Diagnosis (unofficial)

I can’t make an official diagnosis until I get a diffusion tensor image of my dad’s brain. Unofficially, however, I will say this: When he went over the handle bars of his bike and hit his head on the pavement, the blunt force trauma almost certainly resulted in the formation of a frontal lobe lesion. It took thirteen stitches to close the scalp laceration he received on impact, and the attending ER doctor told him that it was comparable to head injuries he had seen sustained in car accidents.

Psychiatric disorders resulting from acquired brain injuries are well documented. For instance, frontal lobe lesions are directly related to behavioural changes, particularly those associated with reasoning and judgment, impulse control, and crises of identity. These changes can lead to isolation, which can generate anxiety and depression. Age is a factor as well. It plays a significant role in ABIs, because the human brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties. Damage occurring before this age is far more likely to result in lasting developmental disabilities. My dad was under ten years old when he had his accident, so if he suffered a frontal lobe injury, chances are it will continue to affect him for the rest of his life.

Would a frontal lobe injury account for the appearance of Frank? Perhaps. However, it’s important to remember the difference between circumstantial and direct evidence. Although Frank appeared immediately after my dad hit his head, this sequence of events does not, in and of itself, constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt that Frank was the product of my dad’s accident.

Would a frontal lobe lesion, combined with a large dose of magic mushrooms, account for my dad’s lengthy fireside discussion with Frank? Again, perhaps. But the answer to this question is more a function of your views on alternate realities, different dimensions, the supernatural, the paranormal etc.

It’s worth mentioning here that magic mushrooms are now being studied in clinical trials, and the results are game-changing. Psilocybin has been proven effective for treating people with treatment-resistant depression, and anxiety. A single dose has been shown to reboot the cognitive circuitry of the severely depressed, effectively curing them. What so many ancient cultures knew, is now being acknowledged in the laboratory.

I would like to address one final thing that was brought to my attention by my editor, who, upon reading the sex scene between my dad and Sam, called me up and asked me if I was really prepared to put that kind of thing out into the world, considering, of course, that I’m his daughter. This came as a complete surprise to me, because it hadn’t crossed my mind that that scene might be viewed as anything other than a biographer’s dutiful inclusion of a formative event. And maybe that’s the reward of writing. You see, before starting this book I said to myself that I would tell the story of my dad’s “delving day”, as Bukowski would call it, without walking back the darkness, or sanitizing the dirt. Hagiographies, as we all know, are as boring as they are bullshit. Besides, what if we all just need to ride the bus. What if we all just need to remember who we are. What if we all just need to talk about death and freedom, do mushrooms in the forest and get laid every once in a while.

Maybe that’s the not-so-secret secret to life.

*excerpt from the Omnibus Edition of Taxicab to Wichita and Bus Back to Omaha

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9 thoughts on “Diagnosis (unofficial)

  1. So, I remarked to Duke on LaDwD that I couldn’t quite tell what was autobiographical and what was fiction narrative. I’ll echo the sentiment here.
    That said, I’m rather intrigued by the concept of intentionally over-mixing for that expectation. What if the reader never really knew if the author was speaking of real live, or of fictionalized, evocative story telling? How could you draw in the reader to first assume, “Yeah, this happened to me.” But then twist in such a way as to break their minds. “No, no way could that have happened! Could it?”
    To leave readers disturbed by the proposition that the story they just read may, or may not have been real. Spooky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is really what I’m after. The “mid-western mind trip” as Bob Dylan called it. The waking dream. The woah that gets said when something snaps into a place that has no latitude or longitude. That acid trip interconnectivity where the wires of reality start humming with your thoughts. Or something like that.

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    2. AMole hits upon what I consider to be “good writing”. I call it informed fiction that is honest, but not so much that the words enter memoir, journalism, or history. Truth is often the standard in those genres and when the words veer from the “truth,” critics attack and people lose book deals or their reputations. As for informed fiction, someone once said, “Hey, you write witness literature.” Of course, the Russians have a great saying, “He lies like an eyewitness.” Anyway, honesty is a much easier game than the truth and it should be easier to read with more interesting twists. The truth is rather a fucked concept in my opinion. Thanks. Duke

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    3. One other thing: as to “No, no way that could have happened!” It seems to me that a “strange life’ or “unique life” often gives rise to feelings of unbelievablity in the eyes of others. Sometimes a life is way outside of the “normal” activities for people in Europe and the U.S., yet those sorts of odd lives produce perfect moments that are never to be repeated again, at least not in the same way to the individuals involved, and they are unique or strange and are kept close to the heart and mind. Now if you have the facility to write in a good way, then by simply saying what happened at that moment gives the reader pause: “This is only bullshit.” There is so much bullshit in the world of writing, that one can be forgiven for coming to that conclusion. Yet, it is an honest recounting of what happened. I recall the testimony of a nun in Guatemala. They forced her into a hole and she was on top of two other people who were tied up. They threw her a knife and told her that unless she stabbed the others to death they would go to her convent and kill all the children housed there. Slowly, she killed the two people and they let her out and she returned to the convent. It sounds unbelievable, yet I know in my heart that she is being honest and it did happen. Writing is a two way street and the reader decides if something is honest and true, not the writer. The context that both the writer and reader bring to the exchange is everything. I call it the flash of comprehension. Thanks. Duke

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      1. The nun was acting as the dispatcher of souls and maybe she was okay with that within the context of her beliefs. She may have even felt privileged to some degree, to be able to say a prayer for her victims before she killed them, nudging them toward the light, or whatever.

        The one part of Bus Back to Omaha that is a verbatim account of what actually occurred in ‘real life’, or appeared to occur, is one of the most–if not thee most–unbelievable parts of the story. This creates a kind of axial irony that I get to secretly enjoy as the writer.

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      2. Would you agree that from the outset, a work is either one of fiction or one of fact/experience/interpretation/history, and that any reader entering into the story would have an expectation of one or the other?
        I admit that fictional stories may have basis in actual events, but the reader expects that this particular story is fiction. I think this shadow-land, uneasy feeling, which is perfectly valid as a intended emotion to try and engender in a reader, comes from not knowing — is this fiction or truth?
        Especially when the story is written in first person. I mean, did that girl really jump out of the car at speed and get ground to pulp? Somehow knowing it “may” have happened is different that know that it “did” happen. And not knowing which is unsettling (even more so than if the story was known to be true).

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I would agree, yes. I think every meaty, juicy piece of fiction was born from first person experience, and the names and places were changed, details exaggerated or obscured, as needed. The roman a clef, I suppose, is what we’re into here. So many great works of fiction were roman a clefs, The Bell Jar etc. There’s a magnetic effect on the reader when they begin wondering, suspecting things about the book and the writer of the book. Dimensions are added, context etc. Historicity is, I’d say, in this wheelhouse. Was Christ a real historical figure? Almost certainly not, but it adds gravitas to the bible, and maybe that’s why it’s been the number one selling book of all time.

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