Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salvation Diary Five

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

Dispelling my hunger, I went down and talked to Noah awhile. Noah is such a soothing influence in my life. I am so glad I have made her acquaintance and that we have become fast friends. I consider her advice invaluable, and she knows just how to cheer me when I’m blue. A witty, “Click-click-click,” of her black-horned tongue usually does the trick, or a cheery, “Hello!” A “Do dee do dee do dee dooo!” never fails to brighten my spirits, and of course the endearing wolf whistles, offered with sly mischievousness, are always welcome.
Noah, being a parrot, is a very discriminating creature. My roommate, Dennis Castle (the slayer of horses), came up to her one day and asked, “Hi Noah, what’s happening?”
“Fuck you, asshole!” was her steadfast reply.
Everybody was in a tither at work today, anticipating tonight’s Second Annual Achievment Awards Ceremony and Banquet, to be held in the chapel. Mr. Vasquez was running around, making sure everything was clean and shinny for the festivities. Mrs. Johnson came over and helped out in the kitchen. It’s all a very grand affair.
The purpose of the ceremony being to honor those residents who have achieved various lengths of sobriety: two to five months, those who have completed the six month program, and graduates who departed the center and have begun their journey into the “real world.”
The whole thing went rather well, actually. I was very impressed.
The beautiful Stacy arrived, escorted by Charles the counselor.
Alas, I have made the decision to give her up, as I feel she is too young and inexperienced for me. And too skinny. I shall attempt to let her down easy.
I must be honest now. I admit that I have fallen deeply in love with another. She is also a counselor. Stacy and I have not been, as of yet, intimate, so I have not been unfaithful to her, and I feel good about that.
The object of my affection goes by the name of Jill, a strikingly gorgeous, more mature woman, with shoulder length, flaming red hair, and large, bountiful breasts. I’m enamored of her, and I’m positive she feels something for me also, by the occasional looks she casts in my direction of coy disdain.
But I digress.
As I was saying, it all turned out rather well. I had expected a ho hum and boring presentation, but most of the evening was devoted to the guys, and some of them had the chance to speak, and what they had to say interested me. Most spoke of their appreciation of the Salvation Army, and how they were getting along amongst many and varied diversities. Almost everyone got a chance to go up on stage and shake the Major’s hand, shake George Staub’s hand, and get a certificate. Our own Jack Crosley got special mention and plaque, for always being ready to lend a helping hand when needed (carpet shampooer). I didn’t get didily.
I dreamt of Jill this evening. We were running toward each other in slow motion, within a field of golden flowers.
November 2 Friday Day 51
I slept as late as I could this morning, wanting to end this day as quickly as possible. I have come to my senses, and now realize that I should never have resumed smoking. That the excuses and rationalizations I employed are not now, and never were valid, and that they don’t work for me today. Accordingly, I’ve stopped smoking again, and my quest for sleep is a physical manifestation of the idea that if I’m not conscious I’m less likely to smoke.
It’s not too hard to stop smoking really if you never think about it.
I wrote a lot today, again not requiring a great deal of thought.
Surprisingly enough, I’ve discovered that I enjoy writing immensely. Besides being therapeutic, it is a nice challenge to be doing something somewhat useful, to force myself to do something on a daily basis, even if I don’t want to do it sometimes. I’ve never done this before. You could say there hasn’t been an over abundance of discipline in my life.
The more I write; the more I enjoy it.
I talked to Noah quite a bit today. We discussed the Gulf crisis. Noah thinks we should kick Saddam out of Kuwait, but under no circumstances invade Iraq. I don’t know if I agree.
Work went smoothly. A little hectic in the beginning, then slowing down to nothing.
Tomorrow I will continue the pursuit of the Zen concept of Empty Mind.
November 3 Saturday Day 52
I woke to the sound of my roommate Gordon being upset. He was upset because a mutual acquaintance of ours was being thrown out for suspected pilfering. This friend had worked as an upholster, and some of the furniture in his area was found stuffed with clothes. Gordon felt that the dismissal was unjustified, for various reasons, probably good ones. The staff felt that the dismissal was justified, and were quite adamant about it. Though I feel for the man, I’m staying neutral.
I don’t need a lot of controversy in my life right now.
I scored a whole bunch of alcohol, alcoholism, and A.A. related books last night, even a Big Book (the main text used by Alcoholics Anonymous). The man in charge of sorting through all the donated books in the warehouse brought them over, and I got first crack at borrowing them forever. They’re now stashed in my locker.
After lunch I went to the park and sat in the sun for the first time in about a week. The new sprinkler system that was in the process of being installed while I was living there is proving to be very effective. One can’t find a dry place to sit hardly, and if you do find one, be very alert. Don’t be listening to large, Mickey Mouse looking, radio headphones, and expect the sprinklers not to turn on suddenly, showering hapless victims repeatedly as they try unsuccessfully to gather their once dry belongings.
Back at the ranch, I showered and returned a call to my mother. She had called while I was at the park. She was wondering if I was all right since I hadn’t called her last week on my birthday. I hadn’t called her on purpose. I had been a little mad at her, and resentful, and was punishing her by not calling. Why had I been upset with my dear, sweet mother? Because she had lied to me, that’s why. She had sent me a card which stated that she “couldn’t think of a thing to send me,” for my birthday that is. Here I am with absolutely nothing, nada, and she can’t think of a thing to send me! I’m so sick of this Alanon, though love crap, I can’t believe it! Parents all over the place raise their kids with a predisposition toward alcoholism, screw up their early childhood by drinking around them, then kick them out into the world, saying, “Make something of yourself, your not me responsibility anymore. So don’t come around asking for any favors, or even anything for your birthday, like some boxer shorts, or something.”
Poor, poor, pitiful me.
As soon as I got on the desk at three-thirty, Gordon’s lovely daughter came in and caught me off guard (which isn’t hard to do) by saying, “Hi,” to me.
I said, “Hi, hi.” Can you believe that. How lame.
“I’ve come to see my daddy,” she said. She’s so cute.
I said, “Okay.”
Then she turned around and began to completely ignore me.
Such is the effect I have upon women.
The remainder of the evening was just as exciting.
November 4 Sunday Day 53
Some days are better than others.
Such wisdom.
At two minutes to five I was suddenly awakened by a sharp, insistent pounding on my feet. I lifted my head up, and exclaimed, “Uh, wawa,” as I perceived the Wolfman lumbering (and I mean lumbering) away.
This of course was my wake up call.
I made it to the desk by six. A nice, ordinary day today working with my buddy, Mr. Vasquez.
He had an appointment with the doctor tomorrow, so he asked me if I could help out if needed. I said, “Sure bet, boss.”
He also asked me if I would mind doing tomorrow’s devotions. I said, “Yes, of course,” being the very helpful individual that I am.
After work I forgot all about quitting smoking and lit up in the bathroom. I don’t know why I did this, and as I finished my fourth cigarette I began to wonder about it, because I started to feel bad.
As I lighted another I realized why I had began smoking again. I’m addicted to nicotine.
I got too busy feeding my addiction and reading a Dean Koontz novel to worry anymore over the matter.
But later, when I got into bed, I thought about it again, and again felt real shitty. I tend to do this to myself quite a bit.
November 5 Monday Day 54
Well there’s not much to talk about, because I slept through most of the damn day! At eleven-thirty I climbed out of the sack, and was still fairly disorientated.
Excuse me, I did get up briefly at ten after seven, and read, bleary-eyed, the morning devotion to an unappreciative audience, then went straight back to bed. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. Fatigue is also a symptom of the H.I.V. virus (everything is a symptom of the H.I.V. virus), but I’m not really fatigued. Once I’m up I feel good, and am quite energetic.
As I showered, I promised myself that I would get up at five tomorrow, no matter what, and do all the wonderful things that I want to do, like go to Union Station, exercise, read and write, stuff like that.
After dressing, I wrote until it was time to go to work.
Work picked me right up. I enjoy the job, and enjoy talking to people. Mr. Vasquez seems to like me, and my work. Not that the job is all that difficult. One just needs the proper temperament.
One of my new friends came by the desk, and we made plans to go to the movies on Sunday, and see the new film, “Jacob’s Ladder.” His name is Warren Bahr. When he first arrived at the center I thought he was a smart-ass, but I soon grew fond of him as we got to know each other. He is short, about 5’7”, with brown hair and eyes, a tad heavyset, with an amiable disposition. It doesn’t seem like too many things bother him. He appears dedicated to the program, and to his children, which he talks to over the phone almost everyday. He is divorced, but has a decent relationship with his ex. He is a member of the maintenance crew, and helps to fix all the things that go wrong around here. I admire that ability, to look at a machine and instantly know what is wrong with it and how to fix it. I cannot do that. I am liable to make the problem ten times worse just by getting near it. Warren is a bowler. He spends a lot of his time in the basement working on the pin-setting machine for our two bowling lanes. I sometimes sit and watch him work, and help out by handing him tools he asks for. He is a simple, basic, uncomplicated, easygoing fellow, in tune with his environment. Hell, I just like the guy, that’s all there is to it. I hope we stay friends.
He, like the rest of us here, has been decimated by the compulsive use of drugs and alcohol. Cocaine got him. He had been making good money doing what he enjoys, and what came naturally to him. A pretty sweet deal, by anyone’s reckoning. Coke took it all away. Now he tells me that he will go to any lengths to stay sober.
Just like me.
I wish him well.
November 6 Tuesday Day 55
I slept and wrote today. And ate some dinner.
November 7 Wednesday Day 56
I slept, and did not write today.
Because I’ve had so much trouble getting up in the morning lately, I thought it would be a good idea to wait until eleven p.m. and start writing, and write all night long. That’s what I did last night, or tried to. I got tired after eleven-oh five and went to bed, falling asleep shortly thereafter. I figure part of the problem may stem from my inability to get to sleep once I’m in bed. Sometimes I can’t get to sleep for many hours, and have stayed up as late as three o’clock. Of course, then I’m way to tired to get up at five when my alarm clock goes off. Maybe I’m suffering from some form of latent depression that does not manifest itself during my waking hours. Oh well, this really is the least of my problems.
Today the Salvation Army gathered together those of us who experienced birthdays in the month of October, and treated us to a nice steak dinner in the small dinning room (why this was not done in the actual month of October is unknown to me, but I’m sure there is a very good, logical answer… somewhere). It wasn’t a particularly nice steak; rather it was like something you might find at the local Sizzler restaurant, half stringy fat, but the whole, overall meal was very nice. The Major and his lovely wife (Mrs. Johnson (also a Major. Married officers share the same rank in the Salvation Army) also celebrated a birthday in October, on the sixth), his sister Bonnie, George, Clarence and his lovely wife, Pattie (who is the Major’s secretary), their daughter, and Dr. Ed (the man who would be taking over from George, who will be leaving us later in the month), were all in attendance. I had the dubious distinction of sitting at George’s table. I, unlike a lot of people around here, am quite fond of George, and consider him to be very knowledgeable toward issues concerning alcoholism and addiction (for a non-alcoholic), and I enjoy our brief conversations. Tonight I found out that he is looking forward to his upcoming move to Phoenix, and will be living closer to his wife’s family home, which is in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico (a place I enjoyed calling immensely while working for AT&T). I also learned that he would one day like to camp out, and have breakfast, on the rim of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona.
I, myself, have had breakfast on the rim of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. I have also flown over it in a small airplane, and have ridden down into it on the back of a donkey. My butt hurt for days afterwards.
My group counseling sessions have been mysteriously moved to Wednesdays, starting tonight. We talked about how we felt about group. I said that I liked it, that I got more out of group counseling than I did any other aspect of the center’s program (except what I do for myself, like attending A.A. meetings, and writing). George does have a tendency to dominate the conversation though, but he always has a lot of interesting things to say.
We also discussed the alcoholics, or drug addicts ability to consciously forget, ignore, or not care about, all the pain and misery that using brings about, thus making it so much easier to take that first drink, or drug, again, and again. All we do remember are the so called “good times,” (euphoric recall). This is a major problem for us. I can’t begin to remember how many times in the last year I’ve relapsed with booze, using the same old tired excuses: it won’t happen again (it always does), just this one time (it never is), I can control it (I never do), I’ll stop before it gets out of hand (I can’t). I have done this over and over.
Now I consider the experiences I’ve had with relapse to be my best defense against them reoccurring. I may have come to a point (I pray) were my pain and discomfort have reached a high enough degree that I do not wish to experience them again. I believe that I now may have gotten it through my head that total relapse, and all the horror that goes along with it, will occur, without fail, after I take the first drink. If I continue to remember what will happen, and keep caring about myself as a human being, I’ll be alright.
To make not taking that first drink the most important thing in my life, and go to any lengths to maintain that attitude, can be my only goal.
Nice talk. Talk is sometimes all that alcoholics do.
Tonight, while everyone else had gone to bed, I stood looking down from the second floor into the atrium, and got an idea for a story to write. It’s always a good idea to get an idea for a story. We shall see what comes of it.
November 8 Thursday Day 57
I won a game of video chess today. Slaughtered the fucker! Well, maybe not slaughtered… barely squeaked through is more like it, but it felt like a slaughter.
That was the high point of my day.
I actually talked to Stacy this evening. She’s a nice girl. Now I understand how young she is. She hates school, doesn’t study, has a B average, likes Morro Bay and Monterey (like I do), is going to take a break from school after the semester, and uses words like, “awesome.”
It reminds me of myself when I used to use phrases like, “to the max,” and “far out.” She makes me feel old.
I still say those things. And “groovy,” too.
I noticed some pimples on her face, which seemed to make her more approachable. Strange. But I don’t think I’m in love with her anymore (even though she’s the prettiest girl who comes around here). I’m much too busy being in love with Jill… and Gordon’s daughter, Dori, and this girl who was at the A.A. panel this evening.
Her name was Christen. She was very thin, and blonde, and pretty, with longer hair than Stacy’s. She has green eyes. I like green eyes.
Debra, my second wife, had green eyes. Probably still does.
Christen stated that tonight was the first time she had ever spoken on a panel. A panel virgin. I, myself, am a panel virgin. She was a little nervous, as virgins are. Her voice was soft, just above a whisper. I was sure that some jerk in the back of the room would shout out, “Speak up!” or “I can’t hear you!” thereby interrupting her, and increasing her nervousness, but no one did. I sat in the first row, directly in front of her, so I had no difficulty at all in hearing what she said.
What she said was that she was fourteen months sober, and that she had never been on a panel before. I don’t remember her exact words because her speech was somewhat disjointed, and not completely coherent, but I was able to put together most of it.
Her father is an alcoholic, and had been recovering up until a week ago. Today he suffered a massive heart attack. As she spoke her voice grew stronger and more self-assured as her nervousness subsided and her pain became more apparent. I could feel the strength of her pain and anger.
I admired her ability to know what to do in a time of crisis. She made the choice to come to this panel and be with other alcoholics, rather than delve into self-pity and remorse. Christen choose to strengthen her resolve and not take a drink, or use some drug to help ease the pain she was most certainly experiencing. She choose to talk to us instead. To share her experience, strength, and hope, in order that we who listened to her story may gain. And by doing this she gained also.
This symbiotic relationship we addicts have is the very essence of A.A.
She said that she did not have many material possessions, no husband, not even a boyfriend. She said that she lived in a small, claustrophobic, bachelor apartment, just as I had once done.
I could relate to what she must have been feeling, her loneliness and isolation. That is what drew me to her.
We were different though, her and I. She knew how to deal with her situation in a positive manner. Her to break her isolation, and search out other people who could help her. I did not know how to do that, and all to often wallowed in my loneliness, and embraced my isolation, cherishing both and eventually turning to the bottle.
She knows how to stay sober for fourteen months.
I do not.
I learned a lot from her, and I learn from others like her.
I held her hand at the meetings end, as we all recited The Lord’s Prayer.
This is about the only time I get to hold a girl’s hand anymore.
It felt good.
I told her that I admired her courage, to get up and speak in front of sixty strange men.
She said, “Thank you.”
I told her that I hoped things turned out alright for her father.
She said, “Thank you,” again.
I will most likely never, ever, see her again. I wish her exceedingly well. I wish her father well. I wish everybody well (except Saddam, all other ruthless dictators, and child and animal molesters).
I love her, for being who she is, and for showing up.
November 9 Friday Day 58
I was going to get up real early and go downtown to the V.A., and see about getting my General Discharge from the navy upgraded to an Honorable. When I woke up though, I found myself for some reason glued to my bed, and was not able to leave it.
When I did finally free myself, I smoked a little, read a little, and wrote some. I won a game of video chess, and lost four. I talked with some people, and some people talked with me. I talked with Noah the parrot, and she talked with me. We discussed the Special Theory of Relativity, and that a lot of what happens in this world can only be labeled good or bad, depending on your personal frame of reference.
Noah wondered whether the degree of heartburn suffered by munching down too many sunflower seeds was the same for a bird traveling on a train at 90% of the speed of light, as it was for a bird sitting in a stationary fashion (relatively) at a train station.
We couldn’t figure it out.
At work, Jack told me that he’s quitting the desk to become a driver next Monday. He told me that he couldn’t get along with Victor (there had been a slight altercation a day or two before), and that he had been on the desk too long anyway, and wanted a change.
I will miss him at the desk, even though we didn’t work together very often. He has been a calming, and steady influence for me. But I’m sure he’s making the right decision for himself.
I have gotten along with Victor pretty well recently. We talk about “Star Trek,” and exobiology. He insists that one day it may be possible for Klingons and Vulcans to mate with humans and produce viable offspring. I maintain it would be easier for an elephant to mate with a flea, due to the incompatibility of our respective genetic material.
But one never knows.
November 11 Saturday Day 59
During the morning hours everyone was cleaning and painting around here, so it was hard to find a nice quiet bathroom stall to sit down in and contemplate the meaning of the word “Omm.” After ten, things settled down a bit, and I was able to proceed with this task.
I found, much to my amazement, that there is no meaning to the word “Omm.”
There is no sound issued from one hand clapping, either.
However, I did discover a hardy, somewhat absorbed, sonorous thunking noise derived from slapping one hand against a toilet bowl.
Abandoning these lofty investigations into the realm of perfect meaning, I descended towards the omnivorous video chess machine, only to discover the meaning of the word “humiliation,” as the hideous device had its way with me.
After lunch I went to the park to see what I could see. There was an Arts and Crafts Fair situated there for the weekend, and I desired to check out the arts and crafts (I wanted to check out the women). There was square dancing, and Jazz music, and nice paintings and photographs, tee shirts, mobiles, candles, jewelry, and various arts, and various crafts.
I made a stop at the thrift store on the way back, and picked up some more dress clothes. One sport coat, two pairs of socks (brown and white), a couple of shirts, pants, and ties.
Mr. Vasquez finally got around to purchasing a new parakeet today (at the Major’s urging, I’m sure). A Norwegian Blue. I went down to the atrium and looked at it. It seemed a little nervous in its new home. It just sat a the bottom of the large cage, eyeing me with audacious suspicion. The other parakeet did nothing to help matters, looking down from high on its perch, with haughty malevolence.
I said, “Hello,” to the new bird. The bird said nothing in return.
I noticed that the bottom of the cage where the bird was standing, was damp.
I hoped that soon the bird would fly up to its perch to join its parakeet partner. It probably just needed to be alone with Esmerelda for a little while, and get used to its new surroundings. I would come back and check on him in the morning.
Hoping that it was a male, I christened the new bird, Thornton.
I said, “Hello Thornton.”
November 11 Sunday Day 60
Thornton was found this morning, still on the bottom of its cage, only today he was dead. I was the one who found him.
Maybe we should have dried the bottom of the cage, or something.
Poor Thornton, bless his little parakeet soul. We hardly knew ye.
Mr. Vasquez will attempt to get another bird from the bird store, free of charge.
It won’t be Thornton, though.
Today seemed like a normal Sunday (except for Thornton’s untimely demise) I was a little tired, but felt all right. Until the Major threatened me with physical violence, that is. After chapel, he was walking out of the building with another Major buddy of his. One of the guys had left the door open, and I hadn’t noticed. Whenever I do notice, I close it. It’s closed 99% of the time. The Major closed it and pointed to me, saying, “If you value your head, or any other part of your anatomy, keep this door closed!” I nodded like a dumb ass.
He was worried about the building’s air conditioning system becoming over taxed as it attempted to cool all of Pasadena.
What upsets me about this is that all week I do a very good job (or try to), and work very hard at making sure there are no major malfunctions around this place, and am usually fairly successful at it. Twice a week this dimwitted, moronic asshole comes over here, airing a distinctly superior air that he insists he does not have while in chapel, and goes about making snap judgments about everything. His whole impression of me now must be that of a total incompetent boob, who can’t even keep a simple door closed, thereby increasing his electricity bill ruinously.
Am I rushing to judgment as he is? Am I being too harsh? Too bitter?
Yes, and delightedly so!
I shouldn’t get too worked up about it I suppose. I tend to be a bit thin skinned, due to my basic lack of self-esteem. It doesn’t really matter anyway, what this guy thinks (typical alcoholic attitude).
Unless they decide to throw my ass out of here.
The rest of the day was alright. I didn’t do much. I was tired and a little overwrought. I watched the end of “Jaws,” “Married with Children,” and finished Twilight Eyes, the Koontz novel I had been reading. Tomorrow, I tell myself, I will quit smoking and get my life back in control.
What makes me feel my life is out of control? I’m smoking, spending money, not exercising, not reading the literature I told myself I would read, failing the schedule I had made for myself, sleeping too much, and farting around too much.
And stressing out about it.
All that makes me feel bad (I make myself feel bad).
So tomorrow I’ll fix all that stuff. Really! The first step is to quit smoking again.
November 12 Monday Day 61
I didn’t fix anything today. When I woke up, when I finally woke up, I was filled with resolve. I intended to fast for three days, give up smoking, and stop drinking coffee. I woke up at twelve, and at the two o’clock break I was choking down donuts and swilling coffee. I had resumed smoking by eight.
But I continue not to drink! That is the main issue, I know can do anything (eventually) as long as I don’t drink, or use psychoactive drugs.
I have sixty days sober today!!! One of my janitor friends, a Mr. Rockoff, gave me one of his extra Sixty Day chips. A good thing too, as I seem to be having difficulty getting to a meeting that gives out chips, or any outside meetings lately. If I had a sponsor type person, as A.A. suggests I have, they would probably tell me something like, “Go to 90 meetings in 90 days,” meaning that I should go to as many meetings as possible while in early sobriety (or one meeting a day). He would also say something like, I should find a meeting that gives out chips, and take chips when warranted, because it’s not only for my benefit, but also for those in attendance with less sober time, so they know it’s possible for them to get a chip as well.
It’s excellent advice. I’m just not following it at the present time.
The last time I sponsored someone, I relapsed.
Mr. Vasquez went and got a new bird today. He exchanged Thornton’s little dead body for it (straight out of a scene from Monty Python: “This bird’s dead.” “No it in’t” Yes it is.” “No it in’t.” “My dear fellow, I know a dead budgie when I see one,” on and on). I guess he didn’t bother to tell the pet shop people that we had allowed Thornton to stand in what amounted to a lake of water all night, catch parakeet pneumonia, and keel over and die.
Our new bird is blue, just like Thornton used to be. And like Thornton, it started out life in the residence at the bottom of the birdcage. Must be some kind of budgie initiation ritual. There is wild speculation that the other, yellow and green bird, Esmerelda, killed off Thornton in the middle of the night, but I don’t believe it for a minute. She doesn’t have the close-set eyes of a killer parakeet (although she does sport a slight smirk).
Hoping that it is a male, I’ve named the new bird, Jasper.
I said, “Hello, Jasper.”
Mr. Vasquez and I work well together. He is opening up more and more, telling me of his past, and to even things out, I do the same (tell him of my past, not his).
I’m afraid I’ve fallen in love with another counselor. Her name is Shirley, and she is a very nice, attractive, brunette lady. She usually works on Tuesdays, but she stopped by tonight.
It’s so easy to fall in love.
November 13 Tuesday Day 62
Jasper is still alive! I got up early to check him out. He’s even sitting up on a perch, though a discrete distance from Esmerelda. I hope we’ll have good luck with this bird.
After breakfast I took a little nap.
After lunch, I wrote a little, down in the lobby, where Shirley happened to be, looking bright, beautiful, and as spunky as ever.
I like spunky women. They have so much SPUNK!
I like ones that aren’t spunky, as well.
Later in the evening, I could be found in the lobby once again, innocently reading a collection of 24 Terror Tales, while surreptitiously waiting for Jill to arrive.
When she came in, she pretended not to notice me.
Her cool aloofness turns me on.
I’m sure I affect her also, although probably not the way I’d like.
At nine, my friend Warren Bahr, and my roommate Dan (a very good looking, reticent, red haired person), went to a local coffee bar (as opposed to an out-of-state coffee bar), and drank coffee and played cribbage. The place looked like something out of the sixties, people in strange dress, using drugs, and singing protest songs (“Save Our Boys in Saudi Arabia”). I hadn’t played cribbage since I’d been in the navy, but I managed to keep up. We played two games, Dan won the first, and Warren and I tied for the second. We got back to the residence ten minutes before curfew.
I stayed up until one, finishing an apocalyptic novelette of Stephen King’s, entitled The Mist. Very interesting, and very creepy.
Based on a true story I’m told.
I went to bed determined to get up and go to the VA in the morning. I had a right attitude. It’s good to be alive.
November 14 Wednesday Day 63
Up early, and Jasper’s still alive. He is sitting a little closer to Esmerelda this morning too. Sly devil.
I wrote and read today, and lost a game of video chess. Chapel was brief. The Major and Mrs. Johnson were not there.
They were A.W.O.L.
I guess I forgot about going to the V.A. today.
George was not at our group counseling session either. He’s letting Dr. Edmund Reitz gradually take over his responsibilities. He began the group by writing two words on the blackboard, “Blame,” and “Responsibility.” He asked each of us (about twelve) how we used these two concepts. He told us that we were wasting our time by blaming other people, places, things, and ourselves. Instead, we should take responsibility for our situations, and do everything in our power to effect a change in our lives.
Our answers, almost to a man, did not follow the Dr’s game plan. None of used blame as a cop-out.
“Ultimately,” I said, “I could blame my natural parents, whom I’ve never met, for providing me with a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism and drug addiction. I could also conceivably blame my adopted parents for the drinking and smoking I was subjected to when very young. My God, my dad owned a liquor store! I could blame my dad, for dying when I was eleven. I could blame society, for condoning alcohol and tobacco use, advertising agencies for depicting drinking as being sexy, and smoking as glamorous. But again, ultimately the responsibility is all mine. After realizing that I do have a problem with alcohol, that problem becomes mine, and mine alone. No one else can help me if I don’t want to help myself. For a long time I did not want to help myself. But I now realize that denial plays a big part in this disease, so I can’t really get down on myself for the time I wasted continuing to drink. Once I became aware of the nature of alcoholism, any failure to take appropriate action to abstain from drinking lies on my shoulders alone. To blame is an exercise in frustration. Nothing gets done while blaming people. If I were on a ship that struck an iceberg, and was knocked overboard, I could spend all day blaming the iceberg for being there, or the lookout for not seeing it, or the captain for running into it, but it would still be my responsibility to start swimming. My being here at the A.R.C. is an example of my taking responsibility for my life. Right now, I feel that this is the best place for me to be. I can learn about patience here. I can hopefully come to grips with this problem in a realistic manner, using all the available means at my disposal.”
All of us that were there, basically, stated that it was our responsibility to take care of ourselves, and deal with our addictions, as well as any other of life’s problems.
I beat Warren Bahr at cribbage, the read until I fell asleep.
November 15 Thursday Day 64
Back to work today. I slept in a little, then talked to Noah, and looked in on the two little parakeets. They seem to be doing well. Nervous creatures.
I began to read, The Damnation Game, by Clive Barker. I like his prose style. The book has to do with gambling it seems.
One of our male counselors is taking over for George in the substance abuse seminar. His name is Richard Bennett, an older, black man. More Christian orientated than most of the other counselors, he talked tonight about fear. He asked what fear meant to us. A few vague replies came forth, “The unknown,” “Death,” “Pain.” If he had asked me, I would have said fear is a survival mechanism. Animals need to feel fear when the situation warrants.
I have a small fear when I am on the edge of something that drops down a great distance, or rather, a height where there is no railing to hold on to. This trepidation does not interfere with any other aspect of my life, so it does not appear to be what could be called a phobia. I can control this fear, or actually, manage it, while I am doing something that necessitates my being in a position that triggers it. An example: the mule ride I mentioned earlier, that Jan and I had taken down into the Grand Canyon. When starting the descent we were assured that no mule had ever walked off the path, taking itself, and its rider, down the cliff face, a shear drop of probably a thousand feet or more. It was a scary ride, no doubt about it. Looking down those cliffs, knowing that one misstep, or if the mule spooked for any reason, my life would end. This produced a good bit of anxiety within me. But in my mind, intellectually, I knew that the ride had to be fairly safe, or the folks who provided the service would be out of business (although it does provide a small amount of genuinely sick pleasure for me to imagine this admonition of the mule train driver, as one in his party falls helplessly over the side, their frantic screams diminishing the farther they drop. “There goes another one. Now see how important it is to stay together! Some people can’t follow simple instructions!”) I could hold on to the animal with my hands and legs, which allowed me some form of action, thus lessening my tension.
When we approached the end of the trail, though, which emptied onto a plateau overlooking the Colorado River, I would not get near its edge for love or money. Jan said to me, “Come over here and look at this,” referring to the breathtaking view, as she stood right at the lip of an unprotected, 500-foot straight fall. I walked over and stopped two feet behind her, looking down into empty space. At times like this my mind plays funny games with me. It lets me know how easy it is to fall over the edge. A simple stumble, a quiet gust of wind, a slight bump from someone behind me, a deliberate push from a homicidal maniac mass serial killer, an earthquake, avalanche, alien invasion, anything. I could easily visualize myself falling, arms flaying outward trying to grab hold of something, too scared to shout or yell, watching the jagged rocks beneath me getting closer and closer, faster and faster. I would flap my arms like a bird, and try to arrange my body in position to do the least damage, failing miserably as I landed face first upon the hard, unforgiving stony terrain, splattering all over the place with a squishy plopping thud!
“Come closer,” she commanded.
“No way,” I told her.
“Chicken,” she teased.
“You got that right, my little apple dumpling.”
A little while later she told me that as I walked away from her she tripped and almost fell over. In my mind, I saw her falling, and heard her terrible screams. I thought about what life would be like without her, how much I loved her, how much I would miss her, and what I would have to tell her parents. I felt guilty for letting her get that close to the edge to begin with. All these thoughts came in a single second.
It did nothing to make the trip back up the canyon any easier.
My point is that fear is a necessary and important aspect of life. As is pain. They help to keep us alive. If I am nervous about going to high places where it would be possible for me to fall, it is less likely I will go to those places, and less likely I will fall and die.
I will never be a construction worker on a skyscraper.
I will never climb mountains, and I think that those who do are absolutely bug nuts.
I like fear. I think its nifty, especially when you’re with a cute girl at a scary movie.
Unlike pain. Pain is almost always painful.
The opposite of fear, I think, is security. I like security more than fear, and much more than pain.
But too much of anything usually turns out to be detrimental to one’s well being.
Too much fear makes a fellow jumpy.
Too much security makes him stagnate.
The only thing that I ever had too much of that didn’t hurt me in some way was good, old air.
But tell that to the man in a hurricane.
November 16 Friday Day 65
This morning I got up and went to the bathroom, as I am often do. This is a place of sanctuary. Where a man can rest, think at leisure, and plan for his future. A place where dreams are brought to a practical conclusion. A place where one’s identity can be concealed, privacy assured, and meditation possible, all done with pants neatly tucked around the ankles. John Steinbeck has written that the bathroom is one of the few places were women can be frank with each other. Where pretense is discarded, and the feminine fa├žade forgotten. Where women can talk without fear of being overheard by men.
I don’t know what that has to do with my particular situation at the moment, but that’s what Steinbeck wrote.
There I sat, perfect in my tranquility, at peace, pursuing the state of harmony that is No Mind. Zazen. Searching for enlightenment. My eyes were closed, and my breathing soft. I concentrated on a point near the back of my skull. Gradually I sensed a brightening from behind my closed eyelids. A soft white light, emanating from a virtual point, far away, which was coming closer to me, without sound, without heat. It was is I were floating with no weight in my body, no mass, no sensation, through a dark tunnel toward a light, which with each passing moment (though I felt no sense of passing time), gains in its cold (though I feel no sense of temperature) brilliance. I then believed I could hear a sound coming from far away. I felt the sound growing in intensity, a surging, crashing, violent cadence, a seething explosion of noise, like a gigantic tidal wave breaking over an entire city, over and over, faster and faster, louder and louder. My body vibrated….THE LIGHT…..THE LIIIIGGHHHHHHHTTTTTT!!!! I’M ALMOST THEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRREEEEEEEEEE…..
“Attention in the residence. Attention in the residence. In approximately five minutes the water in the building will be turned off for approximately fifteen minutes. Thank you.”
My body deflated as it was wrenched back from the infinite.
I heard Warren Bahr stumbling around, working in one of the shower stalls. I felt sure that it is he who was responsible for the last message over the P.A. system.
I continued to hear him tinkering for the next five minutes.
I kept quiet and smoked an unauthorized cigarette (cigarette smoking is only allowed in the restrooms after ten p.m. It was nowhere near ten p.m.).
“Hey Tommy! Bommarito! Come here for a second please,” I heard Warren call.
“Whatayawant?” Thomas Bommarito, the residence laundry person asked, as he entered the room. He is a thin, recovering junkie, with a receding hairline.
“Do me a favor, will ya?” Warren asked.
“What do you want, Bahr?”
“I need you to… see this valve. I need you to turn this valve off when I turn the water back on.”
“So it won’t squirt out all over the place, you lop.”
“I’m not going to get wet, am I?”
“Why what?”
“Why am I not going to get wet? You’re going to go downstairs and turn on the water, right?”
“And then the water is going to come shooting out all over the place, and all over me, right?”
“No man. You won’t get wet,” Warren assure with deceptive childlike innocence.
“Why don’t we just turn it off now?” Tommy retorted, not one to be taken in easily.
“Because, if we did that, it would melt the washer.”
“Because I just heated this valve here, see. And if I close it now, it will melt this washer. Once I turn on the water, it will cool the valve, and then we can close it.”
“Okay.” Tommy thought a moment. “Explain to me why I won’t get wet again?”
“Well, don’t stand under it, for one thing.”
“You see! I will get wet. It will squirt out all over and soak the shit out of me.”
“No it won’t, you lop. Right now the systems not under any pressure, so all the air has to come out first, see. You’ll have the air coming out alooooonnnngggg time before the water does. But you’ve got to hold this, just like that. All right?”
“All right.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
A few moments passed of uninterrupted silence.
Then I discerned a snake-like hissing sound. Then a sput, spat, sputtering sound, then a “Godddaammmmnnnnn iiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttt!!!!!!!!! Goddamn it Bahr! Baaaaaahhhhhhhhrrrrr! Motherfucking, cocksucker! Baaaaaaaahhhhhhrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!
Kevin Rockoff came in, and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I’m soaked! That’s what’s the matter! I knew this was going to happen. Goddamn Cahr!”
Warren returned, effortlessly deflating vindictive expletives from Tom, while he began flushing the toilets for some reason. One of the toilets, two stalls down from my position, would not stop flushing, and soon overflowed. I could hear it start to splatter on the floor, and looked down toward my feet. A pool of water had reached the floor drain, but the flow was faster than the drain could accommodate and began creeping towards me.
It invaded my stall.
I stood on my toilet, buttoning and zipping my pants. I opened my stall door, and leaped to safety.
I passed Warren on my way out. He was puttering around under one of the sinks.
“Goddamn it, Bahr,” I said.
“Yeah,” Tom followed.
Warren later confided in me, “I knew he’d get wet.” He smiled when he said it.
I had planned to go to the park after lunch, but it was too cloudy. I stayed at the residence and read instead. I also wrote.
Skip (Charles) Grinnell is taking over Jack’s position at the desk. A slim, dark haired, Caucasian fellow. A honky. He wears a mustache. He has held a job at the desk before, it seems, during an earlier appearance here at the A.R.C. He seems highly intelligent and capable.
I relieved him at three-thirty, and Victor and I started our long evening.
It was hectic for the first few hours. At four, several events occurred simultaneously. The boys came home from work demanding their room keys, a Major Lund checked in for a stay with us (freeloader), and Major Johnson came by to greet him.
I usually only see major Johnson, in my official capacity, on Sunday mornings, which is usually enough for me. As chance would have it, someone had left the front door open, right as the Major stepped in.
“Try and keep this door closed, will you, Rick.”
“Yes, sir,” I said. I will kill the next person who leaves it open.
Otherwise it was a rather unexceptional night.
We lost two people by the end of it. They didn’t return by the midnight curfew. I wish them well.
I’ve forgotten to relate something.
A few days ago I passed on the street, Mr. T. Piles. He was the man I had caught drinking with the breath-a-lizer a few days previously.
I didn’t really know what to expect from this confrontation. Would he be angry? Would he get violent? How would I react in his position?
What he did was shake my hand. He admitted to me that he had had a hell of a lot to drink that night. I asked him what he was going to do now. He said, he didn’t know, that he might come back to the center after his thirty-day suspension was over, and after George Staub had left. I wished him good luck.
I’ve seen him since, wandering around.
In the Park.
November 17 Saturday Day 66
I got out of bed at a little after ten. Not that I hadn’t woken up any earlier. Warren had stuck his head into the dorm on two occasions, trying to rouse Dan for one reason or another. Probably to go bike riding.
And I had woken at breakfast time, but considered what was most likely being served, pancakes or French toast. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed for fried bread. Eggs maybe.
After I did get up, I went downstairs and ate a couple of chocolate donuts from the pile set out near the canteen for the extra duty workers. Then I walked to the store to buy some more smokes, telling myself I would quit tomorrow.
Always tomorrow.
I read a little bit after I came back from deciding that I’d quit smoking tomorrow. I planned a leisurely afternoon, have some lunch, maybe play a game of video chess, wash up and get dressed for work, write, then fuck off until three-thirty.
Victor changed my plans for me.
Mr. Vasquez had spent last night out on the town (out catting around probably. Shameful for a man his age), so Victor, being such a swell guy and all, covered for him during the morning shift. But Victor had traffic school to attend at noon, and he asked me if I could help out for a while so he could go. Always ready to lend a helping hand, I acquiesced.
I began at twelve-thirty, and except for a few minuscule breaks, didn’t stop until midnight.
Mr. Vasquez returned about two minutes after I started. He gave me three canteen cards for helping out, the disappeared into his room until three o’clock.
The Salvation Army Corps, up on Walnut Street, was holding some kind of Thanksgiving dinner tonight, and when Mr. Vasquez did come down to work, he was kept fairly busy shepherding volunteer workers (dishwashers and bus people) back and forth.
The Corps (the actual Salvation Army community church) gave the ARC ten tickets to the dinner, but only one of our guys wanted to go, Jesus Ibara, a diminutive, Latin person.
Robert also picked up the weekend video.
Which was “Total Recall,” starring Arnold Schaurtzhisname. I had suggested it.
Robert was out of my hair for most of the evening, so I wrote.
When I got off at work at twelve, I wrote some more. I decided to stay up all night and do it. Right now, in real time, it is 4:08:44 a.m., on the eighteenth. I may do this more often, it is so quiet and peaceful, although I am confined to one of the upstairs restrooms.
They’re having a big party at the house next door. I can hear Mariachi music faintly drifting through the morning mist.
November 18 Sunday Day 67
Now I remember why I don’t stay up all night a whole heck of a lot. I tend to get very tired when I do.
I wrote until I ran out of paper (I vowed to never run out of paper again. Never, ever), then read. Soon it was time to go back to work. I didn’t shower, but shaved. I noticed some blackheads high on my cheeks, and squeezed several of them until they burst and spewed forth dead white corpuscular material here and there. When my face got so sore that I couldn’t squeeze the blackheads anymore, I noticed a red spot on the right side of my face, and wondered of it.
Along with flakiness of the scalp, the information I had gathered concerning AIDS symptoms told me that dry patches could also appear on the face. Thinking about this red spot, and about the possibility that I may be infected with the HIV virus, got me super depressed. I kept looking at the spot, poking it, and comparing it to the other side of my face. Was there a red spot there too? Maybe. Maybe just the beginning of one.
I looked and looked.
The spot didn’t look real bad (as if I knew a good looking spot, from a bad looking one), maybe it had been there all along. I decided to put it out of my mind and not worry about it anymore. Then I went to work.
Talking to Wolf Pandolfi did not exactly brighten my spirits. Wolf is a big, bearish man, on the high side of fifty. He told me about his new freezer, and how much meat he can cram into it. He told me of his love life (the visualization this inspired was truly frightening), how good he is at his job, how much he hated George Staub, what he was going to do for the rest of the day. There was no stopping him. If I were to actually enter into the conversation and attempt to relate some exploit from my life, he would stop talking long enough for me to have my say, then resume his narrative at where he left off, and at the same steady pace. He is relentless. If I try and escape by reading the newspaper or a book, or busy myself with something, it does no good. His assault is merciless. He will continue to talk no matter what I do. I can only pray for seven o’clock to hurry up and get there so I could go to breakfast, and be rid of the Wolfman for at least another day.
The front door managed to keep itself closed while the Major was here. I couldn’t wait for him to leave the building this morning so I could sit down. I have a tendency to stand whenever he’s around, as if I were being alert.
After he left I sat down in my chair and relaxed so much that I almost fell asleep.
At one point Mr. Vasquez looked up at me from where he was sitting at his desk, and said, “I shouldn’t have eaten that bread pudding at lunch.” He is diabetic. I asked him if he felt bad. He said, yes, he did. He said he was having trouble seeing.
This scared me a little. It didn’t seem to faze him though. He continued to run around like he always did. Later he told me that he couldn’t see, and that he was going upstairs. I reminded him to get some medicine, and get some rest.
“I did take my medicine,” he told me. “You can’t take too much, no.”
He continued, “I’ll go up and start running some samples [urine], and maybe rest a little. Give me a call at number twenty-six, at around twenty to five, will you?”
I told him, yes, that I would be happy to do that.
He seemed to be alright after his rest.
I called my mom when finished working. She is well. She told me that in a little while she was going to go into her backyard and pick up Skeeter’s poop (her small Pomeranian type dog), and then go over to Alice and Lester’s (closest friends) house for dinner.
I asked her to have a good time, and to make sure she washed her hands.
She asked me what I wanted for Christmas. At first, I told her that I couldn’t think of anything. I was being obstinate. Later, I offhandedly mentioned that I could use a small tape recorder (for writing purposes), and she said that she had just seen one at the store the other day. I also told her that I could use some underwear, that I couldn’t get any around here. She asked me what size I wore.
She let me know that she might come to visit around Christmas time. It would be nice to see her.
I took a little walk. When I returned I ate early dinner, and then watched “Star Trek, the Next Generation.” I had wanted to watch the television adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, “It,” at nine, but nobody else seemed very interested in watching. Most of the guys here felt the same way, that King’s material is too psychologically intricate to transfer well to another medium. Our crowd here at the Salvation Army is extremely astute.
I read for a while, then went to bed. I had a little trouble falling to sleep.
November 20 Tuesday Day 68
I got out of bed for lunch, the went to talk to Noah. I washed up, and got ready for work, then wrote a bit. At two, I stopped and went to the dinning room, and had some coffee and a donut, then took my position behind the desk.
I continued to write until Mr. Vasquez came back from across the street with the day’s mail, appointment slips, passes for the upcoming weekend, and the counseling books that the counselors use to document their client’s progress, or lack thereof. George treats these books as if they were the Crown Jewels. I am one of the few clients who have access to them, and accordingly one day when no one was around, I took a tiny peek at my file. It contained about five rather innocuous entries, each stating something like, “Doing very well,” or, “Doing fine.” That was good to know. What a relief.
No problems at work this evening. Counselors came and went, as counselors do. Bible Study (which I had to miss. Mr. Vasquez took off for Smart & Final, and Star Video) and group Counseling. The last counselor left at ten-fifteen, quite later than usual. She had come in especially to see a client who had checked out of the program earlier in the evening, at five-forty three, to be exact. Obviously she had missed him, and seemed upset and concerned about his leaving. But that’s how us alcoholics and drug addicts are until we finally make the decision to stop using. We come, and we go.
It began to rain at about ten o’clock.
An older gentleman, bearded and dirty, came in from the street to my desk seeking shelter from the rain. I felt sorry for him, but there was little I could do for him other then tell him to come back in the morning to enter the program. He had been here before, and I had told him the same thing. The strength of my concern for him was tempered by his lack of motivation to help himself. As my mother has often told me, “You have to want to help yourself first.”
The old man stood outside under the building eaves for a while, protecting himself from the fine drops of plummeting water. He stood, wondering what to do, I imagine, or waiting for something to happen, just as I had once done on many occasions while I had been an amateur homeless individual.
My roommate, Gordon, came by, and spoke to the man briefly. Gordon told him of the Ryder trucks that I used to sleep in, which I had told Gordon about. The man left. Maybe he went there.
That’s where I’d go.
Shortly after ten, Mr. Vasquez left to pick up Matthew Moore from his outside job. Matthew usually uses a bicycle to get back and forth from work, but it was not operational tonight. Its chain was broken. Besides, it was raining. While Robert was gone I had the place all to myself.
I stood outside and watched and listened to the rain.
November 20 Tuesday Day 69
I made it up for breakfast, then walked to the store to purchase some cigarettes. I came back and smoked a few, then laid down on my nice bed and read a little, slowly drifting off to sleep.
When I awoke, I showered and dressed.
I met Jerold Schimmele, the resident’s senior janitor, at the elevator. I told him that my mother had said hello.
He looked at me quizzically. “Your mom said hello, to me?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“But she don’t know me.”
“Ah, there’s where your wrong, Mr. Schimmele. She knows you intimately. She knows everything about you.”
“She does?”
“Indeed. I mailed her the evidence in case I don’t survive.” The elevator door closed between us.
I sat in the lobby to write. After a while my counselor, Richard, came out with another client he had been talking to. We said hello to each other, and went inside the dinning room and started our session.
He told me how fine he was, and I told him how fine I was. We were both fine (some say that means, “Fucked up, Insecure, Nervous, and Emotional”).
He likes to talk about his Higher Power. He depends on his a lot.
I have some trouble (as do many) with this concept. I do believe in higher powers, or rather, a power greater than myself. There are many powers greater than myself. The influence alcohol has over me is one of them. Whenever I consent to take that first drink, I am powerless over what happens next, and my life becomes very unmanageable. My whole life is an example of that. Therefore, for me to maintain some semblance of manageability in my life I must never take that first drink! One day at a time. More fundamentally, I am also powerless over gravity as long as I stay near the surface of this planet (and even if I weren’t, gravity would still keep me in an elliptical orbit around the sun, as it acts over very large distances),
and I do not often put my belief in that particular powerlessness to the test. I am also powerless over other people, places, and things… and women. There is only one thing I may have a small degree of power over (if you insist on calling it that) and that of course, is myself.

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