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

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Fear of Erica Jong

It's nothing a drink will help.

It’s nothing a drink will help.

As the plane approached Albuquerque, it started to buck and roll with turbulence.  It was the kind where the pilot tells the flight attendants to take their seats.  Fucking great.  Wings tipping.  Seats shaking.  Deep drops and soul rolls.   Here and there, some involuntary yelps from passengers.

Once from here, for sure.  It sounded like someone stepped on a puppy.  Couldn’t contain it.  Just slipped out.

It’s not my favorite thing, doing turbulence, not drunk.

There are only a few things that I can say are better done drunk than sober.  The first is, of course, dancing.  Especially if you’re white.  The second is getting arrested.  Tried it both ways, and it was better drunk.  The last thing is bouncing around violently in a tube of aluminum, thousands of feet from the earth.

If I could have my choice, I’d always prefer to do that drunk.  While I know it’s better for me to not be drunk during times like these, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easier shit-hammered out of my gourd.

I used to walk down the aisle to get to more booze, the plane’s shaking counteracting my stumbling so that I’m stepping straight, and make announcements to my fellow passengers.

“This is a great day to die!”  “We’re all going to die anyway. Let’s fucking get it over with.”  “Death can’t be worse than tomorrow morning!”

Stuff like that.  In my head I was keeping up everyone’s morale.  I wanted my lack of fear to inspire them.  To give them the courage to plunge to their deaths stoically.  Bravely.  Resolutely.  Even joyfully.

You know, shit-faced drunkenly.

If there’s ever a situation that I really can see myself blowing my sobriety, it’s on an airplane that’s going down.  If the cocktail cart starts rolling down the aisle as we plummet, I’d like to say I wouldn’t stick my foot out to stop it.  That I would choose to die sober.  Locked in solemn prayer.  Instead of trying to shot-gun down as many miniatures as possible… before our fiery wreckage scatters across a sewage treatment facility.  Or a field of beets.

But I really can’t.  I can’t be sure I wouldn’t drink.  As an alcoholic, you never can be… too sure.  It’s the nature of the disease.

For now, I was content to sit quietly in my seat.  Asshole, fists and teeth clenched.  Locked in solemn prayer.  First to The Creator.  Then on down the spiritual hierarchy.  I’m going through arch angels, regular angels, Kerubim, avatars, saints, sages, ascended masters, Buddhist holy men, Kabbalistic wise men.

I’m beseeching mercy like a mother.

My girlfriend is gripping my hand numb.  She’s a Christian, so she’s talking to Jesus.  Not a bad call to make.  I’ve dialed that hotline myself.  Quite a few times.  More than this heretic would care to admit.  What can I say?  He comes through, but sometimes I think because his phone is constantly blowing up with requests he gets overworked.  So I prefer to add a whole bunch of other spiritual beings to my emergency Rolodex.  Find somebody with more of a gap in their workload.  Somebody standing around waiting to get a call.  And maybe one who specializes in turbulence.

Like the Enochian Angel of the Element of Air.  He who raises and calms the storms.  He who protects air of Air.  Ardza, may Your holy name reflect the ineffable glory of God through eternity.  Help reveal to us His mercy.  Help calm the storm around us.  Help calm the storm in this humble creature’s mind.  Amen.

I look over to Lori.  She’s got her eye’s closed tight.

“We’re going to be okay,” I tell her.  I pat her white, bloodless hand and smile.

She opens her eyes and tries to stretch her grimace into a happy face.  Fails.  Goes back to talking with The Son of God.  Eyes closed.

I don’t blame her.  I don’t get all hurt if she wants to talk to some other guy.  I’m confidant in our relationship.  Besides, this is Jesus.  So I’m totally cool with her dividing her attention, especially at a time like now.

Another dip.  My guts bang against my throat.  They push out a whistling whimper through my teeth.  Not a yelp.  A whimper.  Big difference.  Then another drop.  A long, deep one.   I pictured the altimeter spinning.

I add Jesus to my list.

“Hey.  It’s me, Marius.  I know we don’t talk too much these days, but I’m always thinking about You.  Remember when I was thirteen and I scared myself into thinking I had a brain tumor and I held my illustrated children’s bible and turned my life over to you?  Well, I never officially took it back.  Even though some of my life choices might have made it seem that way.  Well, out of anybody, you’re the go-to guy for forgiveness, so we should be cool.  Right?  Always dug your message.  Just didn’t, you know, dig all the dogma that barnacled around it.  Anyway, if I do die, could you make sure I go to heaven?  And preferably not a weird part of it, like the Mormon’s version…

…Amen.”

I felt better right away.  Covered all my bases.  I gave my girlfriend another smile.  This time a real one.

What is death but the unknown?  I seem to be hurtling towards that all the time.  The Unknown.  And Death.  The death of something, at least.  In my life and all around me.  Something dies deader than dead.  And then, sure as shit, something else is born.  Usually something new and improved.  In my life, and all around me.

I thought my life was over when I had to quit drinking.  In a way, it was.  That life died.  But I don’t mourn it.

Because I got an upgrade.

It happens in other areas.  Everyday, I see parts of me die off.  Not like parts parts.  Oh God forbid.  I don’t know who would be appropriate to pray to for a certain special part not to die off.  Priapus?   No, I mean parts of my personality.  Parts I don’t mind shit-canning.  The parts that were spawned in fear.  Ugly parts.  Parts that have worn out their welcome.

I try to replace those parts with the ones born out of love.  Nicer parts.  Shinier ones.

That’s the plan at least.  I don’t know how well I’m doing sometimes.  But dude is trying.  I’m willing to go through the complete overhaul.  Whatever it takes.  I want to be a new and improved version.  I have this nagging need to feel that Whoever/Whatever created me, is proud of Their creation.  Cornball shit, I know.  But there it is.  For real.

The engine screamed in reverse as the wheels touched down.  The cabin clattered like crazy then stopped.  We made it.  As we taxied to our terminal I took a deep breath.  Everything was going to be okay.  It always is.  No matter how scared I get.  If I can remember that, I can keep the yelping to a minimum.  Like with this flight.  Only one.  One audible one.  That’s pretty good.  I’m definitely improving.

Yeah.  This was going to be a good trip.  I kissed Lori’s cold hand.  Then waited for the seat belt light to go off.

You Can Never Go Home, If You’re Lost, Que No?

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

They say you can’t, but I’m going home.  Back to Santa Fe, the place of my rebirth, death, rebirth, death, and rebirth.  Those are special places.  Places where a lot of shit went down.  Places with fertile fields to sow madness and mirth.  And rocky soil to pull plow through.  Places to choke yourself out in the yoke of toil.  To sweat out Dark Eyes vodka while a jack hammer batters your Juarez dental work loose.

Magic places.  Places to make all your dreams come true.

Santa Fe was one of those places.  Except for the making all my dreams come true part.  Some dreams are just too insane.  Even for New Mexico.

And New Mexico is one weird-ass state.  Totally, Marius Seal of Approval, weird.  I think by now, you’ll understand the magnitude of what my certification means.   This is not some corn-fed, roll-her-eyes-at-Adult Swim, mid-western housewife’s idea of weird.  No.

It’s my version.

So yeah.

New Mexico is weird.  In the best way.  I think it’s the people.  I swear to God, there isn’t a person in that state that isn’t some sort of character.  Funny, crazy, dangerous, dumb, brilliant, beautiful, bizarre, annoying, and delightful.  Name it.  We got ’em all in old New Mex.  The psychos I worked construction with.  The artists I’ve gotten criminally drunk with.  The madmen I fought in bars and parking lots.  The silver spray paint huffing vagrants I learned to ballroom dance in the arroyo with.  The decent cops that showed me leniency.  The friends.  The freaks.  The ladies that taught me to love…

Then there’s the place itself.

The landscape that taught me about God.  And showed me His more artsy side.  The sky actually talks to you out there.  Not always what you want to hear.  But the signal comes in pretty clear.  It’s the wideness.  TV signal doesn’t scramble it’s messages as bad.  Trees, rocks, water, dirt, plants.  All alive.  Also having something to say about it all.  Happy sun.  Stormy clouds.  Celestial snow.  Stars that stare back at you with wonder.

My big regret is that I spent so much of that time drunk.  Sometimes way too.  Certainly to appreciate some of it’s more subtle charms.

Like with a few women too, I guess.  I wish I was more present.   But you can’t be present when you’re deeply involved in shooting holes through furniture.  And trading karate chops with a buddy whose round house kick sends you crashing into a fish aquarium.  So yeah, I chose my career over having any stable romantic relationships.  Didn’t have the capital to invest enough of the emotional currency required to fund one.

What can I say?  I was a driven and ambitious young man.

I wanted to run amok.  As amok as amokably possible.  I needed a place to wait out my exile from the human race.  A desert inhabited by aliens seemed like good place.  To set up my own Area 51.  Run my own test flights.  A little elbow room to get my crazy dance on.

Under the moon.  While the hounds howled.  And a fire illuminated the madness in my eyes.  Grind the edge, until I drop off the rail, and plunge into The Abyss.  Then see what’s left after everything is destroyed.

Alright.  Did that.  Check mark that box.  What’s next?  Probably rehab.  And a slow descent to Earth’s orbit.

Very slow.  No rush there.

But I had to leave.  Hated to.  But had to.

I thought I could wash my sins away in the Pacific Ocean.  But the waters were already saturated.  And working at a strip club wasn’t exactly dry-cleaning my soul.  Should’ve gotten rid of all the guns, too.  I guess I had one more death left in me.

So I tried a different way of living.  One so jack bland, only the most desperate would even attempt to embrace it.  But it was all I had left.  And it turned out to be a lot better than I thought.  As my friend Mad Dog would say, “Ain’t that a kick for sore balls!”

And that’s what sometimes hurts about going home.  The ball-kicking realization of how much I missed out on. And now miss.  Being there and wishing I could have done it all sober.  Seen it all through clearer eyeballs.  But then we’d have nothing to laugh about, would we?  No mischievous hi-jinx to recall.  And if this blogula even existed, it would be insufferably boring.  Recipes for good mulch.  Illustrated core and balance exercises.

Pictures of people standing around in nature.

I shudder to think.

You should too.  You see,  I did it all for you, dear reader.  And it’s okay.  You guys are worth it.

Anyway, it will be good to see my sister and Keller.  Good to see Marko.  And whoever else I’m supposed to see.  Sunday afternoon I’ll be making speed-amends at a table at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.  Come by if you feel I owe you one.  I’ll try to guess what it’s about.  If I can’t remember, you can remind me, while I gnash my teeth with regret, and embarrass you with an overly dramatic public display of contrition.  And anything else to make things right.  Between us.

Buy you a beer?  You name it.  Even an import.

Because I want things to be good.  Between me and you.  And between me and New Mexico.  I want it to be a good homecoming.  I want to be able to go home.  Just to see if all those fuckers were wrong.

I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?