Zanti Misfits

What was I doing in the yard this morning? I went out for some reason.
I remember: I had my shoes on already and needed to turn off the pool filter, so I went through the cellar door rather than take my shoes off and go through the house.
There were slugs all over the grass. Four-inch brown ones.
It’s a good thing I had my shoes on.
The air smelled briefly of toast, a neighbor was making breakfast.
The sky was blue.
The flowers were tall.
The ants were scarce.
I sprinkled some cinnamon along their trail to fuck with them. Don’t know if it will help – I hear it does – but the house sure smells nice.
When I battle ants I have to think of the “Zanti Misfits” episode of The Outer Limits.
My wife is in southern Austria researching her family history.
My daughters are in Vietnam. They are posting beautiful pictures to Instagram and Facebook.
This amazes me in a couple ways.
When I was their age, or a little younger, you might go to Vietnam but you didn’t go for tourism.
When I was their age, when you went on a trip, your parents just worried for a couple weeks, or months, until you got back. They couldn’t see the awesome things you were doing by checking their social media feeds.
Also it amazes me that they are such travelers, because I dislike traveling.
I like staying where I am.
That’s the secret reason I live in Europe. I couldn’t be arsed to go home.
They are all traveling, so I find myself alone this week.
Except for pets and vermin.
Theoretically it’s the perfect time to be alone, summer. No better time to go out and get into trouble.
Get up to no good.
Commit shenanigans.
Instead, I go for walks or sit around on a lawn chair and stare into space and watch the sun go down because going out is too much work.
But that’s okay. A week of introspection could be a good thing. I’ve been really sick of myself lately, as one is at times. This would be a good chance to figure things out, if one knew what things needed to be figured out.
What have I learned?
I can hold my breath for two minutes and 40 seconds with minimal hyperventilation.
That’s all, so far.
Someone asked me how I was, recently, as one does.
I’m not depressed or sad.
I’m just sick of myself.
A little isolated and creepy, the way one gets when one neglects friendships.
(That’s one thing that gets easier as you get older – creeping people out).
Still amazed at the beauty of the world and stuff.
Need a haircut. This alone would tell me I am not depressed: I called the haircut place and made an appointment, despite my hatred of talking on the phone.
Also, just forced myself to finish a book that had lots of great reviews, although it sucked. A little angry that sucky books get good reviews.
Do you ever wonder how your train of thought brought you somewhere? Like, you start out wondering how to be a good person, or more charming, or how making art functions, and suddenly you’re wondering if anyone wrote a science fiction story about an invasion of alien life forms that people don’t realize are alien life forms because the aliens have no physical bodies: they are ideas.
Such as, for example, Neoliberal Capitalism. Destroying the world, but people assume it was their own idea so they just shrug and think, There Is No Alternative.
Or you wonder if anyone wrote a story about a planet that was terraformed by taking the excess carbon out of the atmosphere (to make the climate and rest of the environment pleasant) and hiding it deep, deep down in the ground where no one would ever find it, in the form of petroleum and coal.
Maybe you don’t.

Deprivation, isolation, floating

What say the slain?
One day, months ago, during a brief respite from political ranting during a drive into town with Gamma, we listened to a radio program about a sensory deprivation / isolation / floating tank business in Vienna.
“I’ve always wanted to try that,” I said.
Gamma filed that information away neatly and guess what my daughters gave me for Father’s Day?
This is how I found myself sitting on a shady bench in a Vienna cemetery yesterday evening. I was early for my appointment at the Sargfabrik, an apartment complex in Vienna with a theater instead of a parking garage, and down in the cellar a room with a floatation tank.
Floatation (or floating? not sure) tank is what used to be called an isolation tank, and before that sensory deprivation tank.
I prefer sensory deprivation tank, but understand one must market the things.
Like I was saying, I was early as always and took a walk around the neighborhood and disliked the park (too sunny, for one thing, and generally unlikeable, at least yesterday evening, for me, at that spot) so I continued onward and found the cemetery next door and went in and found a shady bench and watched the gravediggers work, and read the dates on the headstones, as one does.
Then I thought, Ah! Cemetery – Sargfabrik, I get it!
I guess the Sargfabrik used to be an actual coffin factory until it was converted into housing.
Then I texted the floating tank guy that I was already in the neighborhood, in case I could get in early, and I did and there I sat, no longer in the cemetery, in the cellar, in a dimly lit, cool room, being orientated.
Epilepsy? he said. Claustrophobia?
Nah, I said.
Goals? Hopes? he said.
Curiosity, I said. Father’s Day.
He looked a little disappointed, (but I might have been making that up, there in the dim light) so I added, maybe get an insight into this deep sadness I lug around all the time that is kinda the mortar holding my world together? Or into this yapping I have been doing with my wife?
Okay, he said. I dunno, he didn’t look real relieved so maybe it really was the dim light after all.
He said he’d knock on the outside of the tank when my time was up, and left.
I took a shower and got into the tank and shut the lid.
I spent a long time getting comfortable which is weird because what could be more comfortable than floating naked in a shallow tub of super dense saltwater in the dark?
But such is life.
I floated there in the dark listening to something hum. Something was fucking humming! What kind of sensory deprivation is this? Maybe it was the ventilation.
More of a buzz than a hum. And not loud, but still.
It wasn’t me.
Then either I got used to it or it stopped.
I listened to my breathing for a while, and to my heartbeat.
After a long, tiring day, I was surprised I did not fall asleep, or even get sleepy. After lunch I had been nodding off at my desk.
I sort of meditated for a while. I hummed a little. My mind was pretty blank a lot of the time.
At some point I woke up, or regained consciousness, or something. So I was out for a while, in one way or another.
Toward the end, trying out different ways of holding my head and comparing relative comfort, I got salt water in both eyes and was really glad the orientator had showed me where the kleenexes were in case that happened. I opened the hatch and wiped out my eyes and closed the lid again and eventually the stinging stopped.
One’s ears are submerged in the tank, so sounds are muffled.
I lay there listening to my heartbeat.
Thump-thump-thump! Then after three thumps it stopped again. Weird, I thought. I tried various positions to hear my heartbeat clearly again like that. Then I did, I heard it again. Thump-thump-thump.
After doing this a few more times I realized it was the guy knocking on the outside of the tank that my time was up.
He went away again and I lay there for a minute, thinking, Well that was an anticlimax.
No jumping out of the tank and running around like a caveman like William Hurt in Altered States. No hallucinations, no epiphanies.
It didn’t even seem all that different from my normal, daily life, I thought.
Then I thought, my normal, daily life is like an isolation tank.
Then I thought, there’s an epiphany for you after all.