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Monday, September 29, 2008

I slip and the slope is longer than I imagine...

Can't figure it. My Dad was okay, it was good news, so why did I feel the need to blot out everything in my path?

Maybe what they say is true, that this 'disease'-once we get sober-becomes arrested and when we start up again it is always worse, with no exception.

(If my alcoholism had been arrested then it had been released on bail, tracked me down, and made me it's bitch...I was running this string out all the way to the end.)

I moved south of Mission, into a converted warehouse. My employers had to bring in an outside source to make sense of the mess I had made of their books and I hooked up with a small, independent record label, promoting records.

Not as glamorous as it sounds. It was 1987. A lot of booze. A lot of other drugs and very little music. Add the fact that I had no idea what I was doing and you get a pretty good picture.

I started to realize what withdrawal meant and what the hair of the dog could do. It was more like an entire dog, sometimes more than one and I was rapidly falling apart.

Any relationships I had cratered and I took one more stab at rich and famous. Or my idea of it, at any rate.

I was in a bar and met a sales rep for the Columbia School of Broadcasting. By the time I signed a contract, to include a guaranteed student loan to become a disc jockey, I was in a full on, free fall, blackout.

Years later some pinched face government wench, with the personality of a stomach cramp was demanding I pay back the money. She actually said, "The U.S. Government will not rest, Mr. Hill, until you have satisfied this obligation."

After I composed myself I felt compelled to ask what she could possibly know about satisfaction.

Then she hung up on me.

That was hardly fair. I wasn't through laughing.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I turn from the light...embracing the darker pleasures.

I drank on the plane and I drank at the airport, waiting on a girl from the office to pick me up. She joined me while we poured a few down and played 'spy' at the airport.

I talked her into stopping for provisions on the way to my apartment. She was drunker than she ought to have been, but it didn't matter to me.

She was the one driving.

After more libations and clumsy, embarrassing sex, I decided to put on a pot of beans. The old fashioned way; slow, simmering, southern goodness.

We both passed out with the beans on the stove.

I came to in a grey world filled with acrid smoke, populated by large angry dude's in space suits. One of whom was slapping the shit out of me before throwing me over his shoulder and carrying me outside.

The San Francisco Fire Department takes a dim view of stupid drunks almost killing themselves with a pot of burning beans.

She was wearing a blanket, playing cutesy with a fireman while I watched, stark naked- thank you very much- to yellowish smoke billowing from my now burning apartment.

The apartment manager had been summoned and I could imagine she was not going to be happy about this.

She was still mad from two weeks ago when I carpeted the kitchen.

My feet were cold.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The light of reason hurts my eyes...

The surgery was a success. It bought my Dad ten more years and a diet he loathed. Already a fairly disagreeable old prick, the diet did not help in making him a cuddly, shorter, Wilford Brimley. More like a seriously pissy Mickey Rooney.

"See..." he said, propped in his hospital bed, showing me the scar that ran like a big blue zipper in the middle of his chest, and a thinner, maroon scar that ran the length of his leg, from groin to ankle, where the 'good veins' had been removed for use in his well buttressed chest. "This is what you've got to look forward to." I think it actually thrilled him in some perverse way.

"Yeah Dad, thanks for the genetics, sport, can't hardly wait to be opened up like a human fucking canoe."

"Watch your language, there's a god damned lady present," he growled, motioning to his 'doppelganger' bride. Shit...she looked just liked him, except her ass was bigger.

He had never in his life curtailed his language for anybody, except possibly his mother, but she was liable to call him a 'shit ass' as well as anything else, so I'm not sure where the big moral push came from.

And then began the family litany of heart disease. My Uncle-bypasses-many heart attacks, but God love him, still going strong as I write this 23 years later, and of course our dear Uncle Charley, the Episcopal Priest whose heart exploded either in his living room, or the fairway at the golf course, depending on who is telling the story.

He even mentioned his Father, which I thought patently unfair, as his heart only stopped after he plowed a 30.06 round through his skull after being found with a hooker on his lap by my grandmother. He was tired of her nagging.

I think he made his point. But that was not technically a heart attack-so I don't think it counts.

I had done my dutiful son routine and it was time I went back to the coast...I made it seem like I was terribly busy at work, and now that he was out of the woods...well, you know.

I should have stayed, sought help and burrowed in with my family, but I had something to prove.

And I knew my Dad was not going to die, at least not yet...because whatever it was, I hadn't proved it to him.

And you know what?

I never did.

As soon as the Southwest flight leveled off after takeoff and I headed into the sunset, I ordered two beers and a tequila.

I had earned it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Landing in the fog...

Daylight was tweaking over the horizon when we landed at DFW. It was foggy in the City when I left, and foggy here when I landed.

Maybe the world was fogged in. While I was travelling above the earth maybe a huge fog bank had finally enveloped the planet, socking it all in. I warmed to the idea, but, having taken another Valium, I warmed to everything.

My youngest cousin met me at the gate. She was great, the closest thing I ever had to a baby sister, who truly loved me unconditionally.

She took me to my Aunt and Uncle's house, the one I lived in during the third grade Catholic school experience. It was smaller than I remembered, but still the closest thing to home I ever had.

My Dad was being prepped for surgery right before I got to his room. His wife sat in the hard backed chair next to his bed. I could hear him from outside the door, bitching and she shushing him like a petulant child.

A cute nurse exited the room as I was entering, rolling her eyes and smiling. Yeah...he could do that to you.

I steeled myself and walked in.

The scariest part was not how small my Father looked, nor how frightened, but how similar he and his wife looked. Like some strange, white haired, androgynous, couple of twins. Wow. Maybe the drugs had something to do with it.

I hugged him and he whispered thank you in my ear, then began doing his 'bit'. Never failed. He was an entertainer, so scared of who he really was, had to be the 'Nutty Professor' whenever any one walked in to the room. I had finally gotten old enough to tire of it.

She just looked at him, letting him go. She really put up with a lot...his tantrums, moods, personality shifts.

Like they said about the blind hooker; you really had to hand it to her.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Memory Lane is often filled with vacant lots...

I borrowed money from my boss for the airplane ticket. I took the red-eye.
Bad coffee and Valium made for some interesting observations at thirty-two thousand feet.

Of course I was thinking of my Father, after my addiction was calmed. The little yellow pills certainly helped with the whips and jingles that not drinking had caused and slowed things down to a manageable crawl.

My Dad. The first thing that came to mind was his smell. Pipe tobacco and after shave. Funny. You'd think it would be the his anger was white hot and spontaneous. But no, I remembered crawling onto his lap, nuzzling in to that smell, and feeling safe.

After all, he was the only one I was truly afraid of.

My first memory oozed into view as shadows fell across the seat in front of me and I remembered the bars of my crib.

My room was dark, and light from the hallway threw a pie shaped wedge onto my crib. I was standing, clutching the bars and crying, terribly afraid.

A friend of my parents stood just outside my reach, his arm in a cast.

I could hear them in the other room. Screaming. Glass breaking. I didn't know what the guy in the cast was doing...I just wanted my Mom and Dad to stop. I wanted him to stop hitting her and I wanted her to stop egging him on, begging for him to do it again.

Fast forward to me and my Mom. I'm five and my Dad is on the road. We are alone and she's drunk and that's not good when you're epileptic.

She would seize, and fall to the hardwood floor, her heels beating a tattoo on the wood as she convulsed and passed out.

I recalled mustering up all of my five year old strength, pulling the mattress off the bed, struggling and slowly rolling her onto it, because I was a good boy, and good boys took care of their mommies.

The stewardess shook me awake.

I had been crying.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The deep end beckons...

I called a friend in the city and he came and picked me up. No questions asked. The Tennessee Williams line about the 'kindness of strangers' rang in my head. I got out with what I brought, minus a little self-esteem.

I still had my job and our mail boy at the office, a small, gay, Asian kid with a big heart would bring me dim sum from the Chinese place next to his apartment. He said it would heal a broken heart.

(The following year he went to New York City on vacation. He was cornered in an alley and beaten to death. No rhyme. No reason. A wonderful soul, released to the universe while his body lay broken in someone else's garbage.)

I stayed with my friend until one night he got drunk, started crying and professed deep feelings for me. Holy shit. Not what I needed. When I told him that, he turned vicious...hell hath no fury like a broken down queen.

My boss helped me find an apartment.

I started to drink again. A quick one at lunch, then deep breaths until five o'clock, then home and flagons of red wine. All was well until I looked out my bathroom window at the adjoining apartment roof one morning, maybe eight feet away. A man was standing on his roof, staring into my bathroom while he masturbated.

That'll unnerve ya before coffee. (Lesson learned...close my blinds.)

Why me?

Then I got a phone call at work. My Father was having open heart surgery. He wanted me to be there.

My first thought was not of him. It was not of my family.

It was I had to go home, and I would not be able to drink.

I shuffled through the mental Rolodex and hit upon the solution.


Once again, it was a good idea at the time.

Overdrawn at the First Karma Savings and Loan...I didn't even get a toaster.

Karma. The playing card stuck in the spokes of the wheel of life. Every revolution it makes, it comes back around and smacks you in the head.

And then you learn to duck.

This was one of those times. Realizing I was the simpleton she was using to take care of her kid and pay half the rent, while she screwed her boss on his oversized mahagony desk made me physically sick. I called her on it. Of course it went badly, how else could it have gone?

The tears mixed with the instant breakfast version of denial to make a warm, gelatinous mess we both had to wade through to get to the truth.

So I said it. Instant regret. "What about us?" Oh yes, my denial was firmly in place. And then she returned the serve.

"There is no us...I'm in love with my boss...that's who I think of when you hold me." She cranked up the volume on that last part. Unnecessary, I thought, just twisting the blade a bit, I suppose.

Just goes to show...cut the crust off a shit sandwich and serve it to me on a doily...I still have a shit sandwich.

She actually thought he would leave his wife for her. Too bad. (I heard later she got fired, not too long after I left.)

"yes a withdrawal, please....small bills are just fine." Point, match.

Game over.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And the dance began...

It started like most fantasies, with lots of light, smiles and empty promises. Boy meets girl on 12-step campus. Why not. She was sober. I was sober. Seemed like a fit.

Yeah. A round peg bludgeoned into a square hole.

I had answered an ad for an office manager position with a small court reporting firm in the financial district.
Lack of experience not withstanding -the owners were taken in by my considerable charms, (duh) and they hired me. My main responsibilities were doing the books...light accounting.

I took an accounting course at San Francisco City College at night. I looked like I knew what the hell I was doing.

We moved into an apartment south of the city in a bedroom community called Mountain View. She had a five year old son. He never warmed to me. Step kids were never my strong suit.

I commuted by train, everyday, and stood on the platform, paper folded under my arm, walkman on my head, listening to the classic rock station out of the city, while I waited on the train. The commuters looked at me like I belonged, and I looked the part.

But there was an old woman who was there on the platform every morning. She never boarded the train. She just sat. And looked.

Mainly at me, and I knew, she knew I was a fraud.

I would make dinner for the boy when I got home, which was usually before she did, as she worked as a legal secretary for a high powered attorney in the big, gold, pyramid downtown. She worked late. A lot.

I thought we were happy. Or as happy as two highly dysfunctional folks in recovery could be. But something was missing. It wasn't real. It was as big a sham as P.T. Barnum ever imagined, and we said all the right things to gloss over the ugly, harsh, reality.

I'm Irish.

We can put up with something being wrong for a very long time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My relationship dynamics...sort of.

Before I go any further I feel the need to mention something. These are my memories. Some of which are very old indeed.
Sometimes they are difficult to dredge, while others ignite with the pain of a chemical burn.

The memories regarding the women in my life are some of the most difficult. I am very, very careful not to use any know who you are, or were in most cases.

I do not feel the need to poke, prod or needle any of you. In fact, I wish most of you would just go away, but if you did, I would not be the man I am, and I suppose I owe all of you a debt of some kind in that regard.

Thank you all for teaching me that love is conditional. That the size of the gold card is more important than the size of my heart. That I was never Mr. Right...simply Mr. Right now and for every one of you thinking you could change me, to turn me into your idea of what I should be.

Well, that worked well, didn't it?

No...not quite, but it did make me aware that you wanted me to change; that my good enough, was second best, that my good ideas, or at least the one's from the heart were something to be chalked up to eccentricity, and that love was best kept at a distance.

So, now I can begin the part where I am cheated on for the first time, (that I knew of) and the words, "There is no us..." become a part of the lexicon of language in the memories I try to ignore.

Please don't think I am bitter, or hate you, or I feel sorry for myself. I am simply clear.

There is a difference.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


It was a neighborhood bar, in the shadow of a freeway overpass. One time, a working mans bar, now, a pastel and fern version of Cheers. If Norm wore eyeshadow.

The job consisted of tending bar...and being the token 'straight guy'. A sideways affirmative action. I was a novelty...and it brought in customers.

(Years later, working as an Investigator for an Attorney in Dallas, I travelled back to the city on a case. I made my way back to the neighborhood and found the bar to be boarded up. The Bakery was still on the corner and the Chinese owner was still there, and he actually remembered me. I asked him if anyone from the old days was still around. No, he said. They all died. He looked down at the counter...AIDS, he said.)

Most of the younger guys thought they could convert me. I started dating a red headed Irish girl who worked at the bakery on the corner. She would sit at the bar after her shift and drink red wine, and confirm the suspicions that I was indeed with her.

She left me when I started drinking again. The novelty had worn thin and I had become mean, and trapped in this alternate reality. I craved heterosexual contact.

To this day, I twitch when I hear a show tune.

I started going to meetings again, and as fate would have it, met another 'her'.

This time, things would get ugly.

When opportunity knocks...don't be afraid of the noise.

I had another coffee. Seattle may be known for it's java, but for my money North Beach has it knocked. I watched traffic and tried not to think.

That's when Bill Cosby sat down. If he were a light skinned, flamboyant homosexual, that is.
He wore a camel hair topcoat and horn rimmed glasses. He had a deep voice with a Southern lilt.
He asked if he could sit down and he called me darlin'. Oh shit. I was not in the mood.

"Look, I'm having a nice, quiet, cup of coffee, minding my own if you don't mind."
"Please," he said, drawing it out into three syllables.
"You're too old for me...," and he laughed , a deep, booming laugh.

Now my head hurt, and the idea of a drink sounded great. I stood up to leave.

"Have you ever tended bar?" he asked as I was standing.

I sat back down. My principles have a price.

I gave him the short answer, and he flipped me a business card. He owned a small bar in a section of town called Hayes Valley. I was naive enough still to wonder if it was a gay bar.

"We open at 11, come by and we'll talk...if you're man enough. " He laughed loudly, stood up and sauntered away. He actually sauntered, and having never seen that before, I thought it noteworthy. I later learned it was more of a sashay, but I was new in town...

That was weird. Did he just cruise around town looking for young, tanned, blond guys to tend bar? I remembered where I was. Hmmm...

Maybe he did, it beat putting an ad in the paper.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Something new...

I walked through the Tenderloin, angrily dodging whores and homos until I calmed down. It took me close to an hour, and I found myself back at the apartment.

I entered and my roommate was sitting on the couch, cocktail in hand, wearing a smoking jacket.He wouldn't meet my eyes.
I stepped past two packed boxes and a very familiar duffel bag.

The door to my room was open and my bed had been stripped. The bathroom door was closed and I could hear water running, and what sounded like crying.

Then I saw her purse on the coffee table.

"So it's like that?" I stood at the edge of the couch.

"Afraid so, old man...I always held the lady in rather high regard. Shame, though, she really liked you. Bad form, I must say." He spoke in a British accent because the tourists loved it . He was simply a pretentious dick from Bakersfield.

I had enough money for a couple of weeks back at the resident hotel. I couldn't see working with him either.

I grabbed my stuff and hailed a cab. The two old guys who always sat in the foyer of the hotel were still there. "So, Mr. Irving Wallace is back. How's the great American Novel?" They laughed. And something funny happened, I did too.

I unpacked and walked a couple blocks to North Beach and had coffee. With nothing in it.
I sat at an outdoor table and considered my options for work. Didn't take long.

I didn't have any.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to, where were we?

Ah yes. A real job. That's the great thing about gaining any kind of experience in the restaurant industry. You can get a job, for the most part, wherever you go. And waiting tables generates cash at the end of the day. Very important when one is rebuilding a life from the ashes.

San Fransisco was absolutely 'sick' with eateries. The following day I was a waiter, (they still used the term in the mid eighties. Now, we're servers. Whatever.) at an upscale joint on Fisherman's Wharf... Alcatraz out the window... when the Fog would lift long enough to see it, harbor seals barking and growling a few feet away.

I kept the drinking to a respectable minimum and learned another waiter, (also a writer-I told ya we were a majority) was looking for a roommate. Perfect. Out of that suicidal crib and into a real two bedroom in the Tenderloin District. Four stories above hookers, transvestites, bars and falafel dives. Brilliant. Just like home.

My roommate had yet to be published, but he wrote daily - in the mornings- and I picked up the habit. I had purchased a red IBM Selectric from a pawn shop and placed it on a door between the two bay windows in my bedroom. Instant desk.

I had no idea what I was doing. But over brandy and coffee, he taught me to find my muse, and he taught me she could be spiteful and vindictive. Sounded like an ex-wife to me, but what did I know?

He even introduced me to her, or someone I thought might be her, if she incarnated in the flesh.

She was Latin and several years older than me. She was a singer and worked for a car rental agency in the mornings. Afternoons were spent with me, before Cougars and cubs were popular.

My roommate and I would often get off work at the same time, and hit a few local bars on the way home. He taught me to observe...that sometimes the smallest things about someones behaviour...made for good writing.

Now my muse drank...just not like me. She told my roommate she thought I might have a problem. (So much for control.)

The blow up happened one afternoon after a loud bout of coitus. The only sound was our panting and my room mates tip-tap-tip-tip of his typewriter. I asked her if she wanted a brandy. She declined, and said I should wait, too.

I lost it. My anger stuck to the walls of my bedroom like gasoline and liquid detergent. I forgot she was Latin.

She threw my clothes and my typewriter out the window. I threw her underwear after them.

An IBM is one stout machine, and from four floors up it exploded in the middle of Geary Street, mixing with her underwear like Guatemalan party favors.

I dressed, dodging her hard little fists, and walked to the front door.

"Be gone when I get back!" My room mate stopped me, cocktail in hand.

"Trouble in paradise?"

I gave him the finger. I had said enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A generational rant...this is for you, guys.

I am going to veer from the narrative, albeit briefly, to send something out into the atmosphere.

Next month, I will be 49 years old, which means, the guys I grew up with, who are all still 32 in their heads, are careening wildly into middle age. (yeah I know, fifty is the new forty, blah, blah... it's still 50, which makes you the new retarded.)

Yep, that's us guys...we have become our Fathers, and most of us are ill prepared for the responsibility. Do we love our children? Fiercely. Do we know how to raise them? Not a clue.

We were born in the Eisenhower era, and came of age in the shadow of our version of Camelot, to watch it all turn to fiery, blood soaked, rhetorical nonsense. (The bigotry, racism and 'free love' notwithstanding.)

We had no war or great cause, we had no real heroes, we had no great music. (Tell me we did and I'll beat you to death with a Culture Club album.) We had platform shoes , the mullet, and Chuck Woolery. It's no wonder I drank.

We saw most of the Beatles die and saw the Stones turn into deranged geriatrics. We were lied to constantly...and we learned to suckle the lie, lest we finally know the truth.

Most of us were raised by a single parent, and those who were not, secretely wished they were.

Our hopes and dreams, for the most part were never realized, we could never measure up to those who went before us, and now, those behind us are protecting our liberties, while we wonder why and how we got fat, and bald, and nothing ever came true.

I remember when my parents died..and I realized I was totally alone on this planet and had not been prepared for it. I was thirty five years old, and I felt about eleven. So I did the best I could, and wrecked lives, and gnawed on the truth, wondering when it would all stop or I would get the rule book I thought everyone else had. And one day, I realized no one had it...that we were all, just spinning on the rock, waiting... to spin into oblivion.

For me Chuck Palahniuk summed it up..."The people you are trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We are the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.

"We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning the fact. So don't fuck with us."

A heavy drinker keeps his virtues for himself and cripples others with his flaws-Phyl Kennedy (George Axelrod)

Greek tragedies are filled with heroes. And they all share something in common. A fatal flaw.
My flaw was walking away when something got tough. This was one of the first times I could actually see me doing it.

I made it about a half a block when we started up the hill. I was carting close to six hundred pounds of prime American, corn fed Democracy, slowly towards Chinatown. And they were already unhappy.

I was straining. I was wheezing. I was shaking. For a moment I envisioned somehow making it to the top of the hill, only to begin descending the other side, brakes smoking, picking up speed, hurtling to a fat, gravy laden death.

Oh, I don't think so.

I locked the emergency brake, and, legs shaking, dismounted the vehicle. The woman was making sounds of protest from somewhere in the folds of her neck, and hubby was grunting with displeasure.

"Folks, we've got a little mechanical...whew...problem..., someone...hang on...will be with you shortly."

And I walked away.

I had a moment of clarity and realized this was how I dealt with anything even remotely difficult, that I could turn around, get back on, and finish what I started.

Or, I could get a beer and look in the want ads for work.

That may have been the coldest beer I ever tasted.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lord, save me from my good ideas...

This was one of those times I felt like my head was on my shoulders for the sole purpose of keeping the rain out of my neck. I knew the move was a bad one, and I needed to do something quick.

Moving back to Hawaii was out; Alaska too. Texas, well, I had too many issues to go back. I felt I needed to succeed at something before I went home. (My priorities were skewed.)

I realized I could start my life over, re-invent myself into somebody. Not change my identity, or anything creepy like that, I could simply do or be whom and what ever I wanted. No one knew me. Except for 'her' and she was not going to be a problem.

(I hear this idea at meetings, not being comfortable in our own skin-combined with the ability to observe and reflect any group of people we want to be a part of, very much the chameleons of the dependency world.)

I had tended bar, worked in restaurants, the Army and Hospitals and sport fishing boats. Maybe I could do something new.

I was strolling through Fisherman's Wharf, thinking of going back in to the food service industry when I saw the sign. Help wanted. The sign was in front of a large barn-like building, with a giant, empty parking lot.

I knocked on the tin door, creaking it open as I did. The place was dim, and there were odd contraptions parked side by side through out the building. Pedi-cabs. A whole lot of Pedi-cabs.

The sign also read "No experience necessary." A little explanation might be in order. The term Pedi-stands for Pedal. The unit itself is the front part of a bicycle attached to basically, a love seat, with two wheels in back. The machine is powered by pedaling and I thought "How hard can that be?"

(I know I mentioned earlier that San Francisco is a series of hills, very large hills. At the time, this information failed to register.)

The Manager was smoking a joint in his office, and didn't seem the least bit concerned. He looked me up and down, and told me to take one for a spin in the parking lot, get the feel. (I always get a strange rush when I stumble into a job I am not prepared for and start winging it. The rush would not last.) The parking lot was flat and level, and having two wheels on the back, it was like driving a huge tricycle. I couldn't fall over if I tried.

So my job would be to ride around and pick up tourists and cruise them to the hot spots, giving them a little verbal history, and schmooze for tips along the way. And it would be good for me. (Just another self deluding reason to try something stupid.)

So I was hired. There ya go, hit the ground running son, good on ya. (I can be my biggest fan club.)

I pulled into traffic. Easy stuff. At this time I had no passengers, so of course it was easy. A large crowd of six people were waving at me from the corner. Sweet, my first fare. They would have to decide who was going, couldn't take all six. As I pulled to the corner, a smile frozen on my face, I realized there was not six of them. There were only two.

And they were freaking huge.

Monday, September 15, 2008

He got the joke...

David Foster Wallace hung himself last week. The author of "Infinite Jest" now knows just what was so damn funny.
He knows the cosmic punchline, and I doubt it has anything to do with "Two Priests and a Rabbi go into a bar..."

It pisses me off when people of huge talent choose to go out that way.
(That is not me saying that people with mediocre talent, or none at all, should choose to kill themselves...I know how sensitive some can be.)
Did they burn so bright that they thought the only way to extinguish the flame was to do it themselves? Who knows... and it's too damn late to ask.

But you never know when the monsters in the closet may just turn out to be real, instead of shadow and boxes and sweaters in a lump.

I'll sleep with the night light on anyway, just in case.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Swingin' cats...

My room was perfectly seedy.

Lumpy, stained mattress and scarred night table. The bathroom was down the hall. My window opened onto a brick wall. My duffel bag sat propped in the corner. I had a small desk tilted unevenly against the wall and a hard backed chair.

There was no art on the walls. Domestic bliss.

I paid by the week and knew I would go stark raving batshit if I tried to sleep before I was exhausted, so I walked. Found an espresso joint on the corner with outside tables. Old Italian men sat smoking black, ropey cigars, and gazed into their cups.

Picked up a map at the front desk and unfolded it against the chilly night wind. I found China town, Fisherman's Wharf and Knob Hill.

I found it interesting that Knob Hill was no where near the gay epi-center of town, the Castro. Seemed only natural to me...(did I have to mention that? If you know me at all, you know the answer to that.) I also found it disconcerting that it was July and I was freezing my ass off. But that's the City in the summer, who knew?

And that's another thing. I had heard about the City being a Gay haven but thought it was probably just a neighborhood and I could avoid it if I felt it necessary. I soon found that being a straight male in his twenties put me in a minority and that the Gay part of town was, well, the entire town, with valiant pockets of ethnic heterosexuality here and there and possibly, three straight white guys out in the Avenues, and me.
Being a want-to-be writer put me into a majority, so I figured it balanced.

I learned you couldn't swing a cat in this town without hitting an artist, writer, actress or homosexual. Now I've never been one to condone striking homosexuals with swung cats, but if that was your idea of a good time, then this was the town for you.

The mid-eighties were a vibrant time for San Francisco. Headline politics; murder, scandal, Hunter Thompson writing for the Chronicle (giving Herb Caen fits) -The O'Farrell theater, all of this pre-big earthquake time.
AIDS was making itself known but was no where near the epidemic proportion it would later become, turning the City into one big funeral pyre.

So I walked. I found City Lights bookstore-the mecca for beat generation writers. I walked the same streets as Richard Brautigan and Dashiel Hammett. Earl Thompson had died a few years before across the Bridge in Sausalito, at the unexpected age of 47. (I carried his novels with me for years, and still own a copy of "The Devil to Pay.")

I settled in as best I could, figuring I would only be at the Hotel for a couple of days, then 'she' would beckon me with open arms, and we could play house across the bay. So in the meantime I met my fellow residents. Two actresses, (one, the hairiest little Armenian girl I had ever seen,) another writer, two academics, and a handful of old Jews.
"The whitefish is looking particularly good today...did I tell you, I knew Sophie Tucker...give me back my T.V. guide you gentile bastid!"

The two days passed that we had agreed on, or I had, and I took a cable car across town, and hiked it to The Golden Gate Bridge, standing and peering at the Pacific, in swirling Fog, the ghosts of Alcatraz at my back.

I waited for her to come strolling out of the mists, taking me in her arms and making me complete.

I waited until I was too cold and wet to wait anymore. I slowly walked away.

She was right. I was an idiot.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When the dust're left with dust.

I somehow talked her into picking me up at the airport. She asked me where I was going to stay. (I could scratch 'with her' off the list.)
I told her to take me into the City, somewhere colorful and artistic. In San Francisco this does not narrow your choices.
We talked on the way in.

Yes, she was glad to see me, but she had just returned from a date, so starting up again was not really something she wanted to do. As I had just relocated a couple of thousand miles, give or take, for her, (granted, without her knowledge or consent) my feelings were hurt. I had definitely seen Casablanca one too many times.

So the hamster wheel kicks in. (The hamster wheel is an alcoholic/survival mechanism when, up against a wall, the hamster begins running his ass off, generating survival techniques for the owner of the wheel.) Okay, maybe not all of us, but I know my hamster was kicking it in at this point.

She drove into North Beach and I begin to see this as a new adventure. I could write here, be inspired, eventually even bring her over to see just how wonderful I was. (Still completely deluded, but that would soon change.) My blanket of denial was more of a tarpaulin. Covering Candlestick Park.

While I was thinking about where I would stay, and what I would do for a living, I even had time to fantasize about proposing to her on the Golden Gate Bridge. The idea of romance can be as seductive as any opiate, and I was hooked.

She would whisper something in the car on the way in that I never could catch, more to herself than anything else, and she kept repeating it. I was curious, but who was I to intrude?

So, I asked her, as long as it was out in the open, what our time together meant. She owed me that much.

"What it meant? It meant I was a single woman on vacation, and you were a cute little Island guy and I had fun. That's what vacations are for." She had stopped smiling.

"We can talk about it later, I know this may be a shock," never say die, even when the bayonets against your throat. My mouth tasted like copper and dog shit and my heart was somewhere around my topsiders.

After a half hour of silence, we rolled into North Beach. Shrouded in Fog, strains of jazz and traffic, and smells of Italian food and strong, dark coffee.

She parked on a hill. (She actually had no choice, the City is nothing but hills.) A faded, green neon sign down the block showed rooms for rent at a resident motel.

"Here's the deal, (I was all in at this point, with nothing left to lose) meet me on the Golden Gate Bridge in two days, eight o'clock, if I'm the one you want. If not, no harm no foul, I'll get by."

She wouldn't even look at me, she just mouthed something and pulled away.

I think she said, "You're an idiot."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Paradise coin a phrase.

If there is a cosmic scoreboard keeping track of my major life mistakes (for those who believe there are such things) then my actions following my infatuation have to be in my top five, okay, maybe ten, but up there just the same.

My Skipper's teenage son had arrived and I was to train him in my position. I was training my replacement. I have done this on several occasions, after being a certain age, and it is never a good time. Especially when you know you are being replaced.

The Charter fishing game is as mercenary and fluid as the restaurant business. Someone is always looking for a better boat, better conditions, a Captain that's not clinically insane, a first mate that's not too drunk to work. But my Skipper lined up a job for me with a boat a few slips away. It was not a Bertram. It was a tubby little Bayliner, with a tubby little Captain from back east some damn where, freaking Yankee...(I couldn't be grateful for the ease of transition, I was too busy pouting.)

It was this same time that my new 'her' went back to California. She asked me to come visit, if I was ever in the neighborhood. Boy was that a mistake.

So I was working on this little gut bucket, not getting any charters, watching my old boat cruise out on trips. I think I even waved, and smiled as they passed, wishing they would sink. What a brat.

I stopped going to meetings and stayed sober the old fashioned way, out of resentment and bitterness, and don't you know that's a good time? Not. So my brain began thinking.

It does this on it's own, when it comes to drugs and alcohol, especially when I am not pulling the maintenance needed to keep it intact. It will wake me in the middle of the night. "Dude, what are you doing sleeping, we could be thinking, and looking at your life right now, you need to be. Jesus, are you screwed. I can't believe you are letting 'them' get away with this. You have every reason to smoke weed, ya know, I mean it's not drinking, so what's the problem. And it's been so long since you had a drink, I think you deserve one. The nerve of these pricks...they don't know who they're dealing with. Shit, a few belts would make all this easier ya know, I mean, you deserve it..." Yeah, that's a good time. And so this litany becomes a constant barrage, waking, sleeping, doesn't matter. Eventually the only way to quiet the noise...yeah, you guessed it.

But here's the thing, and folks who don't attend meetings, or have this affliction don't get it. When I go to meetings, the noise stops. I don't drink, or use, and life is not too bad, although I can screw it up with one bad choice, but meetings also help in making the right choices, providing I'm not believing my own crap, again. At any rate...

The job came to an abrupt and splashy halt during a half day charter with Captain Tubby.
As my brain was was noisier than a room full of cub scouts at Michael Jackson's house, I was not paying attention to my job. And part of my job was to secure the large rods and reels in their holders with a lanyard and clip, lest a large fish take the bait and pull the whole shit and shebang over the side. Unh huh, yep, sure did.

The outrigger popped and in slow motion, the rod came up and out of the holder, over the side and was last seen heading at an alarming rate towards Guam. My Captain turned purple and was struck with the inability to articulate intelligent sound. Our client thought it was funny, "Whooee, look at it go, hot damn, bet ya don't do that again!" Too right, that.

'I'm sorry' seemed lamer than Clinton's definition of 'is', so I put my head down, and we spent a very, very, quiet trip back in. We docked and I walked off. What could I say that would make things better?
I didn't have the money to replace the lost gear, and a charter boat with only one rod and reel was not going to make any money. I was done.

I sold my little used Toyota and used the money for a one way ticket to California.

Once at the San Francisco Airport, I called her, thought the surprise would be nice.

"You did WHAT?"

This was not going the way I had imagined.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I digress for some family time...

I'm taking a break from the narrative as today is my Father's birthday. He would have been 88 years old. (He died of congestive heart failure when he was 76.)

Without him, there would be no narrative, as there would be no me.

We had a strained relationship at best. Dad was a difficult man. Difficult to know, and difficult to love.

But I owe him thanks as he stood up, and tried to raise me after my mother was declared unfit, and he brought me back from Las Vegas when I was seven, where I had been living with my mother in the throes of her own addictions, selling herself to strange men, in our little travel trailer, and I tried not to listen.

In 1966, there were few single Fathers. Dad stood up and said he would do the best he could and care for his son. At first I lived with my Aunt, Uncle and five cousins...and for the first time, learned what life was like in a big family, a real family. We fought like rat terriers, all five of us, but no one at Catholic School messed with us, as they would have the whole lot of us down on them with a fearsome vengeance.

After third grade in Catholic school, Dad was able to get us a small apartment, and I moved in. I got used to his girlfriends, and later his wives, as I distanced myself from them, already an observer, hiding in books and movies.

An early memory is riding in the car on a Sunday morning, going to get the newspaper with Dad. I was two or three, and I remember his smell, and the smell of the newsprint, and a feeling of safety.

I also remember my first lesson about telling lies.

My parents were still married, and I was all of five years old. He asked me if I had brushed my teeth as it was bedtime, and I told him I had. (I was already tucked in...I didn't feel like getting up.)

He checked my toothbrush with his fingers, finding it dry and went insane.

He threw me from bed, holding me to the floor and kicked me all the way to the bathroom, screaming "Don't you ever lie to me! Ever!"

All that taught me was if you lie, don't get caught.

He was an explosively violent man, whose passions centered around his music (a professional musician, jazz and big bands) scotch, women and his mother. (And I thought I had issues...)

But he loved me, in the only way he knew and would have died to protect me. He had PTSD before it was fashionable and memories of World War II haunted him for the rest of his life.

Five wives, three kids...I was the baby...and he always wanted to be a star.

We lived in Dallas at the time Kennedy was assassinated, and Dad worked for Jack Ruby. I knew him as Uncle Jack.

My mother danced at the Carousel Club. The FBI interviewed them both, and Dad would never speak of that November.

He was the most self centered man I have ever met, and a few months before he died, I moved in with him, to try and care for him, as the quality of his life had declined to a point where he opted out, he was tired, and life had lost it's sparkle.

Two days before he died, he squeezed my hand and said, "I'll love you forever..." That's the last thing he ever said to me.

I still miss him.

Misanthrope, mysoginy and other 'M' words...

Life. The pendulum swings...things are good, not so good, suck really bad, better again, aw hell this is great... then back again. It took a while for me to learn that life was not static, that things change, always.

I went through a rough patch getting off the pain pills, but found that if I rolled with it, the urge would subside. Sometimes not for very long, but hey, small battles right?

So life was nice. Until I got my mail.

I have found that historically no good ever came from me checking my mail, even less if something were sent 'certified'. Nope, no sir, no good at all.

Divorce papers. Pages of legalese that amounted to my marriage being over. Now, I was not even close to being considered a good husband or father, and my first marriage had to be one of the most disastrously dysfunctional relationships ever imagined...but the finality rocked me.

I brought the parcel with me on the boat one day, just me and the skipper, and read them in front of God, his world and a pod of bottle nose dolphins that had been following us from our leaving the harbor.

They required I sign the documents and send them back. I couldn't understand why there were tears staining the pages as I read, as I had no barometer for loss, as of yet, but there it was.

I was now an official, court documented failure.

"Never again, skipper." I grinned through my tears.

He laughed, and pulled deep on a Doral. "I'll give you five years."

"You're crazy."

"Nope. I've seen it before. You are the marrying kind. Dead set on someone else being responsible for your happiness, you don't have a choice."

Smug asshole.

What could I say, deep down I knew he was probably right, although I couldn't see me doing it any time soon.

(After three marriages, I can see he was right. It took me eight years of being alone to come to a place, a place where I am absolutely complete being alone, and pretty damn happy. Not to say I'm not open to the right possibility, but today, I don't chase it. If it ever happens again, I want it to be for the right reason...but there's no hurry.)

So I swore off women. Lasted about a week.

But it was a start.

That's the thing about exotic locales. They are, by nature and definition, romantic. I had a friend in recovery whose sister was visiting the Islands from California. He thought I should show her around the Island. I did, and the forces that be donkey punched me in the heart.

I blame a full, yellow moon, walks on the beach at night and the bane of my existence...holding hands. I am an absolute sap for holding hands.

I knew she was a tourist. I knew it was a vacation fling. I failed to see this was a rebound affect brought on by my losing my first family.

When you're tumbling in the dryer, it's hard to focus on your socks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Adrenaline and Percocet...not for everybody.

He taught me about work on boats, and he taught me how to fish for big game.

I had a knack for talking to our charter clients, making them comfortable, and when we caught fish, the usually large and pasty businessmen, having a true "fishing adventure" threw tips my way. I wore shorts and sunglasses to work, and the outdoor work kept me ripped and tan.

My Captain was single and attracted women like a testosterone powered bug zapper. On occasion we took a couple of ladies for a half a day charter, five miles or so onto the big blue, and well, things happened.

Not a bad life, if you didn't weaken.

I baited hooks, set the drag on the huge reels, and coached the anglers in the chair. The skipper would pilot the boat, a 28 ft. Bertram, and I would join him on the flying bridge, keeping my eyes peeled on the outriggers, waiting for the zing...and it would be on.

Marlin strike hard and fast and when it happened, the angler, usually half drunk and drowsy from sunburn had to be coached every step of the way. I would leap from the flying bridge after the fish would hit and snap the angler into his vest, inserting the rod into the holder between his legs and pray he wouldn't snag his line, until I could set the drag. It was a brief, violent ballet, and I loved every minute of it.

I learned to dig adrenalin and for a few years sought the rush in unusual ways, but that story is for later.

We went to meetings at night and I stayed sober. Life was getting good, and we would have long talks about God, the universe, and women, as we rode the pacific...a tiny, finite speck, in the middle of the ocean.

I learned out there that God could be as big as I wanted, or needed, at any given time. I was in his world, and I learned that it could be good.

Then I broke my hand.

We were tying up at the downtown pier, trying to outrun a sudden storm and the swells and wind had gotten fierce. The surge took the boat away from the dock, right after I had wrapped a cleat, and the force snapped the cleat, and I took the brunt of the force in my right hand, snapping several bones in the process.

I went down, howling. Shit that hurt. My middle finger was set at an unnatural angle to the rest of my hand and I knew it was busted.

We finished tying the boat up and one of the girls watching us ran me to the emergency room.

Xrays and a cast and a refillable prescription for Percocet. I thought I could handle it, but the buzz was just too damn strong. For those of you who have wrestled with a pain pill issue, I feel for you, I truly do. I floated on that buzz for a couple of weeks, after all, I had a legitimate reason, right. For us, anything is a legitimate reason.

I was invited to a party up the mountain, and took one of my old co-workers. I also took a baggie filled with pain pills, and during the evening, I nibbled my way through the bag.

Around midnight, I was truly and seriously depraved. I told my friend we were leaving and he reluctantly joined me.

I drove down the mountain doing sixty with my headlights off, screaming and laughing like a banshee. I stopped at the bottom of the mountain. My friend got out of the car without saying a word, walked away, and never looked back.

He never spoke to me again.

He had no vision.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Errol Flynn saved my life...

You can always tell an accomplished barhound from an amateur. They have moves. The way they sit; stand, light a smoke, or gun down a shot. They usually also pick a spot at the bar where they can look at their reflection in the mirror behind the bar. This serves two purposes.

It allows them to see that they are actually existing in this certain space in time (sometimes there are questions) and they can see behind them. Very important to the accomplished drinker.

Recovery has it's tells, too.

There are phrases you hear, over and over, and the veteran to recovery has a certain air about them, more of an attitude. I know the word attitude denotes a general arrogance, but the recovery vet is much more humble, without even trying. So if you know a few things, and you go back to meetings after more research, you may fool a few folks into thinking you still have your shit in one sock. For a while.

I threw my game face on that night and arrived a few minutes early.

An old timer, (one who has been dry so long they shy away from open flames) was making coffee.
He introduced himself.

"First meeting?", he asked.
"Me? (I was the only one in the room.) Oh no, been around awhile."
"Bullshit." He went back to making coffee.

I failed to mention the old timers can also spot a wet drunk from 1,000 yards. I tap danced around the topic and admitted yes, I was coming back, but had over a year before I went back out. He was not impressed. Now I was too embarrassed to leave and too mortified to stay. Shit.

I took a Styrofoam cup of coffee and sat at the table, watching the regulars arrive.

The meeting filled up and a man walked in during the opening reading. Tall, tan and fit, he was a dead ringer for Errol Flynn. Not the actor. The Movie Star.

He was also from Texas and he owned his own sport fishing boat. We talked after the meeting and he agreed to sponsor me. He also gave me a job as his first mate on his boat.

I was now a professional sport fisherman. The day before I was a coked out pizza waiter. Once again, all I had to do was acknowledge the problem and ask for help.

The universe did the rest.

Now if I could just remember port from starboard...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pidgeon...not to be confused with English. Seriously, it's not even close.

Apparently I had blacked out and tried to prove a point to God. Looked like God won.

I showered, took some aspirin and actually looked for a volume control knob somewhere in my room to dim the crashing of the waves. If anything, they were getting louder. God, my head hurt. (It was at this point I swore off Stienlager...not drinking, no, that would have made too much sense, and we all know it probably wouldn't have worked anyway.)

There was a restaurant next door with a patio by the water. Food seemed to be in and a large Bloody Mary.  Perhaps two.

I ordered eggs Benedict and sank half the drink, munching on the celery. 

As the vodka hit bottom I looked across the Pacific to the horizon, and thought, damn, that's a lot of water. (What do you head hurt.)

After breakfast and my two fortifying cocktails I felt human enough to wander through town. As of now, I was technically a tourist, so I did the touristy things. Gawked at the natural beauty, wandered through touristy shops and bought large buds of purple weed from sidewalk surfers on skateboards.

 (It took awhile for me to understand them as they all spoke that strange bastardization of the English language...Pidgeon. It really takes some getting used to. Vowels were dropped and entire words were omitted and substituted and it was done in a sing-song fashion. In fact, there was more of a cultural difference in the speaking of the language than the language itself. Very hard to describe.)

I tried to keep the drug and alcohol use to a respectable level, avoiding a huge bottom out, but my tolerance was wearing thin. I kept to myself and found out of the way beaches where I could soak up sun and body surf. My pasty Alaska pallor was replaced with a deepwater tan, and my hair bleached out from the sun and salt.

I had found an apartment on Mongoose lane, and started waiting tables at a pizza joint in town. One of my co-workers was a coke freak and after a particularly long and vibrant weekend, I decided to try and get clean one more time. I looked in the phone book and dialed a number. The meetings were a block away, in an open air pavilion. 
I had stumbled past the place countless times and never knew. All I had to do was ask for help, and there it was.

Here we go again...

Writing my wrongs...

So, another cab ride into a strange town, surrounded by beautiful scenery, thousands of miles away from anything remotely close to responsibility and inside I was miserable. 

If one is in recovery long enough, you hear about the hole in our stomachs...the one that no amount of booze, drugs, sex, relationships, (and no, the two are not mutually exclusive) shopping, or other peoples money can fill.  I mean here I was, literally in paradise and all I wanted to do was numb out. 

I told the cabdriver the same thing I had told the one in Alaska, and after about fifteen minutes he deposited me in front of a weekly motel, right on the water and I paid for two weeks up front. 

All the rooms had lanais' (balconies) and the Pacific Ocean was crashing onto huge rocks fifteen feet away. There was an ice and beer store a block away. 

I strolled through town, got something to eat and picked up two six packs of Stienlager and some ice.

I cracked a beer on my lanais and watched the sun set somewhere over Japan and did my best to fill the hole.

I came to around daybreak with what felt like an icepick lodged in my temporal lobe and empty beer bottles surrounding me on the floor.

My God, someone had cranked up the volume on the waves...I felt like hell and noticed my big blue recovery book was laying on the floor. Soaked.

 It smelled like urine, and I could only hope it was my own.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Captain Cook was eaten for this...

Now before I go off on a rant, and I am accused of being homophobic, uptight or, heaven forbid unenlightened, I declined his pass.
I did it with stoned style and grace, no need in getting ugly because someone, albeit a same sex someone, was attracted to me. In my defense, I was buff, young and alone, and I felt it a little rude to use these things as an excuse to grope my junk just because you turned me on to some weed. (Yeah ladies, a lot like the buy you a drink know what I'm talking about.) But, rejection is still what it is, and I guess it made him mad.

He made me walk back to the terminal. (This was not my first rodeo by the way...growing up I was sexually abused a number of times and approached many more. By the time I was ten I had seen more naked old men than Heidi Fleiss. And before I upset some of you more sensitive types...I know there is no parallel between child molesters and gay men, I am not making that comparison, just stating a fact. I stopped being victimized by it a long time ago. To put it succinctly, I got off the cross, used the wood to build a bridge and got over it. Enough said.)

I boarded the commuter flight and hit on the flight attendant extra hard. (Just to be sure)

We landed forty minutes later in the middle of a perfumed moonscape of black lava fields.

A really big ass ocean on one side (for those of you in Texas, you know that this is actually a standard unit of measurement,) and grand, green and lush mountains on the other. Paradise.

I hailed a cab, and history, as it is want to do, repeated itself, one more time...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Poi tastes like cabdriver feet...

Again with the duffel bag.

This time I had a sober layover in the San Francisco Airport. The thought meandered around in my head that prior to entering an aluminum tube and traveling at 30,000 feet for roughly a couple of thousand miles over nothing but water; a drink may be in order.

But I held fast. I heard that if the notion came upon you, it was wise to make a phone call. I dialed a recovery hot line in the phone book while standing in a long tiled hallway amid a bank of pay phones and talked to some faceless, sober drunk, until the urge passed.

I later learned that it may have done nothing for me, but it kept him sober. And that was really the way this thing wasn't that altruistic, it was rather self serving...sure, I'll help others, as long as I'm getting mine in return.

I patted myself on the back all the way to Honolulu, arriving at one big freaking expanse of airport well after midnight. I deplaned and the warm, perfumed air was a rush, after the stringent, bracing sub-zero air of Alaska.

No hotties with garlands of flowers to welcome me, just Asian looking people working in an airport, buffing floors, nodding off at checkout counters and cleaning bathrooms.

I wandered around and looked out the big windows at the runway. It was dark, so all I could see were runway lights, but I was here. One may ask, now what? Did I have a job lined up, a place to stay, money in the bank? Have you forgotten who you're dealing with? Of course not.

I read a travelers account of the Islands and settled on the Big Island of Hawaii. Volcanoes, cowboys, marlin fisherman, and the Islanders killed Capt. Cook and ate him not far from where I was supposed to land. Perfect.

I had enough cash to rent a place for a couple of weeks and eat while I looked for work, but this time I had something else in my duffel bag...a big blue recovery based book. I had no intention of screwing this up, after all I was in paradise.

The puddle jumper left Honolulu at 7 a.m. for a forty minute flight to the Big Island. I dozed in a hard plastic chair, equipped with a bolted on, coin operated television.

One of the maintenance workers was buffing the floor around my chair, skinny, Asian with a pencil thin mustache. Kind of a Hawaiian John Waters. He stopped buffing and smiled at me. Uh oh.

He asked me if I smoked. Since he asked in a brusque, oblique way, I knew he wasn't talking about Marlboro's. I had heard legends of Hawaiian weed and thought to myself, why not, I'm not drinking, and I'm only passing through.The thought of the book in my bag never even bubbled to the surface.

He led me through the employees exit to his car, an old Dodge Dart, and we motored out to an empty portion of the runway. Halfway through the joint, I knew it was serious weed, and I was captivated by the planes landing and taking off, here in the middle of the Pacific.

That was when he put his hand on my knee.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Let us discuss insanity...

Insanity. The word conjures different images for different people.

There's the rocking back and forth in your own filth while yodeling pig-latin variety; carving up a family and placing them in the freezer "Donner...Party of six!" type, as well as simply talking out loud to yourself-and answering, to name, according to the American Psychiatric Association, but a few.

There is also the definition of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. That is the variety I am most at home with.(Talking to myself not withstanding.)

One would think that armed with the self knowledge that alcohol and drugs were a bad mix for me, I would leave them alone, as in, burn your hand on the stove, don't touch it again, kind of thing.

Not so much.

Self knowledge rarely availed me anything at all, except fodder for guilt when the dust began to settle.

My first revelation that I might be alcoholic came one freezing night in the army, when drunk and carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels across a frozen parade field at three a.m.

I slipped and fell, shattering the bottle and cutting my hand. I watched it, helpless, as it pooled amid the shards of broken glass. The amber liquid mixed with my blood, melting the ice in small, concise spots. I cried when I saw the broken bottle.

The revelation struck me right between the eye's...I was a drunk, and there wasn't anything I could do about it.

Did I stop? Like hell.

Later, after treatment and gaining all the self knowledge about the condition I could handle, one would surmise I would recoil from the stuff as if from a flame. Instead I ran to the stuff...expecting things this time, to be different. (found out there are many sharp edges in sobriety...booze rounded them off. If I had learned to dodge, just a little bit...)

Now, that's insane.

That being said, we can resume our adventure...

Easing God Out (Ego)

I was twenty three and healthy. My roommate at the halfway house thought getting in shape would be a good idea, so we started to work out. The results were fast and I began getting noticed.

My boss was being little miss flirty and I ate it up. We had lunch together at a little Italian place on the wharf, not far from where I hid my box, although I neglected to tell her that. Need to know, and all. (I was reminded of Lady and the Tramp, but I stopped short of rolling a meatball to her with my nose.) It was a lot of smiles, long looks and stupid little jokes.

Her husband, the trooper, was at symposiums all over the state and as far away as Seattle. She was lonely. I tried to keep it innocent.

I failed to realize I had no self esteem. I thought if I looked like I had it together, and someone, albeit a married someone, found me attractive, how screwed up could I be?

Years later I would hear the following at a meeting: To have self esteem, do esteemable things. Who knew?

I started to cut back on meetings and began what would later become a pattern in my recovery dynamic. Get sober, meet a woman, and blow it, waking up broke, sticky and confused.

I was coming up on a year sober and our flirtations finally culminated in the physical. We went to a movie, "Against all Odds" and I recall Jeff Bridges drove a Porsche and drank beer in Mexico. The beer looked good, really good.

While Juneau was the State Capitol, it was still a small town, and her husband eventually heard the rumor. People disappear in Alaska almost daily, and I didn't want to be one.

I cashed in my terminal leave and caught the next plane to Hawaii. I was tired of being cold.

Monday, September 1, 2008

When you pray, move your feet. (African proverb)

I was learning that God was not Santa Claus. I was told to pray, and I did, even when I knew the words were just falling down around my ankles and not going anywhere. I also learned to take action and not lay down and take it in the kiester whenever anything negative occurred. I began to stand up for me.

There was a huge learning curve ahead for me but I learned about the whole one day at a time concept, and I placed one foot in front of the other; and things began to happen.

I applied for, and was accepted into a halfway house after being sober ninety days. I learned to take responsibility, in small, sometimes irritating ways, like making my bed, taking out trash, washing dishes.

There were setbacks for all of us in the house. A few ran away, a few got loaded, and a few hung on to recovery.

I applied for a job that was totally out of my element. I took a test for the State office building, and applied for a position as safety officer in the telecommunications division. I had no idea what the duties were, but I dug the title.

My boss was a pretty, auburn haired, thirty something professional bureaucrat, with caramel colored eyes. She was married to a disinterested State Trooper and she thought I was cute.

Hindsight being what it is, well, you get the idea...

My new disclaimer...yeah I know.

Okay, the old disclaimer was tired. The ideas were outdated and keeping me stuck in a place I don't want to be now for something more refreshing.

I have recently changed my views regarding women. Seems I had some issues with the fairer sex due to past pain and self- centered fear. (Yes...duh applies.)

I'm done with that.

Being in recovery has helped me change my entire life, perceptions and attitudes. I cannot change my history but I can change my today and my future.

I recently realized that the women I know in recovery are some of the strongest, bravest, most gentle and kind teachers I have ever had. You exemplify integrity and spiritual growth, and I hope you know who you are.

Some may know of my past marital and relationship history and been a participant in them as well. It's past and that's where it the past.

I own my part in those failures but claim no more responsibility in any misery you may be experiencing. I am sorry, but it's time to get off the cross. We need the wood.

Thank you all...