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Twisting all the bad things into good

Apr 3, 2012

CHAPTER 18: THE PATRON SAINT OF . . . WHATEVER. Stroke of Genius (Part 3 of 3)

I don't possess these thoughts I have,
they possess me.
I don't possess these feelings I have,
they obsess me. 
 Ashley Lorenzana

            SATURDAY. 9/11/10

            Beethoven was not just some slobbering St. Bernard one bat bite away from being Cujo.
            But in a way, he was.
            He was bipolar.
            A couple of cinematic canines inside one classical composer.
            In movie dog terms, rabies made him a crowd pleaser.
            Confused? Not picking up my dog shit? 
            Like a responsible, yet resentful neighbor, I'll clean it up.
            Beethoven, the man, felt that his mental illness fueled his creativity. He wrote his most famous works during times of torment, loneliness, and psychotic delusions.

            Aristotle said, 'There was never a genius without a tincture of madness."

            It's a thin line.
            The last time I tried to walk such a line, I stumbled my way right into a jail cell.
            This time, nobody was watching me.
            Maybe they were and I just didn't know.
            Paranoia is one problem I don't have.
            Why? Did someone say I was paranoid?
            Who have you been talking to about me?
            If it was my doctor, he would have told you that my biggest problem was lack of sleep.
            Even Sasha Grey would have had trouble swallowing that one.

           When you are involuntarily committed to a mental health facility and made to swallow antipsychotics, it seems as good a time as any to question your sanity. The more times I went over all that happened, and all that I thought happened, the more I considered the doc's explanation as easy to accept as a handjob from a leper.       
            Even if I was not "crazy" crazy, I had to admit that, without my conscious consent, a previously unexplored place in my mind had been tapped into, and the things that sprung from there were more absurd than any movie I had ever seen or any book I had ever read. I could have never come up with such bizarre situations, but I did.
       
            If I was mad, it was because I was a mad genius.

            That would be my diagnosis.
            That would be my defense mechanism.


            One of the things that sets us geniuses apart from the normals and the dummies, is the ability to have an original thought.

            This was not one of them.
      
            Over the years, my friend, "John Jeffson", called me a genius so many times that I had lost count back before I took the SAT's stoned out of my mind in the 11th grade.
            I think "JJ" was probably being sarcastic though, because he only used the "g" word after I did or said something really stupid. He didn't use it in regards to the whole SAT thing though. That would have been the pothead calling the Ketel One black. If you'd seen Jeff's, I mean, John's usually blue eyes that morning, you'd know what I mean. If you don't, you're no genius either, genius.
            Even though I was convinced that I had scored a perfect 1600 because I wasn't "overthinking" my answers, I actually got a 990. Well below genius numbers. At least I was correct when I answered "True" to the statement: "I am not overthinking my answers to this test that my parents sent me to an expensive Kaplan class to prep for, never expecting that I would powersmoke five bowls in a last minute cram session with my genius best friend beforehand."
            I don't know what my stoned study buddy scored, but at least his life worked out.
          
            I knew that, baked or not, I wasn't a genius, at least, not in some kind of standardized test way that means absolutely nothing to anyone who does not perform well on standardized tests. Last I checked, I was three dozen points short of Mensa Membership. That's fine. I'm not a big fan of  hanging out with people smarter than me. They might be able to see through my bullshit.

           This kind of genius had nothing to do with scores and scantrons.
           Besides, those tests are culturally biased.
           This was about intangibles and those things that can't be defined.

            I must have been one of those twisted, creative genius types whose debauchery, as well as bad behavior, would one day be celebrated as something that just went with the territory of being a...uh...twisted, creative genius type.


           This poster on the rec room wall was full of these types of geniuses, as well as plenty of mentally ill people who were famous, but who I would hesitate to call a genius as to not cheapen the label I had given myself. I just wanted to find someone on that poster who I could relate my experience to and then steal their mental illness and make it my own. Maybe wanting a mental illness is a mental illness in itself. If I don't find one that suits me, I may have to settle for that.

          Hey, there's Brooke Shields.
          I definitely would not put her in any category that I'm looking to place myself in. I'm sure in her heyday, or any other day of her life, she would have looked a hell of a lot better in my little jean shorts than I would on my best day, whenever that was. Still, below the surface, there may be something that links me with the model/actress.
          I take a closer look to read the caption under her pic to find out what her problem is.  It says she suffered from post partum...nevermind.
          That shit's for moms.

         The face next to her's is another actress, Carrie Fisher.
         I didn't know Princess Leia was bipolar.
         Best keep that bitch in a galaxy far, far away away from me.
         Poor Han Solo. His woman has manic depression and his best friend is a Wookie.        

          Bipolar is for girlfriends.
          I want to be labeled with a mental illness that is both manly and cool, and most importantly, blurs the line between madness and genius.
           I think I've earned it.

           Sir Isaac Newton.           
           Possibly schizo.
           Possibly bipolar.
           Definitely a math guy.
           Not my best subject.


           Brian Wilson's pretty cool.
           The creative genius who named his band The Beach Boys even though not one of them surfed.
           Schizoaffective disorder.
           Besides having zero musical talent, I'd like to avoid any disorder with "schizo" in the name.
           Plus, it's the bipolar type.

          Abe Lincoln.
          It says our 16th President had depression and suicidal thoughts.
          I really don't see myself ever entering politics in this lifetime, not with the graveyard in my closet. There's a better chance of me assassinating a president than ever being one. Makes me wonder what John Wilkes Boothe's major malfunction was.

            John Nash.
            Wow. John Nash. I never knew John Nash was mentally ill.
            Who the fuck is John Nash?
            Oh, okay. He was the paranoid schizophrenic mathemagician who Russel Crowe played in Gladiator, or maybe it was A Beautiful Mind. As cool as it would be to have a movie made about me, schizophrenia is a bit on the extreme side of the mental illness spectrum for me to be comfortable with. Plus, Good Will Hunting, is the coolest math problem solver guy ever. How do you like them apples, Isaac Newton? Angry Will Hunting would beat Nash's ass into the ground of an outdoor basketball court, even if that fight was only possible in the mind of a schizo. In a real life fisticuffs between Academy Award Winners, I don't know, I think that Cinderella Man would probably beat the shit out of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but Jason Bourne is as sick as they come, so I'm gonna have to give to it Damon on screen, but as for off screen, well, I guess I skipped over that because it would never happen. Seriously, why would Matt Damon fight Russell Crowe? That's just stupid. A genius does not waste his time considering such nonsense.
           

            Vincent Van Gogh.
            There was debate that schizophrenia and being bipolar inspired his paintings, of which he only sold one before his death. There is no debating that his last work of art was created with a shotgun  instead of a paintbrush.

            I'm looking for someone who is a tortured, but accomplished writer. I'd welcome that over a life of mediocrity. My problem, well, one of my problems, was that I wasn't even mediocre. I sucked.
 
           Edgar Allen Poe.
           A dark, tortured, opium smoking alcoholic is much more my style.
           Come on, man. I didn't know Poe was bipolar too. I do know that he exploited his personal struggles in his writing, which seems like a pretty good idea to me. I'll have to remember that.

            Darkness, I can deal with. Depression, I'm done with.

            Charles Dickens.
            I imagine that his depression would not be alleviated if he knew that I had  blasphemed his most beloved novel by insinuating that I am some kind of strung out Scrooge in my own cracked out version of A Christmas Carol. 

           Leo Tolstoy.
            I always confuse him with Dostoyevsky. It looks like Tolstoy is the one who wrote The Confession about his mental problems.
            A memoir about depression and substance abuse written by a hypochondriac?
            Sounds pretty lame.

            Ernest Hemingway.
            Never heard of him.

          Kurt Cobain.
            Attention Deficit Disorder/Bipolar. I'm gonna guess that it wasn't as much ADD as it was his Bipolar depression that resulted in the gunshot to the head that resulted in The Foo Fighters. Kurt was pretty cool, a bit overrated in my opinion, and definitely loses points for marrying Courtney Love. Plus, I always preferred Pearl Jam.            
              
         Virginia Woolf.
           All I know about this bipolar novelist is that she filled her pockets with rocks and drowned herself in a river, and that somebody is afraid of her.
            
           Sylvia Plath.
           Poet, short story and novel writer.
           Depression lead to her suicide by putting her head in an oven.
       
           What's with these women writers? Why don't they just blow their bipolar brains out with a shotgun like the men do? 

         Tennessee Williams
           Suffered from depression. Great playwright. Gay playwright.
           I'm not sure how he died, but I doubt a shotgun was involved.

           Eugene O'Neil.
           A writer who suffered from depression. How novel.

         Friedrich Nietzsche. 
           Like me, Nietzsche went crazy. Unlike me, he never came back. I think I'm back, but then again, a few days ago I was convinced that I was party to a shipwreck discovery. I'm still not sure what that was all about.
           Nietzsche is the philosopher most often quoted by wannabe intellectuals who try to apply his words to themselves. My personal favorite being, "Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with his own blood." 
            I don't know what that means, but someday, maybe I will.

            But at what price?   

            Would I really welcome some form of madness if it meant admitting that I will never change what I am, but I might be able to twist weakness into the strength necessary to write in my own blood even one thing that I considered worthy enough to justify a psychotic episode and deplorable behavior, if it allowed me to do what mattered to me without the worry of what people might think or say, even if it meant that everyone else might not laugh with me, or near me, but only at me, but in those same times I could laugh at myself, by myself, and find enough meaning in my half assed attempt at art that I could say "fuck it" and "fuck them" if they don't like it or if they don't like me, because my insanity would be romanticized whether I cut off part of my ear or preheated my head in an oven before I painted the walls with my brains, or even if I just decided to not become a cliche and decided to do something as boring as it is original by attempting to die, but only after I've lived, happy...
            And if that is madness,
            if that is mental illness,
            if I have not done so already,
            show me where to sign up,
            Let my pen...
            and my name,
            and my life,
            be my own.

           Before I got too deep to make it back to the surface with any air left in my lungs so I could sign my name in blood in request of my preferred brand of lunacy like I was at some deranged deli, I had a few thoughts that were borderline brilliant.

           Their lives were their own.             
           Their existence, their experience, could not define mine.
           As great as many of these people were, I'd prefer to pass on the misery and the depression that seemed to define many of their lives.
            I always wanted to be great.
            I never wanted to be a "normal" person.
            I believed them when they told me I was special.
            I was none of the above.
            It did not take a poster to reveal this to be true.
            Special people do special things.
            Normal people don't end up in places like this.
            Great men do not jerk off in the shower in a place like this.
            If you know of any, please email me as soon as you finish reading this at james-macdonald@live.com.
            That sounds like one book I would really like to read.

            I would have liked to compare notes with that writer, had I bothered to take any of my own.
    
            That's when I think I had a side effect common to antidepressants known as a "brain zap". If I wasn't being sedated with second generation atypical antipsychotics and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, I would have called this a "moment of clarity". Every writer who appeared on this poster, whether genius or bipolar or both or neither, as well as every writer who did not appear on it, had one thing in common. They all did one thing that I didn't.
           They all wrote.
           There's a stroke of genius.

            It is not uncommon for a genius to "overthink" such a simple concept, and as a result, overlook that which may seem obvious to a person of normal intelligence. So if you caught on to the whole "writers write" thing before I did, well then we both know who the genius is. I'm sure in comparison, your moral superiority negates your intellectual inferiority, so don't get too down on yourself.
            Dumb ass.
          
            It may have been the medication, but my "overthinking" mind was now picking up on what even the most moronic of normals had never realized. Maybe I had dumbed it down, but it seemed so obvious.
            Who was the genius who "under thought" it was a good idea to put this "inspiring" poster on the rec room wall of a mental health facility? How did nobody realize that just about every face on this poster is of someone who killed themselves as a direct result of their mental illness?  Excuse me, I meant, killed themselves as a direct result of their gift

           I started to ponder whether being a genius was really the romantic notion I had romanticized it to be.

           I'll just settle for being a jerkoff.
           Being a jerkoff has less stigma attached to it.
           Everybody does it.
           Just not in a mental facility.
           Whatever.
           So, I'm not a mad genius or some  tortured artist.
           Maybe being original is better than being haunted.
           Maybe I just needed my medication increased.
           Or maybe decreased.
           Or maybe it was just right.

           Most likely, I was just really bored.


           I looked around the table at some other people who were not geniuses or normals or dummies.

          "Anyone wanna play some dramahoes?"

           They did.
           As usual, I won.
           It didn't take a genius.

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