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Ask Dr. Rich
Rich Simons | 11th Street


Photo illustration Art Olson.  Click to enlarge.

Q: How does your brain system work when you are concocting answers to ridiculous questions (like this one)? – b.e.

My analyst often asks a similar question, but before I can really get started his face clouds over and he says “oops, our time is up,” even though I know it bloody well isn’t. Maybe if I write it down you (and he) can understand it.
I sense you want to know how I slip down the rabbit hole to the place where mad queens bash hedgehogs with flamingos. Probably you want to be the caterpillar on the mushroom smoking the hookah. Hang on, buddy – I think I can get you there.

But first, you will need to master boredom. I don’t mean the active brand of boredom, like “algebra is SO boring” or “Wagnerian opera is really BORING!.” I mean good old zen-like staring-at-a-blank–white-wall type boredom. Imagine if you can that all that is in your field of visión is a vast, placid, dead still lake. Now into this metaphysical pond toss a small metaphysical rock. Observe the ripples as they spread outward. In them you should be able detect the ultimate absurdity: that all existing matter is no more than a declivity in the space-time continuum. Or maybe the greater absurdiy is that you are wasting time chucking imaginary rocks into imaginary ponds when you could be watching re-runs of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Either way – welcome to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Actually, I use a slight variation of this technique when contemplating ridiculous questions like yours. It so happens that the ceiling to my bedroom is a knotty pine extravaganza. Knots, knots everywhere. BORING! But – right above my head there is a knot that is actually a perfect caricature of a dog. I imagine it is a beagle-basset mix; it has long ears and very sad eyes. But when I talk to the doggie about stupid questions he begins to perk up. When he starts to talk back I know I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Of course the role of chemiçals in getting us to Oz should not be overlooked. My preference is for chemicals like single malt Scotch and its various aldehydes. And let’s not ignore our mushrooms. There is a little toadstool thingee which, if ingested, will turn all your trees paisley. How cool is that? But if you really want to get your A-ticket punched you can do no better than check in to your friendly local neighborhood O.R. for a major operation. Hip replacement. Liver transplant.

Whatever. Doesn’t matter. When you awake from the procedure you are on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. A few years ago I awoke in a magical room where, if I stared at the wall opposite my bed for just a few moments, everything in view- the door, the wall hangings and all my visiting relatives, would begin to tilt to the left and slide slowly into some unseen black pit. Hilarious!

More recently, after cutting me up and sewing me back together they stuffed me into a musty broom closet. During the night my feet slid gradually off the bed and came to rest on an old magazine rack. (Okay! Okay! I get it! “Old magazine rack” is redundant.) But I was comfortable until an intern came in to check out some porn on the computer in the closet. It was really aggravating. The screen was behind my back, and I couldn’t see a damn thing.

But I digress. I suggest you go get yourself a Black Russian (you’ll probably need to Google that - it’s a cocktail, not a Jamaican emigre living in Moscow). Go locate your own personal doggie. Explain the ridiculous question to the doggie. When the doggie starts talking back you have reached the place that you have sought -where fish talk, pigs fly, and there is a unicorn in every garden. Enjoy. But remember to take careful notes and pass it all along to the editors at the Sandpiper. They seem to love that s--t.


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