The last couple of days I have found myself constructing a rather elaborate narrative on Victoria's relationship with alcohol. It is a rather intriguing topic because what is presently occurring, as it did the night I went to watch Mia Doi Todd and Michel Gondry perform at Spaceland Silverlake, I was the only girl in the club who was drinking coffee and reading environmental history papers while everyone else was drinking quite a bit of alcohol and was ATTEMPTING to dance (because strangely, I felt that about 90% of the music played that night, by all four groups of musicians, was ridiculously slow for a club... I was like... where's David Guetta? Where's the fast-paced jazz? Where's the boom-boom-boom fast-paced chicka-chicka-boom drum-and-bass jungle techno?! None to be played... *sigh*).
Yes, that is the case. I am about the only girl in the bar or club or party drinking coffee or diet coke while everyone else was hammering down on the alcohol. As Einstein recommends to "simplify but nothing simpler," the going theory on Vic's alcohol consumption is "I'm more drunk when I'm not drunk." And to elaborate even further, when people claim for some reason that "I'm smart," I simply state, "It's not that I'm smart. It's just that I have this very hyperactive brain that chronically needs a mental work out because I didn't drink enough alcohol in college to kill enough brain cells such that I could consciously and pacifyingly follow suit to society's expectations of my own desired road to life." Hence, I seem a little more rebellious merely because I didn't go through the protocol ritual of university frosh drunken purposelessness. Oops! I guess I skipped a few steps in life... besides the alcoholic rite of passage and 6 years of menstrual cycles (due to over-thinness) which makes me structurally seem like a 21-year-old female with the hormones of a 16-year-old and strangely the mind of a 60-year-old. Oops. Talk about differential timing of body rhythms. Oh well.
This "I-didn't-kill-enough-brain-cells" theory was actually derived from my undergraduate-advisor-parasite-invertebrate expert, Armand. One day Armand told the class as to how he ended up being an invertebrate zoologist and parasitology. In short, Armand started out in economics, and then by accident he took a zoology course in his third or fourth year of college (?) and right then and there he fell in love with invertebrates and went to the chair of the department and asked him to allow him to complete all requirements for a zoology major in one year, in which he did, acing courses in flying colors. In a brief description of his improved sense of identity and self-esteem, I vividly remembering Armand stating (paraphrased), "It was a simple decision. I would rather count worms and bugs for the rest of my life than counting dollar bills. Life was getting better since I found my calling. I had to slow down my alcohol consumption so that I could save a few brain cells to pursue this career pathway. Heck, I even started dating girls again." The last thing I remember, Armand applied for a Ph.D. in zoology (?) at Berkeley, and apparently his father wanted him to be a medical physician. Armand was upset with this parental pressure and never conceded to this road to life. Perhaps that is why Armand has made such research break-throughs in ecological and evolutionary approaches to parasitology... he simply has refused to see these little buggers from the typical lens of a doctor.
Getting back to the point of alcohol, Armand pricked my interest in terms of his "conscious decision to slow down his alcohol consumption such as to spare some brain cells to pursue this calling to life." Alcohol? Killing brain cells?! Apparently alcohol kills everything that it touches.
And hence, Armand ultimately set up my Existential Moment that has largely solidified my own personal relationship with alcohol. Let's consider this paragraph as an exploration of a future poem entitled "Meditations on an Earthworm in Strong Beer." (or Booze? what's more poetic?) During my first attempt to take Invertebrate Zoology (with my ultimately cool TA Lise Goddard-Schickel, now teaching at the Midland School out in the Santa Ynez Valley), one of the first labs required us to dunk a living earthworm in a transparent bowl halfway filled with 70% rubbing alcohol. Aka. or substitute as "Very Strong Beer." In other words, we poor students had to kill the worm (we had to chop the head of the chicken, carve out the sides of the cow, etc etc etc). And so, my being naive, I dunked an earthworm (derived from this lasagna pan full of dirt in front of the classroom) and to my great shock and surprise, after three seconds of immersion, the worm started to violently wriggle and convulse and shake and squirm and contort and twist and tie itself into knots and it wouldn't stop shaking and shaking and shaking and forming these wild shapes part fractalous part complete chaos, the most bizarrest wild dance around the fire I could barely even replicate myself just thinking like is this what all animals and organisms could possibly experience when they die? I mean, is this what people went through when going through the gas chambers of the Holocaust? It reminded me of this horrible dream I had early on last quarter where I was a human-fish and my whole body was chopped up into parts and my body was stacked on all these other human-fish bodies, you could see the patterns-serration of the bloody muscle and it just smelled so bad and we were on the bottom of this ship, and then for some reason the ship started to sink to the bottom of the ocean and my fish body started floating around and I was following my Mumsy, Bubsy, and Jen-Jen around trying to tell them that I had passed on, but they never even noticed that I was there, and I was frustrated... and this other bad dream that I had lost all my hair from cancer therapy! And god, it just kept happening how this worm kept wriggling and contorting in streaks of fast-slow-fast fast fast-slow motions and I had to watch this for three very long minutes, but the last minute the worm started to slow down and calm down its sine and cosine waves of violent bodily chaos and eventually it stopped moving and I wondered where its poor soul went (it certainly went into me to some degree), and I think I was so shocked I didn't cry at the time (I was in class) but I was silent for the rest of the lab, and I think I cried that night.... After that, I spent time dissecting that worm, figuring out where all its body parts were... and I couldn't help to think of the ways and values of science, "Sacrifice a few, so as to save the many." And since then, all I could help to think, "If alcohol, whether 70% or 5% does that to a worm in three minutes, imagine what it would do to my own body, my own brain!" And I never really established an appetite, desire, thirst for anything alcoholic. And then I really didn't understand the University Frosh (and Beyond) ritual of drunken purposelessness. Why would people perceive self-bodily destruction as fun?! Oh I know... the goal IS to make most of your brain dead, strip nearly all layers of consciousness (logic, emotions, social sensitivity, motor skills) so that the only thing left that is possibly operating on your mind is... of course... the sex center... yes, yes... all that left is sex, uninhibited reptilian painful pleasure. Yay to Isla Vista! Kill the brain cells for primordial beastliness! Yaya!
Sooo... back to the Earthworm... that poor earthworm. I feel so bad. There are so many better, more instantaneous ways to go to the AfterWhateverWorld. I'm very sorry.
I turned 21, and my Uklan best friend Lauri took me out to Alcapolco (chain Mexican restaurant) in Westwood, CA. I only had half of a strawberry margarita. I didn't feel I passed through any Societal Rite of Passage. All I could think is that this 21-year-old age law was stupid because in Europe you can drink at any age and people usually don't binge like how that earthworm got dunked in alcohol. Get over it.
Basically, I am hypothesizing that my mind and body are wired to a "natural" sense of drunkedness at nearly most or all states of wakened consciousness, and that if I actually do consume alcohol, it would transform me into a quiet stupor, which would render my state of being as "boring," as described by my aunt-cousin-Jeri Lyn. Last summer, when I was having a super dinner with Jeri Lyn and Chris Lods up in Sebastopol, she gave me a glass of wine, and as soon as I had some, I stopped talking and chattering and I was fairly quiet and non-participatory. Both she and Chris agreed that I was "boring" and soon after I remember myself wanting to go to bed.
As I remember at grad student parties I attended when I was at UC Riverside, if I consume about half of a light beer, I tend to become loose and giddy and was more willing to socialize and take chances with social interactions than before, in which I am always a little nervous and apprehensive when I first approach a party, and think (way too much) about strategies on how to blend in with the crowd. After that, if I drank more, I became extremely conscious that I was becoming slower in my thoughts and actions, and because of that I started to feel vulnerable, and that I felt like everything inside me was caving in. I felt like I wanted to crawl into a corner, hide under a table, curl up into a fetus, and cry myself to sleep. I ended up leaving parties early because I felt such a heightened sense of vulnerability.
On the other hand, I have made several observations that other people become more and more extroverted when they drink more alcohol, and that they release-expose either "subliminal skill sets" and-or "subliminal emotions." My cousin and a fisherman friend of mine say that they both get very angry when drinking too much alcohol, and that anger can lead to horrible events with regrettable consequences. (An aside: My cousin said he's been a part of Alcoholics Anonymous in Los Angeles for ten years... stating that it's some form of social club... some form of alternative to the alcohol. I quizzed him, why do people in Alcoholics Anonymous folks identify themselves with the addictive substances they are trying to resist, not the positive alternatives they are trying to pursue? Why does one have to change a state of mind through chemical intervention? Why can't your neurochemical composition and interactions shift through behavioral shifts, through environmental changes? He said that was a good point, and a day later, I created the the new AA, essentially called Alternative Addictions.) My friend Talei, on the other hand, becomes more bipolar--extremely happy, extremely sad, singing loudly, doing the chicken dance, and kissing girls on top of a table in front of ten people at a fancy Mexican restaurant, revealing her bisexual properties, in which she was not so able to reveal in China. Other people find alcohol a total release, ritualistic exposition.
At the same time, I was guinea pigging myself at UCR grad student parties and Getaway or "Get-a-life" pub-across-the-street-from-the-U bar-hopping a couple of times to the mock-British-pub Falconers in downtown Riverside (lame, it had no pool table! but heck, I had some pretty intense existential conversations with folks over there, much more so than at the Getaway!), I was doing some observational investigative studies of optimal playing of pool and darts and mini-basketball depending on the amount of alcohol that was consumed by the particular individual. Of course alcohol tolerance level had to be calibrated. I have come to realize that people tend to optimally perform at a certain low level of alcohol in which the "social sensitivity sensor" in the brain is ultimately bathed and non-operational and one establishes some level of critical hyperfocus on the game of pool, and only pool, tuning out all other distractions, while motor functions remain intact... but as more alcohol is consumed, not only the social sensitivity factor is dysfunctional, but also the motor portions of the brain are affected and eye-hand-body coordination ultimately deteriorates to a point in which you become a social disgrace to watch in terms of skill level in pool. Tragic. This theory ultimately needs to be illustrated in a cartoon. Though, when one comes to an "art party," as I had been invited to an art-grad student party at Riverside in which grad students brought their artwork and engaged in "art therapy" painting and sculpting and writing existentially humorous poems while drinking beer, it is not that there is a level of "deterioration" in the art produced as more alcohol is consumed, it is just that the art tends to become more "Picasso abstract" and "unexpected in outcome" than one's more predictable routines of art skills when in a completely conscious state.
So, the discussion of alcohol seems to lead to conversations about the generic comparisons of drugs and what drugs do to alter the human mind and body. I seem to have accrued a group of experts on such a subject matter... or let's put it this way, though not formally indoctrinated, I know a whole bunch of people who deserve a Ph.D. in Drug Consumption and Experiential Analysis, or maybe it should be an MFA in creative science writing on experiential drug analysis. Members of these informal professionals include this dude Todd? who was an insect-ologist at UCLA (professional in mushrooms), Trixl (professional in crystal meth and weed), my invert-parasite lab partner Aaron (expert on weed), my whole Greek family in Greece (professionals in chronic smoking, heart bypasses, extreme medical therapy, and stints), and Lauri (expert on the whole buffet of options and comparative psychological effects... but she has bonus knowledge in the family, her mother was a shrink!). Heck I'm neighbors with a weed doctor in Goleta!
So, Todd claimed that when you take mushrooms the world become extremely psychadelic Austin-powers like and you're able to connect the dots in ways you would have never connected before. I remember Trixl emphasizing the use of mushrooms by native american peoples (shamans more specifically, neurological phosphenes in the eyes as a biological universal in cave drawings by several indigenous groups around the world) when we were by the Painted Cave up in the mountains here in Santa Barbara (on my birthday, August 12, 2008). Well, the issue is, that I can place myself in some form of more dulled psychedelic trance form if I don't eat, don't sleep, and don't exercise for 2.5-3 days or more. I've done it several times since late March of 2001, and now I usually do it when I'm in a manic film editing mode. So, I don't exactly need mushrooms.
I've received extensive 2-3 hour long dissertations from Trixl on the experiences, addictions of crystal meth... aka... tweaking.... Though he had claimed that he only did it once, tweaked once, that he described his knowledge so vividly that I wondered whether his experiences were more than once.... But nevertheless, he was in a circumstance in Oregon in which he had to live with tweakers... and they were pretty amazing people... they were so focused, no narrow, so obsessed... and SOOO paranoid... but so 120-miles-per-hour, they had the ability to clean the entire kitchen with a toothpick (like cleaning the grout between tiles)! Trixl emphasized that the worst part about tweaking is the crash after the high.... You go super "low" and it drives you mad... I'd assume, so it's better to stay in a tweaked up state just to avoid the crash... I saw clips of a film called Spun that kind of detailed the crazy, irrational paranoid lives of tweakers... The visual representation was profound... their minds WERE going 120 miles per hour.... But then I was thinking about the pace of my own mind. Most certainly for at least 4-6 hours in the beginning of the day, my mind does go about 80 miles per hour... I essentially have to give my brain a marathon work-out every day to beat out its hyper ADHD-like energy, but why would I want to make my mind go 120 miles per hour, at the price of thinking more narrowly paranoid, with horrid crashes?! Not worth it.... And besides, if I want to crank up the speed of my life and my mind, all I have to do is listen to wordless techno, jungle house drum-and-bass... getting high on a behavioral-environmental change rather than a chemical-ingestion.... I look back at my time interacting with Trixl and especially toward the end of our relations, his behaviors were so "cut-the-strings" and even so negative and paranoid that... I was wondering that... if tweakers take in crystal meth long enough... do they have brain damage and remain forever... to some degree paranoid?!
I've met dozens upon dozens upon dozens of weed/marijuana consumers. I could say though it's supposedly illegal to smoke marijuana in California, I could say that it's pretty dxmn rampant... all over the place.... The most extreme circumstances is that I met two weed dealers at the Kinkos in Goleta I'm working at right now, and I found them to be kind of overly enthusiastic liars, and very dirty, kind of looking like hippis in the hills. And when I was traveling for Roadtrip Nation last summer, I met this jovial young man eating a sandwich at a gas station up in Yreka (Weed County, most appropriately). He politely asked me about Roadtrip Nation, and we ended up having a lengthy conversation. He told me about his marijuana operation up in the forested hills, and pointed out where the reflections where. He also explained to me how he survived this dire circumstance of two guys mugging him, beating him up with a baseball bat, placing him in a bag, and dumping him in a ditch. He was lucky to be alive, awake in an emergency room. He had some brain damage and lost all sense of taste (he couldn't even taste his sandwich), let alone losing his appetite. He also further explained how he was shipping his weed all the way over to the East Coast (so he has a huge market over in the Boston area) and that there was no point in establishing distributions down in southern California, particularly Isla Vista (so I heard, most IV weed comes from Humboldt... so I've heard)....
Sooo many people around me smoke weed... my two former roommates... my neighbors... my friends... people with chronic illnesses... Trixl.... He even encouraged me to try it out... and I had a few puffs and I was just thinking, "How in the hxll could this stuff be illegal?!! Sure, I felt a little bit lighter and giddier, but there's no comparison as to what alcohol does to my brain versus what weed does to my brain. Alcohol is by far much, much more dangerous." As a matter of fact, if someone gave me weed/pot/whatever versus alcohol at a party, I would choose weed because I remain functional and just feel a little bit lighter. I noticed that Trixl consumed less when he was less stressed (when school was out during the summer). So, this realization led to Trixl extensive 2-3 hour lecture to me on the history of "why marijuana was made illegal, and why it continues to remain illegal." The part of the story that I remember was how marijuana was competing with other forms of drugs for the market, and that presently many psychiatric pharmaceuticals are replacing the function that weed essentially carries for folks.... Primarily what I heard is that marijuana can allow one to function and focus and not feel pain, and essentially have some level of control of ADHD. My invert-parasite partner Aaron told me toward the very end of the year that he came to lab stoned for the whole time, and he asked me if I could tell. I said, "No! I didn't know that! You were fine! You were functional! You got your work done!" And then Aaron said, "Well, that's the point. Being stoned helps me slow down and focus, otherwise I would be rapid-firing-scatter-brained and all ADHD." I heard since then (and a while back) that his parents found out that he was smoking pot, and that they converted him to taking Ridlin... but that's such a long, long time ago... who knows what's going on.... Nevertheless, Jxlees, back in his wild wild days, used to be a grower and he just tells me, from his own simple, first-hand experience, just stay away from heavy pot users.... They're so lethargic and apathetic losers and just sit their xsses on the couch all day doing nothing... which I'm not sure how true that is...
What can I say? I could state that "my big fat greek family" back in Greece contains a few family members which I consider to be pathetic... in terms of their level of chain cigarette (or cigar) smoking and lack of consumption of healthy foods. I don't need to name names... my two uncles.... News from Greece... heart attacks, quadruble bypass surgery, stints, death from cancer in the gums, spread to the brains, with brutal radiation therapy frying my grandmother as if she were a roasted pig and not a human… the usual.... I guess what makes the whole experience in a state of "abstract pain" rather than the real, agonizing, tormenting pain, is that we have thousands of miles between California and Greece. The only true pain I felt was when I saw my mother's ghostly pale, blank face, after watching her mother (my grandmother) pass away after radiation therapy in Greece. Yet overall, from a distance, these forms of behaviors seem absurd, but if I were right in the thicket of the lives of my relatives in Greece, I am bound to feel very different about this subject matter. I can remember a grad student named Jimmy in environmental sciences at UCR who was asked on his written exams how to measure the health and environmental impacts of smoking. All my mind did was flashback to the vaulted, smoke-filled rooms of Circus Circus and especially Caesar's Palace, as I was choking and coughing trying to get through these casino rooms with my family. Jimmy stated that he would measure impacts of first-hand and second-hand smoking. And then I said, isn't there a measure of "cumulative impacts"? (just as there are cumulative impacts on the ocean, as investigated by Ben Halpern). Mass accumulation effects? Like the effect of smoking in an entire massive vaulted ambiance of Las Vegas?! He said no. No one is doing that. It didn't make sense. He only focused on proximate impacts of the smoker and potentially someone who lived with a smoker. But what about all those people who are stuck working or gambling in these Las Vegas environments? There must be a cumulative effect!
As for Lauri, the Comparative Expert on the Buffet of Drugs (I vividly remember her giving me a lecture on this topic when we were both looking over the balcony of a swanky hotel where the Western Society of Naturalists was being held, back in the fall of 2003). Though the lecture-conversation was sooo intense, I don't remember any of it. Nevertheless, what I do remember is that she is the source of the Buffet of Knowledge, so when I need some guidance (perhaps to seek some non-consumptive inspiration for new approaches to artwork... ha ha...), Lauri is the go-to person. Other than that, I've had run-ins with former cocaine and crack addicts (dudes who seem to function being bartenders for 8 hours straight), and our neighbors in Riverside used to be drug dealers, also illegally dumping oil in the ground... they were eventually arrested and evicted from the household... other than that....
Alas, alas! Returning to the alcohol!!! Coming to think of it, one would think that my modern theories of alcohol consumption must hold some historical roots! When Lingxuan and I were driving to Oran's house, he stated that some research has shown that if a child likes alcohol, then there is a high chance that the child will like alcohol as an adult. Well! I happened to tell him what happened to me! When I was eight years old, my mother stopped me in the kitchen and gave me some sips of red wine. I had one or two sips and I had an instant aversion, stating that it was sour, bitter, disgusting, and that I didn't want to finish it. My mother laughed and said that was fine. She also said that she gave me wine because I wouldn't get all alcohol-crazy later on in my life... Alcohol is not a big deal... My aversion to booze continued when in Greece. The whole family was at a giant dinner in Spetses, and my uncle Panos plopped a half jar full of beer and asked me to drink it. I tried some and didn't like it. I blurted out, "You adults are crazy! Why do you like things that taste sooo bad?!" Then the dinner came, and it was quite salty, so I drank the rest of the beer out of desperate thirst, not out of any form of liking.
In conclusion, the signs are good and not good in terms of my relationship with chemical-induced society-classified drugs, with observational backing from my ontogeny. My own body and brain chemistry indicates that I go on these "all-natural highs" that could possibly be induced by alcohol and other forms of drugs, but why do I need to take drugs when I'm already giddy, when I'm already manic, when I'm already slowed and calmed (after jogging) when I'm already in some desired existential trance state. I change my brain chemistry by learning something new, by changing my behavior, by changing my environment, not by ingesting additional chemicals beyond the regular food. In fact, if I am addicted to anything in the world, I'm very much addicted to learning new things (which is why I want to stay in the university!). With mounting evidence of such an addiction, a geology professor at UC Riverside stated "Scientists and heroine addicts are one and the same. We both wake up in the morning, surging with life, racing after our addictions, stimulating the same pleasure centers in our brains... except that scientists typically have their brains strapped to a computer and the heroine addict holds a needle to his arm. But really, what's the difference?" Strange enough, being addicted to learning is perceived as a positive, socially acceptable addiction... but with some consequences. If I learn too much and attempt to absorb too much information at once, then I get overwhelmed and vulnerable and mentally collapse and hibernate for several days at a time. Aka being "drunk with information overload."
My brain is hard enough to manage in a state of waking consciousness, why would I need any more chemical substances to alter a system that is already altering too fast for me to keep up?!
It is an endless Myth of Sisyphus, an endless quest to stimulating your pleasure center and feel some sense of self-satisfaction and content with yourself and your life circumstances. Or for me, to maintain some level of SANITY.... Society keeps throwing all these pills at me, pills for alcohol, pills for bipolar disorder, pills for ADHD, pills for depression, pills for anorexia (at one time), pills for all sorts of things, claiming that they will somehow help me and and enhance my life somehow. But after at least 10 years in the real world, I can proudly state that I have managed not to become hooked onto any of these candies that society keeps marketing to us, trying to figure out ways to convince us that we're all "sick" and "need a life" or need a better life.... Instead I've come to look at other organisms. I have come to look at evolution and ecology. I have come to explore and unearth my "caveman-girl instincts" that lay dormant in all of us but can be courageously expressed and released in the arts. I have found my addictions, my mental chemical alterations through being addicted to learning, exploration, being addicted to freedoms of expression, being addicted to change, change of behavior, change of environment, being addicted to clean air, water, healthy minimally processed foods, exercise, sleep (working out my brain while resting my body, working out my body while resting my brain), my family, my friends, and a sense of absurd purpose in life presently chilling out at the university (the whole Maslow Hierarchy Millenium Ecosystem Impacts). Evolution has already thrown enough addictions and drugs toward my direction, each of which if I explore enough, will help me achieve that sense of pleasure, maintain a sense off sanity... so why in the world would I need to acquire and latch on to any more superfluous pills so well proliferated (and promoted) by human society? (Or at least the first world, the "First World" is in mental warfare and the "Third War" is supposedly in physical warfare).
I shall end in a four-liner poem
(which I tried to expand, but it didn't work so well):
It's not really me, It's not really me.
I'd rather go through the down days, knowing,
just for a moment, I was truly happy.
Vic's Official Theories of Alcohol and Drug Consumption:
General Observation of Vic's Life History Strategy:
"The coffee drinker in the corner in a bar full of drinkers."
"I'm more drunk when I'm not drunk."
"Drunk... in context, by context."
"It's not that I'm smart. It's just that I have this very hyperactive brain that chronically needs a mental work out because I didn't drink enough alcohol in college to kill enough brain cells such that I could consciously and pacifyingly follow suit to society's expectations of my own desired road to life."
"Alternative Addictions: Why define yourself by the negative elements that you're trying to resist, rather than the positive, alternative solutions you're trying to actively pursue?"
(what's the new crutch, the new prosthetic?)
Some old blogs I wrote related to the subject: Blog 356, Blog 294 (States of Consciousness, Poem Pure Being to Self-Aware Being), Blog 330 (Addicted to Learning, The Science of doing Science), Excerpt Poem from "Another and Again"