Day 40.

June 3, 2011

What's that warm glowy thing in the sky?

    I believe the worst is over. My worst symptoms now are due more to lack of sleep and nutrition than anything else. (HAVE I GOT THE WEIGHT LOSS PLAN FOR YOU!) I think. Withdrawal is more like a roller coaster than a steady decline or descent. It comes in waves, so it’s impossible to say. But there have been moments, represented above, when light punches through.

    The insomnia is not a whole hell of a lot of fun. Nothing over-the-counter touches it. My insomnia scoffs at melatonin. Nothing available with a prescription that I have been allowed so far touches it. Trazodone? Nada. There’s only one thing I’m aware of that would work (like a charm, in fact). But people in a treatment center get a little freaked out when one asks for a benzodiazepine like Xanax or Valium (Ativan? Something? ANYTHING?), drugs with an apparently high potential for abuse – something I do not understand at all (“Hey, let’s party! By sleeping!”). So I have not gone so far as to ask for them. And I don’t expect an offer to be forthcoming.

    So instead, I just get up, walk around and drink a glass of milk. And sigh. A lot.

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This is the goal.

    One more day of Suboxone. I’m only taking 1mg at this point anyway and my body knows it. Can’t sleep and don’t feel like reading, writing (this short post = huge effort), socializing, eating, drinking, exercising, or really much of anything else. Pray and hang on. That’s the game plan. On the theory that it’s always darkest before the dawn, I’m relieved.

A thing I like.

    The Saturday Autobiographical, back by popular demand. On Monday. To review: three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea has never materialized, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as always. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for male enhancement with more subtlety: “Buy this, get any girl you want. Don’t, and die from cancer.”  However, as I indicated last week, my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers.

Three things I like:

    1. The Beatles: In addition to having the best Wikipedia entry in history, the Beatles changed everything, forever.  The singer-songwriter band was practically non-existent, once upon a time. Bands were the product of their record label’s design (sadly, these things come full circle). Unlike movies, which went from being an organic creation of people who loved movies to vertically-integrated, formulaic creations of the studios (thank you for that, Star Wars), rock-and-roll bands kind of went the other direction.

    The Beatles changed everything. Before the Beatles, rock-and-roll pop “bands” were often creations of the record labels (real rock-and-roll, of course originated with the blues singer-song writers in the Southeastern United States, but that takes my neat little narrative here and makes it messy; so I am speaking in broad generalities here). After the Beatles, every record label was looking for the next singer-songwriter band playing in a garage. Without the Beatles, there is no Nirvana – likely no grunge at all, in fact.

    For crying out loud, there was a time when the Beatles were terrified to release an album, because people did all kinds of crazy things on the basis of Beatles lyrics. They had a monumental influence on fashion, practically created the music video, and one of them is a knight.  Other artists will get their due in this space, but none of them can claim to have had the influence on our culture, or on me, that the Beatles did.

        2.  The Atlanta Braves: They haven’t given me much to work with in a while, but for the last 20 years or so, I have lived and died with the Braves. And I lived more than I died: fourteen straight division titles spoiled me. The Braves treated me to more wonderful sports moments in person than the average Mets fan can even imagine. World Series. NLCS. Game six of the 1999 NLCS when Andruw Jones drew a walk-off walk to clinch the NLCS and go the Series. When the Mets came to town in ’98 tied with the Braves in the NL East and Chipper Jones hit four home runs in three games.

    During the early years of our (yes, our) success, the city of Atlanta would throw a parade at the end of the season. I was at the first one, the one after the Greatest World Series Ever Played, and the baby ‘Benz Tom Glavine was riding in ran over my foot. And I have great affection for the man at the helm for each of the fourteen division titles. Former manager Bobby Cox retired last year as one of the most successful managers of all time. Well, he was the very best at one thing.  And he bore at least a passing resemblance to…

    3. Ronald Reagan: Bear with me. I was a child of the 1980’s. In my household, the hierarchy was as follows: God, Dad, Reagan. And I had a suspicion that God looked a lot like Reagan. These are the conceptions of a child, of course. Still, President Reagan came at just the right moment in history. Generally wary of strong authority figures, and cynical over the Nixon-Ford-Carter years, America needed Reagan in 1980. People forget what was going on in the late 70’s. Stagflation had a firm grip on the American economy, and the Keynsian economists didn’t have an answer.  People were beginning to think that we had seen the best America had to offer. The Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union. And the majority of academia expected the U.S.S.R. to be the yen to our yang for the forseeable future.

    But here comes this guy with a sunny disposition (usually), a 1950’s sensibility that seemed out-of-place even then, and charms the American people right into the White House. Even the press, hardened, cynical and mostly leftist, had a hard time not liking him.

This is more or less how I supposed God looked, circa 1982.

    He publicly engaged the leaders of the Soviet Union more directly than anyone since Kennedy, standing at the Brandenburg Gate and telling Mikhail Gorbachev – against the advice of nearly every one on his staff – to tear down the Berlin Wall. And behind the scenes, we now know, he directed an arms race that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union. Of course it is possible to overstate his role in the fall of the Soviet Union, but it cannot be said that he had nothing to do with it; nor, in the opinion of many, even that he had little to do with it. And his optimism became our optimism. During the 1980’s the American economy started expanding at a rate that was unprecedented in human history. The rumors of our demise had been greatly exaggerated.

    Setting his politics aside – because reasonable minds may differ – the reason I have him in this space is his optimism. His view of America as a City Upon a Hill, a beacon for the world of all that is good. And the conviction of his belief in these things, even when the outcome was very much in doubt. His presidency was far from perfect, as they all are. But if you really want to understand the power of Reagan, ask someone who lived in East Berlin in 1980 what they think of him. Or Yugoslavia. Or Hungary. It is hard to imagine America today, or the world, without his presidency.

Three things I unlike:

    1. The Rolling Stones: The anti-Beatles. This is strictly a matter of opinion. The ‘Stones had (have) considerable commercial and critical success. They have sold to date something in the range of 200 million albums worldwide. But they are too commercial and over-exposed. And rock stars shouldn’t grow old on stage, with a few exceptions (see, e.g., Eric Clapton, and B.B. King). Plus there’s this. But mainly, for me, they haven’t stood the test of time. I just don’t like their music, with one big exception.

    2. The expression “Let me put a bug in your ear.” Gross. This is a concept better suited for a horror movie, not the board-room. Who first used this expression, the person who invented Garbage Pail Kids? What kind of response do you think it got? Exactly. How this caught on baffles me. I just think we can do better. This actually happened in a movie once, in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn. I saw it as a kid, and it was terrifying. I slept with my covers over my head for a week.

Illustration of the bug for the ol' bug in ear trick in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.

    3. Lightning: Lightning combines two of my least favorite things: sudden loud noises and death. Like most phobias, this one – called astraphobia – originates during childhood. Mine developed during my illustrious little league career. At that time, I lived in the lightning strike capital of the world. During one game, I was playing center field when a thunderstorm came seemingly out of nowhere. At some point when my team was in the field, lightning struck a billboard directly behind me.

    The fastest animal on land is the cheetah, reaching speeds between 70 and 75 MPH. The fastest human beings run just under 30 MPH. I suspect, however, that no one has ever clocked a cheetah or a human being after lightning struck an object located 25 feet or so behind them. After the strike and instant “BOOM” I’m pretty sure I hit 96. In my memory, I just vaporized out of center field and reappeared in the dug out. My Dad was coaching third base at the time, and he likes to say that he hadn’t even gotten the first syllable of “EVERYBODY IN!!!” out of his mouth and I was past him – all knees and elbows – and into the dug-out.

    Lightning and I have hated each other ever since. It’s tried several more times to get me. Like the time my brother and I were brushing our teeth in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, and lightning struck the transformer behind our house. There was a flash, a crash and a boom, sparks flew out of our outlets, and then there was total darkness. I figured we were all dead. That’s just mean, lightning.

Trees: not a good shelter in the storm.

    A bolt of lightning is approximately 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or three times the temperature of the surface of the sun. From 1990 to 2003, 756 people died from lightning strikes in the United States, with Florida – site of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch – leading the way with 126. When people refer to God’s vengeance, they refer to “being struck by lightning.” I can’t think of a more direct illustration of the concept that “it is appointed unto man once to die” than a lightning strike. It’s God’s way of saying, “Hey you, out of the pool!”

    I have developed a specialized way of walking – during thunder storms, mainly – that my family calls the crab-walk. I get low to the ground and walk with my legs spread far apart, thereby resembling a crab. Hey, I’m 6’4″, I’m often the tallest object around. My brother, also tall, does the same thing. On that rare occasion when we are walking in a thunderstorm together, we look pretty ridiculous. And people laugh at us. That’s fine, when they get struck by lightning, I will stand over their charred remains and laugh at them. What one man calls astraphobia, I call good survival instincts.

    It’s just another day in paradise, and other than feeling a vague lack of profundity, today is a beautiful day. I suppose I’m being presumptuous to assume that anything I say is profound. In any event, I don’t suppose anyone is profound every day.

Not. Too. Shabby.

    I’m down to 10 milligrams a day of Suboxone. From 24 only 17 days ago. That’s a pretty steep decline, and explains why I have extreme lethargy throughout the day. It probably also explains some of the aches and pains that plague me, especially in the morning. Lethargy is the most prominent symptom of the “light” withdrawal  associated with the gradual step-down approach my doctor has taken to ween me off Suboxone. He will probably prescribe something to help with the lethargy for a few days to get me over the hump. One possibility is hormone therapy because past opiate addicts generally have low testosterone levels. My blood test confirmed this today.

    Interestingly, everything else checked out well. Liver enzymes, blood glucose, thyroid. A bunch of stuff I didn’t understand. And my resting heart rate was 47 and my blood pressure was 130 /81. I guess I can thank my parents for hardy genes. Of course, none of those tests demonstrate what is going on in the ol’ noggin, but at least they demonstrate a level of foundational physical health from which I can continue to build good mental health to complete the picture.

    I’m having a difficult time with a few people and boundaries. And it’s not necessarily the people I would have expected. It’s amazing how certain people who I do believe want me to get well have no problem blowing right through boundaries I set in an effort to maintain sobriety. Especially during this very early period when that sobriety is at its most fragile. They see drug addiction as a thing unto itself; the disease itself, rather than a symptom of a disease. The disease of addiction involves a lot more than just using drugs and alcohol. So it’s not just a lack of use that has to be maintained. I have to maintain a state of mental and emotional well-being the best way I know how. Right now that involves setting a lot of boundaries and sticking to them. Which takes some people aback. But as I am constantly reminded, this is my sobriety, not anyone else’s. And like a good friend once told me, I need to just not give a shit what anyone else thinks.

A thing I don't like.

     The Saturday Autobiographical , back by popular demand. On Wednesday. Some have suggested a name-change, so it’s not so confusing when  – as has been the case two out of three times – this recurring theme is published on a day other than Saturday. The person who made that suggestion was a recovering drug addict. Like I’m gonna take their advice. There’s only room for one cuckoo in this clock.

    To review: three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea has never materialized, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as always. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for law firms with more subtlety: “Call us, get rich. Don’t, and die a horrible and disfiguring death.”  However, as I indicated last week, my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers.

Three things I like:

    1. The Beastie Boys: Three New York Jewish guys with punk roots who seemingly on a lark gave up punk and threw their collective hat in the fledgling hip-hop arena. If your goal is to master an artistic medium in which you are virtually an ethnic and racial outsider, achieve critical and commercial success, and do it all with tongue firmly planted in cheek, then these guys are your heroes. Archetypal, iconoclastic and ironic. Hip, goofy, and gifted. Their music will be studied for generations, even though we were never really sure if they were serious. The Beastie Boys are almost like a 20-year long episode of Punk’d. They also provided the theme song of my youth. And I did indeed have to fight…for my right…to Par-TAY.

License to ill and registration, please.


    2. Coffee: It’s all I have left, dammit!

    3. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill: I have been an Anglophile most of my adult life, and he was the greatest Anglo of them all. He is the subject of William Manchester’s The Last Lion, a three-volume biography, during the writing of which Mr. Manchester passed away.

    This man gets much of the credit – and deservedly so – for his countrymen’s stiff upper lip while London was bombed by the Nazis day and night during WWII. He recognized Hitler (discussed below) as a threat while most of Europe was still under his spell. He was a master of the language, and used that gift to steel his nation’s resolve during WWII. He could have been speaking for all of western civilization when he said:

… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

    And had a wit without match. An example is as follows:

Lady Astor: Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink.

SWC: My lady, if you were my wife, I would drink it.

The Last Lion himself.


Three things I unlike:

    1. Hitler: Sometimes it’s good to cover the basics. You need this box checked to call yourself a member of civilization. It must be in your repertoire. I’m glad to get it out of the way, to be honest. Stalin, on the other hand? Misunderstood.

This Hello Kitty image has generated billions of dollars in licensing fees. Life is really unfair.

    2. “Think Outside the Box:” Along with all the other overused expressions I object to in this space, this was a useful, clever expression for a time, but that time has long since passed. It’s greatest offense is overuse. It’s been used so often – so, so often – simply using the expression “think outside the box” demonstrates an inability to think outside the box. Irony of ironies, the expression is now very much inside the box. And it doesn’t work anyway.

Chickens are by far the funniest bird.

    3. Inanimate objects that hate me: They’re everywhere, things that are out to get me. Umbrellas and newspapers combined with wind are common offenders. Computers, video games, car parts. Electronics. Kids toys (some assembly required is Chinese for “stupid American with enormous hands never figure out toy ha ha”). Ikea, that diabolical little European instrument of torture, will get its own mention in a future Autobiographical. The worst part is that inanimate objects don’t scream when you beat them with a hammer or throw them at a wall, and they have a tendency to break your hand when you hit them. They are altogether unperturbed when you scream at them, and I have a feeling they are laughing at me on the inside when I get red in the face and shout incantations at them in an attempt to destroy them with a hex, or – failing that – at least shoot them with lasers from my eye-sockets. I came by this honestly. My Dad yells at objects, too. And my brother. I already see signs of it in my sons. The men in my family have a real feud with objects going on, but in fairness to us, they started it.

Can you feel the rage?

A thing I like.

    Autobiographical Saturday, back by popular demand. Three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea never materialized last time, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as last week. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for male “enhancement” pills that are more subtle: “The ‘performance’ from these pills will get you the hot girl and make you rich beyond your wildest dreams; you’ll probably own a yacht.”  However, as I indicated last week, my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers.

Three things I like:

    1. College Football: This might be my most favorite thing in the charted universe. I spent 10 years in a beautiful southern college town. I never had a chance, I’m hopelessly addicted. If it weren’t for the fact that this particular affliction is completely – okay, mostly – wholesome, this would probably outrank my other DOC’s on the scale of my inability to walk away from them. We do football differently in the south.  Lots of pretty girls go to the games. Take it away ladies:

                         [Photo redacted. My mom reads this blog, pervert]

    The point is, football is an egalitarian sport in the south. Women participate, and with alacrity. And the women aren’t just there to have a good time. In the south, most female fans can tell you why your team shouldn’t have been in a cover-two in a critical short-yardage third down, and that’s why your team lost. And in a tradition that is unique to the south, the women dress up to go to games. It may seem arcane, but girls in the south really put on the ritz for our games. Like these young University of Georgia fans.

This was one of the few photos suitable for publication that turned up in a word search for '"football, south, girls." The internet is all the proof I need we're going to hell in a handbasket.

     You will note the complete absence of what we might call – for lack of a better term – slut gear. There’s no cut up t-shirt with cleavage spilling out (I’m looking at you Florida State). No lived-in hair. No hats. No hoodies. This is how we do college football in the south.

    2. Killing Osama Bin Laden: No need to elaborate. Beautiful Day by U2 comes to mind. I’ll give President Obama credit for pulling the trigger once the intelligence was there and for a relatively non-partisan speech to announce the news.  USA! USA USA! (As I typed that I heard Homer’s voice in my head).

People in Philly have a certain way about them that just seems right, under the circumstances.

    3. C.S. Lewis: One of my favorite authors from this century. This man, through his book Surprised By Joy, fanned the embers of my faith through times when I described myself as an atheist. My atheism was an intellectual point of view, one rooted in my brain, that never made the 18-inch drop to my heart. That was largely owed to C.S. Lewis. His view on the sublime, and his articulation of the idea that we see glimpses of the sublime here on earth, but never the real thing, made an indelible impression on me. So much so, that even during the times when I was entirely eaten up with drug-addiction and atheism (I’m not suggesting that the two concepts are related for everyone, but for me, those two ideas were cause-and-effect), I found myself asking the question, “but what about C.S. Lewis?” This quiet man, an intellectual and a scholar his entire life, was a giant of the 20th century. (He also authored the more well-known Chronicles of Narnia).

Three things I unlike:

    1. The Florida Gators: They represent all that is evil and soul-less in the world. The Darth Vader of the college football universe. From the gator chomp to the ubiquitous jean shorts – or, “jorts” – this affliction is a scourge on all humanity, and should be rooted out and destroyed wherever it exists. Every good story has a villain, and the narrative of college football has the Florida Gators. Most of the people afflicted with this sickness – as with addiction, these are otherwise good people, it’s the disease that is evil – are oblivious to the fact that college football was played before 1990, when Steve Spurrier came back to Gainesville, and made a deal with the devil  started chucking the ball all over the damn field, effectively ending the “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” era of SEC football.

Oh the humanity.

    Spurrier was banished by Satan to South Carolina, as part of the deal, eventually left Florida for South Carolina, also in the SEC east, so once a year, I have to make the choice of whether to root for Spurrier or Florida. I usually root for the meteors.

Where's a good meteor when you need one?

    2. The phrases “24/7” and “A.S.A.P:” Expertly derided in the movie “Role Models”, there’s really not much more for me to add. As a general rule, I hate lingo, and more often than not, you will see this space used to call out certain overused expressions which may have had a viable window for use, but that window closed around the same time music videos started putting hot women in them again (for some reason, grunge rebelled against a tried and true formula: sex and rock n’ roll; that’s why today MTV has about a billion reality shows and very little music; thanks a lot, Kurt). Interestingly, AA is riddled with clever little pithy one-liners: “one day at a time,” “Easy Does It,” and so on. But I like them in this context, because they are used to convey truth, not to demonstrate either that you are hip or have adopted new age (middle) management practices. FYI, STFU, ASAP, PREESH.

This actually happened.

    3. People Who Don’t Like the Movie Tombstone. Do you hate democracy too? And apple pie? Babies? Do you club baby seals with rolled up replicas of the Bill of Rights? Do you have toilet paper with the Constitution printed on it? Did you skip the Louvre when you were in Paris in favor of a trip to Old Navy. Did you feel Scrooge was simply misunderstood in A Christmas Carol? Did you root for Ivan Drago in Rocky IV? Oh, that’s right, you hated Rocky IV.

That baby seal you clubbed to death with your Bible belonged to this man.

    My point is this: it’s not a guarantee that I’ll hate you if you hated Tombstone, but it’s no feather in your cap. If that is the only thing I know about you, you’ll be ranked somewhere above holocaust deniers, but probably below people who say “think outside the box” or “let me put a bug in your ear” a lot. Maybe Doc Holiday was the black sheep of your family and you have personal reasons for not liking his character, as played – legendarily – by Val Kilmer. I actually know someone who can claim this is true. But even he loves Tombstone.

There's enough testosterone in this photo to choke a horse.

    The dialogue absolutely pops (“I’m your huckleberry…”). There are themes of second chances, redemption, renewal, loyalty, grace under fire, justice, death, salvation, nuance, love, jealousy, retribution; need I go on? Val Kilmer deserves his own post here, but suffice to say that he made this flick. Val Kilmer has had some bad choices (the Island of Dr. Moreau, anyone?), but during this period: Tombstone, The Salton Sea, Heat – HOLY CRAP, what a run!

    The costume design was superb, the facial hair grooming was nonpareil, and Dana Delaney was at the top of her career as a typecast sexy intellectual (what a thing to be typecast as). For crying out loud, Jason Priestly – a hunk of hunky hunkliness during the 90’s – was reduced to an impliedly gay effeminate theater junkie (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – in the festival of testosterone that was Tombstone.  It was a beautiful thing.

    So goes another chapter of the Saturday Autobiographical. See you next week. Back to the serious fare related to my personal journey of spiritual awakening and self-discovery later today. But until then, remember: SEC football – our girls are prettier than your girls.

In addition to being honest, Abe also spit mad game, yo.

     If don’t start being honest, I will die, and probably sooner than later. I don’t know how to put a finer point on it. If I did I would. Without honesty, I will relapse and die from this disease. I can’t directly apply my free will to an addiction and expect to get a handle on it. That approach would be doomed from the start. But I can indirectly use my free will to tell the truth, and telling the truth can in turn tame my addiction.

   I’m not trying to play cute rhetorical games (maybe a little): this concept is the single most important thing for me to take away from treatment. I’ve been in active addiction for a long time. I do not have a habit of telling the truth. For an addict to continue using, they almost without exception create a world that is built on lies and deception. Sometimes the lies are overt, and sometimes the lies fall into a category we might call deception by omission. But a lie is a lie is a lie.

I cannot tell a lie: I CANNOT tell a lie.

   It’s interesting to me that we have two Presidents who are noted for their honesty. Out of 44. Come to think of it, that sounds about right, and not just because Presidents are by definition politicians (and politicians are by definition – you know – scum bags). I think people who strive for 100% honesty are the exception, not the rule. It’s just not a priority for most people, which is odd, because most people are revulsed by the idea of a perpetual liar. But most people are unconcerned with the concept of “little white lies.” I believe that in my post-treatment world, I can no longer indulge myself that distinction.

Does this make me look fat? Yes. Yes it does.

   Lying is an action that is rooted in one of two emotions, both of which are fatal to addicts: shame and fear. Every lie is the result of one or both of those emotions in some combination. I posit that shame and fear drive most, if not all, of the awful things human beings do to each other. Think about it. Except for the few that are rooted in anger (which almost singularly drives violence), nearly every other negative human action or emotion is borne out of fear or shame. Prejudice, envy, gluttony, gossip, sloth, judgmental-ism, stereotypes, xenophobia; even that dragnet of all negative human emotions – hate – is very often, if not always, rooted in fear or shame.

   So I’m going to take my cues from a character from the real Disney World, a character who sets an example from whom we addicts here in the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch could all learn a thing or two. So much the more that he – like us – learned his lessons the hard way.

Pinocchio: providing pithy analogies since 1883.

A thing I like.

You don’t know much about me other than the dirt, so I’ve decided that on Saturdays, I’ll talk a little bit about my more wholesome biographical features. The desideratum of my 30-something years will hopefully provide some contrast and context for the  flotsam and jetsam that is the principal subject of the blog. Specifically, I’ll identify three likes and three dislikes a week. There’ll be some explanations and descriptive images and links, and maybe even some sweet tea.

Gimmicky? Sure.  A little hokey? You betcha. Self-indulgent? Absolutely.  It’s not even particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for protein powder that are more clever. “EXPERIENCE MIND BLOWING GAINS AND OTHER CAPITALIZED STUFF!!!!”  But my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers, just for the record.

Three things I like:

1. Bill Watterson: This meek little man from the mid-west had a disproportionate impact on my life, considering the fact that I do not know him personally, we do not share a profession, and we really don’t have all that much in common. Bill Watterson is the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. Maybe the most understated genius in the history of genius. He is kind of a recluse, so far as I can tell. When he retired a decade or so ago, he kind of just rode off into the sunset, and he’s done little for public consumption since. But Calvin and Hobbes made me love words. I learned no less than a third of my vocabulary reading Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson also inspired me to be an artist. He  was an old-school guy who drew his strips by hand and with ink and his Sunday-edition strips  delivered an absolute masterpiece every time, without exception. Sustained excellence is a truly rare thing on this earth. Bill Watterson lived it, and he is one of my favorite people of all time. He is still perfectly alive, by the way. That last sentence kind of implied that he wasn’t.

Two of my life coaches.

2. Squash (the game): I am neither rich, nor old, nor living on the Upper East Side in 1984. But I love this game. Back when I worked out more and did drugs less, I played this game so much I lost ten pounds in a month. The ball is small and dead (unlike racquetball). And, also unlike racquetball, you have to chase the ball, rather than wait for it to come to you. Squash is chess to racquetball’s checkers. Well, it’s like chess until I start breaking racquets. Then it’s more like a game called crazymandestroysproperty. Seriously, when I lose, I completely lose my shit. I get so mad, it’s hilarious, because it’s not my nature to fly into a blind rage ordinarily. And the courts are just glass enclosures, so I’m going nutso for the entire gym to see. I wonder what people – say nothing of my partner – think when they see an otherwise-rational, adult human being go completely apey on the squash court. Anyway, all the great tennis players play squash. People are often surprised to find out I like it too.  

3. Beethoven: the theme for Armageddon (not the one directed by Michael Bay, the real one) and the return of Christ undoubtedlywill be written and conducted by Beethoven. Beginning with the trumpet solo at the rapture (a little evangelical Christian humor there; my father is a minister, did I mention that? Yeah, I know you’re not surprised). This will of course hurt Bach’s feelings on account of all the church music he wrote in his lifetime, but tough cookies; he’ll just have to settle for a co-writing credit.

 I grew up playing the piano (still do, for fun), and I can tell you there is no greater feeling than being able to play a Beethoven piece well, and no poorer feeling than making him turn over in his grave with an awful rendition of one of his masterpieces. Moonlight Sonata might be the most beautiful music ever written for the piano. 

As if setting to music the maxim that true power means never having to raise your voice, Lud also gave us the allegretto of the Seventh Symphony (the second movement, sometimes called the slow strings) which is one of the most powerful movie scores ever: it might have even won Colin Firth an Oscar.  I don’t care if it’s a home video of a burlap sack race at a family reunion, if you score it with the slow strings, it will take on a life-or-death solemnity. 

The Ninth Symphony (youv’e no doubt heard at least the final movement, Ode to Joy) is arguably the greatest music ever written for any instrument. Beethoven – who in my mind’s eye will always look like Gary Oldman  – was completely deaf when he wrote the Ninth. Let me repeat that: the greatest, most textured, dramatic, and beautiful music ever written, was written by a deaf man. A genius.

Three things I unlike:

1. Squash (the vegetable). Tastes like brains. No, I’ve never had brains. But I’m pretty sure they taste like squash.

2. The phrase “it is what it is.”  Take these letters, and rearrange them into something else, because what you are giving me with this expression is basically as follows: “I’m not good enough at the English language to put words together to describe the actual thought in my head, but I don’t know any other languages, so I’m just going to say these  five words and hope you don’t notice that I am failing miserably at communicating with you right now .” I took the liberty of writing some to get you started. These sentences all use the same letters as the nonsensical phrase above:

a) It shits, I wait.

b) I wait, his tits.

c) I shit, I, Watts, I.

d) I is that wit I is

e) Wii is tat tits.

I could have come up with more, but I wasn’t comfortable with how many times I was encountering the words “tit” and “shit.” My Mom does on occasion read this blog, after all, and – regardless of how many ways I have wrecked my life – my Mom can still comfortably say to herself, “well, at least he never intermingled sex and the scatological.” I’d like to keep it that way. Let her hold onto this one shred of hope for my poor soul. I feel I deserve extra points for incorporating the Wii into the fifth one, but then “tits” makes another appearance. Hopefully this isn’t like the Rorschach test.

 

There are no wrong answers. Ha, just kidding, there are lots of wrong answers.

 

3. The Yankees: I do the tomahawk chop for a baseball team located in the southeast, and Jim Leyritz stole my dynasty. We were on the verge of a dynasty and he stole it from us. We had just won our first World Series in three tries, and were on the precipice of a second in a row, up two games to one, about to be three games to one, and we had a six-run lead, which eventually turned into a 6-3 game, and Jim Leyritz came up to bat with two men on base. Mark Wohlers threw a breaking ball that didn’t break, or a slider that didn’t…ummm…slide, and Leyritz came off the bench and smacked the ball “… in the air deep to left field..back, to the warning track, to the wall, WE ARE TIED!!” (I hate Joe Buck for that call; he was happy about it; he was rooting for the Yankees, I know it). The worst thing about this event is that the story of the Series SHOULD have been about how Andruw Jones, only 19 at the time – hit home runs in his first two major league at-bats, which just so happened to take place in the World Series.  

The home run wasn’t even the worst thing Leyritz did. This is. Oh, and while we’re at it, can we talk about the fact that the Yankees had a larger payroll by half than anyone else in baseball, and they still had to juice?

Booooooooooo.

To be clear, I’m booing the Yankees, not the sign. Because the sign says the Yankees suck. Which means I love the sign. Hooray sign, boo Yankees. There, I’m glad we cleared that up.

Brace yourself for some doom and gloom stuff later today. Bummer, I know, but I do claim to be climbing out of the Hell of addiction; it can’t all be fun and games and puppy dogs and sweet tea. I’m planning to update you on my physical condition, as well as talk about the consequences of my little 15-year sojourn to the wrong side of the tracks. I’m nine days sober now, so I have a little clarity that I didn’t have a week ago. Enough clarity to grasp that I really took a flamethrower to my professional life, a profession that took a lot of work to learn, and a lot of school. Real bummer.

Rest In Peace

His partially decomposed body was discovered eights years ago today, roughly two weeks after his death, which was most likely a result of an overdose of cocaine and heroin (the level of decomposition was such that toxicology reports were not entirely reliable). Layne struggled throughout his life with substance abuse.  He used substances and routes of administration that were often identical to mine. He self-medicated depression just like I did. I have outlived him by a year.

There is a mother who sees the picture above and sees a beautiful boy who she could do nothing to save. That is why I am writing this stuff down. A force that is capable of  overpowering a mother’s love is something we need to study. It is an enemy we need to know everything about we possibly can. And right now I am fighting that fight, against that enemy, and the stakes are identical. Drugs are a zero-sum game: one winner, one loser. And the house wins waaaaay too often.

I happen to be a fan of Layne’s. I couldn’t overstate my admiration for him, in fact, so I’m not going to embarrass myself trying. For me the fact that he and other people like him are gone forever because of this disease leaves me with an oppressive emptiness. Like there’s just a big void out there in the ether where their art and music were supposed to be. And don’t get me wrong, a lot of these people were complete shits who treated people like shit and reaped what they sowed. But Layne wasn’t like that. I don’t believe so anyway.

The lyrics to Would by AIC are some of the most powerful ever, by anyone who ever tried to explain why we do what we do. We, being addicts. Defending the indefensible. What we really want – just once – is for you to try and see it our way. Which we know is impossible, but we still yearn for that kind of understanding, just that one time, from someone on the outside of the fishbowl.  
 
WOULD
Know me broken by my master,
Teach thee on child of love hereafter;
Into the flood again,
Same old trip it was back then;
So I made a big mistake,
Try to see it once my way.

Drifting body it’s sole desertion,
Flying not yet quite the notion;

Into the flood again,
Same old trip it was back then;
So I made a big mistake,
Try to see it once my way.

Into the flood again,
Same old trip it was back then;
So I made a big mistake,
Try to see it once my way.

Am I wrong?
Have I run to far to get home?
Have I gone?
And left you here alone?
Am I wrong?
Have I run to far to get home?
Have I gone?
And left you here alone?

If I would, could you?

Put Title Here.

April 16, 2011

"Sunny days" my ass...

As the title of today’s post suggests, I feel a little blah. Not up, not down, just blah. I have found it very difficult to post the past three days. So it is with a certain amount of authority that I can tell you alcohol withdrawal and detox saps your will to live creativity. This morning at 10 a.m. sharp, we had visit number seven from the nurse who takes my vitals and gives me the drugs (vistaril, phenobarbitol, and clonidine) that have the combined effect of putting me in a coma preventing seizures and keeping my blood pressure down. In case you haven’t noticed, I figured out how to use the “strike-through” feature today.

I suppose I feel a little better today, although I mean that in the I’m-not-miserable sense, not the I’m-so-happy-and-can’t-wait-to-tackle-the-day sense. However, I could probably bring myself to tackle other people who feel so happy they’re ready to tackle the day. People with perfect exercise outfits really annoy me right now; I’d start with them. From there, I’d move on to people who use catch-phrases like “24/7,” “it is what it is” or “stop stealing my laptop.” Lots of other people annoy me too: short-sleeves with a tie? Tackled (what are you, a dentist?). If you drive a Prius, I’m probably going to tackle you; while you’re driving your Prius.

OH THE HUMANITY!!!

People who are good at golf, wear captain’s hats without irony, and who have an iPhone 4. Tackled, tackled, tackled. Wow this group is getting large. People who have anything I don’t have, possess a skill I don’t possess, or who have cheekbones that are a little too high or who are otherwise incredibly good-looking: tackled, tackled and tackled.  There.  All that is left are the people I can look down on. Great, now I feel nauseous. I’ll publish this and come back later. Maybe I’ll even title it.