."

"Pressure? Pulverize?" I asked. "What is it with you and ‘P’ words that don't sound like ‘Pain’ but essentially mean the same thing?"

"Calm down," he responded in a calm and soothing tone. "I assure you, this won't hurt. Just watch the procedure on the monitor above us."

And so I did. I calmed down. I watched. I felt some pressure. But to my absolute disbelief, I felt no pain. I did, however, nearly choke to death on a tiny piece of porcelain that fell down my throat. I also nearly bit off Dr. Tom's index finger when he went after it to retrieve it. And I nearly punched the dental assistant when Dr. Tom couldn't get the porcelain chip with his fingers and asked her to retrieve it with the suction tube, only she didn't so much retrieve it as she performed invasive suction surgery on my sinus cavity from jabbing that damn tube into my mouth too fast. But overall, it ended alright.

"Okay, now that that's done," he said, and leaned in close to get a better look. "Yep, just as I feared."

"Oh, God..." I half prayed.



PART NINE

Whereupon Joe gets the worse news, along with some instructions (which make things hell until part 10) 



"This tooth is cracked vertically, nearly all the way up the root. It's going to have to come out," Dr. Tom said.

Gnar.

"Fine," I replied, quite confident in Dr. Tom's abilities. "Whatever it takes to get rid of this pain. Let's do it."

“Alrighty,” he answered. “I’ll go prepare the referral—”

“REFERRAL?” I barked. “No… Let’s do it. Here. Now.”

"Oh, I'm not the guy for that," He answered with a slight chuckle. "I'm going to send you to an oral surgeon who can do it a LOT faster than I can."

"ANOTHER Dentist?!?" I cried. "I can't stand this!"

"Look," he said, taking off his gloves. "Dr. Paul is an old friend of mine. He's going to take good care of you. You'll barely feel a thing. Just relax for a moment and I'll write up that referral." He stood to exit the room as I sighed and accepted my fate. Just then, he turned back around and added, "And keep your tongue out of the socket. You'll just make it worse."

God, I wish he hadn't said that.

I left his office with a slip of paper that bore his signature and an insatiable desire to slide my tongue into the shelled socket left by the removal of the crown. It was 5 days before I could make it to Dr. Paul's office, and every single minute of every single hour was spent mentally forcing my tongue to stay on the right side of my mouth, far away from the gap in my teeth. I'd put my tongue on the far rear molar and inch near the hole, I'd place it on the bicuspid just to the other side of it, ever so nearly tempting fate and exploring the hole. But one thing kept me from actually doing it:

"You'll just make it worse." The final words of Dr. Tom.

Finally, the day of my appointment came. The sun shone hard through my car windows, intensifying the heat of the brutal Georgia summer. Luckily, I had a tasty, ice cold sweet ice tea from Quiznos and a freshly serviced air conditioner in my car to help keep me cool. I drove deep into the southland to Griffin, GA, the home of the stereotype of your typical Georgian as well as Dr. Paul's office. I referred to my printout from Google Maps constantly, hoping I wouldn't fly past it and end up being terribly late for my appointment.

Right.

I was 45 minutes late for it. And it's not because I couldn't find the place... It's because I simply couldn't believe that the building I was led to was a dentist's office. This was a tiny house situated between a gas station and a "Fish Supreme" restaurant with absolutely no signage in front of it to designate that this was where you got your teeth cut out of your mouth. It was only after I eliminated every other possibility on the block that I finally got out of my car and headed up the sidewalk. There, on the door approximately 100 feet from the road was a tiny plaque reading "Dr. Paul D.D.S."

I sighed and walked in.



PART TEN

Whereupon Joe very nearly says "Fuck This Shit" and walks out, allowing his mouth to rupture and bleed everywhere (which, of course, he doesn't, which leads to the drama in part 11) 



"Uh... Fuck this shit," I whispered to myself as I walked into the overcrowded front waiting room of Dr. Paul's office. There were 25 people all waiting for their turn under the knife sharing 6 chairs and a small wooden bench in the front of this repurposed house that was VERY similar to the one my grandfather lived in when I was a kid. Hardwood flooring with steel grate registers for heat, radiators as air conditioning, closets with small painted knob-latches in just about every room... I half expected my aunt to be drunk in her bedroom and my cousin Buffy to rush out, greet me and suggest one of 2,000 things to do that day that would get us out of that house.

"Can I help you, honey?" I heard from my right. Behind a half-opened frosted glass window was an older woman with an abnormally white smile and way too much makeup.

"Yeah, uh..." I stammered, deciding whether or not I should bring my other foot past the threshold of the doorway or simply turn tail and run. "I... I'm late."

"Ah, Mr. Peacock," She said in a thick southern accent. "We was wonderin' what happened to you. Come on in, fill these out." I saw a clipboard with a stack of documents jut from the other side of the window; a small silver chain holding a pen tailing behind. I bit my bottom lip, walked all the way into the room, grabbed the clipboard, and popped a squat over in the corner of the room that was least populated by nervous sweaty folks.

It was nearly an hour after I finished my paperwork before I was called back to see the butch... er, Um.. Dentist. I was soaked in sweat as a result of my wait in the room that some engineering genius decided it was a great idea to install water radiators as cooling in ANY building in Georgia, much less one where a person is predisposed to be overly anxious. My bet? He probably graduated from Georgia Tech.

I followed the dental assistant down the ancient hardwood hallway to a room that looked more like a laundry room than a dentist's office (and for good reason... It was also the laundry room).

"You can sit there," the assistant said curtly, pointing to a small dental chair. "Dr. Paul will be back here in a moment."

As she left, a door slid open at the back of the room revealing another dental assistant with a basket full of bloody aprons and towels. I stood there frozen as she separated the two types of garments into individual baskets and began another load of wash, complete with a heavy dose of bleach and a scoop of unscented Gain.

The smell of the laundry made me sweat even more as the bleach fumes rolled across the room and entered my nostrils and eyes.

"Yeah, okay, I'm outta here," I said aloud as I turned around to make my exit. I nearly collided with a midsize man with a mask and thick-rimmed glasses covering his face.



PART ELEVEN

Whereupon Joe gets crazy high and bleeds a lot (which plays a major part in part 12) 



"Hi there!" He exclaimed as he extended his right hand. "I'm Dr. Paul. And you’re Mr. Peacock, right?"

"Uh... Yeah," I said, contemplating just how easily I could execute a quick Shock-Lock-Rip maneuver from the glory days of my linebacker career in high school football and shoot past this man and out the door. I thought better of it, realizing that nothing could be worse than the throbbing pain in my gum, and the sooner I just shut up and sit down and got this over with, the better off I’d be.

"Why don't you go ahead and take a seat and we'll get you all prepped and ready," he stated.

I took a seat and he got me all prepped and ready, which involved applying some sweet-tasting local anesthetic to my gum before injecting liberal amounts of novocaine in and around the area where he was going to chop my mouth to bits. He also put a nitrous oxide mask on my face, which was probably the greatest mistake any man could make with me. I am a total and utter lightweight, and it didn't take much from the mask to get me nice and lucid.

"Alrighty, Mr. Peacock," Dr. Paul said as he returned from whatever the hell it was he was doing while I was getting stoned. "Are you ready?"

"He he he he he he," I replied.

He began work on digging my molar out of my mouth. According to him, he had to split the tooth into three sections and remove each one individually, which was nothing short of absolutely horrendous. The smell of burning tooth rose into my nostrils as he sawed bilaterally up the bone and burned away a lot of core material.

And all I could do was laugh.

Between the bleach and the burning molar flying into my nose, I began to develop quite a stream of mucus oozing from my nostril. The dental assistant did her best to keep it clean, but I could taste in and amongst the flecks of broken tooth and blood and bleach and my sweat the salty, disgusting flavor of snot.

And all I could do was giggle.

As he began removing hunks of tooth, I became keenly aware of the limits of novocaine as an anesthetic. The deep infection of the roots of my tooth were largely unaffected by the deadening agent and immense flashes of pain flew up my jaw and into my brain, setting it alight and causing tears to stream down my face. I wanted to cry out; I wanted to yell “Get your goddamn hands out of my mouth before I beat you to death with your own golf shoes, you fucking sadistic son of a bitch!”

But all I could do was snicker.

"Okay, last piece," Dr. Paul said as he clamped down on the third slab of tooth. "Ready?" he asked.

"Hehehe! Ha! HAHAHA!" I replied.

He yanked and I sobered up REALLY quickly.

"HOLY FRAGGLE ROCK!" I cried out as the flames shot from the empty socket in my gum and I began to swallow heat and blood and bone.

"Yeah, I'm sorry about that," Dr. Paul replied. "Your tooth was incredibly infected and, unfortunately, there's just no way to deaden the inside of a tooth."

Sorry's fine and all, but I still wanted to Shock-Lock-Rip his ass.

The assistant cleaned me up and stuffed wads of gauze into my mouth. I peeled myself from the chair I'd soaked in my sweat and headed to the front desk, where I paid for the privilege of being cut and broken and stabbed and drugged. I left my grandfather's house and got into my incredibly hot car, cranking up the engine and feeling an intense gust of stale, hot air fly from the vents and hit me in the face. I had the worst headache I'd ever had in my entire life and was thirsty beyond belief, so I took a sip of the tea I'd left in the cupholder of my warm car. I couldn't muster the power to spit the liquid back into the cup due to the numbness in my mouth, so it just dribbled down my chin and all over my shirt.

Sticky, hot, bloody and feeling like crap, all I wanted to do was go home.



PART TWELVE

Whereupon Joe doesn't get to go home (not right away, anyway, but you'll see why in this part because there are no other parts) 



Things were beginning to get better – if only slightly. The air had just started to turn cold and De La Soul’s “Pass tha’ Plugs” had popped on the randomized MP3 player, a song which always makes me feel better. I was just settling into my seat for the 20 minute drive home when I became aware of a small tint of blue light in my rearview mirror. It only glimmered in my peripheral vision for a second before it went away. But then it came back again.

“Wha?” I asked myself as I looked up to see what was going on behind me. Just as my eyes met the mirror, I heard a small “WHOOP!” scream loudly behind me.

“FUCHHHHH!” I screamed through my gauze as I pounded the steering wheel with one hand and turned it slightly with the other, heeding the request from the Griffin police officer behind me to pull over. I sighed as I placed my car into park and turned down the stereo so as to avoid further pissing off the officer from the notoriously hard-nosed police force of Griffin.

He took his time waddling up to my driver’s side window, which I rolled down just as he arrived. “Driver’s License, proof of insurance and Registration,” he demanded. I pulled my wallet out from my back pocket and produced the information he requested, heeding the advice from my father to always wait until it’s requested before digging around to get it, so as to let the officer see you move and not spook him (really good advice, by the way. It’s part of the reason I’ve gotten out of so many tickets).

He examined the documents and ducked down to look at me. “Mr. Peacock, the reason I pulled you over is because you are driving erratically. Have you had anything to drink this afternoon?” He asked from behind his mirrored sunglasses.

“Noh,” I replied, releasing a small pocket of blood-laced drool that began tumbling down my chin.

He tilted his head with curiosity, much the way a dog does when you attempt to explain string theory to it. “You alright there, son?”

“Noh,” I replied. “I juh goh donh ah uh denhuh.”

“You what?” He asked.

I reached into my mouth and removed the bloody wad of soaked gauze. “The dentist,” I said, my mouth still numb. “I just had a tooth removed.”

“Oh, my,” he said. “I bet you feel like hell… You sure look like it.” He looked me over for a second. “Did he put the gas on you?” He asked.

“Yeah,” I replied with a bubble of spit forming between my lips.

“Hmm…” He muttered. “Wait here for a second.” He took my information back to his car and did… Something… With it for about 15 minutes. All the while, I was mopping up drool and blood from the bottom of my lip, occasionally wiping down my goatee which began to look like a paintbrush dipped in some sick artist’s idea of a statement against social norms. The cop finally exited his car and returned to my driver’s side window with a small metal clipboard.

“Alright, here’s the deal,” he said as my stomach began to knot up. “I’m SUPPOSED to ticket you with DWI, but because I know what you’ve been through, I’m not gonna do that. But I DO gotta ticket you for something, so here’s your citation for speeding five miles over the limit.”

My stomach loosened, but thankfully not too much or else that’d have been a whole new mess. He bade me sign the ticket, which I did. “And if it’s alright with you,” he added, “I’m gonna follow you to your house, seeing as it’s real close to the Speedway and I was headed that way myself.” He was, of course, referring to the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the source of much gastric distress for me anytime there’s a NASCAR or NOPI event.

“Thank you, officer,” I said as nicely as I could.

“No problem at all,” he answered. “I want to make sure you get home safely, but I’m mostly looking out for the other motorists on the road, to tell you the tooth.”

He grinned a wide grin, proud beyond belief of his incredible pun. I laughed. Not because of the nitrous, but because it was the only choice between the two I had that wouldn’t land me in prison for assaulting an officer.

It took about three days for the swelling and pain to subside, and when it did, I felt better than I had in over a year and a half. I got a call a few weeks later from Dr. Tom’s office, following up on the surgery and asking about getting an implant installed in the empty socket.

“Will I have any issues in the future if I don’t?” I asked him.

“Well… Your rear molar might move a bit. Otherwise, you’ll just look like a hockey player.”

I can live with that.

5.19.2010

So, Who Wants To Read Another Book?

After a few months of not knowing just what the hell I was going to do next writing-wise, I've finally come up with a plan.

First, there's a few books being bandied about at Penguin. We're going to pick one and release the sucker. What I can tell you definitively is that it won't be another Mentally Incontinent book. Not right now. I'll eventually return to that material and likely release some of the stories that I liked, but weren't voting winners. But not right now. I need some space from that stuff - even though I miss writing stuff on MI (it was 8 years after all - a fantastic run), I do need to move on to other things.

But you should expect that the next Penguin book will be yet more funny fail and retarded crap that's happened in my life. That's all I can say for now :)

But as far as the next interactive project - I had a bit of an epiphany a few days ago as to what I want to do next. And I personally think its a neat concept. But I need some input from you guys first. I know how I want to release it and involve you and get you interacting with the project (just like the voting in Mentally Incontinent's 2 books - your involvement makes the project so much better in the end). And for now, that's under wraps. But what I need is some direction on content.

Right now, it's a toss-up between one cohesive story released in tiny parts, revealed over time, or ten short stories released in chunks - one story at a time, divided into ten parts per story, and distributed. Or, a third, very strange and different direction - one hundred micro "notes" that would be very much like this blog. Sometimes stream of consciousness, mostly humorous (in my own mind at least). No re-use of blog material, I promise. But that kind of thing.

So what do you want to find when you start working on this book with me? Let me know by commenting or send me an email.

5.18.2010

So, Like, What The Hell, Joe? (AKA Let's Talk Depression)

All three of you who read this blog might have noticed, I've been kinda gone for a while. And before I was gone, I was very irregular with posts.

There's a very good reason for this. The reason is that I didn't post anything.

Now of course, there's a good reason for the reason. And it's one I'm reluctant to talk about, even now, a week after I decided I was going to talk about it. I've agonized over this one, wondering where the lines are between writing to entertain you fine people and spilling my guts. I've opted for something in the middle - an open and frank discussion about the issue without revealing too many personal details.

I have been depressed. And I will give you a second to scoff, chuckle, and shake your head over reading that line, because I know that I've done the exact same thing in the past when I read or hear or see someone saying they're depressed. I think the word has been abused (much like the word "literally" has been - SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, it means "actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy" - if you're literally blue in the face, YOUR FACE IS ACTUALLY BLUE, not just frustrated).

But this depression was not just the inability to find happiness or the loss of joy. What I went through is another thing entirely. The only way I can explain it is that I felt coated in it. I couldn't wrestle my way out of it. No matter how hard I worked out or fast I ran, it was on me and wouldn't go away. Every movement I made was done so out of sheer will - getting out of bed, fixing breakfast, running that marathon back in January... My mind was locked on one very real, very unescapable thought: my life was not worth living.

Those are heavy words, and it's the first time in my life I've ever felt that way. And this wasn't just a few days of bad juju - this was MONTHS. From about October until literally last week (SEE! That's how you use it, folks). To say I lost my perspective is to say the very least. I was joyless. I was an actor. If you saw me at a book signing, you saw a performance, not me. You saw smiles that were well-timed and scripted. I knew when to nod, when to laugh, when to smile, when to shake your hand, when to hug you, when to say "It's so great you came!" - and every single action was a forced act. I was miersable.

The reasons I ended up in this state are many, but can be summed up by saying just about every single irrational fear I have manifested themselves all at once, over a week in October. I'm sorry to tell you that I won't be going into detail - but what you need to know is that I suffer from two irrational fears, neither of which involve spiders or the dark. They're very deep, personal scars received from a childhood spent in fear of nearly everyone I met or knew.

And they both manifested themselves just in time for my house to fall apart (a roof leak flooded our upstairs bath, and a toilet leak from a stupidly-repaired toilet the previous owners left us with rotted out the floor in the downstairs bath). Two of our cats fell ill and I had to manage that. I was coordinating all of the touring, release party crap for the book, some very annoying clients who I couldn't make happy to save my life, and to make matters far worse, my wife was experiencing a fantastic career boon which took her on the road the entire time, leaving me to deal with all of this by myself.

Note: none of this is her fault, and she didn't even know about half of it. That's the thing - she's never, ever even once seen me not be "the strong one." And here I was, learning day by day just how weak I really was, and I couldn't even tell her. It was miserable. And once I revealed to her exactly how deep this all ran, she was pretty much flabberghasted. She had no idea. That was the worst part... Not being able to share any of this with her.

So yeah, I slipped into a depression - one which got worse and worse every single day, because unlike any other time in my entire life, I wasn't able to just wake up the next day and everything would be alright. My creative anxiety, abandonment issues, and inability to be self-reliant stacked on themselves every single day. It was the perfect storm of pain. And once it took hold, it was like a cloak that was coated in that glue they use in rat traps. I couldn't take it off.

The real issue is that I never dealt with any of my childhood issues - ever. I buried them. Every time I'd see a crack forming in the road, I'd just pave over it all over again with Rollins songs and simplistic "rely on yourself! Be your own hero!" punk rock manifestos. Meanwhile, a sinkhole was growing and was never honestly dealt with. It's a shame that I let it go for 33 years, because when that sucker opened, it swallowed me whole. I felt like the entire foundation of my life gave way and the structures that made up who I am collapsed under their own weight.

I don't think anything I write can do the feeling justice for anyone who's never felt it. I know nothing I've ever read did it justice until it finally happened to me. All I can say is imagine the worst feeling you ever felt, coupled with the worst self-doubt you've ever experienced. Multiply this times 100 (yes, 100 - this is not hyperbole, it's the most intense sadness and doubt you've ever experienced). Then, stretch it across a period of six months.

Intense is not the word. It's more like... Oppressive.

So how did I get out of it? In a few ways, I'm still not. But in all the ways that count, I am. I am smiling honestly now. I'm happy. I find joy in things. I see the future as bright and full of hope again. I can say that the Art of Akira Exhibit did wonders for this - it's the first ever "creative" project I've undertaken that had nothing to do with me, so I was able to fully throw myself into it and love it. I've found a new strength in confronting all of this. I'm working on a new book project (details soon) and I'm actually not anxious about it at all.

I have learned to let go of certain people in my life who were damaging and hurtful. I learned to be truly honest with my wife and tell her when it hurts, how it hurts, and why it hurts - and trust her to understand it. And the only way any of that happened was a forced march across the murkiest, darkest swamps I've ever traversed. It was slow, almost torturous... And I made it out. Alive.

I tell you this stuff not because I need an excuse for the lack of writing, or for the absenses, or for any perceived reduction in quality of what I do. I tell you these things because I truly, sincerely love you. Not that I necessarily want to come to your house and hang out with you and trade notes or whatever... But in the sense that you are human and you care enough to read what I write, I love you. And if you never, ever go through this in your life, I will be happy, for I want you to be happy. It's an honest, sincere desire of mine - be happy.

And if you are going through this right now, I want you to know it WILL end. It will stop, and you will make it out alive - despite how badly you might not want to. I know that I had a moment - the first and only in my entire life - when I considered that option. I'm not proud to say it. In fact, it's taking everything I have not to delete this entire paragraph... Hell, this entire post. But it's too important. I think that the ONLY thing that pushed me past the dip and began my journey up the other side of the pit was a long, very heartfelt series of conversations with a very close friend who is the only other person I know to have gone through something like this. It could be said that she saved my life.

I'm not out to save yours. I'm just here to let you know that there is always a tomorrow, and every tomorrow leads to the future. And you can steer that series of tomorrows to bring you wherever you want - and while it's hard (damn, damn hard) to steer it toward a brighter day when you're honestly depressed, trust me - it will happen.

"The only way out is through" - Robert Frost (and, if you're into them, Nine Inch Nails)

It's now one of my favorite passages. It's the most honest and brutal truth I've ever faced. There's no escapes, short of a final one - and that's just cheating. You have to push forward. You have to work harder than you've ever worked. You have to find one - JUST ONE - instance of joy and cling to it. The memories and pain and doubt will quickly begin to wash back over the shore of your happiness... You can't stop it. There's no trite or simple way to say it - you will get sad, over and over... But find that joy. Know where it is. Mark it down; plant a flag. And come back to it every chance you get. Much like shells on the beach, more will show up - plant flags there too. Plant so many flags, you can begin stringing up netting and placing sandbags to keep the tide from rushing over it again. Eventually, the wall will be built, and you will have found your path across the ocean.

UPDATE: I've provided some details and clarity on the whole experience here.

5.06.2010

The Art of Akira Opening Weekend is Here!

And so, you now know why I've been so silent lately. It's finally here - the opening weekend of The Art of Akira Exhibit. It's been all I've cared about and worked on for weeks now (aside from my job over at Fark, of course).


First, I've redesigned the Art of Akira site - go check it out (you're likely seeing it right this second, in fact).

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Herald covered our opening weekend, and it's one heck of a great write-up. I read it this morning and I am not ashamed to admit, a tear came to my eye (okay, fine, more than one). This has been a long time coming. I've been actively working to make this upcoming weekend happen for more than three years now, and it's finally here.

AOLNews also let me cover my own event - and I'm so honored they did. 

It's my hope that everyone in the comics, animation, art and film industries sees these articles and gets interested. I hope everyone with an interest in the field gets to check out the exhibit. So help me spread the word!