Life In The Slow Lane...
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San Diego, CA, United States
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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Sense Short: Wet Dogs and Farts

"You're lucky you can't smell because it smells like wet dogs and farts in here," my friend said after we hopped into his truck.

It was raining outside, the three dogs in the back seat had been couped up for days. To add to the multi-layered shit cake, it was the day after a night of drinking and he was losing an internal battle with his stomach.

He rolled his window down and I just sat there, sense-less.

Normanosmics (read: people that can smell) often say there are both positive and negative aspects to not smelling. But, I'm starting to miss even the most horrible and putrid of odors.

Sure, at times it's good to be Anosmic (read: technical term). For example, it's great that I no longer pick up the aromas in public restrooms, or that I can't smell dog shit as I scoop it up from my yard, or the damned stench from the cat box.

But when you don't smell anything, you eventually begin to miss all scents, even the aroma of dried-up cat turds.

It seems odd to say that I wish I could have known what it smelled like in the truck the other day. It just seems odd that I can be inhaling the worst combination of odors, wet dogs and farts, while sitting with an oblivious smile on my face.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sentence Streams

“It would have been better if you would have died.”

Flying into Denver on my layover, returning from visiting the in-laws in Georgia, the familiar voice streams in my mind. I rubbed the bulge on the side of my head to try and get it out. It wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t loud. It didn't need to be.

As his voice plays on a continuous loop, the anti-depressants numb the emotions. At times there’s this intense rush of sadness. Tears come to my eyes and blood floods to my brain. But nothing happens and all that remains is his deep, raspy smoker's voice.

Steinbeck wrote that the best way to get things out of your head is not to force the thought or memory out but to dwell on it until it disappears. That doesn't work and for eight months that sentence, the tone, has been there.

I told my doctor. She says the non-stop streaming is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder but instead of actions I get hung up on thoughts and memories.

It makes me think of a man that I interviewed for work. He was diagnosed as “schizophrenic effective.” He said he hears voices in his head, though is capable of not acting on them. I’m the same way but I wish I could act on the voice in order to shut it up for good.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Headbanger's ball

My neurologist nodded her head as she read my medical report.

"You were a difficult one," she said.

The doctor pointed to a picture of a brain and showed Aimee and I where the hemorrhages occurred. She pointed to the right front side of her head to show me where the two contusions were located.

She explained the injury and then started asking me questions.

"Many patients tell me that they have unusual, violent thoughts. Do you?


I told her about certain impulses I get when I'm fatigued and frustrated. Most include me banging my head against the wall or floor.

We talked about my emotional outbursts. She turned to Aimee and asked how she was doing. Aimee started to cry.

"Have you thought you might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Have you thought about seeing a counselor?"

I looked at Aimee and fought the tears back. I've done my best to appreciate her and what she went through this year. I tell her I love her everyday and how much I appreciate her but the fact is I am unable to grasp the pain and the hurt that she experienced. Her pain isn't just seeing me with half of my skull missing, a hole in my throat, and violent outbursts but also comes from remorse about my family, and a sickness in her own family.

Seeing her on the chair crying, and hearing the doctor say "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," might be one of the toughest things that I have seen or felt in this past year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scripps Mercy, Mercy, Me

Yesterday, I went back to Scripps Mercy Hospital to get my health records. Before walking in, I passed the valet area where people sat in wheelchairs waiting for their rides. I thought about the first time I arrived at Scripps by ambulance and not having a single memory of it. I don't remember medics rolling me in. I don't remember talking to nurses and doctors. Everything has been wiped clean.

Ten minutes later, with records in hand, I sat down in the lobby and read the initial reports of my injury. Doctors described me as combative but alert. They questioned whether anything happened. There were no signs of injury. I was only complaining about a minor headache. An hour later, doctors said my condition was deteriorating. And that's when they put me out.

I couldn't make it through the entire report. I wasn't emotional. I was curious. I imagined seeing Aimee and my family walk through the doors on their way to visit me. I imagined my father, near a nervous breakdown, standing at the piano singing Frank Sinatra. I thought about my mom praying in the chapel, despite the fact that she is not religious. I imagined the rest of my family witnessing it all. And, I pictured Aimee on her way to the ICU with bloodshot eyes, holding her journal and a cup of coffee.

It hurts because most of my family no longer speaks to me; my dad, my mom, or my brother.

My neurologist and my doctor both say I need to step away and concentrate on recovery, but it's hard when the brain's filter allows emotions to run wild.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Sense Short: Old Spice and Body Odor

"Hey does this shirt smell?" I asked her before throwing the shirt at her face.

She grabbed the shirt and sniffed the area around the arm. Then she made that face, the one where she closes her eyes while trying to cover both nostrils with her upper lip.

She didn't need to say anything. But then again, why wouldn't she? It gives her joy.

"Yeah, it smells. It smells like you rubbed Old Spice on the shirt, trying to cover up the body odor. Nasty."

I laughed. What else is there to do? I laughed not only because Aimee acts as my personal odor-picker-upper, but also because I will be tossing shirts, moldy towels, and shoving rotting food in her nose to see if it is safe to eat, for the rest of our lives. Why this woman stays with me, I have no idea.

As for old Sniffalufugus at, turns out after an operation to attach her deviated septum she lost her smell for a few days and couldn't smell her couch which she knew stunk of wet dog.

I know the feeling. Sometimes when I pick up Artie's shit on our walks I fear that some pooh touched my hand, though all I can do is wipe my hands on my pants and then have Aimee smell them later.