Fluids, Among Other Phenomenon

Posted on April 16, 2010


Photo by Kevin Armstrong

People often ask me, “Why?” and they often seem to often ask that one word with a veiled contempt and indignation; usually the Why in question surrounds the usual implications that I am Totally Fucked Up.

Largely that corruption is the fault of my father, who introduced me at the tender age of eleven to the now-late George Carlin, who to this day I pinpoint as the source of any contrarian and rebellious streak I might now project on the world. Before Marx, Voltaire, Hitchens, Foucault, and the various other intellectual revolutionaries that have shaped my worldview there was for me a Carlinian laughter driving it all during a time that should have been innocent that was shattered into chaos by the aftermath of 9/11/2001.

Carlin taught me to question many things and in that process I would earn the answers to those questions, as well as more questions to whose answer I would never learn.

Another thing Carlin taught me was how irrationally and incorrigibly phobic we are toward our own bodies. In his 2001 stand-up “Complaints And Grievances” Carlin delves into the taboo of the organic messiness packaged into the human experience. The nasty, crusty, sometimes gooey side of human nature unfit for dinner table conversation. I remember my twelve year old self delightfully watching that special on HBO (Thanks Mom & Dad For Not Censoring Me); the angry, aged social enemy pacing to and fro across the stage. From his pulpit Carlin exclaimed:

So there are a lot of little things about our bodies that we all know but we never talk about! That’s what interests me! These are practically universal experiences! Nobody mentions them! Some of them are disgusting! Some of them are appallingly revolting and degrading, even to the most degenerate mind! So let’s get started with a couple of them! Do you ever get lip crud? You ever get that curd on your lip? A kind of sticky film, a kind of a gooey coating. You know, if it dries a little bit, it’s kind of a cruddy, gummy, flaky, crusty, shit kind of thing… Starting at the corner of your mouth, works its way on down your lip, and if it’s really bad, the corners of your mouth look like parentheses… Do you ever have that? Lip crud! When you wanna get rid of it, it’s a real simple operation, isn’t it? It’s low tech shit! Thumbnail! That’s all you need! Simple tool, ain’t it? And you just scrape that shit off! That’s all! Scrape it on down! Scrape it on down! Hey, never mind those people at the bus stop!If they knew anything, they wouldn’t be riding the bus! Fuck them! Fuck them in the mouth! Scrape it on down! Scrape it on down! You just kinda scrape that shit on down, and then you take it and you roll it up into a little ball and then you save that son of a bitch! I save my lip crud! I save everything that comes off of my body, don’t you? At least for a little while. Don’t you look at things when they first come off of you? Huh? Aren’t you curious? Don’t you spend five, or ten, or fifteen minutes studying something, trying to figure what the fuck it is and what it’s doing on you in the first place? Sure you do! You don’t pull some disgusting-looking growth off your neck and throw it quickly into the toilet! You want to know what the fuck it is! Besides, you never know when you’re gonna need parts! Ain’t that true? Do you ever see these guys on TV? They’re in the hospital, one guy is waiting for a kidney, another guy is waiting for a lung. Fuck you! I’ve got shit at home! I’ve got a freezer full of viable organs! I have two of everything, ready to go! What do you need? A spleen? An esophagus? How about a nice, used, ball bag? Huh? Come on! Good condition, one owner! He only scratched that on Sundays! Come on! Take a chance! It’s true! You wanna know what something is! You don’t spend fifteen minutes peeling a malignant tumor off your forehead just to toss it out the window, sight unseen, into the neighbor’s swimming pool! No! You take a good, long fuckin’ look at it, don’t you? “Holy shit, look at this thing! Goddamn! Holy jumpin’ fucking Jesus! Look at this thing! Honey! Come here! Look at this! Honey! Yo! Hey! Honey! Yo! Hey! Fuck the rice-a-roni! Get in here! Look at this thing! Look! This was a part of my head a minute ago! Not anymore! I pried the bastard off with paint thinner and a Phillips-head screwdriver!

He had a pretty good point.

I can vividly recall an anecdote from my childhood; on one of my first pediatric examinations that I can remember, my at-the-time doctor asked me to describe any sort of allergies I might have had. “I have allergies,” my five, maybe six year old self told him.

“My mom says I have allergies,” my childhood echolalia parroting what I’d been told.

“What kind of allergies?” the doctor said. Childish silence stifling my confusion. No one ever goes into great detail to tell  kids what their medical problems are, just that they have them. He continued. “Do you sneeze, get a runny nose, itchy eyes…?”

“Oh yeah!” I exuberantly piped up. “All the time! Sometimes I cough up gooey, green Nickelodeon slime!”

“Okay, son. T.M.I.”
Too Much Information for a doctor? A little lime-green mouth-snot too much for someone with several degrees?

Surely he must have been joking, but still, case in point is to show how even the best and brightest among us find ourselves conforming to the taboo of you and your you-goo (in all of its variations).

At the office lately there have been a lot of fluids exchanged between the personnel and their environment. You can’t blame them; hard enough as it is being cramped into four-by-six cube cages in a stuffy, moldy, roach-infested innards of a once-was shopping mall turned state offices. Their frustration of constant, chronic coughing and sneezing, wheezing and sniffling; I feel it too. I’ve felt it for too long, at least since the year started. That’s when I had another flare-up of sinusitis. I get sinus infections far too frequently for my liking. My CT scan in 2008 revealed the presence of a small cyst in my left maxilla to which I’ve always suspected to be the root of my constant, chronic sinusitis.

This year, the Pollen arrives in swarms. Chemical warfare harvested by mother nature.

Unprecedented levels of pollen, in fact. This past week, sources from all over are reporting that pollen levels exceed any other from recent memory. Some are calling it the worst ever.  At the office my co-worker Bee comes up to me, sees me as I’m attempting to hide my dripping face between my hands. I can’t tell if she notices or cares.

“Just fake it today,” she says.

“Like every day?” I say back. She says It’s Friday And No One Gives A Shit.

Even though I can’t smell, I can smell the lack of work ethic lined with the face-gunk and lip crud  and hate paste of this building and its employees.

Smells like a generation of disheartened workers, hit by a shift in climate, politics, culture, and their rapidly shrinking wallets.

In a way it’s a sweet smell to me. More bittersweet perhaps. In sniffling and suffering, these malaise-stricken, arbitrary shells of former selves finally value their own health and well-being more than their job. Not all of them call in sick, sure, but one can certainly assert without any doubt that the ones that come in will not be fucked with in any shape, manner, or form. The endurance of the usual badgering, tedium, and bitching of the Bill Lumberghs of the world shall not last this allergy season; not while mother nature’s hateful wrath keeps us mopping at the puddles of ourselves all morning, day, and night. It’s sad that such clout and rebelliousness, such anti-labor theory ethic, only appears as an option to people during times of sickness.

At the beginning of the year I began work on a primarily chalk-based drawing which I have yet to make public that begs a simple question: “What Do Your Fluids Say About You?” Think about all the possible things that you might ooze out at any given moment. Urine, blood, semen, saliva, mucus, pus. Each fluid we emit is never without cause, either intentionally by our own doing or by utter circumstance; each cause is a plot point in the story of your life. How often do you leak? Do you come more than you bleed? Do you spit in layers, chunky and with their own texture?

These plot points, the current state of our health externalized, are like scars that we carry and continually erase, flush down, stamp out, and wipe away, reminding us of what we are—remnants of our former selves.