Hello and good morning, all. It’s the “ides of April”* today, a date that is much more traditionally associated with dread—in America, at least—than is the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar. It’s also time for my weekly blog post.
I’ve done my part to further general world health this week: I recorded and posted some video of myself playing the guitar and singing, on Iterations of Zero.
No, wait! That’s not what I did that was oriented toward public health (quite the contrary). Rather, yesterday I received my second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. I should be just about as immune as it’s possible to be at this point (or soon, anyway), since I had the infection itself in January, and now I’ve received full vaccination with the version that seems, based on what I’ve read, to have the highest protection rate. This, as I say, was done for social reasons more than for personal protection; I honestly wouldn’t mind much if I’d gotten severely ill**, or even if the virus had killed me. But that’s not a choice I think I have any right to make for other people (neither does anyone else, especially out of personal laziness, contrariness, selfishness, or unwarranted paranoia) so I don’t want to spread it thoughtlessly. Getting as immune to it as I can seems the most reliable way to avoid that.
I did post some videos of myself singing and playing guitar on Tuesday, though. You can watch them, if you want. I’ve avoided posting videos or even pictures of myself in recent years, because I hate how I look now, in many ways, for many reasons. I don’t even like to look in the mirror much. However, I recently figured—at least this is the story I tell myself—that hiding from cameras is like eating when no one is around. Just because someone doesn’t see you eat, and you don’t count the calories, doesn’t mean that you haven’t eaten, and it won’t protect you from the consequences.
Reality is not merely perception. A catastrophe you don’t see coming can still hurt or kill you.
One source of my dissatisfaction with my appearance is that, rather than lose weight when depressed, as some people do, I tend to eat more, and thus to gain weight. This is probably a self-soothing thing, since the process of eating food is one of the most reliable short-term neurological rewards a person can engineer, for good, sound biological reasons. So, when everything else in the world feels and seems like shit, including and especially oneself, it can be hard to resist the urge to snack and overeat.
I suppose opiate and other addictions can similarly be a form of self-soothing, due to literal, direct, neurologic effects. This often leads to emaciation, as all other drives fall by the wayside. But since I associate opiate use with chronic, severe pain, I’m not as likely to seek them out, “heroin chic” notwithstanding.
You can thus tell from looking at me in my videos that I have been struggling with my Churchillian “black dog” for quite some time, with inconsistent (or consistent but negative) results. I also, possibly for related reasons, botched my recent job at trimming my hair on Sunday, and I couldn’t see it until I saw myself on video; no one told me about it, but that’s not surprising. Who would?
Anyway, I figure if I just start doing such videos and posting them, at least I’ll have to face my appearance and what bad shape I’ve allowed myself to get into. Perhaps it’ll help provide some counter-pressure against the eating thing. Also, frankly, people out there in cyberspace just seem to like videos of people, even if they’re just talking to the camera.
I was remarkably stressed by the fact that I was playing and singing on video for the first time ever, even if just on impulse, just to test it. I hadn’t warmed up my voice at all—which I think is obvious—and my guitar playing was not at its best either. I fumbled in many places where I normally play without a problem.
I didn’t even get the picking and fingering in the shot for most of the videos! This is a minor shame, particularly with respect to Street Spirit and Blackbird, since I feel mildly proud of how far I’ve come with them. However, the former song’s complexity of play compels me to cock my neck waaaaay down, desperately eyeballing the pick and to some extent my left hand, and that’s not a great posture for singing. I can sing that song much better when I’m not hunched over like that***. But I was extremely self-conscious during this “filming” process, and it was early morning, and my throat was still dry and yet gummy. These are excuses, obviously, but they are also actual, legitimate reasons, so I don’t feel too bad about making them.
I’m probably going to commit the crime against humanity of sharing these videos on my YouTube channel, and even on Facebook, and Twitter, and on the recently rediscovered Instagram account that I made for unknown reasons in the past. I might as well use it for something. Goodness knows I’ve seen people post worse videos, and I’ve even enjoyed some of them. If you have any strong objections, do share them with me.
On to lighter things, so to speak. I’m making good progress on In the Shade, and the first draft should be done within the next week or so, even with minor distraction from making ill-advised videos. As evidence, on Tuesday, even though I stopped early to do my “filming”, I still wrote about 1500 words on the story. It helps in this that I do have the traditional early-awakening brand of insomnia associated with the “black dog”—actually I’ve always been an early riser and a short sleeper—but at least I can put it to work for me.
Even black dogs can be used as draft animals, it seems.
So, look forward to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I think will be a good collection of stories, and look forward—perhaps with fear and trembling—to the prospect of me doing more videos. If you have any reaction to the ones I’ve posted, please let me know. Also, I’d love to hear feedback regarding The Vagabond, if you have any to give.
*It’s been called to my attention by the alert and educated reader, StephenB (see comments) that the Ides of April is actually the 13th, something I did NOT know at all, but am delighted to learn. Seriously, it made my day. I’m leaving the term, now in scare quotes, in the post, since it’s a fun reference to “Tax Day” in the US, but I expect I shall not make this error again. Thanks, StephenB, seriously. I love learning new things like this!
**As I think I’ve mentioned before, I was not the sickest I’ve ever been when I had Covid, but I was sicker than I’ve been in a long time. Thankfully, I wasn’t as feverish as I was during at least one episode of severe flu. Maybe that’s because now I pretty much always have significant—probably long-term-toxic—levels of NSAIDs and Acetaminophen in my system, because of chronic pain due to “failed back surgery syndrome”. My body probably has a hard time even generating a fever nowadays, so the fact that I did get a fever a few times during Covid might mean that I would have had quite high ones if conditions were otherwise.
***I did some good belting in Exit Music, even resulting in clipping/distortion at the song’s dramatic peak. That’s kind of funny to me; I do get very into that song when I sing it. How could I not? Radiohead wrote it for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare makes everything more powerful.