In is my nature to be illogically logical when it comes to considering my life in recent years. I think I am learning why people who have been important to me through the years — Jeffrey Halden, Hunter S. Thompson, Robin Williams, Dennis Camp, Vachel Lindsay, — have taken their own lives, and believing that I understand why they’ve taken that final recourse, I have used that empathetic connection to prevent, or delay, mine. Another significant insight to the malaise came with David McCullough’s wonderful, highly recommended biography of Harry S. Truman entitled Truman. In it McCullogh explains how Secretary of Defense James Forrestal died, falling to his death at Bethesda Naval Hospital after checking himself in for treatment of severe depression. The author describes symptoms of self-destructive behavior that preceded his death, and that led me to consider some of my own. In one of his hit songs, Billy Joel sings, “I know there is no one who can save me from myself.” I believe that. But knowing that line that “the piano man” wrote to be true, does not help, or lead me, to feel better.
McCullough wrote that Forrestal picked at his scalp until it bled. There were spots of no hair on his because of this scratching. I’ve picked at my scalp until it has bled, but not significantly, and I still have re respectable spread of my original hair up there. But, motivated by unhappy challenges to keeping a positive balance in my checking account, I have done my best to keep my household water bill to a minimum. For most of 2016 after a water pipe in my basement crawl space burst and renters upstairs enlisted the free help of one of their friends who stopped the leak, but in so doing, he also stopped the flow of water to my kitchen sink. That brought a new challenge. For 11 months last year, I carried water from my bathroom bathtub spigot to my kitchen to wash dishes. Dirty dishes ddd not pile up often because it was easier to rinse off dishes and use them again. Early this year, the pipe fixed last year burst AGAIN in the basementsoon after the first major frost of this winter. It led to an unimaginable water bill because I hadn’t been doing laundry in the basement for weeks at a stretch. There was no water damage because it had been flowing out through the basement drain. The plumber’s repair bill plus the water usage bill were astro-freaking NOMENAL! The city water utility subsequently reduced my bill since the reduced water flow registering with the utility proved I had had it repaired, but the total bill still took my breath away. Thanks to home equity loans I have paid most of the plumbing bill and part of the utility bill by this time. In the meantime I’ve avoided showers and baths since about Christmas of 2016
To be sure, I’ve occasionally washed areas usually kept covered by pants over the months. I’ve become haunted by the hear of unknowingly bothering associates with what I call “old man odor.” No one has complained but I’m pretty sure that’s because I’m seldom close so close to other people who might NOTICE. There may be some who have noticed and been too polite to tell me about my “problem.” Instead, those people hardly ever communicate with me.
At night in bed I have often scratched dead skin from my face, especially around the eye and nose, behind my ear lobes sometimes the skin under my beard. It comes off into my fingernails. When they’re full of dead skin, I clean them with a tooth pick or piece of card or folded paper, and continue to scratch — not because anything itches, but because I don’t want people to see my flaky skin and my dandruff in my bushy eyebroows. The positive side from not washing my scalp is that it stays in place, though it was becoming hard to keep in place with the accumulation of whatever was accumulating topside. It did have a matted down look to it and though it wasn’t pleasing, it was tolerable to me. I was saving some dollars.
Saturday afternoon I took a shower for the first time since last December, a nice, long, hot shower. I had been invited to a party, the house was tolerably cool from the uptick in weather late last week. That was “divine coincidence.” My furnace broke a few weeks ago and I’ve decided to “tough it out” until next fall. Thank GOD the water heater works!
Last night during the gathering at a friend’s house, I noticed how much cleaner my hands feel: not exactly “softer,” but smoother . Another plus is how much better my clorhes feel on me: no hint of chafing binding. And the scalp is the major improvement. a little breeze outside can muss it a mite, and that’s okay; I have air brushes in my car and office desk. I can get things neat when it’s important; not a big deal.
So now that I’m “clean for a day,” I’m in no rush for my next shower. I’m guessing I’m going to shampoo every two weeks, and until the weather warms into the high 70s, I plan to try to go a month before my next shower. I’ll have to see how it goes. If i’m invited to another party, I probably won’t wait another month.
I am not trying to behave like a petulant 10 year old who doesn’t want to take baths or showers. I OLVE showers. Iast night I actually sat down in my slow-to-drain bath bub and washed/scratched a TON of dead skin off my feet, ankles and between my toes. I was amazed! There was so much dead white skin on the top of the dirty water, it looked like a light blizzard had passed over an asphalt parking lot. Of course after I stood up I thoroughly rinsed and wiped ever inch of my lower torso and legs that had been iimmersed in that fetid brine. I was also amazed how much my toenails had grown since Ii had most-recently taken off my socks. I had to darn-near peel the bottom of my socks off my feet. It had been at least a month since I had changed socks.
I HOPE that my plumbing bills will be paid in full by the time I take another shower. I do intend to wash my face with soap and water more frequently. That’s one area of demonstrable act of self-respect that I really intend to make a habit, at least every second or third morning.
Last night’s “coming clean” seems to have been a sellf-baptism or a sort. My burden of guilt and shame seems palpably lighter. A new week began today. Perhaps a new life began as well.
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Live long . . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.