Writing and Poetics

Day Four of Thirty Days of Writing

By Paul Bransom — Wind in the Willows, Public Domain

I began constructing this tower of solitude at the age of twenty-five. I was walking through a life, reacting and walking and waiting for a sign from above or within, to tell me what should be my next step, not just with the future— more a sign of what to do with the present. I often return to Seinfeld, not as a sign, more as a way to escape. There are very few activities that one could define more authentically American (or addictive) then vegging out in front of a television screen.

This particular episode features the second part of a sequential episode A and B, which the show seemed to accomplish with ease — that seamless sitcom transition through the narrative development of divergent plot lines, reoccurring characters and jokes that carry-on from season to season — continuity being the spice of life central to the shows success. George, one of the core-four cast is tormented by his current fiance’s obsession with a childhood doll; while Kramer, another of the core-four works with George’s dad, Frank, to convert the son’s room into a pool room that Kramer and Frank refer to as, “the place to be.” Meanwhile, Jerry is upset with George’s fiance’s friend who continues to complicate his attempts to develop a prop for a joke that he would like to feature in an upcoming late night show interview. Elaine, the last of the core-four, seeks the autograph from Jose Carras of the Three Tenors, which the cast refers to as “the other Three Tenor”, for a conductor of the Policeman’s Benevolent Association’s orchestra whom she is dating, but the relationship ended because while in Italy with the maestro, she spilled red wine on a poster of the Three Tenors.

At some point during this shuffle from delusion and humor to the actual construction of an episode built on the proverbial house of cards, I decided to build a tower, something with the airs of a Western fairy tale, not a tower of Babel, though, I won’t deny its correlation, more a trajectory or distance from faces and touching, reaching for the heights of solitude, a space between the cloistered living of the forest, mountains, abyss. I left Florida and moved to Colorado to study Writing and Poetics.

The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, is one of the only books that I reread for pleasure. In my youth, it was the story of a familiar energy, a familiar experience in life in the matters of comfort, nature, and hyperactivity. It was also about community and how those who you love are the one’s that will save you from yourself.

I began like any other task worth doing, with an extreme prejudice for detail, each brick laid with the direction of my soul, as if one were watching a word become a paragraph, to wit, a belief in the unyielding desire to expend all energy for the purpose of a life. I do not recall the first brick laid, nor the ten-thousandth, it’s odd, the lacuna of temporal affair, or the natural blind spots of memory and substance abuse. Or perhaps, its more the effects of a contemplative practice, disrupting the consumer paradigm through sitting and returning to your breath. An active turn against the market psychology, the dearth of over-stimulation begins with turning the IV off, focusing mind as an alternative to the dopamine of information — not unlike the task of brick laying with its emphasis on attention to detail.

As a child, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Family lore has it that my mother went to war with the psychologist, finally, getting the more apt diagnosis of ADHD, with prominent motor tics. I was on medication for a majority of the first twenty eight years of my life. Most of the medication was for the ADHD and to assist with sleeping. As a child, I also had debilitating nightmares. Looking back at those years, I see how the mixture of medication, psychotherapy, a relatively stable and extremely supportive family, and a mother that would destroy the world for my well-being, has created an upstanding citizen, if you will.

Mr. Toad was the first character that I had found in literature, whom I could relate to. Even as a young child, I was aware when teachers and parents liked and/or tolerated/disliked me. It was an alarming understanding of reality, but I was too obsessed with learning as much as I could about everything, I did not take it personal. I saw Mr. Toad, running around the village without a care in the world for social mores or the microaggressions of those in positions of power.

People have shown me how to persevere and told me to never give up despite the doors that are structurally designed to bar my entry because of the color of my skin, my beloved father’s name and nationality, my zip-code, my disabilities. Very little was handed to me outside of the identities that privilege me socially (which are many) and I have learned a great deal from my many failures. But most of all, it is the community that has allowed me to achieve — those around me who have taken the time to be patient with me.

I would like to end with a quote that is really the source of this piece. It is from season 3, episode 3 of Rick and Morty, titled “Pickle Rick.” Rick Sanchez, the most intelligent man in the universe has turned himself into a pickle, in order to avoid family therapy with his daughter, Beth, who is going through a divorce, and her two children, Summer and Morty. Rick turned himself into a pickle and then was forced to escape from the sewers after being knocked off his work bench. This was after his family found him as a pickle and his daughter took the serum, which would return him to normal, to the therapy session. Rick finally manages to drag his mutated body to the therapy session to finally confront the therapist, voiced brilliantly by Susan Sarandon. Rick explains that he does not trust therapy, because he is a scientist who creates and destroys and she is an “agent of averageness.” Sarandon replies:

“Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness. You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control. You chose to come here, you chose to talk to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces. Your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand. I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die. Each of us gets to choose.”