Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day forty four...Homecoming.

Today was a very big day.

Today was the day I would return to my position as guitarist-slash-vocalist in Western Mass's foremost alt-country, indy-pop band, Drunk Stuntmen.

Last night we had a big meeting at my house. We discussed what concerns there were about me rejoining the group after a self induced meltdown in Boston last December. We discussed my storied history of relapses. We basically brought to light the issues concerning substance abuse that have plagued the band continuously over the last 15 years. And we did it for the last time; at my house at least.

You see, because of my addictions, I have wasted a lot of people's time. I have acted selfishly and carelessly. I have put copious amounts of mind/body altering substances inside me and subsequently acted in ways which ultimately have hindered my talent and made the group look bad. I have been a real grade A ass.

We had sort of planned to have had the meeting right after New Year's but, due to circumstances under my control, it had to be pushed back.

I'm not going to say much about that very personal event except that: It happened, it was civil, it was brief, and there were snacks.

The snacks are a condition of my 4 other probation officers. It is written in the DSM-5 (our users manual):

If there is to be a meeting called, said meeting must make available:

"no less than two (2) kinds of dual-process snacks. Dual-process snacks are defined as any snack which, in and of itself would be fine and tasty (ie: potato/tortilla chips), but must also be accompanied, and made available for all parties involved, one (1) adjoining and complimentary item which, in and of itself would be fine and tasty, but not necessarily practical (ie: onion dip/salsa) and is/are to be placed in a common area accessible to all parties for the entire length of said meeting." This is an unwavering and important part of any meeting and should not be taken lightly.

As I said, that was a condition of my 4 "other" PO's.

My main one I was to see for the very first time today. Wednesday. Hump day. Prince spaghetti day.


My day started normal enough. Our meeting was scheduled for 10, so I set my alarm for 8 just to be safe. I then, upon rising, gave myself an extra hour and reset my alarm for 9. This would leave me plenty of time for breakfast, a shower, and the 20 minute walk downtown.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking.

My eyes opened slowly, as if underwater. I had been dreaming of sitting patiently in a car which was stopped at a flashing red light. With a most strained effort, my eyes began to focus. The lit digits flashing on and off surrounded by the black border was at first soothing, then, how you say...not so much.


Blink, blink, blink, blink...

Oh my god! This is not happening...

Yes, the power had gone out; the oldest trick in the book. The heavy snow must have snapped a power line. The electricity was presently restored, but the damage had been done.

I jumped up out of bed as if I had just been bitten by a raccoon. I ran to the kitchen. I checked the battery operated clock.


All hope was not lost. There was no time for a shower, but I could make it if I didn't waste a second.

I brushed my teeth, threw on some clothes, grabbed the necessary documents, and ran downstairs.

I opened the door and stepped into a natural obstacle course. It was seemingly made just to put the pressure on and let me know that even though I made it through this far, it was not going to be easy.

This new world of stress and circumstance was unfortunately traversable exclusively via freshly flooded streets piled 5 or 6 inches deep with cold, gray, malevolent slush.

No time to change plans. Gotta move on.

I could walk in the middle of the street from my neighborhood as it's fairly quiet, car-wise. The hard part came when I hit Rt. 10.

I tried to walk on the sidewalk. Problem was, the actual sidewalk was about 5 inches below the enveloping slush. Each step seemed like 3 minutes in time. Each step brought new levels of cold wetness to my otherwise dry, warm, stockinged feet. With each stride, my boots gained weight.

OK, time for plan B: walk in the street.

It wasn't so bad. No one honked at me, and I didn't get killed. I kept kind of in line with the bike lane. It was the first time I had walked somewhere where I actually wished I had a helmet. Damn.

I saw something hilarious on my walk.

In my neighborhood, a lot of people hire companies to plow their sidewalk/driveway. This usually entails a snow blower. A lot of people wear those landing strip ear protector headphones and I can see why. They work; really, really well. So well in fact, that someone forgot to turn off their snow blower and jammed it into the back of their pickup with the thing still running. It passed me slowly but loud enough to hear the whirring motor. It made me laugh; I definitely needed it.

I arrived at the courthouse with 3 minutes to spare. I successfully made it through the metal detector and headed up the steps; my heavy wet boots providing an interesting contrast to my dry state of mind. I met with my PO.

She was cordial but very matter-of-fact. She laid down the law. She told me I could not leave the state without prior consent from her. She made me blow a breathalyzer, which came back 0.00; much different from the last time. She told me about a new law which may be going into effect that will make it very hard for me to travel. I told her it was my livelihood and that I had plans to tour with 2 bands, one of which will be going to Belgium in June. She reminded me that I was here because I had gotten myself into trouble. She told me I was a very unique case, and then she told me to beat it. Nicely, but beat it nonetheless.

And then I walked home.

But this time I walked on the sidewalks. Due to the cold, the slush was a bit firmer than an hour prior. I walked slower; more confidently; more at ease. I had crossed another border on my journey through the legal system, and I think I made a good impression. Only time and my actions will tell.

I hung around the house until Scott picked me up for practice.

It seems that the boys had been doing some work in my absence. Good work. Exciting work. I felt just a bit strange. They had to move some of their gear around to fit mine in. They had to adjust the PA to allow for the addition of my microphone. They had to cover their ears at times when short squalls of unwelcome feedback from my rig filled the room. They had to put up with some inappropriate note choices on my part as I had been away from my guitar for two weeks.

And I say "they had to" like it was involuntary; like there wasn't a choice.

It was very much voluntary. It was very much a choice.

They didn't have to do any of this; they wanted to. They did it because they all agreed I was worth one last shot; one last chance; one last pass; one last 'get out of jail' card.

And I had better get on my game. I better make good on my newfound plan for sobriety, or I'll end up out of a job; a job I've been interviewing for over the last 28 years; a job people would kill for. And if I that happens, I might be forced to survive on my brawn and back rather than my ears and brains. I might very well end up as that guy wearing the landing strip ear-protector headphones. The guy who has to plow his neighbor's driveway. The guy who absentmindedly leaves the thing running in the back of his truck as he motors on downtown to clear out in front of the music store for fifty bucks. The guy who lost his full time gig.

And that, my friends, would be a fate worse than deaf.

Yes, today was a very big day.

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