Lost my iPhone—it apparently slipped between the seats in an Uber and is forever lost in the bowels of a Toyota—and took nearly a week to get a new one. It was our sole connection to the internet, as I’d put away the desktop when I realized that my epileptic hypergraphia was out of control and my brain a sizzling, sputtering epileptic mess—basically, I was losing it—and figured that an iPhone would help contain the problem. It has, for the most part, with only occasional lurches into hypergraphia and other charming intra-ictal personality traits. Anyway, I was frantic for a few hours after losing the phone, it’s like our entire lives were on it, then it dawned on me that I didn’t actually need the internet right away for anything. I began to thoroughly enjoy not having a digital existence. Suddenly all these projects around here got completed. More reading got done. Instead of Twitter and Facebook and whatever it is that men do on the internet I was watching old movies. Didn’t write one fucking sentence, the spigot had been turned off. It was quite terrific.
Then late yesterday afternoon a lovely little thing in a postal uniform knocked on the door. She looked just like the messengers who are always delivering telegrams at just the wrong times in old movies, except you don’t tip them. Your phone, sir. I thanked her, signed, sighed and opened the box. Spent the next hour trying to maneuver through the tortuous maze Apple forces those among us who do not have any other Apple devices handy to wend our way through to turn the fucking thing on (now that was a sentence, I must be out of shape.) Then spent the next couple hours downloading all the apps that control our lives—I had made a list ahead of time that had them in order and checked them off one by one, like a good secretary. Then I looked at Facebook but couldn’t get into it. Looked at Twitter but it was all massacres and death. Email was just email. Even my blogs failed to spark. Nothing on the little screen sparked, none of my usual digital haunts. It all seemed so, uh, lifeless. Two dimensional. Too digital. So I put it down.
My new and excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle is so teutonically ordered that the creative Irish half is getting surly and bored and would really love some whiskey. Es tut mir leid Nelligan, that’s not in the budget this month. Nelligan loathes Herr Wahl and his perfect budget and organization and bill paying. Hates all the regularity and planning. Hates it with a fine Irish hate. But he’s been cut off. Every time he gets hold of the bank card bills bounce, things go awry, mere anarchy is loosed upon the household. It makes for good stories though. Or did, before the Kraut forced his way back in. Dass ist genug, Wahl commands, you’ll get us all spazzisch im dem Kopf mit your idiotische ramblings and he grabs the iPhone away before Nelligan can finish the
I’m reminded of the time many decades ago that I was smoking a joint with a pretty hippie chick at a reggae festival in Santa Barbara. We slipped back behind the stage, just the two of us, and hid in the bushes getting high. Real high. She had a fat baggie full of skunk weed and rolled big bomber joints with long psychedelically painted nails. We were so stoned and I wondered aloud how she gotten that stash past the really obnoxious security. They’d been searching everything and everybody at the gate. She laughed. I hid it in a well concealed place she said. Oh, like in your bra? I’m not wearing a bra she said and she gave a little wiggle. She wasn’t. We traded a joint back and forth. So how did you get it in then? She smiled. Have another hit, she said and pulled a fresh joint from the hem of her hippie dress. Ah ha.
The only reason I remember that story is that I found a scrap of writing once from 1979 describing it. I have pretty massive memory loss from those days–way too many seizures–and have no direct memory of any of it. No idea who the girl was. I don’t know if we knew each other already or not. Or if we did anything more than lie about in the bushes getting stoned and giggling.
It haunts me a bit, this fragment of an afternoon back in 1979. Like a solitary page of an ancient papyrus, it’s all that remains of a story long vaporized into dust. Amnesia.
OK, I’m not writing a novel. I tried writing a novel once when a Good Samaritan stepped in and told me it was the worst thing he’d ever read. Which it was. So I write non-fiction. Or try, when the epilepsy doesn’t object.
For a couple weeks now I’ve been pushing myself with the writing, seeing what I can do without setting off my epilepsy. There’s been no fuzziness, no numbness in the limbs, very little stuttering and speech problems, no confusion, none of all the symptoms that make me everyone’s quirky special friend. I’m almost as dull as regular people.
But yesterday I stepped outside and the world was gorgeously two dimensional. The colors were vivid, even at dusk, the perspective flat. It looked like a Van Gogh painting, tho’ I suppose only an epileptic can see the epilepsy in a Van Gogh painting. Tonight it was even more vivid. I really can’t explain how beautiful it is, tho’ LSD has a similar effect. But it’s not a good sign. That Van Gogh effect is an epileptic aura, a prelude of the fun to come if I don’t cool it with all the renewed writing. I hadn’t had an aura since I stopped writing last year. Start up again and now I’ve got Vincent Van Gogh eyes.
Experiment over, I will follow my pal Kirk Silsbee’s admonition and take it slow, take it slow. I think in be bop, but I’ll have to write like a cool Stan Getz, if that makes any sense.
So this’ll be the last essay for a while. Now just jokes and insults and the occasional brief whining.
Been slowly getting the brain used to writing more, to see if I can be a writer again without spazzing and all that. It’s the only thing I know how to do, after all. So I push it a little at a time. I used to be the macho epileptic guy, the machoest even, just pushing myself to the max because that is what gnarly epileptic writers do. Seizure? Fuck it. Let’s drink cup after cup of coffee and write all nite and see what happens. And it happened….those long long paragraphs full of crazy rhythms and swirling roller coaster narratives. The grooviest shit. But they took their toll. This new excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle is not big on gnarliness. It’s more goat yoga and being nice. Neither of which I will actually do, but whatever. Anyway, that explains the occasional verbosity on Facebook. It’s not that I like any of you. Well, OK, maybe a little. Maybe a lot even, some of you. Most of you. All of you. Whatever. But I’m not gonna go all Facebook soft and cuddly. Leave a punk rock jazz critic a little pride, sheesh. To quote Lee Ving—well, maybe not. Nor Miles. This is a family website. Fuck.
Power’s been off and on, mostly off, all day here in our stretch of Silver Lake. Gotta love the DWP, delivering juice with all the intermittent excitement of a fourth world capital besieged or maybe Caracas on a bad day for socialism. I made dinner in the dark. Spilled milk. Didn’t cry. Ate in a candle lit room accompanied by our battery operated phonograph. I had listened to Chicago jazz all afternoon–found an extraordinary LP side of Pee Wee Russell, Vic Dickinson, Wild Bill Davison and Bud Freeman from the 1950’s I don’t think I’d ever listened to, with a riotous Muskrat Ramble at be bop tempo, just nuts. At one point I realized I’d listened to three LP’s worth of tracks none of which had been cut less than ninety years ago. An afternoon like that. Then the power came back on halfway through some late forties Ellington. Cat Anderson hit a high note and switched on all the lights. So I put the turntable away and reset all the clocks and started laundry and got online when Elmer Fudd at the DWP tripped over the extension cord again and the whole neighborhood was draped in dusk. As it lingered, ever darker, I lit candles and pulled out the record player again and switched to the two Bowie LPs I have left (I used to have a dozen, but they’re gone) and cringed at Kooks, as always. Then power came back on finally and I put the record player away and blew out the candles and was about to turn on the computer when Jerry Lewis at the DWP beat me to it by falling onto the main off switch with his foot stuck in a waste basket. Darkness again. The whole neighborhood enveloped in darkness. I sat in the living room in the dark and listened to distant light. A siren cut the stillness and coyotes howled and it was like the end of civilization, like Paris in the depth of the 14th century, beset by plague and war and brigands and famine, when wolves haunted the night time streets and snatched the unwary. Like that. Well, not quite like that. It was dark, though. So I lit more candles, pulled out the record player, and listened to the first Buzzcocks LP which I bought forty years ago next year, and it sounded gloriously low fi like it did on cheap punk rock record players in 1978, and I sat in the dark and remembered what a great album it had been to fuck to, but never mind. The second album sounded even better, incredibly creative, and just as Late For the Train reached its swirling, soaring, pounding finish the power came back on, lights on everywhere. Damn, someone at the DWP has groovy timing.
And here comes the epilepsy, a buzzing numbing fog. I forgot.
Corner of Effie and Lucile, a hill or two over, in another blackout, but you get the idea. That’s Sunset Blvd down there, looking awash in klieg lights. Photo by Armand Emamdjomeh, Los Angeles Times, from 2015.
Epilepsy snuck up on me a couple weeks ago and left the brain kinda beat up and wiped out. I probably wrote about that. I was writing about everything. Not a neurologically safe thing to do, writing. Gets everything all worked up, spitting sparks, burning up dendrites in a flash like singed hairs. You can tell the next couple days that things were damaged. You’re slower, and suddenly can’t remember things that you remembered fine the day before. So I’m avoiding writing for a few days, letting damage control reconnect what neurons are still in working order. There’s less each time. Not drooling yet, though, or saying inappropriate things. I was totally weirded out by groceries, however. Weird times. Well, they’re always weird times for spazzes. But weird times out there in the real world too. Fire and fury, the pretty news ladies were all saying, fire and fury, fire and fury. I sat on the couch watching the chatter for hours. At some point I reached my limit. Enough of the fire and fury already, I said. So I changed channels but there was Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire and bashing it to smithereens in a psychedelic fury.