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December 3, 2011

"I'm Just Not Feeling It This Year"





Creighton and family


Say, remember that earthquake/tsunami/radiation soufflé that Fate whipped up for northeastern Japan some months back? Sure you do. And just how has that been working out for those of us living in the country? So nice of you to ask.

Here in metropolitan Yokohama, far from the disaster site, there are few outward reminders of the still-festering wound that staggered the country nearly nine months ago. My supermarket is well-stocked; the customers calm; the Christmas Muzak as grating as ever.

And so we have segued into this mellowest season of the year once again. As usual, the freshmen have gradually warmed to my classroom comedic stylings; seminar students daily fill the air of my office with silly banter; whenever I please, I can peer into the pretty faces of soon-departing senior girls with a love that is at once pure and simple and deliciously vile; the days are crisp and clear and downright Septemberish by Midwestern standards; and my savings account is flush with the winter bonus—nearly 21K in Yankee dollahs this year, a new record. For these reasons, it is a season that I always look forward to, a period during which I often wish that I could decelerate Time, slice it into tender strips that I can chew and savor before swallowing.

But this year? Not so much. I’m just not feeling it this year.

* * *

It was Creighton Bernette who famously uttered that line. Well, “famously” if you watch Treme, the haunting HBO series set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and thus know who Creighton Bernette is/was. One minute, old Creighton was shuffling along in the Mardi Gras parade with his loving wife and daughter (as pictured above) and then he was pulling over to the curb, muttering “I’m just not feeling it this year.” That was the moment careful viewers understood why John Goodman was never listed in the opening credits with the regulars. Not long afterward, his character was taking a purposeful plunge off the back end of a ferry, never to return.

The self-righteous and bombastic Creighton was arguably the least likable Treme character in Season One—which is saying something given the prodigious efforts of Steve Zahn. Throughout his short run on the show I don’t recall ever feeling any empathy with Goodman's character. But that, of course, was before the tsunami and the radiation brought the mindset of Katrina-ravaged NOLA residents into sharp focus for those of us in Japan. So recently, I find myself comparing Creighton’s lot with my own.

Creighton and his family were physically unharmed by Hurricane Katrina; their home was unscathed; his livelihood as (eek!) an English professor uninterrupted. And yet Katrina’s ripples kept lapping up against him, rocking his boat, blocking his writing, igniting volcanic outbursts of rage that briefly transformed him into a YouTube icon, and finally driving him into that Deep Black Hole that dare not speak its name. So, yes, I’m having a heapin’ helpin’ of empathy for Creighton these days.

The parallels aren’t perfect. In terms of “volcanic outbursts of rage,” for example, I haven’t been yanking microphones out of the hands of smarmy Limey reporters and chucking them into the sea. I did, however, suggest various items that Arianna Huffington and Matt Drudge—both of whom I saw as sensationalizing Japan’s plight and profiting from our grief—might like to fellate; and I think you’ll agree that, by the weaselly low-key standards of this blog, that qualifies as an outburst.

* * *

One feels guilty even bringing up one’s own laments down here in the relative warmth and safety of Yokohama. But here, too, we have ongoing ripples. Ripples forever spawning more ripples. It’s the damned ripples, don’t you see.

I’ll try not to bore you with the details, but can make no guarantees. The northern disasters caused serious disruptions with the launch of the new school year in April, resulting in a temporary doubling of my class load and many dozens of hours of extra work. Gradually, some measure of normalcy was restored to the chunk of the curriculum of which I am in charge, but there was a strength-sapping, soul-sucking toll to pay along the way. I learned things about my colleagues, my subordinates, and my employer that I was much happier not knowing—that I would dearly love to un-know somehow, but never can.

Ah: I can see that you’re bored. Sorry, but I’m not quite done whining here. On top of all the above, we still get a bracing Richter jolt like clockwork every other day, usually in the pre-dawn hours—little telegrams from Tectonic Land to remind us that that earthquakes have no “season” the way hurricanes and typhoons do, and that our area of the country, neglected by Fate for so long, has now risen to the top of Fate’s to-do list.

* * *

I’m not depressed. If I were, I wouldn’t be sitting here tapping out grammatically correct, albeit boring, sentences. I’d be flat on my back, like I was eleven years ago, listening to the ticking of the clock*, then gradually imagining that the clock was talking to me, and then traipsing around the neighborhood doing asinine things like crank-calling some poor nimrod whose only crime was being liked by a girl that I liked. I know Depressed, and that’s not what this is.

For one thing, I’m still capable of bragging. (Did I mention that I just got a $21K bonus? And don’t get me started on penile length.) Depressed people don’t brag, unless it’s about med potency. Plus, I’m still getting mileage out of my Rolling Fella Bomber, and that, likewise, does not fit the melancholic’s profile.

That said, I’m returning to therapy next week after a ten-year hiatus. I know the warning signs of depression now, and if I don’t take preventive measures, well, I know where I’m headed. It’s like falling into a hole. It’s like falling into a hole, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and you can’t get out. Then, all of a sudden, it’s inside, and you’re the hole, and you’re trapped and fall over.

Okay, I totally swiped that description from Timothy Hutton’s speech to Elizabeth McGovern in Ordinary People. But it’s a great speech about depression. I couldn’t improve on it—a fact which sort of depresses me.

The one time I found myself truly “being the hole,” I worked my way out of it with very little talk therapy. It was the tag-team of writing and meds that did it. And if offered the chance at my upcoming talk session, I’ll eagerly go back on the meds.

Look, I don’t want to kill myself like Creighton did; at this age, that just seems like more trouble than it’s worth. The movie of my life isn’t so dreadful that I want to cut it short; but recently I wouldn’t mind fast-forwarding through the next nine years until retirement. And that’s pretty much what prescription meds do: They make time pass without your noticing it much. You wake up one morning around 2015 and say, “Hey, the Houston Astros are in the American League? When did that happen?” and “President Gingrich? Holy crap!” and stuff.

* * *

Creighton Bernette is hardly the most famous film character to seek death by water, you know. It’s soon to be that time of year when George Bailey is seen taking his icy plunge off that bridge over and over again**, only to have his eyes opened by his guardian angel. Creighton, alas, received no such timely divine intervention. Will I?

If I have a guardian angel, this would be a very good time for him to emerge from the shadows and bitch-slap me into an awareness of how good things really are. I’d embrace such a heavenly messenger even if he were one of these simpering, flaming-rum-punch sipping, wingless asswipes that tend to get sent down in these instances. “Oh for heaven’s sake, man! You’ve got 21K Yankee dollahs in the bank!” he could say for starters. “Why, you could buy a Rolling Fella Bomber for every death row inmate in America!”***

But until that guy shows up, well… I’m just not feeling it this year.




* Not really a risk anymore, since I finally replaced that cheap clock with one that has a smooth-sweeping second hand. Then again, I’m pretty sure that that old clock never actually talked, so that’s neither here nor there.





** It’s also the time of year that we get to ogle Donna Reed over and over again. And let me remind all of you death row inmates that I have claimed exclusive masturbatory rights to her.




*** If the constant Rolling Fella Bomber references in my recent posts seem belabored, just know that hits to this site skyrocket every time I mention the darned thing. As a search term leading to this site, it even edges out NAKED PICTURES OF SCARLETT JOHANSSON!




Just an afterthought:

If you’re really depressed, do you know what the best music to listen to is? Quite counter-intuitively, I recommend The Beach Boys. There’s a palpable undercurrent of deep, deep sadness to these sunny surfer-boy tunes, which is not surprising when one considers that they sprang Athena-like from the head of Brian Wilson. Just examine the titles! “(We’ve Been Having Fun) All Summer Long” (but summer's over now and it's not coming back); “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (but in fact it isn’t nice at all--as featured in Roger and Me); “In My Room”… I mean, my God…


Announcement appropos of nothing
Gary announces that he has a granddaughter. Seems like only yesterday he and I were talking about the merits of paid vs. free porn sites and the percentage of women who masturbate, and now here he is a family patriarch. Makes you think. Anyway, congratulations, Gary and family.