sarah michelle gellar and the unbounded agony

I've spent the last several days getting in touch with my feelings. By which I mean constant physical pain. My back, which has been dodgy for years and has now decided to get really dodgy around the L4 and L5 vertebrae, has been giving me weeks of ever-increasing pain. It's like a dial being slowly and steadily turned up until I'm whimpering and cursing at 4 am, trying to wrestle my consciousness into sleep from the grip of the pain.

I'm not complaining here. And I'm not looking for advice. Everyone has advice. Everyone's advice is well-meant, based on hard-earned experience, and ultimately not much practical use to me. Go to a chiropractor. Don't go near chiropractors. Get acupuncture. Needles are a joke. Massage is wonderful. Massage is useless. Go to Dr. X, he's the most experienced back specialist in the city. Avoid Dr. X, he's a noneganarian butcher who's so palsied he looks like he's doing jazz hands. Dr. Y is the best. Dr. Y is the worst. Try ice. Try heat. And so on.

I have tried this and that. I have gone to three doctors and booked an appointment for a specialist. I have tried ice, tried heat, tried chiropractors, gone for massages. My physiotherapy starts Wednesday. The only thing I haven't tried so far is acupuncture, which is probably the magic solution to my troubles.

And I have tried drugs. I have not shied away from assaulting my nerves with chemicals. Weeks divided into alternating days of Robax Platinum and days of acetaminophen-caffeine-codeine tablets. You have to ration out the codeine pills because pharmacies are stingy with their narcotics. In between, wherever prudent, alcohol in all its body-numbing varieties.

After those ran out and the pain hadn't lessened noticeably, I switched from off- the-shelf and over-the-counter to begging-the-doctor. Flexeril as a muscle relaxant (warning: dizziness, concentration problems) and Arthrotec as an anti-inflammatory (warning: dry mouth from hell, upset stomach, nausea, possible diarrhea), which left me a befuddled, burping mush-mouthed mess for the first day or so. Then, after a week, when I realized that I was stiffer and in more pain, hydromorphone in 3mg doses, a ramped-up version of morphine. Warning: constipation. So along with the little green morphine pills, laxatives. "That's right," Schmutzie said when I told her about the side effect, "Junkies don't shit".

Hydromorphone is my first experience with narcotics of this stripe. I can claim an acquaintance with drugs of all kinds, from the familiar to the downright weird (and I'm not counting the time me and my friends all smoked darjeeling tea, based on a rumor that it was a cheap and legal high) but I've avoided opiates in all their splendor (codeine tablets being the exception). I refuse to believe that any junkie with dignity would stoop to this stuff. After two hours, one pill produces an icy numbness in the affected area, a sparking cold running down pain-inflamed nerves. I can still feel the pain; it's just put on a different suit or something. Two pills produce a weird mental fog and turn my consciousness into a cold slippery thing that feels slightly repulsive to the touch, and even with all that, I can still feel the cold lines of pain streaking from my hips and spine down into the soles of my feet.

The pain is worst at night. All of my muscles from my lower back to my calves, are tense and screaming, and rebel at the thought of relaxation. They spasm, quiver, lock up and pull me upright every time I try to find a comfortable position. I shove pillows between my legs, under my back, prop up my shoulder, hold up my head, whatever will give me a moment's relief. And moments of relief are all I get. A twinge will bloom into a radiant ache, a slight pull on a muscle will suddenly tense up a leg, and a tiny shift in weight will flood my lower half in pins and needles. When sleep comes, it ambushes me.

I've discovered that constant pain is boring. To put it another way, pain and boredom have the same effect on my mind. Time is forced open by pain; moments are pried apart and pain pours itself into the spaces. Under this condition, the pain becomes weirdly bearable, because after a while you have to start thinking about something besides the pain. Even though it won't distract for long, strings of thought start weaving in and around the pain, but in the emptiness and sheer monotony of pain, the existential lightness of pain, my thoughts throw their weave over empty spaces.

For example, Sarah Michelle Gellar.

I saw a picture of Sarah Michelle Gellar the other day at the Tribeca Film Festival. The night before last, as the pain and the morphine were beginning to get together and make things really loopy, I thought about the picture of Gellar, bony and dark-haired and barely recognizable as the star of some pretty crappy movies and one good TV show from the early 2000s. I wondered what she'd been doing between the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival - not what films or jobs she'd picked up in the last few years, but what she had been doing. I tried to picture her in a kitchen, waiting for her toast, or walking down a street, or flexing an elbow or standing in a huge empty room full of plastic-covered furniture with her husband - and none of it seemed plausible. I just didn't buy the notion that Sarah Michelle Gellar had done anything between early 2004 and two days ago.

I don't think that Gellar is a bad actor, although her attempts at seriousness and depth on Buffy felt pretty flat to me - she had a habit of registering torment by bulging out her eyes, as if she were coming to grips with an intense need to vomit. She just struck me as one of those people who deactivate the moment they're not being looked at.

Normally this is the kind of thought that pops into my head and vanishes again before I can wonder if it's even worth writing about, but in bed the other night, with pain strongarming its way into my consciousness, the thought filled up the empty spaces in my mind. It seemed to stretch and fill everything, spilling over into all kinds of categories that Sarah Michelle Gellar should never spill into. Gellar, I thought, as a real person, the one we don't see, the one that I refuse to credit with existence, is absurd, and if she's absurd, then so are other people. All the other people and the things that they do, the clothes they wear and the children they pick up from daycare. And I was implicated, caught up in the same absurdity, the same stretched-out emptiness. I was as implausible as Sarah Michelle Gellar and the whole universe. None of it, not even the thinking of it, was worth the effort of belief.

Except the coffee. Suddenly I remembered that I was looking forward to coffee in the morning. A bodum's worth of the strong black stuff. Coffee concentrates time, knits moments together and reinvests the world with substance. This is something that non-coffee drinkers don't realize. Even the hope of a cup of coffee was enough to dispel the existential horror of Sarah Michelle Gellar.

It was a close call.

Physiotherapy starts in two days.

ask palinode #9: drugs and violence edition

Cenobyte, she is my most prolific questioner-askioner so far. Today she ask:

I have some other questions. Is there a daily quota on the number of questions any one emailer may send?

Does toad-licking really make you hallucinate?

If Queen Bee is on a train leaving Pasadena is travelling 90 miles per hour going west and Worker Bee is on a small, privately chartered airplane from Little Compton travelling east at 300 miles per hour, when and where will Queen Bee's path intersect with Worker Bee's path, if one drew a straight line representing each journey in a two-dimensional representation?

#1. That's one for the FAQs. There is, in point of fact, no limit on questions, quantitative or qualitative. You can ask me anything you want, as much as you want, by the barrel, carried in sacks, moved in lead-lined containers by dead of night. It doesn't matter. Prepositions or adverbs, interrogative or nominative, participle or gerund, I'll take them all on and leave them bruised and quivering on the mat. Eight rounds running and I'm the welterweight champion of response. Biznatches!

Bear in mind, o biznatches, that I try, however feebly, to be timely with my answers. That means that if you ask me twenty questions at once, they will necessarily be short, curt, brusque, rude, nasty, and combative like a mo'fo. Or just brief. Better that you ask one well-chosen question and be rewarded with buckets of bullshit, instead of asking twenty questions and getting a few turds in return.

As always, the Ask Palinode project is, like the rest of this weblog, a small affair intended for the amusement of me and my close friends, whose definition I freely and gladly extend to all visitors. Even the ones who come from Google looking for 'anal sex man'.

#2. Tooooaaaaad. Many are the lives ruined by the licking of the smooth cold length of amphibian back - the secretions propelling the innocent into a nightmare demesne of fabricated terrors - intricate geometries of hell - the warty architecture of Satan's palace. Did you know that Satan had a palace? It's open to the public from May to September, with tours twice daily. Great Labour Day Weekend package specials, but don't phone for bookings. You can not get past the voice message system.

The short answer to your question is: Hell, yeah! Toad licking is a sure-fire legitimate way to hallucinate. As far as the nerdy men in the white coats know, toad venom is the only animal-produced hallucinogen occurring in nature (other animal toxins may cause you to hallucinate, but those hallucinations are usually of the long-tunnel-and-bright-lights variety). Before you go around licking toads, there are a few guidelines that you should follow:

Know your toads. Most people think that the cane toad, or bufo marinus, is the one to lick. Do not lick this toad. Their venom will burn your lips and tongue and make you sick as a dog (and it kills dogs). In other words, not a groovy high. Also, cane toads are insanely ugly little beasts that spread like a bad rash. They pretty much embody everything that's wrong with nature.

What you want to go a' licking is the bufo alvarius, or Sonoran Desert toad, the legendary vision toad of somewhere or other. This one contains both bufotenin and DMT, which makes it a pretty good buy for the money. DMT is also found in ayahuasca, that crazy shaman vine from the South Americas.

The toad venom can be licked straight from the toad's back, or harvested and then dried and smoked. I suppose you could snort it as well, but the idea of sniffing hallucinogenic toad dandruff up your nose doesn't sound like fun to me. The effects are short-lived but intense. Remember, DMT doesn't just kick your neurotransmitters around a bit; the stuff actually latches on to your receptors and offers a toady version of reality, which one user described as "being shot from a rifle barrel lined with baroque paintings and landing in a sea of electricity". I heard that on CBC radio once.

The real question is, are those toads high all the time? Because if I had a couple of glands on the back of my neck that dribbled out heavy drugs, I wouldn't be spending money on a night out, if you catch my drift. Maybe the toads ingest so much that they don't even know they're high. Maybe they just hop around and think "time to get shot out of the baroque rifle barrel again" like it's no big deal.

Hey, waittasec -- what if we're the ones who are constantly high but don't know it? What if we only see reality when we're stoned? What if toad venom is our gateway into reality? Whoah. Whoooaaah.


#3. You didn't mention which states were involved in your math problem, so I'm going to assume that you're referring to Pasadena, California and Little Compton, Rhode Island. First, do these bees belong to the same hive? I only ask because the difference in latitude suggests that these two bees may not even be of the same species. My biggest worry is that Queen Bee may in fact be the Africanized 'killer bee,' and she may be traveling west to populate the whole land with vicious killer bees in a stingy orgy of reverse Manifest Destiny.

Meanwhile, the worker bee in her charter jet is racing east to stop the onrush of Africanized bee violence. That's no mean feat for one bee, exiled from her hive for Bee Crimes, seeking redemption in a mission to keep America bee-pure. But she has lots of cash, which softens the blow a bit. At least I'm pretty sure she's got cash, or at least some kind of benefactor on the side of the European-descended bees. Otherwise, where'd the charter flight come from? Bake sales? Clearly the Africanized bee is poor, consigned to riding the rails in order to propagate her hive.

It's not just a question of where they will meet, it's when: Can the heroic European worker bee get to the Africanized queen bee in time to stop Africanized bees from selling the drugs supplied to them by the Jew bees to all the hard-working but tragically naive Euro-descended bees? And once they meet, will the corrupted socialist bureaucracy of liberal do-gooders stop the worker bee before she can carry out her mission? Will those liberals enlist their liberal media shock troops to perform a 'hit' job on the admirable worker bee?

Frankly, Cenobyte, I'm a bit put off by the subtle-but-discernible racist undertones in your question. But I'll give it a shot.

Here is the best possible route between Little Compton, colonial fishing village non pareil, and Pasadena, the city where Griffin Mill murdered David Kahane over a screenplay:

If Queen Bee departs from Pasadena heading east by train and the Worker bee heads west by plane, the two will never meet. The Worker Bee will be traveling at least 37000 feet above the Queen Bee. Worker Bee will fly in a straight line until its fuel runs out over the Pacific, whereupon it will fall into the ocean. Meanwhile, the Queen Bee will take the train to Atlantic City, where she will play some craps and a few rounds of blackjack. Later she stings someone and dies.

Update: On second glance it seems that I misread the question. The train leaving Pasadena is heading west, not east. Likewise for Worker Bee in her chartered plane. This changes things a bit. Queen Bee travels first from Pasadena to the nearest train station in Glendale. She boards the train and then travels west, straight into the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, Worker Bee takes a bus to the Newport State Airport (ironically just outside of Middleton), hops a Dash-8 to Newark and books a continental flight to Madrid by way of London. At the last TSA security decide that her stinger is a weapon. Also, she doesn't have a proper container for her honey. She moons around the airport for a while, threatens a TSA official. They arrest her, cart her away to an offshore prison, where she spends the rest of her life futilely filing appeals and asking for a lawyer.

Are you of the question-asking mind? I will answer absolutely any question you put to me. Just send me an email at askpalinode @ gmail . com.