follow the queen.

Above: belated photo-documentation of my duet with Raphael at the Goethe Institut. Not pictured: today's traditional Queen's Day okonomiyaki visit.



tutto è possibile.

By the bye, it seems that, contrary to most of what you read and my doctor's own information: it is indeed possible to lose weight while on mirtazapine. I've lost a kilo in the last week, which was Week 2. Granted, I'm only eating 1500 calories a day, but still. Steady on bitches.


let me sleep on it.

I'm almost having a Chuck Klosterman moment. In which case this would end up being a rather long discussion, but really it's too nice outside to be on the couch writing about this. So we get a brief version, to be possibly tweaked ad nauseam in idle moments here and there.


I was walking back from somewhere late at night a few weeks ago, it was cold and I was by myself, and off in the distance I heard the strains of Meat Loaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" (the original version) coming from what had to be a bar judging by the volume of the music and the sound of more than one person singing along.

And it struck me that this is one of the very very few times I've ever heard the song without seeing the video. I've seen the video hundreds of times: in 1982 MTV still didn't have many videos yet, so you could still count on seeing any given video at least once on any given day, and PBTDL was a pretty popular video.

I mean who knows if it was popular or not, but it was popular with me personally for a few reasons. I mean, at that point I'd never seen anything like Meat Loaf onstage before, I guess few people had: hypothetically well-dressed but violently unkempt; theatrically emotional and unhinged; and of course, 300+ pounds, he was a striking and weirdly charismatic performer in his original incarnation.

But this particular song/video is a duet, and as a 13-year-old boy, most of my attention was drawn toward the scantily-clad female component of this duo, Karla DeVito. I mean yes it's a song about sex, and in 1982/83 sex was on the verge of eclipsing most of my other interests. So I would've been interested regardless of who was singing.

But I realized watching it again last night that a) wow is this some campy-ass, super-white, Hair meets Rocky Horror shit, but b) the lip-synching is impressive (the actual female vocal is of course Night Court's Ellen Foley) and c) I completely understand what the 13-year-old me was looking at, and d) the dare I say dramaturgy of DeVito's performance oversells the content of the song so hard that I think it even takes the lyrics beyond their original intent. At least as a young teenager, the last minute or so of this video made me think I felt a very adult emotion for the first time: a sort of disillusioned nostalgia that made me feel sorry for adults.

And it all happens in the outro, after they have their big makeout session (which also thoroughly confused me at the time....so you can be big and fat and sweaty, but small theatrically pouty women in Gothish makeup will still want to kiss you passionately? weird) and post-makeout stereotype war ("before we go any further do you love me" vs. "let me sleep on it"), then of course they get married and it's horrible and they're both waiting to die so they can end their time together.

Then the band turns the bombast fader down one notch (down to 90%) and the most poetic lyric in the song reappears, about glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife; but this time the look on Karla's face spells such traumatized devastation that the young me just knew that for her things would never ever be the same, and somehow, my young young self really seemed to know what this meant. When she looks off into "the distance" and tentatively touches her hair while kind of manically insisting on remembering the good version of what happened, I thought wow, I don't really know if I ever want to feel like that.

Though by the next day when the video came on again I was usually back to wondering why more girls didn't go braless in white leotards, it seemed to me like just about the best fashion decision a girl could possibly make. And then eight minutes later the ending would get me again, and over time, through repetition, I gradually developed a very conflicted feeling about Karla, maybe even the proto-platonic boy/girl friendship concept that would last through the rest of my teenage years: a girl would come along that you found entertaining and/or talented, you somehow felt a mild responsibility/desire to protect her against various kinds of barely-understood badness, but given the chance you'd make out with her in about two seconds flat.

At least that's the way my female friendships went in high school. Number of long-time "platonic" female friends eventually made out with by me: 7 or debatably 8 that I can remember without trying too hard, which suddenly sounds like a disturbingly high number. Fuck, is that pathology or mere opportunism? Nah, I'm gonna go with neither, I'm a pretty passive guy. Probably just hormones and alcohol. And friendliness.



tamales de camarón.

Who else do you know in Amsterdam that can just "decide" to make shrimp tamales because they already have all of the ingredients just sitting around: masa harina, corn husks, prepared green mole paste, Turkish poblano emulators (EDIT: called "peper sivri" at the Dirk), etc.

This was a new recipe for us, from a 30-year-old Mark Miller cookbook, and it was a darn sight easier than what we normally do tamale-wise. Tja we did take a couple of shortcuts, but happily took the time to make the shrimp butter that the tamale dough required (in lieu of lard)...this is a useful condiment.


tamales de camarón con mole verde.


mole verde. 
3 tbsp tomatillo sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup romaine or bibb lettuce
1/4 tsp anise seed
3 Turkish green peppers
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp canned green mole paste
1 tbsp butter



liquid gold.

OK, yes, my cravings are still fine, but I saw this recipe for an esteemed midwestern US specialty on FB (posted by the daughter of one of the original purveyors) and wanted to preserve it here for eventual junktime experimentation. I've halved her recipe and attempted to convert it to VDuck/metric. Another version has you just use French dressing as the "batter".  There's also such a thing as a tuna frenchee. FYI. 


cheese frenchee.

1 cup Kraft powdered cheese
300g powdered milk
5 eggs
1/2 tbsp salt
1.9 liters water

Wonder bread
cracker meal
Kraft american cheese

Warm enough of the water (approximately half) to dissolve the cheese. Add milk, eggs, salt and the rest of the water and mix well. This part can be done a day ahead of dipping and breading if necessary. 

Take a loaf of white bread cut ½ inch thick. Bread should be at least 24 hours old. Spread both insides of the bread lightly with mayo. Put one slice of Kraft American Ribbon Cheese in each sandwich and place in bun box and store in cooler for at least 12 hours or until the next day.

Take frenchees from cooler and slice each sandwich from corner to corner so as to make four sandwiches. Dip sandwich thoroughly in batter and coat using No. 5 Sunshine Cracker Meal as breading. Store in plastic bun box or plastic container under refrigeration. Deep Fry. Eat. Keel over.



super saloon.

Finally got a scale today. Thus, we have a new MFSDxiv recipe.

I haven't mentioned it here yet b/c I wanted to see how things went, but now it seems like I'm going to be taking this for a while, so it's worth talking about The Big Side Effect: weight gain. If you Google (when can we stop capitalizing that) "mirtazapine and weight gain" you'll find pages and pages of stories about people who gained like 25-50% of their body weight after starting this. It's unclear how much of it has to do with physiological changes and how much is a result of this medication's secondary classification as an appetite stimulant.

For me personally: let me just say that the last several years of dieting while using marijuana combined with generally being cooking-obsessed has all been awesome training for mirtazapine. Now that the first week of colossal cravings has passed, it's just kind of back to low-level munchies with regular fake low blood sugar hunger spikes. I'm so used to ignoring these brain messages during daylight hours that it's really no effort at all to eat correctly.

Also interesting: pre-medication my normal bad eating times would be between say 10pm and 6am. Not being awake during those hours has made a big difference. But also, I mean, really, after you (or I) take this stuff, within 20 minutes you are not capable of snacking or anything else.

But I do feel really bad for people who aren't ready for it in terms of craving resistance and good nutrition habits, they're most likely fucked.


sardines with lemon and tarragon.

1 can of good sardines in oil, drained (my go-to brand is Tagine, available at your local Turk/Moroccan)
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of one lemon (I know, inconvenient...maybe a whole lemon's juice would also be ok)
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, or more, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp capers, chopped
1/2 sweet or red onion, chopped, or if you're worried about your breath/digestion, 1 stalk of celery, chopped

Just combine everything. Good for 3 days in the fridge.



daar sta je dan.

So, quick update: energy, increasing, made it to the gym today for the first time in many weeks. Coordination and general body function: still uncoordinated and weirdly dried-out (welll, not so weirdly, mirtazapine is like a colossal antihistamine) . Mood: decent, bumped up to remarkably good if I compare it to April 1 when I took the above picture. Sleep: decreasing a bit, waking up a little earlier every day, approaching 5am at the moment, that's with taking meds at 10:30 and going to sleep at 11:30 or so.

Priorities: skewed. Hypothetically the biggest thing that's wrong right now is that there are no more Galler white chocolate + pistachio praline bars in the house anymore. Actually that's probably for the best, they're unignorably fantastic.




Well it would seem that today is some kind of turning point with regard to me drugz: physically I feel almost normal, which is suddenly amazing. Even yesterday I had the wobbly hungry zombie legs and general half-coordination, but today, all day even, I felt pretty much like myself. And the crazy munchies have subsided. So six nights for the 15mg side effects to become basically manageable. And sleepytime is, yes, decreasing gradually, but still lasting almost 6 hours a night. All pretty good.

Mentally: hasn't been bad, I might be 9% more relaxed. Which isn't nearly enough, but I'm looking forward to what happens now that I feel physically better. Still reversing some words when speaking and typing, it's a bit like I see whole sentences at once with all words having equal value, or then sometimes I just switch beginnings of words, even when typing. But it all is only occasional and seems to be getting better, and that kind of shit happened the first/previous time I took benzodiazepines too, so I blame them. I can't/won't take them all the time anyway, so it seems pretty temporary/harmless.


Last night was my last gig for the forseeable future, it was a good one, but I'm also glad to be done with everything.

(Bottom photo: Eric de Clercq)



delta, dawn.

I know this is getting boring, but I kind of have to do it for myself, and I'm sharing it so that fellow med Googlers like myself may reap whatever possible benefit is potentially being sown.

Night Four: 15mg Remeron taken at 9:30pm, didn't fall asleep til 11:15 or so, woke up at 5am, pretty wide awake. So basically I'm taking longer to get to sleep every night and waking up earlier, plus still feeling like a pile of absolute immobilized zombie crap for most of the day, not the most promising trend. Just took 0.5mg Lorazepam to go back to sleep, last day for that. Still CRONing, staying under 1500 calories a day, hunger craziness not as bad yesterday. Will have a weigh-in on Saturday. Just trying to remember the words of my good doctor: this will be an investment, the first two weeks or so you may feel only the side effects without the benefits. Okie dokie.



muffin man.

Mostly a Note to Self: took 15mg at 9:30pm, sleep by 10:30pm, awake at 5:30am, 0.5mg lorazepam, asleep again by 8:30am til 10:30am. Feeling spacey, hungry, and uncoordinated but other than that generally OK. Eating raw carrots.


LATER: bad afternoon, feeling like flu, low blood sugar, and some kind of withdrawal symptoms combined. Was better after a nap and dinner, but better just meaning spaced out and useless. I give it one more day to improve then I switch to a half dose.



the bends.

Zowie: OK, I take back what I said about the mirtazapine food cravings, they're weirder than weed munchies. It could be the combination of my semi-encyclopaedic health food knowledge with an appetite stimulant, but I am pretty constantly hungry for some wild-ass shit. Like what my brain really wants is a chocolate milkshake (unusual, I'm not a milkshake guy) but what my filter decides is the only healthyish thing that will meet those sensory requirements and not be 700 junky calories is like a Mexican avocado pudding (basically raw avocado and raw sugar pureed with a little cold coconut milk or almond milk works for me, actually very delicious if you like avocado, but you can also pimp that shit to where the avocado is barely detectable).

Having just watched Trainspotting again, I hear Renton's voice dictating a shopping list of desperate necessities to me: tuna, five tins of; pickles, two jars of; buttermilk, one liter of, to be consumed cold with lemon and stevia; pistachios, one sack of; oranges, one bag of; almond flour, two containers of; stevia, one small bottle of. Mouthwash, vitamins, fuzzy mineral water. That Yogi Tea that tastes like chocolateAtomic Fireballs. I could go on. One television and 153 carefully-curated DVDs. One white noise machine. Etc.


It would be amazing if yesterday was "it" in terms of Remeron hangover: I took last night's at 9pm, by 9:05 I felt like I'd been to the dentist (numb tongue), and I was asleep somewhere before 10pm. Woke up exactly at 6am, fed cats, had coffee, and now I'm building webpages, one of those to-do list items that keeps floating somewhere near the surface and that I keep submerging whenever it pops up for air, hoping it will eventually drown ahahaha. Despite that last comment, mood pretty positive, energy feels good, it would be great if it lasted all day. Tongue still acting a little too weird though.

UPDATE: Ok, complete energy wipeout at 11am, as in I had to lay down on the couch, feeling spacy as shit. And I just asked Mara, in all seriousness, "OK, so, what's our Jell-O situation?" I don't even like Jell-O. It would seem that the brain/body is needing more adjustment time.




I post this for anyone else out there who, like me, was Googling for "15mg Remeron/mirtazapine" and "how to wake up" this morning. And the answer is: you just have to wait.

I took it at 11pm, asleep by 11:30, slept til 5:22am (awoken by cat), then again til 8am, then again til 10:30am. From 10:30am til 2pm I was incapacitatedly groggy, crabby, and generally useless. Coffee had zero effect. As of now, almost 3pm, I have finally made it off the couch but can't exactly say I feel like doing anything except going back to sleep. Supposedly this overwhelming drowsiness dissipates after a couple of days, so yeah let's see. Tonight I take it at 9pm in an effort to be out of bed before noon tomorrow.

My tastebuds continue to be the only part of me that's awake, but it seems pretty manageable, no worse than weed munchies except I guess for the fact that you're not actually stoned.

These new tastebuds of mine invented a dessert that's designed to be composed by the tablespoon, so you're not tempted to eat a whole bowl of it.


lemon yogurt with pistachio halva and preserved ginger. 


They (the tastebuds) also desperately wanted to invent some kind of surimi ball yesterday, continuing this white trash scallop idea from a few weeks ago.

Lastly, I apparently require something extremely sweet yet bite-sized. Maybe someone could mail me a couple of Aunt Marie's Bourbon Balls.

And that's about all the brain activity we can muster ATM. Zzzzzz.




So tonight I start my Remeron/mirtazapine shit, hopefully my experience will be remotely like that of other formerly depressed bloggers who've found it to be the only thing that helps. I just took my first 15mg and boy is my tongue numb.

IN THE MORNING: Upside: slept for 7 10 hours or so. Downside: feel like I need 70 more. Very Dramamine-like feeling, like there's no circumstances under which you could stay awake after you've taken it, like dozing in and out of consciousness is about the most you're capable of (apparently not unusual). Dreams very vivid (I used that word even before I saw that every single person on that linked thread said the same thing). And, yes it's true what they say, food tastes better (it's also used as an appetite stimulant), just like the volume has been turned up. I just had the best rice cake of my life. Vision a little weird also, but other than that, if I can manage to wake up pretty soon, I'll call that a good night's sleep. Maybe only a half dose tonight.


uncle bennish wild rice.

250g wild rice, uncooked
1 large onion
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp or more garlic powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
pinch ground turmeric
1 boullion cube, dissolved into 4 cups water
black pepper to taste

Saute chopped onion in butter until soft. Add rice and bouillon/water. Add dry spices, bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer for 50 minutes, until the insides done explode. Not yours, the rice.



bbq runner beans.

Had to use up some defrosted BBQ sauce last night AND I needed a green vegetable in my life, so I made some southern food. Back in The New World, BBQ green beans are normally made with canned green beans, but runner beans were on sale at the Dirk and well, they're just better anyway. This recipe makes the house pretty much smell like the best place in the world to be.


barbecued runner beans.

400gr runner beans, trimmed and halved
6 or 8 strips of bacon

Not really much of a recipe: make 6 or 8 bundles of the beans, wrap each bundle in a slice of bacon, place seam side down in a baking dish. Coat/drizzle the bundles liberally with BBQ sauce, maybe 3 tbsp per bundle. Bake at 175C for 45-60 minutes. 




Yes, we still eat. We had an amazing smorgasbord of comfort food last Thursday, this is the pre-appetizer, Shrimp D'Jo3n above...a taste of the homeland. And this was just the beginning.

Then Friday was, sorry, steak night. Below is Mara's perfectly-done steak and roasted potatoes plus my pretty-well-executed zhoug and maple-cayenne sweet potatoes (2 sweet potatoes, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 or 2 tsp cayenne, 1 or 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 or 2 tbsp butter, salt to taste). Also making an appearance was this southwestern Caesar salad we been diggin on a bunch lately, I put the recipe up here soon.



Of my 2013 Pharmaceutical Bonanza, Ambien CR is going to be the only keeper I think: Oxazepam not doing enough good to make it worth the inevitable tolerance buildup and necessary benzo withdrawals. Also I decided not to take Venlazapine-Effexor after semi-extensive research about it has me thinking that it sounds like one of the meanest AD meds you could possibly "try": if you change your mind about taking it or miss a single dose, the withdrawals are immediate and (I quote) "hellish".

Yes I know about tapering, but I read pages of horror stories from people who were trying a very careful taper and still having constant electric shock feelings in their head (especially as they headed towards the lower, "safer" doses) along with insomnia, nausea, vertigo, diarrhea, etc. Plus your skin might come off. Sounds great but I kind of already have enough problems.

New current frontrunners: mirtazapine/Remeron; trazodon/Oleptro; and good ol' paroxetine/Paxil if I can't talk my doctor into one of the other two. I know they all have withdrawal issues, but none of it sounds nearly as deeply unpleasant as the Effexor stories. 

I'm kind of thinking of choosing an AD based on which one has the most potentially entertaining side effects: mirtazapine (also a feline tranquilizer!) offers "spontaneous orgasms"; trazadon could produce "zombie-like sensations" (om nom nom nom nom); paroxetine really only offers the nebulous "ejaculatory disturbance", not mentioning if this is coming so to speak from within or elsewhere. 




Well I guess I would've felt pretty stupid if all this time it had been just that easy to get a good night's sleep. Last night's maiden voyage with Ambien CR kicked in like a hammer to the forehead, I took it at 11:15 or something and 15 minutes later I fell asleep in the middle of writing an email. And yet five hours later here we are again.

Still, it was pretty glorious sleep, I have no idea what went on during it but I don't think I sleepdrove or sleepfucked anything or anyone, and I woke up feeling relatively relaxed and dare I say chipper instead of being clenched like an ugly fist, but neither of these really lasted. Somewhere to start I guess.

I should note that my first dose of Venlafaxine made me intolerant of just about everything that was happening around me, especially the TV but also all of the apartment's occupants. Visual and audio stimulation was bad. Luckily The Ambien Hammer showed up shortly thereafter.



drugstore cowboy.

For any anxious, depressed insomniacs playing along at home, imma bout to embark on an unprecedented journey of (prescribed) prescription pharmaceuticals. Went to the doctor today and came home with a grocery bag full of Venlafaxine, Oxazepam, and Zolpidem. I know, I also thought it sounded like a lot of drugs, but hey let's see what happens!!!




I've been experiencing a downturn in my insomnia satisfaction level lately, so I'm approaching a point of trying to do several significantly different things about it. But tonight, still using old technology, I took my sleepymeds at 9:30pm, felt sleepy by 11, went to bed at 11:45.

OK, but then I'm in bed with my favorite person to talk to, and we haven't really had an in-person, non-SMS or gmail conversation in a couple weeks. So we talk. And talk, and then by the end of it, I'm invigorated because hey we got to jabber at each other and yes it went as perfectly as it usually does, so why would I want to go to sleep if it means I stop talking to this person?

But then of course she eventually falls asleep and I take another 45 minutes or so to follow suit. Wouldn't be so bad if someone didn't need to be fed at 6am, but we see how it goes.

The sweet person in bed is still way in the winning column b/c the day before she made you not only a surprise easter basket that included peanut M & Ms and a monogrammed water pistol, but also banh xeo and nuoc cham for dinner. With leftovers for breakfast in four hours or so.



sometimes i holiday in saint-gilles.

I arrived on Passover and left on Easter Sunday, have to say Passover was more fun, but I think that's because I missed all the food and drink on Easter and almost everything outside was closed. Some nice veggie appetizers being made below pre-Passover: soft-boiled white onions stuffed with spiced lentils or fava, not sure; and yes, softened red onions stuffed with sweet potatoes and a nut of some sort, I ate eight of those.

Easter Sunday, walking to the train station yes everything closed, there's a picture of a "no frites" sign outside a clothing store.