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Letters
 
Adieu At 67 to Amy BP v UPD
Butting Out GladysIzett I’m Back
Joes End Killers Layton Memorial Commentary
Letter to Giv Martinez Amtrak Wait Obscene Self Indulgence
On Anxiety On Cancer in the Young Penumbra
Richochet Sans Affection Secret Music
Spectator Take Your Meds To Tingle re Reduction
Treachery Truncated Existence Dark Nightmare
Dearest Ms Corse        
 
Adieu
 
April 20, 1998
Dear Barbara,
I have no poem to wrap around the sentiment I'm trying to capture here....it was all so clear, waking up this morning. This could be a rough draft, say. I haven't much time left, I feel-this weekend's doings made me feel especially mortal and temporary, and I need to say this to you before it's too late.

Living in such abject loneliness these last few years has been a good object lesson for me: What happened to us was for the best. We took the only door out presented to us—we both had some growing-up to do. Better to have loved and parted then to have stayed together with the very real risk that our love would die or worse yet turn to hate. You see, this way, now, at least I have a memory—that I once was loved both in body and soul.
 
I could have ended up with nothing.
 
 
At 67 to Amy
 
December 15, 2004
Amy,
I'm 67 now and have struggled against my moods for nearly as long as I can remember, or maybe it is they that have struggled against me. Only now, over the last 2 years, with correct medication, have I gained any perspective of the flow of my life. My mother always said I was an 'old boy', for I exhibited none of the carefree aspects of youth, always firmly in the grip of an unrelenting melancholy that made me seem wiser than my years. Hypomania, the little that I knew of true mania, was confined largely to dinner time as my sisters and I played off of each other, each driving the others higher and higher until my mother, who never swore or was irritable, could stand it no longer and would slam a fork to the table and scream, “God dammit to hell!” trying to get us to stop.

To this day, dinner time is presaged by a general feeling of anxiety, nameless and free floating, in the background. Over the last 2 years I've indulged in a certain circumspection concerning all of this-the swings, the project is underway, the screaming frothies, the inexplicable crying jags, the rage, the sorrow, the guilt. There's no way to make any sense out of any of it. None. And if I had to pick a metaphor for my life force in the context of my life, it would be that of a tornado in a trailer park. Looking back, I see destruction and chaos. Madness. Yet, irony of ironies, my soul, shame-wounded by its madness, cleaves to it like a woman to her lover the more the more. Please forgive my crude paraphrase of Joyce, but it does seem to me at times that manic-depressive is the only way to be. The torment is totally familiar and fits like an old pair of shoes. Maybe I truly am mad.

Poet Robert Lowell was manic depressive, by his own admission, was even institutionalized for it, and once characterized his swings "These things come on with a gruesome, vulgar, blasting surge of "enthusiasm," one becomes a kind of man-aping balloon in a parade-then you subside and eat bitter coffee-grounds of dullness, guilt etc." By way of meds, way back in 1957, he was prescribed Sparine, 75mg QD, "no more than what my doctor prescribed on the bottle but too much to drive a car or even see people much. The effect is something like the slowing and ache of a medium fever. One's thoughts are not directly changed and healed, but the terrible, over-riding restlessness of one's system is halted so that the mind can again see life as it is."

And does my mind see life as it is, now with medication? Well, not exactly. As I've come to see, my moods and swings are not like a normal persons moods and swings, for mine are uncontrollable, they do not have a cause, they just happen. The meds control the degree of the swing, but not its fundamental nature. The meds do not keep them from happening in the first place. The meds do not make my moods normal ones, and serve only to confine them. This is not to say that I don't have good days, for I do, days free of tenebrous melancholia, or restless longing for a thing I cannot see or name or know. Most days, however, I get a little of each. Mixed states, I think it's called. Cyclothymic. They have terms for everything. With meds, I don't have mood swings, I have mood twinkles. Underneath the mania and the depression is a common energy, one that fuels the swings, and it is to this energy that I think I am addicted. I cannot imagine life with it stilled. Yet I wouldn't wish this affliction on anybody. I see that I am rambling.

Anyway, I know that you will be a better parent to your little boys than I was to my little girls. You and I, we share a strain; with any luck, we will be its terminus.
 
Love Dad
 
 
BP v UPD
 
Bipolar Depression versus Unipolar Depression   By   W. Bruce Watson
Missy,
Your question about the difference, if any, between bipolar and unipolar depression is a good one, I think, and one that I and Bittybumble (another forum member) have argued at some length. She was of the opinion that there is no difference; I, the opposite. Cutting a long story short, so I asked my therapist, and she said depression is depression. So what a unipolar person experiences when depressed can be the same as what a bipolar person experiences when depressed.

That said, I do want to make a couple of observations. First of all, the suicide rate among manic depressives is something like 20%! And among unipolar depressives, less than 1%. To me, that implies a great difference between the two.

Secondly, mood swings don't necessarily have a 'cause', an external event that causes them. They just happen. A swing into depression is not like the depression you'd experience if something really sad happened to you, e.g., you lost your job, or you had to put your dog down. It is my feeling that the moods associated w/ mood swings are not like ordinary moods, like normal moods. Everybody has moods, but my moods are not like everybody else's, like normal moods. My meds don't suddenly make my moods normal. My meds don't prevent my swings from happening. All the meds do for me is to keep the moods from becoming extreme (thank God). Does that make sense? To anyone? Anyone? And of course hypomania and mania have no 'normal' counterpart like depression does. It's unfortunate that we use 'depression' to designate both what a normal person and a bipolar/unipolar person experience.

I notice something about my swings: underneath the mood, there is an energy, and it either expresses itself as depression or as hypomania. Underneath of both states is the same thing. I can feel it. It's like I have two ways to respond to it. I used to think I was addicted to my beloved, much cherished hypomania. Now I'm beginning to think I'm addicted to that underlying 'energy'. I love being melancholic, too, if it’s permissible to equate melancholy with depression. It's real, it's mine, it's familiar, it's comfortable. Too bad it's so deadly. And of course I love being hypomanic. It too is real, and 'me', and wonderful. Full blown mania is a different thing altogether. Very bad. Very, very bad, and dangerous and destructive and terrifying. Melt down.

Anyway, I fear I'm rambling. Hope some of it was of some use to you.
 
Bruce
 
 
Broken Foot
 
September 14, 1989
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Board of Directors
Program Committee
In the aftermath of having broken my foot during the adjudicated dancing at the Santa Rosa Scottish Games, I've had lots of time to sit and reflect upon Scottish Country Dancing, Scottish Country Dancers, and Floors. I'd like to share some of my observations: Nothing (well almost nothing) in my life can compare with the music and the dancing--though physically and intellectually demanding, it is joyous, it is passionate, and it is profoundly gratifying. In the 5 years I've been dancing, I've learned first hand that there are no warmer or more supportive people than Scottish Country Dancers--from their unreserved and cheerful acceptance of the most inept beginner at parties to their heart-felt expressions of love and care for others in their moments of utmost grief.

In a word, I thank whatever fates there are that my ancestors had the good sense and high taste to choose to be Celts, and I thank these same fates too for my own great fortune in discovering this.

However, during these same 5 years, we (you and I) have lurched about on slippery floors, stumbled about on sticky floors, teetered about on tottering floors, groaned about on concrete floors, and wandered about on uneven floors. Slipping, tripping and falling, we have blistered, wrenched, sprained, broken and subluxed toes, soles, ankles, arches, shins, knees and sacra. Soaked, iced, doped and linimented, we are padded, bandaged, braced, taped and slinged. But we are Celts; we survive, but we have complained every close-in-third-skip-change-of step of the way.

Now that I have managed to really mess up my own, beautiful and precious foot tripping over a piece of lousy, curse-of-god duct tape affixed to the dance floor at said games, sticky side up, I'm finally tired of complaining about the floors. Had I known what lay in store for my foot at Santa Rosa, I would have gladly rented the San Jose class's floor myself; it would have been cheaper, and saved my family much stress. Therefore, I hereby appoint myself chairman of a new committee, the Buildings and Grounds Committee. Its charter is to see to it that forever after the floors are fit for dancing. It will spearhead the financing, construction, storage and transportation of a portable floor(s). It will see to it that the floors at parties and balls are properly cleaned and prepared in a way suitable for Scottish Country Dancing.
 
 
Butting Out
 
January 26, 1999
Missy,
I guess I've lived long enough now to understand, finally and fully, the motivation behind Hemingway's last creative act, but not so long as to consider it an option for myself. Well, not seriously anyway.

I guess I'm depressed. I guess.

Crashing in flames, it seems...yet, trying to go out with some dignity, because maybe that's all I'll have left, in the end. Maybe that's all any of us will have finally, and consider ourselves damn lucky too. The longing and loneliness, the flames, are unbearable at times and drive me to the consideration of what some would say are the usual absurdities that routinely afflict the older man. Yet to me, nothing about my plight seems routine, but at the same time I fear I'm hell bent on being a fool. (Where the hell is the reference manual that covers this shit?).

Once when I was your age, I had a teacher, a woman, who was then my age now. To cut this tale short, because of the circumstances of her life and marriage, she was beset with longing and loneliness and as we came to know each other better, she began to seek me, to want me, but for whatever reason, I failed to grasp the significance of this situation-it was as if I couldn’t even see or hear or feel, I was just plain oblivious, although I was powerfully attracted to her and often fantasized about her.

Finally her husband, who it seems was mortally sick with cancer throughout the entire time of our acquaintance, died. I saw her one more time. We talked for awhile; she seemed so cold and distant, I was uncomfortable, we said our good-byes and as I was walking away, my back turned to her, she said to me in a soft, far-away voice, barely audible, as cold and hard as death, “I don’t dream of you anymore, Bruce.” Her words burned me, burned into me, reside there in my memories. And now come back to haunt me often.

I don’t know if she’s still alive or would remember me if she ever saw me again, but it seems I should go to her and beg her forgiveness. Does that make sense? Why am I telling you this? While not religious, particularly, I am a bit of a fatalist, believe that what goes around comes around. So why am I telling you this? I think that you, Missy, are her pay back to me. And now that I’ve told you this, I know that I have gone too far, I can imagine how presumptuous I must seem, that it must appear to you that I am trying desperately to pressure you, but I do not mean to pressure you. I am trying to explain my life to myself; trying to get some perspective on my plight. I am risking appearing presumptuous in an effort to explain what is going on., And while I must surely appear overbearing, my defense is that I never had any expectations, only desires and that these alone drove me.

I’ve been very foolish, and you have been very gentle; so understanding, and true to your nature, have protected my feelings through all of this for which I am very thankful. So what is the point of this letter? I know I can’t be trusted. I know my feelings can’t help but be warped by the pain of my existence; I must at times appear like the drowning man, clutching at anything that seems like it would or could keep him afloat. I think it’s time for me to say goodbye. You don’t need this.

Well, kid, I won’t leave off dreaming about you, though, but I will say this, your turn next.
ߪ
 
 
Calaphon
 
August 18, 2010
Missy,
I was sugar daddying a petite black chick 20 years my junior, nursing my ego from having my wife of 16 years run off with a broken down, ex rodeo clown, linoleum installer named Al. Her name was Debra, and when I tried to break it off with her thinking I was too old for her, which was true, and she gave me this LP, “Brenda Russell, Brenda Russell” and this cut, “Think It Over,” was the featured cut. She was trying to tell me something—that she really did love me.

A few years later, I finally did break if off, just as Maria was flowering in my life. Whatever happened to Debra? I don’t know. She moved away but not before she burned me for the last dozen or so payments on the car I helped her to buy, a little Isuzu hatchback. Great car. I ended up with it after she defaulted on the loan (I’d cosigned for it). She’d taken sterlingly good care of it, but I was so pissed at her for sticking me for 2 grand and blemishing my credit rating, I just kept it. But it had so many memories of her, she and I used to tool around in it when we were living together in her apartment, that I gave the car to a good friend of Maria’s, one who we’d put up in our spare bedroom. Marya’s old bedroom, while she was getting back on her feet.

Her name was Barbara, too. She was the one who tried to tell me in as delicate a manner as possible that the reason Maria and I weren’t intimate was Maria’s fault, that it wasn’t me. She offered to prove it to me, but I took a pass on that one. She wasn’t my type, and anyway, I was true blue, still am. Whatever happened to that Isuzu? Barbara pretty much ran it into the ground. She was real hard on cars, never believed in maintenance, but by then she’d moved out, Maria and I having moved out a few months before that, moving in with my recently widowed fil.

Barbara was more or less house sitting for us at that point, but she got so lonely living in that big old house all by herself, she wanted out, but not before she burned the bejesus out of a Calphalon sauce pan I’d purchased just after my first wife walked out. She was trying to make a small batch of spiced cider and forgot about it and left it on the lit burner and the cider turned to syrup in the bottom of the Calphalon sauce pan, and then it charred and blackened into a shinny, bullet proof sheet, so tightly bound to the Calphalon that dynamite wouldn’t budge it. I’m not making any of this up.

I took the sauce pan back to Macy’s where I’d bought it, and the Calphalon buyer took one look at it and at first refused to replace it, but in the end, they ate it and gave me my money back in trade, so I traded in that one tiny sauce pan for 2 (two) Calphalon-wannabe skillets and an aluminum clad stock pot, the very same pot I use to cook penne pasta in my apartment to this day—I took the skillets and stock pot with me when I walked out on Maria.

So, dear one, you see how it all weaves around, how the fabric of my life is wound about in pots and pans, and hatchbacks, and beautiful black chicks named Debra, and seriously stupendous Irish ones named Maria.
 
Bruce
 
 
GladysIzett
 
March 10, 1998
Glen,
Hey, cousin Glen, here's an emistle re words from our niece, Rachel. Please enjoy, but more importantly, could you forward the attached email to your mother Gladys, who isn’t at all email savvy, c/o your brother Craig, who is email savvy but whose email address I do not have? (I guess a '?' seems to be the correct punctuation-probably all rambling sentences when correctly punctuated would end in a question mark, or should so end, unless an exclamation mark, or maybe both, or perhaps we could propose a new punctuation mark, the vertical virgule, '|', to the ANSI standards committee on English Punctuation to include in their next proposed draft standard, only I don't want to be the one|?!)

Well, I miss Gladys. Now I have no one to kid, to beat up on at scrabble, to whom teach the fine art of dishwasher loading, with whom to discuss the more obscure aspects of English grammar, or to just plain sit with and feel like somehow I'm part of the grand, elusive and somewhat terrifying design that keeps the dark at bay, but it's OK, because she's done it all and survived in fine fashion, and so therefore maybe I'll be ok too. Kind of a safety in numbers strategy.

I can understand, and it's purely an intellectual process for me, since I have no grandchildren, or great grandchildren, or great, great grandchildren like she does, her desire to be with them as much as possible now. I hope they gather around her as her days dwindle down and let her see, and feel what it is that she has become—the center, the wellspring, and arch matriarch of an ever widening gyre.

Peace
 
Bruce
 
 
I’m Back
 
July 26, 2010
Susan,
Strangely believe it, I think I cook oatmeal better than Maria. Or am I suffering delusions of grandeur? Sometime I’ll have to tell you how I make it.

Hot flash! (Ummm, uhhhh, No I don’t think that’s the phrase I’m looking for.) News Flash! (Ah, that’s better!) I found the snippet I was looking for. It was in a post to Lelap. Here it is then, without further ado. (I may have built it up in my mind and yours to the point where it can’t help but be a disappointment, but anyway...)

Sorrowful? ¿Moir? It's in my nature. Sometimes life feels like I've been invited to this wonderful birthday party, and as I go in the door, the mother stops me and says I can stay only until they start the presents, that I may not stay to see my present unwrapped. Isn't that just the saddest image you could ever imagine? I wonder what it means.

Anyway, chart on! I look back over my chart which extends backwards in time clear to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. And each day's entry begins w/ "Okay". And occasionalllllllllly there'll be a "Not Okay." I'm such a simple soul, I dutifully keep my mood chart every day, rain or shine. I keep hoping one day my entry will start w/ "Wow!" or "Holy shit" or, may it please God, best of all, "I'm back!".

There.

What do you think? It’s manic depression at its poignant best, no? “I’m back!” will be the first words out of my mouth when once my beloved hypomania returns. I ache for it.

God forbid I ever come down with cancer, but if I do, swear to God, I’m coming off my fucking meds. If I have to die, let me die a free man and not all doped up on meds. Let me die the way God made me and intended me to be—crazy!

All my love,
 
Bruce
 
 
Joes End
 
April 7, 2010
Missy,
Dukes of Hazard?! Okeh. The creators of "Robot Chicken" are fond of the Dukes of Hazard too, for they are forever spoofing it. I notice them driving past the same tree over and over. I just assumed they were driving in circles and this mystified me, given that they were being chased. I'd characterize it as country slapstick. And I'm very fond of slapstick. I don't know why I never tumbled to the Dukes of Hazard. It was a pretty long running series, if I remember it correctly. I think the reason I never got to watch it was that Maria ran the remote, and boy did she ever.

It was most distracting because she'd skip and hop channels without any rhyme or reason. Over the years I did notice one quirk in her remoting: if the screen was suddenly filled with TnA, she'd switch it in a microsecond. Without fail. Damned irritating. But if the screen were suddenly filled with male pulchritude, well she'd linger a bit, or more than a bit. She's funny. Well, now that I'm on my own and can run the remote however I want, I only ever watch mostly just one channel, MSNBC. And there's all those other shows that I really liked, the one's Nick hipped me to. Robot Chicken, Aqua Teens Hunger Force, Southpark, and now, The Mighty Boosh. I haven't actually watched a full episode of the latter, but I'm gonna. Just as soon as I can figure out where all these programs are to be found.

I splurged when I got a TV. It's an HDTV and I joined forces with AT&T's Uverse, the moderate priced package, so I get a helluva lot of channels, and it takes forever to surf through them trying to find anything. One thing the Uverse came with is a TV Guide feature. You click the Guide button and they superimpose a sequence of 8 channels worth of TV Guide and you can scroll up or down looking for stuff and then when you find something you want, you just click 'OK' and it comes on. And they tell you before you OK it how much time is left in the show. I just need to get in the habit of tuning in aqua teen hunger force instead of Keith Oblermann. My favorite ATHF episode is the broodwich one—Shake uncovers a delicious, demoniacally possessed submarine sandwich in his front yard. A voice tells him if he eats the whole thing, he will be killed. Shake must battle the Last Temptation of the Broodwich or lose his life. Well, he had a good run...

and there's this voice over narrator who goes on and on about how evil the sandwich is: “It is the Broodwich, forged in darkness from wheat harvested in Hell's half-acre, baked by Beelzebub, slathered with mayonnaise beaten from the evil eggs of dark chicken forced into sauce by the hands of a one-eyed madman, cheese boiled from the rancid teat of a fanged cow, layered with six-hundred and sixty-six separate meats from an animal which has maggots for blood!” It is a really great episode. Have you seen it??

Okay, I'm back...I had to take a minute to watch Evanescence (Amy Lee) sing "My Immortal". It dawned on me as I watched it this last time that she (Lee) who happens to be bipolar (She's on Lithium), in this song is not singing to some lost love like we all imagine she must be. No, she's singing to herself and her madness; she, like me, is having a love affair with her insanity. Here, you watch it and tell me what you think—

Yes I am angry and obsessing about how I've been treated. Yokels, the DOE is run by a bunch of yokels. They are to the Lab what the SS was to the Fatherland. So if you must be angry, be angry with them. The Lab has been positively sterling in their treatment of me thru out this ordeal. The head of security had the unpleasant duty of taking my badge and replacing it with a pariah badge. She looked like someone had taken a dump in her mouth, but she soldiered thru it, and then after the dirty deed had taken place, she handed me her business card on which she'd written the name of the lawyer who handles all of the clearance case appeals.

He's a firebrand and a fire eater. Real aggressive. He's not my lawyer yet, but I have contacted him. At some point he'll decide if my case can be won or not, and then if it can, I have to decide if I can afford to retain him. If we appeal, the court hearing won't take place for about 9 months. I don't see where they have a case: 1) I was investigated in 2004, the year after I went sex-bonkers and was given a psych eval then too. They said nothing and granted me a renewal of my clearance. 2) 6 years later, during which I have received treatment and been the personification of stability and normalcy (maybe that's stretching it a bit), they repeat the investigation and psych eval only this time they decide NO CLEARANCE. WTF. How come they let it go when it was a fresh incident and only now, when it's all stale and old and passe and beside the point decide to balk? WTF! 3) I have a 47 year history of stability and normalcy (sort of) during which I have kept what is perhaps the Lab's most closely guarded secret. I've not told a soul, and this is a REALLY, REALLY BIG secret. But my lips were sealed. For 47 years I told no one, not even when I was sex-bonkers for 3 weeks once. Doesn't that speak volumes for my judgment and trustworthiness? WTF No, dear Heather, what's going on here is a case of a couple of (or more) prudes, limited in sex, looking askance at my sex-bonkers and being scandalized to the utmost. My behavior was, to them, so over the top and so excessive (actually, I agree with this assessment) that they can not over look it, even though their hired pdocs both dismissed it out of hand as inconsequential. "Manic folks do manic things, not much else can or needs to be said. That's what they do. And when they're not manic, they don't. End of story." I don't know why the DOE yokels don't get it, even though their hired expertise tells them that even though my behavior surpasses understanding, it's doesn't matter once the mania is quelled.

I've half a mind to tell you what it was I did that got them so freaked out. I haven't told any of my friends for fear they'd think me some kind of a creep. Actually, I should be able to tell my bipolar friends, because they'd understand, especially you. Well, we'll see. I mean, what would be the point of telling you? Well, then you'd see what it was they're so freaked out about. It would sort of lend some credence to their position.

No what I fault them for is for ignoring the evaluations they paid good money to get. Neither of these two psych evaluators, not my psychiatrist, nor my therapist fault me for my sex-bonkers escapades. To them, what matters the most is that I'm now no longer manic. And that's as it should be. These yokels are all hung up on the details of my manic episode. They have their collective faces so pressed into the bark of this one, single tree that they're totally missing the totality of my forest.

I love your squirrel story. You are a real saint to go to all the trouble for the sake of one very upset old lady. Now that you’re on SSDI (or whatever it's called in Canada), are you not working with the elder deranged? Do you miss it? I would, I think. My fil pulled a deranged elder on me during his last week on the planet. He'd just gotten a hospital bed and wasn't any too keen about it. Anyway, I'd helped him into a seated position on the edge of the bed. He wanted an apple, so I fixed him one, sliced into a bowl the way he likes. He sat calmly eating his apple and when he was done, he wanted another one. So I fixed him another one. These 2 apples were the only food he had for that entire day.

Well, he grew tired and wanted to lie down. Fine, except he wanted to lie with his head at the foot of his hospital bed. Now mind you the bed is all elevated at the head, and arranged like bent knees at the foot. He'd been sitting in the low spot between the elevated head and the bent knee foot. He wanted to lie across the bent knee part. I tried to encourage him to lie down in the other direction, but he wouldn't hear of it. So I lowered the bent knees, not so he could lie on that section of the bed, but so I could sit on it thus preventing him from toppling onto it. It just would've been a real hassle trying to get him into a hospital bed backwards. So we sat there side by side for quite a while. And as he grew weary of sitting there he'd start to topple over in the right direction, but he'd catch himself and we'd be back to square one again. So finally as he was toppling in earnest, I just gently pushed him down. "Hey," he said, "You cheated." But once he was down and under the blankets and nicely inclined, he was quite comfortable.

And he wouldn't take a bath and wouldn't let the visiting VN bathe him. He was too modest. Modest or not, he really stank and the VN really wanted to bathe him. It's like it was her sacred duty. She was this beautiful Hispanic woman. This really put him off. He liked having her fuss over him, but he WAS NOT going to let her see him naked. Anyway, she arrived on a Thursday morning determined to bathe Joe. I left them to it.

About 20 minutes later she emerged from the room triumphant. I asked her how she managed to do it, since he was ensconced in his chair, all 150 pounds of him. She showed me how she did it. Very clever. She'd get him standing and lay him across her thigh, her leg splayed out to the side, and then she'd go over him with the waterless cleaner and lots of cloths, using first her right thigh as a staging area, and then her left. Anyway, she cleaned him from top to bottom, from front to back. She even shampooed his hair and combed it nicely. Then she bundled him up in his robe and deposited him in his chair.

When I came in he was sitting staring blankly out into space, somewhat traumatized I fear. But clean. I don't know if it was this blow or the indignity of having his daughter and her friend try to wrestle him into an adult diaper later that evening that did it, but whatever it was, he died 2 days later. I think he gave up.

When it was just me caring for him, he could put up with the little losses of dignity that were visited upon him every day. It was our shared struggle, two men, brothers in arms, pitted against fate and a bowel that couldn't and wouldn't be controlled any longer. During our time together, he'd strewn shit all the way from his chair, across the carpet and into the hallway, and down the hallway and into the bathroom and all over the bathroom. He'd managed to get shit all over the shower curtain and the light switch and into the bathtub. He’d pretty much given up wearing clothes as it was just simpler and easier to keep him clean if all he wore was a robe.

I used to follow him as he walkered himself back to his chair carrying a bucket of warm soapy water, and I'd lift up his robe in the back and wash him off, his buttocks, his legs and sometimes even his feet. And he give out an emphatic and loud "Oh Gawd" in embarrassment as I went from butt to legs to feet, the lower, the louder. But he kept his dignity. He was still captain of his sloop, poop on poop deck or no.

But the night Maria and Grace descended upon us, I sought refuge in the living room, but not before I saw what they had in mind for him. Horsing him into an adult diaper proved too much for him; he checked out the next morning, dethroned, defeated but clean. Later that afternoon, the Nautilus Society folks came around to collect his body. Again, I sought refuge in the living room as they all gathered around his bed while the Nautilus guys recited Thanatopsis or something. Soon everyone was in the living room as the Nautilus guys bagged Joe.

Then they wheeled him down the hallway, past the bathroom and out the front door. They took him away in a plain panel truck. White I think, but I didn't look. The lyrics of an old Robert Johnson blues song sprang into my head:

Well, the train pulled out of the station
It had two lights on behind
The train pulled out of the station
With two lights on behind.

Well, the blue light was my daddy
The red light was my mind
All my love in vain.

Well, kid, I been thru a lot this last little while. It comes as no surprise to me that I'm half crazy. Zeke died. Then Joe died, And I couldn't see any reason to stay. Maria has never loved me and the two beings I loved more than life itself were gone. So I left just as soon as I could get my chubby little ass out of there.

Thank God for my friends. And you ARE my friend.

All my love,
 
Bruce
 
 
Killers
 
November 12, 2005
Missy,
Apropos of the predicament you folks find yourselves in, tonight is the eve of the third anniversary of the death of my big dog Barney. We put him down, because he no longer had the use of his hind legs. The reason, as you're finding out, was of no consequence compared to the loss that nothing seemed able to justify yet which had to and did take place somehow, somewhy. And afterwards you feel like you've betrayed love, and been betrayed by life. You bleed.

The horsey set have a term, a name for the men who come to put their horses down and take their bodies away-they're called 'the killers'. We do what must be done, oh God how we pay. Is it better then to love nothing, to love no one than to suffer the losses that cannot be borne? A different knowing of death is all that is. To live is to die, ever, always and finally. All you can hope for is that you don't forget those whom you have loved, that the killers will come for you before that can happen.
Bruce
 
 
Layton Memorial Commentary
 
March 25, 1999
Missy,
Hello, you.

I'm still alive. Had a hell of a week. I've been meaning to come over there and tell you about it, but you know, even though I'm EBA, I'm a bit paranoid that they're WATCHING my every move, that I'm not working hard enough, long enough. Then I begin to feel that nobody wants me or will want me ultimately...this EBA shit is wearing.

Sunday! Last Sunday; what can I tell you about last Sunday? Been meaning to come over there and tell you about it, but not really sure you need to see this side of me...not yet anyway. Here's the prose version:

A friend of my father-in-law died recently and he wanted to attend the memorial service. Since Maria and her brothers and sister were also close friends of this family, she too attended, and I, by extension attended too. This was one of those ostensibly modern," grief free, all sweetness and light, and didn't he have a wonderful life and here we are gathered to celebrate his wonderful life" type of affairs. But, and except, and please note, and only in a perfect world, that this man, Larry Layton, was the pater familias of the Layton family, two of whose members became involved with Jim Jones and Jones Town. Debbie Layton, the daughter, and her brother Larry Layton, Jr., were at Jones Town when it went down.

She escaped days or weeks before and had tried repeatedly to get some officials from some where to go down there and rescue those who wanted rescuing, her brother included. Meanwhile, Jim Jones saw fit to appoint her brother to some kind of armed security squad and kept him in a drugged stupor most of the time. This was a political ploy much like the one used on Patricia Hearst-making the victim seemingly a part of the movement in an effort to legitimize it and protect it.

The Laytons are a highly esteemed and successful family, and so, its progeny with their presence and participation help to protect and legitimize Jones Town. In Patty Hearst case, being locked in a dark closet and sexually abused for a few months was the technique rather than drugs. Those who knew the son know that he was never capable of committing any violent act. He was a truly lost soul, screwed up in the usual way by being raised in a family where the father is a giant, with high expectations, and very unforgiving of failure or anything less than perfection.

So here we are at this memorial; speaker after speaker recounts their association with the great man (a chemist, he is principally remembered for inventing the scratch test for allergic sensitivity). But no one can bring himself or herself to speak of the unspeakable tragedy. The air is leaden with it. The children are all there, except for Larry Jr., who took the rap for the Jones Town shoot out and who is serving N consecutive life sentences in prison. The walls are covered with photographs of the great man, and out of each one, whether recent or from long ago, he stares, his eyes bespeak a grief, a hurt, a crushing sorrow, too great to bear-all variations on Munch’s "The Scream."

His children inherited a somewhat softened, less intense version of this look, but it is there. To look into the eyes of these folks is to look into the abyss. What happened to the Laytons was for their family and for the families of their friends basically the end of the idealism of the 60s, finishing it off, crushing its hopefulness and nobleness that remained in the aftermath of the hippies, the music, Nixon and the War. You see, back then, we thought we could change the world, that our music would awaken the masses, that the power elite would come to recognize and value the meaning of existence and stop the war, put an end to economic and political oppression…yadda, yadda, yadda. Jimi Hendrix and Malcolm X and the Cream and Pink Floyd and the Kennedys and Tim Buckley and Martin Luther King and Joan Baez and Allende…. We wrote songs about the establishment and its evil ways. The music was supposed to wake them up, touch their hearts, but instead, they hated us for it and assassinated our leaders.

How mindlessly naïve we all were, with not the merest inkling of what power was truly capable of, and how uncaring and self serving, and how little value it placed on human life. We wrote and sang our songs, and their brown shirts broke Victor Jara’s hands so he couldn’t play his guitar and then shot him in the face when he wouldn’t stop singing. We marched our marches, and they cut off our ears and kept them in jars on their dining room
tables.

I can see that my prose is not up to the occasion. I'm trying to give you the feel of the event: a room full of people, aged 45 to 85, who are all there to support the family, a family that has taken an unimaginable hammering-a fatal collision of the times, a man’s towering intellect, his unbridled atheism, the arch iconoclast with the political backlash to the 60s and a mindless, grinding bureaucracy.

And finally after everyone who wanted to speak had spoken, Debbie, the daughter, the unwitting catalyst for the Jones Town massacre, who deliberately waited until the end, spoke, "...and Larry would liked to have been here." Something like that, simple, but up to that point, although it was ever present in our minds, no one during the course of the whole afternoon had spoken his name. He was why we were there, or rather, what had happened to him and the family was why we were there. And with the speaking of his name, the memorial achieved focus, collapsed, our minds plunging now into a writhing sorrow.

It’s taken me days to get over this-it’ll take days more.

How the hell do I get into these situations. I’m toooooooooo sensitive for this shit.

That’s how I spent Sunday afternoon. Want to hear about Monday? My blood pressure is up, up, up (160/95), my arrhythmia is on the loose. Maria has merely to walk into the room and I can feel myself bracing, can feel my heart break into some kind of ominous riff. We had words, but this time I let her know how I felt. I found her later lying on the bed crying. I sat down next to her and tried to console her, but didn’t back off.

I suggested that perhaps we should chuck it in, and was trying to head the conversation towards a discussion of a trial separation, but she begged off, saying that she thought we were getting along better that I was happier now, and that her head hurt too badly to talk about it then. To tell you the truth I am so tired of her need to control everything, her catch-22 mechanisms. Believe me, she is the grand master of the catch-22. With Barbara, it was a need to understand everything. Barbara’s needs were easier to take than Maria’s. Barbara needed me emotionally and physically-Maria needs me only as someone to control which ultimately leads to and manifests itself as not being dependent on me emotionally or physically.

It’s funny, Maria is saner than Barbara, but harder to live with. In fact, I realize now that I can’t live with her. I will die. Sounds trite to say this, but my body, mind and heart cannot withstand the strain of her constant manipulation and controlling especially in the total absence of affection. I have not held Maria, or any woman, in over 6 years. My only physical contact is comprised of the hugs I’ve received from you, my children and friends of the family. This last is not so much a whining as it is an explanation of my plight and my need to have someone, you, understand what’s killing me. I’m amazed that you are surviving so well under the strain of your marriage which sounds more intense than mine.

I figure it’s because you’re stronger than me and that you have resolved, and correctly so, that your children’s happiness and well being are more important than anything. This gives you a subjectivity that lessens the impact of his anger and ventings, lessens their impact and insulates you too. But my family is basically grown and no longer needs me. That the welfare of my family would be better enhanced financially by my death than by my continued existence is a fact not seldom overlooked by me. How to proceed?

Got to go work out. Have a good weekend. Congratulations on getting your house onto the market.
Bruce
 
 
Letter to Giv
 
April 14, 2002
Giv,
Always truly enjoy our visits. As promised, attached is a piece of prose that, IMHO, is about as good as it gets in English. Here's a beautiful, almost poetic, passage, by the same author (Malcolm Lowry) from the same work (Under The Volcano).

"Ah, to have a horse, and gallop away, singing, away to someone you loved perhaps, into the heart of all the simplicity and peace in the world; was not that like the opportunity afforded man by life itself? Of course not. Still, just for moment, it had seemed that it was."

I love this piece as much for its sentiment as for its construction—the meter of last sentence is perfectly equine. The whole novel is filled with such struggles—cynical, disdainful almost angry assertions that a particular thing, especially a sentiment, or hope, or desire, is false and futile, followed immediately by the suggestion or hint or hope that it's not. This passage is a perfect and distilled example of this—the galloping meter of the last sentence coupled with its meaning, which itself seems expressed as almost an afterthought, undermines the conviction and subverts the authority with which the preceding sentence is seemingly put forth, leaving the reader no wiser, no closer to knowing what exactly our hero believes or wants, offering no clue as to his ultimate fate. We continue to read, continue to watch him bleed out, his soul and his life teetering on the brink of an abyss.

Whatever. I think there's a PhD thesis in this passage putting forth the thesis that this passage perfectly distills the entire novel.
Bruce
 
Attachment:
 
It is a light blue moonless summer evening, but late, perhaps ten o'clock, with Venus burning hard in daylight, so we are certainly somewhere far north, and standing on this balcony, when from beyond along the coast, comes the gathering thunder of a long many-engined freight train, thunder because though we are separated by this wide strip of water from it, the train is rolling eastward and the changing wind veers for the moment from an easterly quarter, and we face east, like Sweedenborg's angels, under a sky clear save where far to the northeast over distant mountains whose purple has faded, lies a mass of almost pure white clouds, suddenly, as by a light in an alabaster lamp, illumined from within by gold lightning, yet you can hear no thunder, only the roar of the great train with its engines and its wide shunting echoes as it advances from the hills into the mountains;

and then all at once a fishing boat, with tall gear comes running round the point like a white giraffe, very swift and stately, leaving directly behind it a long silver scalloped rim of wake, not visibly moving inshore, but now stealing ponderously beachward toward us, this scrolled silver rim of wash striking the shore first in the distance, then spreading all along the curve of beach, its growing thunder and commotion now joined to the diminished thunder of the train, and now breaking reboant on our beach, while the floats, for there are timber diving floats, are swayed together, everything jostled and beautifully ruffled and stirred and tormented in this rolling sleeked silver, then little by little calm again, and you see the reflection of the remote white thunderclouds in the water, and now the lightning within the white clouds in deep water, as the fishing-boat itself with a golden scroll of travelling light in its silver wake beside it reflected from the cabin vanishes round the headland, silence, and then again, within the white white distant alabaster thunderclouds beyond the mountains, the thunderless gold lightning in the blue evening, unearthly...

And as we stand looking all at once comes the wash of another unseen ship, like a great wheel, the vast spokes of the wheel whirling across the bay¬
 
Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowry 1947
 
 
Martinez Amtrak Wait
 
August 25, 1998
Missy,
Glad your foot is coming along; I don't suppose you get to rest it much??? Take care of yourself, Missy! It's really an exhilarating moment witnessing your child succeeding. I remember Amy blowing away the competition at a meet on the uneven bars, and Marya winning first place at the fair for the tempura that hangs in my office. Crying is good! Stay away from those tearless moms, they got no soul.

Argus-wise: I've experienced for myself what you often told me happened to you-1) decisions were made by the others that affected you but you were never consulted nor ever given a chance to agree/disagree; 2) find that the more menial tasks were assigned or left to you, while the fun/neat ones were reserved by the others for themselves (everyone is going to get to do whiz-bang PC GUIs (simple forms type to begin with), but I get to work on the error logger. Oh, yea, I almost forgot, I can do it in C++, isn't that neat? I can hardly wait), again, without giving you a chance to agree/disagree; 3) BB just runs rough shod over you (he really wanted me to change offices, take a C++ Builder course, but I said now was not a good time, and a waste of resources, since I was not given any assignment that required a Builder-based interface. No response from BB). It's beginning to wear me out and down. But, I'm still learning new programming techniques from R: use of queues to encapsulate software via callbacks, the latest trick.

Yes they've reorganized; BB making such a BFD out of what was a self evident move, replete with the preliminary smaller meetings with DJ alone, then R alone, then with DJ and R together, then with G, and then a larger one (we all crammed into the Chardonnay room and no AC (Jesus!), replete with view graphs (astigmatically out of focus, or maybe it was my eyes glazing over (MEGO)) and he poured over the new org charts, seemingly convinced that something of significance had taken place-we now have the databaseres and the hosters. I don't view it as a reorganization so much, but more as a collapse, a retrenching, trying to heal a seriously wounded entity, or possibly bury a dead one. BB's viewgraphs seem to imply that there's money enough to keep us alive for the time being, but his accounting was funny-he included moneys that others, but not us, get to spend (the folks upstairs). They're actively looking for a replacement for CJ, and finally, BL is going half time Argus, half time EE-Div. What took them so long to figure out what a money drain he was.

I still have my beeper somewhere, but I notice if I put dead batteries in it, it renders it less obtrusive.

No I did not have a relaxing weekend! I'll spare you the details.

Was at the Amtrak station in Martinez Monday morning to pick up Nick and Jenny (his girl friend-we sent them to Canada for 2 weeks), and while waiting for the train to come, which is a fairly typical kind of thing to do at the Martinez Amtrak station), I observed a middle-aged couple sitting in the row in front of us. They looked happy. The looks they gave each other bespoke a lifetime of closeness and caring and connectedness. The two were each their own person, but together, there, you could sense a third, encompassing, enclosing, warm, comforting and intimate presence. They were happy just to be. Oh how I envied them.

I know I'm idealizing, glossing and putting out of my mind the more mundane aspects of the shared life-you know the ones I'm talking about-the irritating way he chews his food, her oniony BO, his farting in bed at night, her forever leaving the light on, he, the window open, the blanket wars, fought semi consciously in the wee hours. Does any relationship survive the mundane, more earthy aspects of life? And do they still like to touch hands, or look into each other's eyes, to feel the warmth of the other in moments of incidental, accidental closeness? Yeah, I bet they do. What else is there? You see, it's not the sex, but its the sexuality; not the routinely mundane, but the incidentally accidental.

On occasion I am required to interact with my first wife—a document needs signing, etc. And on those occasions, while we're together, an intimate presence springs into being, it just does, old bonds resurrected, an energy surging and flowing back and forth between us along the pathway of our gazes, an uncontrived, mutual awareness. So pleasant, so comforting. Drives Maria crazy. She really hates Barbara, and this is probably why. I wonder, why she dislikes me so much. You see, she and I were close once, almost literally just once. I can remember, it was just after we moved to Livermore and she was saying goodbye to me at the door as I was about to leave for the Lab. And she put her arms around me and held me close and then leaned back to gaze into my eyes. I've never forgotten that moment or how I felt. Christ, what did I do to screw it all up? I’m sure in my own mind that my marriage to Maria is past saving; now, I'm just hoping our friendship can be saved. Why? To keep my life from becoming a total failure.

Wow, all this depressing shit. I'm tempted to not send it to you, but then, you see, I've spent all this time on it...sort of the programmer’s dilemma-having spent so much time on a piece of code, extreme reluctance to pitch it sets in, even though it's obvious it should be pitched.

I have this fantasy. Want to hear it? Good. This is what it is. I win the lottery (many of my fantasies start this way). Suddenly, you have to go on a trip for the Lab, some course or other, and I have to go on a trip to Pantex or INEEL or some place. Only we somehow both end up in Cozumel, just sitting on the beach, just sitting on the beach and looking at the sea. Hiding.

Cheers
Bruce
 
 
Obscene Self Indulgence
 
September 8, 2005
Missy,
Flesh, the human spirit, and medical technology—The portal is a contraption that is installed in a person preparatory to the administration of chemo-therapy. The drugs are so harsh, so lethal to living tissue that it’s not possible to rely on simple IV techniques, for the veins in question will whither and die. So they insert a catheter of sorts into a vein in a person’s arm or neck and thread it around until it reaches the entrance to the heart itself, and there it will sit until months later when the chemo-therapy will have been completed.

Needless to say, these chemicals don’t do the heart any good. Maria’s oncologist assured us that the dose was well below, by a factor of 10, the level at which heart damage can occur. Still. Still, by any standards of consideration, this is the practice of medicine in an extreme and desperate form. And I guess we are in desperate straits, and won’t know until her PET scan next week sometime just how desperate her straits are.

I keep projecting myself into a future time where I’m looking back at this moment, searching my words for solace, as I flounder in a world that Maria is no longer a part of. In this way I can see that my grieving has already started, even though I know that I must not do this to her, that I must, for her sake, banish this voice while I watch numbly, unflinchingly as again and again and again she is poisoned to within an inch of her very life. Looking back over the words I have just written, I find them obscene in their self indulgence. They must be put behind me to be left unspoken, unthought, for screams of anguish have no place in the battle which is about to commence. My words are nothing; the battle, everything.
Bruce
 
 
On Anxiety
 
July 20, 2005
Missy,
My therapist has observed that I often exhibit anxiety about one thing or another, but I've never broached the subject with my psychiatrist. The anxiety is not disabling. I've been disabled by anxiety in the past and I know the difference, but that was a long, long time ago and was precipitated by poorly administered meds. I become anxious before a main meal, usually dinner, and I have no idea of why. Again, it's more annoying than anything, and passes as soon as I start eating. And the anxiety about bathing is strong enough to make me postpone it. It's like the prospect of taking a bath or eating a meal acts like an anxiety trigger with the resultant anxiety more or less formless and non-specific.

It's a pain in the butt is what it is. Like most guys I'm semi-oblivious to what's going on inside me. Perhaps I need to pay more attention to this anxiety thing; for all I know it may be there all the time, in the background, with an occasional rear of the head when triggered. I'm somewhat resistant to this idea; I don't need anymore stuff on my plate.

Anyway, thank you for your words.
Bruce
 
 
On Cancer in the Young
 
July 17, 2007
Missy,
I'm so sorry.

As I bop along thru' the years, and first one thing and then another flakes on me, craps out, I sort of go all philosophical on myself. I've begun to expect these indignities—it's part of the territory.

Cancer is different. With cancer you feel betrayed, like a dirty trick has been played on you, like fate is not playing by the agreed upon rules. And it's true. And I don't know what to say. Why does it fall to any of us to defend life for being what it is instead of what we think it should be? Why do I suddenly feel like the schoolboy caned before the class for not giving the right answer, the one that is always just beyond reach?

I have a poem for you. I'll bring it to work tomorrow and enter it in. Maybe it'll help. If not tomorrow, soon—med brain, you know.

Hugs,
Bruce
 
 
Penumbra
 
October 13, 2005
Missy,
Here's this from today's BBC Newsnight's daily eTrailer/eTeaser: “The playwright, actor, poet and anti war campaigner Harold Pinter has been given the birthday present of a lifetime. I'll be interviewing the new Nobel Laureate for Literature about the honour which was given "for work that uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."

I was struck by the cool use of words in the quote, but haven't decided yet if it's merely prose wrought thru' clever and diligent use of a thesaurus or what. "Precipice/prattle is nicely alliterative, but does it really mean anything, i.e., is it something that could ever characterize the conversations of the bipolar. Do you have any precipices lurking under any of your mania-inspired prattle? This is posed strictly as a heuristic question, one aimed at getting at any possible and true meaning in the subject phrase.

I have my own way of expressing something that may be similar in scope to the subject phrase, for those of us bp-mad ones who need to write: I guess it is that if you're going to be a writer intent on a serious contribution, then you need to be prepared to go mad—all the very best words hide in the shadow, live in the penumbra that separates oblivion from frenzy. And that's where you must go to find them. You won't come back. You won't want to
come back.

Anyway. I'll write when I can. Oh, almost forgot the reason for this emistle—your bd is coming up soon and I want to send you a token of my affection, and indeed you did send me your latest address already, but please send it
again.
Bruce
 
 
Richochet
 
July 22, 1998
Hi Bruce,
I've always wondered what it was that you were typing on listmail; shows up at my end there as DF=97, or something like that.
Missy
 
July 23, 1998
Dear Missy,
Here's more than you wanted to know:

It's a habit I developed here: used to was were three Bruces in my group-an unusually large number given the name stats on "Bruce." So, in typical nerd-computist fashion, we designated ourselves as Bruce1 (me because I'm oldest), Bruce2 and Bruce3 using superscripts to distinguish between us. Then I discovered the ALT-key compose function on my DEC Alpha workstation- the Bruce1 became β1a beta with a 1 as a true superscript. As luck would have it, the other two Bruces have left my group. So, you can see then I was free to be just plain unsuperscripted Bruce. Well, no way am I going back to being just plain Bruce. So I kept the β1 for a while, and adopted it for my MAC using the popchar init and some obscure font to produce it there.

Then I dropped the 1and went to a π (superscript pi symbol), but when we shifted to Eudora, the π disappeared as a superscript option in the font and it became a box or something like that, ß◊ (New Century Schoolbook), so I went to the λ (underscored lambda superscript symbol—no idea of what it means or is used for, I just like the way it looks). Well that's (ߪ) the way it appears here. Of course, after transmission over the Internet and arrival at some other kind of workstation, who knows what it will look like?

STILL I persist. I think my fascination with the use of superscripts in ordinary prose must somehow be caused by my electrical engineer/computational physicist/simulationist education. Or maybe it's because I'm weird or a nerd. Or both or all three. I'm some kind of intellectual packrat with a fickle, super leaky memory infused with a general melancholic glow; I'm interested in the damnedest things.

I'm not a scholar, nor an artist-have lived my life with 'one foot on the platform, the other on the train'. As a young man, I used to worry I was schizophrenic because of my propensity for mentally flitting about, although I could remain focused when I wanted to, it was just that I like not to, too. The blossom that is my life turns ever to face the brightest light. It's a marvel to me now at 60 I was ever loved at all—the ricochet as an existential tactic or coping mechanism.
Missy
 
 
Sans Affection
 
July 23, 1998
Dear Missy,
Since you've expressed an interest in the problems Alopecia can cause in intimate relationships.... In the time since my wife developed Alopecia Universalis two years ago, we have gradually ceased being intimate. We have finally arrived at the point where she can't bear to touch me or be touched by me at all-she gives and will tolerate no hugs, no embraces, no kisses, no pecks on the cheek, no pats on the back or elsewhere, and no allusions to such activities. We sleep in separate bedrooms. I don't always get a 'good night' when she retires for the evening. We have what could be termed a friendly but almost totally affectionless relationship. Yet she always has a hug and a kiss for friends who come to visit.

I know that autoimmune disorders are devastating. I know that she is in pain most of the time, and incredibly tired too, not unlike having the flu all the time. I know that when I have the flu, I have no interest in any intimacy of any kind. So intellectually I understand her turning away from me and shutting me out-all her energy must go into just surviving the day, each day.

Since I do not have Alopecia Universalis myself, I don't feel it's in my place to pose questions on such issues, but speaking quite frankly as the spouse of an Alopecia Universalis victim, the cosmetic effects of Alopecia Universalis are its least significant. I love my wife more than ever, but never from a greater distance than now.

I wonder if there are support groups for the spouses and children of the auto immune stricken.
ߪ
 
 
Secret Music
 
September 1, 1998
Dear Missy,
Secret music. What is it? Any of a variety of forms, lyrics, sounds whether together or singly that hold for us special significance. These are pieces that allow us to visit our madness sometimes, and while we don’t actually arrive there, nonetheless our efforts at such are rewarded with the memories, the feelings of what it was like to be free, to soar, to bask in the unbearable light, while at the same time feeling a certain twinge of sadness that this, even then, was not enough, wanting more, wanting to soar higher, higher and higher, to leave death behind, truly forgotten like the bad dream it seems at such moments to be, wanting more even knowing that to go any higher were to tempt death itself.

Yes, I confess, I, too, have my secret music, my stash, which I visit almost daily, even if only for a few seconds, taking a hit, I feel that this must be a little what it’s like to be a meth head in a down moment. I steel away to that quiet corner where my stereo is when no one is watching, and put on the phones and crank it up to near pain as the opening chords begin the seduction of my soul. My top 40 list has varied over the years with the top, these days, populated almost exclusively, but not entirely, with heavy metal pieces, e.g., Lou Reed’s “This Magic Moment”. I must admit to having succumbed to a Tatu piece, yes Tatu, that horrible Russian Milli Vanilli duo, but it’s only one piece, one especially frenetic piece whose lyrics, when suitably retranslated so as to be not the pining of the singer for her new found lesbian lover, but rather to be me grieving over mania forever lost to me, “All the things she said” seems right on.

I’m totally med compliant, so there’s no chance of me ever being hm/m again, but I get little twinges of it from time to time. Minipolar, I call it, when what Robert Lowell called gruesome surges of enthusiasm are trying to have their way with me. And it is in such moments that I must have a hit, must at least feel, if only for a moment, once again what it was like, to recollect mania’s heat, to be at the center of the universe, to be me like I know I am inside.

So tell me, friend, what’s your secret music like?
Bruce
 
 
Spectator
 
July 8, 2005
Missy,
It makes total sense to me, and exactly mirrors my own experience. I too at times need distance; something my grown children don't seem to understand despite the fact that one of them has inherited my bp disorder and exhibits all the characteristics of someone 'needing distance' from time to time herself. I know that I have been mildly depressed all my life. Well, it's been mild up until a few years ago when, while under treatment and over medicated, I became quite suicidal. Up until then, I characterized myself as someone plagued by a persistent melancholia. And finally I too know that a lot of my life has been experienced with me as a spectator watching myself.

At first I thought that everybody did this. Then when I found out they didn't I thought I very likely was somewhat deranged. I can tell you it's very important to me to know that other people have had, do have these same experiences. I will ask my psychiatrist and therapist if other manic depressives have these same experiences. I will be tempted to add, but won't, "and if so, why the hell was I never told?" I feel like I've been wandering around like a lost soul, when in fact what I'm experiencing is possibly par for the course, and I didn't need to worry about it outside of the context of a bipolar disorder; they are a part of it.

I'm sure my meds are helping me as much as they can. I've been on the same meds for nearly a year now, so I don't expect to see any further improvement. I say 'improvement' without really knowing what I mean by that. I don't think I'm ever going to be swing free. I expect that I shall continue on with moods coming and going much as they do now, with the meds keeping them from becoming excessive. I should consider myself lucky and settle for this, for there are a lot of people in our forum who desperately want simply that.
Bruce
 
 
TakeYour Meds
 
July 8, 2005
Missy,
In my case, the mania was characterized by an underlying and pervasive willfulness. I was a law unto myself. I couldn't really tell that anything was wrong with me, not until I became violent. Fortunately I didn't actually hurt anybody; I managed to get myself under control right at the last second. And then abruptly I switched into depression, a pretty severe one. So I guess if the mania doesn't hurt anyone physically, spiritually, or emotionally including one's self, then I guess it's there to be enjoyed. Yet all psychiatrists/therapists are dead set against it. I asked my therapists why this was. She said, "because when you finally go unstable and become a threat to yourself and others, it'll be too late to take your meds." So I guess the mania is a 'bad thing' because of where it can go and the destruction it can cause.

They, the psychiatrists/therapists of the world don't pay near the attention to depression that they do to mania; that's my feeling anyway. Is it because depression in comparison is a relatively stable state? When depressed what possible harm can come to one and one's loved ones? What indeed! Take your meds.

And yet a part of me grieves over the loss of my manic times. "Why is that?" I asked my therapist. She said, "In comparison to feeling worthless and suicidal, feeling energized and on top of the world, however destructive that may be, is preferable. Who wouldn't find it so? Who wouldn't grieve over its loss?"

And so, with a lot of therapy and meds, I'm beginning to see this madness for what it is. Yes, but I still grieve. This is all very difficult, isn't it? I mean, I'm not the only one. Right?

I take my meds.
Bruce
 
 
To Tingle re Reduction
 
June 24. 1996
William Tingle,
Assistant District Attorney
Alameda County District Attorney’s Office
1225 Fallon Street
Room 900
Oakland, CA 94612

Dear Mr. Tingle:

I was the jury foreman in the Kevin Sanders trial last year.

I can’t tell you how much it grieves me to see our 1st degree murder conviction reduced by the state appellate court. I find this reduction incomprehensible especially given that not one but two juries reached the same verdict independently, and did so using basically the same arguments. I guess I’ve written this letter at least partly in defense of our verdict, but more, I think, out of indignation at their decision to reduce it. The more I think about this decision, the more I suspect that their review of this case and their subsequent sweeping aside of our verdict with a banal characterization that it was simply a “tragic and senseless killing” was a hurried and obscene gloss of the evidence.

These were difficult cases to try, you told us afterwards, and I believe it. Yet 24 people from the community were able to reach the same verdict which in itself attests to your skill as prosecutor and only serves to underscore the correctness and justness of your arguments.

That the appellate court judges felt there was not sufficient evidence to prove premeditation, planning or motive leaves me wondering just exactly how much evidence is enough then. For us, the fact that Kevin Sanders was the last to arrive at and to participate in a savage, monstrous beating that lasted many minutes, and was the last to leave by his own admission; the fact that as the others were running away he remained behind and continued the beating; the fact that he left but after a several paces, stopped, and then returned to deliver more kicks, one a particularly savage and powerful field-goal style kick, delivered on the run to Enea’s head satisfied all of us that the killing was deliberate and intended–it was what he wanted to happen. We could find no other reasonable alternative in the evidence presented to us to explain Sanders’ behavior under these circumstances–he had just witnessed an unconscious man lying face down, eyes opened surrounded on every side by assailants receive a dozen kicks to the head, the victim’s head flopping from one side to other with each kick. They kicked his head back and forth as if engaged in some macabre and lethal soccer drill.

Plenty of time had elapsed between the incident at the Scottish Rite Temple and Enea’s beating for flaring tempers to have subsided, and besides, by his own admission, Sanders was not directly involved in the earlier fracas or particularly angered by it. By the time they set upon Enea, Sanders was not acting out of passion, but out of a desire to participate, as he himself said in so many words. There was no evidence whatsoever that Sanders was observably intoxicated or mentally impaired in any respect. Sanders admitted on the witness stand that he could see that Enea was unconscious and therefore could not be scared, his proffered, initial motive. That is, he was thinking while he was participating in this extremely vicious and damaging beating but continued with it anyway for some other reason–bragging rights, I believe he said.

Although we each knew and expressed early in our deliberations that whereas you couldn’t infer premeditation on part of a defendant charged with a crime simple because he had committed the crime, we each realized very quickly that premeditation leading to a crime could occur concurrently with the crime and had instructions to that effect. We concluded that this was the case with Kevin Sanders–at some point during the beating he must have realized that Enea was being killed, but not only did he continue with the beating staying to become the last to leave, he also, after finally stopping and leaving, returned to administer even more dreadful kicks. What could Sanders have possibly hoped to achieve by these last blows. The others had fled or were in flight; he, too, was leaving; he had to stop himself from leaving; he had to turn himself around; he had to decide to run back and he had to decide to kick Enea very, very hard to the head again. We could find no other reasonable alternative to an inference of premeditation in this sequence of evidence.

Well, for whatever it’s worth, you have my support and encouragement to appeal this decision. To be honest with you, I have had a difficult time getting past this experience and my Bozn’s Locker one as well, and cannot understand how you folks in the DA’s office can prosecute case after case after case. God bless you and keep you all sane always.

Sincerely,
W. Bruce Watson
 
 
Treachery
 
October 31, 2005
Missy,
I'm hanging in there; fatigue is becoming an issue, but I'm hoping it's due to the extra drain on my resources caused by seasonal allergies; I do get enough sleep. I've never been this close to death before, and having to reflect on that, and it, takes its own toll. Everyone dies eventually, right, and I've just always assumed that when it came to be my turn to live staring death in the mouth that it would be my own life that was the one.

And while we live as if she is going to succeed, and while the odds are greatly in her favor that she will survive this treachery, nevertheless, the days are often somber, our thoughts constantly snagging on that one starkest of possibilities, however remote.
Bruce
 
 
Truncated Existence
 
November 7, 2005
Missy,
This is the week after her 3d chemo; she’s looking gaunt, for the first time. This chemo hit her hard—tongue gone south, crushing fatigue. She’s quite subdued, almost child like in a kind of bewilderment, stunned; all quite heart rending, really.

Living with someone else's mortality, with the mortality of someone you love, has a way of riveting one's soul to the now leaving the future writhing all about you like an impaled serpent; moment by ineluctable moment the future dies aborning. It is to such a truncated existence that I find myself now relegated, a now layered of appointments-doctor's visits, counseling, tests. Chemo.
Bruce
 
 
Dark Nightmare
 
December 11, 1988
Hi Maria,
It's me.

I was so tired and worn down by this last week that I was just numb. But I don't want to talk about it in these letters. I'm feeling better now and things look brighter. (I seem to find myself talking about it). Things are brighter. I hope you weren't put off by the inept way in which I managed my messy personal life. I recall telling you that my personal life was a mess, and that I needed to straighten it out before I could become really serious with you. But mess, as a term, covers a multitude of crap. And so while indeed my personal life here in Livermore is a mess, it's a mess only in a technical and logistic sense.

Emotionally, my life is just right. Well things, as they have a way of doing, seem to have progressed the way they have. I'm so deeply in love with you that, quite simply, I'm stunned. There is no way I could have been prepared for it, could have anticipated it or how it was going to affect me. My only fear now is that in some strange way, in some way beyond my control, some of the debris from this shambles of a mess will contaminate your feelings for me, or if not that, will prevent that closeness we once had, and you'll be lost to me forever. Oh, you'll be there, and we'll be friends, but the touching, the closeness, the serenity and the rightness will have disappeared.

Remember the dream I told you about, the one I had in DC, in which we were together but this small dark figure with the black, cottony hair, who claimed to have known you from before, stepped between us, and placed his hand there where you are warmest, boastingly claiming the right to do so, smiling at me, you looking away, averting your eyes, lost, blocked. I wanted to kill him, but did not, instead I wandered off, and wandered and wandered, looking for you ceaselessly. It was of course Debra; the hair was the give away. And of course, it was not you, but me, the part of me that loves and is loved. How prophetic.

Oh God, don't let love be so fragile. I don't think I could stand it, to lose it like this. Better you should tell me I'm too old, or not right for you, or that you've found someone you like better, but oh God, don't let it succumb to some dark and terrible nightmare. Oh, baby, tell me that you love me still, and that we'll be together some day.
 
 
Dearest Ms Corse
 
November 9, 1988
Dearest Ms Corse,
My god is a dark god, and my words are often dark. Who was it said something like, but for the everlasting darkness would the briefly lit candle of our lives burn less brightly. And I do often focus on the darkness, but it is precisely in this way that I can sense most keenly the precious, flickering glimmering that is me, that is you.

Years ago, as a very young man, there was this woman that I loved so terribly deeply. But I was afraid, you see, plagued as I am with feelings of inadequacy. She loved me too, but I could not sense or perhaps would not sense how much.
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
Tormented by my desires and terrified of my failings, I fled the relationship.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in  her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Two years later she was dead--leukemia.

Words can not express the remorse, the regret, and the loneliness that consumed me then. For years afterwards, I would catch glimpses of her in a bus window as it passed me on the street, or in a crowd as I passed by in car, and once she was the salesgirl at the De Young Museum from whom I bought a print. I began to think that perhaps she hadn't died but had led me to believe she had as a kind of punishment for abandoning her. And in some sense, I have never stopped looking for her,
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
And begin now to see or imagine that I see some aspect of her in the women that I meet, although in truth, it has been so long, I have grown older, all a faded blur. Still often in my dreams, she comes to me and takes my hand, and kisses my lips, and leads me away to the everlasting dark and long dappled serenity.

You see, I see myself as some kind of inverted Angus. I am sensitized to this imagery. I have studied it. I have written papers on it. All poetry is rife with it, all music. If there is such a thing as a single unifying symbolism and imagery that spans all art and all cultures, it is this one.

In Celtic mythology, it is Angus, the magician, who places a soul in the body of a fallen hero so that he may talk for a brief period each day; Aengus, the white, sylvan fool, who embodies the rending of intellect from emotion, of love of truth from love of beauty in the soul of the poet; Oengus, the Danaan god of love, who protects the love of lovers on long journeys far from home; Aengus Og, the ancient Celtic Eros, whose words none could resist, who could transform himself into a swan, and whose kisses were transformed into singing birds; Oengus Oc, the young god, the bastard son of Dagda Mor, who is conceived and born in a single day; Oengus Mac Og, who deposes his father, god of the earth and sky, by arguing that "a day and a night are the whole world;" Oengus in Mac Oc, who lives underground and who on rare occasions appears in human form exercising his considerable powers to help or hinder those who see him; and lastly, Aengus Mac ind Oc, the wanderer, who pined and searched long for an illusive beloved, a beautiful maiden who appeared to him in his sleep. Angus MacIntosh is a mysterious figure in Joyce's Ulysses.

Why am I telling you this? It sort of illustrates how I'm wired, so to speak. What does this have to do with you? Well, it has to do with your last letter. Good things have happened to me, do happen to me, but I ran. I run. (Or I used to.) No woman has ever done me harm. I am not lumping you with anyone. I am falling in love with you, and deeply. But once again I find myself plagued with self doubt.

You can not know how I long to take your hands and kiss your lips. You can not know

I've stopped running as a matter of survival and fear that this in itself will drive you away. That somehow, just my very nature, once it becomes apparent to you, will repel you. That if I can somehow get it down on paper how I am, that then she will see it and that I am somebody, that I am worth loving and love me and be with me. I've restrained myself through fear of driving you away, through fear of failing.

I like to imagine what it would be like being with you and Nicholas, being a part of your family, but this seems terribly presumptuous ("How do you know she wants you to be a part of anything?", that small voice inside of me asks, "she's a young woman, with her whole life ahead of her. You have no time left. Sit down!")

I don't know how to end this letter. I can see that the last two paragraphs need to be somehow someother way, but I don't know what it is.

You have grey-green eyes.

It's not so much that I found you for you were never lost; it's more that I've come back. Don't ask me where I've been, for I don't really know. I only know that for better or worse I'm not ever leaving again. Jade grey. Being alive is the most incredible thing that ever happened to me. You want a friend, you got it. You want a companion, you got it. A lover? I'll love you till I die.

There,
 
Bruce
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The truth is, after much furrowing of brow, I can't think of anything to say by way of preface to my blog. Along the way I wondered what it's purpose might be and maybe I should say a few words about that and would, except that I don't know what its purpose is, or could be, or should be. I only know that my clock is winding down and I'm so desperate to have my mind known that I could just spit! Maybe my blog could be about that. But how depressing and pretentious that could be! But hold on a second, maybe not—my therapist commented the other day how in late adulthood (AKA elder years), one is forced to deal with the sense of loss, all the time, it's always there, and it's painful, it takes great faith to live on even though one knows it's going to end and that whatever they accomplish, if anything, is not going to matter all that much. How does one find meaning or a sense of fulfillment in life knowing that it’s coming to an end? Psychologists have not written much about this if anything. It's sort of an unexamined part of adult life. It takes a lot of self-discipline to function in spite of this sense of loss—it's so easy to give up on the constant struggle, on life. A lot of people do—drinking, TV, drugs, electrosex, So, if you'll bear with me, let us examine this unexamined part of adult life.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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