Monday, July 09, 2007

Waiting For The 22

"How ya doin?"

Instinct, habit, without thinking though the warning bell had already been sounding from the moment I first noticed him approaching, the barely conscious registering of his queasy body language.

"Fine," I said.

He sat down next to me, on the hot black bench where I was waiting for the bus. He held a package of cigarettes in his hand, trying repeatedly to fish one out. Tapping repeatedly on his wrist. Needless repetition. He was thin, feverish and untethered. Completely off. Schizophrenic. A tyrannizer of the normal.

"Are you a good sport or a spoiled sport?"

Is there an answer? Best to look away. I'm not really here. I have a hard enough time engaging with the self-possessed. But empathy kicks in. I want, and I'm probably thinking this later, as the bus is pulling away and I'm looking at him still sitting on the bench, still talking to the me that is no longer there, to bring him back, as though he surely left it at some point, to sanity. A wave of my hand, a lift of the curse, a bestower of miracles. "Return to yourself," I'd say with a sorcerer's flourish and there he'd be, intact, bewildered by his new clarity...apologetic and a little embarrassed. "No worries," I'd say. Instead there's this.

"It's's like your watch. Like the glass on your watch and when you walk you can smash right into it. Like the glass inside you."

At which point the bus arrives, curing me of my agitation, of my delusions, of the rubbing up against madness. It's only a few seconds, this absurd interaction. But it's part of the lingering accumulation of mental health disasters, of humanity still breathing but gone to husk, that nag and haunt me and our entire approach to mental health in the U.S. So I'm left with clumsy empathy wanting to offer a line, to pull him back, to bring him within proximity of right where I am now, where reason is, for now, firmly tethered, and where my agency meshes with those I love and is met, a million times, by their reassurance--their reinforcement.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Check it out! The missus might tell you she flew a little by the seat of her pants to get this one off the ground, but I doubt she was ever without the reigns held firmly in hand, offering an occasional kick in the ass when necessary.

Show the Riverwalk some love the next time you're downtown this summer.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Roman Candle Lightning Lights Up the Sky

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are crated equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness."

Those simple words are our starting point as Americans; they describe not only the foundation of our government but the substance of our common creed. Not every American may be able to recite them; few, if asked, could trace the genesis of the Declaration of Independence to its roots in eighteenth-century liberal and republican thought. But the essential idea behind the Declaration-- that we are born into this world free, all of us; that each of us arrives with a bundle of rights that can't be taken away by any person or any state without just cause; that through our own agency we can, and must, make our lives what we will-- is one that every American understands. It orients us, sets our course, each and every day.

Indeed, the value of individual freedom is so deeply ingrained in us that we tend to take it for granted. It is easy to forget that at the time of our nation's founding this idea was entirely radical in its implications, as radical as Martin Luther's posting on the church door. It is an idea that some portion of the world rejects- and for which an even larger portion of humanity finds scant evidence in their daily lives

Barack Obama, from The Audacity of Hope