I planned out every step of this trip in advance and then I blew it by not following my plan. I left work early and I took BART. I had put this trip on my calendar eight weeks in advance and I didn’t know that the Giants would be playing a playoff game this night. Not a big deal. I thought I would make it back to BART before the game was over. I was wrong.
I got to the brewery well before it opened up at 3pm. As I arrived there was a crazy man walking down the street shouting as he walked. He yelled stuff at people behind me and then just stopped in front of the brewery and mumbled angrily.
I walked around the block to the City Beer Store. This place was better than I expected it to be. They had a great tap list and I would have been happy to stay there for a long time, but I wanted to go to the brewery. I decided I would come back later.
When Cellarmaker finally rolled up their warehouse doors they had a giant TV with the earlier play-off game on. Sometimes I appreciate the breweries that don’t have TV’s but baseball is my exception to the rule. They had subtitles on the TV and a record player was playing a Social Distortion LP. I really liked the beer. I took a photo for instagram featuring beer and baseball in the same photo but it felt oddly disingenuous so I didn’t post it.
My next planned stop was Mission Public. I heard from the wife that two old friends of ours had opened up a sandwich bar tap house in the Mission.
Anthony used to do film negatives for Probe Records, but I hadn’t seen him since then. I hadn’t talked to either of them in many years. Both Anthony and Chubby were there. It was good to see them and I really liked the place and stayed for a long while. If I would have headed back to the City Beer Store then I think my SF daytrip would have worked out perfectly.
My downfall began when I decided to also check out Zeitgeist because it was just a few blocks away. I had confused it with a different place. I thought it would be a barebones German beer garden with wood tables surrounded by a cyclone fence. Instead, it felt like a hip and happening nightspot. It seemed loud and I felt like I didn’t belong there. I got agitated. When I left I could see the sun was starting to go down so I picked up my pace. However, in my haste, I walked around a cross street and that was my doom.
I had been walking too far east and I wasn’t where I expected to be. It was getting dark. IDIOT! ! I had fucked myself. I went off plan. FUCKING IDIOT! I pretended that I was calm, but at that point the heart was already pounding. I tried to find the map app on my phone, but I couldn’t focus. I was in an empty warehouse section of the Mission District. At first I started mumbling, “Oh shit, Oh shit Oh shit, Oh shit” as I was walking.
I never had a fear of heights until about six years ago. That’s also when this started happening to me so I tend to equate the two things. It is similar to the feeling of reaching the top of a giant Ferris wheel and every muscle in your body involuntarily clenches as you realize there is no escape, no way to stop it. You just have to get through it.
I am aware that nothing is wrong. I don’t feel like I am in danger, but it doesn’t matter. Not being in control of my environment brings on an overwhelming sense of frustration. First the stomach drops, the hair raises, and then it strikes me hard in the chest. It feels like being attacked from the inside, a sudden acceleration that I can’t control. I think this sensation is what leads some people to believe in demonic possession.
Ironically, once the actual panic sets in, that’s when the fear ends for me. At that point I’m just a raging dickhead. Not cool and powerful Hulk rage, more similar to the sad indignant rage of an old man who is having trouble sucking in air.
As I walked on I started shouting randomly “FUCK YOU! … nnmm… nmmm FUCK YOU! ……… …. Ah … What the FUCK!!!!… …… FUCK YOU!!!” at nobody. At that point a Chupacabra could have come flying out of tree and bit me on the neck and it wouldn’t have had any effect on me. My central nervous system was already in overdrive. In fact, a Chupacabra attack would have been helpful at that point. It would have given me something to focus on.
I had my phone in my hand and tried to call the wife. I choked out one coherent sentence, “Where am I?” and I tried to give her a street name or something (I thought I was Coherent, she tells me now that I sounded insane and I was interrupting Game of Thrones.) Then I started cursing and hung up on her. She tried to call me back several times. I didn’t pick up or hung up right away. When this happened years ago, things were icy around the house for quite a while, not good for the marriage. However, this time she knew what was going on and didn’t take it personally. She was just concerned that I would get arrested.
I walked a few blocks. I was walking and randomly cursing. As I started to calm down I realized that I was no longer in an empty warehouse section. I was on a tree-lined street and people were crossing the street to avoid me. I specifically remember a nicely dressed Asian man keeping an eye on me as he lead his wife across the street. That shut me up and I felt properly shamed.
A block or so later I saw bright lights coming out from behind some latticework. It took me several seconds to figure it out but I realized I was standing across the street from Cellarmaker Brewery again. This was fantastic because it meant I knew exactly where I was! It also meant I could go in and have a beer.
The bartender eyed me all the way to the bar and seemed relieved when I spoke precisely. I ordered a Belgium style blond ale which is not my normal style, but it was what I was in the mood for. It was the best beer of the night.
I texted the wife, “Sorry! It’s over now. Doing well!” She texted back, “Great!! Love you!”
It didn’t bother me at all that BART was packed and standing room only with Giants fans. I felt relieved, like I had been in big fight and came out of it unscathed. I was too exhausted and relaxed to care.
The next day my chest was painful, but I knew to expect it this time. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack. ($400 for an EKG even with medical insurance!)
A few weeks later I was explaining to a friend why I don’t go out at night. She nodded and said understandingly, “Oh, you have anxiety and you get panic attacks.” Her husband has the same thing. For some crazy reason this common sense explanation was a revelation to me. For the longest time I thought I was developing a mental illness, but I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I was afraid they would suggest medication. However, Jay Moore, Steve Martin, Ben Weasel, and every single person interviewed on the Marc Maron podcast has talked about going through some sort of bout with anxiety and panic attacks. It’s completely normal.
When I told this to the wife and explained why I was feeling better she shook her head sadly and said, “Oh honey, you are not normal.”
Either way, this happened way back in October and I haven’t had a panic attack since then which is longer than I’ve ever gone since they started. I’ve gone out at night four five times since then too. I think I am done with them.