I’m a 29-year-old production manager for a monthly industry newsmagazine called Doarke Physicals™ that covers various non-academic “service-industry theory” communities in the Bay Area. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal condition, when I was twenty-one years old. After my old boss committed suicide eight months ago, I’ve been allowed to blog at work. I currently have most of my central vision, but some days, like today, even my central vision feels wonky. At night my tunnel vision “comes alive”–that is, in low-light situations, my vision is heavily impaired. One of my main social-function mantras–the phrase I repeat over and over while navigating the twilit bars and bistros and sexy drug-alleys of our city–is straightforward, and searchingly utilitarian: I have severe night blindness. Naturally, and a little annoyingly, this phrase often begins a conversation, rather than heading it off, as I’d hoped. I wish the phrase I have severe night blindness operated more like a LifeCall bracelet: you see it, and you know what to do.
About this Website
HarperCollins recently gave me an $80,000 advance for a book idea. It’s tentatively titled Food Diary: A Novel–the core of the book is a more or less straightforward and factual food diary, but almost right away the entries become festooned and adorned with digressions, “magical” realisms, mystical sex scenes, metaphorical depictions of graphic drug abuse, real-sounding zoological and other science terms, etc. My agent pitched it as “Susan Powter meets Gilbert Sorrentino–picking up her son, a pre-adolescent Mark Leyner, from daycare!”
So in the interest of promoting–and actually writing–my novel, I’ll be posting full menus of everything I eat every day here on the site. I’m also an avid long-distance runner, and the original—and continuing— purpose of this website is to serve as a resource for other blind or partially blind runners. I decided to start this site earlier today, in 1997, when I was out on an intended six-mile jog.
It was an “angry run”–these are runs where I set out in a terrible, desperate mood–moods which are only worsened by the (very contemporary) feeling that my desperation and depression are entirely unearned, in light of the resources (material and otherwise) that are available to me, and unavailable to others (awesome mom, perfect salt cod brandade in a compostable container, 15-inch Powerbook). I often feel angry or upset when I think–as I do today–that I can notice my vision worsening. Feeling stressed out and behind at work (also true today) is another cause of an Anger Run. The idea is that usually, hopefully, by the time I trot sweatily back to my doorstep, some of that superficial narrative of displeasure and discomfort looping in my brain’s reel-to-reel player has been chopped and blended by the jog’s exertion, like a fucking chocolate-dipped frozen banana getting a few rude pulses in the food processor.
One of the salient features of Anger Runs is violent fantasy–jogging along, I’m visualizing friends, enemies, and strangers getting impaled or decapitated. (In truth, I most often imagine friends. It’s always me doing the wounding, with a diversity of swords, scissors, and knives.) I also do a lot of muttering–usually a whimpered, elongated “Fuck you” as I remember something embarassing I said or did, or something I have to do but have been putting off. I’m not proud to admit I also hiss the “c-word” to myself (Nota Bene: this is not as bad of a word in the UK).
I was about two and a half miles into the run (I recommend MapMyRun.com for calculating mileage), in the leafy and charming Duboce Triangle area, when I saw two unattractive women getting out of a car. Another feature of Retinitis Pigmentosa is that it becomes increasingly, degeneratively difficult to recognize faces at a distance. This also complicates the already fraught procedure of sexually appraising fellow pedestrians. Even with blinkered vision, the most obvious signifiers are still evident: She’s wearing leather boots and a miniskirt and has brown hair; She has a canvas totebag filled with British novels and her lips are enormous; and so on. But actual eye contact is impossible until you’re very close, and if it happens to be someone you know, you’re not going to realize it until it’s far too late.
I couldn’t really see the woman getting out of the car very clearly, but I could tell that she had none of the obvious hotness signifiers mentioned above. (Apologies to Kate Roiphe and all women everywhere for trying to write about the hotness of women. “Denise at 32 was still beautiful.” This woman was maybe 39. I will be muttering with shame over this paragraph on a future Anger Run.) Regardless, something about her interested me, and I found myself peering as I bounced by. As I’ve mentioned, the effect of Retinitis Pigmentosa is a gradually narrowing tunnel vision, which usually doesn’t effect me much during the day (yet), except for when things come whizzing out of my periphery. Or when things are only knee-high and don’t register in my field of vision. I slammed into one of those ridiculous and relatively rare knee-high abbreviated concrete columns that are designed, who knows, to prevent cars from driving onto the sidewalk? even though there’s a perfectly nice curb already in place for that purpose. I’m writing this in English, even though my native language is Croatian, I hope that’s OK. Now that a classical music composer has been elected president in Croatia, I think Nico Muhly should run for US Congress. In Delaware.
I crashed spectacularly to the ground. I fucked up my knee. I bled a little from my hand. I had “gnarly road rash” on my knee and leg. The woman I had been mysteriously peering at asked if I was OK. I said “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine” in a resigned tone of voice one might use sitting at one’s computer trying to come to terms with the fact that everything’s just been erased. I was in a lot of pain; at this very moment somewhere in the world people are being abused or tortured. I sat, dazed, on the ground for a moment, then pulled myself up and sat on the blasted, functionless knee-high column. A large double family walked by. A little kid looked back, concerned. When the pain became more manageable, I began limping home. A block later, an attentive, overweight hippie woman noticed my gnarly road rash and asked if I was OK. I gave her a resigned, computer-guy “Yeah.”
I walked for about a mile then jogged the rest of the way. Made lentils and brown rice and dabbed gingerly at my leg. Marinated and baked some tofu. Ate too much. Listened with horrible intensity to NPR’s Says You! Came into the office. Started this website to trade tips with other blind joggers. Sold my book to HarperCollins. Ate a Cornflakes-flavored RitterSport bar. Drank a mug of water.