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.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I have been wanting to see the movie The Descendants since I read the premise. I like George Clooney and all, and liked the movie Sideways but my desire to see the movie was deeper than just some glowing reviews. I didn't admit it at the time but deep down I wanted to see it for a whole different reason; to see what it was like for Aimee and my family while I was unconscious. I wanted to fill in gaps but now know that the gaps will take some time and effort to fill.

There was one problem that I hadn't anticipated and that was Aimee. I had told her about the movie briefly a few weeks back. She didn't say much at the time and I didn't think much of it after the fact, at least not until the opening scene when Clooney's character promises his wife, who lays motionless in a coma with tubes inserted into her throat, that he will change if and when she comes to.

I failed to realize how hard it would be for me to imagine myself with that same absent look on my face, with the same colored tubes in my throat. I found it hard to see my family staring at me while machines pumped air into my lungs, and fed nutrients in my veins.

Afterwards, on our way home, I told Aimee how I thought seeing the movie could help. I tried to laugh and asked her to do the same; to show progress. It was asking a lot, too much. Shortly after I realized how little all of us, whether that is my estranged family members, my wife and best friend, have dealt with it all. I now realize that coming to terms with everything is much more than measuring recovery in months and years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stress? What Stress?

My doctor asked me today if I was under a lot of stress. I told her I didn't think so. I followed that by saying that work is difficult with an abbreviated attention span. I mentioned that my relationship with my family is strained. I told her I am extremely irritable and can't really differentiate between good or bad moods.

"Yeah, I guess I might be a bit stressed out," I told her.

"It sounds like you may be suppressing things," she said.


She told me stress could be the reason for the fatigue, my overall despair, and the desire to escape. She followed that by saying that those things could also be a result of low-testosterone levels, or just the injury to the brain.

Whatever the reason these past two months have been difficult. I have been erratic, unable to concentrate on work, irritable, and fatigued. Two weeks ago, I decided to get back on Wellbutrin. Not much has changed. But, what do I expect? I can't even admit to having a little bit of stress.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Work In Progress

Progress and recovery are measured in such strange ways. Whether it be a blown knee, a broken heart, or a head injury, the small steps months, years, and decades later are the true signs of progress.

I noticed a few signs of progress the other night, the night before my birthday and two nights before Halloween. A friend rented a party bus to go to a nearby bowling alley for Karaoke -- yeah, I said it, a party bus and a bowling alley, those are signs right there of improvement. The nights leading up, and the day of, I had my normal desires to stay at home, turn off the lights and escape into some action thriller or lame reality show. I knew that wasn't possible. Aimee was way too excited to dress up as Mindy to my Mork.

Despite my reservations, I felt good, I even felt all right driving Aimee's car dressed in a red jumpsuit with a silver upside triangle on my chest. We arrived at our friend's house. I had a few beers. The party bus pulled up and we get in. The driver turns the volume up on the stereo. It was loud dance music. I drank and laughed. The sounds weren't piercing, my head wasn't pounding. Progress.

I made it through the entire night, without incident, without having to go outside, or leave because the noise was too intense, or because I felt overwhelmed from the day's events.

So that's progress, at least a sign of it.

In the early months after the fall, I didn't know what recovery would look like. I doubted myself. I wrote of fears that I would turn into some aggressive, temper-filled person, ready to cry or smack my head against the wall at moments notice. One thing is for sure, I never thought recovery would look like a party bus, Halloween karaoke at a local bowling alley, and I sure as hell never thought I would be dressed as Mork for it either.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's been months since I posted on a regular basis. It's crazy how this blog has reflected my mental and physical state. Days after the injury, the posts were chaotic and often incoherent. In the following weeks, I began to have more insight, I pondered what would happen as a result of the injury. Throughout the entire time, for the two years since the fall, there's been ups and downs.

The past few months have been different. I have been fatigued, withdrawn, moody, and let me throw in another fatigue for good measure. The fatigue and despondency has kept me from posting in this blog, from surfing, from being more productive at work, from calling friends and family -- the few I talk to that is. It also took me to some of the darkest places that I have ever been.

There was no explanation for this new state.

The other day I finally mustered the energy and called my doctor back about that testosterone test that I had taken a while back. He told me that my testosterone levels were low and could explain the low-energy and bad moods. Apparently this is normal in people with head injuries.

Tomorrow, I pick up my testosterone cream from the pharmacy. So, be prepared the next time I write the topics might be a bit different; possibly about football, working out, tanning, and well, we will see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Best and Worst Day Of My Life

Tomorrow is our fourth wedding anniversary. It is also the day, two years ago, that I fell.

Needless to say I have some mixed feelings about September 22. For me it was the day that I married the woman I love. The person that on one summer night 18 years ago in Florida, I met; the start to a relationship that will last my lifetime.

At the same time it is the day that I nearly lost it all. A day that fractured my skull and my family.

It's not an issue of which one matters more. I know which one that is. It's that the injury will be there, for both of us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two Sense Short: Cat Crap Fever

Aimee's Siamese cat, Milosh, and I have had a long, tumultuous past. We became enemies shortly after I moved into Aimee's apartment in Gainesville, Florida ten years ago. Shortly after moving in, I remember waking up in the middle of the night after Milosh jumped on my midsection from the nearby dresser. A few nights later she did the same maneuver, only this time landing on my throat.

Despite the dive-bombs, I still tried to get in good with Milosh. That ended one night while Aimee was at work and I was in the small apartment, bored. I got the brush out and tried to groom her, thinking she would enjoy the pampering, like most cats do. I stroked her coat gently. On my second stroke she hissed and swiped at my face. I reacted and yelled, swiping at her face. We sat eye to eye and declared war.

"You're move Milosh," I said to her.

Milosh, now more than 13 years old, is still making moves doing her best to defeat me.

Today, Milosh implemented a new strategy, this time focusing on my weaknesses; namely my lack of smell.

I came home to a cat turd lying on the kitchen floor. There were stains across the linoleum. I did my best to clean Milosh's mess, but without a sense of smell I don't know where that mess is. I left the house and am now waiting for Aimee to sniff around when she gets home. She has officially figured out a way to chase me from my home. I've had enemies before, but never one as clever and as strategical as this Siamese cat.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Goodyear? No, the worst.

Scenes from Naked Gun:

Jane: I've heard police work is dangerous.
Frank: It is. That's why I carry a big gun.
Jane: Aren't you afraid it might go off accidentally?
Frank: I used to have that problem.
Jane: What did you do about it?
Frank: I just think about baseball.

Frank: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.
Jane: Goodyear?
Frank: No, the worst.

I can't get the image out of my mind; the scene in Naked Gun with Leslie Nielsen is in the fertility clinic. It's in my mind and has been all day and not just because Naked Gun was a great film but because that is where I will find myself tomorrow.

The visit to the fertility clinic is long overdue. My diminished libido has been something that I kept hoping would improve. My doctor told me to get my testosterone levels tested months ago but it was one of those things, that much like the act itself, doesn't come up often.

I'm not sure, neither is anyone else, what stopped the drive, whether it was losing the sense of smell or if it is a direct result of the injury. I read something that said one-quarter of asnosmiacs (non-smellers) lose their sex drive. Another site, says brain injury can reduce sex drive, and bring about impotency.

So tomorrow, I go to give blood and a sample, and do my best Frank Drebin.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dryvin and Cryin...

We made it back from our road trip without aid from a Uhaul truck and trailer. Yet, three days removed and the fatigue will not let go of my mind.

It's such a weird thing to try and explain to people, even those closest to me, how tired I am after any mental or physical activity. It sounds as if I am just some lazy guy who wants to do nothing but get high on the couch and watch reality television...oh shit...maybe I am lazy.

But this fatigue is different. It's debilitating and it screws up my emotions. It allows weird, disturbing thoughts to enter my head with ease. It's like my emotional defenses are down once the fatigue sets in.

For instance, I happened to be on the couch watching some show about whales. A group of activists found out that they had located the mother ship. Big news. They cheered and hugged each other. I sat there crying from excitement.

I told this to a friend and the immediate response was: "Wow, you are so girly."

It's pretty sad when a day of driving results in three days of crying fits on the couch and the tears aren't from some unfortunate events but from a group of salty whale activists celebrating some good news.

Monday, August 8, 2011

In A Van Down By Dinkey Creek

Brings a tear to my eye...though I'm not sure if the tears are a result of the pic or the depression from being run-down. Either way, isn't she pretty?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Two Sense Short: Comfy In A Campground Crapper

The screen flashed 'Excellent.' My thumbs scouted the screen looking to match three similar-colored jewels. I was fixated on the game.

Just then I heard a loud belch over the shuffle of flip-flops. The light turns on. And there I sat, on a toilet in the stall of a bathroom at a campground deep in the heart of the Sierra Nevadas.

This would have never happened before I lost my sense of smell. I would not have lasted a minute sitting on the pot, unless it was some kind of an emergency. I definitely wouldn't have been able to put all my energy into some stupid android phone game, that's for sure.

I am now that dude, and will always be that dude, unless my sense of smell miraculously returns. It's pretty crazy to think that the fewer senses I have the more I am at ease and can get lost in the moment, even if that is on the shitter in a shitty campground restroom.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Houses of the Doey

I've been absent for a bit from this blog. There's been some getting used to the prescription-drug free life. We have also been busy looking to buy a home.

Two weeks ago we decided to call the bank for a home-loan. A few days later we went to see this house in San Diego. One day later we submitted an offer.

Yesterday as we were climbing up the Grapevine outside of LA in 90 degree weather, headed for a camping trip in the Sierras, we got the call from our realtor.

"Doe (my nickname), we got the house," Aimee said before licking a bead of sweat from the top of her lip.


"We got the house!"

"I think I'm gonna cry," I said. I did- I now have the emotions of a female a few days before the menstrual cycle begins.

For the next four hours, on our way to Shaver Lake, we talked about the house, about how our luck may be changing. We were so thrilled with the news, that the small puddle of oil that formed underneath the van in the grocery store parking lot barely even fazed us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Two Sense Short: Propane In The Ass

An old friend recently bought a Westy-- goes to show he hasn't been reading this blog...thanks, friend!

Anyway, he bought a Westy and is installing a new car stereo. I said I would give him some advice, as I just replaced the stereo in ours. He came over and before he started on the install, he wanted to show me how to work the Westy's fridge by using propane. I was pretty excited. I had heard this was impossible.

So, I stepped into the van and he went around to the side of it, turning the propane tank on. I heard a hiss. Propane was flowing.

"Does it usually sound like that?" He asked.

"Yeah, no problem."

"Does it usually smell like this?" He asked shutting the valve.

"Smell? Uh, I'm not sure."

After a bit of discussion, it turns out that propane is leaking from the valve, and has been since we've had it. That means, that all this time, all these camping trips, propane has been seeping out into our campsite and I had no clue. No idea that I could have been the spark that ignited, not only the van, Artie, and Aimee, but potentially set fire to hundreds of acres.

I went in and told Aimee about the smell. I told her about the hissing sound. She said she always smelled propane but thought nothing of it.

Thanks, love, for keeping me one-step, one lighter-strike, from death's door!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mexico For A Day

I made it. I survived a trip to Mexico.

I drove down to Rosarito for the day to interview some residents for a story I am writing about the "false perception" that so many in the states have regarding their southerly neighbors.

I have to say I was a bit nervous going and I'm not sure why. It's like that perception of drug cartel violence has infiltrated everyone's mind and played on everyone's fear. I took all the precautions; left my credit cards here, and only took a small amount of cash. On the way down I actually rehearsed, silently, what I would do if I was kidnapped. Of course, the intense emotional state always has me drumming up the worse possible scenario.

But, the reality is so different, at least today it was. Sure there's a few sketchy dudes walking the streets of Tijuana, and sure you see some run-down shacks and potholes. It's nothing you wouldn't see in a rough part of town here.

Most of all I feel good about my trip. It was probably the biggest solo trip I have taken in the past two years. I even managed to sleep the night before. My condition has improved.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Severe Internal Restlessness

Is the restlessness associated with coming off of an anti-depressant immediate? Does it creep up on you a couple of weeks after?

These are my questions since going three consecutive nights with little to no sleep. I'm not sure if it's severe internal restlessness or just a heavy dose of stress but whatever it is it's making me so uncomfortable that I need to pop Ambien to fall asleep.

The sleep deprivation is new. In the past two weeks, since quitting anti-depressants, I have felt better. Rage, and irritability are still present. And, I obsess over some tasks. But, my mood is better. I'm up. I feel with it. I am able to laugh longer than a split second. I am happy to be off the pill. But, of course, there has to be something else.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Two Sense Short: The Smell of Grandma's House...

Today, I interviewed the two guys from Spike Television show, Auction Hunters. They were in San Diego and invited the media to join them at an auction. Outside of Midtown-Mini San Diego Storage facilities, the auctioneer told the two reality-stars that they would not be allowed on-site.

So, Allen Haff and "Ton" Jones decided to give an interview at a nearby Jamba Juice and show some of the goods they found at other auctions in San Diego.

There we stood in the parking lot of Jamba Juice in Hillcrest, Haff and Ton Jones digging out antique fire-extinguishers, and vintage World War II gun holsters. As they did, I asked how they know whether a storage has any valuable items.

"Do you remember that smell you got from your grandmother's house?" Haff asked. AS he he did I unconsciously shook my head, thinking about my now-deceased grandmother and my dead sense of smell.

"Well, it smells like that. A lot of times it's the smell of old antiques. We use all of our senses."

I guess any chance I had at becoming an auction hunter is gone for good.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Two Sense Short: The Juice is Loose

Aimee threw her back out the other day. She's been on the couch ever since. And, of course I'm always ready to quit for the day no matter how early it is, so yesterday was a "chill day."

We watched a documentary on obesity called "Fat, sick, and Nearly Dead." The documentary followed this one dude around who was obese and decided to only drink fruit and veggie juice everyday for 60 days. While watching the flick, it hit me; I don't taste but I still eat like shit, for example extra extra ranch dressing on my salads, a bag full of Doritos with lunch, and so on.

Halfway through the doc, Aimee and I thought we'd give it a try, not fasting but juicing twice a day. We went on Craigslist and found a high-powered Breville juicer for $75. After, we went to Henry's and bought bunches of Kale, some apples, beets, lemon, and spinach.

The juicing started today. For breakfast we had the kale, celery, apples, and lemon. I'm not sure why I was surprised because I can't taste anything but it was better than I had thought it would be.

So, now when people ask if my eating habits have changed since losing my sense of taste I can tell them that it has.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Side Affects Include:

My new favorite word is "akathasia." It means "severe internal restlessness."

Do you ever watch those pharmaceutical commercials when they start listing the side affects. Most of the side affects are worse than the damn condition. Well, this is the list of possible symptoms while withdrawing from Wellbutrin. It's pretty damn funny, in a sad, anxious, nervous, and constipated way.

What is funny about it is usually you don't have one or the other, sometimes it can be both. Take the old diarrhea and constipation combo. Such a great combo. One day you're complaining that you have a stomach full of shit and the next you are scared you may have an attack while walking the dog. In that case neighbors see you speed-walking through the neighborhood, with butt-cheeks clenched.

Another funny aspect of this; many of these symptoms are the same symptoms I have from the injury: agression, concentration impairment, dizziness, crying spells, fatigue, irritability, and troubling thoughts--to name a few. This is why I want off. This is why I am curious.

Sorry if this post is full of frustration. For some reason I am so irritable and full of akathasia today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I'm So Angry... I Wanna Cry

Yesterday I got into it with our landlord. He said he was "aggravated" with me because I wanted to push our appointment, to photograph one of his units for free, an hour later. I told him I was busy. He told me he was aggravated. I said fuck-it, never mind.

For the next two hours all I could do was think of him. My jaw and fists clenched, I punched a wall. On my way to our meeting I listened to The Thermals new album at a deafening level. I pulled up and sat in the car until the song ended. My teeth still clenched. I walked up to the apartment and didn't say more than a few words. He was trying to brush it off. I couldn't let it go. I snapped the photos and walked out.

After, on my way back to the car. His wife came up to me and asked if everything was all right. She said something and the next thing I know a few tears run down my cheeks.

This is my emotional state. It's an embarrassing state to be in.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rage In Your Face

It's now day two off the anti-depressants and I saw glimpses of behaviors that I don't want to see. The day started off good. We parked the van at the beach in Cardiff, ate a breakfast burrito, worked, and then I surfed for a bit. Things were good.

On the way home, things started changing for the worse. While driving I became impatient, hanging my head outside of the van yelling at people that were following too close, almost like I forgot that I was driving a 1982 Volkswagen Vanagon during rush hour in Southern California, on the fourth of July weekend..

Aimee had to check out a site for a photo shoot and while waiting I grew irritable and impatient. Alone in the van, I would have little fits. They fits came in one-minute intervals and lasted only a few seconds. Artie kept his distance in the back of the van. He knows what can happen when the impatience and frustration comes on, poor dog.

This is how I am when hungry and tired, and hot. One thing the anti--depressants were good at was masking that frustration and irritability. If the rage isn't quelled then soon I will be running back to the pharmacy.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Ween Or Not To Ween...

Today was day one for finding out what I am like without anti-depressants. I'm curious. I've been taking them--Zoloft, Lexapro, and WellButrin-- since a few months after the injury.

On the pills I act erratic, impulsive. One moment I am energetic and the next lethargic. If I look up too fast I become dizzy. I've often wondered if it was the pills or the injury. I know it's probably the latter but I look forward to see what condition my condition is really in.

I spent today running around like a crackhead. My doctor advised me to up the Adderall intake to combat the withdrawal from the Wellbutrin. I worked, washed the van, met a friend, got a haircut, went to the store, and worked some more, all at a frenetic pace. It feels good so far but we'll see in a few days. I just hope that when I find normal I won't find the same thoughts, only more intense.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Elliott Smith is playing in the background. I listen to him on my dark days, I have since I was a teenager. Back then I used to put his music on when I was bummed out about a girl, or just bummed out about life. Today, I listen to him to remind myself of those times when I could control my emotions, my thoughts. Back when I had a choice. Today, that choice is gone and I spend days like today trying and make sense of senseless outbreaks. On these days, I wonder if it's possible to make relationships work and how long it will take for someone to find something or someone better. I wonder how I can change but don't find any easy remedies.

Lately I've been thinking about people that have been hurt or sick and have overcome their ailment or injury. Those people do good things. They try and make some kind of difference. But mostly, they appreciate all that surrounds them.

I'm not like them. I never have been one of those people. But, I never had to overcome anything major until now. The first time around, I'd say I was failing; falling into an abyss that I'm not sure I can climb out of.

In the past year and a half, I heard stories and met people who were further along in their recovery. Some of them talked about separation from their wives or husbands, from family members, troubles at work, suicidal thoughts, and an unrelenting depression. I am beginning to see a pattern and now I find myself checking one after another off the list.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cannabis Conundrum

About five months ago I went to my local marijuana dispensary and got my medical marijuana card. It didn't take too much convincing, the doctor, or whatever that dude is sitting in that tiny room, took one look at my discharge papers from rehab and signed off.

I thought weed would help improve my appetite, from not being able to taste, and help me relax at the end of the day and stop the constant stream of thoughts. It does both.

Today, I visited my local weed shop.

It's always such a strange experience. There I was standing at the counter. A young-looking girl on the other side. She asked what I wanted. I said something motivational but relaxing. she leaned over and pulled a glass jar full of green buds. She opened the jar.

"Smell that," she said.

"Oh, I lost my sense of smell. It looks good."

"Okay. Well, at least it will taste good," she said.

"Yeah, I lost my sense of taste too."

She looked confused. She asked how. I told her from a head injury.

On my walk back home, I thought about the exchange and why I couldn't just inhale deep from my nose and let out a big satisfying sigh afterward. There would be no awkward silence, no need for explanation, but for some reason telling the truth is my immediate reaction. At first I wondered if it was some ploy to get sympathy, or a desire for attention. I'm not sure if it is both, or if it is neither.

I never thought I'd say this but I'm going to start really trying hard to lie, the next time I'm in a similar situation.

Monday, June 13, 2011

San Diego Uberalles!

It's been one week since we returned to San Diego. The week has been spent recovering from what will go down as the worst damn road trip I have ever been on. Sure there were no medical emergencies, no missed meals, no time spent in jail, there was just three weeks in limbo, a hot, miserable limbo. Honestly, I wish there was some major malady, at least then there would be a reason to have undergone the torture that Texas inflicted on us.

I know, it sounds dramatic, but I still am unable to sleep. I have so much to catch up on, work, chores around the house, with so little attention span. I sit down to work and a few minutes later I find myself staring at the lawnmower, or joining volkswagen vanagon groups online.

And even though my battle continues to get things in order, at least I am comfortable in my own home, familiar surroundings, and at least I am not sweating like some old, fat, bald man.

Tonight I sit down for what will be my first book review. The book, "Season To Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way," is about this woman who lost her sense of smell after getting struck by a van.

I hope it tells me how I can find my way after losing my smell. I highly doubt it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


We are still in Austin, now waiting for the third mechanic to fix a leak and prevent the van from overheating. Tomorrow will be one-month since we sputtered out of San Diego into the hot, hot heat. Looking back there were so many piss-poor decisions on my part. We should have stopped in El Cajon when the oil pressure light first flashed. I chose to continue. Of course, we could have turned around in Tucson when oil shot out of the engine. Again, I chose to keep heading east. Then, of course, there was Ozona and Caprock Diesel.

Now, one month later we sit in a friend's living room, trying to work and trying to survive. My mood has spiraled downwards in the past couple of days. It's such a strange feeling, this mood. I'm upset but unable to deal with it. I want to think things through with a clear head but my head isn't clear. My thoughts, ideas, feel like they hit a brick wall inside my head.

The mechanic tells us that tomorrow is the day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our Return To Ozona

"You go to Texas on vacation and you leave on probation," said one homeless dude standing in the VW repair shop, looking for some work. The good ol' Texas saying summed up my feelings on the state.

On Tuesday we left for Ozona to get our van. On the four-hour trip with Artie riding in the back seat, the mechanic who had told me the van was ready the day before called Aimee to tell her that it was not. So, we sat in Fredericksburg waiting for a call that never came. Instead, we made the call, the conversation got heated and the mechanics hung up on us.

The next day, we borrowed a friends truck and rented a Uhaul tow-dolly and took off to rescue our van. Our plan was to go to the Sheriff and have him come to the shop with us so there wouldn't be any trouble. The Sheriff's office was located in the Crockett County jail, which is located directly behind the Baptist Church and next door to the Davy Crockett Museum. Just before we walked into the jail door, the mechanics at Cap Rock Diesel called and said the van was ready, except for a few minor issue.

We towed it back to Austin and took it to a cool VW repair shop called Underground VW. When I pulled in two employees came over and started commenting about the smell of diesel fuel.

"Oh, it smells like diesel," I asked.

They shot me a strange look...

"Yeah, I lost my sense of smell...head injury."

I turned away to avoid another strange glance.

After a few minutes, the owner Toby, a middle-aged man with a long, wiry, white beard took a look at the engine and noticed leaks and a handful of other mistakes.

So, after weeks of stress, it turns out the good-ol boys at Caprock Diesel screwed us just as bad as we thought.

And now, we wait for Toby to finish with the van. More importantly we now see the end of what has been the most fucked-up vacation ever.

On a walk to a coffee-shop Aimee mentioned how depressing this blog has been lately. She was right. I now see the end of the middle to this trip and I feel good. Stay tuned. We still have 1,500 miles to travel through 106 degree weather. I'm crossing my fingers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Last Night in Austin

Tonight, we say farewell to Austin. The mechanics say the van is running and will be ready to go by tomorrow afternoon. I am ready to head home, have been for weeks. It was nice seeing old friends but it will be nicer seeing my home. I think I'm going to lock myself in a dark room and let my nerves rest and this constant thinking slow to a normal pace, at least for me.

Before we left on this trip I told myself that I needed to test myself. I did and honestly, not to sound weak, but I now feel as if I have failed.

Everyday the emotions build up as my anti-depressants wear off. I feel like I can't hold the emotions back any longer. I see myself getting irritated and I know what that means. It means I need out. I'm crossing my fingers by nightfall tomorrow, we will be on our way towards San Diego.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 14: "I Quit"

I hung up the phone after speaking to the mechanic in Ozona and wanted to hit myself. I would have if it weren't for a young kid walking into the daycare facility next to the coffee shop.

In the past, I wouldn't have been so understanding, not in a situation where I am stuck 1,500 miles away from home.

I came back and nearly broke down.I called Aimee and told her the story. She said that she would take care of it. She told me that anyone in this situation would feel the same. I don't agree. I have lost all confidence. I can't make a damn decision and when I do I question it over and over again. I feel like I am at everyone else's mercy, that I have no control over anything. This is new. And sure, this is probably normal for some people but it's not normal for me. I hate always saying that nobody understands but it's the truth and there's nothing I can do to change it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 13: Austin, Texas

Do you remember when i wrote that this trip was the turning point for me, the time for me to write about our travels and new experiences. For me, the trip was a chance for me to find confidence in this new state of mind. I told myself that during the trip I would get away from the injury. That plan sure went to shit.

Instead, I sit in a small coffee shop in North Austin, waiting for mechanics 4-hours away in Ozona to install a new engine in a car that they have only seen once. I have some breakdowns and am more indecisive, more unsure, and have no words, no way to express it all. I feel trapped in this town and in this head. A sudden rush of emotions causes my eyes to blur and then it disappears.

To top it all off, yesterday I dropped Aimee off at the airport. She had to get back to shoot two weddings this weekend. It killed me to see her go. It's going to kill me if I don't go soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bent a Rod in Texas...

That would be a great song title: I Bent a Rod in Texas. Unfortunately, the phrase defines our last four days. Yeah, my shit luck has struck again.

It was a great night camping. We found a small campsite in Sonora, Texas called the Caverns at Sonora. We only had four hours remaining on the road before reaching Austin. We woke up in the morning, took Artie for a walk and threw the ball for him, packed up and hit the road, or, I mean the road hit us.

Leaving the campsite, we climbed a steep hill and a I started to hear a knocking sound from the back engine compartment. I tried my best to think nothing of it. We descended the hill. I stepped on the gas pedal, nothing.

We pulled over, and long story short, the engine was shot.

A tow truck came and rolled the van onto the flatbed truck. Rigo, the tow truck operator, drove up 35 miles to Ozona, Texas.

We pulled into a small repair shop. It had a small office and a large dirt lot where dozens of dead trucks and autos sat, parts missing, hoods open. The mechanic, Mark, wore a black cowboy hat, tight jeans and had a wad of dip lodged behind his bottom lip.

"I've seen one of these before," he said.

Hours later, Mark tells us we need a new engine; the rod was bent.

That night we stayed in small motel with little to say but a whole lot of stress. We awoke, rent a uhaul--Ozona has no rental car companies-- and drove to Austin.

Now, we wait for a new engine to arrive from California. We expect it to get to Ozona on Monday or Tuesday. It is then when the real stress will hit.

I am now convinced that my string of bad luck is not a coincidence but is my fate. I hate thinking all that I've put Aimee through. At least she's still here. I love her.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Mexico...The Journey

Yesterday, we awoke ready to embark for a trip to Carlsbad Caverns. We had been staying with our friends in Tucson, pampered in a nice house and air conditioning. But, we thought, a seven-hour leg through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and back into New Mexico would be a nice, easy jaunt, not too taxing. Well, we underestimated the work that a typical seven-hour journey is for anyone not driving in a 1982 Volkswagon Westfalia. For us, seven-hours was was more like ten hours. The winds on the plains blew the van around and slowed our already slow progress.

And while the van hung in there and made every mountain climb, I didn't fare so well. I couldn't supress the stress. At times during the drive, I caught myself with a huge smile on my face, other times I found myself hunching over the wheel, staring at the odometer, counting the miles. I didn't eat. I barely drank.

Aimee handled my stress well. She knew when to leave me be and when to make me smile.

I want this trip to be a time when I can enjoy life and appreciate all that I have. I want this trip to be the beginning of our new life.

Today, we will take a tour of Carlsbad Caverns. Tomorrow we head for the Frio River in Texas, to camp, float down the river, and laugh.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Destination: Tejas

The morning got off to a rough start: I had to fish through piss-water for an attachment to my razor that had fallen into the toilet bowl. But now we are finally ready for two-weeks touring through the southwest. Our first stop: Tucson. I just hope the van can make it over the mountains.

More to come...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Road Trippin!

My first entry in this blog was just hours before I fell.

The blog was started to write about traveling in our new 1982 Volkswagen Westfalia that we had bought two days prior. It was supposed to be an outlet for me to write something other than local news stories.

My first entry, on September 2009, was supposed to be an introduction of what was to come. I guess it's funny how things can change and instead of writing about road trips, and about our adventures on the open road, I ended up writing about traumatic brain injuries, my traumatic brain injury.

Next Wednesday that will change. That day we will pack up the van, and Artie, and take off for a two-week excursion through the southwest.

I'm excited about the trip, about seeing old friends in Austin, but most of all I am excited to leave this life behind for a while, to write about our adventures, to experience "the great outdoors," and to find my voice.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I am invited to speak about my injury and recovery to a college class at San Diego State University.

I was there last year, same professor but different students. And I will appear with the same group of speakers; myself, and two men with spinal cord injuries.

Last year, my story had just been printed and the professor had assigned students to read my story for extra credit. It was before I was prescribed any medication, and only six months after waking up, so I was just learning my condition.

I didn't feel right then appearing alongside two men that have lived the last ten or more years in wheelchairs unable to lift their arms above their shoulders. This year, I'm not sure if I can find the strength to do the same.

I don't want to appear with the story of a hidden injury, the story of frustration, depression, and uncontrollable thoughts and emotions. I'm sure they have much of the same, though they can't hide it.

Maybe this is a sign of recovery, or maybe I am wanting to keep the injury hidden. I'm unsure.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Judgement Day

It doesn't take long for the anger and frustration to subside, regardless of what triggered it. I typically lash out, let out a guttural scream, and then it's over. It's the scary thing about a head injury, that the problem is hidden and the injury lurks inside. It doesn't stop. It doesn't change. It's there.

I don't want to allow this, these tirades, to define me. I don't want my children, when the time comes, to live in fear of me. I don't want to see them cower behind big bulging eyes, like my dog does when he hears my scream.

A friend suggested that when I have these thoughts, these outbursts that I try not to judge them. Instead, he says, I should just observe that they are there. With that observation, there will be no definition, and they can no longer remind me of my injury.

I've been trying to become the observer. But the thoughts that make it past the filter are troubling. The visions are ones that I will never speak of. They scare me, not that I would ever act on them, but that they live inside of me. It's hard not to judge things, thoughts, that are wrong.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sad Girls Club

I sat in my brown chair, tears trickling down my face. Mounting pressure behind my eyes forced more tears out.

The tears had nothing to do with me. They rarely do. My emotions, or those I have when thinking of estranged family members, usually involve anger, a clenched jaw, not crying.

And the wailing session had nothing to do with Aimee; no friends or family were injured or in danger. I didn't cry for the people in Japan, or because of any local tragedy. Instead the sadness came while watching reality TV. Yes, that's right; a reality TV show.

To make it worse, the show wasn't about addiction, mass murder, or sick kids, or mistreated puppies, it was about some rich guy wanting to donate some of his fortune to charity.

Sure it was touching, but not touching enough to bring about a breakdown.

It was a welcome return to anti-depressants.

My doctor said that it's probably still too early in my recovery to ween them from my system. So, I guess the emotions will are here to stay and I should prepare myself for sob sessions during Survivor, and emotional blathering during Top Chef.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Last week I decided to stop taking my daily dose of Wellbutrin. I don't have a good understanding of what the pill does for me. Depression still hits but doesn't hit as hard. The emotional highs aren't as high as they were before the injury. The fatigue hasn't eased.

All of this made me curious if this was the new me. I wondered if the pills are actually helping. So, I decided to quit cold turkey.

For the first two days I felt great. I had energy. I didn't have that feeling like something was holding me back. Then the work week started. I sat down in front of the computer facing a tight deadline. I stared at the screen unable to put a single sentence together. I couldn't focus long enough to read a paragraph, or listen to interviews that I had recorded. I became frustrated. I yelled inside my room. I punched the walls and had fleeting visions of smacking myself.

I told Aimee that I thought I was losing it. She went online and looked up the withdrawals from Wellbutrin. At the top of the list was "lack of concentration, frustration," and emotional outbursts.

That night I went back on the pill. It worries me that I will have to depend on this pill for a long time. I want to see the person that I have to face for the rest of my life. I'd like to know what this injury has done to me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do You Smell Dog Shit?

I interviewed a man for a story yesterday in P-B. As I walked to the small cafe that we were meeting at, I nearly slipped and fell. I had stepped in a pile of dog shit that some dude, probably walking his pit bull, had walked away from. Maybe he was busy tweeting about his dog shitting on the sidewalk, or, composing his next Facebook post. Who knows?

So there I stood, shoes covered in shit, late for my interview. I did my best to rub it off. I shuffled my feet in a small patch of dirt before entering the cafe.

The interview lasted for over an hour. All I can think about was if he could smell the shit on my shoes. I obviously couldn't. I wouldn't know if it was smothered on my face.

'Should I ask him if he smelled anything foul?' I thought as he talked. 'No, because then I would have to explain,' I responded.

The conversation repeated in my head during the entire interview.

Good thing he was a talker.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jiminy Click

My recent absence is for good reason. I'm working on another large article. Once again about skating, helmets, and, of course, my battered brain.

Last night Aimee and I went to a new Tapas restaurant by our house. We ordered a few appetizers. She drank some glasses of wine and I had a few beers. We started talking about the article and my beginning outline. I told her my idea to start out with that clicking sound inside my head, the one that sounds when the pieces of skull rub against one another. She liked the idea.

We ordered another round and talked more. We spoke about how sometimes I choose to defend skaters that choose to not wear helmets. On occasion, I still try and convince her that my incident was different than the average skate session. Aimee said it's crazy that after all I've been through that I remain unchanged.

She said she had a perfect title for my article. I asked her what it was.

" until it clicks."

I've been laughing ever since.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Two Sense Short...FIRE!

As we sat and watched some lame movie that featured Edward Norton in corn-rows, Aimee wrestled herself from her cocoon on the couch.

"I smell fire," she said.

"What? Where?" I asked, all hot from a flood of adrenaline.

I got up from the chair and headed to the clothes dryer, which had been running the entire day. No sign of fire. I went back to the living room. Aimee was still in half-cocoon.

"Well, where is it coming from? I don't smell."

"You still see don't you?" Aimee said. She emerged from her comfy sarcophagus and tilted her head up. She walked towards the heater in the hallway.

"Oh, it's only the heater."

We spent the next five minutes in a playful argument. I tell her that I need a little help from time to time, like when asking me to find the origin of smoke. She tells me that I still can see. I tell her that blurting out that she smells "fire" might just panic me a bit. It's like telling a blind person to watch out, or a deaf person if he or she hears something strange. She laughs at me.

Monday, January 31, 2011

On Your Marks, Get set...Click

I've been trying to get in better physical shape. I vowed to start exercising every day. So far, it's been an empty promise. The fatigue is constantly with me. It prevents me from adding any more to the already exhausting day to day. A couple weeks ago I told myself that I wasn't going to let it win.

I was proud of myself when I got the old skate shoes out, the surf trunks, and an old cut-off concert tee for a nice little jog around the block. A few strides into it a mild headache would arrive. The ache came from the top of my head, not in the temple like it usually does. Apart from the headache, I would hear little clicking noises, like the sound your neck makes when it cracks. With each stride, as my foot landed on the pavement, there sounded the click.

The other day I asked my doctor about the headache and the clicking noise. He told me that the headache is a result of my skull getting removed. And then he told me the clicking sound is most likely the two pieces of my skull rubbing together, I guess kind of like a fault line in the earth's plates.

He said that I should avoid any "high impact" exercises such as running. He recommended a spinning class.

Nothing against spinning, but it's something that I just can't bring myself to. I can't be that dude.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gas Huffer

I was kneeling over a gopher hole, trying to get the "giant destroyer gopher bomb" lit. Sure, I felt bad for slaughtering the cute little rodents but the hundred holes they burrowed in our front yard was the talk of the neighborhood and I had to act. It was my latest obsession. The thought had burrowed it's way into my head. Smoking it out was the other option.

The wick was wet. I had to relight it until it caught. Smoke billowed in my face. I stuffed the 'giant destroyer' in the hole, wick side in. Smoke continued to smother my head as I packed dirt back into the hole.

I went inside and I started thinking, not about the poor moles in their underground dens, but about the smoke that I inhaled.

"Hey, do I smell?" I asked a friend who was staying at our house.

"Do you smell?" He was confused.

"Yeah, like smoke, or gas? Do you smell anything weird?" I was concerned.

He slowly leaned to me and sniffed my shirt.


I am used to asking people to smell me. It's a weird thing to get used to.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Advisor

A month ago, a young skater contacted me. He hit his head while skating. His injury was similar to mine, though he didn't have the complications that I did. I've hung out with him a few times and we've talked about the injury. He tells me it feels good to talk to someone that knows the injury. I feel the same way.

Sometimes, when my friend is feeling emotional and upset he calls me. I listen to him and offer him advice. I tell him to be patient, to follow a daily schedule, and to not be so hard on himself when he has one of his episodes of rage, anger, and depression.

As I tell him these things, I realize that all of my advice is the same that my doctors had told me. They are the strategies that I have abandoned.

There are times that I want to tell my friend that it's hard, that no one, not even a person that has experienced a similar experience, can help. I'd like to tell him, partly out of my own frustration, anger, and depression, that there is no remedy, no quick fix. Time is the only healing agent.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bottle Up and Explode

It was the beginning of the day. I sat in my chair. The house was silent. The animals were frozen in slumber, curled up in a ball. The rush of emotions hit me like a punch to the throat. The thoughts, random quick blips of voices and emotions, cycled in my head. There were no tears. There usually aren't. It wasn't one thought that caused the paralysis, it was several.

"I can't do it anymore. I fucking can't do it anymore," I said out loud, like some maniac. The animals opened their eyes for a second and then closed them. I sat still in my chair rubbing my head, thinking to myself that I want to give up, that I am completely spent.

This act is killing me. The act that I've put on since four days after I woke up and called friends and wrote to my editors, pretending like nothing had happened. It's times like these that I want to retreat, to drift off in seclusion, to lock myself in some dark room and not have the obligations, not have to deal with the broken promises, the guilt associated with having a fucked up family that chose to feel sorry for themselves instead of support their son and brother.

This is the real me. The real injury. This is the rage that I harbor inside on a daily basis.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Home on the Ranch

"You're going to have a heart attack if you keep eating that," Aimee said during dinner the other night.

I would understand her concern if a 12-ounce prime rib wrapped in bacon sat on my dinner plate. Instead, Aimee was talking about the copious amount of Ranch dressing on my salad.

Since losing my sense of taste, I've eaten the same food as I did before. I still have cravings for Mexican food and Pizza. In fact, there's not much I don't eat now that I did before the head injury, except for meat-- I figure why kill an animal if I can't even taste the damn thing.

There are some foods, some ingredients, that I like more than ever. One of them being Ranch, lots of Ranch. And therein lies the reason for Aimee's concern for my arteries.

Her statement did make me wonder why my sudden affection for Ranch. It's not like it's some gourmet recipe that I'm addicted to. Shit, it's not like I would even know the difference if it was. I like it because it is viscous, smooth, and cold.

"Hey, if Ranch dressing kills me then I deserve to be dead," I told her. "Also, can't you just give me one thing? I mean, one food item, out of all the foods that I can no longer enjoy?"

As of now, I will continue to defend Ranch dressing to the death, even if it is the cause.