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.


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


On-line Loverboy Roy, Part 1.

There was no need to consult the monkey bones for an oracle, when the question, “What am I doing here?” keeps going through your head like a mantra, the date is not going well.  I looked over at her.  She was studying the menu intently.  I watched her eyes loiter around a section I’d rather they not be hanging out in.  Go ahead and stick me for the lobster.  You know you want to.  Who knows how this evening is going to turn out?  You might as well ride the gravy train while you can.  Get while the gettin’ is good.

“I think I’m going to have the lobster,” she announced, and set down the menu.

“Good choice,” I nodded.

I don’t think it would’ve bothered me if I didn’t know it was coming.  I get so disappointed with people when they meet my expectations.  Now I had no choice but to get something really cheap to mitigate the damage, and hopefully shame her.  Grilled cheese?  Too obvious.  Hamburger.  Yeah.  Simple burger.  What am I doing here?

That was the million dollar question.  I couldn’t answer you then, and today, after years of reflection, I can only take a stab at it.  Boredom?  The idea that being out with any woman was better than sitting at home?  A desperate grab for validation?  Something to write about later?

I can honestly tell you it wasn’t for sex.  Not in this case.  It may have started off that way.  I can’t imagine any other reason someone would on-line date, except maybe to find a soul-mate, to spend the rest of your life with having sex.  No, dear friends, as soon as I saw her, I knew this date wouldn’t be about sex.  Not if I had any say.  And as the man, I thought I had a pretty good say.

I was living in Redondo Beach with my bubby, Spike.  I was newly sober and “lonely” as hell.  I was not doing all that well in the bars now that I was deprived of charm juice.  I thought about maybe using this newfangled computer contraption and enrolling in an on-line dating service.  I was hesitant.  It seemed sleazy and demeaning, which if you know any stories about me, you’ll know is a total howler.  Really?   This is too low?

I can’t explain it, but I was getting all Amish, and felt like computer dating was interfering with Divine Will.  What about meeting a girlfriend the old-fashioned way, hung over, doing laundry at the mat?  This was like reaching into a bag of snakes and trying to grab the non-poisonous one.  It seemed wrong.  I thought about it.  Wrong in my world usually says “Green Flag.”  I sat down at Spike’s computer.

I hated filling out the profile thing.  I stared at the questions.  I could fill out the parts that required scientific facts, like weight and height, hair and eye color, but after that…shit.

Hobbies and interests?   I don’t have any.  Not ones, I could list and expect a date.  But, I didn’t want to lie either.  Not out of some ethical concern.  I didn’t want to rattle off a bunch of bullshit like skydiving and chess, because with my luck, I’d wind up with someone who insists on jumping out of an airplane together or staring  at a dusty board for hours in her favorite cafe.  That or any other pain in the ass thing that people like do for fun.

I decided to gamble and be honest.

“Laying around thinking about Stalingrad or contemplating the collapse of civilization.  As a youth, I was a champion drinker and marathon brooder.  I also enjoy studying criminal history, and reading about the lives of social misfits, deviants, holy madmen and psychopaths.”  There, that wasn’t so bad.  What else?

Under spiritual life I put “It’s complicated.”

How would I describe myself?  “Deeply troubled, but in a happy-go-lucky way.”

Okay, likes and dislikes.  Be careful here.  Really?  Why now?

“I like sunsets, romantic evenings by the fire, good movies, music and food.  But also don’t really feel like going out of my way for them. Oh, I like aliens, too. ”

Nice. Brief and concise.

Dislikes?  This probably won’t be as brief.  Let’s see…

“I dislike food poisoning, organ music, jail, pushy people, greedy people, arrogant, slick, vain, pompous, shallow, craven, know-it-all blowhard people, people who slow down walking across the crosswalk when they can see you’re waiting to turn, people who try to push the lifestyle that’s making them miserable on you, people who have to actually tell you they have a great sense of humor (they never do), people who take the last slice of pizza without a courtesy inquiry, rats, back-stabbers, hypocrites, snobs, bad eggs and chiselers, but overall I’m easy-going and non-judgmental.”

Under education I listed my degree.  Pretty worthless, until just right then.  That’s right, ladies, a college man.  Let’s talk about a book.

Current Occupation:  Bouncer at a strip club.

I looked it over for any blatant grammatical errors.  None that I saw, but how would I know?  I’m the one who wrote it.

There, that should do it.  Don’t forget to put you’re a Cancer.  Ha-ha.  Boy, ain’t that right.

My finger hovered over the send button.  You’re really going to do this?  Pretty honest little resume you whipped up there.  Not exactly using the best bait.  Maybe put in some cute and charming.  A wee sprinkle?  Fuck it!  We’re going to press with what we have.  Let’s see what this gets, if anything at all.  I pushed send.  I like doing stuff like that.  Just-to-see kind of stuff.

My first response was an ex-porn star.  Heart-attack serious, folks.  Ask Spike.  She contacted me.  In her e-mail she said flat-out that she was an ex-skin starlet, and was now producing adult films.  I could see her photo on the web site of the company she worked for.  I clicked on the link expecting it to take me to some Dr. Viagra M.D. Next Day Delivery web site, but there it was, her porn company.  I clicked under producers and looked her up.

No way.  I think I know her.  Not sure how.  She looked good.  Major Mid-forties Milfage.

Okay, just what the hell is going on here?  Some sort of cosmic Candid Camera?  It sounded too good to be true.  I thought it was some off-shoot of a Nigerian banking swindle.  I smelled some kind of  rat trap or sting.  Maybe a militant male-hating cyber terrorism group, dangling some candy so you’d open something you shouldn’t.  Yeah, get infected with some kind of worm.  It destroys your computer, but worse, dashes your hope of dating a milfy ex-porn queen.

Come on. My first tug on the line and I pull up this up?  Could this be real?  If this is real, it’s going to end bad.  Maybe something so terrible and surreal you won’t ever recover from it.

Must pursue.  Must.

She said she thought my profile was funny and wanted me to send her a photo of me without my shirt (at least I got to keep my pants on).  I really felt like I was auditioning.  She asked me to send it care of her company in the San Fernando Valley, of course.

I did, of course.  Dirty whore.  Me that is.  The jury was still out on the other deal.  In the meantime, I picked up the pace on the push-ups while I waited for her response.

She wrote back saying she got the pictures and was okay with meeting me.  Then she sent me her cell number.  Hmm… this may be real…and…I can’t do it.  It’s too weird.  Especially now without my handy judgement-impairment elixir.  So much easier to step into any passing abyss with a little drinky-poo to cushion the fall.  What’s the matter with me?  Man up.  Can’t I have impaired judgement without alcohol?

Of course you can.  You have to learn how to do everything sober now, and that includes making bad decisions.  Dating a porn star (ex) would so qualify.  Even if she was now a polished successful professional business woman with two teenage sons and a track record longer than Santa Anita’s.  I picked up the phone.

Now before you think that this was the lobster date, I can assure you I wouldn’t have bemoaned fine dining Pornula Von Milfenstein.  That was another thing, and I’ll get back to Lobster Lana in a bit.  Let me first finish up with the porn queen.  Ha.

No, there was no dinner with the Baroness.  She invited me to meet her at Hustler Hollywood.  Her company was putting out (indeed) a new line of interactive porno CDs.  I nodded, “yes that sounds so new to me- interactive porn.  Technology is amazing.”  They were going to have a big opening at the store with an after-party appropriately after.  All the top people in her nasty, stinky business would be there.

Wow.  Very weird first date.  I’m in.

Friday night, I combed my shoes and shined my hair.  I got in the car and headed for Hollywood.  Nervous.   A little thirsty.  Having moments of kind of wanting to be dead that came and went.  I parked the car at some rip-off and walked in.

The store was busy, and there were assorted bouquets of harlotry placed strategically here and there among the crowd.  I started to shark my way through the crowd.   She recognized me first, which was a total relief.  Nice looking lady.  Dressed classy, a tailored suit, probably a Valentino.  Pearls.  Expensive heels.  My mom would approve.  Hahahahahaha!

She really would have.  That’s the thing.  Drop the bomb later.   Anyway, she turned out to be a nice lady, warm and friendly.  Very normal.  And that was a problem.  I didn’t mind her being a porn queen.  I tend not to begrudge women the amount of men they’ve been with.  In this case, it just happened to be a lot, and in a lot of weird ways.

I was kind of hoping that she’d be more unorthodox, like with her thinking, and not just with the way she handed out slices of mango to every ape in Hollywood.  From what I was picking up, she was pretty mainstream.

I don’t swim well in those waters.  Pretty boring too.  But then I watched her click across the floor to hug some up-and-coming starlet.  They kissed on the mouth.  Okay, this isn’t boring yet.

After the opening we drove over to a club on Vine St. that was holding the party.  It was okay, as bummers go.  It was the first time I tried to dance sober.  Tried is the word.  I would’ve rather crawled over broken glass.  Fucking murder.  Pretty bad deal.

Anyway, I couldn’t relax.  I was stiff and insecure.  I had no game, and just sort of stood around filling out a suit.  Knowing I could light it up with a couple of cans of joy, but having to hold off.  Knowing it’s not going well, and kind of resigned to be doomed for now.  Taking it on the chin.

At the end of the evening I walked her out to her car.  She drew close.  Here it comes, Chip Chappy.  Let’s see what your performance rates.

She gave me a hug…and then a peck on the cheek…and then…wait for it…a pitty-pat on the back.

Kill me now, God.  I date a porn star and get a peck and a pitty-pat.  The fraternal love death-blow.  What sort of dastardly Lord of Fate was on duty when this shit was dreamed up?  Seriously, that stings like a bitch, Dude.  I knew it was a set-up.  I smelled it!

The next night at work, one of the bouncers asked me how the date went.  I told him I struck out.

“I realized I actually have a video of her,” he said, “giving  John Leslie a Dirty Belgium Waffle.”

“That’s great.  I got a pat on the back.”

I was sour for a while after that, but when I realized that I stayed sober through it, I felt a little better.  What am I to learn from all this?   That the Amish are right.  That computer dating is worst thing ever invented.  It’s beyond evil and I would never do it again.

After one more try.

That try got me Lobster Lana.  But, we get to deal with her ex-con bad ass next week, in the second part of this saga, appropriately designated, Part 2.

“I almost got arrested at that place.” Photo by Guy Ambrosino

Just Between You, Me, and The Internet

I was lying in bed thinking about Idi Amin, then for some reason the Ice Capades, when I remembered making an inappropriate remark at someone’s funeral.  I sat up in a cold sweat.  It was just a little observation about an attractive woman walking by the casket, mumbled quietly under my breath, but heard plenty loud by all the wrong people.  It happened over 17 years ago, but if I had a dagger near me, I would have plunged it into my gut and run the gears on myself.  I don’t keep daggers by my bedside just for this reason.

After thirty years of drinking, I have built up quite a stockpile of events that upon remembering late at night, when my psycho-defence mechanisms are off having a cigarette, leave me with a hankering for harakiri.  There seems to be an endless supply of forgotten ones that float up from the froth and flotsam of my consciousness.  Like corpses that have decomposed loose from the tubs of cement their feet have been sunk into before being thrown into the East River, they bob to the surface, ready for examination by criminal investigators.

They are not pretty to look at.  All alcoholics create wreckage in their lives.  For some, it looks like broken tool sheds with knocked-over buckets of curds.  For others it looks more like the smoldering ruins of Stalingrad, with knocked over barrels of bio-hazardous waste–Soviet waste, the kind that kills all life it touches.

You look like someone with keen intuition.  I’ll let you guess which category my shit fits into.

Hey, if I’m going to do anything, it’s going to be big.  Why would I leave fucking up out of the program?  Everyone has a path they must stumble along while learning the lessons of life.  Apparently, I signed up for the Grueling Epic Journey walking tour.  The last ten years of my drinking were a Bataan Death March, except I was thirstier than those dudes.  But, oh what magic memories.  Let’s sit around the slide carousel and take a look at some of the more memorable ones, shall we?  Fuck that.

This blog doesn’t pay.  I can’t divulge my most humiliating moments for nothing.  If I’m going to totally embarrass myself …again, I’m going to need to make enough money doing it to buy a gated hacienda in Belize; somewhere I can hide, and never have to look any of you in the face again.  Armed guards will patrol the grounds with trained Jaguars.  Servant girls armed with blow-guns will sleep curled up around my bed.  That shit isn’t cheap.  Only Oprah can save me now.

“Oh,” you say “But you’ve already written some pretty embarrassing things about yourself, what’s a little more?”

“Oh,” I would say back, “I bet you feel like a big smarty pants right now, but I haven’t even scratched the surface.  There’s a ratings level: A) Okay for public entertainment.  B) Okay for private entertainment.  C) Okay to privately confess to trusted confidant, who will be secretly entertained.  D) Okay to privately keep to yourself while sticking a dagger in your guts.”

You’re asking me to cough up Level D stuff without going through the required security clearance system.  D Level stuff is so secret, I don’t even admit it to myself.  I’m not about to hand it over to The Internet.  That place is populated by some seriously troubled individuals.  You should see some of the sick search terms they Google that eventually lead them to this blog.  It probably says more about my writing than anything, but I’m not going to think about that now.

Let’s just say I don’t yet fully trust this New Age of Information.

Until I can figure out how to erase huge swaths of my past, I’m going to hold some of my cards a little closer to my vest.  I’m still holding out for a time machine.  I know the Nazi’s were working on one.  Maybe we took over the program with their scientists we kidnapped after the war.  That’s what hope looks like to me.

In the meantime, I have to learn to how to accept and assimilate my past in a healthy way.  I like to imagine that I was part of an alien experiment in mutation designed to create a species that will survive the Apocalypse; a creature so used to dealing with miserable bullshit, that the tribulation from the End of Days will seem like just another rough Monday.

While everyone else is wailing and gnashing their teeth, I’ll be eating a breakfast burrito and washing down aspirin with a spicy Clamato.  There’s no money, gas or food?  Hell, I know this.  No need to freak.  Take a nap first, then try to figure it out later.  Maybe go pick through the stuff the looters dropped.

A strange belief system perhaps, but it works for me.  I won’t make fun of the crazy-ass shit you believe to help you cope.  I’m sure some of it is pretty laughable.  No, I know, not to you.

There’s not much to do with shame, but try to get over it.  It’s best to share some of it with a close-mouthed friend, preferably one with a terminal disease.  I figure if we both get a laugh over it, it’s a step towards healing.  (For me at least)  Oh, by terminal disease, I mean alcoholism.  I would share it with another alcoholic in recovery.  That’s what I meant.  Not using a dying person to safely unburden myself, like “Oh, here’s something I was going to take with me to the grave, but since you’re heading that way anyway…”

That would be a very bad thing to do, right?

That was the hardest part for me about getting sober.  Looking at it all, with clear eye-balls.  It made me want to unclear them again quick.  But, that kind of goes against the point?  I felt like the rat that finally got trapped, but with no teeth left to gnaw my leg off with.  So I’d peek at it, feel bad, shake it off as best I could, and keep moving forward.  You have to step lively, because there’s always some little demon dogs still nipping at your heels.  It was a bad time, but not as bad as before, and that’s what keeps you going.

Eventually, I slowed down when I realized nothing had been chasing me for the past 3,200 miles.  Next thing I knew, I had been issued a Citizen-in-Good-Standing Certificate with convenient iron-on patch.  The instructions say to use a warm, dry iron setting.  In small letters it says “Revoked upon request.”

I’ve been a good little boy ever since.  That is, of course, relative to how I was before.  There’s a lot of slack in that rope, but there’s not too much fresh stuff to cringe about. Sure here and there, but nothing that requires a seppuku solution.  I consider that a resounding success.  So what if some memories still give me a little jolt, they’re not going to kill me.  Running from them was.

The only effective way I’ve found to change what’s happened is to change how I think about it. Realizing I had the power to change the narrative of my life was liberating.  Ultimately, I write my story.  Now I just have to figure out how to write about the time I pissed my pants on the subway, and make it seem awesome,  and I’ll sleep a lot better at night.

There's Nothing to Fear