So, anyone who’s followed this blog for a long period of time knows that in the last month I’ve become somewhat spotty on my updates (read: nearly non-existant). This is pretty common among writers who have blogs, we tend to disappear and then come back swearing that we’re going to do better… then we don’t. Let’s face it, 90% of the blogs out there that have been updated by a writer have tanked after 2 years. But the eagle-eyed among you will notice I’ve been updating this thing for 4 years now and that this was probably my strongest year yet.
So where the fuck have I been?
Well, for that, I’d like to explain to you the reason for the season and tell you about some trees, son (sorry, needed a rhyme there). So for the followers I have, all one of you, I’m now going to tell you a story about…
Those God Damn Walnuts!
Writers have a lot of “muses”. This is our way of saying that we like to excuse becoming chemically altered to “inspire” us. Hemmingway was a total drunk and adrenaline junkie. Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein during a drug fueled livid dream that left an impression on her. Jules Verne reportedly wrote a book when he went for almost a week without solid sleep after discovering his love for cocaine wine. Long story short, the differences between your typical writers’ conference and an AA meeting are carpal tunnel and Pulitzers.
But then there’s me, I only drink on one condition – the Canadians make me. You’d think that’s a joke but the truth is I’ve only had alcohol put in my hands throughout my life by two classes of people: Canadians and my mother. It’s just really hard to turn down people so polite all the time or to refuse a sip of mommy’s magic grape juice when you’re 12. However, seeing as my mother only did that once to teach me a lesson and the Canadians live across a border, you’d expect me to otherwise be stone cold sober 365 days out of the year. After all, I don’t touch anything.
So everything decides to touch me instead.
Once a year, I become accosted by a cloud of dust and pesticides the likes of which can blot out the very sky itself. You’d think I’d be kidding about that but I’m completely literal as I say this shit has made mountain ranges disappear like a Criss Angel trick without an army of cameramen and paid “onlookers”. I am a shill for no man… other than myself. (buy my books)
Now, I’m not saying that the air quality around here is any better year round, there’s a lot of times when those mountains play hide and seek behind nothing but air. But once a year there’s a little extra something in the air, it’s not a sweet aroma and it sure as hell isn’t love, it’s the vile cloud of shit thrown up from harvesting these little fuckers.
The walnut, nature’s answer to a question nobody asked. I ask you this now, how often do YOU eat walnuts if you have any alternatives? That’s right, you don’t. It might be in a brownie, it might be on a salad, but they’re no one’s favorite nut. And you know why? Because they have the texture and flavor of a rice-cake drizzled in nut oil.
Being nature’s filler, shaped like a defective packing peanut inside a wood shell, you’d think we’d have a load of industrial uses to excuse our keeping of the nuts. Maybe we could even feed it to our livestock, as they’re willing to eat just about anything if you grind it up enough. But no, none of this is true; we consider it a food staple as though there was someone willing to eat the thing. In the end, the only real uses for walnuts are oil, wood, and defense against the zombie apocalypse.
But every year the walnuts must be harvested and every year that’s accomplished by approaching a tree with a giant machine and then shaking that thing with the ferocity of babysitter with someone else’s kid. What you get from this interaction is a rain of edible wood and a cloud that I’m sure for a moment has the face of Satan laughing as it rises into the sky. When you take a tree that hasn’t been touched in 364 days, the things that have collected on them are things that should not be disturbed. But does that stop people? Hell no. They jerk that wood with the tenacity of a teenage boy when his parents are gone until their nuts drop.
So what’s my point? At this time of year I have one of three natural states brought about by unnatural circumstances:
1) The Living Dead
Remember when I said that the walnuts could be used to stop Zombies? It doesn’t just apply to the whimsical world of plant based zombie warfare, it also applies to me. There is a state of being in this time of year that is basically like every cold and flu you’ve ever had combined with asthma attacks and a constant tingling sensation that mirrors the descriptions of minor nerve damage. The result is a stumbling, jumbling mess of limbs and a constant groaning sound that some say you can hear in the dead of night if you listen closely enough.
However, unlike my undead brethren, I fear not headshots – because if anything is going to decompress the sinus congestion I experience in that time it would be a shotgun shell. I’m sure other stuff would ooze out as well, and that would be unfortunate, but for a few brief seconds I would probably inhale deep and then thank my assailant for being so well prepared in his bunker.
Now if this sounds hyperbolic – only slightly. This state of being doesn’t last nearly long enough for me to truly wish for the sweet embrace of death, but I am not against simply passing out and I would only be slightly inconvenienced by not waking up again until November. Upon awakening I would be greeted with the news that the walnuts had been purged from our land and that we were going to celebrate by stuffing bread up a bird’s ass and then eating it.
2) The Absent
When not in a state of near or post death, I find myself in a state which involves a lack of cognitive function or an ability to remember things. I’m sure you forget times, dates, and minor details all the time, so you likely assume that it can’t be much worse than that. But what I forget is a little bit of everything as I slowly descend into a waking dream and find myself in a place where the world makes no sense. For that period of time, I have become some freaky combination of the absent minded professor and the dude from Flowers for Algernon when he could feel himself getting stupid again.
Some would suspect, once again, that this is hyperbole. To those people I say to you this: my father, in the same state, accidentally purchased $50 worth of artificial pumpkins and forgot about it because he momentarily forgot how the internet works. This is the sort of story that you expect of an elderly man in his 70s, but my dad is in his 50s and he’s normally quite tech savvy. No, he bought those pumpkins without realizing he’d gone through with the transaction and then forgot about it until the next week. As vengeance, we will now cut those bitches with a Glasgow smile.
But what happens to me, as a writer, is a bit more sinister. I forget words. The words that I forget aren’t complicated or even rare, they’re the words that get used almost every day and are used to describe common ideas. I forget names and places as well. Over the course of the walnut season my language skills slowly devolve until I spend many of my waking moments cursing and grunting incoherently about what people call that thing where they do the…the….THING. The, you know, that thing, where they do stuff…
Which leads to the point where we just have to give in and take the medications. At that time, we enter the third state.
3) The Medicated
There’s a time, when you’ve grown tired of stumbling around, feeling like death and grunting incoherently at everyone passing, that you decide enough is enough and it’s time to swallow anything that might help. It might be a couple migraine tablets, it may be some of that god awful Claritin that never works, or you may just jump straight to some generic Benadryl that taunts you from your desk.
The conflict is tangible. If you don’t take it, you will remain in this world and feel as though someone has tried to stuff your skull with breadcrumbs in a freak pre-thanksgiving warm-up. Perhaps they were Canadian and your head temporarily looked like a turkey. On the other hand, the bottle tells you quite clearly that it may cause some drowsiness and you’re already feeling a wee bit drowsy as is. But hey, if you’re already drowsy and you take medications that might make you drowsy, what do you have to worry about? What’s the worst that can happen, right?
Suddenly you understand everything Pink Floyd was ever trying to tell you and the world has become a different place. You don’t know where your hands are anymore unless you’re watching those fuckers and keeping a steady gaze on them. You’re inspired as hell, but you have no idea how keyboard work no more. Maybe, you think, standing up and walking around is going to help. Good luck, gravity has decided to make you its bitch and if you do happen to stand up you’re going to have the sudden realization the Earth is actually falling away from you. Congratulations, you’ve entered a dimension known only by college students, people with a problem, and all those people at that writer’s conference I mentioned earlier.
There are a few problems with existing in this dimension. The first is, of course, that if you stop holding onto the ground it might let you fly away. The second, after you’ve tied yourself to your chair in front of the keyboard that you managed to find in the last place you left it, is that if you can manage to type it’s going to be hard to focus and everything you put down may be nonsensical. After all, your spirit is in the chair, but your body’s a space cadet. Time passes, you find yourself face down on a futon staring at a clock across the room that lets you know you’ve had Comfortably Numb stuck in your head for two hours that you didn’t notice passed.
You’re not sure if you’re awake or asleep, but you’re fairly confident that if you’re asleep this was a really boring dream. Your friend Tyler has been telling you it’s time to make soap, but that sounds like effort. The only thing you really know for sure is that you don’t want to move right now, and that your headache is finally gone without anyone having to aerate your skull. So, for at least the time being…
Wait, was I productive today…? I don’t remember.
(I write novels! I’m working on a third, I think. But until then, read the first two!)