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First Page Chapter 1 – Sex, Drugs, And Bipolar

New York City, 1989

 I look at suicide out of the corner of my eye, too afraid to stare head on, helpless to look away. 

I’m only 34 and not ready to die, but the depression is unrelenting. I’ve tried everything. I even tried a little acid, which turned out to be a pretty big mistake. Tonight, with nothing in my system except Cheerios, I can still feel the tears. 

“I’m not sure how much of this I can take,” I say to Maria.

“You know we’ll get through this,” she says.

“You should never have married me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.  You think I only love you when you are not depressed, but as I keep telling you, you are the same man.”

“This time seems different,” I say, “and it has been going on longer.  Three months and I can hardly function.  Some days I can’t get out of bed. And I’ll lose my job if I stay on disability any longer.”

 I see no end to it, and I can’t understand how I will survive much more. Worse, I have tethered Maria and Paco to me, forcing them to make this terrible journey as unwitting fellow travelers. Maria has enough on her hands with caring for Paco and working, without having to worry about me as well. Suicide seems a way out of all this, but I’ve always been too frightened of it to carry it through.

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First Page Chapter 2- Sex, Drugs, and Bipolar

I was raped when I was ten. I spent much of the rest of my life self-destructing.

Brooklyn, 1965

My parents will never let me go camping with guys older than me, who they don’t know and who I only know through my CB radio. But they made it sound so great: eating over a campfire, playing games, sleeping in tents.  So I tell Mom that I’m going with a kid I met through the radio, Billy, and his father. This is the biggest lie I’ve ever told her, but I really want to go. 

Of course, Mom is against it. “Go with one of your friends who we know,” she says.

“I don’t have any friends,” I say as I push my glasses up on my nose. I hate that they keep sliding down.

“Sure you do. You must have friends from class.”

“No, since Bobby moved away there isn’t anyone. The other kids make fun of me because I’m no good at baseball or basketball or anything. You’re always telling me to go downstairs and play, but there isn’t anyone to play with. That’s why I wanted the CB radio. And now I do have a friend, and you won’t let me go camping with him.” I can hear myself whining.  

“You’re going overnight?” my mother asks. 

      “Yeah, it’s camping”

      “Don’t roll your eyes at me Will. And I want to meet them.”

Woodstock 1969

The following is an excerpt from Sex, Drugs and Bipolar and takes place at the Woodstock festival when Will is 14. At this point in the story he is tripping and has gone off for a walk.

… A cute girl, probably about my age, with tight curly black hair and iridescent green eyes comes up and puts a lei over my head and smiles sweetly as she walks away. I say “Hey!” and she turns back around and there’s that smile again. I’m not sure what to do — I’m too high to really trust my judgment but she starts walking backwards, keeping her eyes on me. Then she turns around and I follow her. She is putting leis on everyone she passes, and in exchange a few people have given her flowers, which she puts in her hair or in her blouse. She is wearing a loose-fitting Indian print top, shorts like I am, but she has sandals on, where I have sneakers. After a few minutes she turns around and says “Are you following me?” 

I stammer, “Yes, I mean no, I mean sort of.” She laughs and comes back to me and takes my hand. We walk together and she gives out leis with her right hand while holding my hand in her left. She doesn’t say much for a while and then she says “how’s the acid?” 

“How did you know?” I ask. 

“Oh man, I could pin you from a block away. First, your pupils are big enough for me to walk through. Second, you have that goofy LSD grin and you keep stopping to look at your hands. I figure it must be pretty good stuff if you’d rather look at your hands than look at me.” 

“Oh God,” I say, “I’d much rather — I mean…” Then I blush and she laughs.  She tells me she came here with a bunch of other people, and their van is parked not far away. Do I want to go there? I do, very much. 

We walk over and she introduces me to everyone. I forget each name as she tells me the next. They all greet me with “hey man” or “welcome dude” or “hey, cool, Misty has a boyfriend.” That last one makes me a bit nervous, because I don’t want Misty to get embarrassed, but she just smiles and nods.  She leads me by the hand into the van, and once we sit, she lights a joint. She takes a long toke and tries to pass it to me. “No, ” I say, “I don’t like pot when I’m tripping.” Her laughter is like tiny bells echoing off the walls of the van.

 She then leans over and kisses me. A long sweet kiss. The floor of the van is covered in pillows. We lie down and continue kissing. I’m incredibly turned on by her but when I put my hand on her breast, she moves it away and says “no man, just kiss me. I really dig kissing you.”  Tripping makes this fantastic, her tongue entwines with mine and I love the taste and texture. Her lips are incredibly soft; I do not want this to end.

LSD At Harvard, 1969

[ The following is a brief excerpt from my book Sex, Drugs, and Bipolar. ]

It turns out that I’m not as much of a run-away as I’d like to be. I always end up at my sister in law’s apartment in Brooklyn, or at my brother’s place at Harvard. Well, not actually at his place; I start out there but spend the vast majority of my time either playing pinball at the Harvard Coop, or smoking pot in the underground hallways, or tripping and smoking and playing pinball all at once. When I’m playing pinball on acid the song Pinball Wizard by the Who is on repeat in my brain. The LSD really does seem to improve my game — and it absolutely makes it more fun. Of course, acid makes nearly everything more fun.

Being at Harvard is weird. I’m a few years younger than the youngest students, and I’m often asked what I’m doing there or if I’m lost. These are interesting existential questions when you are tripping. What am I doing here? Am I lost?” 

A few times I have been able to trip and hang out with my brother’s friend Ben who is an incredible musician who records free style music; somewhere between interesting and ecstatic.

He starts with a synthesizer, and then runs the music through a series of modifications. Brian Eno calls this “generative music” and Ben is recognized in the music industry as pretty much a pioneer in the field.  He is a truly nice guy and is happy to let me lie on his couch and listen as he writes his pieces while I am blitzed out of my mind.

Aunt Shirley: Biographical Flash Fiction

Aunt Shirley was a Red. That is, she was a Communist from childhood. She fully supported the Russian Revolution, and the Bolsheviks under Lenin. She went to see Trotsky talk when he was in New York. 

“I was a good communist as a child. Then that crazy-man Stalin came along and it was all for nothing. He destroyed our vision of a worker’s paradise.”

Shirley was blacklisted for her politics, just around the start of the second Red Scare. No one would hire her. My Uncle Ira was a vice president of his company and his wife, Aunt Ella begged him to get her sister a job, which he did. He got her a good job on the shop floor. Six weeks later Shirley took the entire company out on strike. Fortunately, her uncle got her out of there before the violence started. The only reason Shirley and Ella kept talking after that was because of Shirley’s deep commitment to family.

I still don’t understand how they could have been sisters: one a racist religious Republican, the other a union-organizing Socialist. The third sister is my mother, a liberal, but one who made her “girl” eat in the kitchen.

Shirley and I would have long talks about Socialism, about civil rights, unions and much more. She had strong opinions and didn’t hesitate to share them. I loved it. We would sing union songs together, and of course the International, which I knew in English but she knew it in English, Yiddish and Russian. 

She did settle down and marry my uncle and have two children, but I don’t think her idealism or fiery commitment waned much. She marched on Washington and wrote letters to the editor. She was adamantly against our involvement in Vietnam, and did all she could to organize against it. She despised “Checkbook Liberals” who send money and then sit at home. In her mind, if something was wrong, unjust, racist it was incumbent on you to take action: organize, march, talk, write.

Shirley was the smartest person in my family, which made her degenerative Alzheimer’s all the more tragic. We watched her lose her brilliant mind slowly, over an extended and horrific period. At first, she knew what was happening to her, and then she was so far gone she didn’t. 

Watching anyone die of Alzheimer’s is, of course, a tragedy, but watching this extraordinary mind drain away was heartbreaking. 

The rabbi who spoke at her funeral knew nothing of Shirley’s commitment, her politics, her fire. He spoke of her as a mother and as a Jew, ignorant of her incredible history. Then her children spoke, and that was much better. They spoke with love and honesty and paid tribute to their mother’s politics and warmth and love.

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