Profiles in Slack
Having said that, diabetes is a mysterious disease that affects different people differently. Since all of the hormones interact, if you mess with one, you’re messing with the rest. It even affects your sense of hunger, so I’m often hungry when I can’t eat, but not hungry when I need to. Exercise is amazingly beneficial, both on a short and long term basis. Many diabetics are in denial about this. I’m lucky, because I’ve hardly missed a workout since I was nine years old, so I’m used to the regimen.
The only exception was an approximately two year period between around 18 and 20, after I had graduated high school and discovered beer. It is fair to say that I was more or less inebriated every single day during that period of time, as were each and every one of my friends. Strange, but there was not a single person in my immediate circle who regarded this as noteworthy, troubling, or undesirable in any way. To the contrary, we were all convinced that we had discovered the whole point of life. There was just nothing in the “normal world” that appealed to me at all, and I explicitly wanted to avoid entering that world until it was absolutely forced upon me.
Eventually I did begin to sprout a bit of a beer gut, but didn’t really notice it until I was at a party just about exactly 30 years ago, in November of 1976, probably the day after gorging myself on Thanksgiving. A girl said -- and these words are burned in my memory -- “you have the biggest belly I’ve ever seen for such a small butt.”
That was it. I joined the Jack LaLanne gym on January 2, 1977. Interestingly, that was so long ago that the gym wasn’t even integrated. Rather, it was open for men on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and for women on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Hey, they’re only women! Three days is enough for them!
You probably cannot imagine the innocent mentality that reigned at the time. It had never crossed anyone’s mind that a sweaty gym might be a good place to woo women or that letting them work out only three days a week might be a good way to meet Gloria Allred in court. Nor was it a narcissistic den of self-obsessed, strutting popinjays. Most of the men just wore old gray sweatpants and shirt, sometimes with the sleeves cut off at the shoulder. There were a few body builders, who were their own subculture. And I’m sure the place must have been crawling with gays, but I was too naive to really know anything about that. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but things were different back then. Like everyone else, I enjoyed Paul Lind on the Hollywood Squares, but that was the extent of my knowledge of homosexuality. You might see Charles Nelson Reilly or Liberace on Johnny Carson, but....
Hey, why am I writing this anyway? I suppose to demonstrate that when the divine withdraws, it withdraws, and that this is what you’re left with... just bad Lileks. And if the divine didn’t withdraw from time to time, you would no doubt begin taking it for granted, as if it is at your beck and call, which of course it isn’t. But when it isn’t present, I’m not going to pretend I can write about it in the same way. I suppose I could, but only from the outside in.
Which is actually a good idea for a topic. That is, what does one do when this happens? Or is there anything you can do? Must you simply wait in faith, or can you move things along and speed up the process? In the past, before I blogged every day, I would simply “close up shop” for however long the season lasted. Rather than fighting it, I would turn my attention to more worldly demands, such as catching up on my yard work, cleaning out the gutters, or checking for skin cancer.
In the course of writing my book, I was very much aware of cycles of input and output, planting and harvest. However, I was of the belief that I had to await inspiration in order to write. Unlike today, I was completely undisciplined in my writing, so that the book was mostly written in short spurts often separated by months at a time. I never even considered myself to be a writer per se. Rather, I was just seeking the clarity to translate a vision onto paper. Sometimes the vision was there, sometimes it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, I didn’t even try to fake it.
Speaking of faking it, did I ever tell you the story of how I fooled my way into graduate school? When we were last reduced to discussing my autobobography, I believe we left off with the unlikely story of how I ended up with a degree in film in December of 1981. At the time, I was still working as a retail clerk, with no earthly idea of what I wanted to do for a living. I knew I didn’t have the personality or the motivation to do anything with my film degree, so where did that leave me? I was at a crossroads, with a choice of several cul de sacs before me.
I was reading the sports section when I saw an ad for Pepperdine University -- for a masters degree in clinical psychology. To this day, I don’t remember exactly what prompted me to dial the number, as it was completely unlike me to show any kind of initiative. But I did, and they told me to fill out an application and send it in. It was literally the first time in my life that it had ever crossed my mind to attend graduate school or to study psychology.
So I sent in the application, and amazingly, I was accepted. But only provisionally. This was because I had just completed my BA degree a few days before, so my transcripts weren’t ready to be sent over. In the mean time I could start classes, and as soon as my transcripts arrived, they would undergo the formality of officially accepting me into the program.
So I started classes in January of 1982, and really enjoyed them. As it so happens, my very first teacher was Dr. Laura Schlessinger -- yes, “Dr. Laura,” back before she was in radio. She was actually an excellent teacher, obviously quite bright and charismatic.
This particular class was in psychopathology. It must have been after the third or fourth week, when Dr. Schlessinger gave the class a writing assignment. Even though none of us had ever seen a patient, we were to write up a detailed clinical case. It could be about someone we knew, or about a character in film or literature, but we had to outline etiology, psychodynamics, diagnosis, treatment, the whole nine yards.
Bear in mind that my classmates had an obvious advantage over me, since they were all psychology undergraduates, whereas I had mainly studied Coors and similar beverages. But this is where something otherworldly intervened to turn my cul de sac into a path. The week after we turned in our papers, Dr. Schlessinger expressed how disappointed she was with the class -- she was kind of snarky even back then -- and handed all of the papers back, so they could be redone. With one exception. She also handed each member of the class a copy of my paper, so they could have a model of how the assignment should be done. To say this was unexpected doesn’t quite capture the feeling. I’m guessing I felt a little like that con man played by Leonardo DiCaprio, the first time he was behind the wheel of a jumbo jet with no actual idea of how to fly it. "Pride" wouldn't be the right word, would it?
Meanwhile, my transcripts finally arrived at Pepperdine, and my fate was sealed. I still have the letter hanging on my office wall. It is dated February 28, 1982.
Your completed application for admission has been evaluated and I sincerely regret to inform you that we have been unable to find a place for you in our program. Your academic preparation as indicated by your grades does not meet our requirements.
We sincerely hope that you will be able to make other plans that will help you accomplish an objective that will be to your best interests.
Very truly yours,
Dean of Admissions
Damn. Busted! I knew it was too good to be true. I knew that once they saw that I’d actually flunked out of business school they’d give me the boot. Who was I fooling? I can't really fly a 747. I'm just surprised they didn't arrest me for impersonating a graduate student.
Nevertheless, in what I assumed would be my last day of graduate school, I sadly showed the letter to Dr. Laura. She rapidly eyeballed it, looked at me, and said, “don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
“Don’t worry. You have too much talent.”
“I’ll handle it.”
To this day, I have no idea what she did, but we never spoke of it again. A week later I received another letter from Dean Fraley, almost apologizing for the previous letter and letting me back into the program.
So, what’s the moral of the story for the kids out there? Never study. Never make plans. Just float aimlessly on the slack plane and trust in Dobbs.