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He has assayed prescription drugs by smelling them, then passing judgment on their efficacy. He will do these things and discuss them freely, with his psychiatrist, for example, as if there were nothing unusual about it. "It's like, you know," he offers quite reasonably, "smelling coffee." He will then concern himself with the "decaying half-lives" of drugs that have not reached their expiration date and refuse, or attempt to refuse, to take them on this basis. This may be described as eccentric rather than crazy, because there is undoubtedly some truth to his point -- measurable in micrograms with spectrometers or what-have-you -- but I have no desire nor see the necessity for delineating other of Geoffrey's aberrant behaviors just because they are sensational, gross, and colorful and make for more sensational reading. They are there. Believe it. They will not be yours for the purpose of this reading. Geoffrey has a disorder, the result of a violent trauma and a number of other ingredients. He does not like the word disorder, nor illness or affliction; he has recently referred to it as a "gift" in keeping with the convoluted, shattered logic of the schizophrenic to whom a new world view, after a psychotic break, is an intrinsic survival mechanism with a kind of genius in itself.

Before arranging to live with my son, more than a little thought went into it. Here is a diary entry I used for publication elsewhere. This was written in September of 2005.


"The summer is a discouraging time to write. You don't feel death in the air the way you do in the fall when the boys really get their pens moving."

-- Ernest Hemingway in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It is not a usual thing for the last day of summer and the first day of autumn to be so obligingly cool, so relatively dry and with just the right play of lemon sunlight shot through the world like a hint of transcendence. Always my favorite time of year back East, late September in San Diego is unreliable as a host to winds of change. But as I write this, around noon on the 22nd, some three and a half hours to the autumn equinox, if it is death in the air, as Papa Hemingway (or Uncle Ernie as I call him) writes, then it is a kind of mercy killing. It is signaled in the weather and the light, an end to a summer of necessary evils, living downtown in a place I do not love, treading water, at times the very humidity, all the while waiting for the main chance out. In this part of town that hosts the Gaslamp and House of Blues, Horton Plaza and Seaport Village, but also showcases much of the cross-section of San Diego's 28 percent living below the poverty line (over twice the national average), I am waiting as I write. Recently, my son agreed to share a place with me. His mental health (as well as my physical health) has improved so remarkably in the past six months that lingering objections have been eclipsed. With books and luggage I am waiting for my ride across town. In a few hours I will be in that apartment in a neighborhood less representative of San Diego's scumbag factor.

This is a second chance for us. We had tried this before, over a year ago, and disease had defeated us. It may again, but I don't think so, and it won't be for lack of trying. This time we are armed with, for one thing, more insight. There is something so very liberating in the autumnal equinox -- a sort of nature's reset button -- that things are looking auspicious. Other things are slouching toward Bethlehem to be born beside the rough beasts of schizophrenia and alcoholism. For me there is a new book: materials that rose from the congealed ashes of a greasy spring and summer hangover in such quantity that to ignore them would be the equivalent of telling God Himself, "I don't need You." And my son's burgeoning need for spirituality, along with his inherited and possibly wrongheaded disdain for religion, like mine, should find a nutrient-rich environment on this other side of an abyss we have both looked into, been marked by, and passed through.

Later: The mood has gone. The tropical humidity is back as if the spirits of hurricane victims were borne on muggy drafts from the southeast. That equinox sense of the world being poised between one thing and another is gone from the streets this morning, and it is just as well; the world is what it is, and too much hope can be a damnable thing. The minutia of moving occupies the day: have keys made, there's no toilet paper here, what else? Make a list.

It seems a new neighbor is a fan of Social Distortion, a band so preciously obnoxious they remind me of children swaggering around in Halloween costumes as super-villains insisting on their terribleness. It is almost comic relief after the incessant crack and amphetamine pounding of distorted bass tracks and chanted/rapped atonal litanies of obscenities and promised violence, "rhymes" fueled by absolute hatred, absolute anger. No Halloween costumes there, and the promised violence is real. I think about music that I hate as I unpack boxes. My son's speed-metal stuff is included, though he may be past that phase, I don't know. The last I heard he was listening to something called the Bloodhound Gang, and I didn't want to hear them. The bands like Megadeth to which he listened in his teens now seem harmlessly overblown and operatic. What do I listen to now? My opinion of music is clearly irrelevant: I find every other song played at Starbucks unobjectionable, and certainly that is a kind of death.

So what will we do? Go to ball games? Neither of us is a big fan. Movies? His disorder and medications make it difficult for him to concentrate on plots -- same with novels. He plays video games compulsively, and though I know nothing about them, I recognize compulsive behavior, and I'll make my bid to substitute another activity at times. A nearby gym might provide one of them.

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