Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Overdose

It began innocently enough. Doesn't it always?

I got into my car after working out at the gym. Still a little breathless and all hopped up from the "natural high" of the endorphin afterglow from exercise, I reached into my backpack to extract the vitamin supplements that I take after working out.

That was my intention anyway.

But my mind played a trick on me see? It was a mistake I tell you.

Somehow I reached for the wrong bottle, took out a pill, and tossed it into my mouth. Then I took a swig of water and swallowed.

Then it hit me, "Oh my God, I've overdosed on my blood pressure medication!"

I am supposed to take one pill a day and I took one before I left for the gym. (I don't want to stroke out on the elliptical machine now do I?) Now I had taken one after my work out as well.

Just an innocent mistake, I swear it!

My mind raced, "What to do?"

"Induce vomiting," came back the reply. That's what it says on all the labels!

I leapt from my car and ran back into the gym.

"Can I help you?" asked the chipper young woman behind the reception desk.

What is the best way to induce vomiting? What do all the warning labels say?

"I need mustard!"


"I need mustard!"

She looked around behind the desk in an attempt to be helpful. "Sorry. I don't have any mustard. I have a Powerbar, would that help?"

"I don't think so…" I replied.


I gave her a panicked look and ran to the men's room.

I stuck my finger down my throat. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing.

I should have known my lack of gag reflex that serves me so well in certain, um, situations would come back to bite me on the ass one day.

I simply could not make myself vomit.

I guess I can scratch bulimia off of my list of potential weight loss plans.

There's nothing to do but face the fact that soon I will be tripping on my blood pressure meds.

Somewhere in the twisted recesses of my brain the song White Rabbit by the Jefferson Airplane begins to play.

One pill makes you larger

And one pill makes you small…

I return to my car. I need to quickly drive the quarter of a mile to my office before the meds kick in. Those drug warnings don't caution against driving or operating heavy machinery for nothing.

I lock myself in my office and sit down. Got to think! Got to think! Once the drug kicks in no telling what will happen!

I know! I'll just keep the door closed and locked all day. No one will notice. Except…. Damn me and my "Open Door Policy!"

What was I on when I implemented that cockamamie idea?

Maybe I should just admit to everyone that I accidentally took an overdose of blood pressure medicine. But who would believe me. Accident? I can hear them scoffing now.

No. I have to somehow maintain and pretend that nothing is out of the ordinary…

But can I function while I am tripping on blood pressure medicine? I have visions of people asking me how I am today and me responding in a strangely slow voice, "Oh man, my blood pressure is so low…"

What is it about overdosing on pharmaceuticals that makes me think of the 1970's?

7th grade Health class: I was hoping the class would be more about sex and not so much about the dangers of cigarettes and drugs. I get it! Drugs are bad. Now can we see pictures of naked people? But no, the teacher just wants to talk about topics like "gateway drugs" and such.

Gateway drugs?! What was it she said? Something like marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin…What if blood pressure medicine is a gateway drug to something else? Like maybe cardiovascular drugs?

I start abusing this stuff and then I'll be wanting antithrombotic drugs, maybe even something antiarrhythmic. God forbid I start using that antianginal stuff—Nitro glycercerin! Then things start blowing up—just like those meth labs I read about in Time magazine.

I am starting to feel…something. Am I getting "high"? Or, considering the nature of the drug I have taken, am I getting "low"?

What if after today I have a craving to get "low" everyday? I'll start doubling up the dosage. Then I'll develop a tolerance so I'll have to add a third and fourth pill to my sinister vasodilator cocktail. Then I'll go through my prescription two or three times as fast. When Walgreens won't give me a refill I'll have to start getting my blood pressure drugs on the street!

And the ones that mother gives you

Don't do anything at all…

I flash on an image of myself in one of those seedy neighborhoods with drug dealers on every corner you see in anti-drug commercials. As I walk slowly down the sidewalk, the dealers who loiter on the bus benches and under the lampposts mutter in my direction,





I lock eyes with the seedy dealer.

"Oh, the dude wants to get low," he says with a knowing chuckle.

I shudder in an attempt to shake off this prophetic image. It is just like they taught me in junior high school. I should have made more of an effort to pay attention.

Go ask Alice

When she's ten feet tall...

I remember the book Go Ask Alice. All the kids in my junior high read it. It was supposed to be the real diary of a high school girl. Later I learned it was actually one of many novels written by an adult named Beatrice Sparks as a cautionary tale for teens and then marketed as a true story.

A few years ago James Frey took that same concept and applied it to adults. Look where that got him.

Meanwhile Go Ask Alice is still in print and is still taught in schools as a true story.

There's a lesson here:

Make up whatever you want, just don't piss off Oprah.

The Movie of the Week version of Go Ask Alice came out in 1973. The movie includes the memorable line:

He's getting high just talking about getting high, and you're getting high off of his high, and I'm getting high
off of your high. And it's one big contact high.

In the movie, William Shatner (after Captain Kirk but before T.J. Hooker) plays the clueless father of the protagonist—a girl named Alice. When Alice's grades start to slip and she starts hanging out with glassy eyed kids who look like refuges from Woodstock, it never occurs to her parents that their daughter might be experimenting with drugs.

It is safe to say they are the only parents in 1973 that wouldn't have leapt to that conclusion.

All of the parents I knew at the time were extremely paranoid about their kids doing drugs. If you so much as looked at your mother sideways she would start in with the "Are you on drugs?" If you looked sad, happy, mad or tired, one of your parents would inevitably query, "Are you high on something right now?"

Not so William Shatner and his made for TV movie wife. They didn't figure anything out until it was too late.

When logic and proportion

Have fallen softly dead…

Still, Alice's drug problem wasn't really the fault of the parents. It all began when someone slipped LSD in Alice's soft drink at a party. From there life spiraled out of control—more drugs, promiscuous sex, drug dealing boyfriends, running away from home and living on the streets.

After hitting rock bottom Alice seeks assistance from a priest played by Andy Griffith.

She's lucky he didn't throw her in the drunk tank with Otis.

Andy reunites Alice with her parents, she kicks her habit and things start looking up. Then someone slips her drugs (again!) while she is babysitting. When Alice feels the stuff kicking in, she locks herself in a closet in order to protect the baby.

For a moment I wonder if maybe I should lock myself in a closet. When I remember that Alice in the movie freaked out and hurt herself trying to claw her way back out of the closet and wound up in the hospital, I think better of the closet idea.

Where's Andy Griffith when I need him?

And the White Knight is talking backwards

And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"

After getting out of the hospital, Alice really cleans up her act. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. I don't want to spoil the ending in case anyone wants to rent this or read the book but let's just say Go Ask Alice has a sad ending.

That ending seemed a whole lot sadder when we all believed Go Ask Alice was a true story.

Go Ask Alice, like Reefer Madness before it, is intended to scare kids straight. It actually worked on the kids I went to school with—no one at my junior high used drugs.

Everyone waited until they were in senior high school. Some even waited until college.

Remember what the dormouse said...

I guess by now you've figured out that I did not die from my reckless overdose of pharmaceuticals since dead men do not blog.

Despite the all of the warnings I received in junior high school, I did what so many children of the 70's would do---I turned to another drug for help.

I decided coffee was the answer.

If caffeine elevates blood pressure then I figured drinking more coffee would give that extra pill something to do. Apparently it worked.

Let this be a lesson to us all.

Feed your head!

Feed your head!

Feed your head!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Flirting with the Clueless

I got my haircut on Saturday and I swear the woman who cut my hair was flirting with me. Of course this didn't occur to me until sometime on Tuesday when it suddenly hit me—"I think that stylist was flirting with me!" I suppose the flirting can be considered to be less than effective if the flirtee doesn't catch on until 3 days later.

It really wasn't this woman's fault. I am sure she is a very competent flirt. I am just a little slow sometimes.

According to an article on, women are more subtle about flirting and most men need "a larger clue" to figure out what's going on. In other words, as most of my women friends tell me, men are clueless.

The woman who became my college girlfriend had to take her top off before I got the hint that she was trying to seduce me. Even then I wasn't sure if maybe she was just feeling a little warm. In my defense, she was a tad more worldly than I. Let's just say, I was a bit worldlier after that evening, I tell you what (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! ) At the time I was hoping that evening (and the nine months to follow) meant I was straight. As it turns out, I was just bi-curious. But I learned a lot from that experience.

I am now aware that when a woman introduces her breasts into the situation you'd better pay attention because something is up! Word to the wise.

The hair stylist may have just been making conversation. I mean, she didn't take her top off so maybe I misunderstood the signals. She was talking about my hair, my "beautiful hair" and running her fingers through it as stylists will. It got all tussled in the process she said,"now I get to see what you look like when you first get out of bed…"

A more alert man—a heterosexual man on the prowl—OK, A Guy, would have seized this opportunity to say something suave like, "oh baby, if you really want to see what I look like when I first get out of bed maybe you should spend the night sometime."

I thought of that comeback on Tuesday. Not that I would have actually said that to her. I already share a bed with my boyfriend, my dog and my cats. There just isn't room for another person.

You may think the fact that I am gay makes me extra clueless in determining whether or not a woman is flirting with me and you may be right. However, I am proud to report that I am an equal opportunity dullard when it comes to being the object of flirtation—I miss clues when men flirt with me too.

July 25, 1979. My relationship with The Boyfriend was newly minted. He was in Jacksonville and I was in Tallahassee attending the summer quarter at FSU. We did not at that time have an exclusive relationship.

I was taking a creative writing class that met in the evening. One of my classmates was a young man we will call "Jeff." As a matter of fact "Jeff" is his real name. (What are the odds Jeff is going to read this blog and recognize himself after 30 (ouch) years? And if he does, "Hey, Jeff—email me!")

If you have never taken a creative writing class this is pretty much what it entails—the students write stories. Your story is either duplicated so everyone in the class gets a copy or the story is read to the class, sometimes by the professor and sometimes by the student who wrote it. Then the class critiques the story. This can be a scary process.

I generally liked the stories Jeff wrote and he generally liked mine. One evening after class, Jeff invited me to have a few beers with him at a watering hole close to the campus. We will call the bar "Poor Paul's Pourhouse" for that is what it was called. Not only that, but as far as I know the bar is still there.

I would like to mention that the drinking age was 18 at the time. Another reason the 70's was such a decadent and wicked time. Not only were college kids taking illegal drugs they could also drink alcohol legally.

Good times.

I don't remember a lot of the details of that evening but what I do remember has haunted me all of these years.

Jeff was an attractive man. He had long, thinning brown hair (I'd wager by now he is quite bald) with sun bleached blond highlights. Jeff had a great tan—not a George Hamilton scary kind of tan but a nice healthy tan and good skin.

I remember Jeff wore these weird mesh slip on brown shoes without socks. He usually wore shorts. Of course it was summer and if you have ever been in Tallahassee in summer you know that it is wicked hot so who doesn't wear shorts?

Jeff also touched me when he talked. I don't mean he moved me, I mean he put his hand on my arm or my shoulder while speaking. I don't always like that but I liked it when Jeff did it.

We drank beer and talked about life and writing like we knew what we were talking about. I learned that Jeff was from Jacksonville Beach. His parents divorced when he was young, he had some issues with his mother, he wasn't very athletic, he was lonely, he was a writer.

I found I could relate to Jeff.

At one point Jeff looked around the bar, sort of waved his hand and said, "There are a lot of attractive women here," or something to that effect.

I responded with something lame like, "Yeah."

I had not been out of the closet for very long. I had not yet marched on the capital building or done volunteer work for a gay rights organization. That would come later. At this moment in time I had come out but it wasn't something I was all that comfortable talking about.

Then Jeff said, "What kind of women do you like?

Blond women? Dark haired women? Do you like women?"

There is was, Door Number 3. That's the one I should have picked by simply answering honestly, "I love all women, but not the way you mean…"

It is all too clear to me now. However at that moment, in a noisy bar crowded with college kids on a hot summer night in 1979, I was not prepared to open that door. Instead, thinking of the girlfriend I had recently broken up with (OK, technically she broke up with me but that's another blog...)—the one who had to take her top off to seduce me, I answered, "Dark haired, I guess."

I don't remember what Jeff said after that. I assume he told me what kind of women he liked although it was clear he did not have a girlfriend. Or maybe the conversation drifted to other topics. We were English majors so perhaps we discussed literature. ("How about that Great Gatsby!") On second thought, maybe not.

I lived about a half mile off campus. Jeff shared an apartment somewhere with a graduate student. I did not have a car. Jeff had a pickup truck. (Well, he was from Jacksonville Beach…) Jeff offered to give me a ride to my apartment. Again, memory fails me. I am not sure what we talked about on the way there.

I guess it was late. I had a roommate and perhaps I did not want to disturb him. For whatever reason I did not invite Jeff up to my place. Instead we sat in his truck and talked some more.

Somewhere along the way Jeff pulled out a cigar. No, that isn't a euphemism. It was an actual cigar.

A big cigar. Jeff didn't light it, he just played with it, passing it between his fingers. "Have you ever smoked one of these?"

No one had ever asked me that question before---at least not about a cigar. "No."

"It is so big," Jeff said. "It feels so big in your hand and between your lips. You can play out all of your homoerotic fantasies with one of these."

I know. I know. This is where a more alert man—a homosexual man on the prowl—OK, A Guy, would have said something suave like, "Dude, if you want to play out your homoerotic fantasies we won't be needing that cigar but we will be smoking!"

Isn't that a cute comeback? It took me thirty years to come up with that one.

Instead, at the time, I just laughed. As did Jeff.

Eventually I went upstairs and Jeff drove away. We saw each other on campus, we had classes together, we even happened upon one another outside the governor's mansion one evening at an anti-death penalty protest but we never got together again outside of class.

My last memory of Jeff happened shortly before I graduated. I was at the pool, attempting to get a tan. Jeff wandered over. I was sitting up on a towel, Jeff was wearing a pair of shorts. He squatted down as we spoke. He told me he intended to join the Peace Corps after graduation. I couldn't help but notice, as he squatted in front of me, that the leg of his shorts opened up affording me a very clear view of the fact that my friend Jeff had gone commando.

Thanks for the memories, Jeff.

Of course I don't really know what was on Jeff's mind. After all, it was Freud who said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

The hair stylist from last Saturday was probably just being friendly. She does, after all, work for tips. I remember this bartender who used to flirt with me and he wasn't trying to get me into bed. (Oh, actually he was. Bad example.) All I am saying is, sometimes people are just friendly.

I used to work with a woman who was convinced that scores of men were flirting with her all the time. She would read erotic significance into the most mundane, polite small talk. She even decided someone had parked his car in a certain spot because it was close to a window in a room she often worked in. That was more than 15 years ago. As far as I know that woman is still single.

I guess it is better to be someone who misses a flirtation or two than someone who imagines a flirtation where none exists. It is the difference between living a life filled with little surprises versus living a life of ongoing disappointment.

And just in case you're wondering…yes, that was "a look" I gave you…

So tell me—are you a good flirt? Do you notice when people are flirting with you? Any flirtations that got away you'd like to share?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Unbearable Niceness of Being

"Too nice is neighbor's fool"
Dutch proverb

"It's nice to be nice to the nice."
-Frank Burns, M.A.S.H.

Who among us has not been amazed and appalled by how mean and rude some people can be? We all hate rude people and everyone says that mean people suck.

But what about the nice people?

At the risk of sounding cynical, I must confess, I have long believed there is such a thing as "too nice." Maybe that says something about the world we live in or maybe it just says something about me.

How nice is too nice?

There's nice and then there's "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints nice." You may think I am mocking the Mormons but I am not. I have been to Salt Lake City and let me tell you there is no one nicer than a nice Mormon. Think Donny and Marie. Could anyone be any nicer than Donny and Marie?

Now that's a good nice. It is, in fact, the final edge of nice.

Venture too far beyond that edge and you encounter another level of niceness altogether—a kind of mutant niceness, if you will...

There is a Starbucks near my office where I hardly ever go. It is a place where mutant niceness dwells…

The first time I went there was the Friday before Memorial Day. I had taken the day off work but I went to the gym that morning and in an effort to reward myself I went to Starbucks.

Nothing says, "Great workout!" like a triple venti latte and an orange cranberry scone.

I think Jack LaLanne used to say that when he wasn't pulling semi tractor trailers with his teeth or firing up the juicer.

The smiling woman behind the counter took my order and, as they always do, she asked my name so she could write it on the cup with that eyebrow pencil looking implement.

Once I told her my name, she seized upon it like it was the key to happiness. Saying it sure seemed to make her mighty happy.

Customer Service experts will tell you to use the customer's name because everyone loves the sound of his own name.

Me, I can take it or leave it. In fact, when I hear my name used too often it begins to sound funny.

You know, like what happens when you say a word like pistachio or ulterior over and over again until it loses all meaning and just begins to sound like funky gibberish?

That's what happens when someone says my name too many times.

Then I start thinking, "Bill?! Who names a child Bill? What the Hell were my parents thinking?!"

Now the Starbucks lady seemed bound and determined to wreck my name forever.

"Thanks, Bill! And how is your day so far, Bill?"
Why does this sound like a trick question? "Um…great?" I respond hesitantly.
"Bill, that's wonderful! Do you have any special plans for the day, Bill?"
"Why, no. No, I don't."
"Bill, that's great!"
I pulled out a $20.00 bill to pay her.
"Oh, Bill, they don't let me handle money!" She put her hands up in the universal "what can you do?" gesture.
"Um, OK."

I carried my plate with the scone and wandered around to the barista who was making my order. While she was steaming and foaming milk, she looked my way. Clearly she had read my name on the side of the cup.

"Hi, Bill. How's your day going?"
Oh jeez, the nice third degree again!
"That's great, Bill. Here's your triple venti latte. I hope you enjoy it, Bill!"
"Thanks. Who do I pay?"
The first uber-nice woman piped up, "No one, Bill. We just wanted to make your day better!"

The Starbucks' staff's obsession with the quality of my day was both heartening and troubling at the same time…

The last time someone I hardly knew was this nice to me they were actually attempting to draw me into some kind of pyramid scheme involving Tahitian Noni Juice and ten or twenty of my closest friends.

You can see why I am gun shy.

Still, I was grateful for the free scone and steamed milk coffee beverage, even if I had to endure unbearable niceness to get it.

I returned to the same Starbucks this past Friday. Different women were on duty but the nice vibe was in the air…

"Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get for you today?"
"Just some coffee and hold the Tahitian Noni Juice." I replied.
"Pardon me?" My sarcasm had confused the nice lady
"Triple venti latte." I said quickly.
"What is your name, please?"
Oh Lord. I just wasn't up to hearing the sound of my name spoken over and over again.

So, for the sake of sanity, I lied.

"Tim," I replied. "My name is Tim."
"That's great, Tim! How is your day going so far?"

That trick question again!

I wondered what she would do if I replied, "My day is a steaming pile of monkey doo doo, if you must know!" Of course, I'll never know how she might have reacted because what I actually said was, "Fine, thanks."
"That's great, Tim!"

She couldn't have looked happier if she had just won the lottery. In theory I should be pleased that a stranger cares so very much about how my day and I are getting along but I can't help but be suspicious…

Unlike her colleague from a couple of weeks before, this gal apparently did not want to make my day better, as she was more than willing to take my money.

I circled around to the barista's station. She was pulling levers and turning dials like a scientist in a science fiction movie operating one of those devices that bends time and space. Any moment I felt as if we could all be thrust into an alternate dimension.

She looked at me.

Maybe she pushed the right button and everything shifted. It could happen. I have no idea how an espresso machine works.

Or maybe it was just because all this niceness brought to mind similar moments in the past when I have encountered someone who was this nice. When I've seen this kind of niceness before it usually means someone is about to try and convert me to one religion or another. Usually it is an obscure religion. The major ones have pretty much given up on me...

"How is your day going, Tim?"
"My day is going fine, thanks." I respond.
"Tim, that's wonderful. My day is going great too. And do you know why?"
I shake my head.
"Because, Tim, I have embraced Zoroastrianism."
What do you say to that? "Um, OK…" is all I can muster.
"Tim. have you accepted Ahura Mazda as the one uncreated Creator?"
"Can't say as I have…"
"Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail. Then, Tim, the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will cease to be—check it out!" She shoves a pamphlet in my direction.
I pick it up. "Zoroastrianism and You" reads the cover "That sounds really interesting…"
"Read this. If you have any questions, my number is on the back, Tim."

I feel a little funny.

"Tim? Tim? Tim?"
For a moment I am annoyed. Someone is calling Tim. Why doesn't this Tim answer?
"Tim, your latte?"

There is no pamphlet. Just coffee and steamed milk in a cardboard cup with the name Tim scrawled on the side.

For a moment my warped vision continues. I see myself knocking the cup from her hand. "I'm not Tim!" I scream as I run toward the door. As I make a hasty retreat I can hear both women calling out in unison: "Have a great day, Tim!"

Instead, in reality, I am just standing there.

"Tim, are you okay?" asks the barista. The woman from behind the counter has come over too.
"Hey, Tim, are you alright?" she chimes in.

"I'm fine." I say as I take the cup from the counter.

I have a moment of realization. It really isn't fair for me to disdain these overly nice people just because of a few bad experiences with painfully nice people.

It just isn't, well, nice.

Latte in hand, I headed for the door. Just before I opened it I turned back to face my nice tormentors.

"Thanks." I said, looking into the concerned faces of the two Starbucks employees.
"You're welcome, Tim" "Have a great day and a wonderful weekend, Tim!"

"I will, I replied. "And thank you for being so nice."