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2003-11-16 - 10:24 p.m.

I'm trying to decide what my brother's deal is. He called at 5:30 in the morning last week, and I've never heard him so bummed. He's a guy's guy. We'd talked about his low self-esteem once before (at the beach, both of us drunk, on the porch, smoking). But it seemed pointedly worse this time. He quit his job a month ago, and though I thought that was an unrelated event, of course now I'm reconsidering. After discussing with some friends, I now think it's both a symptom and a cause. If he was feeling a little unmotivated before, quitting his job only made it worse. Now he has no motivation to turn off the TV and leave the couch. Much discussions with my mom.

But after talking with his girlfriend late Friday night, now I think it's much less frightening and more kind of, well, usual. She gave me her take on his mood. Before, I thought he was dangerously depressed, no motivation to do anything, but now I think it's that mixed with laziness. It's tough, because I know exactly what he's going through (low self-esteem brought on by noticing a lack of vital passions), but I don't think I've felt it as bad as he does right now. I just wish he'd take a little medicine in the form of kicking himself in the ass. I know what I do: I tell myself I'm being, you know, a pussy. Then I buck up, do something productive (or merely beautiful, fun, distracting) and get going. That's not what he's doing and I realize that's not his style. His history hasn't given him any model to follow in this scenario. And the thing is, he knows that getting off the couch (and taking a walk, sending out resumes, playing basketball) is the thing to do, yet he still can't bring himself to do it. His girlfriend tells me he's talking of getting a bartending gig. Do it, bro. Mix drinks, change CDs upon request, trash the Ravens in favor of the Steelers. Get going.

I read a profile in the New Yorker recently about a 90-year-old psychiatrist who just retired. A poll taken among his colleagues put him as the second most influential psychiatrist ever, behind only Freud. Of course, I can't remember his name. But here's a paraphrased quote: All people are crazy, he said. I wonder, and sometimes it seems as if the evidence bears him out. Look at my friends: I can count seven or eight on brain drugs. I can count two, three times as many who are registered but self-medicating. Are we? Are we crazy? All of us? If so, that means a whole lot of us are good at wearing costumes.

Here's how I know I teach English composition: lately I've been noticing, mostly on TV, whenever someone says 'that' when grammatically they should say 'who.' And they are educated people saying it, too. I wonder if I'll continue to mark it on papers. I've already given up on the split infinitive. Does that make me old, cranky, dusty, of another era at 26?

I wonder about a tattoo on my left deltoid. I've thought I'd want to get a picture of some sort, maybe a drawing I've done or something simple, stylized, art-deco if I had to pick a style. But the one that always sticks is a quote from WEB DuBois, I think. 'The apostle of beauty becomes the apostle of truth.' I think I like having the word 'apostle' on me. Perhaps it's because I've never been religious in any official (or any other) way. Maybe I'm striving to identify with something larger: the church of what's there. Hah.

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