Monday, January 23, 2006

Biological Dawn Patrol III

To my shock and amazement, the buoy was up to 5.6 feet this morning, which means that my resolve to be a good boy has been seriously shaken.

5.6 feet and light winds is a "must-paddle-out" buoy reading. I haven't come up with a complete scale yet, because so much of the decision about whether or not to surf depends on other factors such as one's level of physical and emotional well-being, the amount of work one has to do, and so on, but I can tell you that in almost any circumstance a buoy reading of 5.6 and light winds qualifies as an instant paddle out with no consideration or weighing of one's options required, even on a weekday, even on a busy weekday with lots to be done.

So I'm going to go, even though, due to the events of yesterday morning, my wetsuit should be in rather foul shape at the moment. I was on the hook to go see the biological in Orlando, but the buoys were up and so I had to get in a little DP session...when I finished I went to meet CT at the local coffee joint to swap vehicles for the drive to Orlando, as hers is much more fuel-efficient than mine (but it can't hold two boards in the back). I drove straight to Orlando without going home to shower or rinse out my wetsuit, so my wetsuit will probably smell like booty and feel like sandpaper.

The drive to Orlando was not very comfortable. On the way in from my session I thought I'd catch a little inside wave and got rolled on. This is a bad idea, because in close there's lots of sand that gets sucked up into the water, and during my wipeout said sand was deposited in my hair, down the back of my wetsuit, and so on. Imagine, as I'm driving to Orlando, I can drag my fingers through my hair and my fingernails are full of little sand grits.

Then when I got to the hotel where the biological was staying, he and his wife were waiting on this little bench and wanted to go straight to Cracker Barrel without letting me stop for a bathroom break (a bio-break?) , because they were hungry. We got lost on the way and it took us another half hour to get to the Cracker Barrel, and then there was a forty minute wait, during which we sat in those ridiculous cane rockers (for sale, of course) on the porch, rocking with sixty other hopeful and hungry Cracker Barrel patrons. Of course it didn't take the biological long to start in on his health. There's nothing he loves more than talking about his illnesses. He began on his skin cancer and held forth about that for twenty minutes or so, then, when we'd finally gotten a table, he transitioned to his Crohn's disease. Now this is when it really gets good. Nothing inspires the biological like his Crohn’s. Nothing fires him with passion and infuses him with eloquence like the chance to discuss his Crohn’s-related sufferings.

He caught me off guard this time by opening with a bit of a historical/psychological perspective, theorizing that his mother had been an undiagnosed Crohn’s sufferer and that this explained her emotional unavailability and generally vicious disposition. But he didn’t dwell on his mother for long. It was as if his mind, having begun to circle the idea of his sickness, could not resist the urge to go straight to its most compelling aspect, which was, of course, his own suffering. He told me (this is something he inevitably says, you can bank on it, like a catchphrase in a sitcom) that when he has an attack "it's so bad that it takes me right off my feet."

In the past I've just nodded and tried to look sympathetic, but here in the Cracker Barrel, hungry, tired of waiting for the food, I couldn't help but press the point a little bit.

"Does it knock you physically back? Like you've been punched in the jaw? Because that would be interesting."

“No, it just doubles me over and takes me down. Takes me down hard.”

“If you had an attack like that in church they might think you’d found Jesus.”

“Even Jesus can’t help me then. I cain’t even describe the pain (although clearly he would try his best). The pain is so bad, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I never hated someone bad enough to wish them a good attack of Crohns.”

“Well, that’s too bad (by now I was looking nervously around for the waiter. It was almost one o’clock and I hadn’t eaten all day. I get cranky when I go that long without food and I’m thinking that I might have to strangle the biological with my belt to keep him from talking).”

“You know, sometimes the Crohn’s gets so bad, I can’t even get up from the couch. I just void my bowels right there on the sofa.”

“Oh god (I must’ve looked horrified. The skin on my head was tingling). Well, I’d be making you wear a diaper.”

“I do,” The biological’s wife chimed in. “But sometimes it doesn’t hold everything. (I imagined the biological, short, fat, swaddled in a diaper, squalling and red-faced on a cheap sofa, waiting to be changed, and I felt immense pity and respect for his wife)”

“Boy,” I said. “There are a lot of things I’m glad I didn’t inherit from you. Crohn’s would obviously be at the top of that list.”

“Had my first attack when I was seven,” The biological pursued. “They gave me all kind of tests and said it was a psychological problem. Said I needed to see a shrink. My old man took me home and beat the hell out of me for about two hours. Crohns stopped hurting. Said I was cured.”

“Hmm,” I said, trying to will the food into materializing on the table. “If he starts talking about nuclear radiation,” I thought, “I really will lose it.” Out loud I said, “Well, like I say, I’m glad I didn’t inherit that.” What did he want me to say? I’m sorry that you were abused as a kid? That totally justifies you beating up my mom? Hey why not go beat her up again, or maybe beat up your wife or some other woman, just go ahead and get it out of your system. Jesus, I could see him a little younger, red-faced and pounding away indisciminately on anyone in his path. He was past sixty and still stuck his jaw out there like he was daring you to crack him one.

The biological got a faraway look in his eye and then said, “Just wait until you’re forty. You might get it then. That’s when I started to notice it.”

“I thought you said you didn’t hate anyone enough…” I mumbled, but then, mercifully, the food came, and I devoured it, hardly pausing to breathe. Then as I was walking back out to the car I was nervously aware of every sensation in my stomach. Just being in the biological’s proximity made me nervous for my own health. I imagined doubling over and defecating myself…of lying on the sofa with a diaper…of the six-foot cockroaches that the biological usually mentioned, the radiated, mutated cockroaches that somehow seemed to be tied up in his mind with his Crohn’s disease, the big three topics around which his mind seemed to ceaselessly revolve: His old man, his Crohn’s, and nuclear radiation.

Once he’d told me about a Crohn’s-induced hallucination of six-inch cockroaches sailing up and down in his bathtub on a "beam reach." I could almost see the cockroaches now, their glinting, mechanical bodies topped with striped shirts and sailor’s caps. Get a grip, I thought, get a grip. Jesus, I wonder if the craziness is the first sign of a Crohn’s attack. It would be just my luck to come all this way and have my first attack outside a Cracker Barrel, as if my exposure to all the fat rednecks gobbling up this cheap food has triggered some mechanism in my slumbering redneck DNA.

I took them back to the hotel. Just knowing that it was almost over made me cheerful and I was able to hug them goodbye. I drove home, trying not the think about the Crohn’s or the biological. On the way back I picked up a dub reggae program from a college station in Orlando and turned it up. I rolled down the windows. The lady who was spinning the songs kept cutting in to add a soft voiceover about the scientists. I found my head bobbing back and forth the music. Every mile that went past I felt a little better. Everything will be okay if you have good weather, good waves, and good dub.


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