A Busy Euphoria

There are two kinds of restlessness I've encountered in the course of my life. The first and most common was stress related, and far worse during my school years. Was I ready for the exams the following day? Had I done a good enough job on my homework? Was there any homework I forgot to do? Oh no, I have a science project due tomorrow! These concerns kept me awake at night and, in the case of the forgotten science project, my mom had to stay up until 2 AM helping me cut two pairs of “lungs” out of styrofoam. I did a crappy job drawing details on them in crayon and blacking in the ones that were supposed to belong to a smoker. I passed with a “D” and still have the lungs on a shelf over my bed, probably collecting dust that I’m ironically inhaling. As an adult, similar concerns bubble to the surface when I lay down at night, but they usually pertain to things like meetings and deadlines, the adult equivalent of tests and homework. They don't keep me awake though, because I'm usually exhausted and fall asleep in seconds. Nights are easy; mornings are tough.

The second restlessness, I discovered in college when I started socializing again after a partial hiatus through my high school years. I discovered very young that I'm easily distracted, and my productivity is inversely proportional to the number of friends I have. Teachers in elementary school always had to change my seat to keep me from talking in class, and my grades suffered from my socializing. Even as an adult there are times my inability to multitask causes me to stop working to talk to or e-mail friends. Multitasking is challenging. Sometimes my mom tries to talk to me while I'm writing a blog entry. If I respond, there's a good chance that I'll end up accidentally typing what I'm saying, and subsequently yelling that I'm busy as I delete the words and try to recall the thought I originally was putting down. In college I started making friends again after going to a different high school from the friends I grew up with, and thanks to a couple of girls with an apartment near my school and association with the right common friends, I even found myself invited to parties for the first time in my life. Even when it wasn't a party, when six or seven of us would gather at someone's house to watch a movie or crack jokes at each other's expense, laughing in to the wee hours, I'd feel charged and alive. As late as we stayed up, when I got home I couldn't sleep. My mind would be replaying the good times, and the next day I'd be chipper and verbose as I shared stories with my folks. In my twenties when I'd hang out in Manhattan filming karaoke parties, I'd somehow still wake up three hours after crashing at my friend's apartment to head up to church down the road. There was some kind of positive energy associated with youth that allowed me to function on a busy social life and little sleep. I derived a natural high from talking and interacting with people I liked, and a busy social life created a sort of busy euphoria.

I thought I'd outgrown it, and over the age of 30 could no longer stay out late and still want to wake up the next day. Yet this past Friday, I found myself not working late, though several distractions throughout the day put me further behind on a few deadlines. I didn't leave early because of the gym either. Instead, I found myself drinking vodka with a bunch of coworkers on a van bound for the city to hit a bar to celebrate an office birthday. It's rare that I'm invited to a happy hour, and even rarer that I'm comfortable enough to actually go. In seven years with the company, I've gone out drinking with coworkers on precisely four occasions, not counting Christmas parties, weddings, or baby showers. I found that even someone over 30 can laugh with friends in the New York nightlife, and soon felt comfortably happy instead of my usual state of comfortably numb. At one point a female coworker stumbled over and said in a slurred voice that I looked familiar, asking what I did at the company. I might have been flattered had she not been repeating things and off balance. A girl that used to work at the company, perhaps sensing the potential for misunderstanding, reached out and touched her arm, gesturing to a guy sitting at the bar and inquiring, “I hear that's your boyfriend?” The drunk chick gave an emphatic affirmation, threw her arm around my shoulder, and swung me toward the bar to introduce me. Her guy was actually a big science fiction fan, so when she told him what I did we ended up having a lot to talk about, and he recommended some good sf authors as well as some graphic novels. When I set my drink down on the bar, she picked it up and “helped” me finish it. The drunken remorse set in, and she suddenly said she was sorry and planted a big kiss on the corner of my mouth. “Hey! Are you kissing strange guys in bars again?!” asked the boyfriend, thankfully in a joking tone that indicated he could clearly see I wasn't encouraging her behavior. “I don't know how to tell you this,” I mock-whispered to him, “but I think she's had a little too much to drink...”

As the party continued, I probably would have had more great stories to share. Unfortunately, I had to be in New Jersey early the following morning and if I missed the last train home, I'd have an eight hour wait until the next one, because our line sucks. I hated to leave, but had little choice. On the way to the station, I heard a honking horn just as I felt some wet droplets hit my back. I looked in horror at my right sleeve at what looked like a bit of food. I flicked it off in disgust, wondering if someone driving by mistook me for Nicolas Cage's Weather Man. Despite this one rude interruption, I made my train and got home in time to get about five hours sleep. After a full day of work, a trip to the city, four hours laughing and drinking, and another hour or so journey on the train, I should have been exhausted. I couldn't close my eyes. When I did, I still heard the sounds of the evening, and saw the sights flash by inside my eyelids. There it was. The busy euphoria. The same evening-in-review that occurred after a fun time with my friends in college, a great date in my early twenties, or a wild evening of karaoke in my mid to late twenties. I was over stimulated, but I needed to sleep. I've never learned to juggle socializing and productivity; it's always one or the other with me.

Time passed in an instant. I must have slept a few hours, but I didn't feel tired. It was exactly like being a 20-something kid again instead of a 30-something adult. I got up early without my dad yelling. We made our train connections on time. I played music as though I practiced daily, when in truth I only practiced once this past Monday, and it had been a few weeks since our last real gig. The day went astoundingly fast. Several interesting points:

• The band we played with has a crazy tuba player. He can drive a car, and he's an astounding musician, but he talks to himself and takes some kind of medication. Certain triggers result in specific responses. He likes to talk through his instrument, chanting “The UPbeat band!” If he hears that we're about to play ”When the Saints Go Marching In”, he'll scream “SAINTS!!!” at the top of his lungs. I discovered a new trigger today when I pulled out a bottle of water that had the Six Flags Old Man mascot on the side. He was really tiny but somehow this guy spotted it from a few feet away and ran up to me really excited, reaching for the bottle. “Hey!” he said with a mad expression of glee, “Let's go to the amusement park!” He then began chanting the melody from the commercial before interrupting himself once more with, “Hey! Let's go to the amusement park!” He got stuck on this loop like some acid driven carousel, and only when I put the bottle away did I pull the plug.

• Walking back to the church with my dad after our first break, two really attractive girls greeted us with an enthusiastic, “Hey, guys!” Someone that sounded like me shot back a “How you doing?”, and my sober mind wondered if my drunken and confident alter ego was still lurking in the building. I'd later over think the whole encounter and decide that one of the girls probably was talking on a cell phone I didn't notice, and I'd simply made an ass of myself as usual. The buzz was wearing off.

• At one point in the procession we got a break while the society and their statue took a boat ride. The day was beautiful, and the weather and atmosphere kept my high spirits and energy from the night before. It felt like it was still Summer, being outside and playing music. I bought some hot dogs and a soda from a nearby vendor, and when I opened the generic black cherry drink some of it fizzed out, a reddish pink. I didn't think anything of it, or the red on the tip of my right index finger. I wiped it off with a towel, but a second later the finger was crimson once more. A little too slowly I realized I was bleeding profusely, and wrapped a towel around the finger, which was finally throbbing and starting to hurt. Meanwhile, the boat was back and I had to find a way to keep the towel wrapped around my finger and press the valves on my horn. Fortunately, my dad had a rubber band.

• Along the way, a few guys noticed my makeshift field dressing. One musician asked if I had studied psychology in college since I seemed to know so much about science, probably sarcastically though it sounded more like drunken sincerity, given his confusion of fields. He suggested that if I were ever unhappy in my chosen profession, I consider going in to nursing.

• By 6:30 PM we had reached the festival area itself. Normally we arrive much later, but they had gotten on the boat a good two hours earlier than usual. After the festival, we normally walk directly back to the church, a trek that takes an hour only because they rock the statue out of some tradition that the saint arrived by boat. This year, they detoured down all the streets we skipped in the morning, and I knew we would get home no earlier.

• What we did get was a woman sitting on her front steps talking on a cordless phone while two giant birds perched on her shoulders. The were mostly white though one had a yellowish tinge, and I believe were probably Cockatoos. One of our trumpet players pointed out that when Liberace was asked if he'd ever kissed a parrot, he responded no but that he “sucked a Cockatoo.” I'm only repeating this joke because I don't get it, otherwise it would be inappropriate material to share. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

• When the day finally came to an end at 9 PM, I finally started feeling tired for the first time. My feet hurt, my back ached, and I knew I'd sleep well. I also realized there was a good chance we'd miss the next train home and have to wait another two hours because again, our line sucks. The busy euphoria was wearing off, replaced by “let's get the **** on that train!” Of course™ when we arrived in New York with enough time to reach the train, the stairwell was closed off and we had to walk an extra block to reach the surface. We missed our train by one minute.

• There was another train only a half hour after the one we missed, but it took us a few towns over from where we lived, which means my mom had to pick us up. On the train, the drummer from our band told me a story about how he met a vendor from a feast in queens in a deli on Long Island, saying what a small world it was. Just then his jaw dropped and he called out to a man who had just boarded the train, his elementary school music teacher whom he hadn't seen in years. The world is smaller than we think.

• My mom met us at the station, and I drove home, realizing a half hour later that I had spoken non-stop in relating the highlights from Friday and Saturday. “You must be a happy drunk,” she joked once she could get a word in edgewise, “You sure didn't have anything to drink today? Maybe you should go out more often.” Maybe I should, maybe I should. For now I'm going to get some sleep since I'm playing another gig later today, thankfully closer to home and only for a few hours. By then I should be less hyper and more myself. These rarely seen energy levels are nice, but can overwhelm after a while, even though I think a busy euphoria is preferable to a bored depression.


Blogger Janet said...

I hate the fact that I can't stay up nearly as late as I used to most of the time. Of course I have an excuse, that being that I get up at 5:15 10 months out of the year and deal with eight year olds all day, but I digress.

20 something kid. My days there are numbered.

Btw, for some reason I'm having trouble accessing my own site today. I'm also having trouble accessing big sites, like Google. I don't know what is up with that. Hopefully it will all blow over soon.:(

9/10/2006 8:35 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

One of your links got me off on a tangent:

David Gilmour's solo (in Comfortably Numb) was rated the 4th best guitar solo of all-time by Guitar World magazine in a reader poll.

I can't imagine what numbers 3, 2, and 1 were. The solo in Comfortably Numb is, in my opinion, the most emotive and evocative guitar solo ever. I really can't think of any other solos that are as transcendent as Gilmore's work in this song. The guitar in that song expresses all the ache and painful lost hope that the lyrics deny. The way the lyrics and the solo work with and against each other is one of the most sublime five minutes of rock and roll ever recorded.

9/10/2006 11:21 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

Whatever kind of drunk you are, you're an exuberant story-teller. And where can I hear the David Gilmour piece?

9/10/2006 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Lyndon said...

I'm not sure if your being sarcastic or not, the problem with our generation, but the Liberace joke made me laugh.

To answer your question you asked me, yes my blog has regressed. If your changing to Blogger Beta don't,wait till they force you to.

So now my blog can be found at Lyndonology

9/10/2006 5:04 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

I'm not sure if your being sarcastic or not, the problem with our generation, but the Liberace joke made me laugh.

I got the joke, I'm often sarcastic which is harder to convey in print than it is when I speak to people, and don't tell anyone I got the joke because posting stuff like that will ruin my squaky clean alter boy image.

Sucks about Blogger Beta eating your old site. I'll switch when they drag me clicking and screaming to the new platform. Look for my blogroll to update to the new addy soon.

Lorna, ask and ye shall receive...in this week's P-links in an hour or so.

9/11/2006 12:50 AM  

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