I’ve never been depressed. At my lowest in life I’d describe myself as melancholy. I’ve seen depression devour people. Not me, I was prescribed drugs for my periodic displays of idiotic behavior. I was a dumbass, but drugs didn’t help that.
The first time I did drugs was in the mid ‘90s when ADD first became a thing. The pitch was “Hey, maybe this attention disorder is why you’re a loser!” The test indicated that I didn’t have ADD, but a doctor prescribed dextro-amphetamine to “help even you out.” The only thing it did was prevent me from sleeping. I called to complain and a nurse told me “your body will eventually get used to it.” I put the bottle in my refrigerator and forgot about it. A year later I said, “hey, what happened to that bottle of pills?” and my roommate told me that one night she had emptied the bottle, smashed the pills with a hammer, and snorted them up her nose. I said, “really???” but I think she was serious.
Later on a new highfalutin amphetamine called Adderall was available. It was suggested that I give amphetamines another shot. I kept a sample in my glove compartment for a few months. When I did try it HOLY CRAP. Adderall is amazing! I went from feeling grumpy and half dead to being happy and social the entire day. Whenever I hear an actress or a comedian being interviewed on a podcast and explain that they were having problems with drugs and alcohol but they were prescribed Adderall and they are feeling good. I think, “Yeah, NOW YOU’RE HIGH ALL THE TIME.”
The wife said, “102.6” and I was stunned.
I had been complaining to her that I had been out of it for a few days. She wanted to put together some patio furniture but I couldn’t deal with it. When she brought out the thermometer I explained to her “No, I’m not sick!” I was frustrated, irritated, and fighting off dread because the way I was feeling was familiar. I actually said to her, “this is the way I used to feel when I lived in the city.” When she told me I had a fever my mind was a little blown because my only symptoms were tiredness and mental burnout, but I was happy to learn it was just a fever.
A month later, the fever was still with me. I had assumed I had mono because that’s the most common virus with a long running fever. However an internist at Kaiser told me tests showed that there were already expired mono cells in my blood. She asked, “Do you remember feeling especially run down sometime in the last two to five years? That would have been about the time you had mono.”
DON’T BLAME SAN FRANCISO
When I moved to San Francisco it didn’t turn out the way I hoped. First I blamed it on the warm stale air of the basement office space that I had moved into. Also, my plan for not having running water was to sign up for a gym membership. I thought it was a genius move on my part. $150 rent in downtown San Francisco but with the amenities of a fancy gym a few blocks away. Without parties or roommates not only was I going to be able to focus on having the most badass record label and zine in the city but I was going to be ripped! However, just 5 minutes of lifting weights would tire me out. One time I forced myself to run on a treadmill for 20 minutes and was wiped out for the rest of the day. I blamed it on being out of shape from my summer truck-driving job.
When I moved out the office into a flat at Divisadero and Fell I was getting stuff done but never kicking ass at any point. I complained about “coffee doesn’t work for me anymore” and told people how I used to enjoy working on zine stuff but now even small jobs seemed like a pain in the ass. I thought it might be the SF climate or living in traffic. Depression was brought up as a possibility. I didn’t know it was just the late stages of mono and since I described it in those terms it’s easy to see why after a 15 minute appointment I was prescribed anti-dressants. My only question was “can I drink when I take these?” The very laid back Indian doctor chuckled “a couple of beers no problem.. eh you may feel more drunk than usual, but you save money on beer!”
Drugs Broke My Brain, Drink Beer!
When a guy I knew suddenly jumped on top of a fence and started drunkenly cat-call passing high-school girls after just four beers or the time a laid back friend of a friend unexplainably started a fight with a 7/11 clerk or that one time I was at an A’s game and from across the field I saw a guy from my softball team drunkenly shouting at players, then bending over and dropping his pants – he seemed genuinely surprised when security came to escort him away – and this was before the game had started, most people see things like that and think, “That guy was wasted!” but I always suspect they aren’t wasted, they just can’t handle alcohol because they’re on anti-depressants.
“Dr. Malcolm Bowers of Yale found in the late 90’s over 200,000 people yearly are hospitalized with antidepressant-induced manic psychosis. They also point out that most go unrecognized as medication-induced.”
No matter how much I drink, and I have tested the limits of drunken consciousness at least two thousand times in my lifetime, the only times I have ever been blackout drunk were when I was on anti-depressants. Thankfully I didn’t do anything more horrible than usual, I just didn’t remember doing it. At first I thought people were fucking with me or THEY were the ones that were confused. Dumb stuff like reprimanding my roommates for moving my car and then all of them trying to convince me that I had done it. Luckily, after I made a spectacle of myself at the Monterey Pop Festival some good people staged an intervention and I stopped taking Prozac.
I’ve got two friends that went to the hospital, one very nearly died, because they drank while on their prescribed medications. One was casually referred to as an alcoholic his entire life. However, after his stay in the hospital he was weaned off multiple medications that he had taken since childhood and now he’s just a guy who will have a few beers.
May cause a loss of interest in sex
Just for comparison’s sake, those excited faces of people riding rollercoasters, that’s what I used to look like every time I saw a naked woman.
I was never “casual” about sex. I was completely enthusiastic, it was always pretty much the greatest thing that ever happened in the world and that’s how I learned drugs can be scary powerful. The day I looked at a naked woman and nothing happened I knew my brain had been broken.
Back in 2001 the greatest songwriter of our generation was court ordered to take medication and stay out of the city while he waited for a court date. He stayed at our house, everyday the wife and I would go to work and he’d sit in our backyard and smoke cigarettes. He said (paraphrasing, of course, however he said it was more poetic), “this would be the perfect time for me to write some songs, writing songs is my favorite thing, but I’m on this medication and I don’t feel anything, everything is flat. I can’t write songs.” and I said “I know exactly what you mean!” and I told him about the sex thing.
I blame it all on the Benzos
Don’t read this section because I’m full of shit. This part is complete crap. This is when the drunken guy is rambling on and it’s sad. I tried passing this theory off on The Wife two different times, once on a dog walk, and once at our favorite bar on date night and she dismissed my theories in 30 seconds both times. But I do wonder why in my early 30s I started getting crippling hangovers but now at age 50 I can drink so much that it scares me a little. Benzodiazepines are tough on the liver. They can give you a gut and shaking hands, very similar to the effects of alcohol, plus all drugs and alcohol are worse when you combine them. I remember asking the doctor “Why do my hands shake all the time?” and she told me it was “a natural tremor” Then I got a beer gut the size of a basketball. I don’t think alcohol was the problem with me. What I had was an excess of enthusiasm. The 90’s were a very fun time. I didn’t want to miss anything so I went out 4 or 5 nights a week. However, at home I was sober. Ironically, the bottle of pills that were just a little something to calm me down so I’d feel less like drinking may have lead me to become a bigger drinker. Inspired by my gut and Tom Hopkins at MRR I went on a diet that severely limited my beer intake. Instead of buying a 12 pack of whatever I started concentrating on what my beers would be, I’d think of them longingly beforehand and then pour them in a pint glass and stare at them worshiply before drinking them. That’s how I got into craft beer. So now I don’t go out much but drinking at home has become my biggest hobby. I was inspired to write this post after reading an article about doctors who noticed a rise in the number of their patients reporting a problem with anxiety and panic attacks, after comparing medical histories they noticed a preponderance of benzo prescriptions (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin etc.) even prescriptions as short as 90 days 10 years earlier. I thought ah ha! It made sense to me. I think there is a fine line between enthusiasm and anxiety. You joggle that part of your brain…. nine years ago when I had a problem I tried to explain to the wife why I suddenly refused to go out anymore, at the time I didn’t know what anxiety was so I described it as “a sense of evil hovering over me” she said “If that’s what’s happening you need to see a doctor” and I said, “No! I think that’s why it’s happening!” I suspected it before I read about it. But just to reiterate, I am completely full of shit. There are too many competing factors to consider and I didn’t take any medications for very long. If you get on Google and add search terms like “testimonials” you can find whatever you want to see. I’m making excuses for my failures and weaknesses. I don’t blame the doctors either, I was a guy, delivering pizza ten years after graduating from college, and they just figured I must have issues and was self-medicating. At the time prescribing medication was considered low risk compared to the hazards of heavy drinking. It’s different now. Although, I did recently read that 9% of all kids in the United States are given Ritalin or Adderall. (In France it’s less than half of 1%) 1st – 5th grade I couldn’t sit at a table with other kids. In the 3rd grade I was kicked out of class so often that I was sent to a different school with an “open pod” where we’d work on our own and keep a journal of our progress. I thrived in that atmosphere but most the other unsocialized kids didn’t so the experiment was ended. However, there is no doubt that in today’s schools, instead of open pod learning I’d have been given Ritalin and later Adderall and, of course, I would have become a doctor.
They didn’t figure out why I had a fever for 9 weeks, but that’s not unusual. The internist told me that while a nine-week fever is extremely rare there are thousands of known and unknown viruses in the world. The only thing somewhat unusual about my case was that I hadn’t recently returned from a foreign country.
Brewery culture has passed its punk rock stage. The once fun and exciting industry is struggling to keep touch with it’s friendly community spirit. On the whole it’s still very positive and now throwing some beer drinking tables out in front of your establishment is more expected than verboten.
I apologize for the lack of Miley Cyrus in this post. My favorite YouTube music video this past year was Miley on the Ellen Show “Younger Now.” It’s a spirit lifter. It was going to be the YouTube clip that I ended this post with but then I wrote about Matty Luv and there is some Hickey news.
The Naked Cult of Hickey
Two times last year I was at a party and the same thing happened, once in Sacramento with somewhat younger folk and once at a kid’s b-day party in San Jose with some aging punks. Somebody introduced me to a few people and they said “He’s the guy that used to do The Probe!” and I was met with uncertain but friendly nods, then “he had a record label too, he put out the Hickey LP” which was followed by opened mouthed impressed faces, handshakes in appreciation of musical history, genuine heartfelt dedications, “that record… one of the greatest… that’s why I….” etc. So I feel almost like there is a legacy to uphold but it’s not my own.
Sometime in the next week or so I’m going to drive out to see Fred of Thrillhouse Records and hopefully we’re going to drink at a brewery down the street from his record store, which is the part I’m looking forward to, but the reason I’m going out there is to deliver artwork for the full size Hickey LP booklet because Thrillhouse is going to repress it on vinyl.
He gave his blessing for this but I think at some point Aesop or maybe it was Matty said there wouldn’t be a second vinyl pressing. The first one was a major undertaking. To keep the LP under $6 Matty had to scam the copies for the booklet which was a major time consuming undertaking, involving several locations. Aesop hand screened all of the front covers, and then they had friends come over to do individual artwork on all of the back covers. I wasn’t there, but I know this wasn’t some SF hippy pot smoking art party. It was probably pretty ugly, I’m sure everybody was on meth; there were time constraints because Hickey was going on tour. I think it involved a lot of folks that had been up for days scrawling with big markers and gluing stuff.
Okay and, if that isn’t the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard … then you and I have a different idea of what the most beautiful song in the world is.
We’re closely connected, two degrees of separation, but I think I’ve only talked to Fred of Thrillhouse Records three times. The first time he sent an email asking for my input when he decided to open up a punk rock record store that would double as label and a venue. I said NO!!! DON’T DO IT!!!
The next time was 10 years later on my 40th birthday. A group of friends met at Pacific Coast Brewery in Berkeley, and in the afternoon we drove across the bridge to Beach Chalet Brewery in SF. When we were there my friends Bill and Brad walked up to our table out on the lawn with a circle tray full of whiskey shots and they were doing some drunken’ drink whiskey chant. I thought because it was my birthday they were making me do a bunch of shots. I was annoyed because I was already happily drunk on beer, but not to be a killjoy I quickly grabbed the remaining six shots and drank them down. (Later I chastised them for buying me so many shots and they told me they were just passing out shots to everybody, but I grabbed them all) so 30 minutes later we were at Thrillhouse Records and it was a major struggle to keep myself upright. The Four Eyes were playing in the basement. I remember the entire place was spinning. However, I made it to the basement and grabbed a post coming down from the floor. After the first band everything finally stopped spinning and someone handed me a tall can of beer. It was good! I was back! I had rallied through it, but I had to pee. In the backyard there were some nice shrubs but also signs that said not to pee in the backyard because of the neighbors. So I went upstairs to the living quarters above the record store and there was a long line of people waiting for one toilet. I said, “No way, we can speed this line up by peeing in the shower drain. So I pulled the curtain to the tub back and I was peeing in the drain and Fred walked up and said “Hey! Please don’t pee in our bathtub, people live here, that’s where we shower!” So that was the second time I talked to him.
The third time was at Craigums and Mary wedding and he didn’t say. “Hey you’re the jerk who tried to kill my dreams and you peed in my bathtub!” He was nice and the Hickey LP is an all time favorite of his. He’s a product of that Mission scene and despite my warning that it would end with him crushed and broken hearted, over 20 years later he is still going! So yeah, happy it is Thrillhouse repressing the vinyl.
The Hickey song I ended this post was not from the LP, but I already ended another post with the Hickey LP. That was the one where I mentioned Steve from 1234 Go! Records in Oakland repressing the CD.
Also, speaking of the Four Eyes, when I looked to see what other bands Fred had put out on his label. The Four Eyes is one of them. This website belongs to Dave Ninja of the Four Eyes. He started BREWZNEWZ and sent password log-ins for his friends to contribute. I was the only one who did so eventually this just turned into my personal blog.
Artwork by Hal MacLean. The Matty Luv “Art on our Wall” this post is by Bradley Roberts. No “featured beer” this post because I’ve gone on too long, and I stole the photo of Thrillhouse Records off Instagram from a member of a Japanese hardcore band called For Life.