Open Season

It’s that time of year again. Cleavage time. Vagina time. Presumably dick time, though it may always be dick time.

Clothes are becoming more scanty, the mercury is rising like a morning erection, and those ridiculously ugly gladiator sandals are back. (I could do without that last one.) Men and women all over this great city are checking each other out like six-year-olds at a dessert buffet. Just the other night I was the recipient of a double-take by a guy riding a bicycle, who turned around to get a better view…while in the bike lane. When hanging out with my tall, dark, and gorgeous ex-basketball player pal, she was cat-called so aggressively, one guy actually stopped in his tracks, mid-conversation, allowing his friend to meander along like a dog without a leash. I’m noticing the toned calves of messengers, the ripped forearms of the UPS guy, the bouncing everything of the girl who lives upstairs.

We’re in that sweet-spot in New York weather where everything is lush, sunny, and warm without being oppressive. We still have a week or two before it starts to feel like we’re walking around inside of somebody’s mouth, somebody whose breath smells like dog piss, garbage, and rotting hooker vagina. Why is it that the weather effects our impetus to humpty-hump? It can’t simply be the fact that we’re removing all sixteen layers of clothing that have protected us over the past snowy six+ months. After all, although I’d argue that people in California probably have sex more often than New Yorkers simply because they’re more beautiful, I think that this is a universal trend. There’s the term “summer love,” after all. It was the season where I had my first kiss, and the first time I gave a guy a disappointed grope of my padded push-up bra. I lost both of my big ‘v’s during the hottest time of the year: eating at the Y with my first girlfriend in July, getting pipe put down courtesy of a male friend in June a few years later.

Turns out that there’s an actual scientific basis, at least in theory. In women, an increase in sex drive has been attributed to melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH) which is produced more prolifically when ladies are exposed to sunlight. Other than revving girls’ engines, MSH regulates melanin synthesis, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s the hormone associated with tanning, ie, the body’s way of protecting itself from UV rays.

Another chastity-free, charbroiled chemical component is serotonin. This neurotransmitter is linked to appetite, sleep, muscular contraction, memory, and almost every good feeling that starts in the brain, which is also the reason why you enjoyed making out with that buck-toothed chick while rolling on ecstasy. A bunch of studies have linked serotonin production to sunlight exposure: when there’s increased “luminosity,” there’s also a spike in serotonin levels. But I don’t think that anybody’s going to claim that catching some rays is the same as a night spent spelling MDMA on a stranger’s backside with your body fluids.

So science to the rescue once again! At least this explains why I keep grinding up against lampposts in the park, especially the ones in front of the skate ramp. Enjoy the warm weather, if you’re in New York. Pretty soon the concrete will be buckling, the crime rate will be skyrocketing, the piss on the sidewalk will be steaming, and we’ll all be complaining once again.

Unknown Pleasures

[Note: I have to thank Andrew Norcross of Reaktiv Studios for his stellar redesign of the site. He's fucking genius. Check out his portfolio, I'm proud to be a part of it.]

This might make me the target of ridicule – which I dig in that S/M please degrade me, I like it sorta way -but considering how many times The Cure has had singles on the Billboard Top 100 Chart, and the fact that Morrissey still has a career, I have a feeling that some people may relate.

I left Los Angeles early.

Why?! you ask. It’s sunny in Los Angeles. There are ample fake breasts, celebrities meander among commoners, blonds of all shades giggle and drive like Stevie Wonder, and California as a whole has damn good produce. The Clippers are in LA. So’s my best-friend Bean. Why would anybody in their right mind leave the City of Angels early if they didn’t have to?

Because I was sad. That’s why.

When I was twelve, I started cutting myself with a Victorinox floral knife I stole from my mom ‘cause I was sad.

I also started wearing all black at around that time because I was sad, though one could argue that it was also because black clothes hid stains well and Nine Inch Nails had just started to become successful.

At the end of high-school, after years of being straightedge, self-righteous, and shockingly unpopular, I started drinking because I was sad. Got popular. Got laid. Still was sad.

I’ve done a lot of crazy, stupid, often hilarious shit all because I was sad. And smart stuff too, I suppose. Like sobriety, that was a result of being sad. Moving, multiple times? Ditto. Applying to graduate school? Cue up Joy Division.

Actually, being sad fueled a lot of my cochlear choices, like listening to Cat Power, The Smiths, Fever Ray, Cocteau Twins, etc. Much of my musical taste can be traced back to this inherent, crushing, ever-motivating sadness that I’ve tried to run from, stifle, drown out, or actually drown during my time on the planet. It was a large part of why my last relationship failed, I think, though that could also be a chicken-or-egg argument. (Neither vegan.)

My melancholy, and its accessories of irritability, poor decision making, and inexplicable bouts of weeping, have all been things I’ve dealt with off and on over the years, and like a fertile woman’s menstrual flow, all have had fluctuations in their severity. I rankle at calling it “depression,” since I’m no doctor and I think the term is used too liberally, kind of like the prefix ‘eco’ or Lil Wayne on pop tracks. So in case you’re following along at home, here’s a quick guide to diagnosing yourself with really bad sadness, also commonly referred to as depression:

  • Have you experienced writer’s block – the kind that levels you and keeps you staring at the cursor’s strobe light and tearing your hair out in frustration by the fistful – for three months straight, even though you’ve never suffered from this malady before?
  • Do things that used to make you giddy – such as frozen yogurt, your dog, the NBA Playoffs, photographs of Trent Reznor in the ‘90s, the prospect of eating sushi, and a vacation with your best-friend in West Hollywood – only make you feel hollow or unmoved?
  • Have your naps started becoming mini-sleeps? Has your bedtime started coinciding with that of your eight-year-old cousin who probably has narcolepsy?
  • Do you exist in a fog of nostalgia, idealizing past experiences and relationships that probably weren’t that good to begin with, otherwise they’d still be humming along like a Hitachi Magic Wand?
  • Are you unable to drag yourself out of the house, even if it’s to ogle the hot barista with a like-minded pervy pal?
  • And speaking of perviness, are you, possibly for the first time in your life, disinterested in sex? I mean literally, if somebody attractive is throwing themselves at you, offering their body up like an endless dinner buffet at Golden Corral, do you just shrug, say “meh,” and opt to stay fully clothed on the couch, with a rerun of Jeopardy! and SportsCenter on mute?
  • Have you stopped masturbating?

Seriously, have you stopped fucking masturbating? That’s awful. You should see someone about that.

Obviously if you answered yes to any/all/some of these, you might have gotchyerself a case of the depression and, yeah, you should see someone about that. ‘Cause if, as the saying goes, knowing is half the battle, then seeking treatment is the other half.

It’s estimated that, by 2020, depression and related depressive illnesses will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children. Think about that for a minute. It’s a disability. And, really, it is.

And there are a lot of disabled people out there, handicapped spots be damned. Roughly one in five adults, or 22.1% of all Americans over the age of 18, suffer from a diagnosable mental illness or disorder, with over 12.4 million women and 6.4 million men struggling with depression in the US. (Yup, ladies, it isn’t just PMS. Nearly twice as many women than men suffer from depression.)

Although it can be argued Kurt Cobain’s self-administered haircut glamorized suicide for a generation, depressive disorders have exhibited some shocking statistics that seem to have shuffled by under-the-radar. This might be because the act itself is often smeared with a stigma of being cowardly, and tainting the victim’s family with shame. But suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in this country, with an average of one person killing themselves every fifteen minutes, which tallies up to about roughly 90 suicide victims per day. Understandably and tragically, over 90% of suicide victims have a mental disorder that is able to be diagnosed, with over 60% having been plagued by depression.

The cost isn’t just in lives. Each year, untreated mental illness accounts for over 100 billion dollars of expenses in the United States alone. The sad part is, many mental illnesses are treatable, depression included. Not only is it treatable, its symptoms can be minimized to the point that life’s worth living again: frozen yogurt is worth putting sprinkles on, your dog is worth a scratch, and Blake Griffin is worth an extra pack of batteries for your vibrator. Between 70% and 90% of sufferers report improvement in their quality of life and a reduction of symptoms with psychosocial and pharmacological treatments.

I’m in the market for some of those happy pills, though it pains me a bit to say so. I’ve always looked at psychiatric medication as a sign of defeat, a white flag that I was waving in tandem with my liver, a clear indication that I wasn’t tough enough, wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t a writer enough to usurp my depression and just turn it into an aspect of my life that informs my work, like traveling or my clitoris. Besides, if I was going to rely on something to feel better every day, it would be at least 80 proof. Doesn’t taking medication to alter my mood compromise my status as a teetotaler?

Not quite.

I’ve had to recognize that sadness – depression, if you want to go all pop-psych on the bitch – shouldn’t be a reason to leave my best-friend in her bizarrely plastic new home, it shouldn’t be a masochistic barb to justify addiction or make sobriety more difficult, and it sure as fuck shouldn’t be a hindrance to self-pleasure. If pills will make me a less selfish friend, a better right-handed lover, and a more active member of my already isolating tech-heavy slice of society, then sign me up. I already take vitamins to keep my immune system as tough as a PED-enhanced Big Man and cranberry supplements to keep my tubes clean in case I’m able to use my Venus fly-trap to lure some willing prey. Why not just add another handful of happy helpers to keep me more-or-less sane?

Though if the pills make it impossible to orgasm or turn me into an unemotive walrus, I will throw myself in front of a bus, so help me God.

And if any ‘scrip I’m written makes this blog transform into a sing-a-long about puppies, tulips, and gentle hugs, feel free to do the throwing.

If you or someone you know is at the end of their own Morrissey album, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255


Daunts and Kneads

Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that my best-friend Bean can get me to do nearly anything. Being an only child, I missed out on having an older sibling to guilelessly try to get me to do stupid shit, like jumping off the roof of a garage with a cape tied around my neck, or eating live bugs. Without the social hierarchy of an awe-inspiring peer built into the foundation of my family, I’ve had a revolving roster of people to influence me, and Bean has been the most consistent of the bunch. Because I look up to her and think that she’s the most beautiful, talented, hilarious person on the planet next to yours truly, I have a tendency to follow where she leads. But because, unlike me, she isn’t an alcoholic and she’s relatively level-headed, I often enthusiastically attack whatever she’s suggesting, with little regret later on.

That was until the massage.

Bean is a runner. This is one thing I have never been successfully able to duplicate in my own life. She jogs every day, gets up at the crack of dawn for races on the weekends, and has a tendency to schedule things around her “daily run.” This leads to sore muscles, which she remedies by going for massages at places that, to the less massage-conscious consumer, appear to be sex tourism traps to be featured on a future episode of 20/20. These are the dingy, nondescript massage parlors found on poorly lit side-streets of Manhattan, next to bong stores and a perpetually-closed watch repair shops. They are the kind with no name, no reviews on Yelp, and a man simultaneously smoking a hand-rolled cigarette and re-heeling a shoe behind the counter. Bean swears by these massages, and praises them the way I praise the use of an expensive vibrator. So when I went to visit her in Los Angeles this week, I was finally swayed to accompany her on one of these joint-easing jaunts. This was mainly because she was driving and I didn’t have a choice.

The “parlor” was located on the second level of a two-tiered shopping center, the kind that are frequently found along Los Angeles’ main drags. Across from a Carl’s Jr. in what’s commonly called “Thai Town,” the parking lot was empty except for one or two cars. All of the other stores were closed. A young girl was walking her pit bull barefoot near some dumpsters that bordered the chain-link fence at the edge of the lot. I was not looking forward to this. Even though I look like a teenage druggie who ran away from home in order to be a groupie for The Misfits, I like to equate massage with spas, the kind that have palm fronds and candlelight, bowls of fresh figs and a live harpsichordist. (I don’t know what actual spas are like, but I’m guessing.) When I hear about someone going for a massage, I don’t necessarily think of a tiny hallway with beds blocked by drapes, with the whole area lit by a child’s nightlight and a bare bulb inside of a half-shrouded closet filled with industrial-grade gallons of pink soap and a wall calendar from two years ago. But that’s what it was. A sign next to the front door read:

SEX HAS NO PLACE WITH IN PROFESSIONALL MASSAGE , DO NOT ASK!!

“I like that sign,” Bean said, pointing it out as though it were an emblematic facet of a reputable therapeutic establishment. I nodded.

We were led down the hall of bed nooks. A sheet separated Bean’s little alcove from mine. Somewhere in the darkness I could hear somebody grunting. There was the barely audible, yet ever-present sound of slow motion, punctuated by the occasional whispered, high-pitch tittering  of a language that sounded like Elvish.

“You go here,” said a woman whose face I couldn’t fully make out in the dim light. “Face down.”

Inside of my little cubby was a thin pad, a quasi futon of sorts. On it sat a pair of plaid boxer shorts and a leopard-print tank-top. I opted for the shirt, but eschewed the boxers, deciding to risk it by wearing my own underwear instead. At least I knew when I’d washed them last.

I lay face down on the pad and put my face on the deflated pillow, my breathing shallow and my muscles tense. Next to me, Bean was already being worked on; I could hear the sound of her occasional sniffling, brought on by seasonal allergies. On the invisible stereo, five clarinet notes of a demonic Kenny G loop played over and over again. I thought of quickly getting dressed and sneaking out, citing a family emergency, dead pet, food poisoning. Instead I heard somebody enter, and without so much as a hello two hands began to assail my back much in the way that a butcher flattens a cutlet of veal with a mallet.

Somewhere next to me I heard Bean speak up in a small voice. “Could you go a little harder?”

I have a high tolerance for most kinds of physical discomfort. I have more tattoos than I have pairs of panties, and there’s a skewer through each one of my nipples as though it were a tiny cocktail frank. I workout rigorously six days a week and in the past I’ve enjoyed aggressive yoga practices that – in theory – led to me being able to have sex inside of the trunk of a Subaru. But this woman, who must have been no bigger than an average-sized second grader, was coaxing me to discover a whole new realm of sensation. The experience could only be described as a rainbow of pain. Her hands bombarded me from what felt like impossible angles, until suddenly curiosity forced me to crack my eyes open, unable to maintain my thin veneer of nonchalance any longer.

She was standing on me.

If anyone else were to be in the position she was in, bearing the full brunt of their weight down on my left elbow and ribs as though they were about to execute a WWE maneuver, it would be considered assault. I snapped my eyes shut, drew a small and shaky breath from beneath her feet, and vowed not to open my eyes until I divulged the secrets she was looking for or I was rescued by a Black Hawk helicopter.

A wide variety of manipulations were made to my body, direct hits interspersed by the bending of my limbs into directions they are not supposed to go. (The knee is not a multi-directional joint, last time I checked.) Things inside of me audibly popped. There was the snapping and crackling of cartilage as though we were in front of a roaring fire. I bit my tongue and squeezed my face into an expression that was somewhere between Guernica and The Last Judgment. The onslaught continued.

Here’s something I’ve figured out: there is no training for a massage like the one I received. You simply take a woman with a bad temper, insult her in private, and then let her loose on a victim inside of a small space, where the person lying prostrate at her feet is incapacitated both by a silly outfit and by having paid a few dollars for an experience they’d been misled to believe would ease their aches and pains. I don’t know anything about the lady, what country she was from originally or what had happened to make her so damn mad, but her culture must have a long tradition of suffering. Midway through (or perhaps it was only a few minutes in, I lost track of time while trying to shift my internal organs in such a way as to protect my kidneys and spleen) I began to think of all the things I’d ever done wrong in my life, punishable offenses from which I’d managed to escape unnoticed, free of consequences, giggling at my cunning and good fortune. I saw the faces of my exes and past transgressions play out behind my eyelids: Dustin Merrill, whose finger I broke when he cut me on line for the slide in kindergarten; Alexis Norris, who I bit on the playground in second grade when she called me a shit pooper; my ex-boyfriend whose life I selfishly ruined; my mother…

It only took thirty minutes before the assailant broke my will. Unable to fight, I followed her commands, turned over when she instructed, grabbed her hands in order to be further yanked towards oblivion, bent down when she dug her heels into my back and acquainted me with my own ankles in a manner that I’d neither expected nor desired. At the end there was some sort of incorporation of a hot towel, most likely to wipe away the sweat and tears. Then, as noiselessly and effortlessly as she’d slipped into the nook, the petite pugilist disappeared. I looked down. The paper napkin that had covered the futon was shredded, the pillow haplessly tossed a foot away. Shakily, I discarded the animal-print tank, dressed in my own clothes and retreated from the dark hallway into the front room. I paid the woman a few dollars as a tip, and felt ashamed when, in the fading light of day, it became clear that the person who’d administered that tessellation of torture was at least two inches shorter than me and weighed less than my boots. I sat outside in the late LA sunset and waited for Bean, who emerged a few minutes later, beaming with bliss.

“How was it?” she sighed. “I feel amazing! We should go again before you leave.”

For the record, we both woke up the following morning feeling as though we’d played the pinata to a half-dozen crowbar wielding linebackers. The only difference between the two of us was that I was not surprised. Apparently relaxation is a contact sport. I’m more comfortable chewing my nails on the bench.