Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Had To Change

SOMETIMES I MISS THAT TEDDY BEAR.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with, and began treatment for, clinical depression (see previous blog post), San Geraldo and I were on the move again. It was our third move in our five years together. From Boston, Massachusetts; to Los Angeles, California; to Washington D.C.; to New Haven, Connecticut.

I was doing well and didn't seem to need any talk therapy. The antidepressant medication had done the trick. After about a year on the medication, I independently decided I was ready to go drug-free. I phased off the meds and continued to do well. However, over the course of the next year, without really realising it, I had begun to give myself those pep talks again to help me face the days. Finally, more than a year later, I had another major crash. I found a psychiatrist in New Haven and started back on Sinequan. He was a Freudian psychiatrist (so, let's call him Sigmund) and hardly spoke. But that didn't really matter to me. At first, I just wanted to talk and cry. But, after a few weeks, the medication levelled off my brain chemistry again and I was back to this new life I had been learning to live. I was no longer crying and only went to Sigmund for weekly med checks.

Since Sigmund didn't talk, he didn't help me to understand my condition any more clearly. I still thought I could get to a point where I wouldn't need to take medication. So, I went through another cycle of about a year and half without medication before another crash. And I still wasn't learning.

By the next crash (yet another), we were living in California (having moved from New Haven after 1-1/2 years to Guilford, Connecticut, and then to San Diego five years later where we celebrated our 12th anniversary). I found a psychiatrist who truly changed my life permanently (although I still had my stubborn moments).

When I insisted I didn't need to be on medication forever, he asked, "Would you say that if you were diabetic?"

"That's different," I argued.

And thus began my real education on the "illness" called clinical depression. I've read that clinical depression is one-third each biological, brain chemistry, and inherited traits (if broken into quarters, the fourth would be hormones). Maybe an oversimplification, but my depression I'm sure has been partly a result of my childhood and later-life experiences. But many children have suffered much more troubled childhoods. And many adults have suffered much more painful lives. This is simply the way my brain responds. There's nobody and no thing to blame. Besides, I've looked hard into my life experiences and, finally, there's only me to face the result and survive it.

SORRY. I'M EVEN BORING MYSELF.
I know that physical activity is important for me. And healthy mental activity, too. But those alone are not enough. Unless there is some new revelation in the treatment of clinical depression, I now accept that I will likely always be on medication to treat it. And that's fine with me. Sometimes, the medication may need to be changed or adjusted. That's also fine with me. Yes, I do have some challenging times, but they're nothing like those crashes I used to have. And, as I think about it, I probably wouldn't give up my experience of this depression. Now that I've survived it, at least. It has played a large part in forming the person I am. I'm sure it's where my humour was born. It taught me to be more honest with myself and with others. And it has certainly taught me to appreciate this life.

I'm still learning to forgive (myself and others) and to forget what doesn't do me any good to remember. But, as long as I'm being honest, I haven't forgiven everyone. And I haven't forgotten everything. OK, and I can still be bitter, sarcastic, and acerbic. But not all the time. So, what the hell.

Many of you were very moved by my recent revelations and I'm so grateful for your support and understanding. But please don't cry for me. I'm here to entertain you, enlighten you, charm and inform you. (Ain't I grand?) I'm not here to depress you!


The truth is...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

So, Hold On

ALWAYS THIN. GETTING THINNER.
A few months before my 32nd birthday, San Geraldo and I were heading home from a walk through our neighbourhood in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. We were talking about nothing in particular when I broke down and sputtered, "I can't do this anymore."

As I think back to this moment, I realise San Geraldo must have thought I was leaving him or had some terrible confession that would make him want to leave me. "What can't you do?" he asked in concern.

Through sobs, I explained, "For months now, every night I go to bed and my last thought is, 'I hope I don't wake up in the morning. I hope I die in my sleep.' "

Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, 'Oh fuck.' "

I don't remember the rest but I distinctly remember that opening.

After some discussion and lots of moral support, San Geraldo said I needed to "talk to someone." When he saw I didn't know where or how to begin, he said he would get me an appointment with "someone."

He asked colleagues and got the name of a psychotherapist and I saw him the next afternoon. The therapist first had me fill out a long questionnaire, which I found kind of fun. I like questionnaires. We then talked. Well, I mostly cried. But the result was that he felt certain I suffered from clinical depression. Through a psychiatrist, I was prescribed an antidepressant called Sinequan.

This is now an old-style antidepressant with loads of side-effects, one of which was to make me really drowsy. I could only take the meds just before bedtime. That side-effect soon became a major bonus. I immediately began to sleep more soundly than I had ever slept.

Other side effects were more problematic for me — like cotton-mouth and reduced sex ... um ... "follow-through." (How's that for a euphemism?)


AT HOME IN GEORGETOWN; A LIFE FILLED WITH SO MANY GIFTS.
STILL, I KNOW I WENT TO BED THAT NIGHT HOPING I WOULDN'T SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY.

After a couple of weeks I began to notice a fairly dramatic change in my mood. In fact, I felt as if I were meeting a person I had never known before. I woke up one morning happy. I didn't have to talk myself into facing the day. I couldn't remember a time in my adult life when I had actually experienced that.

It wasn't a complete turnaround but I no longer hoped to die in my sleep. So, I went to the drugstore and bought some Biotene toothpaste for the cotton mouth. I figured the sex issues were survivable. Besides, I had had an overactive sex drive to begin with.

And since My Mother the Dowager Duchess will read this, I'll not say another word about sex.

I thought I'd be telling you today the entire story of my battles with clinical depression. But, as I began to write, I realised there's a lot more to tell if the story is going to be of any use to anyone. I didn't take pills for two weeks and solve all my problems. But I did discover that I wouldn't mind sticking around for a good long while.

You know what's really depressing? I have some great photos to share of that year (1986) in Georgetown but I can't get my f$%&ing scanner to work. I've shared two shots from our home in Georgetown and will share more another time. So just listen to the music; smile if you're able; and, well, hold on.


Everybody Hurts. Sometimes...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Glitter And Be Gay

We woke up to a downpour during the wee hours of Monday morning. I found it magnificent. San Geraldo found it foreboding.

Later Monday morning, the sky and sea displayed what I thought were brilliant and dramatic colour and contrast. San Geraldo thought it was "evil and threatening."

And so the day went. We managed to get ourselves to the gym in the afternoon for an uplifting, pun intended, workout. (San Geraldo will probably ask, "What pun?")

Tuesday was an uneventful day. My depression comes and goes. But it's mild and manageable. Moments of miserable thoughts that soon pass. Much longer moments of gratitude for a good life and kind, empathetic people like San Geraldo and all of you.

I hope you don't mind if in the coming days I share stories of my experience of clinical depression. Although I still obviously have challenges at times, treatment absolutely transformed my life. Maybe it can help you or someone you know either to understand it better or to get through it.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of the terrace view of Monday morning's magnificent, brilliant, dramatic, foreboding, evil, and threatening Mediterranean Sea and sky.

(Click any image and decide which descriptors you would use.)





A FEW HOURS LATER AS WE HEADED OUT FOR COFFEE.
I SAID, "WOW!" SAN GERALD SAID, "DREARY."


"Enough, enough of being basely tearful!
I'll show my noble stuff by being gay and cheerful!"

Monday, October 26, 2015

All About That Bass

I call them the Butt Brothers. Check out this sampling of images demonstrating Dudo and Musy's close attachment over the years.

(Click the images for more bass.)





Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

There's A Hole In The Sky

As most of you know, I live with clinical depression. I do what I can to keep the dark days — and nights — at bay. Medication helps, but needs to be adjusted over time. Without medication, I couldn't survive. And sometimes I feel like I have to justify that to others.

"Oh, just change your attitude," they'll say.

"I just pull myself by my bootstraps and put a smile on my face," some tell me.

"Just spend more time at the gym."

Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Attitude helps. A smile helps. Exercise helps. But they don't cure clinical depression.

With the help of San Geraldo, I manage to keep the worst bouts from returning, simply by being aware and getting help when I/we see the patterns returning. What returns are the voices in my head. They tell me I'm not good enough (for what, I don't know). I'm not handsome enough (for my life as a fashion model?), I'm not smart enough, kind enough, rich enough, confident enough, talented enough, humble enough.

On my good days, none of that even matters.

On my bad days, I'm simply not enough.

Lately, I'm not finding myself interesting enough, which explains my recent dearth of blog posts.

But, finally, rather than trying vainly to be enough for you (OK, for myself), I figured it was time to just tell you what's been going on in my head.

The walks have helped. Usually about 11 km (8 miles) in 2-1/2 to 3 hours, with a day off between. Monday, it's back to the gym. Really. No excuses.

This is what I saw on the walk home Friday...







And I wanna fly, too...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Karma, It'll Bite You In The Ass

So, I was sitting on the toilet Friday morning. Yes, that really is how this story begins.

So, I was sitting on the toilet and Dudo decided, as always, it was a perfect opportunity for us to spend some time together. First, he forcefully pushed the door open with his front paws. He checked to make sure I wasn't getting into the shower and then ran for a toy. (The usual routine.)

I threw the toy. He fetched it. I threw it again. He fetched it again. The third time, he returned with a long knotted-up string. We had a tug-of-war. I threw it. He fetched it. He tired of that and then raised up on his hind legs to head-butt my thigh. I took the hint and stroked and petted him. He clearly wanted to hop up on my lap. That was not about to happen.

I stopped responding to his head butts, assuming he'd leave me in peace.

Then I yelped.

DUDO, OUR LITTLE ANGEL.
(CLICK FOR THE BIGGER PICTURE.)

Annoyed by my lack of attention, Dudo bit me on the ass! Well, more precisely, he gave me a love bite (with his sharp little teeth) on the upper thigh.

The message: "Don't ignore me, goddammit!"

I of course gave him a stern lecture. He apologised.


Show me your teeth...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Great Balls Of Fire

I woke up to a magical glowing palm tree this morning on our beach here in Los Boliches. And when I looked below the palm, I noticed some more magic. A castle. I wondered if there were a bunch of little people running around inside, but I was too lazy to go for a closer look.

(Click the images. You don't have to go far for a closer look either.)






I'll bet you were expecting Jerry Lee Lewis. 
Goodness, gracious, not this time. 
This is among the repertoire I used to entertain The Kid Brother on road trips. I still do command performances. (He commands; I perform.)
Nothing but high-brow here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Superstition Ain't The Way

San Geraldo came upon an interesting article on Spanish superstitions. The first one he read to me explained that it's bad luck to put a hat on a bed. Mine is not to reason why. Here's a short list; there are many more.

Knives
Don't buy knives or scissors as a gift. Tradition says this means that the relationship will be broken. I know a couple that just gave another couple a set of knives as a wedding gift. Uh oh!

Don't Break a Leg
In many countries,"break a leg" is the standard way to wish good luck before a theatre performance. In Spain you're supposed to wish someone "mucha mierda" or "loads of shit."

Cats' Lives
We've always been told cats have nine lives. Here in Spain, the poor things have only seven.

Don't Sweep Him Off His Feet
If, while sweeping with a broom, you accidentally brush the feet of someone who's single, they'll never get married. (My sister was always told the same thing would result if she ate the last of anything. So, for example, she always left me one Oreo — but never more than one.)

Yellow Clothing
Never give yellow clothing as a gift, especially to a baby (something about yellow representing sulphur and the Devil). Also, don't wear yellow on the day of something important — or to someone's wedding.

WATER TO DRINK.
BEER TO TOAST.
Drinking Again
When toasting, always look each person in the eye. And, it's bad luck to toast with a glass of water. Fortunately, beer and wine here are cheaper than bottled water.

Grapes in Red Underwear
You may remember that at midnight on New Year's Eve in Spain we eat 12 grapes for luck and prosperity — one for each clock chime (click here for that blog post). I've learned that wearing red underwear will also help. (I'll have photos to share New Year's Day.)

Right Foot First
You should always enter a room right foot first. Apparently, misfortune enters a room with the left foot. However, if you accidentally enter a room left foot first, you can counter the bad luck by making the sign of the cross three times. (I'll take my chances.)

It's Not About the Leather
Spaniards believe that leaving your handbag on the floor will result in you losing all your money. And that would explain why our friends and neighbours get so upset when San Geraldo places his bag at his feet in cafes. I always thought they were concerned about the expensive leather.

Tuesday the 13th
Tuesday and not Friday is the unlucky day here. Don't get married or start a trip on that day.

Fortunately, I'm not at all superstitious. So, I'll continue to do all of the above without suffering any ill consequences.

(I've got my fingers crossed. Knock on wood. And poo poo poo away all you evil spirits!)


When you believe in things that you don't understand...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Going All The Way

At coffee with friends Tynan and Elena Sunday morning, San Geraldo was telling the story of the first escalator to be installed in a department store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was before his time, but he read that it was a very big deal.

"The escalator went all the way from one floor to the next!" he explained.

THE VIEW (CLICK FOR A CLOSER LOOK).
THE MOUNTAINS GO ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!

"As opposed to the ones that only go half way?" I asked.

And that reminded me of another San Geraldo escalator episode...

In 2006, when we were still living in Santa Barbara, California, I was often in Las Vegas on business. San Geraldo would sometimes meet me after my business was done so he could lose money... I mean play games at the casinos.

One week, Linda and Tom (Jerry's sister and her husband) met us there and then drove back to Santa Barbara with us. We had been staying at the Flamingo Hotel (one of my corporate clients). On our departure, we took the narrow escalator leading to the parking garage (it went all the way up to the next floor). San Geraldo was in front with his huge hard-sided suitcase (don't get me started).

He stepped onto the escalator pulling his suitcase behind him.

The suitcase wouldn't fit. It was too wide for the escalator. So, as the escalator continued its upward climb, San Geraldo starting running back down while giving tugs on his suitcase trying to squeeze it into the too-narrow space (I did mention it was a hard-sided suitcase...)

Linda, Tom, and I were laughing so hard, it hurt.

Finally, San Geraldo bellowed.

"Well, don't just stand there! Somebody help!"

I turned the suitcase sideways and it and San Geraldo made their ascent together.

A VISUAL AID...

When we all reached the top, we were doubled over in laughter.

San Geraldo, looking very confused, insisted, "Well it fit when I arrived!"

I took a couple of breaths and calmly stated, "You came in a different door."

(That brought another communal roar of laughter, tears, and stomach pain).

(He arrived by taxi from the airport and came in the main door, which has a wider escalator, which however, goes UP to the hotel).

Tom now does a great imitation of San Geraldo running in place with a suitcase. He calls him "Escalator Man!"


"Climb from dee bottom and reach to dee top..."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What's He Saving For?

I think I may have told this story from my childhood before. If so, forgive me for telling it again. I've  got some new data.

When I was a boy living outside New York City in (or as we said, on) suburban Long Island, I remember riding in my father's car as we headed to Arcadian Gardens, The City of Glass, a large greenhouse nursery where my mother would get her regular green-thumb gardening fixes.

Or maybe we were driving to Walt Whitman Mall, a shopping center on Route 110 in the town of Huntington Station. We would pass what I remember as a low brick savings bank — although that was probably simply my interpretation of the building given its rooftop billboard.

In huge, white, block letters on a red background, the billboard read...


I thought it was a bank advertisement, like:

Jesus Saves. So Should You.
Open A Savings Account Today!

It wasn't until years (and years) later that I realized the error of my ways.

But yesterday, as I walked along the paseo in the beautiful Mediterranean sunshine, I discovered I was right in the first place.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE.)

Jesus was saving for a sailboat!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh

Sunday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of Skyping with My Mother The Dowager Duchess and... drumroll please... The Kid Brother!

When I spoke with him during the week, he said he had an appointment Saturday. So I suggested he visit on Sunday and he immediately agreed. Dudo was happy to see him, too. When he hears The Kid Brother's voice, he knows he's going to get a treat. I put the laptop on the kitchen floor so the cats can see him and he can see them when they get their treat. (Click here to learn about Kid Brother CatSkype.)

The Dowager Duchess and The Kid Brother went out for lunch (across the avenue, which is quite a walk for the Duchess) and even did a little shopping. So, everyone was happy this weekend. (Oh, yeah, and the Dowager Duchess is amazing.)

DUDO AFTER SEEING THE KID BROTHER.
(SLEEPING OFF HIS MEAL)

Monday Morning's Magic...





Don't fear. I've been sleeping a lot better recently knowing The Duchess is doing well and the Kid Brother is back to his routine.

Note: The Tokens were from my neighbourhood in Brooklyn. I went to high school with their [also very talented] sister (Maxine Margo Rubin), who is host and executive producer of the radio show/podcast "The Many Shades of Green." Check it out here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Plugged In

San Geraldo and I went to Feria Sunday night. Last year, we noticed a gay pop-up bar, but we were so deafened by the noise by that time that we didn't have it in us to stick around. As is the case in the USA, for some reason, the organisers and venders at these kinds of events choose to blast music from every venue at eardrum-exploding decibel levels.

Our reaction has nothing to do with us getting more crotchety as we get older (although in San Geraldo's case, it's a fact of life). I remember these same decibel levels from my time spent at discos and bars in the '70s and '80s, and long after —although no longer at discos.

When I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform live in Brooklyn in the 1970s, the music was so loud that I had a ringing in my ears for a few days after.

Anyway, San Geraldo suggested we get ear plugs this year and then try and find that bar.

Behind the casetas (the small houses at the fairgrounds used for parties/food/music), is a strip of temporary bars hosted by different groups and organisations. That's where we came upon that gay bar last year. So, last night, ear plugs in place, we headed down the lane. We never did find the gay bar this year, but I realised that we couldn't have visited with anyone anyway. The ear plugs worked too well. (Click any image; it won't get louder.)

A CASETA.
A QUIET AND LESS POPULAR CASETA.
A TYPICAL RACING COMPETITION ON THE MIDWAY.
INSTEAD OF HORSES, THIS ONE HAD CAMELS.
(WATCH THE FOLLOWING CLIP.)
video



WITH DIFFERENT MUSIC BOOMING FROM EVERY RIDE AND EVERY CASETA. 
LOOKING BACK AS WE MADE OUR ESCAPE.


We heard great singing, so stopped for some traditional Spanish music.
We didn't stay long. Hi ho.
video

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fluffy Ruffles

Just a small(ish) sampling of the vibrant costumes of Feria Fuengirola 2015.

(Click any image for bigger ruffles.)

TOO CUTE TO GET LOST AMONG THE RUFFLES.




PRACTICING HIS DANCE STEPS AS HE WALKED.











AND ONE LAST LOOK BEFORE MY WALK HOME.