393. Blues, Stay Away from me

Doug Sahm on the Victrola, well, Pandora on my laptop, but I like the old timey sound of the former technology. Long, long ago I recall hearing Doug sing “Is Anyone Goin to San Antone?” on an FM station, back in the day when FM meant more cool and less commercial. I liked his sound then when I was 16 or so. It fit with Dylan and the Dead. I bought his album Doug Sahm and Band, and lo and behold there’s Dylan and David Bromberg, and many other performers I admired all jamming together. They all knew Doug. I liked that they liked one another. It was a fraternity without Greek letters, hazing or keg parties… just good tunes.

But the point of this post is not fraternal good will nor the Blues; it is instead as old as the first book of the Bible…envy. Joel the intrepid lawyer of Coffee Nation is in Europe this week and next on a musical riverboat cruise. Not the Blues, mind you, unless you count The Blue Danube. No, he is cruising along the Czech waterways from Prague through thousands of sleepy waterfront towns whose names I am afraid to pronounce, following a very urbane schedule of classical music and gourmet food and drink along the way. He’s expecting Smetana, Dvorak and Mahler, champagne, prawns and caviar, but wait…

“Viking cruises?” I inquired.

“No, actually it’s another line that is smaller and caters to the boutique crowd, such as myself, who require the finer things in life. The ratio of guides to passengers is 4 to 1.”

“That’s amazing, Joel. So if your boat has 50 passengers, then you must have 200 staff, is that right?”

“Oh heaven’s no! I mean 1 to 4. Good Lord, we’d sink with your numbers.”

“Now I understand Viking uses drones and border collies to direct their passengers around Europe. It’s a big cost saver.”

“Well, I think you are exaggerating as usual. In any event I’ll be missing from Coffee Nation for the next two weeks. (Long silent pause.) What? No good byes? Not a single hug?”

“You are dead to me, Consiglieri. Go. Do what you must.”

Joel slinked away from the coffee shop like Judas on his way to the High Priest. (Well, that last sentence was for an overly dramatic effect and not in any way to be taken as truth.) He actually walked out like a man in suede Hush Puppies going on a wonderful vacation of a lifetime.

What he did not know was that I had managed to hack his email account with Par Excellence Euro Cruise Lines, PEECL, to switch him over to a competitor shuttler of schmucks, Angry Huns Adventures, AHA. It’s run by former members of Monte Python’s Flying Circus who create a lifelike atmosphere of pirate slave ships for the bored traveler who has seen it all. Milquetoast Masochists Magazine gave it five stars. Once the guests register they are taken into custody on false charges and shackled to an oar below the deck of an old R0man warship. It’s so real that often satisfied passengers rave that it is almost too real when their hands begin to blister and they must eat rancid food and contend with real river rats. Oh it’s great pistachio flavored panache for the discerning palette.

I can picture it now as a long black car meets Joel at the Vaclav Havel Airport.Image result for russian mafia driver pictures

“You are Joel, yes?”

“Why, yes, I am. And I am very eager to begin my all inclusive musical river tour of the Danube. It’s so exciting for a sousaphile such as myself. Do you play an instrument, Boris?”

“Shut up and get in car, Meester Viseguy.”

“But, but, there must be some mistake. I, I, uh, no need to be so hasty and rude, Big Fella. Hey, I paid a lot of money for this suit. Give me back my Panama hat!”

Once inside the shuttle limo, he is blindfolded and handcuffed. His human rights and all hope checked with his bags in the trunk for the next two weeks. Behind a double layer of duct tape he buzzes harmlessly to himself, “I am a United States citizen, a veteran and a lawyer. I know my rights.” But it’s only so much buzzing in the back seat of the newish Moskvich as Boris weaves into downtown traffic and finds the Lugubrious Lady Star just about to cast off from the ancient quay.

Bound hand and foot, taped lip to earlobe, Joel had to hop like Lowly Worm onto the Death Ship, Lugubrious Lady Star, flying the black and gold flag of the Angry Huns Adventures. He was forced under the deck into the dim and desperate galley of 47 other would be passengers; given the number 34; and henceforth ceased to be Joel.

All the other 47 wild eyed passengers were likewise duct taped and shackled to an oar. Clearly he needed to get to the U.S. embassy and file a complaint. He had to call his VISA platinum card representative and stop all payments. He had to find his way back to America and Coffee Nation. “Crack” snapped a moist leather whip expertly wielded by a large woman named Varushka in a forest green KGB outfit, short skirt and tall black boots.  Blood red lipstick outlined her snarling words.

“Comrades, you vill row or you vill taste the vip.”

Joel struggled to raise his hand.

“Number 34, you have question? Untape his disgusting capitalist mouth, Viktor.”

“Ouch. You don’t need to be so rough. Madam, I believe there has been some sort of mistake. I booked a musical tour of the Danube with Par Excellence Euro Cruise Lines and I think I’ve been somehow mistakenly placed on your loading list. Now, I’m sure it’s just a paperwork oversight… and what is a ‘vip’?”

“Silence, maggot. Ve make no mistakes. You vere mistake not ve. Viktor, tape again.”

The hopelessness was heavy  in the humid air below deck as 48 shackled prisoners began to row in unison. Viktor beat time on a conga drum.

Varushka called out the speeds, “Cruising speed, Viktor.” As Viktor pounded out the rhythm, Varushka cracked her whip above the shackled prisoners’ heads. “You vill keep the beat or else be the beat. Capichenakov?” she threatened.  As the old wooden ship creaked and shuddered against the river’s current, a strange music blared on the deck above. Joel thought he was hallucinating at first, then he realized he’d heard this song before. It was AC/DC singing “Highway to Hell”.

“Oh dear God, kill me now”, he buzzed into the back of the duct tape. “This must be the cruise ship on the River Styx. I should have stayed at Coffee Nation.”

–to be continued.



211. Border lines

 antique black frame isolated - stock photo

Like a picture frame, a border line holds an edge and lends definition to something, maybe a garden bed or a basketball court. The line highlights where something ends and something else begins. In the therapy business  borderlines are personality disorders of the first order. The term refers to an imaginary line between psychosis and neurosis. It’s a sanity stripe that some folks dance on all their lives… one foot taps out a rhythm on the scales of depression and anxiety while the other foot occasionally stomps on wild, scorpion delusions.  It’s an awful mix of pathologies that usually results in erratic and fragile folks who are hard to spend any time with, who at the same time are desperately clingy and needy and fear abandonment. Their gasping struggle to hold on to others results in being abandoned over and over again. For them impulsivity is irresistible. Flailing in the deep end of Responsibility’s pool, they drown their rescuers like mythical sirens. Suicidal thinking and attempts go with that awful fence post place where borderlines sit painfully on broken glass, chewing strands of barbed wire licorice. Broken relationships and deaths are hard for the average person to endure, but for the borderline these are exquisitely excruciating exercises in existence. Imagine a swamp that rests on top of a volcano that sits on the San Andreas fault during monsoon mudslide season. The potential for bad things to erupt and splatter is very high.

I’ve read that borderlines are terminal two year olds in their temperament and folks who have no skin– only nerve endings. Everything hurts… the wind, the news, the silence, the drama, the weather, and especially boredom. I’ve also had limited experience with a few. Whew!! Exhausting. And you may be thinking “Oh, sure. How much harder can they be?”  Well, if you’ve ever been in a plane where the oxygen masks deployed, it’s like being in that crisis mode more often than not. You don’t want to get on such a fragile crazy plane again. It’s easy to become a hostage of a terminally flailing victim. Black holes in the social universe that suck up resources and potential disappears… the Bermuda Triangle of mental health… fear, rage, shame, guilt, and chaos swirl there.

BPD’s are forever bored and crave excitement the way that television executives crave market share….”Look at me now, and now, and how about now?” Attention is their oxygen. Endless selfies and soulful despairings attach to their ever changing FB pages. Theirs is the most exceptional life struggle of all time, dontcha know? It’s no surprise that BPD’s are overrepresented in the performing arts and sports and politics where praise and adulation are part of the payment system. And that would make sense because of the intense attention that comes to performers, athletes and politicians. The problem arises when the curtain descends. How on earth is the BPD affirmation junkie gonna get his/her fix in an empty theater, studio or stadium? Oh, I know, go stir up some drama– have a hit of this or spend that or have an affair with someone else’s spouse. And do it now because patience is no virtue in the BPD world. It’s just someone denying an irresistible treat that is deserved somehow.

Do not attempt to be rational with a border line. Their landscape is one of intense superhighway emotions without logical rest stops built in. In fact, there are no off ramps, only breakdown lanes for runaway vehicles. Boundaries do not exist in BPD land: time, privacy, private property, legal rights, social appropriateness, personal space, etc. are always negotiable items. And they promise they’ll never call in the middle of the night again or beg for money or sex or time. Rules, structure, discipline, truth, etc. are all wiggly concepts that can be manipulated by their unrelenting breathless neediness.

“They love without measure those whom they will soon hate without reason.” Thomas Sydenham.
Fallen angels, maybe. Passionate without limits…. Destruction seems inevitable, and there is a higher suicide rate for BPD’s, 8-10%, to be sure. How do you treat these shape shifters with compassion and integrity? I’ve been to personality disorders workshops before and heard that it can be done successfully. But it takes twice a week sessions for at least two to four years. That’s a lot of investment on both sides of the couch. Who has that kind of patience/ time/ money/ or insurance? How do you do therapy with an enraged jealous polar bear at the equator? Always it’s life at the extremes.
The poster girls of BPD do/did have the resources, but I’m not sure that they made it through unscathed if at all. Here are the top seven celebrities who supposedly have/had BPD–Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Princess Diana, and Marilyn Monroe.  Maybe you noticed that three of these ladies met untimely deaths. Swirling tornadoes of hot and cold emotions roiling across the flat lands level anyone and anything that opposes them. Succubi.
 Truly, it’s hard to comprehend such things unless you have experienced them firsthand. And then, since they won’t obey boundaries, you double down on yours, trying to teach them patience or just ignore their drama. Most of the time it is just drama, over blown and exaggerated, full of adrenaline. But there is always the suicide cloud that floats in the background, the ultimate trump card that holds folks hostage. “Don’t abandon me like all the rest have!” Fair? Not at all, but it’s one of the few tricks the borderline knows, emotional extortion. Problem solving interpersonally is not a strong suit.
So we carry them like a pie that didn’t quite bake correctly and we call it cobbler, served in a bowl. We supply the shape for the collapsed boundaries of self. Maybe there never were boundaries to begin with. I don’t know. You and I look in the mirror and see ourselves each morning; borderlines see no one looking back at them; that’s all.