Shoot me the pot and I’ll pour me a shot

The other day I had 5 cups of coffee and I felt like my heart was going to explode. It used to be that I could sleep 3 hours a night, drink 3 cups of coffee a day, and function well enough to get all the stuff I had to get done done. I’m beginning to feel old.

Pardon the direct quote, but this is from Ask Dr. Science, a radio show:

Dear Doctor Science,
Why is it that after not sleeping for two weeks and drinking only coffee, I am able to see demons and control nature and fly and stuff like that?
— Brian Brunschoen from Portland , OR

Because lack of sleep and extreme caffeine consumption allow you to become the person you were truly meant to be: a self-deluded narcissist with an eating disorder. It’s only by getting to know our real selves that we can claim the power that is due us. Some people might encourage you to sleep or eat, but they’re just jealous, and wish they had your ability to see demons and fly. Oh sure, the circumstances of your life, or incarceration, might mean that you would do well to play along with their silly little games, but you and I know what you’re really up to. When you drink coffee, make sure you drink only the very best, Ethiopian Harrarrarrarraar, brewed with distilled water and just a hint
of chromium dioxide.

Classic.

Talley’s Folly

By Lanford Wilson. This play won Wilson the Pulitzer in 1980. There are only two characters: Mike, a 42 year old Jewish accountant, and Sally Talley, a 31 year old nurse, and their romance in 1940’s Missouri. It’s a gem of scenewriting — one long scene in which Mike woos Sally, and each of them is forced to reveal a secret in order to break the eggshells they had built around their lives. I didn’t get bored for one minute, and then suddenly the play was over, and I put it down and smiled. There aren’t many plays I can read which make me feel content afterwards, but this one felt “just right.” He told his story, I learned things about people and humanity, and love, and that was what the play was about. No real “loose ends” on the first reading. I suppose if I look at it again I’ll see more, but I don’t want to ruin the moment now.

Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon

By Barbara Hodgson. This is a slim little volume that will teach you a lot about opium, its origins, how it was used, who used it, how it figured into 19th century Sino-British relations, and how it appeared in popular culture. By far the most interesting thing in the book is the pictures — it’s 140 pages of glossy reproductions of book covers, postcards, photos, sketches, and more. A must-read for those intrigued by drugs but who know very little, and fun of cute little tidbits. For example, “to kick the gong around” means to smoke opium. It seems that Minnie the Moocher was also a user. All in all, a fun read for when you need a break.

The Wall Of The Sky, The Wall Of The Eye

By Jonathan Lethem. This is a collection of seven short stories by one of my newest favorite authors, Jonathan Lethem. I find Lethem a little hit-and-miss sometimes, and I think the short stories here don’t allow him the space to flesh out his ideas, although the premise is often strong enough to carry the story through. Lethem operates in that netherworld of speculative fiction — not quite full-out sci-fi, but not a slice-of-life either.

In “Vanilla Dunk” we are taken to a world in which basketball players wear exosuits programmed with the skills of famous NBS stars — Vanilla Dunk is a white guy who gets Michael Jordan’s skills. The story is from another player’s perspective. He’s not one of the elites, but one of the solid players who make up the rest of the team. From the hypothesis of a world in which the exosuits exist, Lethem focuses in on the impact on the players themselves. In “Five Fucks” we get a series of vignettes in which reality shifts every time this woman hooks up with this man. It’s like LeGuin’s “The Lathe of Heaven,” but more compact and sketchy, almost as if Lethem was telling you about the story in a bar. “The Hardened Criminals” is about a jail in which the walls are made of prisoners compressed together and laquered over, like something out of an H.R. Geiger painting. “Light And The Sufferer” is about a drug deal gone horribly awry, and these inexplicable aliens who are drawn to troubled souls.

As I said before, the stories are hit-and-miss. It seems like he was writing out some ideas he had before finding one which could sustain a novel. But it’s worth taking a look at if you want to read something reality-bending.