Cruisin’ with Ranald 2: Moisturizing my Brain

This is the second in a series of blog posts I wrote the week of June 19, when my wife and I were cruising to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. I intended to post them as I wrote them, but the ship’s wifi was not up to the challenge. So I saved them, and I am posting them throughout this week.

It’s Tuesday morning, and I’m sitting next to Ranald again. I was informed last night that apparently this particular Scotsman is more well known than I knew. Apparently he had a role in the film Rob Roy, and I suppose in the history that lies behind that movie. Yet again, for all my talk and all my so called intelligence, my total lack of culture and couth betrays me. Ah well. I still choose to think of Mac Donald of Clan Ranald as my cruisin’ friend. And to still just call him Ranald.

Anyway, this morning, I’m thinking about two states of matter…liquid and gas. Or more to the point, beverages and air. First, beverages. I drink a lot of beverages. I pass liquid through my mouth and down my esophagus a lot throughout any particular day. Lots of liquid, but not a lot of variety. And only rarely do I drink for the simple reason of hydration. Although, to be honest, I probably get enough hydration through my food anyway. But the primary reason I ingest liquid became clear to me yesterday afternoon. It was probably about 3:00 or so. I was feeling tired, the mid afternoon siesta sleepies. And the buzz I had from the whiskey drink at lunch, followed by the champagne at the art auction (don’t ask) had worn off. I was a bit tired, and I could feel the leading edge of irritability rising in the back of my head. I thought, “I want to do something about this. I want to feel better.” And I knew there were two choices: get some coffee, or get another alcoholic drink. I chose coffee. The caffeine flowed into my blood the instant the first sip went over my lips, filling my head with the pulsing neon glow of precision thinking, octane fuel lubricating synapses and neural pathways, transforming the edge of irritability into the edge of wakeful, just slightly hyperactive, focus. Ah, better. Words flow so much easier on the page now.

On another day, I might have chosen differently. I might have chosen the drink. A whiskey sour, perhaps. Or a pale ale. Or even a glass of wine. And slowly, much more gradually than the caffeine, the alcohol would settle into my bloodstream, gently massaging the same neurons and synapses, but with the effect of calming them, loosening the grip of the mild sleepy headache, smoothing out the edge of irritability into the silhouette of a smile, making aggravations a little less important, self-imposed inhibitions a little less pressing. Ah, better. Words flow so much easier from my mouth now.

I drink liquids to alter my mind. I do drink water…don’t get me wrong. But the only beverages I ever drink besides water are two: black coffee, and alcohol. In normal life, the ratio of the two is very heavily tilted toward the coffee; this week with Ranald, that’s not so true. But the truth remains that I drink not for hydration, not for nutrition, not (primarily) for flavor, but as a method of drug delivery. And I didn’t know until I started writing this post how much those drugs enhance my ability to communicate. Caffeine greatly enhances my writing ability, and alcohol my speaking ability. No wonder I am rarely found in my office without a half-full coffee mug. No wonder I was told in college that I was nicer when I was drinking.

Is this a problem? Is this a sign that I need an intervention of some sort? I don’t think so. I’m no alcoholic. I sometimes go weeks without a single drink (apart from communion wine). And when I’m not with Ranald, I rarely drink enough to have more than a mild buzz. Now, caffeine is a different story. I don’t think I can function without that. A few years ago, I had to go to the hospital early in the morning for a cardiac stress test. Turns out my heart is fine, but being up for six hours with no caffeine was brutal. My head was pounding; I felt as though my brain was inflating like a balloon, ready to crack through my skull and fly away like a banshee in search of a percolator to drown in. I’m no alcoholic, but I’m definitely a caffeinoholic. And with one of the side effects of my current antidepressant being drowsiness, I drink more and more coffee these days. But that’s acceptable in our society.

My brain without the effects of either caffeine or alcohol feels dusty, dry, irritating to the touch, like terracotta. Man, I hate the feel of terracotta. It goes right through me, like fingernails on chalkboard. God, I hate even touching chalk. It feels like it will crawl under my nails, and infect me. But I can touch it if it’s wet. Then it’s safe, touchable, friendly. I think my brain is the same way. It needs to be wet, and I know of two beverages that moisturize it in their own ways. Then, properly hydrated, my brain can reach out and touch others, communicate without fear of infection.

Man, that is not where I thought this was going. I thought I was going to get to my other discussion, about air. But I’ll save that for tomorrow.

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