Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nature Boy and Cucumber Toxicity

In my last post I promised to tell the tale of the wild cucumber.

When I belonged to a sober backpacking group in my late thirties, before my back could no longer be packed, I earned the sobriquet "Nature Boy" for my indefatigable interest in wild things along with my uncanny ability to lead the lost back, cross-country, to wherever they wished to return. I have a compass in my head and know the lay of the land--it's a background software program I take for granted. Apparently many folks don't have it.

Nature Boy is willing to sample anything that looks faintly edible, usually accompanied by spitting and washing of his mouth, occasionally by gustatory approval. I have yet to find a poisonous plant that tastes good; that would be fundamentally unfair, unless the Devil has twisted creation more than I thought God would allow.

The wild cucumber is a new plant I learned here in NorCal. The plant's common name gave me hope of sustenance, and I didn't run across any statements about its edibility in my guides. Besides, I love cucumbers--English cucumbers, that is, the kind with ridges.

I watched the vines flower and mature. Their little white flowers arose on vertical stalks like crabs' eyes. I waited for the fruit.

Two weeks ago on a Saturday, despite my soul-killing depression, I suggested we hike to Cabrillo Point for an outing. On the way to the beach I noticed wild cucumbers fruiting. I picked one of the spiny fruits, broke it open, held it to my nose and took a bite. It was extremely bitter, bitter beyond vanilla extract poured directly on your tongue. I washed my mouth out repeatedly. Kathleen sniffed it as well, but she swore it never touched her lip.

Two days later, Monday morning, Kathleen awoke with a reddened philtrum which later peeled. My nose was red as well, and in a few days my philtrum, cheek and nose all began to peel. It's only just healed. Our skin felt fiery when the eruption began; we shook our heads trying to deduce a cause.

Then it came to me: delayed cellular immunity, as in poison oak. On first exposure the body has to manufacture new antibodies to cope with a menace not previously encountered, first firing the cruder IGM and afterwards the more specialized IGG. A 48 hr. delay between exposure and symptoms was about right for this scenario. I must have kissed Kathleen with the antigen still on my lip for her to have been affected.

Beware of geeks bearing lips.

Moral of the story? Craig, beware of putting things in your mouth. Most kids learn that before the age of three. Alas, all who know me know that I am socially retarded but adventurous as well, with little respect for my own safety. For my daredevil behavior in high school I earned the nickname, "Crazy Craig," despite my valedictorian academic status.

If I had been born into a primitive tribe most concerned with survival, it is possible my manic-depressive disease would never have manifested itself. Nothing brings me out of depression (if only temporarily) so quickly as a life-threatening situation, especially if someone I love is threatened.

Freeway fist fights, unfortunately, have no survival value in our culture. Nevertheless don't fuck with me or mine on the road. I'm a bad enough driver without someone endangering me. A month ago I chased a sports car down the street in San Francisco, intent on pulling the asshole out the driver's door to sweep the street with him. Unfortunately he escaped.

Kathleen said "fortunately."

There are so few opportunities to be a real man in our culture. I tend to take the window for righteous action seriously. If life is incarnation and not some video game, when an asshole smugly endangers others just because he has a plastic bubble to protect him, I think he should be faced with reality--the reality of a fist or a baseball bat--to disabuse him of the notion that his personal reality of technological isolation is in fact, not real.

People are brave with their Internet aliases and behind the wheels of their Hummers, but we all know the overwhelming majority of humans are craven cowards.

Since telling my shrink what I needed Wednesday I've been better, but I'm not out of the woods by any means. I cried too briefly for Kathleen to notice this morning and got busy with other things. Later we took Kenyon swimming, and in a battle between river and ocean currents he was able to retrieve his bottle from fifty yards, for minutes appearing stationary in his attempt to best the currents, but paddling courageously on. I thought I was going to have to swim out and save him, but Mr. Intrepid made it to shore. He is our champion, God bless him. We think swimming keeps him alive.

I've gone easy on myself since my appointment with Dr. K. I quit pushing myself to finish the novel revision. My chief writing activity has been to go through unpublished poems and delete them forever, in the equivalent of a digital bonfire. There are so many efforts of mine I don't want to be caught dead with, literally.

One benefit of this depression has been to curb my narcissism towards all my work. I am a journeyman poet, no genius, much of my work forgettable. I've put more energy into feeling neglected as an artist, I fear, than I have into my art. How's that for childish?

I'm as self-centered and easily hurt as the next guy, maybe more. Especially in depression my self-esteem, when it hangs, hangs by a fine thread.

I hope for the sake of entertainment the day comes when I feel hypomanic and blog accordingly. Then all will fear to pull on Superman's cape!

3 Kilorats,



  1. Anonymous10:08 PM PDT

    Name: Wild Cucumber (Manroot) - (Marah macrocarpus)

    Family: Gourd (Cucurbitaceae)

    Flowering Season: January thru June
    Notes: A native perennial vine which somewhat resembles an edible cucumber, its fruit is toxic.

    But you gotta admit "manroot" is a somewhat poetic name for it. : )

  2. You pretty women, you stand in line,
    Make love to you, baby--in and out of time,
    Because I'm a man, I'm a man, I spell M--A--NNNNN!

    (harmonica break)

  3. Anonymous7:35 AM PDT

    I suspect there's a kernel of truth in the quote below CE. Alas, I find your your 'sense of affront' bleeding at times into your work. It's easy to get dispirited. I'm far from immune to it myself. You have to whistle in the dark and address the void. For some very few, the void congeals into an audience. But that is a luxury, not an end.

    "I've put more energy into feeling neglected as an artist, I fear, than I have into my art. How's that for childish?"

    take care

  4. But don't I get any points for honesty?

  5. Anonymous4:15 PM PDT

    If i git no poents fur ho nesty nIther doo you -- if i burthed my hole certifikate on the net i'd be the death of me fur sur. ..
    (that's a one space two dotter there)

    If i ever lose my sense of humors -- i'm a gonner -

    Superman ehh clark? do you ride shotgun an old hippy Kestrel?.. with a bandanna in his mouth?

    Moogoo wicha gonna do? manroot.. prickly ehh?..though iam not the above anon for shure spelling too perfect you see..

    ok - here's the deal -- annie and the gun thing has something to do with hole punches --- yeah that's the ticket -- I know this because i looked it up.

    If i'm distrubing -- i'll stoop --
    Is it a game? are you a blackmail?

    I thought it was a game.
    you know, llike in that movie with the machanical boy named david.

    You think i'm funny?

    Here - let me go put my burka on...
    then it's off to the prominade.

    BTW -- I'm the same with the road rage thing... mess wit me you'll lose yur pants... HAhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Anonymous5:47 AM PDT

    Dear Craig

    Look again how you responded to the person who wrote:

    "Hopefully this combination of meds will work for you and you are soon back to your "insulting" self."

    You said: "I don't really insult people. I throw brain puzzles, usually of logic or linguistics, at their unsuspecting psyches in the course of a normal conversation. When their faces freeze in incomprehension I admit to a childish thrill as I watch the tumblers in their brains paralyzed as mine have so often been. "

    Stupid people mistake these Zen encounters as insults. To all of them I apologize.

    This to me is the most arrogant anyone could say to another. I stumbled on your blogs by accident and at first I thought that you thought of yourself as superior to all. Now I KNOW you think you are. Climb off your high horse.

    You think all people are stupid (.)

    Perhaps this person on THIS page, the one who mispelled and talked "stupid" was trying to tell you something.

    Sorry I am not using any BIG words, I do not need them or know how to use them.

    Don't worry, I will not Blog here anymore, just my opinion. You should have had your wife do some serious editing.

    Call me "Sam"

  8. If you fail to see my self-mockery within my mockery, I'm sorry.

    I don't have the advantage of anonymity that you do, sir. Remember that as you judge.

    I'm lucky to ride a sawhorse without a saddle.

    There's no one I insult more than myself.

    Except in a sociopath, arrogance is usually a defense against inferiority, though that is no excuse.

    I think, on balance, most of my posts are not arrogant. Once in a while I may step over the line. Obviously the word "stupid" is a hot button for many and has me in your cross hairs right now.

    The escape from an accusation of "insulting" to Zen prankster was transparently invalid, I thought, worthy of an ironic smile. Perhaps my humor is twisted: "It's not an insult, it's instruction!" Baah. You think I believe that? You shouldn't take the bait.

    In any case, Sam, thanks for reading. I can't seem to catch a break with you. You do take me too seriously, I think.

    As for the other anon, you are playful and I'm sorry if I overreacted and called you a "coward" unnecessarily. I could ban anonymous comments or moderate their posting here as many do, but I leave myself open to everyone. I don't think that fits the arrogance profile, but hell, I'm no forensic psychologist. I'm going to erase my earlier answer to you as intemperate.

  9. The cucumber is rich in water has a reason for being in the skin moisturizing effect. I prefer to use cucumber because contains vitamin E, very good for the skin also soften skin and allows for the freshness that the skin needs.

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  10. Good Grief, Craig! You are going to kill yourself. Which one did you try, Echinocystis lobata? I didn't know it had any actual pulp.


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