Sunday, June 11, 2006


Okay, so the city of Portsmouth doesn't exactly have the best reputation in England. That's one way of describing it. Another way is: Portsmouth made me so physically ill that I had to leave early.

Dependent upon where I am, whenever late spring/early summer rolls around, my head begins to explode. My allergies are getting worse with age, and in some geographical locales, I am one teeny step away from needing to be hooked up to a respirator. It's rather freakish to watch, I would assume. Within seconds I go from a happy-go-lucky little hedonist to a miserable Quasimodo. I have sneezing fits; my sinuses sharply ache so badly that my face squunches up in pain; I become a snot faucet; I can't breathe; my eyes go completely bloodshot; sometimes I turn red. Before I moved to London, whenever I would go to Awesome's apartment, he would watch this transformation and question if I was a werewolf (which might be quite fun). Awesome's bratty evil cat was not only the spawn of Satan (it pissed on all the walls whenever Awesome left the apartment), but that creature also made me sneeze like no animal, pollen or weed ever had before. At one point, just as my entire face was running down my chest, I threatened to never go to his apartment again. Um...Awesome's cat now lives on a farm in Wisconsin, where he has lived for the past two years. For Awesome's emotional sake, I hope it's a real farm.

Dallas usually does this to me, too. Last year when I was visiting my mom there, I nearly OD'd on assorted prescription and over-the-counter allergy medication that I kept popping in hopes that my head-exploding would cease. But Portsmouth was such fresh unbridled hell that I didn't know what to do with myself. I would've prefered to snuggle with Awesome's cat than attempt to breathe in Portsmouth.

Even when I was going south on the train, I started having a violent sneezing attack before I even arrived in Portsmouth. It was so bad that everyone sitting near me on the train got up and moved to sit elsewhere. As I walked from the train station to my bed-n-breakfast, sneezing, snotting, coughing, crying, and exploding, I immediately realized that my entire weekend would be like this - and I had to present a conference the chair of my department sat in the room. So, Friday night I also realized that in order to make it through my weekend of pain, I needed to be drunk the entire time. (I am sure you are surprised to hear this.) Although my cutesy b&b was on the edge of Portsmouth on some random corner called Spice Island, lucky for me there were two lively pubs downstairs, both of which were advertised as Football Free.

I could not sleep at all on Friday night, no matter how hard I tried. Explosions! in my head were nonfuckingstop. You know those allergy commercials where shiny happy people run through fields of flowers? That is my absolute worst fucking nightmare. If I tried to run through polleny fields of flowers, I know I would explode. Why do those commercials show all those breathe-able people dashing through open fields of pollens and allergy-inducing weeds? I wouldn't run through fields of flowers like a loon even if I could breathe in them. These allergy commercials make about as much sense as those Vagisil and other vagina cream commercials that always feature a cured woman riding a horse or kayaking feverishly around a pond. I don't understand? Once you have your vagina burn under control, this means that you suddenly want to hop on a mule or go paddle-boating, while the smiley non-allergic people run by you in the field? Is that how it happens? I can only imagine what exciting outdoor activities might occur after being cured of chlamydia.

Anyway, apparently lots of people in Portsmouth (or at least visitors) have similar allergy problems, so the swanky conference building had allergy-attacking filters in their air-conditioners! I was so happy that I hugged the convener when he told me this. Then we made out a little bit and I let him goose me. I didn't want to leave the building. After I gave another 'performance' that was both attended and received very well, I considered that since I had been a success, maybe I could ask the convener if I could sleep there instead of at my b&b. He thought I was joking, so he said No. Then, once outside again, I victoriously proceeded to restaurant-, cafe- and pub-hop with a cynical gaggle of thirty- and fortysomething highly literate and entertaining British men. I love being the young lad to whom my elder colleagues all want to donate countless pints and live through vicariously. Almost as much as I love kayaking with my horse and a breath-able vagina.

This said, though, I was unable to sleep on Saturday night, too, as my sinuses waged another hellish war on my leetle body. It was so incredibly awful. Soooo awful. See, Portsmouth itself is not necessarily the giant shit-hole for which it's known. There are some nice, cute, charming corners to it. Sure, there are the industrial ports and docks and all that ugly grayness, and there is that giant capitalist debacle of American chain stores that every British city now unfortunately has. But Old Portsmouth is really cute and quaint. However, because I apparently should've packed an oxygen tank for the weekend, there is no way in hell I'm ever going back to Portsmouth. Last night after not sleeping again, I considered finding a 24-hour off-license so I could buy some vagina cream to rub up my nose, and see if it had the same flowery and peaceful affect that allergy medicine supposedly has. I got the first train back to London this morning and skipped Day 2 of the conference. I had no choice, man.

I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness. - James Thurber