Seasonal Affective Disorder

My brother wrote a few weeks ago about dealing with winters in the north and their effect on your psyche. He also stated that this issue basically disappeared when he moved to a southern climate; but I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that the man has no time to be morose with two young kids, a full time job as a professor and so on and so forth.

One of the many things that add to Seasonal Affective Disorder is that when it is extremely cold and/or snowy, you can’t do much outside unless you thrive on a winter sport like skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or whatever. Snow removal generally sucks as well (which we will discuss a little further along). The bad weather coupled with the come-down from the holidays and the crappy economy of the last few years has really made me feel this S.A.D. thing. I also tend to miss my father more around this time for the obvious reason that the anniversary of his death comes at the end of this month and the holidays really emphasize his absence.

So I had a long talk with my brother on the phone on this subject and one of the many ways we talked of dealing with these generally shitty feelings is to write about it in our blog. He has already sort of covered it and I will add my own experience right now. I’m lucky to have a brother that not only listens  about why I feel like shit but also helps me look at various ways I can combat this yearly phenomena.  Exercise, limiting of alcohol consumption and a renewed focus on finding a real job were key points. So here it is.

1. “Money” – Pink Floyd

One of the many ways I’ve been able to cope with things that bother me is playing music.  I’ve been lucky enough to find a band and get them all together, as well as having places to play and people who want to come and see us. All of this has helped my playing abilities skyrocket and made me happier than almost anything I can think of readily.

The hardest song our band covers right now is this song. It’s not that its the notes that are incredibly hard to play, but rather the rhythm is weird and hard for our drummer. The main vamp part is in 7/8 time and then for the solo, it shifts into a straight 4/4 than back to the 7/8 for the last verse. We had to get on YouTube and have my lead singer learn the drum part and then work it out so we could teach our drummer George Harrison. Then, we had to fit what I am doing on the bass with the guitar part and figure out how to replace the sax solo with a cool guitar solo to give it some flavor of our own. It is great fun to play it when it works and it worked on New Year’s.  My lead singer’s uncle is a famous DJ on NPR  and he was in attendance and clearly enjoyed it. More importantly, it feels nice when it all works out and has only inspired us more on our own music.

The back-story of this jam is that I’d say the biggest problem feeding everyone I know winter’s blues is being broke. Literally, everyone I know is broke, even those who normally are not, as many people are very poor in our native state. There are not a bunch of economic opportunities here and you have to work hard to make not a lot of money. I think this is one of many things that make us extremely tough as Mainers but it can still take a toll on some heart strings. I can say with confidence that those people who are extremely well off, in my experience,  are almost certainly not happier and often are much worse off pertaining to mental state. Like the Notorious B.I.G. said “Mo money, mo problems”.

2. “Cold, Cold, Cold”- Little Feat

Yes, it is extremely cold in the northland. It is never like Antarctic cold in my region where it dips below zero for weeks on end, but its cold enough to keep you indoors more than you like. One of the many theories behind S.A.D.  is that people get depressed because of lack of sunlight because they dont want to go outside because it’s so cold. This makes sense although I don’t see myself sitting under a heat lamp as some suggest because I’m too damned pale and would probably burn.

The only time I have ever tanned was southern California in February, actually the same area Lowell George from Little Feat was from. I love this band as you may know from my political post and this specific live cut is one the best that I have seen. George handled his depression by a brutal combination of smoke-able heroin and crack, known as a speedball according to Wikipedia. It killed him and it’s damn shame because I think he was one of the most talented yet underrated musicians of the 1970’s and the only one I ever knew who used a socket wrench for a slide. We keep an 11/16th in the band room in case anyone is ever inspired.

3. “To live is To fly”- Townes Van Zandt

This is the first song I learned to sing and play on the acoustic  guitar.  Although somber, it really is an upbeat song about living life as best as you can which is all we can really hope to do. As I’ve said, I play bass through a massive old school amp that requires not a lot of force in the strings to really produce a sound. My old Fender acoustic DG-7 is a little warped and it took my while not only to play chords  which I never do now in my bass playing, but also to hit all the strings hard enough to get a loud sound. Why did I learn this song? I had a long conversation about Townes Van Zandt with the girl I mentioned a few times now, I guess notable in my year in review. He really is one of the best songwriters ever and it is a shame the booze took him so soon.

I took it upon myself to learn it so I could be all cool and play it when she came over…then we didn’t hang out and now I sort of feel like a douche for learning it. It seems cheesy but when I think about it hard, I’d love it if a girl learned a song specifically to play for me. Her loss really and again, playing music is a great distraction when you got those winter Mondays going on. Realistically  I probably would have fucked it up anyway cause I have trouble singing and playing at the some time. The idea was nice though.

4. “Beast of Burden” – Rolling Stones

This has long been one of my favorite Stones songs because its slow and kind of sexy, although I read once that Keith wrote it for Mick about having to carry his weight during the junkie years of the mid to late 70’s. I sort of see it as a song about taking care of your buddies because of that, being their beast of burden, if they are worth it. It can certainly be seen many ways though, like any good song.

The chorus is definitely directed towards the opposite sex in my mind, with the lines “Am I hard enough, am I rough enough, am I rich enough, I’m not too blind to see”. I sometimes screw around with this song at band practice and we always sing it like the wedding singer from The Wedding Singer, adding the profanity to “Total Eclipise of the Heart”. So the last line of the chorus becomes “I’m not too FUCKIN blind to seee”.  It doesn’t seem to cease to amuse us and again, a great distraction from the rough socio-economic situation we are mired in right now. You are always a beast of burden for those who you care about.

5.  “Snowblind”- Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath remains one of my favorite bands and this is one of my favorite songs. I do not use cocaine, but I do appreciate the underlying anti-drug message of this song sung by one of the most prodigious drug users in the history of rock and roll. Ozzy said that besides doing blow, alcohol, and marijuana for much of the seventies, he and the drummer Bill Ward dropped acid for two years straight at one point. I don’t know how anyone functions like that and I suppose they did end up kicking Ozzy out in favor of Ronnie James Dio. I also work doing snow removal for very rich people in a nearby city which leads to an odd little story.

Because of the timing of the storm, we had to leave at three in the morning. I brought some locals I knew from high school to help and my little 99 Subaru Impreza was right full. We stopped at a local gas station where a shady looking dude in a van was sitting directly in front of the doors with his lights on and car running. All four of us walked into the store, covered in winter gear, to find the attendant and some geeked out girl acting very strangely. She kept making comments about us big strong men and when my one of my co-workers almost slipped on the wet linoleum and said how slippery a slope it was, she said “Oh, I’ll show you a slippery slope”. She proceeded to dance like the girls do in rap videos and buy all of us coffee. Now, I am pretty sure she was on drugs and possibly a hooker, but I do appreciate the coffee and I know my homies do too.

6. ” Brooklyn Zoo” Ol Dirty Bastard

This song has nothing to do with S.A.D. and after reading back over this piece, I pledge to you I will not treat this blog like a shrink’s couch….for at least three posts.  I made a pledge to talk more about rap and I began it with a Wu Tang piece which was quickly followed by a response from the Elder J. We discussed on the phone how we  felt Method Man and Ol Dirty Bastard were the best members of Wu Tang, although now I would also include RZA as he produces much of that stuff. This solo ODB song was a mainstay with my cronies of ill-repute in high school and nobody in college had ever heard of it.  Everyone knew “C.R.E.A.M” and “Bring Da Ruckus”, but nobody knew ODB solo stuff. I am sure he suffered from S.A.D at some point which might be why he abused so many substances, got into so many legal skirmishes and generally acted like an idiot from the research I’ve done.

I love Ol Dirty a.k.a Dirt McGirt a.k.a Big Baby Jesus because he has one of the most unique deliveries of any rapper ever. He has this sort of narcotic gait to his speech while also kind of singing his rhymes that were sometimes ill and sometimes nonsensical but always entertaining. He didn’t put out much music so what he did release is cherished in my book. After all the extolling here, I’ll be quick to say that he no kind of role model and probably was an asshole. He has too many children to name from multiple women and once took a few of his kids in a limo to the welfare office to pick up his check on MTV. His music is a great distraction and he is a great voice and I think he could have figured stuff out if he had ever got sober.

Winter doesn’t last forever and neither will these strange times. I already feel better after writing this, working on my own music, really putting my all into researching different career options and a myriad of other little things to keep my brain and soul busy. Sometimes when things got rough, you just gotta bare down and plow through until it’s over.

18 comments on “Seasonal Affective Disorder

  1. theelderj says:

    Well, our father always did say that work was good for the soul.

    I think that recent studies about SAD say more about vitamin deficiencies caused by lack of sun–so it isn’t the warmth but the light itself that has a chemical affect on the body. There are longer studies that have been done especially of immigrants from high-light areas like India to places like England and Scandinavia.

    So, in part, the cause is external. But you’re right that there is a cyclical feedback loop that uses the holidays to turn this into one sucker punch. You know that I didn’t start out as the biggest fan of my home state, but as I have slowly grown accustomed to the absurd amount of sunlight I get, to the fact that I don’t have to shovel snow or ever wear a coat and to the fact that I don’t need to retreat and hide for months at a time, my resistance weakens.

    ODB is a fine stylist if a bit questionable otherwise. Baby, do you have my money?

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  7. […] I am extremely pale so I can’t enjoy the sun the way most people do. After one hell of a long winter with various ups and downs and a way late season snowstorm a few weeks back, springtime is finally […]

  8. […] the initial excitement that is somewhat like depression (and sometimes makes the transition to actual depression). I witnessed similar fugues in the lives of friends after we left undergrad or years after […]

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  12. […] in our classes. That Sunday prior was the first big snow storm of the year, the first real sign of winter for us in the snow removal […]

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  14. […] and as per usual, it feels like I just got here and I really don’t want to go back to the frozen north tomorrow at noon. We are going to go out tonight after we go shotgun shopping and then I’ll […]

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