The Lake Monster

There was a time when man was free and his world made sense.  A man hunted.  Killed.  Fought.  Spoke.  Fucked.  Then slept – without dream or interruption – by the raging fire he made.  Man never thought to ask permission.  He never worried.   Regret didn’t exist, nor guilt.  His sense of responsibility never strayed beyond the province of himself.  Man sought his own fulfillment above all else and chased it everywhere.

On his mad quest, man roamed the wild ends of the world, while his desire ran alongside, like a loyal wolf, unchecked, unrestrained, and deadly, devouring all experiences and tossing them away like meatless bones.  It was a ravenous linear existence and not once did man stop to surmise his wake of destruction and waste, nor did he look to see where he was going or where he had been.  The pressure of time spurred man towards another pleasure that needed exploring, another impulse that commanded his full attention.

Man never asked himself or others what the search meant or what it was for because he hadn’t thought to care.  Man lacked the capacity for self-reflection and it was wonderful and liberating.

Women did not trouble their men with questions about intent, motivation, and reasoning because they knew better than to look for answers where there were none.  Early woman accepted their man as the brute, ungoverned beasts of madness the Creator had made them to be, and out of fear and awe, acted has man’s handmaid to his desire, indulging any and all of his whims with silent acquiescence.

Man was a man.  It was terrifying, ordered and good.  And yet time, nature, and entropy loosened his grip on his world.

Without his blessing and under his fingertips, the world evolved, bringing about social norms and expectations that hemmed the length and depth of his forays into the wild.    Suddenly, man returned from the hunt and woman wanted to know where he had been, what took so long, why he hadn’t checked in and if he had been smoking.  Instinctually, man dashed these silly women’s brain out against a round stone, found another vagina, and fucked it.  He solved his problems in the only way he knew how – by destroying them and moving on.

This worked for a time, until the populations of women dwindled and man’s depravity increased to the point that he looked upon his own livestock, his rolled up socks, dead fish, and his fellow man with an inquisitive raised eyebrow and unbridled longing.  It was an ugly transitional time for man because man began to see the dangers of his unfulfilled desire and the bizarre holes he would explore to quench it.

The remaining woman banded together, stubborn in their persistent demand for an accounting of man’s thoughts and actions.  Man became confused, disorientated, and for the first time, afraid.  He was lost, caught between his desire and extinction.

He acted.  That is what a man does.

Man double down on the fucking and killing, waging war against the evils that plagued him.   Yet, the paradox scrambled his mind.  How does a man wage war against the very beings he wishes to fuck?  He will win but was winning best?  He fought the contradictions within himself using the blunt tools of his past.  He raged and swore and abused everything.   Finally, he herded the remaining women of the earth into a pen, closed the gate, and realized that with one stroke of his ax, he could rid the world of all women and silence their loathsome questions that had stained his perfect world.

He paused for a moment and imagined the world without woman.

From behind the bars, the women protested.

Why are you doing this?  Why is this so important to you?  Explain yourself.

And for the first time in man’s history, he turned to his fellow man, looking for an answer.

Man returned with the only answer he knew, “I don’t know.”

And in that moment, man’s self-awareness was born.  He finally saw the mute stupidity of his existence.  He saw himself – his ugly, half-erect, drooling dirty self – stinking of old jizz, sweat, and booze, holding his balls with one hand and a rudimentary club with the other.

He cowered in the face of his reality.

Involuntarily, his gaze returned to the women locked in their cage and heard their questions.

Why? Why do you do it? 

He didn’t know.  But in that moment man saw the world without women and he retreated from the bearded man-sex, the farm animals, the crusty tube socks, the microwave pizza, the mattresses on the floor, and the crippling sadness of it all. He saw the womanless world and he saw himself in it.  It was too much.

Out of fear, he enslaved himself to woman and the questions he could never answer.  It was safer this way.  This arrangement afforded some level of protection from the destructive power of himself.

Man became domesticated.

But before man opened up the gate and freed the remaining women, the last free men gathered around the shores of Lake Dunmore, stripped down, and washed themselves, using the glacial water to rinse all their base desires, lusts, unquenched thirsts, and animalistic instincts away so they might have a chance at successfully leading their lives of dutiful servitude to the expectations of woman and the new society they imprisoned us in.

If you believe the legend, then these baptismal waste waters, full of life-sustaining minerals and raw organic man material, settled in the bottom of Lake Dunmore, and brewed a primordial soup that spawned the Lake Monster.

The Lake Monster is terrible and destructive and evil.  He is also harmless and misunderstood.  He is everywhere and nowhere.  He lives on everything man left behind as he entered the modern world and weighted himself down with expectations and responsibility.

He is as real as your ability to believe in him.  We assure our kids and our wives that monsters like him don’t exist in the rational world and if they did, we would hunt it down and kill him.  Our homes, our marriages, our society can’t live with monsters like that, so he lives alone, or doesn’t, at the bottom of lake.

The only record we have of the Lake Monster are his stories, tales from a bygone age which he maniacally scribbles down in his underwater layer as an effort to preserve himself against the changing times.  These stories keep him sane and society safe.  If he writes it down, his terror safely stays on the page and doesn’t spill into the real world above.  Sometimes his stories float up from the abyss and get published here.

We don’t know who he is, what he wants, why thinks as he does, what his purpose is.  We don’t spend a lot of time analyzing his writing or adopt his thought process as our own.  It just is.  Out of respect for lost customs, we don’t ask the Lake Monster stupid questions.  We let him be.

Throw your questions into the lake where they belong.

 

The Big Bald Wolf

Unfortunately, I’m going bald, and it really sucks. No one has really noticed yet, because I’m on Propecia, but I’m telling you, it’s only a matter of time… While the “receding” nature of my appearance bothers me way too much, what has—and will continue to—really set me apart has little to do with my looks, and lots to do with my neurosis. I have one of the most absurdly ferocious cases of hypochondriasis this side of the Mississippi. And this is why my friends laugh in my face when I tell them I have cancer (again (only a different type this time)) or that I’m losing my hair.

“Andrew, have you ever heard of the placebo effect?” a friend recently teased after I entrusted him with the sensitive information that my head would look like George Costanza’s were it not for my popping pills.

“Yeah, but I’m telling you, man, it doesn’t apply here. I really am going bald.” I usually try not to offend people, so I opted not to put the second part of my thought to words: WebMD is my fucking homepage, you condescending prick; of course I’ve heard of the fucking placebo effect.

But, really, I have no one to blame but myself for others not believing me anymore about any of my various health issues—even those, such as male pattern baldness, with mere cosmetic consequences. After all, over the last decade or so, I have miraculously survived about 37 terminal illnesses.

I guess I’m like the boy who cried wolf, only not a bastard like him, because I really do think I see the wolf each time. Or at least I hear him, er… Maybe I just sense his presence or something. But I swear, he’s there. And, I’m sorry, but he’s scary. I’m too young to die, and, I don’t know, I just don’t want to be maimed or anything. It’s bad enough that I’m going bald.

As petrified as I am of the wolf pack lurking in the dark corners of my body and mind, waiting to sink their fangs into my jugular, I really do see the humor in my neurosis when I’m with my friends. They get such a kick out of it, and we laugh about it all the time. It’s therapeutic for me, it really is. Which isn’t to say, though, that even in the throes of our belly laughter, I don’t forget about the fact for one instant that any fun we’re having is a mere band aid—not a cure—for that faulty valve in my heart or those rapidly multiplying cancer cells in my pancreas.

Only God knows how many years I’ve pissed away (and taken off the end of my life) for worrying about afflictions. I’m 33 and so far I’ve had Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease* (that was a tough 3 years), MS, ALS, various cancers (of the penis, testicles, lungs, brain, and throat), Liver Disease, exercise-induced asthma, a mysterious heart condition (manifest in palpitations and an array of other sensations), Lyme’s Disease** and, most recently, Sarcoidosis.

My battle with Sarcoidosis wasn’t quite as tough as the others because I was wise enough to limit my research into the malady***. And although it was a paralyzing fear (not disciplined restraint) of a devastating prognosis that prevented me from learning more about what I was up against there, it was a brilliant move not to study up on this illness as I have on countless others. My lack of knowledge on Sarcoidosis helped me keep my fear of it in check (And while ignorance wasn’t even close to bliss, it at least enabled me to hold out hope for that slight chance that the illness would at least give me a few more years to tidy things up in this life and make preparations for the next.).

Thanks be to God, my fear of Parkinson’s and a few of the cancers I’ve claimed have been put to rest by the fact that I’m still alive and don’t yet seem to be incapacitated (though, like my first neurologist (who I fired) infamously said: “I see no evidence of Parkinson’s. But… Everything starts somewhere****.). With my Sarcoidosis scare, though, I actually caught a bit of break. Five or so months into my bout with this obscure ailment, my fear of it was mercifully stopped in its tracks by a few young MDs in Boston.

The docs were pals with my brother, who I was visiting in Beantown. The four of us went out to dinner one night. The plan was to get a bite to eat and then hit a few clubs. I was psyched; (I’d rather club myself in the face with a nine iron than go clubbing, but) I love hanging with docs. I could pick their brains until the cows come home.

Anyway, before we entered the restaurant, my brother stopped me outside the front door and made me promise not to get all weird again. I don’t know, I guess one time when he was in law school and living with a med student I got really drunk and pulled down my pants because I had this little freckle on the head of my rod that I thought might be something serious. (But that’s neither here nor there.) I promised my bro I’d behave and we headed inside.

An hour or so into dinner, once the docs were good and liquored up, to a point where I figured they might not notice how crazy I am, I made my move. And I have to give myself credit; it was pretty subtle.

We were on the topic of football, and I smoothly inserted the following remark: “Hey—by the way, did you guys hear that Reggie White’s fatal cardiac arrhythmia was induced by his Sarcoidosis? D’you hear anything about that? That’s a pretty rough disease, eh? Sarcoidosis, I mean?” I took a deep breath and waited to hear how much longer I had to live.

The docs looked at one another, baffled, and then at me (like I had three heads).

“How the fuck have you heard about Sarcoidosis? Are you studying for Med School?” one of docs asked.

“Oh, no, I just um, I don’t know, I—”

Then my brother sold me out. “Andrew’s a bit of hypochondriac, and he’s convinced he has Sarcoidosis, among other things.”

The other doc chimed in: “That’s pretty impressive that you’ve even heard of Sarcoidosis. But I can all but guarantee you don’t have it, because…”

He went on to list about 10 reasons why I don’t have Sarcoidosis, but I can’t remember what they are. I was too elated to hear anything he was saying. But I did catch the cherry on top.

“And even in the highly unlikey event you do have Sarcoidosis, all you’d have to do is go on steroids and you’d be just fine.”

A miracle. I could not believe it. I took a deep breath, and all the stress left my body. My muscles limbered right up as a wave of relief massaged me from head to toe. And then, just as I was flagging down the waiter to order a celebratory round of shots, the doc continued: “But you really need to chill out, my man. All that worrying is going to make you lose your hair.”

Epilogue: If after reading this piece you don’t believe me that I’m going bald, you are as insane as I am. Some people look great bald. Heck, they look better bald. But the shape of my head is ridiculous—not to mention I have moles, birthmarks, and scars galore. The scars, by the way, are from pre-cancerous growths removed by one of my first dermatologists (and, really, Lord knows if he got it all).

*Michael J. Fox remains a hero and inspiration to this day.

**I was actually hoping for a positive diagnosis on this one as it could’ve helped explain away various symptoms that are also associated with serious neurological disorders. Unfortunately, not one of my Lyme’s tests has ever come back positive.

***Upon my inaugural visit to the official Sarcoidosis website, I was greeted by the imposing figure of the great Bill Russell, arguably one of the best basketball players of all time. Frankly, it scared the shit out of me. Bill Russell is a legit dude who wouldn’t be wasting his time advocating for just any pansy disease. So I slammed my laptop shut and chucked it out the window before reading another word.

****Really, guy? Why not just leave it at “I see no evidence of Parkinson’s?” Why even mention the second part? It’s called “bedside manner,” you numbnut.

Shit-On-Your-Friends Therapy

In my opinion, seeking happiness is the whole point of existence and is achieved through being compassionate and kind. When living this mantra, I’m usually a happier person. And the opposite holds true as well: when I am mean and hurt or offend someone—anyone, even the biggest D-bag you can imagine—I feel like complete dog shit.

I haven’t always been able to articulate this—why I’m not a fighter—but I’ve never been a fighter. Just don’t have the stomach for it, I guess. Because I’m so freaking sensitive, thoughts, feelings, and experiences—especially unpleasant ones, unfortunately—leave deep impressions on my mind. And so I remember a ton of crap from my childhood (shit that everyone goes through, but most people forget), including, of course, my first fight.

I was 3, in daycare. And there was this wicked cool, communal toy chainsaw that all the kids in the “class” always wanted to play with. When you pulled its rip cord, it shook and made an engine sound. Ms. Wheelock had us take turns to ensure we all got a try. During my turn with the chainsaw, Ms. Wheelock was apparently preoccupied. Because the bully of the bunch—this dude named Patrick with dark hair and a bowl cut—marched right over to me and ripped the chainsaw out of my hands.

Honestly, I am a freak. I practically remember shit from the womb. And I remember, like it was yesterday, thinking: “Hmmm, well, I guess Patrick just took that from me. I guess I could just let him take it, like I always do, or, hmmm… What would it be like if I didn’t let him take it this time—if I grabbed it back from him? What the hay, let’s give it a whirl.”

So I grabbed the chainsaw, and Patrick and I had ourselves a little tug of war. It wasn’t at all fun or interesting, but it wasn’t terrible either. And then he hit me. An open-fisted haymaker to the temple. Physically, the blow didn’t hurt one iota, but on the inside I melted like a soft-serve on a steamy, summer day. I could’ve kicked his ass, I’m not kidding. I really was stronger. But I stopped fighting because it just felt so… weird. I let go of the chainsaw, assumed the fetal position, and bawled my eyes out like a whiny, little bitch.

Since that fight with Patrick, I haven’t been in any physical altercations. But I’ve been in plenty of verbal and mental brawls. Probably fewer than most, but more than enough for me. Unlike that early tiff with Patrick, which was inspired by curiosity, my arguments since then have been fueled by those short-lived emotional reflexes—typically anger or annoyance—that flood the mind after being challenged or crossed.

When I get in real fights these days, I still get this “is-this-really-happening” feeling that I had in my fight with Patrick from 30 years ago, but worse than that, my increased self-awareness leads to this out-of-body experience that provides a front-row seat to my own ugliness in the heat of battle. I look like Jaba the Hut. It’s awful—it’s the polar opposite of who I want to be. Afterwards, I feel all anxious and lonely and depressed.

So, what do I try to do instead of fight? I take a deep breath, recite a few “oms,” and swallow the insults back down my esophagus before they get to my lips—no matter how money they may be or how big of an A-hole it is that I happen to be dealing with. This is not easy and can be painful, like swallowing fire. But, seriously, if I had a nickel for all the debilitating “zingers” my mind has cooked up in the heat of passion that I’ve opted not to say, I’d be a way less douchey version of Donald Trump.

As I hope you know, it can be agonizing, at least in the moment, to turn the other cheek when you’re really fucking pissed. Grrr… It’s like being a punching bag sometimes, and it really irks me when someone punches me knowing I won’t give it back. When I feel this particular frustration I remind myself that (in the long run at least) I’ll be a better and happier person for it. Scotch also helps me release some of this steam. As does my wife. As does Zoloft. As do my friends.

Friends, you see, don’t just support me, but they provide a fabulous channel for letting out some of the pent up aggravation that builds within me as a pacifist. When it comes to me and my true friends, typical etiquette does not apply. We don’t have to censor ourselves for fear of insulting one another. In fact, we insult each other all the time, because, strange as it may sound, our steady exchange of abuse is yet another bridge for our mutual love and respect.

The other day, for example, when my dear friend Trevor decided to take a hot, steaming beet* deuce on my face by talking all sorts of crazy junk about my hypochondria and Jeff’s dependence on Xanax—from his high horse—taking plenty of liberties, I might add, in his “holier than thou” sermon—I took a deep breath, banged out a few “oms,” and before too long had a good laugh. Then I shot him an email congratulating him on well-written rip job of me and added that he should go fuck himself. I continued to insult him throughout the evening. And even though he orders shots of vagisil when at the bar, I knew he could take it because he is fine, and because he, myself, and Camaro (don’t want to leave you out of this strokefest, Jeffy) are true friends.

If I really did offend you with any of these words, Trevor, than I retract it all—just like you retracted calling me a sensitive pussy the other day… But I know I didn’t offend you, T, because you are the founding father of Shit-On-Your-Friends Therapy; and so I don’t feel the least bit bad.

I feel amazingly GGW—“transcendental”—to tell you the truth.

*(If you have or will read the piece Trevor wrote on beet shits in Pencils in my Eyes—how they’re “transcendental” and all that, just keep in mind that it was very early on in his blogging career and he was still testing out stupid subject matter and even more in love with the sound of his literary voice than he is today. If you don’t have a dictionary handy, or if you don’t like reading about the nasty—actual—shit that results from eating beets, I’ll quickly recap the piece for you here: “Blah, blah, blah, blibbety** blah. Blibbety, blibbety, blibbety, blah. Blibbety, blibbety, blibbety. Beet shits are transcendental. Epilogue: Stay posted. I went to the farmers market and purchased “Heirloom Golden Beets.” I am hoping to shit gold bullion.***)

**(Note: “blibbety” is a stand in for any of a variety of very impressive words that neither you or I know the meaning of but that wonderfully display Trevor’s brilliance and enable him to flex his literary muscles in front of a mirror and his Winnie the Pooh doll while wearing his favorite banana hammock.)

***(Are you kidding me with that Epilogue? Really had me on the edge of my seat with that one.)