Freed Spirit Center For Blog Cleansing

A week or so ago, Prawn and Quartered took a brief respite from her “A-Team as a metaphor for life” campaign and described blogging as something of a substitute for formal psychotherapy.  I realize that she is not likely the first person to suggest that there are other sources for therapy beyond laying on a sofa and telling some guy all of your fears while he tries to stay awake.  In fact, I’m almost positive I’ve seen a motivational poster on Facebook espousing a much less expensive form of therapy involving the use of bubble wrap.

The thought stuck in my head (apparently there are a few sharp corners inside my skull and all sorts of crap gets snagged there).  I don’t quite see blogging as a substitute for psychotherapy, not that I’ve ever experienced formal therapy myself.

My personal brand of therapy tends to involve me talking to someone (anyone – who are we kidding here?) while looking at the swirling forms in the bottom of my tumbler of scotch.  As in the realm of professional therapy, the biggest challenge is for the listener to stay awake.

The ice cubes are like my emotions, swimming in a sea of The Macallan. They’re connected to one another, but separate. As time passes, they melt and merge into the scotch, which is like the outside world, only tastier. My uncle never really understood me. (Image courtesy of the author’s kitchen counter and smart phone camera)

For some subliminal reason, I couldn’t stop thinking of blogging as a different type of therapy.

In my opinion, blogging seems especially well suited to take the place of colonic therapy.  Not that I’ve ever had colonic therapy either, but you need to give me a little creative license here.  As long as we’re splitting hairs, I’m not sure putting a garden hose where the sun don’t shine necessarily makes the practitioner a “therapist” either.  Forgive me for putting you readers in such a shitty role in this process, but I keep day-dreaming about it.

In my mind, I travel to California, home of any- and all-flaky ways to cleanse ones mind and body of the toxins of the world.  My trip takes me, via an aged Subaru Outback which now runs on used vegetable oil, to a nondescript town in the northern part of the state.  My stomach tightens briefly when I see the sign, written in hippy-dippy, Grateful Dead script for the Freed Spirit Center for Blog Cleansing, High Colonics and Organic Deli .  We turn off the main drag and soon our ride, smelling of falafel, is bumping along the ruts of a gravel road, winding through the countryside.

The building comes into view, looking reminiscent of a house I once saw in a documentary on the Manson family.  There is a dusty VW bus out front and some well-worn mountain bikes.  A couple of scruffy dogs look up briefly from the porch, but dismiss us when it is apparent that we have no tennis balls.

A woman glides from the front door to greet us.  The dogs don’t pay any attention to her either.  She wears a gauzy pile of pastel colored fabric which may have once served as mosquito netting before being tie-dyed and cut into more manageable sizes.  Her feet are clad in some sort of sandals which make Birkenstocks look like Italian pumps.  Despite looking like what would pass for “eccentric homeless” in just about any other corner of the country, she glows with a healthy vigor which makes me feel even more middle aged and suburban than before.   A little voice cries out in my head, telling me there is not likely any scotch in this place.  I briefly chastise myself for not stashing a few airline bottles of some single malt in my luggage.

She introduces herself.  Her name is Lisa and she’s the blog cleansing coordinator and spirit guide.  I’m amazed by her name, as I was fully expecting something more along the lines of “Summer Meadow” or “Goddess Queef”.  She takes my bag and dismisses the driver as we head into the house.  I cast a quick glance over my shoulder and suppress the impulse to chase after the lumbering Subaru.

No papa-san chairs? Where the hell is Patty Hearst supposed to sit when she visits? (Image from apartmenttherapy.com)

The place is remarkably spare of decor, looking almost institutional in its lack of artwork and papa-san chairs.  To my surprise, there is no trace of incense, just the faint fragrance of Lisa’s patchouli.  As we move through the main hall, I catch a glimpse into a room with a couple of padded tables with hoses and various jugs and funnels lining the shelves on the walls.  I recite a silent prayer that it’s a colonic room and not part of the organic deli.

We move deeper into the house, passing closed doors until Lisa finally pushes one open.  Inside the tiny room is a computer on a desk, with a rather hi-tech, cool looking office chair.  The room is devoid of windows or even a light, other than the blue glow of the computer screen.  As my eyes get used to the gloom, I can make out a bare mattress on the floor and a commode in the opposite corner.

“Try the chair, ” Lisa says.

I sit in it and am amazed at how comfortable it is.  I swivel it to the computer.  Once the chair is facing the screen, the rotation stops and the chair locks there.  I hear Lisa over my shoulder, her voice has lost some of its health food co-op softness.

“You need to start the purging process,” she says, “Start typing, and don’t stop to worry about quality or topic.  Bare your soul and don’t concern yourself with what people will think when they read it.”  She continued, ” Don’t waste time commenting on the state of the world or kids today with their wacky iPods and gizmos – Andy Rooney is gone and need not be replaced.”

Didja ever notice how hungry you get for a middle eastern sandwich treat after certain kinds of cars go past you? Why hasn’t it crossed my mind how well a nice single malt would go with one of those sandwiches? (Photo by gossip.whyfame.com)

I try to glance up at her, but her hand gently but firmly turns my face back toward the computer.  I place my hands on the keyboard and tentatively type a few words about myself.  I keep it fairly light, describing the year and place of my birth, as I’m self conscious about Lisa looking over my shoulder.  I stop typing for a moment and cautiously turn my head to face her, but she’s gone.

Suddenly, her voice coos in my ear from speakers in the headrest of the chair.  “David,” she says, “you must write much more than that and don’t think this standard demographic stuff is going to effectively work as purging.  You will be able to use the commode once an hour and the mattress is available for you to sleep briefly every 30 pages.”

I smirk to myself and start reading between the lines to figure out how to satisfy the requirements without actually doing the work.  I’m starting to feel creative and energized at the idea of putting one over on these “therapists” when Lisa’s voice comes back into my ear.

“Don’t bother trying to make stuff up either, we’ve read your blog about art school psychology and we’re well aware of your penchant for creating wildly exaggerated scenes from your childhood.  By the way, ” she continued as a chill passed through me, “I just finished going through your bag and I’m surprised you didn’t pack yourself any scotch.  Not that it would have mattered, alcohol is strictly prohibited at the Freed Spirit Center”

I turn back to the computer, shaken to the core.  I start typing, slowly at first, about my childhood, my eczema, my shyness, my tendency to cry too easily as a child and too slowly as an adult.  The words pour out of me with greater ease and soon the first 30 pages are done.  I don’t even glance at the bed, as my pages cover the awkward teenage years, the awkward college years and the awkward years of my 20’s and 30’s.  Sweat trickles down my temples as the words spill out through my fingers.  The dams of my subconscious are a distant memory now as my thoughts and feelings can’t be stopped from rushing out of me onto the glowing screen.

I speed through my life, all the way up to resenting Lisa’s laundry basket attire and and my lack of foresight in the scotch department.  I describe my distaste for cars which smell like fried food instead of exhaust.  Finally, after outlining my thoughts and fears for my ever-shortening future and doubts about life after death, I stagger from the computer and collapse on the mattress.  Even with my eyes closed, I can still see the words of my massive blog-purge dancing around in my brain.  The lack of windows has left me disoriented, my internal time clock has lost its main spring.

When Lisa opens the door, I flinch and cover my eyes from the painful glare of the mid day sun.  She informs me that two days have passed since she last saw me in person.  I don’t doubt that she’s been looking at me through some sort of spy cam throughout the process.

She strolls over to the computer as my eyes continue to get used to the daylight.

“I’m glad you embraced the blog-purging dynamic”, she says, “You’re not the first one to come here and resist the truth and effort required to truly rid yourself of toxins via blogging ” she said, looking at me with something bordering on compassion.

“How do you feel, now that it’s over?” she asks.

I think about it for a moment.  I’ve been so busy typing, that I’ve lost touch with my feelings for the here and now.  After a moment of consideration I tell her.  “I feel empty” I say, surprised by the croaking sound of my own voice.

“That’s fairly common” says Lisa.  “We have a nice vegan meal prepped for you out in the deli.  Before you eat, you can take a shower.  Earth Sun will back with the Subaru in a couple of hours to take you back to the airport”

With that, she turns and faces the computer.  Before I can utter a sound, she deftly deletes every word I’ve written.  She turns to me and sees the look of shock on my face.

“We may look like counter-culture oddballs to you, David” she says,  “but we still flush when we’re done.”

My Life As A Wise-Ass

I’m a wise-ass from way back.  I have the natural inclination to look at things through the cynical, mischevious eyes of a true ball buster.  If there are no balls available for busting, I’ll look for something smart-alecky to say about whatever’s handy.

Hats off to my orthodontist! Those Invisaligns worked wonders!

If you’re lecturing me in a seminar, please don’t have on a bad toupee or speak with a goofy accent – I won’t be able to focus on a damn thing you’re saying.  If you’re going to say something which could unintentionally send 13 year old boys into fits of snorting laughter, try not to say it in front of me (think Beavis and Butthead with careers and mortgages).  I have just enough self-control to keep from snickering, but I also have the rotten impulse to make my fellow audience members start cracking up if at all possible.  If I can’t find a willing audience member to listen to my side-splitting commentary, I’ll text someone.

It’s not that I’m a bad person, I’m just a firm believer in laughter being the best medicine.  The way the world presents me with crap to poke fun at, the people who surround me could quite possibly live to be 150 years old.  The thing is, I won’t likely be joining them.  I don’t actually laugh all that often.  I’m more of a pusher-man of laughter than an actual user.

I’m sure all of you armchair psychoanalysts out there will see my comedic stylings as a sad attempt at making myself popular. It’s likely rooted in my being shunned as a child due to my eczema and pathetic inability to keep from crying for no particular reason. My derisive comments are clearly a desperate cry for acceptance. Perhaps I use my barbs to build a wall around my soft inner core, like a partially frozen Three Musketeers Bar.  Good for you Sigmund, but let’s talk about your wacky accent;  you sound like the kindly old shepherd caught in a cheap motel with a cute little lamb from your flock.  The two of you look so cozy, smoking cigarettes and watching Animal Planet on cable as you lay in the tangled sheets.  Get yourself some help, you sicko!

In most workplaces, my humor tends to be more subversive. In one particular job, my boss was an aging hippy named David (Never Dave – like me, always David – like me when I’m in trouble).  I guess he was more “new age” than hippy.  He would have these meetings and I couldn’t focus on anything he said because he was such a screwball.  I began to think that irrespective of the topic of discussion, it was only an elaborate scheme to eventually try to convince everyone in the meeting to become vegans.  I started sharing this theory with my buddies in the office.  Since people are fundamentally bored in meetings anyway, the concept of us being pawns in the clandestine recruitment program of radical vegetarians caught on.  We got to the point where no one could really focus on anything the guy said.  We would all just cast smirking glances at one another whenever David would stroll into the meeting in his funny looking, leather-free shoes and carrying a platter of edamame hummus.

For reasons which probably had nothing to do with people not listening to what he said in meetings, David moved on and was replaced by another manager, named Michael.  Michael was quite different than David.  He was an old-school businessman and looked like he might be having a stroke at anytime.  He spoke with a distinctive accent which I quickly pegged as being nearly identical to that of William Daniels, playing the voice of Kit the Car in Knight Rider.  If you could get Michael to say his own name you’d swear you were sitting right there in the passenger seat next to Hasselhoff (say it with me now – My-kull).  True to form, I wasted no time in pointing out this similarity to my colleagues.  Michael’s meetings soon provided us with endless hours of amusement.  It didn’t hurt that Michael was fond of using some really bizarre phrases.  Imagine this one in William Daniels’ voice, emanating from the flashing dashboard of a Trans-Am “..well, if they don’t like it, that’s just hard cheese“.   I’m not kidding, he’d actually say that.

I moved on to bigger and better things.  Their laying me off proved to be a blessing in disguise.

I left those lofty, professional ranks for the position of bartender – worse hours, better pay.  There may be no career better suited for the terminal wise-ass than bartending, except perhaps morning-drive disc jockey or United States Congressman.  People don’t normally enjoy being mocked, but in the world of alcohol consumption, it’s close to an honor.  For an accomplished wit such as myself, mocking the booze-addled clientele was like shooting tipsy fish in a barrel full of vodka.  If you’re a regular at a given bar, the staff, particularly the bartenders, should point out any of your flaws on an hourly basis, or even more often if you’re a good tipper.  If, as a customer, you’re greeted by a demeaning nickname despite repeatedly asking not to be called that, then you are officially bar royalty.

Despite being so well suited for the career, I was smart enough to see the lack of long-term potential in bartending.  Besides, I kept getting canned.

The years have flown by since those halcyon bartending days.  I’d love to tell you that my wisenheimer ways have mellowed with the years, but no one I know seems to think so.  I like to believe that my taste has improved to the point where I’ll wait for the best opportunity to lay out a primo snappy remark, rather than forcing my humor wherever I can cram it.  These days, the amount of ridicule I heap upon my superiors is tempered by the delicious smell of money and the comforting arms of job security.  I end up relegating my mocking and busting of chops for the select few who I know to be able to take a joke and those clueless enough not to realize that they are the brunt of one.

I remember hearing in an art history lecture about an artist who went to be with his mother as she lay on her death bed.  He was frustrated with himself because though he was at her side, he couldn’t help but study the light and shadow on her face.  I would tell you who the artist was, but I was almost certainly too busy coming up with something funny to say to pay sufficient attention to learn that part of the story.  With that story in mind, I know that when I’m laying on my own deathbed, with some clergyman trying to give me last rites, I’ll be listening to his words and hoping I get a chance to crack wise before I croak.  You want to leave them laughing.