by j-a

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June 2011

Destination Unknown

Feels like I'm stepping into the Twilight Zone.
Faces in that house, feels like being cloned.
My beacon's been moved under moon and star.
Where am I to go now that I've gone too far?
With apologies to Golden Earring1
anti-social education

With a great deal of difficulty over the years, Joachin has managed to carve himself out a comfort zone; and he's not so willing to leave it these days, even when the potential benefits are high. He's informed that contentment is only half of a successful life, that we must break out of it on a regular basis in order to advance and develop, to accomplish our purpose, whatever it may be; but he doesn't buy it. What if our purpose is to remain content? It works for Buddhist monks, who seem to have carved out a very nice comfort zone for themselves also.

Joachin spent Memorial Day afternoon and evening at Roy's house this year. Roy is in the process, Joachin suspects, of displacing Royce and Kim as the center of family life in this local area; and Joachin is wondering now if maybe Ray and Randy are not fully on board with the displacement, since neither of them showed up for the festivities.

Joachin thinks he knows how they feel. Even though things went well, the next day, back at home, he wishes he hadn't gone either. He has, once again, extended himself too far, and it's going to be at least several days before he's back on (his own) track again. He feels disoriented and feels a huge bout of ennui coming on. He wants to try to get back to business (as usual), organize his thoughts, get his shit together, plan ahead, do what needs to be done, take back control of his life--yeah, as if, except for very brief periods of time, he ever had it.

In order to begin this monumental task, he decides to summarize his previous month in an email to his sister, even though that activity will result in a lot of reiteration--which, maybe, right now, is exactly what he needs:

Well, I finally started cleaning out my email boxes and I discovered that I never answered your last email. So, here goes. This might turn into a long story. It's been a hectic and anxious two months, a lot has happened, and I'm just starting to get caught up and back in control again. It all started in May when I applied for Medicare. I didn't really know what I should do, which options to apply for, so to be safe, I applied for part B as well as part A. (Part D, prescription drug coverage is automatically covered when you get part B). But I worried all along about having to pay so much for it and how I was going to handle the expenses, if I was going to have to take social security earlier than age 70 like I'd been planning to do, cash in savings bonds, etc.

As he proceeds, Joachin feels like it's deja-vu all over again, especially since he's using the text of his pastiche from last month to make it easier to compose this email. He does this all the time, actually; but, this time, he doesn't feel so comfortable with it. He doesn't like this particular manifestation of the repetition. He likes repetition generally, when it verifies his identity or self-worth; but this time, since it changes persons, he's more than a bit unsure about it. It makes him feel like two different people experiencing (or in this case having already experienced; but at other times that he's felt like this he's felt like it was happening to him in real time) the same series of events. It's a slippery slope, he thinks: If he allows this sort of thing to happen too often, what will happen when those other people (that he also is) start to want to do it too? How will he keep them all separate when they all start living the same experiences? Nevertheless, he is going to allow it in this situation since he's already begun and to backtrack and try to straighten it all out into one continuous timeline would be way too much work and he already has so much other work to do. So, back to the e-mail to his sister:

At the same time that I applied for Medicare, since I was checking it all out online anyway, I checked out VA benefits too. I'd been planning all along to apply and see if I'd get accepted, but it seemed like such a hassle to have to go down to the VA and wade through all their bureaucracy. But I found an application form online and decided to fill it out. Problem was, I needed Adobe Acrobat version 10 to open the special type form that won't open with my generic reader, and I don't want to download Adobe products because they have such a bad reputation with online security.

But I decided to download it anyway, but it turned out that it's a 50 MB file, which would take me over three hours to download and about halfway through the first try, my internet connection was interrupted, so I had to start all over again. I spent a whole afternoon and evening getting it downloaded. The next day, I filled out the forms, but there were three questions I didn't know how to answer, one about spinal injuries, one about net worth, and one about whether I wanted an immediate doctor's appointment or was just filing to prepare for the future. So I set the file aside for the time being.

A few weeks later, I was approved for Medicare. Meanwhile, the yard work was backing up big time while I was working inside most of the time trying to get some books finished because I found an opportunity to get free books printed by an online publisher. And then Roy invited me over for Memorial Day, and then he asked me to help him go and get a 180 gallon fish tank, which took about four hours one day after I hadn't got any sleep all night. And then he invited me over (to Royce's house) for July 4th. That's a whole other story:

When I walked into the house, Royce made a big deal out of me not being invited over (joking, of course--sort of). I told him Roy invited me, and he said, "Who's Roy to invite people to my house?" I was sitting in the living room talking to him when Kim came downstairs, passed me right by without saying a word to me, said something to Royce as she passed him, and went into the kitchen. I thought that was kind of strange, but I let it pass. Then, a little bit later, she came back into the living room and said, "Hi, Joe. Sorry I didn't say hello to you before," and I thought that was even stranger.

I felt like she was pissed off at me but then thought better about it and had to come and apologize. I think she might have been pissed that Roy invited me without asking her and she was taking it out on me, which maybe would account for why Royce said what he did when I walked in. But, when Roy invited me, I said that I wasn't sure I was invited because I was never invited over on The Fourth, so Roy said he'd ask his dad, and a few days later he called and said he talked to Royce and he said that, yes, I was invited, that I came over all the time on the Fourth, that I came over last year, neither of which is true.

When Kim came in and apologized, Royce and I had been talking about the Casey Anthony trial that Royce had been watching on TV. He said he thought she didn't kill her daughter, that it had been an accident that they covered up. Then he said Casey Anthony should never have been prosecuted and he talked about how he thought the prosecutors were covering up for the cops because they blew the case so they had to bring her to trial, they couldn't just drop the charges and make the cops look bad. We agreed that prosecutors do that all the time, and we agreed that prosecutors are biased against people whom they look down upon, who they feel are lower than they themselves are in society.

Kim got pissed off at this and asked me to explain it further, and when I did, she got up and went into the kitchen saying, "I hope you never get to be on a jury," even though it was Royce who brought all this up and I was only echoing what he had originally said. Kim came back in a few minutes later and started talking about this again. She was obviously baiting me so that she could get pissed off at me again. She said again that she hopes I never get on a jury. I told her I'd been on juries before. She asked me if we found "the guy" guilty. (Of course she would assume that it was a guy who was the defendant.)

I told her, no, we found him innocent even though it was obvious he was guilty because the ringleader of their little hold-up gang wasn't prosecuted, but was used as a witness against the guy, whom he was obviously manipulating to get him to rob a McDonald's manager as he was leaving for the night to drop off cash at the night deposit at the bank, while the ringleader, who was assistant manager at the McDonald's, waited somewhere else for the guy to bring him the money. And, the prosecutor even got him into Robert Morris College on a football scholarship. We, the jury, decided that the prosecutor did this so that the guy would look like a fine, upstanding citizen while his partner-in-crime looked a like a low-life by comparison; and this, I said, was the same thing that the prosecutors in the Anthony trial were trying to do, make Casey Anthony and the Anthony family look like white trash just so that they could get a conviction and make themselves and the cops look good when there was no evidence in the case. And the only evidence in the case I was on the jury for was the testimony of the ringleader against his accomplice; the guy who was robbed didn't appear in court. And we, the jury, decided that the accomplice should have been used as a witness against the ringleader because you use the little guys against the big guys and not the other was round.

Kim said that was wrong, that the guy should have been found guilty because he did it, and so should Casey Anthony because it was obvious that she did it. A little while later, she told a story about how she was on a jury where it was obvious that the guy was guilty, but they found him innocent. I pointed out that that was the same thing I told her about. She didn't say anything else, and she left the room shortly after that. It was obvious all along that she was pissed about something, and that she was trying to find reasons for being pissed at me. So I'm assuming it was because I came over without being invited, because, a little while later, she had a discussion with Royce about whether she should call and invite Roy's girlfriend's mother to dinner--which she eventually did. So, maybe, she didn't plan on cooking a big meal, but was forced into it--but not by me; by Roy. He's the one who orchestrated the whole deal.

Anyway, back to the point. (I knew this was going to be long, but I didn't really plan on turning this into a novel.) Somewhere around this time, I tried to upload the VA application, but I kept getting an error message that said it couldn't upload an html file (which it wasn't, it was a pdf file). So I gave up, figuring I'd fill out a paper form and mail it in. But none of my printers are working, so I couldn't print out the form. But a few days later I discovered, by accident as I was looking for something else, that I could upload a file to UPS and have it printed out and pick it up at one of their local stores. So I decided to do that.

Meanwhile, I'd been having internet connection problems, which I assumed was either a Juno or a Verizon problem. Sometimes it seemed like one, sometimes the other. I couldn't get anything to upload or download with any kind of reliability. Roy had arranged to have me drive him and his girlfriend to the airport one Friday. And the following Thursday, when the phone/internet service was just starting to act up, I got a call that didn't ring like it normally did, but instead just rang in short beeps. I picked it up anyway instead of letting the answering machine get it, and it was Kim asking me if I could pick Roy up at the airport. After that, I couldn't get any phone calls--although I didn't know that for several more days--and I kept getting kicked of the internet in the middle of doing whatever I was doing.

So, figuring it was a Juno problem, I started looking for a new internet provider. But sometimes when I tried to get on the internet, there wouldn't be a dial tone, so I started thinking that maybe it really was Verizon, and I started thinking that maybe I was going to have to pay to get Comcast's way more expensive service, which I hated to do because I hate the disgusting little corporate games that Comcast plays, but I have to admit that at least their service, when I'd had it, was reliable and a lot faster besides.

Meanwhile, I started checking the phone dial tone at different times during the day, and sometimes there'd be a whole lot of static on the line. Then, one day, I thought to check the phone wiring by disconnecting everything and plugging only one phone into the incoming socket, and the phone worked with no problem. No static at all. So I replaced each phone and internet connection one by one till I found the problems: a bad Y connector and also, maybe, a bad line that runs through the living room into the bedroom. I don't know for sure if that line is bad because it runs behind all of the bookcases in the living room and the back room and I can't get to it without rearranging all of the furniture, which would be a major ordeal. So I ran a new line through the kitchen and bathroom into the bedroom and solved that problem, except that now I can't shut the bathroom doors and I have wire hanging down from the ceilings. But at least everything is working again.

This is what Joachin does when he feels the need to regain control of his life; he repeats himself; and he's been repeating himself an awfully lot lately--although the preceding seems to have been not nearly so much repetition as he at first thought it would be, which directs him to a similar, paradoxical, "problem" he often has, judging the amount of work to be done, when it always seems to be far more than his initial assessment and yet, when he starts the work, always turns out to actually be more work than he figured on doing at the time--both at the same time, and yet different, in that the first assessment includes all of the many different tasks that he must get to over the next few days or weeks or months, while the second involves only that immediate task at hand that he has begun. The only area where this analysis doesn't seem to apply is writing; he's fairly accurate in his assessment of how much writing he has to do and how long it's going to take--although that work too can seem formidable.

Joachin thinks, before he decides against it, to look back to his literary (if that's in fact what it really is) efforts of last month to see what it was he wrote then, to see how much of what he has just written to his sister was in fact repitition (over and above what he directly copied from his previous journal), not that it would make any difference to his sister, who hadn't read what he'd written last month; but it would make a difference to him, not only because it was so much of a duplication of work, but also because...well, non-linear explication of (segments of) one's life has a very real potential for creating even more confusion than already exists. One should, instead, forget about it and move forward; but, then, there's the possible loss of lessons learned, not to mention the possible contingencies planned and subsequently forgotten because you failed to incorporate them into an overall procedural scheme that provided for an eventual review.

One idea he did forget, Joachin discovers, looking back, one idea that got lost in all of that reiteration and that Joachin only caught because he'd added some of it as a wayward note at the end of his developing document, which he noticed as he erronously thought that he was finishing up, was the new twist on the idea of "common sense" that has been Royce's running criticism of Joachin over many years:

On Memorial Day at Roy's house, when Royce asked Roy where Ray was, Roy said that Ray said that maybe he'd be up later. Royce said, "He won't show up." Joachin asked him why not, immediately understanding the undertone of Royce's remark. Royce answered, "Because he's anti-social."

Joachin said, "That's not what anti-social means."
Royce asked, "What does it mean then?"
"It means having no conscience."
"Having no conscience?"
"Yeah. Like a sociopath. Or a psychopath."
"Well, then, he's unsociable or something."
"That's like the definition of common sense," Joachin said, seeing a chance to impart his relatively more recently developed ideas on the issue, something he'd been planning on doing for a long time, but never found an opportunity.
"You don't use the same definition of common sense I do."
"Yeah. You already told me that."
"No. This is different. People use words that mean one thing to professionals, like psychologists, but mean a whole different thing to ordinary people.
"You mean like there's a common sense of the word anti-social that doesn't mean having no conscience, but just refers to people who don't readily associate with a lot with people."
"Yeah, and it'd be wrong like a lot of common sense beliefs and definitions are."
"But it's not wrong if people know what people who talk that way mean."
"It's wrong if it communicates a mistaken idea. Like there also is with a lot of people who say ain't."
"People who use the word anti-social incorrectly and people who say ain't are ignorant."
"You say ain't."
"Yeah, but I say it for a different reason. I know it's grammatically incorrect."
"Then why do you say it?"
"Sometimes social concerns trump being grammatically correct."
"Well don't you think that others feel that way too?"
"Probably not."
"You automatically think that people are less educated than you."
"Yeah. Probably."
"So is that why you say ain't?"
"Yeah. Maybe."
"You talk down to people."
"Yeah. Sometimes. Or else I'm being sarcastic."
"Same thing, really. And that's even worse than being ignorant. Ignorant can mean uneducated, but it can also mean just being rude."
"Yeah. That's another common sense definition."

Thinking back on that conversation, Joachin sees how being sober sure has helped his brother become a whole lot more articulate. He's almost as glib now as he used to be, years ago.

repetition redux

The idea of repetition (to return to the previous theme) has been repeatedly returning to haunt him; and here it is, back once again. He's wondering now if he has not always been this way and it is only now that he's becoming conscious of the process. He's been repeating himself so much any more, he thinks, than he's wondering if that is not what people do all the time, the deteriorization of which, as people age, becomes, instead of being a sign of something more serious, merely a more obvious manifestation of what we each are all our lives but manage to suppress, ignoring our essential nature [some of us, that is, while others can be boring repetitionists; but, of course, they too probably repress awareness of that part of themselves--in fact, it would almost seem necessary that they do that, in order to prevent themselves from understanding how boring they really are] in favor of a (supposedly) more interesting, more engaging kind of person who conforms more to social standards than his or her own individual ones. In other words, repetition creates personality, and those of us who don't do it so much are more unique than those of us who do. This is why some of us pretend not to do it, so that we can be seen (probably for the most part erroneously) as individuals, as people who are not quite so brainwashed by the overriding social agendas as the repetitionists are. And politicians, Joachin thinks, are master repetitionists, deciding upon their basic issues and repeating them over and over again until constituencies start to believe them. Corporations do the same damn thing, which they call advertisements.

Repetition is one thing. It's a normal, if somewhat empty-headed, practice. But the corporate (or even more general business) mentality goes far beyond the basic natural human phenomenon. Business people can be unscrupulous. This has always been the case, of course. Caveat Emptor. But corporations have gone far beyond unscrupulous in their behavior. They've injected an element of insidiousness into the business process and turned it into a completely impersonal enterprise (that nevertheless pretends to remain personal). It may be difficult at times to deal with any particular business person on a business level (unless you are a business person yourself and know the "code"; i.e., are aware of how businesses con the public and so are savvy enough to avoid the common pitfalls that the uninitiated succumb to), but that person can usually be dealt with on a personal level. It's possible, a lot of the time, to appeal to the better aspects of a person's individual human nature and so bypass the corporate groupthink. Not so with corporations. You might deal with an individual who represents the corporation, but there is always that impersonal structure looming up invisibly behind the representative, threatening to negate or reverse actions and decisions and even to lie to you, influencing the representative to do the same with policies, procedures, and hidden agendas. As evidence for this criticism, Joachin offers Netflix. It's been the legal position for quite a while now that corporations are individual persons; well, Netflix is an individual liar, not to be trusted. Its fundamental policy is to deceive its customers, who blindly fall into line. Despite the repetition theme, Joachin is not even going to bother again to delineate the deceptive practices of this company here. [He imagines he hears sighs of relief.] He's done it so many times before. Research it yourself. It's a dishonest company. Leave it at that.

On Memorial Day, Roy gave Joachin a copy of Dexter, season one to watch. While watching it, Joachin began to become aware of something stirring inside his feeble brain: This is not one of those stupid tv shows you watch to be relieved of your daily concerns; at least that is not so with Joachin. This is playing right into Joachin's basic fears. But how? It took him a long time to make the connections, even to realize that there were connections to be made. The message came upon him very gradually over a number of episodes until, somewhere around episode seven or eight it finally occurred to him that there was some kind of connection between sociopathy, psychopathy, and autism; and also that, maybe, autism, in addition to being a genetic condition, just might also be environmentally caused, by situations such as childhood trauma maybe. Or by vaccines? Has he been wrong about that? Does he owe Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy an apology?

lies and other human truths

I was walking down the street one day when a man, hammering up on a roof, called me a paranoid little weirdo--in Morse Code.
Emo Phillips
The subject of Joachin's "craziness" seems to have been coming up a lot lately. Royce, to his kids, calls Joachin their "crazy uncle," even in Joachin's presence. Joachin's sister, while they are on the phone, often drops hints that cause him to suspect that she suspects that he is acting in ways that are not quite normal. And she's right; because he isn't normal, but that doesn't mean he's crazy; and not only because he has Asperger's Syndrome and so is "different," there's also his persisting idea that, since he lives in a crazy society but is different from the mainstream, by definition that makes him sane. [Actually, that's bad logic. He could be a different kind of crazy; but he doesn't think so.] And how can there be any doubt that this society (which long since graduated into a more or less unified worldwide phenomenon) is insane?

Nevertheless, Joachin has been frequently self-checking his tendency to be different; or, at least, he still sometimes goes to great lengths to keep his difference hidden, when, for a long while there, he had been slacking off in this regard and thinking that it didn't really matter any more, that, as he aged, society would slowly begin to accept him as a crazy, but harmless, old man, even though he was certain that he really wasn't crazy. He thinks, now, that maybe he should try harder again to appear to be (more) normal. But is that even ever possible?

The primary way that he ever passed as normal (NT) was in his own mind. Although people did not have the information back when he was young to label him as autistic, they still thought that he was odd in a lot of ways. Yeah, he made himself "cool," that is, he created a cool persona, when he suspected that he might be otherwise seen as a dork. But, now, he doesn't see that as passing so much as it was a different kind of disguise that he molded himself into so that eventually he became it, that the rebel he became wasn't any more socially acceptable than the nerd he tried to deny that he was; in fact, he may be far less socially acceptable as a rebel. At least the nerd was a person people could feel safe around, and some people even appreciated his "shy," laid-back personality, which he sometimes managed to negate as a rebel.

So, is he crazy, after all? No, he's not. Does he behave in ways that others, especially his family, disagree with and choose not to understand because they are so locked into their own socially conditioned, even brainwashed, way of thinking that they can't possibly ever imagine that any way but their own is a valid way to exist? Of course he does. He is not like they are. What could ever make them think he'd ever even want to be?

So, in this light, Joachin wonders why it is that on Memorial Day Roy gave him those DVDs of Dexter to watch. Does Roy recognize Dexter in Joachin, or vice versa? Or maybe it's just an unconscious perception of Roy's. Or maybe merely a coincidence, after all. And Joachin got the impression that Roy's high opinion of James Remar was based solely on his seeing his performance in Dexter; but maybe not, maybe he's seen him in other roles. Because, if he's basing his opinion of Remar on his Dexter performance alone, that doesn't make much sense to Joachin, because he can find nothing about that performance that seems to resonate with what Joachin knows of Roy; but maybe he doesn't know Roy as well as he thinks he does. But thinking it through and assuming it is based on the Dexter role, Joachin is led to the intuitive conclusion that Roy is in search of the strong, guiding influence of a father figure, one he never had, one he feels now that he needed. [Joachin later confirmed with Roy that he has seen Remar in other roles; but that does nothing to negate the tentative conclusion.]

Based upon this motivation to determine if in fact there is something more than simply social abnormality afflicting him, Joachin follows up on his idea that he should research Dexter on the internet, specifically, any congruence between autism and sociopathy, because that is what he concluded was maybe wrong with Dexter, that he was a sociopath, or maybe autistic. And, as it usually turns out when Joachin thinks to research an idea on the net, many others have thought it before him.

In fact, a whole lot has been written comparing (Dexter's form of) autism with sociopathy. Without going into too much detail (the reader can research it for herself), the conclusion Joachin draws from the material (it is a directly stated conclusion of many forum contributors who respond to correct morons who propose that autism and sociopathy are offshoots of the same disease) is that, although the many traits exhibited in autism and sociopathy are similar, there seems to be no causal connection, that, yes, there may have been autistics who have been sociopaths, but no more as a percentage than NTs who have been sociopaths.

Joachin does find it interesting though that the match between the behavior patterns is so close. He feels relieved to conclude that he is not a sociopath, which is what he at first wondered about, suspecting that he might have been repressing something very important about himself. [He will wonder, months later while collecting this material together, if there is something about this matter that needs to be further investigated, in light of a horrifying dream he will have.]

One little area Joachin discovered in his research verified his own previous conclusions he's come to independently by examining his own behavior over the past few years: It has seemed to him that, among the many misunderstandings that NTs have about autism, one of the most prevalent is that autistics have little or no ability to empathize. This idea, when he had earlier encountered it, bothered him a lot, because he always felt that he empathized rather easily, to a fault, in fact. At first, he attributed the discrepancy between his own experience and the opinions of the professionals who believed that he would not be autistic because he can function in society (yes there are supposed "experts" who still believe it to be true that Aspies and HFAs are not truly autistic) to the fact that he existed on a spectrum somewhere between severely autistic and normal and that his ability to empathize was one of his normal traits.

But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that his ability to empathize is not normal, that in fact he seems to empathize far better, that is, to a much higher degree, than NTs do; which is what in fact drives him to hide himself away, the intensity of the empathy (oversensitivity) being too much for him to handle all at once, causing him a lot of stress so that he has to reduce it via withdrawal and isolation. This is the conclusion that at least one professional has come to, but Joachin came to this same conclusion independently.

Conversely, Joachin can be as dumb as a doormat sometimes, missing all of the typical cues that NTs readily perceive that contribute to an experience of empathy; and this, he concludes, is why the experts tend to think that autistics are empathy deficient. In order to experience (truly affective as opposed to cognitive) empathy, encounters in which empathy occurs must be within the scope of autistic people's experience, one that has had significance for them. Joachin concludes that autistic people do in fact feel empathy quite readily within their scope of experience, but their reticence to express outwardly any indication of it leads to the NT misunderstanding that they do not feel it at all, or they feel it to a far smaller degree.

The "lack of empathy" trait that autistic people seem to exhibit, that is, the appearance of a lack of empathy, or, at best, cognitive as opposed to "true" empathy, separates, Joachin feels, autistics from sociopaths, who feel no empathy at all. Sociopathy is a true lack of empathy, which is why sociopaths, and psychopaths, are able to do the horrible things they do to people. Joachin can't even imagine doing those kinds of horrific things to people. Even when he does imagine doing terrible things to people who might deserve it, such as torturing and killing certain psychopaths (or corporate executives--which is maybe redundant), he knows he could never in fact actually do them. But if he were to be the executioner, he would have to be absolutely certain that the person deserved to die for the horrific acts he is certain to have perpetrated, and he would have to insure that that person's death be instant and completely painless; although he might afterwards stage the death to make it look like it was an horrific crime scene where the dead person suffered in the most excruciating way, in order to accentuate his intended mesasage that this could happen to you too if you insist on acting in the reprehensible way that you do; and, of course, and he would have to be certain that there could never be any possibility of his being suspected of having done the killing.

It's almost summer now and this part of Joachin's world is in the middle of a ninety-degree heat wave, and he has to keep his bedroom door closed when he's watching tv at night before he falls asleep because the fucking stink bugs from the front of the house that are getting in somewhere he can't discover gravitate toward the tv light at night. This is unacceptable, but what is he going to do about it? As bad as he might feel for even sociopaths he might think to want to kill, he feels nothing at all for the extermination of stink bugs, or mosquitoes, or even the grounghogs that tear up his gardens and undermine his sheds and porches with their burrows. This suggests to him that buried deep within him in some inaccessible corner of his psyche is a sociopathic-like motive that does not translate itself up through the hierarchy of life into overt social action. At some point along the way stops exist that keep the motive buried.

Joachin once killed a dog that was attacking a little girl who lived down the street in his old neighborhood. He had to hit it several times with a two-by-four to distract it away from the girl, and as it then tried to limp away, he chased it down and beat it to death while the girl's mother rushed her away, eventually to the hospital. But, even while he was in the act of beating the dog, as the dog at first growled and then whimpered at him, he felt bad for it and almost stopped beating it. He only continued because he knew that, if he relented and for whatever insane social reason the authorities decided to give the dog a reprieve, odds were that the behavior just might be repeated, next time with perhaps far more tragic results. He literally thought out this line of logic as he beat the dog to death. He feels similarly when he drowns groundhogs he catches in live-traps. Yeah, if he would allow himself to feel what he naturally wants to feel, he probably wouldn't even want to kill stink bugs, or maybe even flu viruses. So there are limits to behavior that firm up as people interact with increasingly complex forms of life, and these limits somehow get short-circuited in sociopaths.

People, some of the neighbors and even some of his friends, criticized him for beating the dog to death. A few of them saw this act as an indication that he really was crazy, figuring that no sane person could continue on after the danger from the dog was cancelled out. He tried to explain, but the people who criticized him were not logical people. The cops understood, though. Not only did they think he did the right thing, but one of them shook his hand and, in his own austere way, congratulated him for his social responsibility; by which, Joachin knew, though he did not at the time acknowledge the information, the cop meant his irresponsibility. The socially correct thing to do would have been to turn the dog over to animal control and let the social mechanisms that were in place deal with the problem. But cops, despite the illusion that mainstream society has about them, do not generally share the social responsibility that many "sociable" people adhere to.

Like Joachin, cops repress a killer instinct, though not nearly so well as Joachin does. Only some cops, maybe? But you have to ask yourself, why is it that they become cops in the first place? They say they want to "fight crime," and Joachin is sure that this is true. It's their definition of what is a criminal act, or of how petty they are in that determination, that Joachin worries about; and also their judgment as to who is the authority to be reckoned with, a judge and jury or they themselves. Joachin is fed up with what people say about themselves and their intents. What people say often does not jibe with what they think or (will) do. That's why he himself is loathe to state his purposes and intents. He doesn't like to lie, even unintentionally--although everyone does it; it's an unavoidable aspect of human nature, to lie to people, and to ourselves. Joachin lies to himself all the time. There isn't week that goes by that he doesn't catch himself telling a self-lie, about his present, and especially about his past:

His past is someone else's, not his own. Someone else was there in those places, doing those things, not him. He can write about that person now, as a biography of someone else. He's been so, so wrong a lot of times, maybe even more than he's been right; or, rather, that other guy has, the one whose past he remembers that is not his. He had a lot of blind spots. He still does, both he himself and that other guy, though a lot of them have dissolved away. His genetics saddled him with a perception that precluded seeing life "normally." And, is it too late, even if he should want to try to see life in a normal way? He will examine this issue, maybe, a bit later. He will consider how he has been, less as a fictive someone else, more who he really was, before he unconsciously accepted the fact that he had to learn to lie. He's going to start to make list of his lies, like he tries to list his truths, so that he can more easily recognize them when he forgets them and comes across them again later, as, inevitably, he always does.

He'll make a long list, or maybe several, inventory his behavior and his possessions, before it's too late. Or maybe it already is. Those pasts he became privy to were maybe all his own after all. But how could they be, all of them, there were so many, how can one person be so many different people? Yet it seems he was, or may have been. All of them himself; and maybe all of them still, unchanged. He's still not sure. As certain as he is that that other guy (those other guys? and women too?) are not him now, he's just as certain that this guy who was not him yet is, he is who he, Joachin, used to be. It's a presentiment, an intuitive feeling about the future wrapped in the paper of the past, not necessarily foreboding, but as likely to be. Good word, presentiment; or episentiment. This is what he feels a lot, especially when awakening in the night or just before arising in the morning, or in the afternoon, or in the evening; that is, when awakening at any time out of sleep, when, he hypothesizes, his defenses are at their lowest. An episentiment at the best of times; otherwise a kind of dulled dread, when he is not in the throes of an out-an-out attack of anxiety or paranoia--though never panic. He disallows panic attacks; and if he can do this, then he should be able to disallow the paranoia also. Forget about it, Jake. It's Chinatown. And, while he's at it, he might as well include the anxiety and the depression too.

This should be the best time of the year for him, he should be basking in the delight of the summer weather and easin' and breezin' through life; but he's not, he's all anxiety-ridden because he has to interface socially (dental concerns in particular, otherwise...) This pisses him off, and there is no one to blame, he can't project this onto someone or something else, except maybe (human) nature:

Rule #X: We criticize and blame others or external objects for what we don't like about ourselves.

There's a way to deal with anxiety that threatens to escalate into paranoia, a way that does not lead to the acceptance of a decline into a depressive state. All you you have to do, each time the experience of a twinge (Kenzaburo Oe calls it a "pinch") presents itself is to go immediately to your list of rules and establish a state of mind that is consistent with the appropriate rule. This is simple cognitive therapy. Joachin doesn't do this very often, mostly because he never thinks of it; but he could, if only he would train himself in that direction. But there are so many directions he would like to train himself in... How to keep this particular precept in mind?

For example, if he classifies a day's L-state (don't ask; it's too complicated.) as a #2 or above, then it's too late. He has to catch it at the moment and convert the state to a #1 (and not a 0, because that indicates a turn toward depression) by establishing a rule's mentality; then, the day's evaluation on the morrow can be recorded as a #1 instead of a #2 (or 3 or 4) because, although the affect had been escalating and the experience was negative, nevertheless it was corrected early enough (preferably at the moment) to "save the day." And even though the anxiety-producing "problem" may yet exist, out there in the future, he need not feel it now. Because (rule #x) "Some of your hurts you have cured." Live for today. Tomorrow will take care of itself, if it ever comes. In fact, it never does. Rule #x: Right now, everything is fine; and it's always right now.

Joachin has been putting on a false front (acting normal, passing) for so long now that, when, out on visit somewhere for a large part of a day, or even occasionally for briefs moments, he allows his real, odd, self to be seen, he comes home to regret that he's done just that. He never used to even think about it, he never at all used to consider how people might perceive him and he went about his business oblivious to anyone's opinion of how he might be behaving oddly. Now, he regrets having put himself out there, even when he (still) sees no way in which he's been acting even slightly strange. He doesn't want to be this way, he wants to be just who he is, no one else, not even the people he never used to be, regardless of whether he's been passing or acting as himself. Passing is, and always has been, a part of who he is. He accepts that about himself as readily as he accepts that aspect of himself that determines his difference; and he wants to be comfortable in either mode. He's quite comfortable when passing; he wants to be just as comfortable being his "real" self, whatever that is, whatever it turns out to be.

But, it occurs to him, he can't be both with any given set of people. It seems to be an either/or situation; and if he commits to one given mode with specific people, then the other mode is thereafter excluded, unless he wants to be seen as schizoid--which is maybe a third choice, and as likely an option for acting as his true self as either of the former modes are, maybe even more likely to be representative of his true self. He is, he knows, a lot of different "people," even if he doesn't most of the time want to admit to it; and he wants to be comfortable being any one or any combination of them.

This is the same discrepancy he thinks he sees in Ray: He (unconsciously?) regrets having misspoken or misacted (e.g., acted unintentionally rudely or dismissively, or whatever) when around people and so feels more comfortable alone (where he can't make such mistakes). Or is he just projecting again? Or lying to himself again? Whatever.

dream states

Joachin's favorite projection is elitism. (He understands that his own elitism drives his hatred of it; he is a universe of one person, about as elite as anyone can get.) He doesn't have any problem per se with people being filthy rich. Having a lot of money is not a crime, if you come by the money honestly. (He does have a slight problem with people who inherit wealth, but as long as the people who left them the money also came by it honestly...and as long as the people who have the money now do not use it to in the negative ways outlined below...) He has a big problem, however, with rich people who act badly, especially when they use wealth to insulate themselves from social repercussions, people who look down on those who have less, people who do not contribute to the betterment of society--and, yes, he's talking about anti-progressivism here. People who act to protect their wealth, not by sound investments and/or continuing to work at legitimate businesses to maintain their opulent lifestyle, but who use their wealth to support corruption, violence, and repression of the masses, are becoming anachronisms in a slow but steadily increasing tolerant and humane world.


"End of free ride. For your own safety, please exit vehicle now--before we decide to forcibly eject you." (Remember what happened to Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Momar Quadhafi, et al., whose hubris and lust for power kept them around just a little bit too long? Well, though our "democratic" society operates far more subtly in this regard, nevertheless, the same principles of human interaction apply. Resign now, while you still have the opportunity to save face and pretend to your friends and enemies alike that it was your own idea.)

Money doesn't mean that much to rich people. That may seem counter-intuitive, but it's true. To the filthy rich, money means very little, which is evidenced by the way they carelessly spend it. They have so much of it, so they toss it around wherever. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the rich get, for example, their healthcare at a very low cost. (Consider here the cost of healthcare as a percentage of gross income.) We people who are cash-strapped want the same consideration. Healthcare cost should be a fixed percentage of gross income (as should, also, housing, food, utilities, etc.).

Joachin has the solution to many of our societal problems: It all has to do with the proper allocation of funds. Right now, most of the wealth is locked up in the bank accounts of the rich and is used to insure their elitist way of life by supporting and propagating corruption and violence around the world. All we have to do (though it would be no mean feat) is to make it illegal to be rich and not use the bulk of your wealth to further the advancement of the species (which by definition would rule out financial enterprises such as weapons manufacture, etc.) Bill Gates would get a pass; and maybe Warren Buffett (Joachin isn't sure what he does for the species, but he seems to have the right attitude). We might even exempt staunch conservatives such as Steve Forbes. (Again, not sure.) But incorrigible reactionaries who refused to comply would have to be hunted down and executed (on the spot, once the decision was made, so that they couldn't use their wealth to mediate their situation). In this way, we could generate all kinds of new enterprise designed to further the species instead of killing off or subjugating large portions of it. How are we any different now than we were when ancient despots arbitrarily murdered their peasants? Our modern despots have mass destructive methods capable of killing off far larger numbers, which they justify, when they must, when they just don't boldly kill outright without excuse, by labeling the death as "collateral damage." We erroneously believe that we have come out of the dark ages merely because we now have artificial lighting.

Mid-summer. Dusk. Lights off. The last blue of evening barely illuminates the darkening room. A cool breeze through the window stirs the shadows. It's that time of the year again when thoughts turn to...fireflies. Earlier, just as it was starting to get dark, as Joachin was dumping kitchen refuse onto the compost pile, he saw his first firefly of the season. Which always prompts his brain to recite the lyrics: "The number of fireflies that light up the highways at night and make all the piney woods bright out in the county." He's been searching, online and off, for the last ten, or maybe even as long as twenty years, the source of those lyrics. He would have sworn they were from a song by Roy Harper, but he has been assured in overly dogmatic, pedantic, and even arrogant tones by several people online that they were not; but he's tending not to believe them; they were online after all, so their expertise is subject to doubt.

In any case, since his efforts to locate the music have thus far failed and since no one seems to want to claim it, he's decided to claim it for himself. Maybe, as one friend recently suggested, he did actually dream up the song. So, he's thinking, maybe he should actually say he did. Stranger things have happened to him, he's dreamed stranger things. Maybe he never heard that song anywhere else but in his head. He knows this isn't true, but until someone provides him with evidence of its different origin (which is what he really wants), he's going to claim that he wrote that song in his sleep and can remember only these small segments of it:

Enamels clocks are ticking. Why?
The number of fireflies
that light up the higfhway at night
And make all the piney woods bright
Out in the county.

That's all he remembers of his "dream." But it must have been a good one since he wrote those magnificent lyrics in his sleep. So, okay, all you supposed experts out there. He dares you to prove that the copyright is not his, that he's not the oneric poetic genius he hereby claims to be. Because it sure seems like he is right now, sitting here, alone, with the night closing in, the room darkening, reality changing to its nighttime form.

This memory, whether dream or reality, occurs on the heels of a two-hour late afternoon nap that's left Joachin the following dream fragment: Just before awakening, someone, a kind of "entity," is saying to him, as if it were "instructing" him, referring to his right forearm, which it gently "holds" in its "hands" [though it doesn't really have hands, or even a symbolic corporeal dream existence]: "We fuse the bones [in his forearm, but Joachin assumes, even within the dream, that it means this statement to refer not to the bones in his forearm, but more generally] with _____ [a word that Joachin doesn't know, but which he understands to mean something like "spirit"] so that they become one substance."

Awake, Joachin at first thinks that it meant that there was something wrong with (the bones in) his forearm. Next, feeling the residual itch of last week's fading poison ivy at exactly the same spot on his arm where the "entity" was "holding" it, he thinks it may have been referring to that condition. But, finally, he concludes that its words were in fact meant more generally, maybe even universally, and it was "holding" his arm merely to be comforting at that place on his body where he's been in recent misery. And, of course, the "entity" could be nothing more (or less) than his own inner self, which, even if that is all it was, if there were no external entity involved at all, that is still significant, that he is able to communicate with himself in that way. Now if only he knew what the experience really meant.

"My name is John Crighton, an astronaut..."

Be careful of what you do, 'cause the lie becomes the truth.
Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean"
"He's not your friend, Joseph."
"I'm his friend."
Kathy Baker and Robert Deniro, Jacknife
Before Joachin knew what the real problem was, before he discovered his faulty telephone line (which has been a recurrent dream format, when his telephone, and electronic equipment in general, would fail or work only intermittently), he blamed, alternately, the phone company and his ISP.

Communication has always been difficult for him, telephone communication even more so than face-to-face encounters for some reason, though he wonders why that is, it seems to him that it should be the other way round. So dreams about faulty electronics are understandable.

But when faults occur, not in dreams, but in what he imagines might be his real life, what does that mean? Probably nothing more than coincidence, after all. Or paranoia. But you never know. Just to be sure, though, Joachin composes messages he never sends. Because that's the real problem, isn't it?

"I'm fed up with your unreliable internet connection and your lame, buggy software; and your 'upgrade' software is even worse. The changes you made doesn't make it any better, only different. Now there's a whole new set of issues that irritate me. I'm going to subscribe to a real internet provider."

It didn't really matter that the problem turned out to be in his own line and not with an incompetent or negligent corporation. The sentiment is real enough. Changes are, much of the time, arbitrary and do not improve issues, but only relocate problems; and incompetence and negligence always exist.

Like every other individual, corporations always say they do the right thing, and like everyone else, they almost always try to cover it up when they don't. Which pretty much rules out being able to take them (or anyone) at their word. Most people's words aren't worth anything any more. Probably never were.

Joachin was taught growing up that, when you gave someone your word, you kept it. No excuses. Which, to him, automatically meant that when people gave you their word, they should do the same. But usually they don't. A person's word is like one of those "social" "rules" that doesn't really mean what it claims to mean, that is meant more for show than to be strictly adhered to. But Joachin tends to be a literal kind of person. It's a function of his genetic nature. Your word is your word. Your commitment is unshakable. You do not make appointments you can't keep. You don't let your mouth make promises your body can't back up. Etc.

So, when... Here he is interrupted by something that he did not document and now forgets what it was or what he was going to say. He has no idea what he was going after here. Someone, he suspects, either recently or in his or someone else's more distant past, did not keep his or her word, did not do what he or she told Joachin he or she would do, probably his brother, but maybe not, because there were so very many people in his pasts who fall into this category. It could have been anyone.

Joachin's pasts are like TV dramas, each episode of which starts out with a summary like a number of those shows do: "My name is Joachin. Most people call me Jack, because Joachin is just too weird for most people in this country, and because I'm not actually too certain that the name is my given one anyway. I believe it is, but belief can get confusing..."

No. That's not quite it. "My name is Joachin. I don't know who I am. Or rather, I'm not so sure any more. I used to be quite certain about my identity, but lately..." Introductions are so difficult when they are meant to summarize material that hasn't been written yet; or else it has, but you're not certain that you yet know all the facts. And even when the facts are in, you still can never be quite certain. And people who are supposed to have been your friends confuse the issue even more, when they act duplicitously toward you.

Until Joachin learned that he was too uncritical about whom he chose as his best friends, or, more correctly, about who chose him, or, most correctly, both, or neither, it being, at least in his case, he feels, more of an accidental process (though not so much any more as before), when he comes across people who (seem to) initially accept him as a good friend but who never really did but were just being disingenuous or else changed their minds about him after they got to know him better, which is as likely, it being a typical human behavior, though one which Joachin himself doesn't seem so prone toward, remaining a loyal friend long after friends have decided otherwise, partly or sometimes out of an obliviousness to the true facts and partly or sometimes as a conscious intent to be a better person than those who are so fickle as to abandon someone, Joachin was always being taken in by people who used him in one way or another.

One time a long while ago, someone Joachin used to consider one of his best friends told him that a woman, a college professor that the guy introduced Joachin to (as it turned out, he would intuit very much later, specifically for this purpose) said that Joachin was lost; which, interestingly enough, at that time he was not, at all. Now? Maybe, having now become far more conscious of who he really was and is, and most importantly, is not; but definitely not back then when he was absolutely certain of his identity and couldn't care less about and for people who didn't accept him exactly for what he appeared to be: guileless, or "unaffected," as a high school acquaintance had labeled him.

What did that woman know, really, anyway? Joachin's "friend" obviously had an unjustifiably high opinion of her because, as it turns out, she was so very wrong. Joachin, with the possible exception of recently, as he's been in the process, maybe, of becoming a bit unsure about this, has never been lost, nor never even felt lost. Yeah, a lot of times he'll find himself writing things like "I don't know who I am," but that's a different thing altogether. A lot of times he feels like he's been on a lifetime search for identity, but that too is that different thing, attempts at the imposition of purpose by society when it insists that he fit in when he doesn't feel that he does. This is what people see when they think he's lost, that he doesn't seem to fit in anywhere; this is what he sees in himself when he thinks he's searching for identity. But that doesn't mean he's lost. He's lost to the society maybe (though not even that so much really), but quite found re his own self. He feels completely comfortable within himself, he knows exactly where he is when he is who he is, apart. You think he's lost to you? Maybe he is; but that would mean that you are lost to him too. Besides, if he's lost to a society that is itself lost, and this postmodern global society with its confusing diversity is certainly that, then he must be doing something right. He doesn't want to find himself within a lost society; and he certainly doesn't want to change in order to conform to a lost society lest he lose himself within it, and thereby within himself.

Much later, another woman, the one he does actually care for, says to him, "I think you've given up on life." He hasn't given up on life. He's (all but) given up on society. But not even that, maybe. He's given up on her society. Because, as much as he likes her, he has to admit that she accepts her social role (and a whole lot else) without question, with absolutely no sense of doubt. If he is lost, what could she possibly be, acting, without giving it a single thought, as if she knows exactly where she is and what she is all about? No wonder she might think (she has never put it in exactly these terms, but she would if only it would occur or be suggested to her) that he is lost, if she would think (again if it would occur to her) that she is found. Could he be wrong then, going against the grain of an entire society?

"Yes, I still love you. But if you think I'm going to let you do to me what you do to other guys, you're crazy."
"What do I do to other guys?"
"Either you already know what you do or else you don't. If you know, then there's no point in telling you. If you don't, then you won't believe me if I do tell you. And, in either case, you'll probably deny it. So why should I risk pissing you off?"
"I'm already starting to get pissed off."

Most people get pissed at him when he tells them what he believes to be the truth; and when people in denial resist the truth, they often look for excuses to criticize others in order to displace the stirred-up inklings of self-recognition onto before they burgeon up out of their subconscious and threaten to overwhelm them. The excuse they most often find to criticize Joachin for is that he's lost. It makes him wonder if there isn't some truth in their projections, social pressure being what it is.

But, no. He was never lost, he's certain; because, whatever was going on in the world, locally or otherwise, was not what he was all about. That was all just a diversion for him, something to do physically while he occupied his mental time doing what he felt like he was supposed to be doing, his real occupation. Inside his mind, he was found. The world was pretty much irrelevant to this purpose. It didn't matter to him. The fact that he looked lost to it was irrelevant. He had his own idiosyncratic purpose to be about, and the rest of the world was lost to that purpose. And, until the time that he "retired," he was seldom ever able to act toward that purpose.

Retirement is supposed to be a time when you can lay back and enjoy life, right? Wrong. Joachin can't seem to allow himself to do this, and not only because he has to worry about how society did not take care of him while he was working at jobs. He works as hard now as he did when he worked for other people; although he does have to admit that he's enjoying the work far more now. But, if it were up to him (and, when you come right down to it, who is it up to?), he'd sit on out on one of his porches all day, or else he'd be cuddled up in a comfy chair or in bed during inclement weather, reading and writing his life away; and to hell with housework and yard work and whatever else he was supposed to do.

Right now, (mental) overload is causing him as much confusion as when he used to work "for a living"; but now, retired, it's usually more a matter of how much he thinks he has to do, or how much he really wants to be getting done, except that, lately, it seems like it's more a matter of things that he absolutely must do; or else. This is the cause of his anxiety and depression; or, probably, more like a symptom of it. Ordinarily, he controls these symptoms with caffeine and beer; but these past few days that self-medication technique doesn't seem to be working too well. The only thing that seems to work very well at all (even when the caffeine and alcohol does work; because those substances without this other technique don't actually do so well as he wants to believe--so whose does he think he's fooling here) is his daily schedule system [not the actual work scheduled so much as the scheduling process itself, although if he actually manages to do some of the scheduled tasks, it does make him feel a whole lot better (about himself)], which he calls his "therapy" (with the addition of daily writing, of course, which he also has not been doing so much of lately). These two together help a whole lot with his lack of focus, if only for a few hours in the morning after he's done them. When he's gotten the ideas that are cluttering up his brain all classified and put away in their proper places, even if he doesn't do a single bit of physical work, he feels...organized, for lack of a better word. Maybe "unburdened" is the better word.

People in his past have mistaken this "burdened" attitude he falls into for his being "lost"; but there's a difference between lost and lack of focus. He was never lost; he always knew what he wanted to do and where he was. The problem was how to go about doing it, how to maintain a focus long enough to get each of the things done that he wanted to get done, because there were always so many more things he wanted to do than he could possibly ever get done.

He never knows from one day to the next what he'll be interested in doing, which of the many projects and/or goals, if any, he'll pursue, even which sub-aspect of his personality he'll identify with and be for how long before the mood wanes and changes him. People in his past, observing what they supposed was a wavering sense of self, told him he was lost. He wasn't, ever; he was meta-found.

"You never go out any more," she says.
She exaggerates, but he knows what she means.
"I go out all the time."
He's also perfectly capable of exaggeration.
"The grocery store doesn't count."
"I go other places."
"All over the place."
"Could have fooled me."
"Yeah? That's a surprise."
She looks at him askanse.
"I'm starting to wonder if you're actually afraid to go out."
"I'm not afraid. I like to go out. I like being outdoors."

What he's afraid of is meeting people (social anxiety); and not even that. When he does meet people, he has no problems at all. It's the anticipation of meeting people that's the problem. It's the subconscious idea (probably; he isn't really sure) that people will think badly of him, like when they consider that he is lost. It's not that he objects so much that certain people will consider him to be lost, it's that the people who consider him to be lost think that they themselves are so goddamned found, not realizing that they are as lost as they want to believe that he is but don't recognize that perception as their own, projected.

Joachin puzzled for a long while over the connection between anxiety and what he called his "burdened" state, which he thought might possibly be some form of depression; but he eventually concluded that it was only natural that one would get depressed in the face of the relentless way that society insisted that its members conform despite any natural tendency to deviate, especially when involved in group efforts or more casual get-togethers. But that conclusion was only cognitive. He never felt it viscerally, till the day he woke out of a dream:

My brother Royce and I are "hiking" through the woods on a steep hillside below an upscale housing plan. In several places we become all but trapped by the steep terrain so that I feel we will lose our footing and slide dangerously down into the trees. We finally make it to the top, into one of the houses at the edge of the woods, disturbing a guy in his sleep, who is at first confused, then afraid, since we have in fact invaded his home. I try to explain to the guy how we mean him no harm, that we had been in trouble and the only way we could get out of it was to come up through his house. I apologize and appeal to him for his understanding and his help. We make our way out of his house along a narrow ledge of land, up onto the roof of his attached garage, down the other side onto his driveway, and out onto the street. As we climb down off the roof, I get this imageless "idea" that we (or someone else, a social worker in an office or a distant relative somewhere perhaps) are going through old papers that belong to the guy. A woman (still, no real imagery, just sort of an idea) is "explaining" (not, it seems, directly to me, but as if she is only thinking it to herself) that the old guy once had a lot of social activity, as evidenced by the papers, but now, his wife dead, he lives alone in seclusion. While in the guy's house, I felt that, although the guy was alone in his bedroom, his woman was there with him, as if, Joachin later hypothesizes, the guy had been dreaming about his wife, or as if he lived there with her memory to keep him company, imagining she was still with him. The guy was young in his bedroom when Joachin first encountered him, as if he were dreaming about himself when he was young, when his wife was alive and when Joachin encountered him within this dream; but only later, after he and Royce "see" the "records" does Joachin have enough information to draw these tentative conclusions. At the point in the dream in the bedroom, the woman's "presence" is only a feeling that is unconfirmed by imagery or logic. We walk on up the street through the neighborhood as the various neighbors who are out and about look askance at us, judging us to be unwanted intruders. I feel out of place and want to get away from here, but there is no way out of the neighborhood except to wind along the streets to the plan entrance, because the entire area is surrounded by the same kinds of steep hills that we had been on. I am now a teenager and not with Royce any more, but with a teenage friend (no one Joachin ever knew in reality). We walk down one of the cul-de-sacs, which terminates simultaneously above the stone quarry and above Topeka Rd., as if it were the side road off of Claymont, though it's not. Other teenaged guys are shooting hoops at the end of the street, and looking to play a game, and we are solicited, as if we belong, as if we are naturally included in their group, even though they don't actually know us. I appreciate this gesture (though its motivation is not so much a social act as it is a need for additional bodies to make up teams) and I'm torn between wanting to play (not really wanting to so much as feeling an obligation) and "escaping" down over the steep hillside and going home, even though, I recognize within the dream, that I no longer live down there any more, that someone else owns my mother's house now. The guy who's with me decides that he'd rather not play and heads down through the woods and another guy goes with him, which increases my feeling of obligation, since there are few potential players remaining.

Joachin woke out of the dream with the potent idea of the connection between anxiety and depression. He thought about how Sam Elliot in Off the Map would sit for hours on end staring off into space, not speaking. Joachin himself sometimes feels that way, though he seldom any more allows himself to act it out when spoken to; but when he was younger, he used to stonewall people when they would try to talk to him, remaining stoic and all but silent, listening to them but responding only tersely, saying as little as possible; but this was not, he thinks, so much depression as it was an expression of repressed anxiety. He felt, semi-consciously, intimidated and so held himself at a distance to shield himself from the "sociability" of the people who would try to talk to him. For the most part, people who knew him either understood that he "wanted" to be this way and so learned to stay away, or else they became such good "friends" that he opened up to them, unwittingly revealing to them his "difference," which is what he was unknowingly hiding from people who didn't know him well, unsuccessfully of course since the stonewalling behavior only made him look different in a different way; that is, instead of revealing his "quirky," nerdy nature, he hid it beneath a cool rebel persona and revealed instead a distant, "in-strict-control-of-himself" reticence to engage people--because, he didn't know at the time, he was afraid of people, anxiety-ridden, worried about what they would do to him if they discovered how different he actually was from them.

So, in effect, like Sam Elliot, he remained aloof [aloof = all off. Heh!] not because he was "depressed," but because he experiences anticipatory anxiety; and yet, still, the anxiety drives him into a state that looks much like that of a depressed person, so that, in effect, he may actually begin to believe, based on his (even or if only subconscious) observation of how he is behaving (a la Bem) that he actually is depressed; and, in addition, people observing him may conclude and feed back to him along subconscious pathways the fact that they might believe that he is depressed; and, furthermore, he may also exhibit a true depressive component in that, when he experiences anticipatory anxiety, he balks at contacting people whom he might need to contact in order to achieve those things he might want to achieve, and thus he may subconsciously conclude that life is hopeless, or at least less than readily hopeful, when he has to go far out of his way to accomplish what would be far easier to accomplish within a social setting. When he was younger, he was quite comfortable with the ways he "worked-around" society to get what he wanted, but that comfort seems to be waning with age and the more conscious recognition of his "condition" that age affords him. He concludes, still, that he is not really depressed [and even if he is, it is not so deep as to be clinical depression, it doesn't make him non-functional--because, if anything, Asperger's with its consequent anxiety does that far better than any small bit of depression he may unconsciously (because he very seldom consciously feels even sad, let alone melancholic or "depressed") experience], but what difference does it make if, not being depressed, he still acts as if he is?

[The difference, of course, is one of internal vs. external perception: He doesn't feel "bad"; in fact, he feels quite good about himself when he separates himself off from others. It's those others who question his state of existence, wondering if there is something wrong with him, even actually hoping that there is in order to confirm their diagnosis. So, just maybe, they're the ones who need the therapy, which might very well be considered as being the way they try to "make" him feel bad about himself, so that their observations, that there is something wrong with him (which might very well be their projections), may be validated.]

Now, coming out of the dream, Joachin experience a kind of (albeit shallow) "sadness," which he suspects might really belong to the guy in the bedroom. But Joachin was also in his own bedroom as he dreamed, so is that guy in the dream not some psychic contact, but Joachin's own inner self; or both of them together? Possibly the latter, but at the least himself alone. All dream images are, at the least, representations of the inner self. They, or the guy or himself alone, are not out-and-out depressed, but they could be happier if they were, maybe, like they used to be, living with a woman, more socially integrated, not so fearful of things that go bump in the night, of dreamers who invade their private spaces. Now, Joachin feels [though, fully awake, the feeling is fading fast, so he hurries this documentation before the feeling is gone altogether] more viscerally what previously had been only a cognitive conclusion: social anxiety creates a situation that enables a depressive(-like) state to take hold. Yet, still, he doesn't actually, now awake, feel this way any more. As far as he's concerned now, everything is just fine. (The morning coffee helps a great deal.) He is definitely not depressed, most of the time. It's a fleeting feeling he experiences only rarely, only when awakening out of dreams, and usually at times when winter is approaching and the weather begins to turn cold. The transition from summer into winter can be disturbing.

As much as he loves the "summer" projects, even including at least the "idea" if not the actual physical work of his "gardens vision," he kind of wishes he had only this one purpose, motive, raison d'etre: writing. Because, when he finally gets back to it full time, in the fall, sequestered in the bedroom hiding out from the cold (and from the society that doesn't seem to bother him so much in the summer, although the reticence is still there and he does find himself even in summer "shying" away from contact at times), he realizes how much he missed the written "self-expression." He wishes he could do this full time without having to worry about the more commonplace concern for the necessities and socialities of daily life and the distracting influence of his other "art" projects (music, musical instrument construction, jewelry making, brewing, and his various collections, as well as his more "normal" art of painting, drawing, etc.).

Which came first, the chicken or the insomnia?

Can it be that one day, off it goes, that one day I simply stayed in, in where, instead of going out, in the old way, out to spend day and night as far away as possible, it wasn't far. Perhaps that is how it began. You think you are simply resting, the better to act when the time comes. or for no reason, and you soon find yourself powerless ever to do anything again. No matter how it happened. It, say it, not knowing what. Perhaps I simply assented at last to an old thing. But I did nothing. I seem to speak, it is not I, about me, it is not about me.
Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
Occasionally, almost always when waking out of dreams that suggest it, Joachin realizes the extent to which he had been "up against" the anxiety when he was out every day working for living. Even at the time, when he was right in the middle of it, he never realized what he now sees looking back, that he was so very much more anxiety-ridden and fearful of society (people) than he ever knew. And, he hypothesizes, that fear (which is what it really is, anxiety is a slightly more "polite" way of stating a more obvious fact) was transferable, so that others in his presence felt it and, thinking the fear was their own, feared him, when, all along, it was his fear, a large part of which was denied by him (and thus more easily transferable). He became a (somewhat) feared rebel as defense against fear that others instilled in him when they insisted (in whatever overt or secretly manipulative way they chose) he conform to the empty-headed "values" they held so dear.

He's far better now at dealing with these kinds of issues than he had been when he was working for a living, almost as good now as he had been when he was young, before he realized that they even existed. (Life was maybe so much better when he was oblivious to the machinations of society. Yeah, people used to twist him around their little fingers, and thumbs and ring, middle and index fingers as well; but, if you have no idea what they're up to, if you live within your own little universe that seems so huge to you, it doesn't matter what they do to you, and much of what they try to do is unsuccessful because you're too clueless to respond and play their games. That was his best defense against manipulation back then, and ever since, as he grew in awareness, he's been trying to get back to it.

Yeah, somewhere along the line, he grew up. Didn't really intend to, but it seems to have happened. And he's not the only victim of this human malady. In fact, it's quite common. People grow and change, sometimes for the better, often for the worse, aging, becoming disenchanted, jaded, losing that je ne sais quoi that made them appealing. He regrets losing (his experience of) people in this way, despite their continued deteriorating presence; or else he regrets having lost them entirely, their absence reminding him of who they used to be. Once a specific endearing persona is established, it should persist. Change in this respect is one of the nastiest of disillusions. Life can be so disappointing and memory so cruel. It's like a puppy that has matured into an adult animal. Where did their puppiness go? Except that puppiness is a general quality that can be found in any puppy whereas people are unique in their finest manifestations. Joachin wants to live in a world where people remain the best that they are, when every day is Saturday and every evening Friday night, where you never go to church on Sunday nor experience that waning weekend feeling that ushers in a new workweek. If there were a God, it would have to be so obdurate to deprive people of the simple pleasure of persistence of the pleasantness of life and the consistency of friends. Only in old movies (and to a far lesser extent in photographs) do we get to experience people's fleeting glory; and that only a poor secondary pleasure.

No wonder he doesn't want to go out any more. He's not afraid, of going out. It's just that, most of the time, he doesn't want to be bothered. There's nothing out there that he needs any more, except for food or the various art supplies he requires, most of which he gets online now. And, yeah, he can see how he used to need people, how, in his unconscious bids for attention, he felt like he should be out in society, even when he had no real need to be (apart from the need for attention, that is; but he doesn't, so much, feel that need any more, and what little bit of it he does feel he needs, he finds digitally. [Heh!] Joachin finds the neediness of people who engage in social activities like, for example, the procreation dance disturbing--which means he's disturbed by his own neediness as well and is projecting it onto others via these criticisms; nevertheless, this doesn't negate the correctness of his opinions, which are validated by his more [than that of NTs] objective state of mind by what people consider to be his "disability," but which he knows to be his forte. (In other words, he includes himself in these criticisms.) Neediness is one of mankind's biggest flaws, which everyone tries to cover up with a pretense to a sense of social responsibility.

Right now, Joachin is overwhelmed with feelings of "social" responsibility that he absolutely does not want to deal with. They're not really social problems, but he feels them in that way because their solutions involve either social interface (e.g., necessity to arrange for dental care) or activity to maintain a social appearance (e.g., cutting down the hedges and doing yard work). He's awoken the last two nights out of dreams about his past that conjure up a present-state paranoia. There is nothing right now worth worrying about; and yet he worries, about what he's going to have to do, about what will eventually happen to him (whether realistically or not), doesn't matter about what, that's not the point. The point is that he'll find something to worry about if nothing in his immediately life presents itself; or else he'll worry without a reason. (Worry is too mild a word; it's far closer to anxiety than that.) The dream this night (last night now; it's 5 a.m.) was about Elaine, about her duplicity and infidelity. Although, in the dream, we were traveling around, not as a couple, but as an ex-couple (I even stated that outright to a guy she was flirting with who was interested in her and asked me first if we were together--guys are so much more straightforward than women are), she still managed to instill feelings of jealousy and regret in me. When I abandoned her, to be free of her chicanery, she couldn't understand why. Isn't that typical (prototypical)?

It occurs to Joachin that this affective problem may be a lot like his physical one: inflammation starts down low in the intestines and/or in the spine nearby and slowly over days spreads up, causing all manner of pain and discomfort at various points until he begins to get severe headaches and then finally (primarily left) eye inflammation: affective "discomfort" starts out low(-level), as mere doubt, and escalates slowly into worry, anxiety, actual fear, and finally paranoia, playing with depression along the way, eyeing it as a potential "cure"; because, if he can manage to convince himself to give up his "ambitions" and hide himself well away and mope while engaging in fantasy and other diverting behaviors, then he can forget about his "problems." Isn't that, after all, what "normal" people do when they come home from the rigors of a job and watch stupid tv all night? Or work at a mind-numbing hobby? Or gossip with friends on the phone about every little stupid detail of their desperate postmodern life?

But Joachin has been doing so little of that kind of diverting behavior over the last year or so. Except for writing (which he sees as productive and his primary work) and watching DVDs, his fantasy life has completely dried up. Maybe he needs to be doing a lot more of it. Maybe he needs to escape this "reality" he's been creating for himself. Isn't this what his last book was all about? In fact, the one before that too? Or maybe, after all, like the physical problem, there is nothing at all he can do about it, it's going to flare up when it flares up, cause unknown and seemingly unrelated to environmental cues, and all he can do is ride out the bad weather by falling though it. [All of that may be a mere analogy, or it may be exactly the same kind of progression (degression?).]

A few days ago he proposed to himself that staying up very late, all the way into morning or even afternoon, was a way he has of (unconsciously, or unintentionally) making himself experience life differently, out of the ordinary. It keeps him from getting stuck in a rut, when life seems to be getting too conventional, when it begins to get him down. Staying up late, reducing (even further) the amount of sleep he gets, creates a change of mind, even to the point of producing psi-like and psychedelic (flashback?) phenomena. This would maybe make insomnia a kind of subconscious self-therapy? But he's thinking now that lack of sleep just might provoke a change in body chemistry that could initiate or aggravate these kinds of affective difficulties he experiences. (Which came first, the chicken or the insomnia?) He's going to have to watch this new idea to see if it results in any revelations.

the price of freedom

Although Joachin has lived with social anxiety all his life, up against it much of the time, only free from it during brief respites at home between multiple daily outings, it's only been since he "retired" that he's been despising it and not wanting to continue to have to tolerate it. Being free of it for far longer periods of time, at times for weeks and months, the affect is far more noticeable, and thus more painful. When he was young, he hardly noticed it at all; i.e., it was all but unconscious and he had far more energy that enabled him to steel himself against it. But, in addition to it now being less chronic, more acute, he finds himself wanting to be free of it completely. He no longer feels he has the wherewithal to battle it like he used to.

Anxiety is the price Joachin feels he has to pay for freedom from society. Which means that (his) freedom isn't free. They say that all the time, that freedom has a price; by which they mean that "we" (by which they mean us, not them) pay for it with our lives (as when they start a war that we have to fight). But Joachin believes that the very nature of freedom is that it's free; if it's not free, then it's not freedom, but something else. You can call it anything you want, but...

In order to anticipate interfacing with society, Joachin must feel anxiety. He's tried every way he knows to alleviate this problem; but there is no solution, he concludes. This is the way it is to be, this is the way he is. He's continually discovering previously unknown (to him, and in at least one instance, maybe unknown as of yet to the whole of humanity) ways that anxiety incorporates itself inseparably into the personality. Without anxiety, he wouldn't be who he is (which is not necessarily a good thing):

Anxiety (as well as paranoia and depression) is an all but inevitable outcome of autism; and anxiety (as well as depression) correlates highly with ankylosing spondylitis. Joachin would say that it's unfortunate that he falls into both of these "categories," but it may be more organic than that: it's obvious (to him) how anxiety proceeds from autism because you're going to get anxious (to the point of paranoia) if your (even unconscious) self-definition includes the fact that you are destined by your genetics (or environment, if that happens to also be a causative factor) to not fit in or fit in so poorly that you doubt and worry (anxiety precursors) how you will manage to survive and "get along"; but it has not at all been obvious (until maybe now to Joachin) that anxiety is caused by or causes ankylosing spondylitis (that is, they are not simply correlative, but exist causally).

The anxiety (for Joachin, at least) starts in the stomach and/or intestines and spreads out through the tissues as a physical sense of significantly unwelcome excitement. Ankylosing spondylitis progresses during attacks of inflammation in the same way, though up the spine and out the nerves rather than directly out through the tissues. But, in order for the anxiety to get out from the innards to the surface tissue, it would also have to travel via nerves, wouldn't it? How else could that very physical sensation occur? So, maybe, AS is an "indirect" route (up the spine first) that anxiety takes, when the direct route is perhaps thwarted by a refusal to attend consciously to the anxiety; i.e., AS could be a form of unconscious anxiety, manifested as spinal pain and stimulating the body to mount an immune system attack against it as a perceived invader (which it is, though seemingly more of a psychological than physical one) and, in the process, depositing calcium and deteriorating the connecting vertebral tissue.

It's probably a better (psychological) practice to "let go" of the anxiety in the stomach/intestines (assuming it can be recognized early enough on) and allow it to permeate the tissues, allow it to be felt as excitement, than to try to steel yourself against it and tough it out (which could be the initial cause and subsequent development of AS). You should feel the affect as excitement and not as anxiety. Joachin has, of course, known this for a long time. The trick is: How, when you are up against it, is it any better to feel unwelcome excitement than it is to feel anxiety? A little bit of excitement is maybe okay as "therapy" for a short while; but when you've had enough of it, and it doesn't take Joachin too long to reach that point, then the anxiety comes gushing back full force, all the more unwelcome for having been short-circuited. This hypothesis assumes that the irritation (infection? bacterial? viral?) and subsequent inflammation occur as a result of the anxiety, and not vice versa; which Joachin believes to be plausible.

Meanwhile, the world will just not leave Joachin alone to act in his own good time, which is what he requires if he is to remain relatively sane (i.e., anxiety-free) because too much prolonged anxiety and paranoia does sometimes make him act in "crazy" ways. The stress of life will drive him crazy if he doesn't act to counter it, which he does by keeping himself as separate as necessary. Thus, he gains his freedom from society in order to combat the anxiety he feels in its presence. But the human is a social animal, not capable of surviving on its own very well. It's possible; he has done it for extended periods of time out in the wilderness of a national forest. But it's not very practical, nor nearly so comfortable as existing inside an enclave within the society where amenities (albeit minimal and of minimal quality if you are not mainstream) are available at a relatively low cost--over and above the cost of freedom, which is not freedom at all. You cannot be free within a society. Only the meta-individual, the overriding society itself, can be free, because the cost is paid by its individual citizens (just as we, as individuals, are free because the cost is paid by our constituent parts, our organs, tissues, molecules, etc.).

This is the whole point: complexification. All physical development and inductive reasoning comes down to this: Just as all of our physical components are cogs in the wheel that we as individuals are, we are each cogs in a wheel of a greater organism, whether we like it or not. The organism is only complete (and free) when it is all-encompassing. We are free as individuals when we are alone, living off the land in a national forest perhaps, being responsible only to and for our own self. But when we exist together with others, we are a part of a larger whole, responsible to it, and thus no longer free. The global organism is the freedom we aspire to when we desire freedom, the aspiration programmed into our genes. We strive to complexify and unite; and we sacrifice our individuality to do so. So much for the American myth of individuality. And so much for autism too. Why does autism seem so prevalent these days? Because it's an American condition. Live free or die. Joachin is a true American. He's autistic. Never mind that he feels anxious. That's just a part of the symptom subset. He can deal with it. Just keep your goddamn social crap as far away from him as possible.

People don't understand the (socially acceptable) conclusions that Joachin will come to belatedly; they just accept these conclusions a priori, blindly. It's their role in life to conform and adhere to the instinctual and genetically and socially imposed imperatives. But Joachin doesn't want to conform and adhere. When he says that he comes to these conclusions, he doesn't mean to imply that he accepts them, but merely that he (finally) understands why it is that neurotypical people believe and act the way they do. Joachin wants to understand, he wants to know how it is that he is different; but he doesn't (necessarily) want to change the way he is, and he definitely doesn't want to conform across the board. He wants to know what it is that others blindly accept without question as the truth or the way things are, if for no other reason than so that he can navigate his way through their society without being seen as an outcast who can be disregarded without consequence.

Outside, someone is cutting grass and whacking weeds as, inside, Joachin dreams that people are in my yard doing the same. I dream I get up and go out to confront them, to find out why they are trimming back all my overgrown plants and trees. Turns out they are just being neighborly, trying to help me out. I don't like it much that they have taken it upon themselves to do this work, but I have to admit that the yards do look good. Chris and her husband are two of these people. Her husband stands off as she talks to me up close. We look into each other's eyes and all of the feeling is still there. Her eyes are wide and wonderful, but she doesn't look anything like she used to, except for the black hair (which, now that he thinks of it, was in reality maybe dark brown instead). She talks about how it's been upsetting her to be receiving all of the anonymous cards from me in the mail. She goes on and on about it, talking about how it's actually a form of stalking, until I have to interrupt her to tell her that I never sent her any cards. She doesn't believe me, but her husband does.

They weren't together very long, a brief irresponsible respite for her between what she felt might have been, she wasn't very sure, the repressive responsibility of being married to a man she didn't so much love as feel simple affection for, and a new awareness that love and passion were two different things that are unlikely to remain vested for too long in the same person and responsibility was maybe not so bad a thing, nor so repressive, when the idea of having a baby increasingly becomes a goal you want to achieve before it's too late.

She wanted to have a baby with Joachin, but that was, for him, absolutely out of the question. She could have arranged on her own to have it happen that way anyway, but she was not that kind of person. Joachin knew a woman who was, who was dating a friend of his who also didn't want the responsibility of being a father to some ungrateful little rugrat. The woman got herself pregnant by him and ended up regretting it when he took off during the seventh month of pregnancy. She, and Joachin, never saw him again. Not very honorable of him, Joachin thought at the time. But he's since revised his opinion, considering that the woman, actually back then she was only just a little more than a girl, was a sniveling little cunt who ended up getting through the rest of her life by manipulating people, especially men. Now, Joachin thinks, she got what she deserved. It's better to be honorable than deceitful; but it's quite difficult to be honorable when people are deceitful toward you.

It was at the same time that Chris went back to her husband, to have a baby. And then she saw Joachin a few months later as he was walking downtown with a woman and, it surprised him, Chris was pissed. It took him years to understand why, and he's still not completely sure he's got the phenomenon quite right:

A woman will tell you that you're breaking up. Then, when you take her seriously and hook up with a different woman, she gets angry because she expected you, not to take the break-up seriously, but to chase after her, make up, and make everything right again. And that expectation is not so conscious as it is instinctual. If Chris had thought consciously about it, she might have been convinced that it didn't make any sense to be angry; but she didn't, she just stormed off. Unless, of course, she might have thought that he'd change his mind, come chasing after her, relent, and say, okay, I'll have a baby with you. But even that didn't make sense because, as it turned out, when Joachin later did the math, she was already pregnant when she met him on the street.

If a woman tells Joachin they're split up, he takes her literally. He mentioned earlier how he tends, without thinking at all about it, to take everyone literally; but, in this case, it's a more conscious mental behavior. He figures that, if a woman is going to try that kind of power play with him, she's going to lose, because, hey, even if it is an instinctual behavior, who does she think she is being disingenuous with him? He can find another woman any time he wants (as if that's a positive trait).

Why a (typical) woman will act this way is actually a fairly easy behavior to understand, once you begin to delve into the instinctual psychology involved. But Chris? He fights the tendency, still, to want to attribute her attitude to the pregnancy. Hormonal changes and all that crap. But, after all, she was probably far more ordinary than he gave her credit (or debit) for at the time. He thought, initially, that she was an artist, rather than someone who just happened to choose to major in art in college and then change her mind about it and want to have a baby, as if the two were mutually exclusive, which was probably what he assumed at that time. Yeah, she was far more ordinary than he thought.

"Do you like the way I look?"
"Of course. How can you even ask that?"
"I don't."
"You don't what?"
"Like the way I look."
"Why not?"
"I'm fat."
"No you're not. What are you talking about?"
"Yeah. I am. Look at this." She holds both hands on her stomach and moves it up and down."
"So what? What do you expect? You're an American."
She laughs. "There are Americans who aren't fat,"
"Not really."
"What about all those Hollywood stars?"
"They're not Americans."
"Yes they are."
"No. They're either Canadian or else they're mythological symbols."
She laughs again. "What?"
"Yeah. They're creations of the corporations that want to make ordinary citizens discontent so they can sell them a lot of crap they don't really need."
"They're people too. Americans."
"They're empty shells. That's why they become actors in the first place. They need alternate personalities to fill themselves up."

And if anyone knows about alternate personalities...


Sometimes Joachin is someone from his past, someone he used to be or know (of) before the transformation(s); sometimes he is someone from his present who has a past of his or her own that he only vaguely recognizes as himself; sometimes he is someone from his future who doesn't know it yet, who has come here to investigate and observe. It's a choice he makes, usually without knowing it, usually believing himself to be well integrated, when he is actually quite split apart:


You hear it said all the time: "I had no real choice." This is never true. You always have a choice. I was out on patrol and cut off from my unit after a firefight when we and an NVA patrol surprised each other on a narrow trail. Everyone in our squad was killed except Lt. Mache and me. Mache was gut-shot. We killed three NVA, but at least three more escaped into the jungle. Mache and I also left the trail and settled in the dense forest not far off. The radio was damaged. The lieutenant could not be moved and told me to go for help. I didn't want to leave him. I knew he was as good as dead and I thought I should stay with him until...but he said, "Don't make me order you." So I went. That was my first choice.

So I started off, back toward the firebase. I made my way carefully through the jungle. It would have been much faster and easier to go back on the trail, but I didn't trust it. Those NVA were out there somewhere. Of course, I could maybe just as easily have run across them in the jungle; but I moved so slowly, surveying every ten yards in an overly cautious way before moving into it. I felt like I moved only a few feet a minute, but maybe not. But I worried that I should be hurrying, to get Mache help before...but I figured he was probably dead already. That was my second choice.

When you're in a jungle, you either stand out by disrupting, however slightly, the environment or else you become a part of it. Walking down the trail, we stood out. I knew that, that is, I felt it as we made our way thinking we were being cautious. The NVA, who were supposed to have been so good at jungle tactics, were careless in their own way, otherwise we would never have surprised them. Now, alone, I fit in. My earlier feelings that we were disrupting the jungle peace melted away.

As I crouched in the jungle, four NVA passed by on the trail. I heard them coming. They never saw or heard me. It would have been the easiest thing to open up on them, and I badly wanted to. I wanted revenge. But I thought of Mache lying back there in the jungle waiting for help; and I thought of how there could be other NVA nearby who might be drawn to the action. I chose to let them pass by, my third choice.

Feeling more confident as I neared the firebase, I got back on the trail over the last two hundred yards. It was a relatively safe choice, but I was severely stressed, far beyond my normal baseline stress level, from having made my way through the jungle density. Besides, I didn't want anyone mistaking any movement among the vegetation for the enemy and end up gunning me down. Guys shot at any movement, whether it was identified as enemy or not. They were stressed too. It was only slightly less dangerous to return via the trail, when you had a radio and could let them know you were coming. But I didn't have a radio. At exactly the right moment within sight of the compound, I shouted out my identity and gave the designated hand signals. Do this too late and you risked being shot; too early and they wouldn't see you and might shoot at the sound of your voice, because the NVA had become quite good at imitating American accents.

Lt. Mache was alive when they got to him, but he died on the way back to the base. His last words were telling the medic to thank me for sending help. A lot of good it did. Since he died anyway, I always think I might have been a better choice to stay with him until the end. But you never know. I did what I was supposed to do, but I always had a choice.


People are always asking me what the number is that I tattooed on my left forearm. Some people think it may be a tribute to Holocaust victims and, sometimes, when I'm not in a very communicative mood, I let them think that's exactly what it is. Other people have no clue and sometimes I'll explain the real reason for the tat:

It's my Latter-Day Holocaust number, assigned to me by the fascist government that has decided that it must keep a tight rein on its citizens so that it can control their activities wherever and whenever they deem it necessary. The tattoo is my social security number (altered to prevent my identity from being stolen). Society has numbered us, though it no longer tattoos the numbers on our arms. Now, they imbed it into our souls as the mark of the beast.

I wear the number on my arm as a reminder that the real, invisible mark is not so much different than its predecessor, yet it is far more insidious because it is not so readily seen yet is required for participation in this concentration-camp society. If you don't have one, you're a non-citizen, a non-entity even. If you don't have one, then you better have a foreign visitor visa number. One way or another, you're a number. You better believe it.

And, yeah, they don't burn you in the ovens any more. They have more sophisticated ways of isolating and eradicating you. They put you in institutions, or better yet, and less costly, they turn you out into the streets of the camp and deprive you of the ability to make a living, to fit in. They define their society rather narrowly so that you have to pretend to be at least somewhat like they are, or else they mount a campaign of disenfranchisement against you. You are not worthy of their great society, so they outcast you to live among the dregs they create out of you and your kind. Actually, they'll do this even if you do have a number assigned to you, if you don't comply with their wishes in at least a token way. Comply, or you are absolutely not allowed to participate.

The Extraterrestrial's Guide to Human Nature

Welcome to Earth, a planet whose name also refers to the solid substance it is composed of when it is broken down into fine granular form and serves as a growing medium for lower forms of life when supplemented with decayed residue of the remains of once living organisms, some portion of which serve as a food source for the more complex lifeforms.

The earth of Earth covers approximately one-quarter of its surface, the other three-quarters being water, whether in its liquid or frozen state. If the intelligent species that rules the planet were a bit more logical, it would have named the planet Water; but this species, called Man (which is also the name for approximately one-half of its population, the other half being called Wooman, which means "second-class man"), is not so much logical as it is developmentally accidental (evolutionary), so that labels for objects and phenomena on this planet tend to be fluid and intuitive. Also, since there are well over 100 languages in use by the species, and since the names above belong only to the language used by the most advanced cultures, variation in names will inevitably be encountered; and, even within the primary language, subtle naming variations occur. This can be confusing, even to uninitiated local inhabitants. For example:

Human, You-Man, Woo-man; the prefix of the latter also being a word that refers to the interaction between the Man and the Wooman when they engage in procreation, which is what the typical man tends to believe is the primary and sometimes sole purpose of the Wooman.

Joachin is sitting on the front porch, alternating between reading what he's written and the writings of other people, some of them (Can Xue, Kathy Acker, Richard Brautigan and his daughter, Kathe Koja) being actual other authors and some of them being himself in various forms. He does this all the time, reads two pages of any number of texts, some of which have been committed to paper, but many of which have not, or cannot ever be, being different kinds of texts, in the broadest sense of the word.

As he alternately reads and writes, Dunn is visiting across the street. He leaves the house with Dave and they get into Dunn's pickup. But a huge, extra-long panel van (and Joachin does mean extra, like one of the longest standard panel vans he's ever seen) that picks up, several times a week, the "special" kid who lives next door, is blocking the street because it's parked next to Dave's truck. The driver is sitting inside, waiting for its passenger to come out, so Dunn toots his horn. The driver, a big (and Joachin does mean big, one of the...well, never mind) black woman, yells out to him, "You're just going to have to wait."

Dunn yells, "You can pull up a few feet to let us through."

It's true. If she would just move forward ten feet to a point where there are no vehicles parked on the other side of the street, traffic could get by. The woman says something Joachin can 't hear. She's now talking out the passenger side window to Dunn. Dunn replies in a surprisingly gentle, actually quite polite voice: "Let's not be rude."

This comment must have hit the woman in a soft spot and she pulls the van forward so that Dunn can get by. Joachin is impressed. Not with the woman, of course. He finds her arrogance disgusting. He's met this type of woman several times before. They think they own the world and that it should wait for them and cater to them in every possible way. What he's impressed with is Dunn, how he disarmed her with his gentle persuasion. Joachin doesn't want to feel this way about Dunn because he owes Joachin. Dunn ripped him off a number of years ago and every time he sees Joachin nearby, Dunn makes it a point not to look his way, to act all distracted so that Joachin won't be in a position to bring the matter up. So Joachin wants to think, "Fuck him." But he has to give him credit for the way he handled that woman's arrogance.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. I change lyrics all the time, either so that they better apply to my own experience (as if I were the lyricist) or because they just sound better to me that way.