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CP Rider
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Be the Light
Be the Light

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Fragments is now available
After about a year of build-up, my book of essays: Fragments  is out. Many of these stories had their first draft on this site. I don't know if anyone still reads this site, but if yes, thanks for following. If you enjoy the book, please leave a review... a...

I've been poking at the following (longish) story for a while. It's been getting better, but now I think if I keep poking, it will get worse. I want to put it somewhere for feedback, but I'm too nervous to blog it. I'm worried it will affect my employment - I'd love to hear from somebody. Anyone have a life-arc similar to this?
-----------------------------
His friends from high school called him Mugsy. Everyone else, me included, called him O. A nod to his freakishly orange hair. I don’t remember his real name, it was a long time ago, and he transferred to NYU at the end of our freshman year. He was too *big-city, too *New York for a small liberal arts college in the Virginia mountains. But on this night, two months into my college career, he and I were hanging out in the town’s minor league baseball stadium.

During my first semester of college, I was miserable. The other kids in my dorm were posturing, creating new identities for themselves, each trying to appear the coolest guy in school. I was openly disdainful of them, and therefore unpopular. Immature, both physically and emotionally, I was bullied – not a lot, but enough. In those first months of school, I hadn’t learned to keep my opinions to myself.

Bored, lonely, and not fitting in with the rest of the students, O and I were drinking beer and smoking pot on the bleachers of the baseball stadium. Probably, we took some acid too, I can’t remember. But O always seemed to have acid – it was part of his New York City image. It was past midnight, the baseball season long over, a hole in the fence a welcoming invitation to trespass. I bummed a cigarette. Like most of my friends, O smoked. I never did.

As a kid, my mom smoked a pack a day, and I gave her unyielding shit about this. The government’s campaign against smoking had just kicked into high gear, and I fully embraced it – smoke cigarettes, you die, A few times, I even cut up my mom’s cigarettes and stuck them back in her Marlboro package to make my point. I was a pain in the ass, but she eventually quit. My obnoxiousness justified by the outcome.

I fired up O’s cigarette without inhaling. I’m sure O felt that he had just wasted one of his smokes – he probably thought I wanted the cigarette so I could look *hip. But I didn’t disappoint him. Once the ember was glowing red, I placed it against the back of my hand. I didn’t put the cigarette out, I just held it there, charring my skin for a good eight or ten seconds.

A week later, completely sober, I repeated this trick on the metal shade of my desk lamp. In the early eighties, those lamps got *hot. An oozing line formed across the back of my hand – maybe an inch and a half long. At home over Thanksgiving break, my mom asked *what the hell? She assumed bullying. I must have been pinned down and burned by crazed older boys. I said *no, I bumped up against a cigar during a keg party. She gave me that skeptical lizard-eye look, but she let it drop. I doubt she suspected self-inflicted burns. This wasn’t popular yet.

Much of my college experience included dangerous and self-destructive behavior. Windows and doors broken with my fists, car windows smashed with beer bottles, drunken bike rides around town, blacked-out wanderings along nighttime highways, even a hallucinogen-inspired shopping cart ride down a steep hill. At least one trip to the emergency room, but remarkably, I was always okay. Battered, bloodied, but whole – my hangover the next day was usually the worst part.

Over the next few years, I developed a large collection of partying friends. Diverse misfits willing to accept any quality into our group except *coolness. My signature personality trait: drink to unconsciousness and do something violent or reckless along the way. Encouraged and applauded, I felt free to beat myself up. I wore my bruises with pride.

As I made my way in the professional world, my confidence grew and my self-destructive behavior diminished. Much more slowly, my substance abuse became under control as well. By the time I started a family and moved to Gettysburg, drunkenness was behind me. My need to hurt myself was boxed-up in the back of a closet with O’s acid. But decades later, remnants remain. Look closely, the scars and bumps are all visible. And the lure of alcohol, destruction and pain are never a distant memory.

A few years ago, deep into therapy, I started feeling an urge to brand myself. My plan, my fear, was that I would heat a bicycle gear cog over a gas-stove flame and press it neatly against my skin – my chest or my forearm or my neck. I’d create a permanent tattoo of my favorite piece of machinery. My therapist dismissed this as unlikely to happen. Just a fantasy to reclaim my *radical nature, my *lost wildness, to feel like I might be living my life on the edge of *something. She’s a fantastic therapist, but I think she missed this one. This wasn’t about wildness, it was about pain.

The urge persisted, but I was able to temper it with the certainty of losing my kids’ respect.

One evening, during this period, I began to obsess on cutting off my hand. I thought about my chop-saw in the basement, purchased for simple home repair projects. How easy it would be to bring the spinning blade down on my wrist, to take my hand completely off. I could feel the sensation of my missing hand, the itching of my healing stump. I never envisioned the insanity of the actual removal, just the disappointment in missing my limb. This thought stayed with me all evening. The amputation became a forgone conclusion. Maybe tonight, or maybe tomorrow, soon I would have only one hand. I would be committed in a mental hospital. My family would be left in tatters. I became increasingly agitated and frightened. The ultimate action seemed inevitable, completely out of my control.

My family was watching TV in the next room. I was trying to read a book, edging into the throes of a panic attack. I kept envisioning my trip to the basement, possibly even sleep-walking, and firing up my saw. I finally confessed to Susan what was running through my mind. Shocked, she told me I was acting nuts. She assured me that I wouldn’t do something so crazy; it was just an obsessive thought; it was allegorical – I was really worried about something completely different. She encouraged me to go to sleep. Things would seem different in the morning. And then she followed me to the basement as I took a tree-pruner to the saw’s power cord and chopped it into pieces.

* * * * * * *

Over the past year, I came out of the closet. I began talking about my experience with Tourette's Syndrome. I told my friends, my coworkers, my father, even my kids, about my tics, my frustrations, my embarrassments. Many of the questions were about the symptoms. Tourette's tics are interesting to people, but mine are a little disappointing. Nothing meaty – no cussing, just some twitching and grunting. There are lots of common misconceptions about Tourette's Syndrome. By far, the biggest surprise to everyone I talked with is how Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often accompanies Tourette's.

There are many misconceptions about OCD as well. TV does this. Most people associate OCD with neatness. Popular characters like Felix Unger and Monk require order and cleanliness. I don’t. I’m slightly less organized than the next person, and hygiene is often an afterthought – some days I wind up skipping a shower altogether. My office is a paper-strewn disaster, and at home, my tools and running gear are typically stored *wherever I used them last. When I consider my OCD, it’s all about the O, the obsessions, the *needs. The need to drink, the need to check email or facebook, the need to blog an unsettling piece, the need to cut off my second favorite hand.

I won’t pretend to know anything about *self-harm – that catch-all psychological phrase used for cutting, burning and other categories of intentional self-abuse. I only have my own experiences to analyze. So that’s what I do – I analyze my experiences: What I see a lifetime of effort trying to block out painful thoughts. I’ve done this with drugs, with alcohol, and also with more pain. My self-destructive period as a young adult was a reaction to oddness and loneliness, and of course my not-yet-identified but clearly present struggles with Tourette’s and OCD. It was hard to fit in. Twitchy, noisy, obsessive, drunk.

Emotional pain is hard to understand – it rarely receives acknowledgment or sympathy. It felt rewarding to replace it with some good, old fashioned physical pain. Something that I could see, something I could point to. During my party nights, wasted and with my inhibitions lowered, it all came flooding out. Break something, hurt myself, show my frustrations, wear my pain. Better to be seen as crazy than strange. Better to experience a broken hand or a cut palm than a some vague *un-right internal feeling that’s hard to pin down, a *dis-ease I don’t fully understand.

For the past few years I’ve been writing essays about my unease. I poke and prod at these feelings, and in the process I begin define – or at least understand – what seems so *wrong. My big revelations: obsessions, social anxiety, substance abuse, Tourette's Syndrome – lifelong companions I never met. Or if I ever did, I completely ignored them. I masked my not-right feelings with injury and intoxication. When sober, I silently endured them, fantasizing about ways I could push them outward, where others see them as well: self-mutilation.

As I share my essays – my mental illness – with those around me, I feel more honest and more at peace. It gives others a point of reference that helps them understand me. And I don’t feel like I’m deceiving people by hiding my some of my most important traits. I’m working to approach Tourette's and OCD as a chronic disease to be managed – like diabetes or arthritis. Sure, at times I feel disabled, but disabilities can be accommodated, accepted and even embraced.

I’m not opposed to the idea of branding. A scarlet-letter tattooed on my forehead, explaining to the world what’s wrong with me. When a person limps up to the counter at Sheetz, the cashier immediately recognizes their disability and allows the person some leeway, some extra time to approach. Well, I need that extra time as well. Commonplace situations can be confusing or stressful. Elucidating exactly what I want takes preparation. My tattoo, my brand could be my tell, as visible as a limp.

Since I came out of the closet, things have changed. I’ve changed. I’m happier. I drink less. My self-destructive thoughts have disappeared. I haven’t branded myself, and I even repaired my chop-saw’s power cord. By sharing what I feel with the people who know me – with anyone who wants to know – I don’t need an external marking of my dis-ease. I’ve branded myself through writing and discussion. I removed the power of mental illness by facing it, knowing it, by treating it like any other illness.

After all this time, I wish I had a way to find O. I’d like to tell him I’m okay. 


I've been poking at the following (longish) story for a while. It's been getting better, but now I think if I keep poking, it will get worse. I want to put it somewhere for feedback, but I'm too nervous to blog it. I'm worried it will affect my employment - I'd love feedback. Anyone have a life-arc similar to this?
-----------------------------
His friends from high school called him Mugsy. Everyone else, me included, called him O. A nod to his freakishly orange hair. I don’t remember his real name, it was a long time ago, and he transferred to NYU at the end of our freshman year. He was too *big-city, too *New York for a small liberal arts college in the Virginia mountains. But on this night, two months into my college career, he and I were hanging out in the town’s minor league baseball stadium.

During my first semester of college, I was miserable. The other kids in my dorm were posturing, creating new identities for themselves, each trying to appear the coolest guy in school. I was openly disdainful of them, and therefore unpopular. Immature, both physically and emotionally, I was bullied – not a lot, but enough. In those first months of school, I hadn’t learned to keep my opinions to myself.

Bored, lonely, and not fitting in with the rest of the students, O and I were drinking beer and smoking pot on the bleachers of the baseball stadium. Probably, we took some acid too, I can’t remember. But O always seemed to have acid – it was part of his New York City image. It was past midnight, the baseball season long over, a hole in the fence a welcoming invitation to trespass. I bummed a cigarette. Like most of my friends, O smoked. I never did.

As a kid, my mom smoked a pack a day, and I gave her unyielding shit about this. The government’s campaign against smoking had just kicked into high gear, and I fully embraced it – smoke cigarettes, you die, A few times, I even cut up my mom’s cigarettes and stuck them back in her Marlboro package to make my point. I was a pain in the ass, but she eventually quit. My obnoxiousness justified by the outcome.

I fired up O’s cigarette without inhaling. I’m sure O felt that he had just wasted one of his smokes – he probably thought I wanted the cigarette so I could look *hip. But I didn’t disappoint him. Once the ember was glowing red, I placed it against the back of my hand. I didn’t put the cigarette out, I just held it there, charring my skin for a good eight or ten seconds.

A week later, completely sober, I repeated this trick on the metal shade of my desk lamp. In the early eighties, those lamps got *hot. An oozing line formed across the back of my hand – maybe an inch and a half long. At home over Thanksgiving break, my mom asked *what the hell? She assumed bullying. I must have been pinned down and burned by crazed older boys. I said *no, I bumped up against a cigar during a keg party. She gave me that skeptical lizard-eye look, but she let it drop. I doubt she suspected self-inflicted burns. This wasn’t popular yet.

Much of my college experience included dangerous and self-destructive behavior. Windows and doors broken with my fists, car windows smashed with beer bottles, drunken bike rides around town, blacked-out wanderings along nighttime highways, even a hallucinogen-inspired shopping cart ride down a steep hill. At least one trip to the emergency room, but remarkably, I was always okay. Battered, bloodied, but whole – my hangover the next day was usually the worst part.

Over the next few years, I developed a large collection of partying friends. Diverse misfits willing to accept any quality into our group except *coolness. My signature personality trait: drink to unconsciousness and do something violent or reckless along the way. Encouraged and applauded, I felt free to beat myself up. I wore my bruises with pride.

As I made my way in the professional world, my confidence grew and my self-destructive behavior diminished. Much more slowly, my substance abuse became under control as well. By the time I started a family and moved to Gettysburg, drunkenness was behind me. My need to hurt myself was boxed-up in the back of a closet with O’s acid. But decades later, remnants remain. Look closely, the scars and bumps are all visible. And the lure of alcohol, destruction and pain are never a distant memory.

A few years ago, deep into therapy, I started feeling an urge to brand myself. My plan, my fear, was that I would heat a bicycle gear cog over a gas-stove flame and press it neatly against my skin – my chest or my forearm or my neck. I’d create a permanent tattoo of my favorite piece of machinery. My therapist dismissed this as unlikely to happen. Just a fantasy to reclaim my *radical nature, my *lost wildness, to feel like I might be living my life on the edge of *something. She’s a fantastic therapist, but I think she missed this one. This wasn’t about wildness, it was about pain.

The urge persisted, but I was able to temper it with the certainty of losing my kids’ respect.

One evening, during this period, I began to obsess on cutting off my hand. I thought about my chop-saw in the basement, purchased for simple home repair projects. How easy it would be to bring the spinning blade down on my wrist, to take my hand completely off. I could feel the sensation of my missing hand, the itching of my healing stump. I never envisioned the insanity of the actual removal, just the disappointment in missing my limb. This thought stayed with me all evening. The amputation became a forgone conclusion. Maybe tonight, or maybe tomorrow, soon I would have only one hand. I would be committed in a mental hospital. My family would be left in tatters. I became increasingly agitated and frightened. The ultimate action seemed inevitable, completely out of my control.

My family was watching TV in the next room. I was trying to read a book, edging into the throes of a panic attack. I kept envisioning my trip to the basement, possibly even sleep-walking, and firing up my saw. I finally confessed to Susan what was running through my mind. Shocked, she told me I was acting nuts. She assured me that I wouldn’t do something so crazy; it was just an obsessive thought; it was allegorical – I was really worried about something completely different. She encouraged me to go to sleep. Things would seem different in the morning. And then she followed me to the basement as I took a tree-pruner to the saw’s power cord and chopped it into pieces.

* * * * * * *

Over the past year, I came out of the closet. I began talking about my experience with Tourette's Syndrome. I told my friends, my coworkers, my father, even my kids, about my tics, my frustrations, my embarrassments. Many of the questions were about the symptoms. Tourette's tics are interesting to people, but mine are a little disappointing. Nothing meaty – no cussing, just some twitching and grunting. There are lots of common misconceptions about Tourette's Syndrome. By far, the biggest surprise to everyone I talked with is how Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often accompanies Tourette's.

There are many misconceptions about OCD as well. TV does this. Most people associate OCD with neatness. Popular characters like Felix Unger and Monk require order and cleanliness. I don’t. I’m slightly less organized than the next person, and hygiene is often an afterthought – some days I wind up skipping a shower altogether. My office is a paper-strewn disaster, and at home, my tools and running gear are typically stored *wherever I used them last. When I consider my OCD, it’s all about the O, the obsessions, the *needs. The need to drink, the need to check email or facebook, the need to blog an unsettling piece, the need to cut off my second favorite hand.

I won’t pretend to know anything about *self-harm – that catch-all psychological phrase used for cutting, burning and other categories of intentional self-abuse. I only have my own experiences to analyze. So that’s what I do – I analyze my experiences: What I see a lifetime of effort trying to block out painful thoughts. I’ve done this with drugs, with alcohol, and also with more pain. My self-destructive period as a young adult was a reaction to oddness and loneliness, and of course my not-yet-identified but clearly present struggles with Tourette’s and OCD. It was hard to fit in. Twitchy, noisy, obsessive, drunk.

Emotional pain is hard to understand – it rarely receives acknowledgment or sympathy. It felt rewarding to replace it with some good, old fashioned physical pain. Something that I could see, something I could point to. During my party nights, wasted and with my inhibitions lowered, it all came flooding out. Break something, hurt myself, show my frustrations, wear my pain. Better to be seen as crazy than strange. Better to experience a broken hand or a cut palm than a some vague *un-right internal feeling that’s hard to pin down, a *dis-ease I don’t fully understand.

For the past few years I’ve been writing essays about my unease. I poke and prod at these feelings, and in the process I begin define – or at least understand – what seems so *wrong. My big revelations: obsessions, social anxiety, substance abuse, Tourette's Syndrome – lifelong companions I never met. Or if I ever did, I completely ignored them. I masked my not-right feelings with injury and intoxication. When sober, I silently endured them, fantasizing about ways I could push them outward, where others see them as well: self-mutilation.

As I share my essays – my mental illness – with those around me, I feel more honest and more at peace. It gives others a point of reference that helps them understand me. And I don’t feel like I’m deceiving people by hiding my some of my most important traits. I’m working to approach Tourette's and OCD as a chronic disease to be managed – like diabetes or arthritis. Sure, at times I feel disabled, but disabilities can be accommodated, accepted and even embraced.

I’m not opposed to the idea of branding. A scarlet-letter tattooed on my forehead, explaining to the world what’s wrong with me. When a person limps up to the counter at Sheetz, the cashier immediately recognizes their disability and allows the person some leeway, some extra time to approach. Well, I need that extra time as well. Commonplace situations can be confusing or stressful. Elucidating exactly what I want takes preparation. My tattoo, my brand could be my tell, as visible as a limp.

Since I came out of the closet, things have changed. I’ve changed. I’m happier. I drink less. My self-destructive thoughts have disappeared. I haven’t branded myself, and I even repaired my chop-saw’s power cord. By sharing what I feel with the people who know me – with anyone who wants to know – I don’t need an external marking of my dis-ease. I’ve branded myself through writing and discussion. I removed the power of mental illness by facing it, knowing it, by treating it like any other illness.

After all this time, I wish I had a way to find O. I’d like to tell him I’m okay. 

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Coming Soon:
A teaser for my up-coming book. The plan  is for it to come out late this fall. Please look for more information over the coming weeks on my new profile  or on facebook .

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After much thought, I've decided to abandon my Charley Rider profile and resume my google+ Profile under my actual name. I hope my google friends will follow me. I am also now creating a Facebook  presence. 

My Google+ profle URL is https://plus.google.com/u/0/112312471223953020544/posts
My Facebook URL is https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009941505536

This is all preparation for the release of a book of essays entitled Methadone - A Life in Pieces

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Gone, but I've left a trail
Undercrust and "Charley Rider" have been shut down. No new content will be posted here, I'm launching a new web presence under my actual name. Visit my new Google+ PROFILE . I'm also on FACEBOOK . I will be (self) publishing a book of essays Methadone - A L...

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Taking a Break
Currently, I'm working on editing a book for publication. This will pull me off writing new posts for a while. In the meantime, below is a list of some of essays that, for what ever reason, have been lightly read - Charley In Search Of Dying with Gilda Radn...

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Tidal Wave City
A crashing wave, packing unusual force and energy. The water hits the beach and runs. Walls breached. Houses swamped and washed away. A senseless loss. Built too close to the sea. But it's expected. Tidal Wave City has run its course. This is a beach game. ...

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While the rest of the country is working to create understanding and respect between the races, Gettysburg has just erected a monument to unity between white people and... white people. (Clap, clap, clap)
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2015-07-22
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