Thank God For This Toothache.

1.200 bucks?  I'd rather suffer eternally.

1,200 bucks? I’d rather suffer eternally.

It’s been kind of a shitty few weeks here at Trudge Inc.  By that, I mean not my version of Heaven on Earth.  Which I realize is a tall order.  But this version didn’t even come close.  Not to what I’d prefer to orchestrate.  As my version.  Which, although perhaps a little complicated to arrange, wouldn’t cost very much.  Except maybe in hurt feelings.

Anyway, this was something very else.

Some low-grade depression, some ass-kicking physical pain, and a sprinkling of mid-ranged irritants.  All culminating with an ill-timed blow-up with my mom.  The day before her birthday.  Yeah I know.  I’m the worst son ever.  But I don’t want to brag about my ranking.  Fact is we fired at each other at point blank range with armor-piercing rounds.  And that seems to have brought up all these unpleasant feelings.  For both of us.  Go figure.

Ah well.  What’s done is done.  Very cathartic actually.  I’m sure after we spit out the mouthfuls of depleted Uranium dust and rebuild Fallujah, we’ll be just fine.

And maybe when I…(cough-cough)

…get somebody to remove…(urgh)

…this cinder block from my spine.

Better than a mother's love.

Better than a mother’s love.

So as I was nursing my self-inflicted wounds, trying my best not to figure it all out, I remembered the toothache.

A few weeks earlier I got a toothache.  On a Friday of course.  That way I’d have to wait until Monday to make my dentist’s car payment.  But in the meantime I’d get to celebrate a tooth-ache week-end.

And not by soaking and swishing it in scotch.  Or rubbing my gums with Civil War-era Laudanum ointment while crossing the border into Mexico with six hundred dollars of “fun money” and the phone number of a good taxi driver.

No, this would be alternate doses of aspirin and Ibuprofen.  War documentaries.  Ice Cream.  Petting the cats.  Trying not to hate life too much.

At one point it’s hurting like fuck.  I’m thinking about going into the garage, grabbing some pliers and really going Civil War.  Just start humming the Battle Hymn of The Republic while twisting out teeth until the pain stops.  It’s really the only manly way to handle this.  Just makes good horse sense.

Okay, but before I employ plan A, I need see if there are any options.  Need to wrap my head around this.  See if there might be a better solution.  One that doesn’t require vice-grips and Anbesol.  Or something even worse.

Hmm...no expiration date.

Hmm…no expiration date.

I have this thing about mastering my misery.  Having dined on such heaping helpings of it, as an alcoholic, and as a human being, I’ve come to believe that suffering has to have some nutritional value.  There has to be some good from pain.  Otherwise everything I’ve endured, would just be fucked up shit that’s happened to me.

Because life sucks.

And death is probably worse.

Which as a concept, I don’t have a problem with.  It’s just that if I agree with it too much, I’m told, I become a drag to be around.  A real bummer boy.  A Downer Danny.  And I don’t want to be a Downer Danny.  Do you?

Besides, I tend to make bad decisions when I hate life.  That’s why I try to think the opposite of my favorite way and remain somewhat upbeat.  Just so I don’t bring Lori and the cats down too much.  Why should they pay because my tooth hurts?  Even though it only seems fair.

Okay, gratitude is a go-to.  I know being grateful has a positive effect on the personality complex.  Clinical studies have proven that grateful people are less of a pain in the ass to be around.  Gratitude also seems to be some sort of component for successful recovery from various maladies of mind and soul.

I know.  Insane.  That one’s attitude towards something would make any difference.  But apparently so.

But this is a toothache.  Can I be grateful for a toothache?  That’s really getting tin-foil.  That would be some seriously un-hinged Rasputin shit.  The howling of a madman.  Really clawing at the moon there.

That was all I needed to think.

“Thank you, oh merciful Creator, for this pain–this pain that’s radiating up through my jaw and jack-hammering into the top quarter of my skull–making my right eye water.  I don’t know why I should, but I’d like to thank you.  For this most generous gift.  I don’t know what I did to deserve it–I mean I have my suspicions–but thanks.  Anyway.  Amen.”

Yep.  I did it.  I gave thanks for my pain.  I really did.

Not snorting lines of Darvon off the belly of a Tijuana stripper will make a man do crazy shit alright.

Or, so it would seem.

What did I have to lose?  I was fucked anyway.  At least until Monday morning.  I’d consider it an experiment.  Maybe it will help me delineate where the power of gratitude runs into a brick wall.  And the friendly staff at La Farmacia Sureño need to take over.

Say, this is good shit.

Say, this pain annihilator is good shit.

Well, the pain didn’t magically go away.  But it did start to go in and out.  I’d get these small breaks when it would subside.  And I was genuinely grateful for those.  Anything to keep me out of the garage.  Or the liquor aisle.  Or heading south on I- 5.

I kept taking the aspirins and Ibus and rode out the waves of pain as best as I could.  Tried to have fun in spite of.  Tried to not let it ruin my weekend.  Or bring down those around me.

Well, it didn’t, and slowly the time between waves grew.  By Sunday night the pain was gone.  Stayed gone Monday morning.  And since.  No more toothache.

Interesting.  I’ve never had a toothache go away.  Not without having the dentist’s foot push off on my face.  Or had a hole drilled through my wallet.  Never.  I’m sure there’s such a thing as temporary toothache.  I’ve just never had one.

Not one that lasted all weekend.  Then went away.

But I’ve also never made a point of being grateful for having one.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  But a noteworthy one.  So I should forget about it right away.  Which I did.

Except now I remembered it and wondered if I could concoct another pain-relieving coincidence for this shit with my mom.  What if I gave thanks for this pain?  That would be pretty pathetic.  And desperate.

“Thank you, O merciful Creator, for bestowing me with this bounty of painful childhood guilt complexes triggered so effectively by your angelic worker, the mother of my life, the woman that delivered me to this terrifying orb of earth…that I have been cast down upon… for some horrible transgression I’m sure.  Because You, my Eternal Father, know best, that when it comes to being a good son, I’m the worst. ”

I have to admit, thanking for the toothache was easier.  That’s why I think it came first.  To help me ramp up speed for the leap of sanity required to be thankful for all this bullshit now.  But I did it.  I gave thanks–for all the bad feelings I was having.

Now this may be another coincidence, but I woke up the next day feeling better.  Lighter.  Nothing external in the situation had changed.  Just the way I felt about stuff.  Better perspective.   Better attitude.  Still some shrapnel in the guts, but less.  Decidedly.  I felt more waves of peace then I did of dread.  Eventually, things got better between me and my mom, but more importantly, between me and everything else.

Huh.

Okay, let’s write it off to the power of suggestion.  I’ll take it.  Look, I’m an alcoholic trying to stay sober.  I can’t afford to be too picky how that happens.  I have to be ready to go to any lengths not to take that first drink.  If that means kissing the dusty feet of some Voodoo priestess while she blows powdered alligator liver on my head, or mind-gaming my cognitive thinking, if I can “suggest”  myself out of drinking, it’s a miracle.  One I should try to keep repeating.  If that means believing certain crazy things, and then acting on them, I’ll do it.

(To be fair, I was always good at that)

Anyway, that’s how I  “came to believe.”  I fucking had to.  I no longer had the luxury of being cynical.

Trying to connect with some invisible otherness was something I had  to do.  I got to a point in the train wreck when that was all that was left.  I had destroyed all other options.  It was that or die.  You know, Plan A.

So when you grasp that last straw, and it starts to grow into a stalk of wheat, like in the ergot-fueled finale of an Elysian mystery rite, you’re grateful.  And your life is never the same.  Which is a big relief.  And it’s the beginning of a new relationship.  Between you and everything else.

Slowly you start to see.  You start to understand.  No matter how bad something looks or feels, there’s something good behind it.  Something holy.  Some gift.  It might take an aeon or two before you see it.  But you know it’s there.  And that’s all that matters.

Whether it’s having a fucking toothache.

A fight with your mom.

Or being an alcoholic.

It’s good to give thanks.

Before you even know why.

Mrs. Winslow, you're trying to seduce me.

Mrs. Winslow, you’re trying to seduce me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February Is A Great Month To Surrender

Did we miss last call?

Did we miss last call?

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the surrender at Stalingrad.  Today marks ten years since my last drink.  Hard to believe, eh?  Someone like me not drinking for that long.  Imagine my own disbelief.  It’s almost unnerving.  Upsets my whole paradigm.  Not drinking for ten years.  In a row.

Me.

It’s fucking nuts.

Seems like only yesterday that I punched out the glass of Spike’s front door.  Because I forgot the keys and didn’t want to wake him up.

By knocking.

So I did the polite thing instead.  Put my fist through one of the panes.  And then quietly let myself in.

Turns out it was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had (at least while in a blackout) because that little episode was the final straw for Spike.  He dumped my ass off at rehab the next day.  And I’ve been sober ever since.

Punch out glass.  Save my ass.  Pretty sweet deal.  I knew there had to be some magic to punching stuff out.  I just never got the timing right.  All those times.  Before.

Of course, I had to have a few other good ideas along the way.  Non-blackout ones.  Not drinking anymore was up there.  So was hanging out with other alcoholics who weren’t.  Observing what they did to stay that way.  What others did not to.  That’s seems to have been a good idea.

Trying to be the complete opposite of what I had become.  Was another.

Big job.  That one.  A lot of headaches.  Goofus wasn’t going to hand-over his decision-making authority to a sissy like Gallant.  Unless he was zip-tied and held at gunpoint.  Which early on in my recovery he was.  He had to be.  We needed a revolution.

Gallant became shot-caller and pretty much made Goofus his bitch.

He had us making our bed.  Pairing socks.  Separating whites.  Opening bills.  Working at a job.  Showing up at events we said we would.  Getting people’s presents sent out on time.  Writing thank you cards.  Keeping dental appointments.  Scrubbing soap scum and tile grout.

It seemed to never end.

Goofus and I remember it as The Terrible Times.  A sad epoch in the history of our brotherhoodship.  But we endured.

We weren’t going to let staying sober kill us.  We would trudge this tundra together.

“Chin up,” I’d tell him, “Turn your thoughts to Stalingrad and sing the sadness from your heart. Remember that somewhere a pretty girl mourns your loss.  Warm your hands on that small fire.  Besides, it’s not like it was any cake walk before.  Any gulag has to be better than what we’ve been through.  Alright then, one foot in front of the other, my glum chum.  Don’t look back.  Don’t look front.  And don’t make a break for the woods.  That’s certain death. ”

And so I marched out of captivity.  Into a new life.

One decade at a time.

Ventura Beach, by Marius Gustaitis

Ventura Beach, by Marius Gustaitis

Pants On Fire

Our pants. our pants, our pants are on fire.

Our pants. our pants, our pants are on fire.

I watched a politician lie the other night.  I know.  Big surprise.  But I was only watching to see his technique.  Maybe pick up some pointers.  He had the body language down right.  Very relaxed.  No unmanageable ticks.  Or involuntary furtiveness.  Nope.  Clearly at ease with himself.  And his duplicity.

He was up there a long time too.  Long press conference.  Playing the “obviously if I had anything to hide I wouldn’t be all hanging out and jawing with you for this long” ploy.  Know it well.  I also know if you’re not on your A-game that day, it can back-fire.  That’s why defense lawyers always want to keep that shit to a min.

My mom always saw through it.  As a teenager I would always stop by her bedroom after a night of partying.  For a little chat.  To show her how high I wasn’t.  One night she flat-out told me, “I think you come in here and talk to me for a long time so I wouldn’t think you were stoned.”

Oh God.  She just busted me.  A clown squirted chocolate milk out of his eyes.  A laughing tulip licked up some of the drops.  I remembered looking at a Puerto Rican girl’s bra strap on the subway when I was six.  Then I pictured playing ping pong with Pasty Cline.  Heard somebody whisper something about Presbyterians.  The top of my head felt like a lava lamp.  I wondered what ever happened to Checkers and Pogo.  I saw a pyramid.  A vulture.  A lemon.

A soup ladle made out of purple velvet.

“Really? Well that sounds strange to me.  And not because I’m stoned kind of strange.  Which I’m not.  At all.  Just weird because…of the… weirdness…of…it.  And I can’t believe it!                            What you said.      Back then.  And I’m really tired with these allergies in my eyes so I better go to the bed.  Bed.  Not the bed.  Just bed.  I better go to bed is what I meant to say.

Anyway, I was watching this guy lie his balls off.  And I had to admit, he was pretty good.  Lots of apologizing for things.  Just not the things he was being accused of.  But that doesn’t matter, because with lazy listeners it all blends together.  Sprinkle enough apologies around and they think “Hey, he apologized.  What more do you want?”  It’s a way of taking the rap, but while maintaining your innocence.  A tricky dance to pull off.

“I take full responsibility for what happened.  For leading on your sister, to the point where she would feel compelled to write fantasy scenarios in her diary about me and her having sex in a bowling alley parking lot on the Friday night you went up to Santa Barbara.  You are right.  I should not have done that.  That was wrong.  Leading her on like that.  I should have known that once she realized she could never have me, her vivid imagination would erupt in a rebellious tantrum.  There’s simply no excuse for not noticing the level of her sexual attraction towards me.  I should have known that my innocent and innocuous flirtation would unleash a demon of desire.  But I was a fool.  A blind fool.  I should’ve never been nice to her.

But you shouldn’t have read her diary.  With all her fictitious private stuff in it.

So I guess we’re even.”

Tippy tap-tap.

Tap.

That one didn’t work.  Well, it worked getting me hit repeatedly by a screaming woman.  Worked like a charm.

Apparently, she wasn’t a porch swinger when it came to listening.  She listened real hard.  I don’t know if she would’ve hit me any less hard if I just told her the truth.  But I know I wouldn’t have felt as scumbaggy, while I stood there, lungs vibrating from the blows.  Sure, I still would’ve felt like scum.  Just not as baggy.

rx5Oc

I hate to lie.  Not out of any rigorous ethical principals, but because I hate doing anything I’m not good at.  And I don’t think I’m a good liar.  I get too nervous.  Give away a lot of poker tells.  And add way too many details.  Things that trip me up later.

“You said you had to go to visit somebody at ‘the brain unit’ at a hospital in Pasadena.  Which hospital exactly was that?”

“Uh, let’s see…I have to think exactly what the…”

“Because my father is a doctor at Huntington Memorial.  Was it at that one?”

“No, definitely not that one.”

“Memorial has the best neuroscience department in Pasadena.  I thought he might have gotten his cat scan done there.”

“No, I’m drawing a blank on the name.  I mean I know it.  Maybe when I give up trying.  You know how sometimes after that it will just pop up.  I remember it was fairly close to the Rose Bowl.  And I remember I got robbed by the Snicker machine at the cafeteria.  Took 85 cents.  I remember that.  And that they had a so-so brain unit.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“Who?”

“Your friend.”

“Oh God, I hope so.”

“Well, we missed you at Easter brunch.  The kids really enjoyed the egg hunt. ”

“Oh man, I wish I could’ve been there.  But you know…”

Yeah, they know.  And you know they know.  And it’s a cringe-fest.

I can use the heat from my shame to propel me away!

I can use the heat from my shame to propel me away!

Early on in my sobriety, I used to go over to this old guy’s house to hang out.  He had almost twenty years sober by then.  We’d sit in his living room and chain smoke while he taught me some coping skills–ways to navigate the treacherous seas without a tankard of grog.  He was generous with his time, and was very helpful in securing the sails of my sanity.

One day, the subject of honesty came up.  He said my big problem was with “white” lies.  He said that’s where I should focus.  That was the crux.

He’s crazy, I thought.  Who gives a flying frankfurter about white lies?  That’s just being polite.

I’ve got bigger honesty issues to wrestle with.  All those years as a drunk, lying became second nature.  It became a survival mechanism.  Now I was having trouble disengaging from it.  I was having a real hard time being honest.  Those little white lies I told were just social niceties.  As problems went, they seemed like a low priority target.

We’re standing in a dining room ankle-deep in raw sewage and he wants to put the salad fork on the correct side of the plate.

But he insisted.  I only thought they were harmless.  I had convinced myself that I was lying not to hurt someone’s feelings.  Keep things nice-nice.  But at a deeper level, I was really worried about their disapproval.  I was afraid they wouldn’t like me.

“They’re corrosive.  Every time you tell a white lie, you’re telling yourself it’s not okay to be you.  You’re lying about who you are. ”

It wasn’t a burning bush or flash of light variety of insight, but I did hear a distant gong.

Lying about who I am?  Holy shit.  That doesn’t sound good.  It sounds creepy and insane.  And not in the way I enjoy.

“Instead of making up all kinds of reasons why you can’t do something, just say you’d rather not.  And then leave it at that.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, just say ‘I’d rather not.’ ”

“And leave it at that?”

“Leave it at that.”

This was absolutely nuts.  I remember giggling with glee.  Simple honesty.  What a revolutionary approach to life.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I didn’t have to wait long.  I’m not lying.  The next day, one of my personal training clients asked me to come out to Disneyland with her and her family.  Oh boy.  A wholesome activity that I despise, but don’t want to admit to hating, because people will then think/know just how degenerate and jaded I am.

Now was my chance to say “Hey, I hate craft fairs, Renaissance faires, parades, dinner theater, magic shows, puppet shows, circuses, sack races, hot air balloon launches, and any kind of music that’s played from a bandstand.  But I really hate Disneyland.  So I’d rather not.”  And then leave it at that.

I stood there.  Do it.  Just say it’s something you’d rather not.  Then drop it.  Drop it like a hammer.  Strike a blow for being yourself.

“Oh wow!  Would I ever love to! But you said Saturday?  Yeah.  Ah.  I can’t.  I promised a buddy I would go with him to get a cat scan at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.  They’ve got a great neuroscience department there.  He has epilepsy and they specialize in brain mapping.  And even though epilepsy is not life-threatening per se, he gets nervous about any medical procedure, and since he’s a recovering alcoholic he’s going to need somebody to be there…because none of his friends or family are talking to him yet, you know, him being early in recovery and all,” I said.

And then left it at that.

I went back to my friend and told him about my failure.  He said it was okay.  A lifetime of behavior doesn’t change overnight.  The important thing was that I was becoming aware of my dishonesty.  That, in itself, was an important step.  In the process.  The process of recovery.

Turns out he was crazy.  And right.  The white lies were the crux of my problem.  Not being okay with who I was–was.  That was the hydra head to a  multi-tentacled monster.  But little by little, the more okay I became with who I was, the easier it was to be honest.  And the more honest I was, the more okay I became with who I was.  It was almost like it was some kind of process or something.

So yeah, I’ve come a long way with honesty.  How long?  Well, let’s just say long enough to know I have a long way to go.

I’ll leave it at that.

In Case of Emergency

My Letter to Nicky

My Christmas card to you.

My Christmas card to you.

Dear Santa,

Sorry I haven’t written lately, but ever since my folks told me you were bullshit…well…I’ve felt a little stupid about keeping up any correspondence.  I know.  No excuse.  It’s not like it’s gonna kill me to write a letter and feel like an idiot later.  I should be used to it.

What with your 24/7 North Pole NSA surveillance capabilities, you probably witnessed me penning that lust letter to the four-eyed lynx intern at the acupuncture clinic back in ’95.  Seven pages of handwritten heart-pour.  To a chick I only answered questions to.  Questions like “How frequently do you urinate?” and “What is the consistency of your stool?”

But that didn’t stop me, eh?  From writing her. 

So why not write to my old pal, St. Nick?  Catch up on shit with a guy who doesn’t exist.  Maybe put in a wish list.

Can’t be any stupider than driving one-eyed, all the way down Agua Fria to her clinic, and delivering it personally.  Remember?  It was right after that disastrous week-end with Bubbles.  In Tuscon.  Drinking more than usual after that little visit.  Heart all hurt.  Ego-aching.  Embarrassed as fuck.

No wonder I freaked and went full-court press on the cat-eyed Jr. needle jockey.  I had to fall in love with someone else.  Right away.  And make sure she fell too.  Brought out the five-alarm charm that afternoon.

Shit-hammered on store brand vodka and Mickey’s Big Mouth.  Reeling and red-faced.  Crashing into the bamboo wind-chimes they had hanging up by the door.  My poison-reek cutting through the Mentholatum spa-smell.  The terrified and confused look on her face when I gave her the letter, slowly turning to pity when she sussed what it was all about.

Magic moment alright.

I also remember walking back to the car and realizing–with pristine divine precision and clarity–what a major fail I just perpetrated.  Fucking great.  Now I get it.  Twenty-two seconds after I finished doing it.  Not the twenty-two before.

It was always after, eh Nicko?  And then, like clockwork, you’re not too drunk to care.  All of a sudden.  It’s like the batshit buzz that got you in the jam, suddenly hightails, leaving you holding the sock. 

Yuuhgrhhh.  Every time I remember it, my guts twist.

Love to time-machine that one.  Hey, it was par for that whole year.  From what I recall.  Perfect candidate for lump of coal I was.

But I think I got some leather gloves, a camping ax, and a Hendrix box set.  Don’t know if that was a mix-up or mercy on your part.  But thanks anyway, dude.

Which brings me to why I’m writing.  As you probably know, I’ve been a little grouchy this holiday season.  Bitching and moaning about having to stand in long lines, find parking, gift wrap rhomboid-shaped gifts.  Post Office.  UPS.  The usual sleigh-bell blues.  And yeah I’ll admit, kind of sick of seeing your face all over the place.

Well, Friday I get hit with a stomach flu.  A real sidewinder.  All of a sudden I’ve got bigger problems than constantly losing the Scotch tape.

I go from bitching about small, irritating shit, to worrying if I’m gonna squirt out all my sacral fluid.  Major attitude shift, Nicky.  Capisce?

Lori’s gone to Europe, and neither of my cats have a driver’s license, so it’s toaster waffles and tap water for two days.  I’m laying in bed the whole time.  Bugsy and Louie holding vigil over their only food-giver.  The only one until January 4th, when the other one gets back.

I’m so very weak.  So very tired.  Can’t push the buttons on the remote.  Have to roll over on it in the bed.  Hope a good channel comes on.  But too sick to watch anyway.  Can only let whatever is on blend with my delirium.  World War 2 documentaries.  Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.  Full Throttle Saloon.  Lock-Up; Extended Stay.  Adult Swim.  Hour after hour.  Sleeping off big chunks, but awake enough for marathon series of fevered visions.

My mind wanted to show me things.  Pulled me out of my body.  “Check this shit out!”

British POW’s in Japanese camps.  Trying to build a bridge while dysentery wrings out their bowels.  A little brown boy lying on a banana leaf. Shivering with Dengue Fever.  A moth in a dead guy’s mouth.  Jungle rot.  Cholera.  Maggots in rice.

We visit a leper clinic in India.  A Russian prison infirmary.  African refugees eating sand.

Then I see paralyzed old people.  They’re in a skilled nursing facility–watching the shadows of twilight lengthen across the room.  Wondering if anyone will come see them.  Thirsty.  But unable to ask.  Sad.  But too dry to cry.  Trapped.  But unable to die.

Wheel of Fortune on.  No way to turn it off.

(I think that’s worse.  I’d rather have to build a bridge in diapers)

I’m telling you what, St. Boy, if I ever visit sick old people, I’m going to make sure to keep the mood light and laughy.  And bring them orange juice or whatever.  And make sure that the TV is on their channel.

I caught a glimpse of their hell, and it snapped me right out of the mopes.  This is a stomach flu.  I’m a recovered alcoholic.  This is nothing.  I got this.  I knew I was probably going to roll it up in 48.  But a lot of others are down for life.

Like some drunks I’ve known.  Lying there floored and helpless.  Alone.  Every time you make it to the toilet a small victory.

Sad sun coming through the window.

Not even cats to keep you company.

Death feeling like a real thing.

Sometimes being one.

So yeah, grateful for the pathogens that bring on hellish visions.  Grateful for my stomach flu.

And as far as any presents this year, don’t sweat it.  Being able to drive to the store.  Wash the sheets.  Hold down food.  Change the channel.  Big gifts.

And of course the cats.

Give my share to somebody who needs it.  There’s plenty out there, Nicky boy.  Believe me.

Anyway, give my best to the Missus.  Rudy.  The Elves.

Take some time off.  Belize.  Good banks.

Marius

Blogula Turns Two.

Birthdays blow.

Birthdays blow.

The blogodometer finally kicked over 25,000.  A minor triumph.  Time to put a shot-gun blast through the screen door.  Microwave a can of beans until it explodes.  Throw a bottle of high proof alcohol at the wood burning stove.  Bust up some wooden chairs to feed the bonfire.  Drop in the Mentors tape, and swan dive naked into an empty pool.

And get this party started.

As C.E.O. and acting Operations Manager of T.T.T.F., it warms my cockleshells to have this opportunity to self-congratulate myself.  Since nothing pleases me more than pleasing myself.  Except of course, pleasing others.  Which I would do more of, if it wasn’t so hard.  And I could remember to.

This month at T.T.T.F., we are not only celebrating another arbitrary milestone in spam-driven statistics, but a two-year anniversary, as well. -Pause to let polite applause die down- That’s right, Trudge turned two this September.  And I am proud to announce that the future of Trudging Through The Fire is going to continue hinging on the fickle decision-making process of an alcoholic in recovery.  Which means it’s future is not only uncertain, but as C.E.O. I can assure any stockholders that all their fears are warranted.

I have to go to the board meetings.  So I know.  The people at the top are fucking clueless.  Oracle reading ape-shit thrown against a wall would yield richer intellectual heft than some ideas being tossed around.  The best one being to kill the whole thing.  Just take Ol’ Yeller out to the barn and tap one into the T-Zone.

My God, look at the format.  It hasn’t changed or had an upgrade the whole time.  Why?  Because the people in our Creative Marketing department are playing Grand Theft Auto 5.  Instead of coming up with exciting new ideas, they’re running over hookers in an attempt to flee the police.

It’s criminal what goes on behind the scenes here.  You’ll find more work ethic in an opium den.  And corporate couldn’t care less.  Why should they?  They’ve got their parachutes and are ready to bail at the slightest turbulence.  I’ve never seen such craven, self-seeking leadership.  These dogs are swimming the Volga and Kiev hasn’t even fallen.  And that kind of cut-and-run cowardice runs from the top hat to the toes of this organization.

Only the fact that it is not a success-driven enterprise keeps it afloat.  The whole thing  survives…because it doesn’t need to.

How creepy is that?  It’s Un-American.  Pathogenic.

But you didn’t hear any of this from me.  As C.E.O. I’m supposed to wave the flag and rally the troops.  But then again, I’m supposed to do a lot of things.  Besides elbowing old ladies on my way to the life boat.

Anyway, let us not forget why we’re all gathered here– to celebrate something by now I am so totally over– our Turquoise Silver Jubilee. Twenty-five thousand hits in two years!

Clap…………………………….clap.

And yes, that’s less than the video of the girl having an attack of diarrhea at the hot tub party got in it’s first hour on Youtube.  But we’re not trying to compete with that.  Nothing could.  The fact remains, we now have over a quarter of a hundred thousand hits!

Clap.

Clap.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited either.  It all leaves me pretty empty.  And feeling like this project was a complete waste.  A waste of time.  And a bitter disappointment.  Let’s face it, this blog is not going anywhere.  And sometimes I hate doing it.  So to continue would be insane.

Good thing all that doesn’t phase me anymore.  I can eat that bullshit like bucket chicken.  So I’m good.  Good and ready to lead us on to our third year together.  If you will only continue to trust me, I promise to lead us to places more fantastic than any Byronic nightmare.  We will scale heights that leave Olympic gods dizzy, short of breath, and wondering which arm going numb is bad.  We will plumb depths darker than any ex-child actor, and then emerge, not only unrepentant, but cocky and streetwise.

Stories of our journey will be used to frighten children into obedience.

I can think of no greater honor.

And we’ve made some good friends along the way, haven’t we?  Met me some crazy mofos through this blog, friendships I will treasure to my dying days.  And that wasn’t in our Mission Statement.  If there had been one.  No, sometimes you just have to do things, like write a blog, or paint, or practice lap dancing on the couch in the garage, for no good reason at all.  Other than it’s something to do.  And as long as you chasten yourself against the lust of result, the disappointments will be few.  The happy surprises many.

I’m just glad to be writing again, for whatever lack of a reason.  Don’t think I would have had the chance if I kept going like I was.  So that’s reason enough to mark the milestone.  If you’re still hung up on reasons.

So now, I would like to raise a glass and make a toast.  To Reason.  May it be damned for a dog.  Okay, now those of you who can do so with apparent impunity, please drink yourselves into a joyous stupor, and do something insane.

Those of us who can’t drink anymore will be watching.  Maybe getting a little crazy on ourselves over by the coffee.

Just to show you we still got it.

Thanks for reading.  Trudge on.

Marius

Radio Hindenburg

Beloved Morning Show personalities.

Beloved radio personalities relaxing and eating bread.

For a short time, Marko and I had a late night call-in radio show on KUNM.  A short time because we sucked.  I think it was two shows.  Maybe one.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  The whole thing seems surreal.  Dreamlike.  A dreamlike disaster.

Our friend Kelly was a radio intern at the University of New Mexico.  She offered us the gig.  From 1AM to 5AM, Monday morning.  That’s right. Primetime, baby!

We had never done radio, but after a few beers, decided to expand our undulating horizons.  This might be fun.  Produce a few of our own gag commercials to sprinkle throughout the shift.  Take some calls from any bat-chain pullers,  Pretty much wing it from there with a beer.  What could go wrong?  We were guaranteed to be smash hits.

As long as we didn’t get too crazy.  Too crazy drunk and out-of-control.  On the air.

Okay to be crazy drunk and out-of-control.  Just not too. 

On the radio.

In order to prevent that, we enacted an iron-clad NO DRINKING rule.

No drinking.  Until at least midnight.  So that we wouldn’t be too hammered by one.  Still be able to do radio shit.  Like announce the time.

And not say “fuck” a lot.

It was only the professional thing to do.  It’s a tough business.  Had to be at the top of our game, so we would refrain from drinking until an hour before our shift.  That way we would be less destroyed than normal.  Because we hardly had any time.

It was hard, but we did it.  Had to rent a cheap motel off Central and hole up in it.  Count off the tick-tocks before showtime.

Of course I hated it, but he wasn’t feeling Johnny High-On-Life either.  I felt better seeing him miserable.  Sitting there in a dirty Albuquerque motel.  On a Sunday.  Not drinking.  Nervous about being on the radio.  Nothing to take off the edge.  Except caffeine.  Sugar.  Nicotine.  A few small tablets of Ephedrine.  Snorted whole off knife-point.

Yeah, it was a lot of laughs, until I realized I was in the same predicament.

Cleaning our finger nails.  Sharpening knives.  Tossing cards into the toilet.  Anything to distract ourselves from the gut-sense of doom.  Knowing we were going to be on the radio.  Knowing it would be bad.  Knowing that whatever happened that night, there would be witnesses.  Maybe not too many.

But it only takes one.

Twaz bruttle, bro.  Knowing the seediest Albuquerque had to offer was just a cap-flick away, and having to sit there.  Sit for a while then get up and pace.  Endure a crawling clock.  Murder the minutes.  With cigarettes.  Coca-Cola.  And Elvis.

Viva Las Vegas was on one night.  We sat there and watched the whole stupid thing.  All of it.  Without drinking, we had no options.  Without our brewed propellant, we were reduced to watching some guy in a pantsuit sing.

Like the rest of America.

It was humbling.

At one point, Marko started singing along.  His dad was into The Elvis, so he knew all the words.  Strange enough, but more disconcerting to watch him belt it out.  So earnestly.  With such feeling.  Eyes burning.  Really trying to sell it.  Singing like his whole career depended on it.  Like everything depended on this Elvis impersonation.

I’d never seen him like that.  Dude was David Lynching me.  Laying down a highly-effective creep-out.

What made it scarier was the fact that he was stone cold sober.  So this is what happens.  My God, he was falling apart.  Going full nut-job.  Stark raving mad.

I joined him in the chorus.

“VIVA LAS VEGAS!”

At the top of our lungs.  Like children would go hungry if we didn’t squeeze out every decibel.  And mean every word.

“VIVA LAS VEGAS!”

Sonofabitch we were happy when midnight arrived.  Oh, Holy Hour of Magic, Thou Art Come to slake our forsaken thirst.

I remember waiting outside in the parking lot of the station,  Marko’s beeping Casio our starting gun.

Teep!

Right.  We have one hour to drink enough beer.  Before we go in.  Only one hour.  We have to drink a lot beer.  Really fast.  Before we go in.  Because once we go in, we’ll keep drinking of course.  But we only have an hour, to drink as much beer as we can…before we go in.

“So pound it, mother!  Because we couldn’t drink…”

“A beer every six minutes will still only be ten.”

“…all that time before!”

“Every five minutes will kill twelve.  But these are twenty-fours.”

“And a whole bunch of …Glug-glug-glah…other good…Glug-glug-glah…reasons.”

“We can kill fifteen.  But we’re gonna have to drink pissing. ”

“Don’t waste time doing math…Glug-glug-glooog-gah-glug ghaaach!  Pound!”

A determined individual can get pretty intoxicated, even in an hour.  But two motivated souls, supporting each other with encouragement, can achieve something really amazing.  Something rarely seen.

Gassing the big cans of Heineken straight down the throat.  One after another.  Non-stop.  Like some Indian sadhus showing-off in a beggar’s market.  Trying to get into the record books.  Trying to become eight-armed Hindu beer-drinking deities.  Popping a can with one hand while rolling out an empty to Kelly with the other.  To crunch.  Put in the trunk.  Recycle for cash.  Buy more cans.

“Every one of these is five cents we get.”

“Stop counting, fucker.  Pound!”

Gatling gunning them.  Spitting the casings out on the asphalt .  Kelly stomping on them with her big long legs like she’s dancing for rain.

“Are you guys going to be okay?”

“We’re gonna kill the world!”

Looking back, we would’ve been better off just coming in our regular amount of drunk by 1 AM.  Instead of pulling the elastic band all the way back, on a Sling-shot Sunday.  Then launching the show, after a Blue God Power Hour.

Live and learn, eh?  But at least now we were ready.   Ready to shine.  To radiate our bliss.  To bless the masses with our joy infernal.

Confidence restored?  Check.  Reckless disregard engaged?  Check  More beers in the jackets?  Checkmate.  We were ready.  For everything.  Ready for work.  We went in.

I don’t remember the D.J. we took over from, commending us on our professionalism.  For not drinking since midnight.

Fuck him.  We were plenty drunk now.  Thaaat whole caring about what people think wasss…ssomethinggggggg shhtupit 4 4 4 ofer chumfs an peepols wiff aaaahfukinon’t give-vah rattsaasss!  Mether feck head.  Hitler fecker…head-erhp I benner not say thaaat on a radio.  FC…CIA Nazi policituations an shit.  Wazz up Alqueburque?  Aneee strange stupf in a house? Here putty putty catty.  Gha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Pip.  Pop.  Fizz.  Glug.

Glug.

It didn’t go well.

Really love a rewind.

Don’t get those on live radio.  Or life.  And since this was both, we were double-fucked.

It was so bad, I hesitated writing this little piece.  That’s right, I didn’t want to revisit it.  Shit was bad enough to scar, even beneath an alcoholic blur.  One of those treats.  What I like to call my “special memories.”  The gut still tightens when I remember certain parts.

Ah, but you guys are like family to me, so what the hell.  I’ll share what happened.

Someday.

Not ready just yet.

But I will tell you, that not remembering to announce the time, wasn’t the worst part.

When Every Day Sucked.

I remember driving home from work one night.  Eight and a half hours without a drink.  The bolts were starting to pop out of the seams.  The matrix of reality, warping and woofing.  Psychosis nudging in.  Fear already camped out.  Making S’mores.

Besides a suspended license, I was driving with two feet.  Why?  Because I had drop foot, which is some form of alcohol-induced neuropathy.  Or at least that’s what the Chinese acupuncturist diagnosed.

But what does a few thousand years of medical wisdom know?  All I know is that it made me unable to lift my right foot.  I can’t move it from the gas to the brake.  Which turns out to be an important driving ability.  And this was an important time in my life, to have good driving ability.  Dig?

My solution was to outsource the job of braking to my left foot, while my dead right one would be in charge of flooring the gas.  I’ll be honest, it’s not the easiest way to drive.  Lot of lurching and sudden stopping involved.   Especially when braking for the Iguanacolussus, an irksome multi-ton ornithopod from the late Cretaceous period that keeps scuttling out into the middle of the road.  And then disappearing.

Anyway, I finally get my beer and I’m almost home.  Whip-lash Larousse just has to cross Cerrillos Rd. and he’ll make it.  Hands trembling.  So close.  To my beer.  To relief.

Then I spot him.  A cop cruising by the other way.  I look up into the rear-view.  Watch his brake lights flash.

Oh fuck no.  Please no.  Of course, yes.  There he goes.  Turning around.  And coming up right behind me.  Oh God.  If he pulls me over for anything I go to jail.  That much is guaranteed.  Just don’t panic.  The most important thing is not to panic.

I look away from the mirror in time to see the light turn red.  I panic.  Mash both feet down.  The gas and the brake together.

Bad move.  In terms of staying under the radar.

My back tires spin in a smoking burnout.  Just lighting it the fuck up.  All N.H.R.A.  Funny car shit.  The chassis tap dances through the red light, and into the middle of the busy intersection, where it comes to rest after I finally picked up my feet from the pedals.  Traffic both ways screeching and skidding to a stop.  Me just sitting there with my eyes shut.  Awaiting impact.

There was one final tire-squealing brake, and then silence.  I had stopped the entire intersection.  Now sat there idling.

I am so going to jail.  I am going to have to detox behind bars.

“Sweet Lord. help me.”

I look up at my rear-view.  I can’t believe it.  He’s gone.  The cop is not there.  Honest to God, he wasn’t even driving away.  He was just…gone.  I don’t know if I hallucinated him being there in the first place, but I know I didn’t hallucinate him not being there.  Because if he really was still there, I’d be in his back seat.

Holy and most merciful Creator!  Thank You for vaporizing that peace officer.  And hopefully to a happier dimension.

I exhale.  My spine puddles around my pants.  I’m hanging on to the steering wheel, when I see myself in the mirror.  My eyes looked like oven-baked marbles.  All cracked from the heat.  Glowing red.  I looked insane.

Even I thought so.

I lift my left foot.  And then press down with my right one.  The car goes forward.  Okay.  We’ve got this.

I crossed Cerrillos and traffic resumed.  I was going to get to those beers.  And everything was going to be okay.  Until tomorrow.

I need a drink.

I need a drink.

I became physically addicted to alcohol around 1995.  The mental component had long been hooked.  But it took a while for the body to catch up.  It made it though.  Hooray!

Previous to this, I had, at times, experienced some ill-effects from consuming liberal amounts of alcohol.  Fire-hosing vomit across stranger’s laps could have been a warning that the quantity of beer I was inhaling wasn’t sitting well.  But once I realized I could carry a chopstick in my back pocket–a black lacquered Chinese one, I figured I’d solved that problem.  Now I could pick and choose where to discreetly dispel any tummy-upsetting froth.

The front entrance of Tom and Lenny’s Shoes, on 63rd Drive, in Rego Park, Queens was a favorite.  I had worked for them once, and felt my treatment there had been unfair.  Perhaps this wasn’t a valid way to protest it, but I just always seemed to feel better after barfing on their doorstep.  And that was good enough for me.

So you see, back then, the repercussions from my drinking, just weren’t bad enough, to even contemplate stopping.  Never mind actually trying to.

Sure, there were the usual hang-overs.  Some of them notably brutal.  But you learned to endure them.  They built character.

The Tuesday morning of a three-day bender, I’d feel a little out of sorts.  A little groggy and nervous about having to operate a vehicle.  Vertigo making the floor roll and buckle.  Eyes blurred from dehydration.  Ice pick in the forehead.   Tainted chowder gurgling in the guts.  Bones hurting and feeling too loose in their sockets.  Sore liver.  Acrid bile percolating in the throat.  Thoughts of suicide.

But it was nothing that a beer and chorizo omelet couldn’t fix.  A tickle of the chopstick, some Gatorade and a breath mint, and I was right as rain.

Then one day, I woke up and noticed my hands were shaking.  What’s this?  That’s so after-school special kind of alcoholism.  So stereo-typical.  So not my Ripley’s Believe it or Not kind of alcoholism.  When talking to friends, I would often cop to being an alcoholic.  “But I’m not one of those…you know…” I’d hold my hands out and make them shake, “I need a drink or I’m going to die kind.  All Ray Malland and shit.”

Well, it was looking like I was becoming all Ray Malland…and shit.

Accompanying the trembling was a rather snappy anxiety, one previously experienced while running from police or watching women take pregnancy tests.  Now it had me teething on a high-voltage power line whenever my beer levels went low.

Fucking great.  I’d sit there frozen in fear.  Too terrified to even twitch.   I’m scared to get up and brush my teeth.  How am I going to manage driving to work on a suspended license, then dealing with the public for eight hours?

It turns out, not very well.

There were moments, when the alcohol was leaving my system, that I thought I would go mad.  Only another Lost Weekender knows what I’m talking about.  It’s a bad dream.  Set-designed by a German expressionist.  The furniture bending at strange angles.  People are talking to you in Swahili or Urdu.  What are they saying?  Am I getting into trouble?  Or are they putting together a lunch order?

“Did someone just say something about Bea Arthur’s vagina?  No?  Never mind…I…”

I don’t know what is going on.

Except that I keep seeing sad angels in my head.  Skull people in concentration camps.  A coughing flower.

My pencil has become sinister and I have to throw it away from me.

As far as possible.

It takes every strand of will-power not to run out into the street flapping your arms.  Sweat pouring from your pits.  Stomach knotted in an icy grip.   Throat dry.  You hear strange organ music coming from the employee fridge.  Spy shadow figures darting around the periphery.  They’re waiting for you.

They can smell your death.

So can you, actually.  There’s a new strange funk that’s clouding out of your pores these days.  Besides, the sour beer smell.  It’s different.  It smells…like decay.  Killing off too many cells at once you are.  That’s kind of unnerving.  I better drink more so I don’t worry about that.

When I started morning maintenance drinking, it wasn’t done in any Cancun spring break, devil-may-care abandon.  It was conscious calculation.  I can’t function without having two or three beers before work.  I’m not drinking to “party down.”  I’m drinking so I don’t see the Devil while trying to make change for a customer.

I have to drink to make it.  Without it, I will fall apart.  Even faster.

I don’t care how much of a dumb-shit, clueless drunk you might be, but when an egg timer gets turned over after every last drink, you realize things.  Like maybe, you’re fucked.

Which is actually good.  To realize.

It’s the most important seed-thought an alcoholic can have.  If they’re going to have any chance.

Fortunately, I had been having that thought a lot.

So things were already good.  And I didn’t even know it.