Sunday, June 04, 2017


Started the day revisiting Grandpa Munster at the hospital where he landed after a dizzy spell took his legs out from under him while having a pee, and his noggin collided with the porcelain toilet. Both beast and fixture survived the affair but the docs who patched him up took the opportunity to mention that he has pneumonia in one lung (as usual; he’s on antibiotics reliably two weeks out of every eight) and that he has acute kidney damage due to chronic dehydration but which is not irreparable.

“That’s what happens when you drink nothing but coffee for forty years,” I interjected (as I’ve warned him many times). Now that men and women in white coats are telling him likewise he seems to be starting to listen.

At noon I split for Sick Boy’s Game Den & Crazy Making Eyrie which he shares with an alcoholic hoarding terminally ill-ish mom (to their mutual simultaneous salvation and demise) where he managed to slip rather gracefully into the Miracle Saturn (which has eaten up $3000 in recent repairs to the wheel areas alone – at a time when my employment has been spotty at best) despite the crutches and the ghastly hole in his foot which somehow came about during an attempt to infiltrate an area of the eyrie sealed behind a thoroughly hoardified corridor.

En route to the medical centre we stopped at the bank to have his virtual monthly income cheque negotiated for conversion to much-needed food, rent and utility funds only to discover that the funds had been “previously negotiated.”

I’m not even sure what that means but apparently this is the result of some mistake (whether honest or malicious) and can only be rectified by a certain Disability Worker who is high on Sick Boy’s roster of personal nemesisses. Nemesai?  Nemeses? Ah! Nemeses! Like crisis pluralizes to crises! Thank you Spell Checker. Um… and apparently the evil disability worker will not be available for a week and thus there will be no food, no rent, no hydro payment to a hydro company which has run out of patience, and thus soon no hydro, but instead there will be hunger, a condemned apartment and swift eviction.

I’m not criticizing. I’m not judging; just observing. It seems like every problem in his life becomes an immediate foreboding of cascading problems with no break in the chain for possible solutions. I wish I had money to loan. I gave a modest donation instead.

It’s difficult to hear his roster of troubles on a regular basis. There is always a rebuttal to every suggested solution and always barriers put up - and awkward conditions attached - to any help you offer, which makes the help you intended become harder to give, and potentially laden with regret.

This is what mental illness – in this particular case – does. It throws a monkey wrench into goddam everything. Whatever the official combination of illnesses, conditions, syndromes etcetera are at play here: it should be summed up as Goddam Monkey Wrench Disease.

But I always wonder how much of this is necessary, and how much of it is optional: brought on by ineffective coping strategies perhaps, or failed adherence to them, or simply failed understandings stemming from the gap between psychological theory and physical facts. I have long been suspicious of our social presumptions concerning which mental machinations are healthy, or even  “sane” and which are not. I’m convinced in fact, that we are rather misguided in general, choosing the mental tendencies which are common and labeling them sane and healthy, only because they are normal. When in fact, normalcy may be the most fucked up disease there is, and very much at the core of the state of our social, economic and industrial world: a world in tragedy that is immensely – and probably now irreparably – fucked up despite all the thin surface comforts we all so blissfully and arrogantly take for granted, blind to the malignant grotesqueries which provide this veil.

Earth Writer said to me the other day, over coffee, that she was rethinking the nature of our attitude toward mental illness and starting to see it – in general – more as variation than illness. I applaud this thinking very much. How much of Sick Boy’s difficulties are a matter of mental dysfunction rather than just being different; her own preferences, fears and idiosyncrasies at odds with the structures we have built which serve the preferences of the normal . That would be a valuable and challenging experiment to dabble in.

Come evening, after struggling to stay awake all day, I hit the Six Minute Show where storytellers told their brief memoirs on the theme: Nevertheless She Persisted. My dear friend, who has insisted on remaining nameless for now, did muster the courage to participate.

I’m sure she wowed the audience from the start, beginning the brief tale with rich imagery and texture of the setting, informing us that we had a real writer on our hands! And then quickly but eloquently pouring an immense story from early childhood to present, into this confined space, so artfully, and sparingly choosing resonant little details from which we interpreted clearly: parental death, prolonged abuse, regular examination of suicide, but finally, perhaps just in time: The partner who is her “heart” and the son who is her “soul” and the “warrior woman” whose wise words also helped her to finally see value in her own existence. I knew the warrior woman in her final years; very well in some aspects, though I did not know her back in her heroic years, before she diminished somewhat and sought her own hero, and I yearn to hear those stories. I fought hard to hold back tears through all of this and even at her generous mention of dear friendship, with a nod toward me.

Her message in the end was one about joy and celebration: an attempt to re-gift the warrior woman’s good words to those in the audience who needed them; for the event was a fundraiser (as all the Six Minute Club’s events are, I believe) to, on this night, a group called SACHA which helps victims of abuse.

As the actual nature of the event had finally dawned on me early on, I asked my pals: “Am I going to feel terrible about being a man by the end of the night?”

“Nope,” was my friend’s reply. “You’re going to feel good about being a good man.”


There were many other almost-as-great storytellers that night. I’d love to say more about their charming and diverse offerings but this post grows long. I will pass this fine moment along though, from the woman who spoke with delightful humour of her struggles with men and with the law and with her own mind, who concluded with a conspiratorial smirk and said: “I don’t suffer from mental illness...”

“ I’m enjoying it.”

Peace out, folks.


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