|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Tampa Picks For Today
Picks from me, CJ, a paid expert selection service and CompuTrak are up at my horse racing blog.
Good luck to me. And you, naturally.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The Mid-April Where's My Head At Post
It was about 5AM in some shit-ass hotel just outside of LAX a few weekends back that an alarm roused me from a fitful sleep on foreign pillows, motivating me to get my ass packed and in the shower in order to catch a shuttle to the airport. I slumber solidly at home, but have been finding it increasingly difficult to wake up on the road on a more and more frequent basis.
But it wasn't the fatigue that was corrupting my morning a few Sundays back. It was seeing three of my friends that I see and talk to all too infrequently still dozing all about the room that frustrated me. Again, the great geographic divide was going to separate me from a small cadre of my favorite people. People I dig, people I respect, and people that I wish I could find a way to spend more than just the fleetingly rare 72 hours amongst.
I was talking about depression today with a friend who asked how long I've had it. Considering I haven't ever been truly diagnosed, I took the liberty to define what depression has meant in my life. Fundamentally, I consider depression to be a set of adverse an often irrational emotional reactions as an anti-coping mechanism in opposition to life.
Yeah, I've had some time to think about that, and I think that's a fairly solid definition. It's easier to swallow than "fucked up," so I'll self-diagnose as "depressed" instead.
In answer to the question, I took nearly no time to reply, "Twenty years."
I showered and wrote a blog post in the steam on the mirror, replete with HTML markup and the short story of losing the over/under on Chad's upchucked appetizers. At the top of the mirror, this sentence in soap, I wrote something to the effect of:
Never forget the fortuitous friendships that brought you here this weekend.Corny? Yeah, I'm guilty. But in the immediate wake of the Mansion party, and in my vaguely addled skull, I wanted to remind CJ, Chad and Spaceman how much I appreciated them, and how rare it was for four and more to assemble around a friend in need, and have the fortunes pay us off for what we were eager to share in spades.
I've been struggling to try and write something substantial about the evening. It's been a subject I haven't even really broached to this point, and it's because my lasting memories of the Mansion have been, and will continue to be incredibly difficult to articulate. The initial awe of arrival doesn't really wear off, I think my worthy constiuents can attest to that, and starfucking is certainly abundant, but the fact that I got to share this with Pauly, Al, my brother, and the rest of the aforementioned crew was what made this memorable.
It's kind of amusing to look back on twenty years of mood swings, screaming fits and wild swings of nagging inadequacies. Every mile marker along the route to 31 years is dotted by a different compliment of reactionary emotions, not a one in my teens and early twenties making a great deal of sense in or out of context.
Rather than finding constructive ways to approach and address a problem, I was either internally or externally dismissive. I avoided, ignored and bottled this shit up along the way. I don't think depression is all about the bedridden mopey blues, I think it's as much an inability to associate and accommodate as anything. I've lived inside my own head for an awfully long time, and it took me until a solid stretch in my twenties before the rationalization of who I was in my mind started to merge with the me the rest of the world got to know.
Still, I've only managed to quell the ridiculousness of the emotional swings I used to cave to. I'm not the hotheaded prick off a knee-jerk nothing anymore. That's a positive. That being said, I've always been tuned to this frequency, and I don't think I will ever be able to fully change the station.
We were all wearing ear-to-ear grins, totally in egregious disbelief, and probably all waiting for the moment they pulled our cards and sent us back from whence we came. Naturally, that didn't happen, and naturally we all had our individual moments together and apart that we'll carry, but the shared experience is what I'm going to really remember.
I'll remember hoisting a drink with Reverend Al in the pre-game bar, toasting to Vegas, Malvern, LA, the Bahamas and beyond. I'll remember a feebled Chad huffing, "You'll 'take' me up to the room?" before accidentally toppling into a wall attempting to find his equilibrium. I'll remember arguing with CJ that the white sauce on the beef satay wasn't anything to be afraid of. And I'll absolutely remember an hour or so of peace off the fringes of the fracas with Jason and Pauly and Kent. We were on the back lawn musing on everything from writing (naturally) to how the Playmates probably take advantage of the grassy slope by putting a Slip 'n Slide out every summer.
The circumstances of these friendships carry a strong common thread.
It's not poker.
It's unsurprising to anyone who knows or has been reading me that I'm as self-aware as they come, to a fault. I can chart the way that depression has manifested itself over time, and right now I'm in the middle of a sea change. Over the past few years I've fought through some of the most irrational panic you can imagine, but certainly on a small enough scale to blow off. If my boss were coming into town I'd have a few minutes in bed the night before where I'd start to play out the scenarios as to why I might get fired that next morning. It wasn't ever long-term, and certainly wasn't ever anything I couldn't get past after a few minutes. Still, that looming dread was always below the surface.
The Mansion came at a perfect time for me. Post-surgery, post-recovery and full in the middle of the Pennsylvania weeklies I was making. I needed a break, and needed to be buoyed by my friends.
Frankly, I probably needed it as much as Kent.
In January I talked to my boss about how the company was already looking for the next spot for me. In February I was flattered to be asked to help on what I assumed was going to only be a short-term assignment. In March I was told by a number of people in my company that whatever I wanted was out in front of me for the taking.
I got the lifts I needed personally and professionally to ease the panic out of my mind, and have been put in a position where I've been given the confidence to do things I haven't had to before - and am totally proving myself capable.
So where's the depression? It has surfaced a couple times lately in its more traditional form - feelings of abject loneliness. Maybe I'm feeling confident enough in my ability to continue to provide for myself that I feel that I'm not the sadsack I had feared I was turning into, and now I'm not as worried about the worst-case scenarios of perception coalescing into my worst-case reality. Maybe it's just life on the road, being away from what's familiar.
Or maybe it's that these fortuitous friendships that we've built are unnaturally limited by geography, not by choice. I was lamenting this to a friend today, and they responded by agreeing that we would very likely be even better friends were we not half a country apart.
It was at the same time one of the best and worst things they could have said in that moment. Were it not for geography, I'd likely be able to realize even stronger friendships than I'd like to think many of us have built already.
But were it not for geography, the fortuitousness of a Saturday night at the Playboy Mansion might not have carved itself the same place in my memory as it did.
I rue that we can't do this together all the time, but if it had to be but once every half-year, is there any pinnacle more spectacularly and fortunately reached than Hefner's backyard?
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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