Dead Poets Honor

No one would have dreamed

 of doubting your fire

The flame to make us laugh

And to feel, think and weep

You gave Neil the courage to be Puck

You gave Will the courage to be real

And you gave Reeves the courage to smile

When Lorne had his birthday

You poked fun at Busey

And all kneeled

In praise of the Fisher King

But it proved too much

Being on all the time

To those who scoffed

Because of your money and fame

I plead, please think

Of the tears of the clown

And the insomnia which plagued your every breath

It got you, in the end

The pain of our days

And yet, for many

Certainly me

Your death brought out

An awakening to the sadness that the depressed

Wear like a cloak of eternal midnight

For that, at least,

You will always have

The Dead Poets Honor.

 

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Him (Rude Awakenings)

                I saw Him coming through the door out of my peripheral vision and kept eating. He didn’t go to the counter to ask, merely strode over to the soda fountain and filled up my water bottle that was half-filled with brown fluid. He came and sat down across from me at the table. He took a big swig off the bottle, then screwed the lid on.

                “What’s the point of Coke without Jack?” He mused. He lay back in the chair, two legs on the floor with the chair tilted back against the wall.

                “Quite the nutritious meal you have there,” He said. “Two burgers to go with the fries, I see. Hope that doesn’t slow you down at the gym.”

                “I’m not going to the gym,” I said. “I’m just going to go back and walk dogs for a little while.”

                “You just can’t plant your face far enough up that place’s ass can you? You’re going to have to go home and write this post eventually. Whatever. I’m patient. And apparently so are you. Patience of statue, really. Of course, you have no other choice. God knows when you’ll ever get laid again anyway.”

                I stopped and winced. I didn’t even have to look at Him to know He was smiling. Not the grin, either. A big, wide, toothy smile. Well, the three teeth that were left. I put my burger down and glanced up at Him.

                “What did you say?”

                He leaned over onto the table and His filthy, ashen face inches from mine.

                “Get … laid.” He said slowly. “At the rate you’re going, I’d say you’re on pace to have sex again …” He glanced at a watch that wasn’t there. “Never. I expect it’ll carry on like that if you keep making your dating choices the way you’re making them now.” He drank.

                “Going out with her wasn’t about getting laid,” I said and started on my second burger. “I really liked her.”

                “Oh, and she obviously liked you too!” He exclaimed. “After all, she nicknamed you “Gorgeous” and she touched your hand in that special way and that was a pretty knock-out outfit she had on last night too. Of course, all the flirty flirty nonsense ceased right when you … come on, say it …”

                “Tried to kiss her,” I finished and stuffed a handful of fries in my mouth.

                He giggled maniacally. “And … what …” He stifled back laughter. “… next?”

                “She pulled away,” I said.

                “She shrunk away from you like the Black fucking Plague is what she did,” and burst into His trademark cackle. When He had gotten His eruption back under control, He continued. “What was that she said?”

                “She said something about not kissing people like that,”

                “And?”

                “That she just wanted to get to know me first.” I mumbled.

                “And all that horseshit about she wants to focus on herself right now and not think about a romantic thing and blah blah blah.”

                I couldn’t take his taunts any longer. “I told her that I had asked her out on a date and she had said yes and in my book that meant she was romantically interested in me.” My voice was rising and becoming shriller. “And she had texted me asking if I liked all younger women and I told her that she was smart and funny and that was what I liked about her and …”

              He made the motion of the world’s smallest violin playing on His shoulder. “Yes, yes, and last night she fed you that song-and-dance about how she goes out on “dates” with friends and people just to get to know them, right? Face it Ahab. She took you for a Thai dinner and a sushi dinner because she lives with her mom and probably can’t afford it herself.” He took in a big mouthful of Jack and Coke and swallowed. “Frankly I’m amazed you didn’t see it yourself when you invited her over for a dinner you would cook and True Romance at your place and she switched it up to going out for sushi. The power of the skirt will get you every time.”

                I had lost my appetite. Another old friend had returned to visit me as well. The pain of rejection is always acute, but this time it brought its brother embarrassment with him. Not embarrassment that it had happened as we were walking down the sidewalk. No, this time is was the humiliation at the notion that a younger woman as beautiful as her would be attracted to me.

              “A 22 year-old just smitten with a 38 year-old zero like you. Yep, Y’know, at her age, it’s kind of socially acceptable to have a job jockeying old people around the airport. At your age? Means you’re a Grade A, First-class, No-Holds-Barred burnout.”

          He drank the last of the Jack, then wiped His mouth. The sky had become sunken and dark. The sun had vanished behind a wall of dark clouds.

          “How long did you think about it?”

          My hands froze as I was wiping my mouth.

         “Come on. How long? 5 minutes? Half hour?”

         “Fuck you.”

           “I know you thought about it cuz I was there with you. For 2 minutes, you thought about drinking,” He sneered.

                “Academically,” I whispered.

                “Bullshit. You thought about going to your old liquor store just down the street from her house and getting a little vodka, didn’t you?”

                “No, I didn’t,” I said, a little louder this time. “I thought about it for a couple minutes and then did what Luke always said to do and played out the tape in my head.”

                He leaned back against the wall again. “Doesn’t really matter. I’m not worried,” He said as He picked at His fingernails.

                “Why not?” I asked.

                “It’s pretty simple really,” He said. “See, even if you somehow manage to get the girlfriend and get married, all it takes is a divorce after 10 years or so and you’ll come back to me. Or you lose a job, one where you take care of those animals you so cherish, or some other such tragedy occurs. Doesn’t matter. I know you will come back eventually because someday, the whole reason you got sober in the first place is going to disappear.”

                “I got a sober for a lot of reasons.”

                “Maybe, but the biggest ones are 67 and 68 years old. And yes, they may love you dearly and would do anything for you. But they’re gonna be dead someday. Then you’ll have no one to hold you accountable because they will be gone. You’ll ignore calling your sponsor. I’ll convince you that people go off the wagon all the time so what’s one slip. And I’ll sneak up the same way I snuck up last night, sitting in the back seat of your car and you none the wiser,” He cracked open the flask He had produced from His cloak. “And I’ll slowly steer the car to the bar the same way I almost got it in your head to steer towards the liquor store. It’s only a matter of time. So, as I said, I’m patient. We’ll see.” He took a slug.

                “You didn’t almost do anything,” I said and quickly gathered the remains of the meal and headed towards the trash can. I looked over at the counter and the employees were gone. There were no cars in the parking lot or the drive-thru. None passing on the street. Just me and Him in the motionless, timeless void of my heart. I turned and stared back at Him.

             “It’s never gonna happen because-“

             “Because, because, because.” His smile lowered to a complete, dead-pan stare. “We’ll see.”

Him (A Heavy Bat)

                 “Well, you made it through the fire without drinking. Kudos and crap.”

                He sat in the recliner in the living room as I sorted through the mountain of bills and other mail on the dining room table.

                “Can’t take credit for that,” I said. “That was Greg’s doing,” I said.

                “Ah yes, your old buddy Greg. He was your first sponsor wasn’t he?” He heaved himself off the chair and staggered into the dining room. In the process, He kicked over a stack of boxes with a stack of books on top. The books cascaded to the floor with a crash. Essential Buddhism tumbled over into the corner, open to the section on the Noble Eightfold Path: Right understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation. He glanced at this page for a moment, then chuckled.

                “Well, you’ve certainly got a lot of work to do on that third one, don’t you!” He cackled madly until He started coughing vehemently. He hacked up a big gob of crap and spat it on the floor, then cleared His throat and pulled off His jug of wine He dragged alongside Him. “Greg will certainly attest to that. I mean shit, your first pet-sitting job off the bench and you almost burn the whole house down? Yeah, you could use some work on that Right Action shit alright. Miracle Greg didn’t kick you out then and there.”

                “He is my friend, Friend’s don’t do that,” I said as I gathered up the books and stacked them neatly in the corner.

                “It doesn’t hurt that your name is on the lease and you know it. Fucking idiot,” He pulled from the bottle. “Kinda sucks that he wasn’t your sponsor when you lit the house up. You could have bullshitted him about how you were so close to drinking over it and poor you poor you pour you another drink and all that. He would have bought that the whole way.”

                “He’s smarter than that. And I wouldn’t do that to him anyway. As it turns out, I don’t need to. I have a new sponsor,” I said and collapsed into the recliner, exhausted. It had been a rough month.

                “Oh yes, Dustin. That guy that gave you that bullshit book. What was it called? Zen and Being A Drunken Moron?” He smirked.

                “Zen and Recovery,” I corrected Him. “And no, not Dustin. In fact, I’d be kind of afraid of this guy if I were you.”

                He did a spit-take all over His shirt and the floor. Wine dribbled from His nose and mouth. “Afraid ?!? Of one of you losers? Jesus Everloving Christ. Why should I be afraid of one of you zeros?”

                “Because he’s not a zero. He’s got more sobriety than almost anyone I know in the Program except for maybe Mac. And trust me, you do not want to piss Mac off. He’ll take his cane and shove it where the sun don’t shine.”

               “Oh yeah? And what about the new guy? What will he do?”

               “I’ll run circles around you, I know that,” Dan came walking through the door carrying gifts all my friends across country had sent.

               “Who the fuck is this guy?”

               “I’m your worst nightmare,” Dan said.

              “Dan, meet Him,” I said and motioned to Him.

              “You’re a lot shorter than I expected,” Dan said. “What are you, 5 foot even? Not very intimidating.”

               “I don’t need to be tall to be intimidating, asshole,” He said and sidled up to Dan’s chest.

              “Believe me, I understand,” Dan said, who shove past him and arraigned the yoga mat, sage and shell and frog rattle on the bookshelves. He went back out to the porch and got all the other housewares that were gifts I had bought with the money all my new friends had sent and stacked them in the kitchen to be sorted later. “I used to have my own demon. Nearly got the better of me once, too.”

              “Standing in the doorway with Dan on one side of Him and me on the other, He glanced back and forth between us, a confused grimace on his face.

              “Then what the hell are you still doing here?”

              “Proving peons like you wrong. One day at a time,” Dan said and smiled.

              “I don’t understand,” He said and brought the bottle to His lips. Suddenly, Dan back-handed the bottle across the room. It hit the wall with a CLUNK! and dropped to the floor on its side. Red wine poured out, ran to His feet and collected like pools of blood. The look of demure bemusement never left Dan’s face.

            “Then I’ll explain it,” he said. “My friend here has played with his cards close to his chest for the last two years. Wouldn’t want to give you any kind of heads-up about what’s coming your way, would we? Greg helped ease him into sobriety and took him into his house. Dustin gave him the book detailing the parallels between Buddhism and sobriety. Now I’m here to make sure he has the tools in the toolbox to fight you when he needs to and succeed where he can. And he’s already doing it.”

            “Oh do tell.” He now pouted with His arms folded.

           “The first talk we had as sonsor-sponsee, Dan instructed me to do something that felt totally foreign but turned out making sense. I just asked my supervisor how I was doing and she said I was doing fine.”

           “Good Christ,” He said. “You needed him to tell you that?”

           “Yes, I did. I wouldn’t have had the wisdom to think of that on my own. Dan does,” I went to the kitchen and returned with a cuppa for me and Dan. “Little stuff like that is the kind of thing I wouldn’t think of by myself. Dan’s gotta few 24 hours under his belt and has the presence of mind to know some of the right questions and know when to ask them. My friends Jon and the Donnas and Tess and Lisa and the Deborahs and Tom and Jeff and all the rest of them brought me to Dan. And now I bring Dan to you. Don’t worry. You guys will get along swimmingly I think.”

In the Garden

Trail Mix

So fellow travelers, this journey we call life  sometimes takes us to a passage difficult to navigate. One of my Bedlam Farm friends Denise Gainey, has been journaling about just such a time.  Her writing is powerfully honest, without the slightest hint of self pity.  I have learned valuable lessons from her experience.  They are lessons I will carry with me as my parents and mother-in-law move closer to the inevitable crossroads Denise writes about.  I dedicate today’s haiku to two beautiful women holding fast through the waves of time.

corvalisrose100dpi

Flowers on the path
Love blossoms along the way
Easing journeys end

Denise’s beautiful blog can be found at The View From Here.  The photo was taken at a park in Corvalis Oregon.

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Going Public

Last night, me and a good friend went to a drug and alcohol treatment center. I’ve contemplated many times my speech were I to stand up in front of a crowd and tell my story. There are a couple speaker meetings I know in Omaha. One is real big and has a lot of announcements and sobriety birthdays and applause and such. Another is in a church basement (what have I said?) and is a packed room when they top 50 people.  I have thought about what the content of my speech would be. Would I try to play to the room or just be real? Would I talk long enough? Too long? Would I picture them naked?

Last night, there weren’t 10 people there. But I discovered as I began talking that I was more comfortable with a bunch of guys sitting around a table and listening to my story than I probably would have been in front of a big crowd.

For my mom, dad, Dave and anyone else who might listen to this, let me forewarn you. I could tell there were some real tough guys it that room. There is no sugar coating here. In fact, I swore a lot more (well, okay, as much. MAYBE a little more) than I normally do. But I wanted to get these guys’ attention. Also, there are some factual errors, so if you are stickler for accuracy, skip it and wait for the book (and yes, now that I have settled back in and we have a stove again and things are kind of back to normal, I can start working on the book again. At this point, it’s a blood match to get this freakin’ (see? I can clean it up) thing written. But Decorum and manners ain’t the point of this speech. The point was to get these guys’ attention. And I think I did that.

For my regular readers, this is what came out when I decided to just take the gloves off and appeal to these guys on the most honest level I could. I think I did that too.

The Making of “Doggie Dentures”

I always wanted to do a “Making of …”movie. What would be totally bitchin’ is to do a “Making of the Making of” movie. But I couldn’t really do a “Making of the Making of ‘Doggy Dentures’” cuz that would just be a movie of me typing at my computer right this moment. Not very exciting.

When I hatched the idea of the “Making of ‘Doggie Dentures’” I had to ask the person’s permission to do it. That’s the other thing I’ve learned in the course of this blog. I always ask the permission of the person who the post references because I don’t want them to be caught off guard. The post after this one will most likely be another one where I had to get the person’s permission to write it. Essentially, it’s the merger of two very significant forces in my life right now: Sobriety and the Open Group for Bedlam Farm. It’s essentially going to be about a decision I recently made that I think brings those two things together swimmingly. Really, it makes sense that they would come together as they have. Something I’ve learned through my study of Buddhism and my life in sobriety is everything that needs to come together does. And that which does not, well, it probably didn’t need to in the first place.

Back to the “Making of” business. In coming up with the idea for “Doggie Dentures” I knew I needed an actual set of dentures. And I don’t have one of those. So I asked a friend of mine if he minded if I took a photo of his.

Luke text 2

It’s not exactly the kind of question you just rattle off. But his response to my inquiry was priceless.

Luke text 1

He asked that I respect his anonymity in posting a picture of the dentures. Which kind of bums me out because he should totally get credit for that joke.