The Las Vegas Death Ray and the Aesthetics of Irritability

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Early sobriety
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s 5:30 a.m., and I don’t want to be awake.  More to the point, I didn’t want to be woken every 45 minutes by my poor, head-cold-ridden partner all night long.  It’s the fifth day of sobriety, and I’ve been battling the inevitable irritability and depression I was expecting (and unfortunately am sustaining).  I was irritable when the kids came home and shattered my peace and quiet yesterday;  I was irritable when I didn’t have the right kind of tomatoes for my signature black bean soup; I was irritable when my partner moaned for the 3,000th time about something (her work, her health, her work again, her health again); I was irritable when no one set the table the way I wanted it (in my head–a shifting organ that hadn’t made its mind up anyway).  I’d go on, but you’d get irritated.

Partly my irritability is chemical at the moment–a sort of withdrawal-induced hypoglycemia.  Alcohol is the single longest ingest-able chain of glucose molecules available.  There’s so much “sugar” in alcohol that human cells can’t metabolize it all–and it sort of “spills out” into the blood stream.  That’s how you get drunk.  But if you get drunk every day–or almost every day–for years and years, those poor little cells get used to having all that sweet stuff.  (I saw a tee shirt that said, “I’m like a choco-holic, but with booze.”  It’s a truer statement than it sounds–and I want that shirt.)  So, when I get sober, I not infrequently feel like a diabetic with too much insulin in her system.  (I look forward to my nutritional commentary:  “How to Eat Like an Alcoholic.”)

Irritability is baffling to me.  It’s such a perverse, amoebic alchemy of emotions:  anger, impatience, self-righteousness, weariness, and sadness.  A.A. will teach you to “H.A.L.T.” when you feel you want that first drink, asking if you really want the drink or whether you’re “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.”  When I’m irritable, it’s YES, to ALL THE ABOVE. And I’m damned irritable about that too.  Irritability is sort of an allergic reaction to life and people–which I typically call “being awake”–and is thus my psyche’s nuclear weapon in the face of living in the moment.

Naturally these musings led me to contemplate the architectural fiasco that is the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas.  Why?  Weren’t you thinking the same thing?  The brilliant designers of this monument to conspicuous consumerism and over-indulgence created a concave glass surface meant to de- or re-flect the sun’s rays in order to improve the cooling efficiency of the building.  (What a fantastically meaningless gesture in a city that, along with most of southern California, is destroying the Colorado River, its tributaries, and the ecology of the Western United States!)  The concave shape of the building and its highly reflective glass create a centrifugal zone of heat in the middle of the building that then concentrates its reflection downward toward the pool.  (Think of the concave firing surface of the Death Star in Star Wars, Episode IV.)  Under the “death ray,” plastic melts, skin burns in minutes, even hair singes.  The best part is that, because the sun is always moving along its ecliptic (east and west, but also north and south), it’s never in the same place.

Like the ill-conceived (and, from what I understand, cheap-fix) facade of the Vdara Hotel, my irritability is initially designed to insulate me from life’s little problems that, when put together, can seem as overwhelming as any desert sun.  The problem?  It doesn’t just insulate me, it turns outward into a “death ray” that singes everyone around me.  When irritable, I’m a monolith of glass–a concave one at that, whose concentrated rebukes are always moving.  No one knows if they’re in the “hot zone” or blessedly shielded by an umbrella.

According to ABC News, the owners of the Vdara knew about the problem in 2008 but refused to make the necessary (because expensive, presumably) changes.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m enough of a socialist to think that the wealthy condo-owners and vacationers at the Vdara deserve all the melted Ray-Bans and farmer’s tans they can get.  But the analogy can be extended there too:  if I don’t take the time to “fix” my giant death ray of irritation, people might stop coming around.

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Comments
  1. Tammy says:

    Thank you for addressing this topic with humor. Irritability is the finest defender of my alcoholism. I must defeat irritability or sobriety will never last for me.

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