Friday, December 10, 2010

Melatonin Dunnit

The Saturday night I returned from Michigan, I saw Hud, with Paul Newman. He plays an out-and-out scoundrel, but he’s so outrageously attractive it’s hard to completely dislike him. I’m surprised that million-watt scene where Hud is lying on Alma’s bed didn’t actually melt the celluloid into gooey drips. Maybe it did, and they had to film it again, telling him to turn it down a bit this time.

I haven’t seen many of his films, but he was also not an entirely great guy in The Hustler, so it seems movie-makers appreciated the tension between Newman’s charisma (and looks) and some of the less admirable traits of his characters.

The following Tuesday, I had a triple dharma day: I did my usual 45 minutes of sitting in the morning before work, sat at the Zen Center after work, and then went to Howie’s for yet more sitting.

They were three days into a seven-day sesshin (period of intensive practice) at the Zen Center and it was very quiet and tranquil in the zendo, noticeably so. (Thus I enjoyed some of the fruits of sitting for three days without having to sit for three days!) On the other hand, because it was during sesshin, there would be no public dinner, so it was sort of a split personality sitting: half enjoying the great peace, and half trying to figure out where to go for dinner.

I ended up at the café one block down the hill (does it have a name?), where I knew I would see Sir Dave, and so I did. (He said, “What a surprise!”)

After dinner, I went on to Howie’s, where the talk following the sit was about metta and concentration.

Work is going well. After quitting and unquitting, I was on a sort of probation, so have exerted myself mightily to live up to or exceed expectations, and my manager has expressed his satisfaction. Into the bargain, I was able to mend a relationship with a peer that has been strained for years and caused a huge amount of frustration to both parties, no doubt. Certainly it has made me miserable. It’s a great thing to be allies, finally.

I was looking forward to going to the Zen Center last Saturday morning for the talk, but I ended up having to work until midnight Friday night, so I couldn’t.

Saturday evening Tom and I watched Oliver Stone’s JFK. During the opening credits, they show President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas, and though they don’t show the actual shooting (then), by the time the movie starts, the President is dead. I’d always thought it was a biography in which Kevin Costner plays Kennedy, so I was confused—what could this movie possibly be about, then? Tom said it was about the investigation after the assassination. The running time is three and a half hours, so I very nearly said I didn’t want to see it: is there any way a 3.5-hour movie about a legal case could be anything but soporific?

But then I decided that, if nothing else, it would be a lot of looking at Kevin Costner, so I stuck with it and it was absolutely riveting. There was not a single dull moment, and it was reasonably easy to keep the various threads of the plot straight. It seeks to persuade that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone, and it is very convincing there. Sir Dave’s primary interest is 9/11, but he has a sideline in the Kennedy assassination, so I’ve heard my share about Dulles and so forth, but really didn’t know enough about the whole thing to form an opinion. JFK took care of that.

After the movie that night, I undertook my first and last experiment with melatonin, a supplement probably readily available in your drugstore. More than once I’ve read that it’s good for lucid dreaming, so I decided to give it a try. The fellow in the pill department at Rainbow said you can take six milligrams, but he recommended taking only three. I asked what people actually take it for, as I imagine its main use is not for lucid dreaming, and learned it’s primarily for problems sleeping.

I went ahead and took three milligrams, one tablet, and within 20 minutes, I was nearly on the floor. It had a very powerful, very unpleasant effect, including that I felt kind of dizzy and disoriented and couldn’t quite seem to see what I was looking at. My face turned red and I felt burning hot. I went right to bed—there was not much else I could do—but not until I’d written down what I took and when I took it, as I had every expectation I was going to wake up dead, and didn’t want to leave a mystery to compound my relatives' terrible grief.

All I can say is, thank goodness I didn’t take six milligrams. I read later that if you take fifty milligrams, it increases the amount of REM sleep you have and the vividness of your dreams. I don’t doubt that at all, but will not be experiencing it firsthand. I poured the rest of the bottle into the trash the next day. Sorry about the tiny bit of melatonin you’re eventually going to get in your glass of water.

Do you ever think about that? Every drug anyone ever takes, puts in the trash or compost, or flushes down the toilet, legal drug or not, ends up in our water—all the hormones, chemotherapy, hallucinogens. I’m sure water treatment is supposed to remove all of that, but wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t quite.
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