[Note: Cathy Zymet, née Alter, has been a professional writer for many years. She has contributed to a number of periodicals, including many alternative weeklies, and Might, a defunct magazine skewed toward the institutionalized. She now lives in Washington, D.C., and among other projects, writes, for a largely juvenile audience, biographies of popular bands and singing groups. These books are available at Wal-Mart and Walgreens. This is the third in a series of indeterminate duration, in which Zymet will be chronicling her experiences. Her story is very real.]

Episode One
Episode Two

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Like stories about scars, the DMV, and waking up naked in a bathtub full of ice with a missing kidney, everyone I meet these days seems to have an amusing anecdote about Ricky Martin.

“I was once having a coffee in Bishkek,” begins Paul, this guy I know who works for the World Bank.

“Where?” We are speedwalking along the C&O Canal and Paul is panting and I can’t quite understand him. I think he has said Bishbosh, which to me sounds more like the kind of place where David Copperfield might go for coffee, or in his case, a spot of herbal tea.

“Bishkek,” he restates, helpfully adding, “It’s in the capital of the Krygyz Republic.”

“The place where the ‘and sometimes y’ rule always applies?” I think I’m being funny.

“Is that supposed to be funny?” he asks. Ever since the World Bank demonstrations, Paul can’t seem to take a joke.

When he regains his humor, I learn that when Paul was drinking coffee in the capital of the Krygyz Republic, he met a young lady, a former socialist, named Nurjamal who used to kiss a poster of Lenin every night before going to sleep. When she denounced the Workers Party, she replaced the Lenin poster, which once hung proudly over her bed, with one that better suited her new capitalist spirit.

“Now at bedtime,” blurts Paul excitedly, “she kisses a poster of Ricky Martin!”

I wonder what kind of dreams she has.

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D.H. Lawrence once said that he could never decide whether his dreams were the result of his thoughts or his thoughts the result of his dreams. Usually, I would agree with Lawrence and the rest of Barlett’s Familiar Quotations gang on the strangely cerebral nature of dreams. But lately, my own nocturnal visions are lodged in a more physical form. Most evenings, my id comes out for a midnight snack lugging the entire Encyclopedia of Psychological Disorders.

Besides their Galaxy of Superstars series (where LeAnn and Backstreet live) and the newest series, Latinos in the Limelight (where Ricky Martin will eventually reside), Chelsea House publishes a wide variety of books for the 12 & up set. Additional series titles include The Incredible World of Plants, Junior Black Americans of Achievement, and Combat Uniforms of the Civil War.

But nothing compares to the Encyclopedia of Psychological Disorders. Containing twenty-five hardcover titles, each with black-and-white photos throughout, a full-color laminated cover, and reinforced binding, the series enhances a young adult’s comprehension of mental illness by turning conditions like manic depression and autism into entertaining reading. And isn’t the image of a peach-fuzzed bar mitzvah boy devouring Through a Glass Darkly: The Psychological Effects of Marijuana and Hashish the very definition of entertainment?

Here again is the concept of something that shouldn’t be funny actually being riotous. Even the titles of the books in the series show a high level of comedic sophistication: Am I Okay? Psychological Testing and What Those Tests Mean; Out of Control: Gambling and Other Impulse Control Disorders; Conduct Unbecoming: Hyperactivity, Attention Deficit, and Disruptive Behavior Disorders.

The series begs for additional installments: Who Said That: The Schizophrenic’s World; It Feels So Good When I Stop: Understanding Self-Mutilation; I Cna’t Raed: A Diary of Dyslexia.

It would be fair to say that I’m a little obsessed (Did I Leave the Stove On: The Many Variations of OCD) with the Encyclopedia. And, with my days filled unraveling the mysteries of Ricky Martin’s early career in Mexican soaps and my nights occupied by the bedtime stories of adolescent sociopaths, is it any wonder that I started having nightmares of Lovecraftian intensity?

In my anguished slumber, Ricky bounds through the whole Encyclopedia of Psychological Disorders. Some evenings, Ricky lands in Strange Visions, where he lazily smokes a hookah at the Hagia Sophia. Other nights, Ricky appears in When Families Fail, and tells and retells the details of his parents’ divorce when he was two. And then there is the recurring nightmare — Ricky’s abundant appearances in Sexual Disorders. Here, I join Camille Paglia in a brutal lambasting of the Latino superstar. Camille and I, it seems, don’t like the queeny way in which Ricky shakes his hips.

Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?