This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.
Another week of working, watching movies, drooling, and trying to get my life back, is in the books. I'd thought I'd start the new week with some reviews of the past week's flicks. This week I am reviewing two new movies and one old classic, well, I think it's a classic, anyways. Those three movies include the newest from George Clooney, Up In The Air, the latest from Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, and an oldie but goodie from the man himself, Tom Cruise, Days Of Thunder.
The other night Aimee and I got into our chill clothes- slippers, old sweat pants and comfy thrift store tees, and watched Up In The Air. The film is about a career man who spends his days traveling through the country's airports, accruing frequent flyer miles and joining every reward program there is. When he's not traveling, Clooney's character is firing people, that's what he does for a living. Three years ago I had something in common with Clooney. Not that I fired people for a living, but I spent most of my week in airports and hotels working for some engineering firm. Well, I wasn't much of an engineer but I did get wrapped up in the rewards program. I would bypass the long lines and head straight for the rental car, or to the reservation desk. I didn't do it because I liked seeing the faces on those waiting patiently in line, I did it because it made me feel important. It's strange what happens to you when you travel all of the time.
Now back to the movie. Clooney's character likes the road, better than he does his home. That said, the story is a coming of age story for middle aged, career minded people. I won't give it away, but Clooney has a change of heart. And while the story is a bit predictable, the movie, the writing, the acting is all strong. Clooney got me once again. Out of a possible four damaged neurons, I give this film a total of three damaged neurons.
Next up, is Sherlock Holmes. We invited some friends over, had a few beers and put the newest Downey Jr. film on. It starts quick, typical Guy Ritchie fashion. It starts with a fight, typical Guy Ritchie fashion. It had quick dialog, again, typical Ritchie fashion. At times, at least for the recently brain damaged, the dialog was too quick and hard to keep up with. The fight scenes were a bit overdone. I thought there were too many fight scenes. I'd rather see the gumshoe in Sherlock not the half-naked badass. In all, the plot was good, the writing had some witty banter, and Downey Jr. showed up, as did Jude Law. This was enjoyable. I give this film two and three quarter damaged neurons. The review would have been much higher if they weren't talking so fast. I mean I have brain damage, a little bit rude and inconsiderate I would say.
Lastly, an oldie but goodie. After taking Artie for a little hike, we came home and just chilled for a while. Nothing was on the TV, I didn't want to read, or do much of anything. Days Of Thunder was on and, I don't know, every time this damn movie is on, I have to watch it. I must have seen this feel good fast speed flick a hundred times, it was obvious, when Cole Trickle was in the pit, I started to scream, 'go, go go' timing it perfectly with Cruise. Part of the reason I like this movie so much is how cheesy and lame it is, how it is Top Gun for rednecks. The other reason, I love the names they used. Cole Trickle? Rowdy Burns? Russ Wheeler? How funny can they get. It sounds strange but I give this movie three and a half damaged neurons, almost perfect. Every time I watch this, the emotions race through me, my smile speeds across my face and I head for the weiner's circle. That's right, weiner's circle, not winner's circle.
So there you have it. My week in movie reviews. Stay tuned. Up this week; It's Complicated, The Box, and Crazy Heart.
As if the lack of focus, the constant irritability, the dark thoughts, and the rage aren't enough symptoms for one person to handle, the other day a new symptom arose, more like slid out of my mouth and onto Aimee's shoulder as I gave her a hug. The new symptom, just to add a little insult to injury, is the presence of drool, an overabundance of saliva.
If I look down with my mouth open, the floodgates unlatch and saliva starts to leak out of my mouth. whether that is on my pillow while I am reading, or on my dog's head as I pet him and tell him that I forgive him for putting me in a coma.
I'm not sure why it's happening and what has brought it on. My hope is maybe it means I'm getting my taste back. That because it is on its way back, I am salivating more. I've scoured the brain injury websites and have come up with nothing.
So now, Aimee is stuck with hearing me slurp up my drool or else she might have a string of saliva fall on her face or onto her clothes. She wants me to go in for a checkup. She fears that it has something to do with me losing control. I don't agree. I think if it is not my taste buds waking from their four month hibernation, than it is the icing on what is one grotesque cake, or an awful punchline to an unfunny joke.
There it is; my latest symptom. So if you see me wearing a bib, than don't be alarmed. Just tell me how adroolable I look.
I'm unsure if I am still in a daze from the Bush years, or, if my recent near-death experience left me completely disillusioned about politics. All I know is I'm numb. I watched Obama's State of the Union speech last week, everyday at lunch I get my news from watching the Daily Show. Nothing has changed during the past year. I am starting to see that change is not something we can believe in, it never has been.
When I studied history in college, I read Democracy in America by Alexei de Tocqueville. In it, the Frenchman implied that the founders of the country didn't want change to come easy. They wanted to make it nearly impossible. Look at all of the big changes throughout our country's history. Look at Civil Rights, Women's Suffrage, slavery and one can begin to see Tocqeuville's managed to see the real constitution, long before any of those issues came to fruition. Look at what it took for any change to come.
I have to admit, I was convinced that Obama might be able to right the sinking ship. I got caught up in the election. I realize that my hatred for Bush got the best of me. But ever since waking up from the coma, I can't see much of a point behind politics. I can't make out much of a difference between the elephant and the donkey. Unfortunately, besides the difference in intellect between our former president and Obama, there's not much else that has changed and I'm realizing that it doesn't really matter. They both have their talking points, they both pander to their parties. This is the way things are and this is how it will remain. I'm getting sick of hearing pundits rant about the issues. The issues will always be there. There is never a short supply of issues. There is a shortage of solutions. I now realize that nothing can be done. We are leaning too far to right the sinking ship.
It's nice to know that my inner depression is now looking at the bigger picture, however bleak it may be.
There's a reason for my lengthy absence. I haven't had much of a desire to write about the brain lately, not because I am sick of the subject but because I've spent the past week writing a 3000 word article on my experience. When I first was asked to do it, I jumped at the opportunity. I thought about sharing the ups and downs would help me to regain my focus. I hoped it would help me find that desire to change the person that this injury is turning me into.
Turns out, all it helped me do was realize how hard it is to condense a near death experience and a major recovery into 3,000 words. I've read over the draft numerous times. I think it is bland and contrived. I now question my ability to write. I am beginning to think that another symptom has reared its ugly head. My new symptom is my inability to expound on a single thought, or idea. I don't have it. I try to jot ideas down but I can barely make it past a few words before I move on to another subject.
I'm rushing through it again. Not just this recovery but my life. I rushed through what should have been the deepest and most personal piece of writing I will ever be asked to do. I rushed through it because ideas, chores, and future articles became the priority. I now find myself more out of control than I have ever been. And change to me is just another word, an impossible feat that I fear will always be unrealized. I want my mind back. I want control of my thoughts. I can't stand not having it. I can't stand this place I am at...In the upcoming days, I will stress over the response to my recent submission. It will probably turn out better than expected. I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't. I'll let you know.
I'm back and ready to review three new movies that we saw during the last week. Those three movies: The Invention Of Lying, the newest comedy from Brit comedian, Ricky Gervais; also The Road, the uplifting Cormac McCarthy novel turned movie; and lastly, The Time Travelers Wife, starring Aussie Eric Banna and Rachel McAdams.
First off, we'l start with the flop. The INvention Of Lying. I was looking forward to this one. I find Ricky Gervais funny. I liked the British version of The Office better than the American one. I thought Extras was hilarious and I found Gervais' HBO standup comedy hour pretty entertaining. But the movie, despite the star studded cast didn't do anything for me. Sure it was a clever premise, one that seems to have been done, at least a version of it, countless times before. I just wish he would stick to what works. He's not a character that belongs in a romantic comedy. He's a pudgy English bloke. He should stick to the self-deprecating humor that works, not a love story with a charming little ending. I give this british comedy one damaged neuron, perfect for a lazy day, the kind that you are recovering from a hangover and don't want to move from the couch.
My next film is The Road. I read the book and I wish I wouldn't have. I thought the book was entertaining. But as soon as the trailers for the movie were released, I cringed. I ringed while watching it as well. The movie was shot well. The dialogue was good, just lik the book. The problem is once you read something like that, something where grey is the only color and ash is the only thing in the sky. It gets pretty redundant. I saw the movie when I read the book. For those that haven't cracked open the book, I recommend watching the movie, in fact, I'll give it two and a half damaged neurons. But if you've read the book, I think that is enough, you don't need to waste any more time on grey skies and ash.
Now, onto the final movie: The Time Traveler's Wife. I hadn't heard of this one before we at down to watch it. I like Eric Banna. Sure, the movie is a little lovey-dovey for me, but not over the top. I think the premise is strong, the characters compelling. I give this sappy love story, three damaged neurons. I even caught myself smiling at the screen on a few occasions. That Banna gets me everytime!
Th pressure in my head has remained. This headache has lasted for seven long days. It started when the rain started to fall. My dad said the atmospheric pressure has reached an 80 year high when the storms blew through southern California. My doctor seems to think the throb inside my head is caused by the high pressure. Brain injury websites say the same thing.
The worst part about the pain is it is located jut above my right eye; the same place that I hit when I fell. It feels like an expanding knot in my head. Aimee and the rest of my family tell me I need to get rest. They prescribe naps like a doctor prescribes Vicodin. I try and tell them that naps don't help. Rest doesn't either. All rest does is give me a chance to feel the knot expand inside my head. They don't understand that the more I force myself to do, the better, the quicker time goes by, and the easier it is to forget about the nagging throb.
I don't mean to complain, but these things get old. Seven days is a long time to live with the same headache. Seven days is a long time to hear the advice from those who care but who don't know.
During the past few days I am beginning ot notice a few more symptoms. At times I act crazy. I say the wrong things. I pissed Aimee off by telling personal stories. I don't mena to do this. I don't mean to use the injury as an excuse, but I have nothing else to use. Aimee tells me that the symptoms are not supposed to get worse as my recovery continues. I remind her that doctors said recovery can take years, possibly six years. I remind her that it has only been four months. I feel bad reminding her. I fear that she will grow sick of hearing the excuse. I fear that she will stop believing that it is something I can control. It scares me to think that she will just have to start accepting the fact that she lives with someone that acts crazy and behaves poorly. I hate to think that one day she might want to find a way out. I wouldn't blame her if she does. I'd like to get as far away from myself as possible.
I should start this post off with an apology. Some might find this funny, others might find it repulsive. My neuro-psychologist told me to keep a sense of humor about my condition. This is my attempt at following her advice.
Yesterday, I had a craving for burritos. I am surprised I still have cravings considering I don't can't taste. I walked Artie to the local burrito stand and ordered a chile relleno burrito and a breakfast burrito, no meat, extra beans. I ate the breakfast burrito as soon as I got home. And for lunch I had the other. I should say, one thing I've noticed since waking from the coma; my stomach can't handle the same things it used to. Having Mexican blood in me, one would think that eating beans and spicy food would be harmless. I ate the food hoping that I would return to normal.
Then came the evening. Aimee was on the couch working on her computer. I was on my big brown leather chair watching some lame television. I had gas and I let it out. I had been letting them out all day and couldn't smell them, forgetting I have no sense of smell. So I let a few rip on the chair. Next thing I know, Aimee is yelling under a pillow. She looks up and asks if it was me or Artie. I said I let a little one out earlier. She looked at me and told me I was disgusting. She looked like she was about to gag. I told her that I couldn't smell anything.
"Yeah, you can't smell. I know. That's disgusting."
And then I said it. What I think might be the funniest thing I've ever said.
"Yeah, not smelling really sucks. It's starting to bum me out. The hardest part about it, I miss the smell of my own farts."
Aimee ran out of the room to grab the can of Lysol. She came back to me laughing on the chair. She was still holding her breath.
"Cmon, it doesn't even smell. I can't smell a thing," I said. She wasn't ready to laugh. I am...doctor's orders.
Three weeks ago an acquaintance contacted me and asked if I could speak to his friends family. On New Year's Eve the family was involved in a major car accident. Their nine-year old daughter had suffered a severe brain injury and was in a coma. I agreed to talk to the family but I was unsure of what to say. I am not an expert on brain injury, and I am not a typical case. Just four months out of it, I have returned to a somewhat normal life. I work full time, I have a few beers from time to time. I can drive to the store. Not only am I not an expert, but I have no way of knowing how a nine-year old girl would come out of a coma and what her recovery would look like. Right when I agreed to speak to the family, I worried that they might take my case as the norm. I hated the thought of getting their hopes up. We were so different. A car crash is considered to be much worse than blunt trauma like I experienced. Plus, her coma wasn't induced, mine was. Usually that means the initial injury is much more severe.
During the following weeks I dragged my feet. I never contacted the family, but I thought about it almost everyday. Today, as I read through Aimee's journal that she wrote while I was in the coma, I decided to follow-up on the little girl's condition. I vowed to contact the family and do my best to help. I looked at the website the family started. Her picture was posted. She was in a ballerina's outfit and had a huge smile dancing across her face. Next to the image was the update. She was dead. Her brain trauma was too severe.
The news hit me hard. I hated the thought of a nine-year old girl dying in a hospital bed. I hated the thought that I came out of this in such good shape and she didn't. I hated myself for not acting quicker, though, I was glad I didn't meet the family and tell them everything would be all right. It wasn't.
The melancholy stayed with me the whole day. It didn't help that I just started writing an article on my experience, thus the reason I was reading Aimee's journal. That was hard enough to handle, but when I found out about the girl, it paralyzed me.
The human condition hits harder than it used to. When I was released from the hospital someone said to me that I had finally grown up. He said that tragedies are what makes a person an adult. I didn't believe him at first. Now, I do. Before when some tragedy happened, I would say how sad it was and then go on my way. Now, I can't handle the tragedies. They paralyze me. I guess I have grown up. I just wish growing up didn't mean having to accept the calamity of it all.
Pain has changed since the fall. I rarely ever had headaches before, maybe after a night of debauchery, I would wake to a constant throb. Things have changed. I have changed. For two days now, my head has ached. The ache comes from deep inside my skull, behind my eyes. Each throb seems to exit from my scar.
Yesterday, I attributed the pain to my action packed weekend. Today, I attribute it to the past two days I've spent writing a long article for the paper I write for. I stress over the articles. Each time I feel my confidence wane, my focus disappear.
I even tried to meditate today thinking it might help. I used a 10-minute relaxation disc that a therapist gave me at rehab. I fell asleep after a few minutes, after the man's deep voice began repeating "delicious energy" over and over again. When I awoke, the headache was still there. Luckily, the man's voice was not.
I told Aimee about the relentless throbbing. She became worried. She called the house several times from work. It makes me feel so weak. I can't stand complaining about minor aches and pains. I hate the vulnerability that this injury has left. I can't stand the fact that at times I start believing they are much more than just a minor headache, or sinus pressure. I start thinking it might be something bigger. I start thinking the intracranial pressure has returned and blood has found its way back on my brain. All from a headache.
Like I've said before, no one, has ever told me what to expect from this. No one has said a headache is still a headache. Fatigue is just fatigue. I wish there was some hint as to what the following months will bring, because I'm beginning to be sickened by the ups and downs. They said recovery will take years, it scares me to think it's only been four months.
It's been a few days since I've last written in this here blog. Not because I didn't want to, not because I have nothing to say, even a brain injury couldn't keep that from happening, but because of the fatigue, both mental and physical. By Sunday evening I was spent, sore, and sleepy, for good reason.
Friday night was spent at the bar. I met a friend there and we talked about writing. His screenplays and my novel. After finishing my third beer, the bartender asked us if we wanted another round. My friends said yes and I said no. He reached for my glass.
"Can you leave that?" I asked.
"I thought you said you were done." He replied.
"Yeah, but we might share. He might pour some in my glass. I can't have much more, I have a brain injury," I answered while pointing to the scar on my head.
He stood motionless and looked at me, first glancing at my head, then into my eyes, and then at my mouth to see if I was smiling. I was smiling. I was drunk, at least buzzed from the three Pilsners I consumed throughout the night.
The next day I woke with stomach issues, the kind of pains that accompany a hangover. At times I felt nauseous. My friend an I decided to surf. I chugged water on our way to the beach to try and settle my stomach. When I wasn't downing water, I was applying sunscreen to the scar on my head. Aimee says the sunscreen will keep the scar from looking worse than it already does. I don't believe her but it's a fight that I'm not willing to participate in.
My hangover disappeared soon after getting into the water. An hour later, I was still going strong, surfing the best I had since the accident. I sat on my board and looked out to the ocean.
"That was a real nice wave you caught," one longboarder said looking at me.
"Hey thanks, a little awkward but thanks."
"Better than any I caught today," he said.
"Thanks, I appreciate it," I said before paddling away. I thought maybe he was a beginner. i wasn't sure how to take the compliment.
I surfed for another hour before the fatigue crashed on my head. I headed in. Once I got to the shore, I stood on the beach with my friend waiting for our other friend who was still out surfing. As we stood there, another surfer came jogging down the ramp onto the sand. I looked at him. He looked at me.
"Man, you were catching some great waves. I was watching you from up there," he said, pointing to some benches.
"Oh, thanks. I appreciate it. Thanks," I said. My friend Chris looked at me. I told him that it was my second compliment of the day. I joked about how I give it 110 percent and how I came out of the brain injury a better surfer. He laughed and said something about my white scar. I didn't pay much attention to it. I just laughed. A few minutes later, I started thinking about what Chris had said. It was the same thing he said before we paddled out. He laughed about my white scar. It all began to make sense. The compliments weren't just about my surf session, they came because my scar was so pronounced that I had brain injury written on my forehead.
We got home and joked about it all night. the next day we went out surfing again. I only applied a small amount of sunscreen to my scar. We surfed for the next couple of hours. I surfed the same as I had the day before but received no compliments, no standing ovations, nothing. By the end of the day, another wave of fatigue crashed on top of me and I was done.
Now that rehab is winding down and doctor appointments are less frequent, now that I can have a beer at the end of the day, this recovery has transformed into normality. I am accustomed to my condition, the lapses in concentration, the neurotic behavior that has turned into spending most of my day making lists of the things I need to do, and the mental crashes that come at me at the end of each night. They are now my little quirks. I have forgotten what I was like before and only know what I am now.
I plan days out now. I organize my office now. I throw a load of laundry in everyday. I do one chore a day. I don't leave the house because there are always things to be done. I don't walk the dog as far as I used to because I need to get home. These aren't conscious decisions. They come naturally, they have since the brain injury. My neurologist said obsessing about things could happen. She was right, it has. At first I didn't focus on the little things. I concentrated on the bigger issues. Now those little things, like scheduling my day, planning activities, organizing the house, is turning into an obsession.
My brother asked if I wanted to surf the other day. I immediately said I had too much to do. And I do have a heavy load, trying to learn how to write again, it never kept me from leaving before, I never really knew how to write and I often went surfing or took Artie to the park. The difference now is that I can't juggle my responsibilities like I used to, now there is no time for fun, only time to get stuff done and crossed off my list.
It's odd, like I mentioned earlier, this behavior is becoming the norm but at the same time I find myself wondering if there should be more. It's the initiation that I miss when I am alone. I fear what this might turn into, I fear what I might become. They told me recovery would be long, but that was when I could see progress, now I am only seeing what this injury has turned me into. Now I find myself trying to recover from recovery. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one other obsession I have; that is non-stop complaints.
I fooled myself into thinking that now that my strength and my confidence have returned. Now that I can enjoy a beer and now that my dizziness has mostly disappeared, I assumed I wouldn't spend as much time on my chair at nights, watching movies and bad reality TV. I was wrong. You can still find me on the large brown leather chair, feet crossed on the ottoman, every night. I am unable to keep focus on books, now I only read for a couple of minutes before my eyes shut and I am out for the night. So here are the reviews for this week's round of movies and bad reality TV.
It Might Get Loud is a music documentary starring Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2's The Edge, and Jack White from the White Stripes. Most of the film focuses on each guitarist's individual style, upbringing, and musical influences. Going in, I anticipated watching Jimmy Page strap on a guitar. His style on the guitar, the riffs that he made up, always captivated me. I knew I would be entertained watching him and listening to his early years in England playing in skiffle bands. And then there's Jack White. I was never a big fan of his music. I always considered him to be a talented musician. I just never got it. In the movie his allegiance to early blues his love of music impressed me. I'm still not a big fan of his music, but I do respect the dude. And lastly, there's The Edge. I never really thought much of him as a guitarist. I like early U2. I don't care for new U2. I know why I didn't think much of his guitar play, because he is the most boring, effects-dependent guitarist to ever pick up a guitar pick. He's definitely not The Cutting Edge when it comes to guitar. Overall, I give this doc two and a half neurons out of four. Worth it if you play guitar and are a music lover, not so much if you don't.
Next up: Couples Retreat. That makes it two weeks in a row I am reviewing a Vince Vaughn film. It's like the jar to the brain has turned me into some double-V superfan. Well, recovery is occurring, I know because even Vince Vaughn's appearance in this flick couldn't garner an average neuron review out of me. It was lame, predictable, some funny chortles came in the beginning but nothing for the last hour. I give it one and a half neurons, a good movie when there is nothing else on, no books around, no people to talk to, no chores to be done, no organizing to do. In that case, watch this movie, you'll love it.
Finally, the TV portion of the weekly review. This week in bad TV I review Steven Seagal's Lawman, quite possibly the funniest show in the history of television. There's something about watching an out of shape, martial arts expert patrol the rough streets of New Orleans as a deputy Sheriff. We've been making fun of Seagal's movies now for years. Whether that be the heavily airbrushed DVD covers, ones that make Seagal's pudgy face look like the face of a Geisha. In one movie, we paused the movie in the middle of a fight scene. If you looked close enough you could see that the director placed a shoe at the end of a stick and used it to make it look like a vicious Karate kick. So, Seagal's been the butt of a joke in our household for quite some time. Well, that joke just keeps getting funnier and funnier. In his show, on A&E on Wednesday night, Seagal thinks he has all the answers, uses his Zen teachings to predict the next move of small-time crooks. He's seen running a few feet before getting winded or stopping in front of a two-foot tall fence because he can't manage to get those powerful martial arts legs a few inches off the ground. This reality television show gets three and a half damaged neurons. Probably would have received a perfect score before the accident, but since I've lost some humor, I can't fully appreciate it for what it is. Watch it and see Seagal talk like a black man and move like a wounded Walrus.
Next week: Brothers, Steven Seagal's latest movie; Driven To Kill, and Celebrity Rehab.
We walked into the small, crowded Mission Hills restaurant. Tables were nearly stacked on top of each other. The patrons filling the chairs yelled every word trying desperately to be heard. The noise had nowhere to go. It reverberated off the low ceiling and off each of the four maroon walls. Aimee spoke to the hostess. Despite making reservations, there was a ten minute wait for our table. The hostess directed us, as if we couldn't see five feet in front of us, to the bar. Aimee looked at me, the hostess then looked at me as well.
"Is this too loud in here for you? Aimee asked as she pointed her finger to her head and twirled it around in circles; the international sign for crazy. I looked at the hostess. A polite smirk was pasted on her face.
"I'm fine, this is fine," I said. There was no room at the bar so we walked outside. The hostess stared at me and smirked.
Outside we joked about the exchange. I knew she meant well, that she was only looking out for my best interest. I also knew that she didn't have to twirl her finger around while pointing to her brain, but that's all right, that's why I love her.
We had dinner with two friends. I had a beer. We told stories and laughed. Every time my friends would say how good the meal was, I asked them if they were trying to rub it in. It was a great dinner, even though I couldn't taste a single thing. I enjoyed myself so much that I ordered a dessert, just to top the night off, just to waste a little more cash.
The next day I surfed for five minutes, it was all I could take before losing my breath and paddling in. As we got ready to pull out of the parking lot, my friend from the Jersey Shore called me over. He was talking to a man sitting in a handcycle.
"Hey, this guy injured his brain and was in a coma too. Now he's training to ride this across country," my friend said.
"That's a long trip," I said, not knowing what else to say. I asked him about his injury. He answered in a slurred voice. His hands shook as he handed me a flyer for his cross-country trek. I could see the scar on his throat from the tracheotomy. I gave him my card and told him I wanted to write a story about him and his journey. I wasn't sure what else to say. I know we have something in common but sometimes it's not a topic I like to talk about. It's not just another story I like to tell as a way to see what similarities I share with another person whose experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury. What am I supposed to say? 'Were you dizzy for a while after you woke up?" Do you remember anything from the coma?'
Later that night, my two buddies and I went to a bar and had a beer. Once inside the bar, I went up the barkeep.
"Um, yeah, what's your lightest beer on tap, with the lowest alcohol content?" I asked.
I drank the pilsner. We came home and had a Wii tournament, which I won handedly. It's not exactly on the same level as pedaling across the country, but it's an accomplishment nonetheless.
There I sat in a red plastic booth with four friends and Aimee by my side. Everyone had pints of beer on the table in front of them. I had a bottle of Bud Light. The bar was dark, the music was loud, we talked about music, movies, about how it felt having my first real beer since the fall, if you consider Bud Light a real beer. It was the first night I was able to sit back and not be reminded of what I couldn't do, that is, until our conversation shifted to me and my 1972 Honda motorcycle, but I'll save that for a different post.
I was at home in the dark, dingy bar setting. Heading into the bar was a different feeling; I was nervous and unsure of what might happen. From the outset, some nurses have told me I would never be able to drink again, others told me it might induce post-traumatic epilepsy, while others said I should wait a year. It goes to show that no one really knows how bad someone injures their brain, unless their symptoms are noticeable, like wandering eyes, immovable limbs, or slurred speech. I've known this all along, even my doctors have told me that there's no way of truly knowing the extent of my injury, but still that anxiety was there as I walked through the door of the Live Wire. I think it is that lack of knowledge that makes it so hard to be confident and so hard not to be weighed down with fear.
It's odd because the little things scare me most, like another trip to the hospital, the feeling one gets before a seizure, or even feeling drunk. After nearly dying, and after going through what I have been through, I don't care about death, I realize it's not far off for anyone. But what I don't want is that out of control feeling. Discomfort is what I avoid most.
As I sipped on the Bud Light I waited for the discomfort to hit. It never did, at least not at the bar. By the time I finished my second beer, I was surprised that it never came. We left the bar, grabbed a veggie burrito, and headed home. As we ate, the lightheaded sensation began. The pressure in my head increased. I grew irritable. I told Aimee to shut up when she asked for me to explain my irritation. I was in bed five minutes later. I knew it wouldn't let me down.
And there it was; my first night back out on the town. It was good to be out. It was good to be normal again. No body shots, but that's all right, I'll save that for midlife crisis.
I'm back, ready to review more movies. I also decided to throw in a television reviews as well, just because I am generous and I care. Now that I am back off the wagon, I fear I won't be watching as many movies and bad reality TV as before. Most of my nights will probably be spent in the bar, chatting it up with some stranger about sports, literature, it's been so long I don't know what they talk about at bars, but I'm going to find out.
First up; I'll start with some movies.
The other night I watched the newest X Men release; Wolverine. Lame. There's something about Liev Schrieber that has always bothered me. I found out he irks me even more when he's trying to be some roided up rodent. Now that I am not swallowed up by a debilitating daze each and every night, movies, especially action flicks, don't have the same affect on me. There was a time when my brain was so slow that I was sweating to GI Joe and the newest Transformers movie. It's not the case anymore. Wolverine was the first time in two months I wasn't marveled by the special effects. For that, but mostly because I can't stand Liev Schrieber, I give this flick one neuron out of a possible four.
Next up: Taking Woodstock. This was so bad that I felt the bulge on the side of my head grow with each ridiculous scene, and with each word the protagonist's mother uttered. This film gets no neurons.
Last in line: Four Christmases. I held my pick for the night, It Might Get Loud- a music documentary featuring Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge, and Aimee's pick- a holiday knee-slapper, Four Christmases, behind my back. She picked the left arm, the one holding the holiday flick where hilarity was supposed to ensue but never did. Sure I laughed a few times at Vince Vaughn's delivery- each time I laughed Aimee reminded me it was her pick- overall, I thought it was pretty slow, weak, just another romantic comedy with all the same jokes set to Christmas music. Sadly enough, this film also received one neuron, even with Vince Vaughn's delivery.
Now onto television. It's hard to believe that on the night my doctor told me I could have a beer, I was inside on the same chair I've been on for two months straight, watching a lame holiday comedy and then following it up with the latest episode of the Bad Girls Club. It's equally hard to believe that Aimee was allowed to choose not only the movie but also which program to watch.
For those of you who don't know, Bad Girls Club is a reality show where seven slutty, drunk, vulgar, and sloppy females occupy the same house. Great premise, you say. Well, it's not. Since the fall there have been times when I was convinced I lost some intelligence, never more so than after watching this show. These girls fight and scream the entire time. Out of a possible four neurons, I give this a one and a half.
Stay tuned for more Reviews From A Lame Brain. Next installment I will review It Might Get Loud, Up In The Air, and for TV, Steven Seagal's Lawman.
Drink, drug, drive, fly were my four questions for my doctor.
"So, am I able to have a glass of wine or a beer at night?" I asked shortly after sitting down in the examination room.
His answer was it wouldn't hurt. He said a half of a glass of wine or beer will feel like two glasses, but that's a tolerance thing not a reaction from the brain.
"And what if, recreational of course, I was to have weed around me. Would that be bad for my head?"
His answer; it too won't hurt. It might affect my balance. I may be more wobbly than usual but no physical reaction with the brain.
"And how about driving?" I asked.
He started filling out the release forms on the spot.
As he did I asked my final question: "And how about flying? Is there anything that the pressure might do to my head?"
"Not unless you have a pocket of air in your head from the surgery. But the chances of that are, nil."
"I don't know, I have been labeled an airhead before," I joked.
And there they were, my four questions. Such a difference from a month ago, when talks of seizures, of cognitive fatigue, of depression, and irritability ruled the day. And while I am always susceptible to the risk of post-traumatic epilepsy, and while cognitive fatigue, an inner darkness, and a testiness will continue to float around in my head for some time, they have taken the back seat in my drive back to normal life. I now can leave the house on my own accord, I can crack open a beer with a friend, or, well, take a toke if I please. I can visit my parents, my dad, who last saw me days after my coma, groggy and discombobulated. Alcohol, drugs, and driving usually shouldn't be uttered in the same sentence, but in this case it is the perfect concoction.
Upon leaving the doctor's office, I was smiling. Aimee handed over the keys. We got in and off we went. What a ride it was, not the one back from the doctor, but the trip that got me to where I am today, where drinking, drugging, driving, and flying were among my biggest concerns of the day.
The first Monday of the new year was spent in search of normalcy, spent finding that first day of the week routine. That means work, some chores, more work, more chores, some exercise. Most of the day the search felt good and I felt normal. I wrote a story, conducted an interview, and sent off a dozen or so emails. I was so caught up, I decided to take on the one thing that I had been putting off for more than a month. The one task that occupied a little space in the corner of my dizzy mind. That task; writing out the presentation on my story that I one day plan to give to elementary school, high school, and medical school students.
I was asked if I was interested early in my rehab to share my story; an attempt at preventing another person of incurring the same injury. I was asked whether I'd like to promote helmet awareness.
Even before the offer was made, days after waking up from my coma, I had told myself, and Aimee, that I wanted to take something positive away from the whole ordeal. I thought if I could convince one kid to put on a helmet, even though they are uncomfortable, and even though the pros and the supposed cool kids don't do the same, than it would all be worth it. I still think that. The problem is I'm not sure if I can pull it off.
Honesty is hard, but that's what I need most. I'm getting second thoughts because I'm nervous, my confidence has depleted, there wasn't much there to begin with. I think this is normal. The problem is I have an excuse now, my brain injury, and I am not shy on using it, I am trigger happy.
I nearly squeezed the trigger as I sat, listened to old Modest Mouse, and wrote my story; from leaving on the bike, returning for the skateboard, to refusing service, to my dreamlike memories I had in the coma, to feeling the tracheotomy tube leave my throat, I wrote it all down. Writing the story out, choosing which memory to use, seemed strange. Part of it is I don't know what to use. I don't know what will have an affect, what has more meaning.
I don't know because I've been in a daze, like I haven't yet processed the experience, or, maybe I've come to the realization that there's not much to process. Either way, as I wrote, I felt unaffected by the whole thing. Maybe its shock, maybe it's the brain's way of healing, I don't know. It seems so strange to make a brief summary of these past three months. There's nothing brief about it. These three months have lasted an eternity. For most of the time, I have looked at my surroundings with a starry eyed glaze over my eyes and in my head. How am I going to write that. How can I express something that I don't understand. So, I am left faced with the decision to pull that proverbial trigger and use my excuse, or keep trying to find the positive in what has been the most negative and traumatic experience of my life, one so traumatic I am completely numb from it.
I brought the new year in with a bang, four non-alcoholic brews while watching fellow bruised brainiac, Dick Clark. Two minutes after watching thousands of ridiculous looking people celebrate the new year, I was on my way towards my bed. It was my first new years since I was thirteen that I didn't have a drop of alcohol, or a smoke, or use some kind of recreational drug. It was the only new years eve that I didn't feel the need to make some weak resolution to try and become a better person. The reason is I'm not sure who I am, so I'm not sure what I need to change.
That was demonstrated on New Years Day. I woke up with an energy that I haven't felt in some time. I played Wii with a friend. I was more competitive than ever, dancing to the background music with every win and kicking the tiled fireplace with each loss. Afterwards I went surfing. This session was so much better. I stayed out for more than an hour. I had my balance and I had my strength. When I got back home I helped make dinner, and then watched Michael Douglas' horrible new release. I thought I had it back. For a few moments I actually started to believe that new years legend, that the new year marks a new beginning and not just another day.
The legend proved to be just that on the following day. I woke up feeling groggy.I tried my best to not show it. Two hours later, while helping Aimee out on a photo shoot, I couldn't fight it any longer. I had no energy. I was lightheaded, dazed, and bemused. During a break in the action, Aimee brought me home. I sat on my chair and watched Spider Man. I remained in a daze the entire time. My head felt heavy, my mouth was agape, and my eyes watered. I was done for the day and the night.
That's what I mean about not knowing who I am. One day, my energy is boundless, my vitality is abundant; the next I am a slobbering fool, struggling to stay upright, and fighting to look normal. On those days I want everyone to know that my brain is weak, that I am tampered goods. The others I'd rather no one know. So that was my new year, another reminder that i have absolutely no idea what the right pace is for my everyday. Each day is a lesson that is forgotten and changed with the new dawn.