the bad place

the bad place

Friday, March 29, 2019



Once upon a time, for almost an entire year...

...I didn't brush my teeth.


That is... I did. But only sometimes. When I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel it. The decay. The sense that something was wrong and I needed to try and make it right. Needed a way to impose some order on a chaos that was getting dangerously close to falling the fuck apart.
Needed a step, however small.

Like taking a shower...
Like drinking some water...
Like changing your clothes...
Like deleting the number of someone who you know deleted yours a long time ago...
Like slapping yourself in the face...
Like putting down the flat-head screwdriver that every ghost in the room is screaming at you to drive into your head...

Like brushing your fucking teeth.

That maybe... this simple step... would be the tipping point toward some modicum of control.

I was fortunate. My teeth didn't rot out of my head. And my breath never became a toxic miasma of neglect. (And let me tell you...  even one unsuccessful jab to the head with a screwdriver will put you on the fucking floor.)

It's so bizarre.
That I can force myself to do all kinds of things:
Endure two hours of turned-inside-out intervals on a stationary trainer...
Do pushups until I can barely lift my arms...
Smile and laugh with a customer when every bank account in my name is negative...
Visit family for the holidays and talk about the future as if I haven't already planned where I'll hang myself in a month...
Post something "fun" to social media when there's still blood on my forehead from slamming it against a wall to keep from hurting myself... (the irony?)

...But that there are times that I can't make myself take two fucking minutes to care for basic oral hygiene.

No, it's fine. You're right.

Depression's a motherfucker.


Pisgah... is fine.
It's fine.
It's totally fine.

Hey...  Y'all...          ...It's fine.

But I don't jizz all over myself about it.

Make no mistake... I would rather be in the mountains than the soul-sucking sprawl of the Piedmont, any and every day. The smell of rhododendron. Wet root and rock. The dark pitch and timbre of those hills. Do I really need to tell you how much vastly more moving that is than Greensboro's innumerable telephone poles, garbage creeks, and vape shops?
Pisgah is beautiful. It is. And I appreciate that.
But when I have wet dreams about terrain? When I wake up sweaty and sticky about the swell and press of a landscape...
... It's something spare and stark. Dangerous. With a sky that never ends.
It's confounding. Confusing. A hot breath on my shoulder. An ignored text. Feet touching under a table. Stolen moments in a bar. Sweating in a van.
And for me... that's not Pisgah.

But it's fine.


I pee my pants a lot lately. Ok... Maybe not "a lot." But more than I would like. And that's pretty easy math, because even "once" is approximately 1000 times too many. To be fair... I'm not talking a "Oh no! I pee-peed and it's everywhere and I'm a mess and need new pants!" kind of thing. Sheesh, I'm not a toddler. Not completely, anyway. I just mean... that at any given moment, if I were to drop my pants...  there's a solid 50/50 chance that there will be a dime to nickel sized dapple of a little leaked pee in my heather-gray Hanes tagless boxer briefs.
Not a big deal.
Totally not a big deal.
Hey! Guys! Not a big deal!

Except that it didn't used to happen.


I needed this to be real.
I needed it to be real so hard.

But it wasn't.
I swear to god... fuck everything.


I drink too much.
I do.
I know.
It's not a source of pride, as much as I make all the jokes. And while it's not a "problem" (yet).. I know it isn't healthy.
I mean... I don't think I went to sleep sober once during the month of January.
Or December.
And let's not even talk about November.
Or October.
Or February.
Fuck... Can we swear right here and now to never even mention February ever again?
Or March?
I tell myself that it's temporary. That it's just a bad spell. That once it stops raining... That once I stop working so much... That once my chest stops hurting... That once I get over it... That once I'm in the van... That once I'm on the road again...
I'll stop. Or at least cut back.
And there is no doubt that I drink less when I travel. Maybe a beer with dinner. Likely at a bar in a town I don't know. Watching strangers shine, burn, and fade. A post ride beer as I look at the map and plot the next destination. To and from... wherever. Sip some bourbon in the dark as I drift off in a random parking lot. Tangled up. Or alone.
Yeah, sure... I passed out on the floor of a campground shower in Florida once. Woke up naked on the cool tiles...  still-miraculously-hot water pouring over me... curled around a bottle of whiskey and a drain that had likely seen more human frailty than even I could muster that night...

But that was my birthday.

The point is...
I know.
I'm working on it.


Those times when I am traveling in the van...  when I'm moving around and unsure where I'll even be from night to night... I like to listen to audiobooks.

Specifically, audiobooks of Lee Child novels.
Specifically, audiobooks of Lee Child novels about Jack Reacher.
Specifically, audiobooks of Lee Child novels about Jack Reacher read by Dick Hill.
Specifically, audiobooks of Lee Child novels about Jack Reacher read by Dick Hill, procured, exclusively, from a rack at a nearby Cracker Barrel.

They're terrible.

The characters. The plots. The voices. The biscuits.

And I love them. Goddamn, I love them.

It's... kind of a mania.
Like having to buy Foster's oilcans whenever I see them.
Like having to ride every section of trail in whatever system it is I'm visiting. Even if it's just a 1/4 mile out and back to a parking lot.
Like having to re-organize the cart corral at a supermarket because someone put one of the small carts in the same line as the big carts and everything literally might explode unless I set this right.

It's bad enough that I've been known to exit off the highway multiple consecutive times in search of the right Cracker Barrel. Asking the cashier if there's, I don't know, maybe some kind of database of who has what in stock? Spinning the rack three times in case maybe I just didn't see it the first two.
Michael Connelly? No. Harlan Coben? Nah. Clive Cussler? Pffft.
It's bad enough that Dorrit and I have gone down the internet rabbit hole of "Dick Hill." Where he lives. How he looks. What he wears.
It's bad enough that sometimes, when I'm alone walking around the house, I talk about myself in third person... in the best fucking Dick Hill impersonation you've never heard.


Now... for extra credit, tell me which of these images that come up when you google "Dick Hill" is correct.

Trick question. The answer is yes.




Fight me.


I went down really hard at Croatan Buck Fifty this year.
My front wheel hit a log hidden on the tall grass in the periphery of Savage Road and sent me flying. I landed on my shoulder and head. Hard.
After about a minute, I picked up the bike and kept moving, knowing that I was probably mildly concussed, but continuing anyway. Because stopping... would just mean sitting at the race track and drinking beer until Dorrit and the kids got back in a few hours. And I was pretty sure that if I was concussed, I wasn't supposed to drink a ton of beer?
I mean... It worked out?

But that doesn't mean it was the right choice.
My concern wasn't so much the short term. I hurt, but whatever. It was the months to follow.
Because my last concussion... did a number on me. Even if I wasn't aware of it at first.
I've always had a proclivity to self-harm. I just... have. But the aftermath of waking up on a trail in Indiana with no memory of how I got there... turned that up to eleven. When I would get depressed... which is, yes, often... it would get bad.

I remember turning to Dorothy one day while we were driving and asking, "Hey...  Do you remember me ever punching myself in the face before the concussion?" And after thinking for a minute, she said. "No. You're  right. I think that concussion fucked you up."

And in light of how I've felt for the past few years... I didn't need more of that.


This winter almost killed me.

If you know... you know.

And if you don't?
Then maybe I don't know what the fuck to say to you.

If you've never pressed a blade to a vein...
Put a gun to your head...
Nestled a knife into a space between your ribs...
Stepped in front of traffic...
Taken too many pills...
Torn your house apart looking for a length of something, anything to put around your neck...
Unbuckled your seatbelt on the highway and done the math...
Scouted out the bridge or building that you'll step off one day...
...then... I just don't know what the fuck to even say to you.

But to those of you who know...

I feel you. Goddamn do I feel you.


Hey. It's spring. We made it. Maybe... we're going to actually be alright.
You know?