THIS IS NOT A REVIEW: 1975

On May 5th, 2012, I had my first seizure. I was on a field trip with my community college art class to the downtown galleries. The group I was with visited a coffee shop/venue/gallery that had previously hosted wizard rock concerts, was at the time hosting some bored hipsters and a series of paintings depicting WWII airplanes with sharks instead of propellers, and is now sadly closed. We looked at the paintings, made some notes, and prepared to leave. As we left, I suddenly felt strangely sick to my stomach and told my classmates I had to run to the bathroom real quick. As I rounded the corner towards the venue’s graffiti-covered bathrooms, I suddenly lost my vision. And then I hit a wall. And then I blacked out.

I came to as paramedics took my blood sugar with those little pricky thingies and wheeled me into an ambulance. They asked me my name, age, insurance provider, etc. I answered, or at least I tried to. Syllables poured out of me like maple syrup out of a ten year old jar found in the back of the pantry – slowly and eventually, but only with great effort. Haltingly, I tried to explain my situation. I could think just fine – or at least, relatively fine for having blacked out in a hipster art gallery on a Thursday. I knew what I wanted to say, but my body was not accommodating. I would eventually realize that certain sounds were especially difficult for me. Any hard consonants that required use of the tongue – t, d, etc. – were impossible to say for weeks afterward.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know by now that I like to talk. A lot. So this was pretty much my own private hell. My brain was processing everything as fine as it ever did, but expressing myself verbally was suddenly intensely difficult. So I undertook tests. I had ’em all – CTs, MRIs, EKGs, CRTs, MRAs, ROUSs – if it was a vaguely brain or heart related test, they did it. They never did test my soul, though. Huh. But after three months of tests and speech therapy, I was pretty much talking normally and we were no closer to an answer. It was another six months until I had another episode. This time I had been roughhousing with my roommate. I fell to the floor, unable to move, unable to even draw in breath. As the oxygen faded from me, I suddenly began twitching sporadically, air entering my lungs in infrequent trickles.

Hours later, in the emergency room, I finally had a diagnosis – a rare condition known as Conversion Disorder. It’s a stress-based malady that can build up over years before expressing itself symptomatically. Its symptoms also vary wildly – from aphasia to seizures to full body paralysis. And here’s the catch about it being stress based – long periods of extended exposure to stress can cause you to have CD, but an event doesn’t necessarily come from a specific stressful trigger. Stressful situations increase the likelihood, yes – I’ve had events at conventions, work, and awkward family gatherings. But I’ve also had a seizure at a roller rink. I’ve had many walking down the street. There was a time when I was having a petite seizure a few times a day, and a big, on the floor one a couple times a week. I once had a seizure trying to open a door. An automatic door.

There is something unexplainably terrifying about knowing that at any time, without warning, you could suddenly lost control of yourself. Worst of all – it’s not just you who is put in danger. I’m not exactly a short person, and my elbows are closer to bony knives than functioning biological joints. I also used to work extensively in childcare, a field I had to leave due to the fear that I would injure a child. This is all not to mention the stress and fear that friends and loved ones are put through when you’re walking in the park, having a lovely conversation, and you suddenly fall the ground, writhing, convulsing, and scaring all the children (and confusing most of the dogs).

As the years have gone by, I’ve divulged more and more of my life through the character of the Wrock Snob, as the already meaningless differences between the character and myself got even smaller. But while I’ve talked openly about my sexuality, and more recently, my gender, I haven’t talked about my disability and neurodivergence much here. But sharing the above was the only way I knew to adequately respond to the song “Stranger Danger”.

Reviewing is something I obviously love to do. I have too many opinions, and I also have the nerve to shove them in your face. But sometimes a piece of art will affect you in a way that can’t be responded to by a simple review. I could talk about the pleasant vocal work (especially in the higher registers), or laud the intensely catchy bridge, or ruminate about the Remus/Whompy relationship in wizard rock lyrics and the metatext of the characters as stand-ins for the musicians commonly associated with them, and how this song effortlessly steps away and drops all of that by not even dignifying a serial abuser with even a meta-lyrical wink. Not to mention the use of a gendered slur and how, while I wish there was a non-gendered equivalent in common parlance, I don’t really mind its use in this one particular case. There’s a lot like and discuss and pick apart in “Stranger Danger”, but I can’t do it. Or at least, I don’t really want to. Because this track is the song equivalent of Wreck-It Ralph – something so perfectly for and about me and my experiences that I can’t help but feel equal parts awed and suspicious. Still, I’d rather have Matt Maggiacomo in charge of the secret spy drones reading my brain patterns than Disney.

And I could easily go on for another thousand words about how meaningful this song is to me, how empowering it is to sing along to that kick-ass bridge. And that’s not to mention everything else I could say about the album this song appears on, 1975. And I probably will talk about the album as a whole at a later date. But time will never change “Stranger Danger” from appearing on 1975, and my emotional attachment to and engagement with this song will always be the most important part of the album to me – important to the point of consigning the rest of the disc to being meaningless, through no fault of the songs themselves. And I don’t really need to explain what is so beautiful and important to me about this single three-minute song. It’s something that I know intensely, and hopefully, something I’ve shared with you as well. All you need to know is the story I told above, and the bridge which I will leave below.

And ain’t it a bitch man?

When you think of yourself as some kind of stranger?

And ain’t it a bitch man?

To know you’re putting your friends in danger?

And ain’t it a bitch man?

To know you can’t change that part of you?

I know that you would, I know that you would,

If you only could.

Thank you for reading. I’ll see you again.

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