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Pepsi: Setting Fires in the Underworld

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.


Background The association between stressful life events and onset of bipolar episodes is unclear. The association between bipolar episode onset and types of life events that disrupt social routines, and potentially sleep, has not yet been investigated.

Methods Thirty-nine bipolar patients with primarily manic (n=20) or depressed (n=19) index episodes were interviewed with the Bedford College Life Event and Difficulty Schedule to determine the presence of severe events during 8-week pre-onset and control periods. All life events were also rated for degree of social rhythm disruption (SRD).

Results More bipolar subjects experienced at least 1 SRD event and severe event in the pre-onset vs control periods. When subjects were divided into those with manic or depressive onsets, the only significant pre-onset vs control difference was for manic patients with SRD events. Additionally, the proportion of subjects with a pre-onset SRD event was greater for manic than for depressed patients.

Conclusions We found evidence that life events characterized by SRDs routines are associated with the onset of manic, but not depressive, episodes. Severe events seem to be related to onset of bipolar episodes, although it remains unclear whether severe events relate differentially to depressive and manic onsets.¹

Pepsi: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

This is a continuation to Pepsi, Part I.

Hell, Boy

In flames, everything.
That’s what they say
you put them through,
Ash-sister. The streets
gorge on gossip.

Carbon ate the apartment
with the Barbie pink walls
where men came to buy
smoke and companion

and women kept
everyone well, spooning
Honeycomb cereal into
shared beds.

Does a fire’s voice sound
like screaming from the dirt
poor friends who say you steal
their New Balance
sneakers? Enter bi-

polar fits to rage and to live
under the half-moon
skeleton bridge.

You are the Fragglewump
seen on sewage TV
in this mixed up
underworld they speak of.

More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. tuned 10:31 am 03/16/2014

    These studies interest you, but achieve little or nothing.
    These people self-medicate to escape their own


    as well as the societies they can never live up to.
    The only effective medications for them are banned of course.
    Few of them can ever be what YOU want them to be. You could grant them a better life however. Geez, peeps. You have whole societies that do as much for dogs.
    They already tend to group among themselves. With effective medication (not foggers) and guidance you could get them to build gardens together rather than slums.
    Until genetic therapy comes of age they will always be among you.

    Link to this
  2. 2. tuned 10:36 am 03/16/2014

    S.A. :
    I get security warnings on this page.
    Something to do with and
    This page may be re-directed, or parts of it?

    Link to this
  3. 3. GeneQuinn 3:15 pm 03/18/2014

    Though I have never commented, in spite of all the criticism, I have been a big fan of your Hunts Point writings until recently. But reducing every entry to abstract free-verse comes off as lazy at best, self-indulgent at worst.

    The criticisms lobbed at you (that this series seriously stretches the boundaries of what constitutes scientific discourse) could be discounted with respect to the larger objective (providing a narrative for the voiceless and exposing the realities of the unseen). But what has happened to that objective? Have you traded in your self-image as a journalist to recreate yourself as a poet? I’m sad to say that this is hardly worth reading. I have little to no idea of what has happened to those whose trials you once chronicled so faithfully.

    Is there a chance you might return to your previous format, at least once in a while? Or ought we to accept that the effort has been reduced to one of practicing bad poetry from here on out?

    Link to this
  4. 4. GeneQuinn 3:52 pm 03/18/2014

    If you have run dry on resolve, inspiration, or the energy required to continue as you started, perhaps you should consider ending this series. But to use the lives and sufferings of your ‘subjects’ as angst-fuel and poetry-fodder is trivializing and shameful, and I feel that it crosses the line into the kind of exploitation you were once so committed to avoiding. To say nothing of the other problematic aspects of approaching such a serious subject in this manner.

    Because you always seemed genuine in your efforts, I suspect that this is only the result of an inability to commit as you once did. To say nothing of the other ways in which your recently-adopted approach to such serious subject matter is highly problematic, I humbly suggest that perhaps it would be better to simply bring this endeavor to a close rather than continue in this vein.

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