Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day three hundred and ninety five ... The real me.

I am not an optimist.

There. I've said it. Or, at least I've typed it. And as soon as I publish this entry it will be set in digital stone for all eternity.

And I can't believe it's taken me this long to admit it to myself.

It's kind of weird to see what vestiges of denial linger on after we strip away what has been directing our minds, bodies, and spirits for what seems like forever. They hang around like that last party guest who you find snoring on the couch as you head on to your room to pass out. You're not as gone as they are, but you're gone enough to just let it go. It would be way more trouble to wake him up and forcibly extricate him from the premises. So, maybe you even throw a blanket on him and turn the lights off, which may or may not elicit a groan of thanks directed your way ( which is most likely in response to the act of kindness more than a direct acknowledgement to the person kind enough to have performed it). And then you sleep. And in the morning they may or may not still be there. 

This time they were right where I left them. Ugh.

I was called on it last night. I'm not going to go into who or where or the surrounding circumstances of it all. Suffice to say it was said by someone who knows me better than just about anyone in the world. We have a long and storied history. It's been rocky at times, but it always seems to work out, and I can always count on him to give me his honest opinion whether I asked for it or not.

He said to me, in the middle of a conversation about appreciation of music (after I provided a decidedly petulant statement), "That was a while ago ... that was when you were an optimist ... ."

And I just stood there and immediately became defensive. I think I even sputtered.

"But ... but I am an optimist. I ... I'm just being practical."

And it went on from there, with not much more to the conversation that needs to be conveyed in this post. But I just realized--after being moderately upset about it through the few hours before sleep came last night and now--that he was right. I'm not an optimist. An optimist--which my computer dictionary defines as "a person with a hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something"--is not the way I would describe myself at all. I think many situations in life are destined for disaster (or are just flawed from the start) and it is simple human nature to just let them fall apart and dissolve into the rug under our feet and then run. "Whoops! Did I do that?," (looks both ways) "I'm outta here!"

I am, however, optimistic about the outcome of situations that have been undertaken with intellect, compassion, and understanding. I believe in optimism, and I try to utilize it when I can, but I don't feel that because I am optimistic that things will turn out okay. Things will only turn out okay if the circumstances they occur in allow it, and we, as individuals, can only do so much to influence that outcome. With indifference, malaise, and insolence the world falls apart. It's happening all around us every day, every hour, every minute. It just happened somewhere just then. But I'll do my best, in my little part of the world, to counter it with my actions, and hope for the best. It's the least--and the most--I can do.

But I don't think he was totally right about me formerly being an optimist in the first place. And this is helping me understand a whole lot of stuff that had been simmering right under the surface.

You see, when someone lives as self destructive a lifestyle as yours truly they develop many ways to cope with intentional negative behavior. I, after years of self-abuse, developed a m.o. which consisted of not only looking only at only the good in something, but oftentimes fast forwarding over the intricacies of what was inherently wrong, essentially ignoring the simple errors which, with a more scrutinizing eye, I could have fixed along the way. Subsequently, I never really learned how to find a happy medium. I gave in real quick. I just brushed off the negativity and swept it into a giant pile in the closet. It built up and built up and became unsightly. I covered it with giant blankets and shoved and jammed it into the corner and then I piled more stuff on it in an attempt at projecting an image of stability.

At least I think I did. I can't really be too sure about a lot of things I did, said, thought, or felt over the last few years.

I just remember, more often than not, saying, "Argh ... well, this is just what I do ... there's no way around it." Or, "at least I'm not as bad off as ______ ... it's okay ... at least I didn't ______ ...", and so on. Extreme, forced optimism combined with finely honed rationalization. With that mix (and a substance abuse problem) I'm going to have to say that I feel lucky to be alive.

But I know enough about the human psyche to understand that what I and my friends took as optimism was really just a way of clinging to the merry-go-round rails of a human being spinning out of control. I don't think anyone who knew me the way I used to be would deny that I had some severe problems. I did what I could to hide the most unattractive byproducts of it all, but after a while the symptoms become the subject and what one thinks is successful subterfuge is in fact only deceiving its host.

And I should say that it wasn't all false optimism. I was raised by a family who was happy with so many aspects of life. My mother never stopped encouraging me in my efforts in the arts, as well as my many unsuccessful attempts to clean up my life. I was provided the best possible accommodations available to grow and become a content, positive, and nurturing human being. My family made certain that I was always aware that I was loved to the fullest, in hopes that I would carry on that spirit of joy and vitality. And for the most part it worked. I have a good life filled with exceptionally unique and thoughtful friends.

But learning what I'm really like under all the armor I used to wear is a huge part of my sobriety. It puts everything in perspective. It provides focus as it gives a point of reference. 

So, that leaves the question: What am I?

I suppose I am still learning on a daily basis what kind of person I am. For now I'll just settle for being whatever will bring about a positive outcome. And please note that this is different from believing things will always work out in the future. It's simply just avoiding the alternative unattractive eventualities from careless decision making. I don't have a catch-all. I don't have a consistent m.o., and that's a good thing. Because that leaves the door open for all kinds of personality leanings. That's the part of living life sober that I think scares a lot of people--they feel like they're going to find out what they are really like under it all and they're not going to like who they find. And not even necessarily that, but that they're not going to be able to do anything about it--that they're stuck with it. 

The only eventualities a sober person is stuck with is knowing that they will never be able to fully describe themselves. And there's a certain amount of security in that idea that I think I will always look forward to.

That may be the optimist in me talking, but there's a big crowd inside this cranium of mine, and it's hard to know who said what sometimes.

Thanks for reading.



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day three hundred and ninety two ... Hell on earth.

I can't not look.

As much as it pains me to see what a fiery inferno the world has become in so many respects, I can't stop watching. 

It leaves me cold inside. 

It leaves me like a whore in a hurry, forgetting a bobby pin in the sheets for me to jam my elbow into hours later.

It just seems to pile up--the inhuman acts of violence, the incompetent workmanship leaving lives shattered from faulty products, the white collar vampires sucking people dry of money, the gangs, the drugs, the drunken fights that leave willing participants dead on the sidewalk, the population explosion, the joblessness, the corruption in every corner of our capitalist infrastructure--it just leaves me groggy, swatting for the lamp switch and hearing the remote fall on the hardwood, the back flying off and the batteries scattering.

What the fuck is going on?

Was it this bad thirty years ago?

I mean, I remember the Seventies: inflation, the gas shortage, the hostage crisis, the Blizzard of '78. Things happened that should have been prevented--acts of god not withstanding--but I don't remember anything like we have now. 

Maybe we just have more ways to be told the bad news.

They say don't shoot the messenger, but I would hazard to guess if the messenger did get shot there would be a news bulletin posted in so many places that by the third time you saw it you would get irritated that it keeps popping up everywhere. 

Stupid messenger ... 

And the earth keeps filling up with bodies, both on top and under the surface.

I live in a so-called paradise. I am as lucky as I am aware of where it makes the most sense to live my life. But even still, not more than twenty minutes away is a cesspool of gang violence and poverty, kids having kids, education becoming anathema, and government programs creating communities held together by a common ideal that you don't want to get too far ahead or the wind that's keeping you going will expect you to use your own muscles and move on to help someone who really needs it. 

And it's only getting worse.

You may wonder where this is all coming from. Anyone who has read more than an entry or two of what I have to say knows that I generally have a positive outlook on life; I embrace all the obstacles put in my way and paint faces on them before I find a way to get around them, so those who come upon them in my wake will know that someone had been there before them, and--not seeing any visible signs of defeat--will understand that they too can overcome almost anything.

But I just can't help myself from getting caught up in the madness of watching the madness.

I have to appreciate the chaos even if it has ceased to worry me.

Maybe it's just the winter taking its toll on my psyche. I really can't wait for the snow to stop and melt and nourish the plants underneath the ground. I can't wait to ride my bicycle to the gym in shorts, and then sit downtown and have an iced coffee and watch all the pretty girls in their light, colorful springtime clothes walk by in a daze.

And then there's baseball, but I won't get into that today.

The closet pessimist inside me wonders what kinds of chaos has to happen in the world to get to that point in my year? How many more laid off workers will have to go on a killing spree? How many more torture chambers will have to be discovered complete with unsuspecting neighbors who claim, "he was such a nice man. I could have never expected anything like this to have happened."

But somebody, somewhere, right now is being lied to. Someone in a town you've never heard of yet is doing something unspeakable to someone else and getting away with it. Someone just can't live life like a decent human being.

I'm afraid to put on the news for fear of what their top story is. Every night someone else in Springfield or Holyoke or Pittsfield is gunned down or knifed. Fucking lunatics. 

But I'm going to watch, because I'm hooked. 

And the strange thing is I don't get nightmares. I haven't for years. And I think it has something to do with the fact that when I was a kid, nightmares were the worst possible scenario in my world. I wasn't worried about my neighbor holding someone hostage in their end room. No, back then was scared of dancing skeletons or vampires--imaginary, impossible dangers ... dangers that came from a fantasy world and stayed in a fantasy world.

Now, at age 38, I'm not even shocked when I hear about a drive by shooting or a home invasion, because these things are just a part of life now. These things are real. These things I have to concern myself with as long as I am willing to go on with this life.

These things are just part of hell on earth.

I guess the longer you live the less it feels like a bad thing.

Oh well. I gotta run. It's time to put on the news.

At least I know they won't have any stories about vampires.

Thanks for reading.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day three hundred and eighty nine ... Salt of the earth.

It's everywhere.

Well, it's everywhere snow is.

Salt, of course.

Big, crystalized, whitish, gray and opaque pebbles furious with destruction.

Salt is hungry, but it is also patient. It hangs on after its localized work is done, until it is picked up by an unsuspecting boot or an animal's footpads. It travels well, this resilient and undaunted elemental hitchhiker.

But salt's placement in our world is not to destroy but to keep us safe. 

It is spread by man woman and child in front of every doorstep and down every walkway anywhere the earth is apt to freeze. It coats the streets and sidewalk. It lingers, loiters, and leaves litter on every curbside. It squats in the vacant spaces amidst our carpet fibers. It marinates our hardwood floors. It shellacs our mud rooms and patios. It seasons each step in every stairwell. And its fine silt sleeps in late with us between our organic cotton sheets. 

It feasts on our cars. In fact, it's eating precious time off of all of our vehicles as I type these words. There's no way to fully stop it short of moving to a warm climate. And I have no intention of letting a more temperate environment cause me to long for that which I do not have. Because I--where I am--have it all, as do you. 

Nonetheless, it is an epidemic, this salt plague. We bring it upon ourselves every year. We go out and buy it in bags and buckets. We keep it next to our doorway or in the hall. We pay taxes enabling giant dump trucks to season our streets. And we feel even safer stuck strapped inside a forward moving vehicle behind a phalanx of these armed crusaders, these anonymous soldiers of prevention, clad in mud muckled orange ... the very color of caution.

And as we drive behind the sirens of safety we reflexively grasp the steering wheel a little less firmly. We ease up. We inexplicably feel safer on the same road that is littered with spun-out cars because, thankfully (and due in part to the salt), we are still moving under our own tenuous intention. We put our faith in the natural act of salt reacting with frozen water. And all the while as we feel incrementally safer we are giving up microscopic but very real layers of surrounding metal from the oxidation that complements our terrain with a measurable discharge of orange rust ... a gravy that mixes in with the ground rock, dirt, plants, trash, and acid that lie in the boot-level basin underfoot.   

But we allow it--nay, we embrace it--every winter just as every summer we throw caution to the sun, bending with our backs to walk boxes half our weight to the ledge of an open window, praying that the tightly folded freon filled grenade doesn't fall out onto the street, wondering less and less every day why our backs hurt so much, daring and dreading at once the arrival of a heightened electric bill--our personal best, as it were--to coerce us to care any more than we already do about the general health of the world.

Because the benefits outweigh the risks.

We are gamblers, all of us.

Every day we wake up and face the day we are taking a chance.

Lately, I find myself developing a slight case of preventative paranoia. That is to say, as I go about my day I am realizing that everything that hasn't reached its peak is falling apart. And as I make such observations--that a painting has been finished, or a new song's last chord is agreed upon--a few mice (very real ones) are birthed somewhere in a hole in the wall the size of a fist. And now, their job is to grow until they start to fall apart, get stepped on, or eat the wrong glob of peanut butter. Neither is more beautiful--mouse or musician--because both are temporary, and both have the capacity to evoke emotions untold. From the listener who hears a line in a new tune which hits home so hard he almost faints, to the unsuspecting Yob who nearly has a heart attack upon a low-light close encounter with an unsuspecting rodent while sitting on the toilet. He--for a few brief seconds--is reduced to the size of his reflection in our little friend's cornea. Meanwhile, only one of them can run, and does so.

We shower and brush our teeth. We comb our hair and try to look as respectable as our conscience allows. We put on freshly laundered clothes and make sure we have everything we need for whatever we have to do. We lean against the wall, standing, and throw one foot over a bent knee tugging the criss cross cables tight and safe. We tie a bow--two even--and then we do the other foot. We put a hat on our head and gloves on our hands. We open the door, and as the wind hits our face our eyelids shield us with a tight squint.

And we go out in the world--to the safe sand and salt--and we fall a little apart. We have to. We have things to do before we die.

And somewhere, a mouse is warm, full of food, and content to sit and sleep on the salty floor.

To each his own.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day three hundred and eighty six ... Address, Determine, Accept, Predict, and Transition.

Where does the energy come from?

I mean, five minutes ago I was sitting lethargically on my bed not really wanting to do anything, and now I am wheeling away at the keypad with my thoughts racing.

Where does it all come from?

I think the better question is: what do I do to better predict when it will come?

This I find to be key in my life right now. I realize that I am a series of hilly roads. I have a car that is relatively safe and gets pretty good gas mileage. It's no sports car for sure. But it's not a clunker either. It gets me where I need to go most days, and it almost always starts for me without too much of a problem.

But it has its issues, and I can never really tell when its going to want to fight me. And I say "fight me" in a general sense of not wanting to do exactly what I have in mind, as it were.

But where does this energy come from?

Well, from my limited knowledge of biology I can surmise that it comes from the brain. 

This is an amazing idea--that this gray, bunched-up organ the size of a melon can grant me the ability to jump out of bed, hop in the shower, put on clean clothes, and go out there and get things done.


So, if I have the power to do whatever I feel like doing--within my means--then it stands to reason that I can do absolutely anything. 

I just got a chuckle over a little game I'm playing on another website. Nothing important. Just a little fun between friends. But, because of this tiny little diversion, my body filled with energy, my blood started pumping a bit faster, and I smiled at something that pleased both me and those who chose to see it as a fun little game.

Think that's an obsession with minutiae? You may be right. But this is what our worlds are made up of. And it's this kind of attention to detail that is honing my mind, body, and spirit. It's keeping the gears turning. It's keeping my emotions in check. It's reeling in my predictable tendencies.

It's helping me to adapt.


This is the program I have developed over the last year. This is what helps me keep on track.

A ... address the problem.

D ... determine the motivation.

A ... accept the limitations.

P ... predict the tendencies.

T ... transition to a better life.


You see, the human brain can only remember a certain number of details at one time. Twelve steps is way too many. I can only remember a few and certainly not in the correct order. 

Just now, I had to count how many letters was in the word "adapt." Why? Because it's not a number. It's a word. And it is common. It makes sense. And what does anybody who has a destructive demon inside them want--be it overeating, gambling, vanity, anything--at the end of the tunnel? They want a sense of sense. An order that is lucid. Something that can gracefully be implemented into our lives in any set of circumstances.

We want something that is a natural act.

Adapting doesn't get any more intuitive.

Expanding on this idea: what is it about a vice that makes it desirable? Well, besides the acquisition of ingredients and a safe place to use (and this, once again, is not subject only to controlled substances. It can be transferred to being a pack rat, a smoker, a gossipmonger, anything) is its effortlessness. It seems to just happen. We like that. I know I like that. So, to effectively implement a program of life changes one needs to incorporate a way of living that seems to flow. And once the adaption method is implemented it should become second nature, not some sort of mantra that needs to be recited, or a meeting that one must attend for fear of failure.

It needs to just happen.

Give yourself more credit.

Believe that you can rise over and above the bad habits that you yourself have woven into the intricate quilt of your life.

Abstinence without understanding is as good as action without aim.

If we have a facet of our lives that we find undesirable and we don't fully understand why we do it in the first place, just saying we're never going to do it again is a setup--its almost a self-dare. And while I'm not saying that I'm going to go back to a life of drink and drugs, what I am saying is that I now understand why I did it in the first place. It makes sense to me. I'm not just saying "I used to do this and it turned my life upside down, so now I'm not going to ever do it again." I'm saying, "I used to do this and it turned my life upside down, and I'm going to figure out why it continued unchecked." And when I figure out why that happened I'll have a better understanding of who I really am underneath it all. Just like there was a flow and a current of thought and inspiration which powered the waterwheel that led me to act in ways that brought me to the edge of madness, I'm going to figure out a way to dig a canal to redirect the water so it flows in a way I desire, to a new camp, to a Utopian village that I am erecting in a part of town that is a little harder to get to but is worth making every effort to equip with the finest and most practical amenities.

And then I won't have to wonder where the energy comes from.

I'll just have to decide where I want it to go.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Day three hundred and eighty three ... Loose ends.

Some people still don't know.

I guess I used all the serious tones and sad demeanor I could muster after my aunt passed away and sort of ran out of steam. I thought I had told everybody.

But this Christmas saw a good four or five cards show up addressed to you know who. Most were from people whose names I only knew in passing. Some were from people I had never heard of. 

A good friend of both of them just found out, on the off chance, when she Googled my aunt's name and found this blog. We have since corresponded and shared a few intense conversations about the people who I knew best, but still only knew from my perspective. It's been nice, and I'm looking forward to doing it more. 

And then, there was a straggler that came to the mailbox yesterday. 

I had to go to Mattapoisett for a few things; I hadn't been in a while. There was a bunch of mail from all kinds of foundations and old Alma Maters, looking for dough. There were a few brightly colored envelopes from things like Direct TV and Comcast, trying to pitch a new, multi-faceted entertainment plan my way. 

Finally, I opened a little envelope which looked personal. Written on it was the return address of a man who my mom and aunt both knew. I believe he was a teacher from B.M.C. Durfee High School where they both worked for years. It started out, "Dear Lynda," and went on for a couple of sentences about my mother, and how he was thinking of the good times they all shared. It even mentioned my name. I'm sure, if they shared good times, then my folks liked him very much. There were many people who knew them, but few broke through the barrier to the point where they would hang out, as it were.

So now, I have the distinct honor of calling this man (his number was easily attainable through a quick internet search) and tell him what I have to tell him. I'm sure as soon as say who I am he will suspect the worst; at least I know I would. But it has to be done. It's another loose end. It's another person who is going to be sad after the fact.

The other people I can just send a little note in the mail; there's no need to look them up. But it's something that I owe them if they are going to take the time and send a card. 

And so, tomorrow, I will call. I tried him today, but I didn't want to leave a message. That seems tacky. I didn't want to even say to call me, because he would know right away something was wrong, and it's the kind of thing that should be done in one fell swoop, not half-assed by playing phone tag with somebody in Michigan.

But this is the kind of stuff my aunt took care of when my mom died. She had to call all the people who were at all a part of my mom's life and let them know a great woman has moved on. She never told me she had to do this, but I can guess that, since I didn't get any cards addressed to my mom, it had to have been done.

And this is another part of growing up. There is no place left to pass the buck; nobody who will shelter me from an adverse detail which might set me off on a tear and have negative consequences. It's all me now. 

And it's not necessarily a bad thing ... being the bearer of bad news.

I look at this phone call as not simply an end. No. I look at this as another source of illumination. I look at this as a chance to gain a detail of my folks' lives that I never got to see. Sure, my mom could tell me she talked about me all the time and, of course, I'd believe her. But it gave me such a good feeling when I heard if from an impartial party of how my she would beam when she brought me up. How she would fill with joy and excitement to tell of my upcoming, and recently executed adventures globe trotting around like a rock star with the Chorus, not to mention all the original music I had written, recorded, and performed for over twenty years as well. She talked of my achievements, which she was so proud of, as well as her concern of my dangerous way of living. She was proud, and she didn't want to see my life end before hers.

So, as much as I won't say I'm looking forward to making this call, it's not the most terrible thing either. And this way of being--finding the positive in even the most depressing of tasks--is how I see the world now.

When I see a rock on the ground, I don't just see a rock. I see potential. I see--as disgusting as it may seem--the creatures that inhabit the underside of this impenetrable and seemingly purposeless object. I look for what can be learned from that which may seem unattractive.

All you have to do is not stop looking at a situation in order for it to change. It may take some time, but there's always an angle you can view it from that you hadn't tried. I used to do it all the time when I was looking for an excuse to get loaded. Now it just helps keep me going the way I'm going. It makes me stronger. It makes me smarter. It makes me want to live longer.

Because if I don't do it, who will?

I'm just glad I am alive and able to ask the question.

Thanks for reading,



Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day three hundred and eighty ... If it's too loud ...

Volume is a powerful force.

It can excite.

It can embarrass. 

It can lead.

It can scatter.

It can represent strength.

It can break glass.

It can deafen the ears.

It can overtake a room.

It can provide reason to believe it is hiding something behind its power--something that belies its confidence.

It is a drug.

When I was younger, all I wanted was a full Marshall stack. That would be two giant, square cabinets stacked on top of each other, with four speakers in each, topped with a 100 watt head filled with brightly glowing vacuum tubes that would be capable of making the loudest sound imaginable under any circumstances. 

Thank god I never got one. And I didn't just not get one because they were ridiculously expensive and I didn't have the means of transporting it anywhere. I just didn't need it. I only wanted one because I saw my heros playing through one. Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads--all those heavies--they all had Marshall Stacks.

Instead, I got a series of amps that were medium sized--each one getting successively better appointed in both tone and flexibility. I have a few effect boxes that I sometimes use, depending on the gig, but the amp only needs to have a few basic requirements. And each one of these amps were packed with enough wattage to play almost any show. 

But learning that there are facets to one's talent that can dwarf the loudest machine created is not an easy lesson. Some people never learn it. 

There is a distinct pattern of behavior that I see many, if not all, guitarists go through.

First there is the acoustic--anything with strings. You can beat away on those strings and strum all the basic chords (damn that F and B-flat) and have a good old time. It's like jumping aboard your first tricycle. It's fun, harmless, and a good start to lead to bigger, better things. It's also the point when you realize that you control the sound that comes out of the body. It doesn't last long.

Then you beg for an electric guitar. If your parents are musicians, they know the basic requirements: you need a guitar and and amp. If, though, your parents know of guitar necessities only what they have seen on record sleeves or on the television, then they are in for a shock when you start to explain what kind of amp you want to go with your axe (of course it's nicknamed something dangerous--it's rock and roll). 

So, you get your beginner electric guitar, which will do for a time. You get your twenty or thirty watt amplifier with one speaker to go with it, and, for some strange reason, as you begin to learn to make music on it you have no concept of focusing the power it is capable of. You just play through it at as loud a volume as you can to drive the adults in the vicinity insane. You turn up and you clang and bang at it and you let the feedback bounce off the walls and drive your dogs wild with fits of barking. 

It's easy to ignore there are people screaming at you when you can't hear them. It's even easier with your hair in your face.

If it is in you to get better, you get better. As you get better you keep your eye on that giant amplifier in the music store--the one with four handles and a set of casters on it (and you can't figure out why anyone would want to sell something as sweet as that). You also want--nay, you need the cabinet to go with it so you can fill the room with your sound so everybody from the front row to the people outside having a smoke can hear you roar. You won't have to be seen for all to know you made it to the top of the mountain. No sirree. 

And if it is in you to purchase this monster then it will do through your twenties and into your early thirties. You go from club to club with soundman after soundman cringing when he sees you. You learn to try to assuage his fears--you know what you're doing. But he knows better. And as you flick the standby switch, and the bright blue beacon of light glows one shade brighter as the tubes fill with anxious energy, the soundman instinctively unzips his fanny pack and puts his earplugs in. He's no dummy. He was like you once. And if he's lucky he can still hear the important frequencies. He can probably hear more than you can, and you still have your hearing. But it's so hard to realize that from where you stand. It's nearly impossible. 

Then, your band gets frustrated because you have a tendency to be the loudest thing on stage. And there are others up there all doing their thing but you see to it that the attention is squarely focused on you. People come up and complain that your guitar tone hurts their ears. You act concerned on the outside, and pretend to turn down. Inside, though, you just wonder what their problem is. It's a good thing they don't make the volume knob very big. It's easy to fake a counterclockwise rotation when your hand is covering the numbers.

And you go through this period of pretending to know what you're doing. It should be obvious to anyone that you've got it going on. You have the right gear. You wear the right clothes. And you pose and cavort with a swagger reserved for a select few. 

And each time you load your car with your giant amp you get it more and more beat up. And each time you load your car with your giant amp you get more and more beat up. And your back starts to hurt every night after the show. It takes you longer to get set up. You forget important pieces of gear behind. You come to dread hauling the thing out to every gig. And you feel like you have to do it because your giant amp has become your identity. People expect to see it when they expect to see you

If you are lucky enough and/or talented enough to get to the point where you have people moving your gear for you from show to show, you may not outgrow this tendency for a long time. It may never happen. And the fact of the matter is it feels good to experience the sensation of your sound coming through a giant stack of speakers. Life, love, and all that can be experienced in this world can be boiled down to a series of vibrations. And an extreme amount of them at one time can be intoxicating. But I've seen all kinds of giant acts whose guitarist have one modest combo amplifier that sounds fantastic, with a proper microphone in front of it, and a soundman on the other end, sending it through a giant stack of speakers so everybody can hear, not just the front five rows.

But if this doesn't happen--if the roadies never show up--there comes a defining time when you leave your giant amp at home and, instead, borrow a friend's smaller one. You can't believe how well it worked when the gig's over. It takes you no time to pack it away in your car, and it leaves you room inside that you never had before.

And now you are left with a decision: you can risk your hearing and physical mobility by continuing to beat yourself up with the monster that you've saddled yourself with, or you can learn to adapt to a new way of performing and trust that those who put their faith in you in the beginning, when you were just full of raw talent and emotion, will continue to pay attention and follow you while you figure out a new way to play, and a new way to get better.

So you trade in your giant amplifier down at the music store and you invest in a nice, small, one or two speaker model. You walk out of the store with it in one hand and you put it in the trunk of your car. It fits easily. 

And this is how I learned that the sounds that are inside me--the voices that sing incognito phrases unbound by parlance--don't get their power from a series of vacuum tubes, transistors and electricity. 

Great power comes from confidence in the softest plucked string. Paramount impact results from pure, focused intent. The well-schooled student makes the instrument glad it was built.

And the volume has its place.

Volume is a powerful force.

And if one doesn't learn this in time, there's a good chance that those who do understand will get blamed for not speaking up loud enough.

And the cycle goes on.

Thanks for reading.



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day three hundred and seventy seven ... The absence of value.

A few weeks ago, while I was at the tailor, changing into what would be the stunning Hugo Boss suit I wore at my housewarming/holiday party, a woman came in with a lovely dress on a hanger.

"How much to have this hemmed," she asked.

"Thirty dollars," said the woman with the pin cushion, in a heavy Greek accent.

"But ... but that's more than I paid for it," said the lady, incredulously.

"Das too bad," said the tailor with a shrug ,"iss what I charge."

I heard the woman pick up the item off the counter and wheel around, yanking the door open, and rousing awake the rusty, stainless steel bell that hung over the threshold. She left with her clothes, more than likely to go to another tailor, only to be told again that she was going to have to shell out more than she paid for something in order for it to fit her.

I am a Yankee, true and true.

What does this mean?

Well, first and foremost it means that I come from a type of people who only pay in cash. They do not extend debt beyond what they can pay for by week's end. Yankees usually have one credit card if they have one at all. Its primary purpose is to buy concert tickets over the phone. Its secondary purpose is, surprisingly enough, to build a healthy credit score. Its full balance is almost always paid off no more than a week after receipt of the bill.

I am from a clan who cut coupons (to use as double coupons where and when applicable). We buy 2-for-one on many items. We collect pennies in jars for use only in emergencies. We compare circulars, manufacturers warranties, value-appreciation (and depreciation), and consult with Consumer Reports on almost any purchase over ten dollars.

And we hate to pay for alterations, even though most clothes that are stylish are made for people who are tall and thin, and the majority of New Englanders are short and not thin.

We are religiously frugal. That's why New England has been spared much of the fallout from the recession the rest of the country is embroiled in. Don't believe me? Believe me. I know.

But sometimes, that frugality really rears up and bites us Yankees on the ass.

Take the woman with the dress:

She bought something--probably on clearance--at a phenomenal price; it's worth much more than she paid for it I'm sure. And, I'm guessing, it was on clearance, partly because it was the last one left in an unusual size. So, she knew when she bought it that it didn't fit her, and she knew she was going to have to have alterations done, but she rationalized in her head that the fix wouldn't be more than ten or twenty percent of the price--it couldn't be. All she knew was how much she was saving; the reason she was saving so much was unimportant. 

Sometimes it all happens in a blur. 

Anyway, that didn't stop her from putting up the money--in cash--for a lovely dress that didn't fit her.

And that brought her to the tailor, who told her how much it would cost for her to do what needed to be done to it, in order for her to wear what she was so happy she bought on sale, and have it look like it belonged on her frame.

But she was a Yankee, and so she couldn't bear to part with more money than she paid for the item--regardless of how much it would cost at regular price--to make it work.

She saw it as a rip-off.

The nerve!

I may be a Yankee, but I won't fall into this trap.

I see the tailor's price as part of the deal.

I see almost everything as part of the deal.

Because almost every single thing we do in life is a deal. Someone gets something in exchange for giving something back. Do this enough times and you have a life.

I don't like intentional quid pro quo, but a lot of times it just happens anyway, even if it's subliminal.

Both my lawyer and my financial adviser have said to me--independent of each other--this phrase: price is only a consideration in the absence of value.

My aunt always hated that phrase.

Because it was usually said to her when one of the two of the aforementioned important people in nice suits were trying to explain why she had to pay certain fees for certain services.

I mean, if she could have typed up her will with the Smith-Corona using my mom's rainbow stationary, and it would have been legally binding, she would have.

But she couldn't, and, thankfully, she didn't.

This is how I see a lot of things in life these days. Especially seeing how everywhere I turn I am witness to examples of how life can so quickly be taken by any random act of fate ... and a few instances which hit close to home and seem to follow a distinct pattern.

I have a few boxes full of boots--used boots. Boots that were never new to me. My mother bought them for me at a store called Savers, which is like an indoor tag sale filled with stuff bought at T.J. Maxx. A few of the boots I actually ended up wearing for extended periods of time on tours or out on the town. Sometimes they were worn solely because the looked good. As I have written about before, I have very wide, very flat feet, and most shoes which are not sneakers are uncomfortable. A few pairs of these used boots ended up getting brought to a cobbler where--you guessed it--I paid way more to have them fixed than they cost my mom to buy. This example is a bit different from the lady with the dress, because it was rare that I actually found a pair that I felt like I could wear in a practical capacity. In this case they became worth way more to me than even if they were bought new. Because now they fit and they were broken in. But more often than not I'd end up pulling on the latest pair of boots my mom lovingly bought for me for ten bucks and, not wanting to disappoint her, I'd say thanks-a-bunch, give her a hug and a kiss, and put them in my closet where they stayed until the day I moved.

I couldn't part with them, and so I now have a basement full of boots which at one time were very expensive, then were used by their original owners losing most of their value in the process. After that, they were donated to Savers to wait for my mom to come along and buy them when they were finally marked down under ten bucks. Then they were given to me, further reducing them in value to less than zero, as I could only wear any given pair for a couple of hours at a time.

And every time she'd show me the new ten dollar or less pair of boots she got me (bless her soul) I'd say, "Ma. Why don't you stop buying me all these old boots and lets go to a boot shop and we can get a new pair made just to fit my feet."

But cowboy boots, to a Yankee, are a frivolity. They are a cosmetic item and should only be purchased used. The soles are usually hanging on by a thread, as the boots were usually well worn and loved and were probably resoled a time or more before they ended up at Savers.

Sneakers we bought new. Socks we bought new. Raincoats, umbrellas, underwear, belts, and gloves we bought new. These things should start out fresh and untarnished--esthetically or structurally--by either the elements or the form of their owner.

But cowboy boots? Those we acquired at the very end of their lives in a general state of uncertainty. They were graciously--albeit reluctantly--accepted, and therefore were continuously bought.

And so, I have a basement full of boots that at one time fit somebody's regular-width, regular-arched feet. They probably each cost a fortune new, but I can't wear them because my feet won't let me. They take up less space in the basement than they used to take up in my closet ... but they're still extraneous, and they'll never see even a block of pavement on my fat farmer feet.

Price is only a consideration in the absence of value.

If you can't hem your own clothes, don't be surprised when the tailor gives you the bill.

Remember, she's not going to let you walk out of there without looking your best ...

... at least from the cuffs up.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day three hundred and seventy five ... One-eleven.

Today is a big day.

It is my bandmate and friend, Steve's, birthday. Happy Birthday, Steve.

It is another good friend of mine's half-year mark in the quest for a clean, clear, and content existence on earth. Congratulations so far. I believe in you.

I just found out it is my neighbor's birthday (the one who likes to make brownies), as well as her daughter. Happy birthday, Priscilla and Anna. 

And it is the day that, two years ago, my mother passed on.

And I say, "passed on" rather than "passed away" because I feel that it suits her situation more appropriately. She always used to tell me--when discussing the loss of a living creature--that the law of conservation of energy states: "energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only change form." 

Out of all of the ways I have seen and heard of dealing with the loss of life, this idea--this law of physics--comforts me the most. It credibly posits that life goes on--albeit in a changed format--forever. It assures me that everyone who has had the spark of life--however brief or lengthy--will have it for eternity.

They always have.

I have hundreds of pictures of her.

I have cards written for every occasion.

I have letters.

I have phone messages on cassettes that I'll never erase.

And I have the memories that--thankfully--my brain allows me to keep. For how long, I have no clue. I'm just thankful for today's amenities.

And I look at these pictures--these collections of innumerable amounts of colored dots on individual sheets of paper pressed from the processed fibers of trees cut into practical sizes--and I don't just see a woman with a broad, genuine, excited smile. 

I see her energy.

I see it more so in pictures from before the beginning of 2006. As the cancer came on and the chemo took its toll, little by little the energy was put to the test and had to hide in pockets and compartments to be used frugally and with increasingly fastidious discretion. It was still there, but it had been weakened like a rechargeable battery in need of a fix.

And I know that each day I live I get a little closer to her. I know that someday, in the hopefully far off future, my energy will be released and somehow find its way to hers. That somehow, in the giant universe we and all that can be observed and hidden inhabit, that there will be a piece of my energy that finds its way to hers. 

It's probably a long shot. But regardless of how impossible, implausible, or unthinkable something is, there will always be odds of it happening. It matters not what they are in ratio to probability; it only matters that they are at all.

And all of this is completely crazy-talk for the most part. But it is my crazy-talk. And just like I don't owe it to anybody but myself to stay sober; just like I only have to follow the rules of common decency and etiquette because I see fit to accept that which is agreed upon by a majority; just like I could refuse to speak english and from now until I say so replace it in my communication cache with a nonsensical series of mutterings and hand gestures that would get me sent to a State facility; just like I could take my own life ... I won't. I won't because the combination of all that I am made of does not allow it.

So, today, on this January eleventh, I will celebrate many things. First and foremost I celebrate the recurrence of a particular date in time as being the day when certain people in my life came to live independently of their host (as impersonal as that may sound). I will celebrate the date when a close friend began--again--to stop killing himself for nobody's benefit but his own (as personal as that may sound). And I will celebrate the day that one person's energy--someone who shares the most common of bonds with myself--released hers into the ether, to be spread in an infinite swath amongst the limitless particles of the universe.

And that is the most empowering and productive way I can look upon the logical acts of nature. 

It is not an end.

It is not a beginning.

It simply is.

In a previous post, I shared a passage which was written in the early winter of 2006, in my mother's elegant handwriting, on a page from a notebook on which she wrote rough drafts of her bequests, with the intent to have transferred them to equally graceful stationary, as was her style.

The passage I shared was this one:

The body is like an envelope and the spirit within is the letter. The letter has meaning. An empty envelope is nothing.

I promised, in that entry, to include more in upcoming installments.

The following passage means a great deal to me. I do not know its history, as I was not aware of its existence until well after she had passed on. Saying that, (and judging from a slight correction made to it in her own pen) I can only assume it came from her head, heart, and soul. It is as follows:

Then it began. 

Rockets. Stars. 

Flowers blooming. 

The black sky sequined. 

Reds, yellows, blues, greens. Silver and gold. 

Fireworks, explosions, and the cheers of spectators.

I, myself, have an idea what this is all about.

And that's all anyone could ever expect.

Happy January Eleventh.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Day three hundred and seventy three ... The other side of the sandwich.

Goddamnit, I'm mad as hell.

When an oil reserve is discovered in a field where the general consensus says it is unlikely to be, one doesn't just put a cap over it and forget about it to preserve the integrity of the surface. 

It is exploited.

It is harnessed.

One makes something out of it--or several things, as it were.

So I'm going to try to do the same, and perhaps I'll learn something in the process.

Negligence. That's what I'm up against.

Why is it that people seem to think that it's okay to just let things go?

I waited seven weeks for a beautiful end table to be made for me. It wasn't cheap. And it wasn't made in China. No. I buy U.S. made if I can help it. I feel that the world has lost a bit of its mind in the last thirty years or so that we've been getting everything--including our own flags--made in foreign lands. I know it's coming back to haunt us. Lead poisoning, shoddy workmanship, sweatshops ... and all for what? A lower manufacturing cost? I would hazard to guess that keeping the price low for something people are not buying for fear of death is a bit contradictory. But I think a lot of crazy things.

Anyway, I picked up the end table from the warehouse and brought it home. I was so excited to finally have a permanent place to put my remote controls (strange as that may sound) and to fill in the space at the end of my sofa with a square table that had been taken up with a circular one on wheels for the last month and a half. I brought it in and went to grab a wet rag to wipe off the dust that had settled since its arrival from Vermont ... and then I noticed the Sharpie marks.

What the ... ?

There was an oblong "X" on one edge made in black ink on the dark brown stain. There were a few stray squiggles here and there. And there was even some on the very edges of the piece. I wasn't sure but I thought they might have been under the lacquer. If so, they would be encased forever within this beautiful work of functional art's wooded flesh. 

"This can't be," I thought. And I put a little extra pressure on the rag, attempting to absolve the elegant, flowing woodgrain of this errant loitering marker miscue. I rubbed for a while until I noticed a slight discoloring of the area around the unwanted ink. Then I stopped. 

I had to.

It wasn't working. 

And if I kept doing what I was doing to try to fix it I was only going to make it worse.

So, I made a call to the store where I bought it (and most of my furnishings) and they said to bring it in and they'd see what they could do.

So I schlepped it out to my car again, and brought it to the store. There, they were aghast. This was highly irregular. The piece was constructed at a reputable company. They had never had a problem with them before. But in an unstable economy it seems that even those with good reputations can fall prey to aberrant behavior.

So, after some talking back and forth between the owner of the store and the manufacturer, it was agreed that they would make me a new one.

I said okay, even though it pained me to think that there would be a portion of a tree put to the lathe unnecessarily, due to someone's negligence. I just know I wouldn't be satisfied knowing that there was a mess of Sharpie marker visible with even the most cursory inspection.

And it seems crazy that this has to happen. I mean, they will probably end up selling the one I have now at a discount, as it will be being used in my home for a good month at least. 

And all because someone couldn't match up the colors of their touchup markers.


I had a security system installed today.

I didn't do it because of any one incident. But they were running a deal that I couldn't pass up. Plus, I have some stuff in my home that I'd like to keep a hold of--like, everything

The guy came by and installed it. He was personable and we hit it off pretty well. He instructed me on how to use it and what to do if it went off by accident. 

He was very thorough and made me feel at ease ...

... so at ease that I didn't notice that the four screws the he used to affix the control panel to one wall were sticking out through the other side and into the living room by a good three quarters of an inch.

Bright, shiny, brand new, silver screws.

From the angle of the receiving end of said knurled rods everything looked secure; those screws weren't going anywhere.

And when I frantically (and nonsensically) opened the panel to get a closer look at where they originated from I got a robot voice asking me to "Use ... numbered ... keys ... to ... enter ... I.D."

I am usually pretty good about not harming myself by acting out at inanimate objects ... and I didn't break with that proclivity here, but I sure as shit wanted to smash that alarm ... just punch it right through the other side and make a big hole in the wall. It would have felt so satisfying for about ten seconds.

But instead I just called the company.

They're going to take care of the situation, I think.

I'm sure we can reach some sort of agreement.

And if you've made it this far you may be asking yourself, "Hmm ... F.A.J.'s ranting over stupid shit like nine out of ten bloggers out there do ... what gives?"

Well, you see, this all makes sense.

Things don't always work right.

Measurements can be misjudged, even by trained professionals.

Items can get sent out to paying customers that are far from perfect, even if that's what your paying top dollar for.

But all of these things can be fixed.

A phone call, an email, a letter, or even just a face to face conversation can take care of most problems. It just takes a little effort. I've found it even takes way less than I thought it would. But if I don't at least make the initial step towards restitution then I just have to put up with whatever comes my way. And that's about as maddeningly frustrating as it gets.

And the thing is, I used to honestly feel like I didn't deserve to get what I wanted done right. I used to just accept what was given to me and plug up that oil gusher. I'd just put a giant cork in it and walk away and go home and turn myself off and say, "I probably did something to deserve this ... I should just let it go."

But the best we can do in life is work the averages and hope, when time comes to add it all up, that the good outweighs the bad. Or at the very least that if the bad stuff starts to pile up we take a good long look as objectively as we can and try to change our lot. 

I've had a good run for a while now. Lots of things have gone my way. And now it's time for a few glasses to break, for a few darts to hit the wall, for a few mistakes to happen and anger up the blood. 

Put it this way: the next time you get a grilled sandwich, and you are super impressed with how perfectly toasted one side is and how they got the grill marks just right ... flip it over.

You might be surprised what you find.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day three hundred and seventy one ... Simple pleasures.

I woke up today.

How wonderful.

It doesn't play into my life too much--being paranoid about dying in my sleep--but I think about it every once in a while, usually right after I wake up. 

It's kind of part of the deal.

There are so many things I take for granted.

Oxygen, water, public transportation, bone marrow, The Postal Service, the thread in my clothes (and bringing that further, the ability to make more thread), gravity, the absence of personal violence (that is, violence against me), my circulatory system, television programming, upholstery staples, the indifference of rabid animals, police protection, my brain, laundry detergent, expiration dates, the understanding that once rain starts it can only last so long, the foundation of my house, the DPW, the sun, the moon, my ability to hear sound, the yarn in my scarf, George Lucas, my ability to remember to put clothes on before I leave the house, winter, spring, summer and fall, my keys, my locks, my heart, fabric softener, the adhesive properties of latex paint (or any paint for that matter), my taste buds, my ability to play music, my lungs, the glue in my sneakers, the fire department, my pancreas, tectonic plate movement, the U.S. Treasury, the needle on my record player, GM, mutually agreed upon traffic rules, the chemical compounds in my prescriptions, and waking up in the morning.

I mean, how can I do anything if I can't do that?

I don't know what I did to deserve it--what I did that, say, the guy in Anchorage who is 38 and died in his sleep didn't.

I went to the gym. I went to rehearsal. I spent time with Paul. I took a shower. I paid some bills. I watched a movie. I brushed my teeth. I went to bed ...

... and here I am.


I have beautiful art on my walls made by people I respect and admire.

I have an nice collection of records, movies, CD's, mp3's, and an enviable entertainment system to play it on.

I'm in the middle of a great book, and I have one that I plan to buy when I'm done with this one.

I have a package coming in the mail that I am very much looking forward to receiving.

I have a gig to play tomorrow.

I have a memorial service for a Chorus member to go to this weekend (Fred Knittle, 83, who passed away on New Year's Day).

I have plenty of bills to pay for plenty of service that I have thoroughly enjoyed--among them: heat, water, electricity, the internet, my phone, my TV, and the luxury of owning a piece of property on the earth.

But none of it will matter in the slightest if--when I go to sleep tonight (which I plan on doing)--I don't wake up tomorrow.

Some may call me paranoid.

I just call me thankful.

I mean, what grand scheme have we all subscribed to that allows us all to exist and rely on one another to be around to complete the plans we have for our lives? It's really quite extensive--this Rube Goldberg device that the world--our world--is part of.

And I have a rather exorbitant oil bill for the house in Mattapoisett to pay sitting to the left of my right elbow. It almost knocked me on the ground when I saw how much a month of heating oil costs for a house I'm hardly ever at.

But you know what?

I am going to get up after I publish this post and write a check for it and hand it to the mailman when he brings my mail at 1 o'clock. 

How cool is that?

I'm alive!

I can think.

I can jump gently in the air and land on my flat feet.

I can listen to the classical music on the radio.

And I can go and have lunch.

And after that happens ... well ... everything on top of that is gravy.

I could go on and on forever.

But I'll stop here.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day three hundred and sixty nine ... Everything gets old.

The tree didn't get lit yesterday.

Not because I wasn't home--I was.

I just spent all day doing what I do, and by the time I went to bed I realized that I didn't need to unplug it, as had been my recent bedtime ritual. And I swear it gave me a funny look so much as to say, "Yeah. I know. What have I done to deserve this?"

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that yesterday Scott came over and painted my living room. We had to take down the lights on the bannister and change the whole room around. It wasn't something I enjoyed--It's still far from put back together--but the room is a much more serene earthy light green--Dried Parsley, as they deem fit to call it down at Benjamin Moore.

Either way, I hadn't skipped a day since the beginning of December when I got the thing.

Everything gets old.

I have a doorway full of greeting cards. There must be twenty or so. And each card--if they haven't fallen once and been put back up again--has a piece of very bedraggled Scotch tape affixed to the top, clinging to the door frame for dear life like a midget trying to save an elephant from falling off the edge of a building. "Hold on old girl ... help's coming soon!" They have their grace period this week. Next monday I'll take them down and put them back in the envelopes they came in and put an elastic around them and put them somewhere I can find easily in eleven months. It's always a good backup to have the return addresses in case you lose all your stuff. 

I have to decide when to take the ornaments off--one by one--and carefully, patiently wrap each one and put in the boxes they came in--the old, brown, brittle boxes covered in marker, dry masking tape, and day-glo stickers.

I'm glad I have a good vacuum, because there's going to be a lot of needles lying around. 

But it served me well these last few weeks. I don't know if it's recommended to burn the tree in the fireplace, but maybe that'll be where she ends up. It seems fitting.

I suppose it's for the best, as I am expecting my kitchen table to be ready by then. Wood comes in, wood goes out. 

And then, as is the case in the weeks following Christmas, you'll start to see trees out for the trash. They always look so decrepit from the removal of the ornaments and the general ravages of time upon a grand specimen of horticulture left to subsist on tap water and garlands.

Everything gets old.

2008 got old.

I'm glad I'm here on the other side of New Year's.

I can tell that I wanted to be done with the year by the way writing 2009 seems so natural to me. I usually need to get into the year by a few weeks--sometimes months--before it's second nature. But this year--all year--I had a hard time writing the "8". It always seemed so labored and forced, and my poor penmanship didn't help things either. It kind of always looked like a nine when I wrote it, with the bottom circle getting kind of smushed into a slim elongated oval. Then I'd end up having to draw over it a couple times with the pen tip which more often than not just made things worse. I can never decide if it's worse to just leave it as it first appears--unsure and fidgety--or as it is after my doctoring of it--dark, smudgey, and practically illegible from excessive repetition. But, if I could see the way what I do looks from other sets of eyes I'd have all kind of answers to all kinds of questions.

I'm a bit scattered these days. I have a lot going on and it seems like time is slipping away quicker than ever.

But the tree is lit, the cards are still hanging up (they make me smile), and is seems like everywhere I go people are gearing up for the months ahead. The holidays are finally in the rearview mirror, and what lies over the horizon has the making of something landmark. I know I'm not alone here.

And this time next year I'll be looking at another tree and (hopefully) a whole new set of Christmas cards. And the year will have two changes in it, even though the zero at the end will be kind of a discrete rearrangement. And we'll have all kind of answers to all kinds of questions. 

I have to sign off for now; my stories are on.

It's the middle of the season, and things are heating up.

May sweeps seem like a lifetime from now. But by then, tonight's episode will be a repeat and I'll have erased it from my collection.

Everything gets old.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day three hundred and sixty six ... Redundancy is the best therapy.

It's New Year's Day 2009.

No one can touch me. 

Not today.

Today marks a year since I have started this journal. It is by no means a stopping point; merely a mile marker. 

In fact, it was more or less like a little "ping" on the inside of an analogue alarm clock that has not been armed for duty. The hands move, as they are designed to, around and around until they hit the last chosen alarm setting. The device acknowledges the union, and then it moves on until either the time comes around in a few seconds less than twenty four hours, or the target time is manually changed.

And so, I will not make this post a grand gesture or blandishment of the events which transpired over the last year.

Or at least I'll try not to.

Instead, I'll make mention of a few things I tried to not do over the last year.

I tried never to convince anyone to follow my lead. Because I, myself, never did take kindly to the barkers in the halls of the 12 step programs. I didn't need another set of rules to follow. I just needed to know which ones I had created and was adhering to that I needed to abandon.

I didn't want to stop doing something by starting something else. I wanted to learn why I did it to begin with, and then--realizing how badly I wanted out--to stop doing it. Talk about keeping it simple.

I have tried not to be a braggart. In all these past months, weeks, days, hours, and seconds, I have done my best to not take the flashy approach and puff my chest out over the accomplishments I managed to accrue. I have merely given my take on the periodic ups and downs of a year struggling to live the way I have always dreamed of, and the way I now walk through each breath and heartbeat. 

In a day and age where we now no longer buy a product or service until we have pawed over enough reviews of it by current or previous users to deem it worthy of our time and/or money, what I have tried to do was offer a users review of the product of sobriety. I have written what I liked about it, what I didn't like, what I would change if I could, and what I did in order to deal with the resolute and unchangeable.

And the feedback I have received from many of you show me that you like what I'm doing, too. And for your support and words of encouragement, I thank you.

Keeping with things I didn't do:

I didn't mark my calendar.

In fact, I barely used one at all.

I realized--halfway through the year--that I was simply neglecting the calendar on my wall for months at a time. Sure I'd carry a little one in my bag to mark important dates on--that is something I hope I'm never able to forego. But, every once in a while, when I had to check the big one for one reason or another, I'd notice that a few months had gone by and the edges were curling down towards the middle on either side. I'd flip up however many months had been forgotten and reinsert the white thumb tack that was holding it up on the wall. And in November I just took it off the wall altogether and put it out with the recycling. 

It had become redundant.

And that is the crux of my goal: to make sobriety redundant.

I currently have two gallons of top shelf liquor in my kitchen cupboard, along with mixers. 

I have three cases of beer on my deck and I have a box of wine above the fridge (classy, I know).

And I have absolutely no desire for any of it.

It's not there for me. It was not bought for me. It will do me no good, and I understand this with every fiber of my existence.

It doesn't bother me anymore. It has no more leverage. And I have nothing to gain from intertwining its contents into mine. Moreover, in keeping my discrete distance, I derive power from where none could manifest at a closer proximity.

To think that I--a human being with a brain and a soul--could have control over a volume of liquid in a bottle.


But like I said, today is more or less like a little "ping" on the inside of an analogue alarm clock that has not been armed for duty. The hands move, as they are designed to, around and around until they hit the last chosen alarm setting. The device acknowledges the union, and then it moves on until either the time comes around in a few seconds less than twenty four hours, or the target time is manually changed.

No one can touch me.

Not today.

Thanks for reading.