Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Midday Meanderings…

Rosa knocked on my door after almost midday.

“I love you,” She said. “I really love you.”

I could smell the alcohol on her breath. I am not used to such blatant flagrations of one’s love for me.

“Sweetheart, come on inside and go to sleep,” I replied.

We walked into my bedroom upon where Rosa hugged me deeply.

“I need more beer,” She said. “Will you go get me some more?”

I sighed. I am experiencing some weird kind of hell after being an alcoholic for years. I drove Rachel crazy with my drinking.

“Sweetheart, you don’t need anymore,” I replied.

“I really, really need another beer,” Rosa replied emphatically.

I got in my car and drove over to the convenience store. I bought us both a 24 pack of Budweiser using my debit card. I then drove home in a flush of traffic as people went about their day.

“You are the best thing a woman could ever want,” Rosa said as I walked inside my apartment with that 24 pack of Budweiser.

“I understand,” I said solemnly as me and Rosa cracked open a beer.

Rosa then went about changing her clothes and undressing fully. I can’t say it was the most beautiful sight in the world. She has lived a hard life. She crawled into my bed to go to sleep.

“I love you,” She said once again as I sat at my kitchen table drinking a Budweiser.

“I love you too, sweetheart. You go to sleep,” I replied as I sat there getting drunk.

What tangled webs we weave, I thought as I sat there drinking that Budweiser. Rosa just needed someone and she picked a poor choice in me. What am I doing? I am drinking the beer I bought for her. We drunks live convoluted lives.

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Terrible Deeds Done past Midnight…

I finally got to talk to Annabel on the phone. We talked for what seemed like forever. As usual, she was busily preparing for another speech tournament this weekend. I hated to end our call, but had grown as sleepy as to where I could hardly keep my eyes open. A quick nap sufficed.

I did something terrible tonight and am regretting it. I took six of my Librium in a fit of madness. I just wanted to feel out of the ordinary and those little green and white capsules were beckoning from my medicine cabinet. So far, I feel pleasantly numb. I guess I will have to go pick up another white poker chip at alcoholic’s anonymous tomorrow evening signifying the start of a new bout of sobriety. Taking those little pills was very much like drinking a six pack. I dare not let the old timers on to my using pills instead of beer though. They would have me tarred and feathered quite quickly.

“Once a good alcoholic, always a good alcoholic,” I muttered after taking the pills knowing very well what I was doing.

Carolyn is back to working the third shift at her place of employment. She thoroughly hates her job and I can’t quite blame her. Our phone conversations consist of her bitching to me about said job.

“Who were you on the phone with so long tonight?” She asked me when she called well after midnight knowing I would be up.

“My friend in Texas,” I replied.

“Is she female?” Carolyn then asked.

“Yes, but you don’t have to worry about me having a torrid online relationship,” I said enjoying the limelight. “She has far more sense than me so I don’t think she wants to get romantically mixed up with some mentally ill dude in Alabama.”

“What does that say about me?” Carolyn then asked.

Silence reigned supreme as I knew not to answer that question. I should have spoke up and told her my mind. Lately, I could care less if either I or Carolyn stay in this relationship. It is growing far too high maintenance for my tastes.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thoughts on a Pipe…

My good friend Pipe Tobacco wanted a post on my pipe tobacco usage so here it is. He has given up his pipe for Lent which I find very admiral if somewhat misguided. Some of his best writings come about when he is waxing poetically about his pipe. The things men will do for religion…

My pipe smoking hobby has been of the special occasion variety as of late. Mornings usually find me sitting upon my porch enjoying the burley leaf. I fear I have grown bored with the varieties of leaf available to me in this small town though. I have been on a robust cigar kick lately.

I have found the smoking of the pipe to be akin to a ritual not easily imparted upon craving my usual methods of imbibing nicotine. There is the ritual of filling and packing the pipe. Another ritual consists of regularly cleaning it for it to be ready to be smoked again. I tend to be far too lazy to do this on a regular basis and thus cigars have filled my need lately (to Pipe’s chagrin I don’t doubt).

I will concede that there is artistry to smoking a tobacco pipe though. Pipes have long been associated with learned and esteemed souls. You don’t think of your average professor smoking the average low brow cigarette. It is easy to picture a pipe in his hand though as the smoke from the burley leaf curls around his face; jovially imparting knowledge upon the ignorant masses as he enjoys a hobby that is best left to more noble men than I.

All this writing of pipes has made me yearn for a bowl of the burley leaf. I will once again walk out on this warm night to fill my pipe and smoke that rich leaf of tobacco. There is certainly no other taste or smell in the world than that of the smokable tobaccos that is imparted by the pipe and the tobaccos smoked within. I hope my good, jolly, pipe smoking friend will have enjoyed this post. Lord knows, I have gleaned years of enjoyment from reading his blog. Good night and until our pipes meet again.

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Not so Little, You and I…

I and Carolyn talked for a short while last night.

“I wish you wouldn’t hang out with those street people,” She said of my conflagrations with George, Rosa, and the gang.

I didn’t tell her of Rosa coming over yesterday to watch television and to change her shirt. I and Rosa had a good time together. I do so dearly love her.

“They are my friends,” I replied.

“You are like a small child,” Carolyn said scolding me. “You never listen. They are going to steal you blind.”

I quickly got off of the phone after being berated for a good thirty minutes.

Yesterday found me once again eating at our local Mexican restaurant. I ate two burritos with a heaping serving of Spanish rice.

“Gracias,” I told my server as he started to walk away.

He smiled at my use of his native language.

I sat and ate as I missed my ex-wife. Rachel had her faults, but I still missed her deeply. I kept expecting her to walk in at any moment. She was like her parents and ate out every meal.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lost Moments of Togetherness…

Tonight found me down at a local Mexican restaurant. I ordered the chilies releno which was two very large pablano chilies filled with a mixture of ground beef, rice, and asiago cheese. I quietly ate as I read the latest Model Railroader. I have great aspirations for the spare bedroom in my new house. I want to emulate the late Chattahoochee Valley Railway in model form.

I then drove home and found that Annabel had called me and I had missed her call. How I hated to miss speaking to her. She has given up the internet for Lent. She sounds just as chipper and vivacious in her voice as she does on her blog. I do so dearly miss her and her frequent blog updates.

Maggie has been a total curmudgeon tonight and will not come inside. It got up into the seventies today and I put Maggie in the back fence along with some food and water. A moment ago, I sat out on the back deck trying to coax Maggie inside. She was thoroughly content in licking my legs, but every time I would go to grab her to bring her inside, she would go tearing across the backyard barking. I fear midnight will roll around before I ever corral her into coming in.

I really missed my ex-wife today. I was just thinking that at this time of the night, she would have taken a long bath and would be lying in bed reading a book. This would usually find me beside her on our laptop browsing the internet. She would close the book and lie down as she watched me before going to sleep. I would reach out to hold her hand.

“I love you,” She would say.

I would reach over and brush her brown hair out of her green eyes.

“I love you too,” I would reply before closing the laptop and turning off our bedside lamp.

I would wrap my arms in the pillows and listen to her breathe as she went to sleep. I still have a hard time believing that I was ever married. I have missed those moments of togetherness today.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Two For…

I hadn’t seen Rosa or Dan in days. Today was a two for. I saw her plus Dumpster Diving Dan.

“The weather’s gonna get rough tonight,” Dan told me as I stopped to talk to him behind the shopping center.

“The National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement,” I replied with a worried look upon my face. “Did you hear them test the tornado warning sirens at noon?”

“Sure did,” Dan said as he rubbed the stark white stubble on his bony chin. “Always scares the shit out of me. Reminds me of Vietnam. Makes me think Gooks are in the wire.”

“Hmmm…” I said. “I didn’t think of that affecting you like that.”

“Sure does. Sends chills up my spine.”

I and Dan walked over to his truck. Dan’s little dog, Scrap, was fiercely wagging his tail with his little head hanging out of the window. Dan rubbed his head as we walked around to the back to look in the bed of the pickup. He picked up a wax coated cardboard box and showed me the contents.

“Perfectly good bunches of bananas,” He told me with a grin.

They looked terrible to me and were way too brown.

“Those will make a fine banana pudding tonight if my house doesn’t get blown away.”

Dan always loves to show me what he finds. I did notice today that Dan's truck had been in an accident. There was a huge dent in the rear quarter panel. I didn’t ask feeling it would have been a sore subject to talk about. I left Dan as he was getting in his Toyota to drive across the river to check the dumpster at the convenience store affectionately known between us as “Rectum.”

I then walked on down past the tax preparation office and the hair salon and rounded the corner. Rosa was sitting in her favorite spot.

“Hey gorgeous,” She said as I sat down next to her. “You are looking mighty fine today.”

“You don’t want anything to do with me, remember?” I said. “I am crazy.”

Rosa laughed as she told me she hadn’t seen George in over a week. George had gone around during a drunken spree telling all the gang that I was crazy and schizophrenic. At first, it had made me mad as hell, but I can laugh about it now. I am more worried about where George has been these days. When he disappears for any length of time it usually means he’s in jail for driving under the influence.

“Well, I am going to go get me a chocolate milk and some cheese on wheat crackers,” I told Rosa as I got up to continue on to the grocery store after we had finished our cigars. She slapped me on the butt and grinned devilishly.

“I will see ya handsome,” She said looking at my posterior without making eye contact.

I shuddered as I walked away. I really like Rosa as a friend, but she has a daughter my age and isn’t exactly what you would call a fine specimen of a woman. I like older women, but not women my mother’s age. I finished my shopping and walked on home noticing the wind had picked up considerably and whipped my Auburn t-shirt with a fury.

“Keep an eye to the skies,” I told myself mimicking my late grandmother as I walked on inside and shut the door against a brisk wind.

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Sunrise over the Chattahoochee…

Ah, another restful night of sleep. I just might get used to this. I was just standing outside in the cool morning air drinking my first mug of coffee of the day and I thought, you know, that would make a wonderful photograph. I was far too lazy and sleepy to walk back inside to grab the camera and snap a shot though. There will be many more sunrises in my life. I hope. Touchwood as Austere would say.

I walked back inside, turned on the television to find more and more commercials on The Weather Channel and less weather. Maggie sat at my feet watching me stoically. That is her way of letting me know she needs to go out for a potty break pronto. The constant staring will turn into muted mews in a few moments. Having a young dog is like having a kid except, hopefully, your kid doesn’t lick their butt.

Soon, the smell of brewing coffee in my apartment will be accompanied by the smell of frying bacon and the sound of eggs cracking and sizzling in the pan. I am feeling adventurous and nouveau riche this morning and might just have a cheese omelet instead of my usual plain Jane scrambled. Ok, my stomach is telling me to quit writing about it and to get to cooking. Good day.

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In the Still of the Night…

The midnight hour has far since passed. I am so sleepy, but am staying up listening to a radio program that I so enjoy out of New Orleans that only airs after midnight.

Cheryl had asked in a comment for me to write about one of my and mom’s meals. Helen, my father’s cook and maid, cooked a delicious chicken pot pie yesterday afternoon. Mom called me and had asked me to come eat supper with her. Helen’s chicken pie was filled with chunks of chicken breast; dumplings made the traditional southern way with lard, potatoes, carrots, celery, and sliced boiled eggs. This was cooked in a rich, creamy white, peppery sauce and topped with a flaky pastry crust. She also prepared her signature cornbread muffins which are slightly sweet and not traditional southern style. Southern style cornbread where I live is usually tangy, crunchy, and made with buttermilk, hot oil, and white corn meal. For the dessert, Helen had prepared pear salad which consisted of a pear half on a bed of lettuce with a dollop of mayonnaise sprinkled with sharp cheddar cheese and topped with a sweet candied cherry. It was delicious and I went back to the stove for a second helping much to Helen’s enjoyment.
There was a different cashier yesterday from the usual lady with the glass eye. I recognized him as the son of one of the men who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous with me. I was very nervous and wary that he would be unaware of my relationship and tab with the restaurant and that there would be problems.
“You eat up baby,” She told me. “I thought of you while I was cooking it.”

My father soon arrived home from work to eat with us. I and mom had almost finished.

“What in the hell is Maggie barking at?” He asked me.

“She has barked all day like a mad dog,” I replied. “I don’t know what has gotten into her.”

“It must be a possum or a deer.”

I walked home as the sun was setting as I looked for more photo opportunities. I am trying to gain a photographer’s eye for things.

I still have a tab at Roger’s Barbeque and ate lunch there yesterday as well. I am going to gain a hundred pounds the way I have been eating lately. I ordered two chunked pork barbeque sandwiches and a bag of Lay’s potato chips. As usual, the restaurant was busy which makes me nervous and paranoid, but my hunger and the want of a free meal overcomes my fears.

There was a different cashier yesterday from the usual lady with the glass eye. I recognized him as the son of one of the men who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous with me. I was very nervous and wary that he would be unaware of my relationship and tab with the restaurant and that there would be problems. Thankfully, management had filled him in and my check out process and tip went smoothly.

Well, this radio program will go on until the wee hours of the morning and my eyelids have grown so heavy I don’t think I can stay up any longer. I will try to write again in the morning. Good night.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Power of Money…

“Money is power,” My father told me over the phone today. “That is one thing I have learned from owning a multi-million dollar business.”

“I know,” I said plaintively as I thought of the paltry $11,000 dollars a year I live on.

We had gotten on the subject of lawyers and the ease with which my father will pay for and use them. My recent debacle with a credit card company was easily thwarted by my father’s lawyer. They wanted third party arbitration. In the fine print of the agreement, you had thirty days to write and request a judge to decide and forego arbitration. I would have never known this without the help of my father’s lawyer. The credit card company dismissed the supposed $278 dollars I owed them on a card I never used. It would have been far more costly for them to go to court. Without my father’s money, I would have never been able to afford a lawyer. I would have owed that company the money and they could have easily garnished my monthly check for the amount.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” I told my father speaking of my rash decision in applying for that credit card. “I will never do that again.”

“Well, I now have power of attorney over you and can handle all those things,” He replied. “You didn’t mean any harm.”

Nothing has worried me more (paranoia) than this whole power of attorney thing. I am doing okay at the moment, but I never know what tomorrow may bring as far as my mental illness is concerned. My father could easily have me locked away in some psychiatric hospital now if things turned for the worse. I am placing, in his trust, my very future and life.

“Promise me you will only do what is best for me,” I said with great affliction in my voice.

“What did I do for your brother and sister?” He asked.

“You saw them through medical school and told them what do,” I replied.

“I am telling you now to take your medications and to never drink again and you will be okay,” He said sternly. “I will see about you.”

I hung up the phone after saying goodbye and sat in the deepest of thoughts. It is still just damn scary. Addictions are so unpredictable. My father is a rabid teetotaler.

One day at a time, I thought as I sat there scared. At least I am no longer homeless.

My thoughts were of little consolation.

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There and Back Again…

I awoke this morning to the first light of dawn. I unzipped my sleeping bag and glared at my watch as I squinted. 7:00 AM it read as I almost had to hold it to my face to read it. I then fumbled for my glasses as if I were caught in the darkest of nights without a light, or as if I were a blind man stumbling in an unfamiliar furniture filled room.

“Damn, I can’t see crap!” I muttered tersely to myself as my groping hand finally felt the cold metal of their frames. “I need to get that eye surgery done.”

Thus began my first morning camping out in quite awhile. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this pastime. I had also forgotten how much I love to leave behind the rigors of modern life for a much simpler existence; an existence that only a trip to woods can conjure within me.

I had stayed up late last night reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I marveled at how simply it was written, but so addicting to read. Each new chapter would arrive with a resolve from me to close the book and go to sleep.

It was well after midnight when I heard that mournful hoot of an owl far down in the woods below me. I finally closed the book as I took off my glasses, blew out my candle lantern, and lay there listening to the winter woods in the dark for the longest time. The owl hooted again with a plaintive call. In my mind, I could picture that owl sitting atop a branch, in the piney woods, with big blinking yellow eyes watching the forest floor for mice and other small moving and tasty edibles.

[Sleep arrived…]

I finally roused myself from my sleeping bag this morning and began breakfast after one of the most restful sleeps I had experienced in months. My little propane camp stove lit with a flare and a whoosh, and then hissed softly as a pot of water began to boil. I poured in the grits and added a dash of salt. There is a true art to good southern style grits I have learned over the years. Runny grits should only be found north of the Mason-Dixon Line. You want the consistency of a creamy, fine, thick porridge; a careful balance of water and ground corn.

As I sat eating my perfectly prepared grits from a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon, fog wafted off of the surface of our pond in the cool morning air and drifted down into the pine trees below the dam. Occasionally, the water would ripple in great expanding circles as a fish would break the surface. I longed to stay in this moment forever; forever serene, calm, and comforted.

With a heavy heart, I finally began to pack up my gear in my car and head for home. I knew my father would grow worried when he would find my car gone for more than a day. I drove home and away from God’s country as the brightly shining globe of the sun had risen high above the trees, almost blinding me as I drove east, prompting the use of my Honda’s visor; east towards home.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Morning Musings…

It’s 5:00 AM on this dark morning. The sun is just waiting below the horizon and casting its first rays of the day over the Atlantic. I can imagine Europe beginning their day. Breakfast is finished. People are going about their lives and heading to work. The sun is already high on the horizon.

In Asia, the sun is setting or has set. Their days are winding down as families gather around low dinner tables to eat the last meal of the day, watch television, and then head to bed. Such goes as the world turns. Days end and other days begin. Life is a never ending circle revolving in the void of space.

The only sound in my apartment is that of my coffee percolator starting to boil and the soft hissing of my gas heater this morning. Maggie is stretched out like a lazy Cheshire cat in front of that heater enjoying its warmth as is her usual routine after a cool night.

Ah, a train just started to roar through downtown. You can first hear the far off wail of its horns way down below that old abandoned cotton mill. Within minutes, the louder wails of its horns ring out as it makes it to downtown to greet a sleepy populace. I grew up hearing these trains in this small town and the sound of those horns is as ubiquitous as the birds singing in the trees and the sound of a warm breeze on a bright spring day.

Well, enough of my morning musings. I need to start packing and get ready to head out for a little camping adventure. Many of you want pictures. I am debating on carrying my $350 dollar camera into the woods to be banged around in my backpack. You will just have to wait a few days to see if I post them and overcome my fears of damaging my beloved camera. I could never afford another. I hope you all have a great next few days and I will write again this weekend.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Breakfast with Dad…

I and dad sat over breakfast at Cracker Barrel this morning. I had gotten the sunrise sampler and he ate the pancakes and sausage.

“When was the last time me and you could just sit, eat, and talk like this?”

“It has been years,” I replied with a heartfelt smile.

We left the restaurant to drive over to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my commercial driver’s license renewed. I was afraid to drive with an expired license and dad had agreed to drive me down. We grabbed a number and sat and waited for the officer to call us back. I was very nervous with all the new policies "The Patriot Act" for commercial drivers had enacted and just knew I would run into issues.

“Number 37!” Rang out over the speakers in the waiting room.

“That is us,” I said as I turned to my father to go talk to the officer.

“We need you to go get your fingerprints on file and take a test for the hazardous materials endorsement,” The officer told me after entering my driver’s license number into her computer.

“Can’t I just drop the HAZMAT endorsement?” I asked figuring I would probably never drive a big rig again.

“Matter of fact; Yes you can,” She replied.

I sighed with relief when I realized we were going to get out of there without any more complications.

“That leaves you with a tanker’s endorsement and a triple trailer endorsement,” She said as she smiled and handed me my new temporary license. “I doubt you will be able to get a job without that HAZMAT endorsement though.”

I just said thank you and I and Dad drove home in a blinding rain.

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Sorry for my recent depressive meanderings on this blog lately. I once read the blog of a formerly homeless girl on Livejournal and all she did was whine and complain about her many and various physical ailments. It was painful for me as a reader and I will not subject you all to that.

Red Robin (a dear blogging friend for many years) reminded me in his comment what I enjoy most. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I am headed out for a camping trip for a few days. I will leave after getting my injection in the morning. I hope to be back to writing by the weekend at the latest.

The weather is wonderful here as far as the temperature goes. The forest and a warm, crackling campfire waits for me to pitch my tent and spend a few days in quiet contemplation as I read many books, write in my paper journal, and smoke my pipe. I am sure I will have much to write about when I return home. I will see you all in a few days. Good day.

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Best Forgotten Pages in the Lexicon of my Life…

Days like yesterday are best forgotten in the lexicon that is my life. Often, as with most, just a simple night of rest can work wonders. Maggie and I crawled into bed a little after nine with the radio tuned to that station out of New Orleans. The rain was softly falling outside my windows. My warm and soft covers enveloped me as I laid my head upon my goose down pillow. Blissful sleep finally overcame me after a twenty four hour long drought.

I was thinking this morning as I was drinking my coffee and having my first-of-the-day cigar how that to truly live a healthy life I would have to cut out all immediate real life human contact. The stressors of my many real life relationships affect me so deeply and negatively. The date with Carolyn and her on and off nature; the tussle with Charlie Monday night; the pressure my father and my family puts on me; the fear and paranoia surrounding others. Just a simple drive to the convenience store can be a nerve wracking affair of anxiety and paranoia when I get like I was yesterday.

Online relationships are different. I can easily control the amount of interaction with people online. There is no body language; no exasperating social cues to miss. There are only simple words which I find very easy to use. If I don’t want to interact with you, I can just turn off the computer. Real life is not so simple.

We all live by an extremely complicated set of social norms and mores. These very social norms and mores escape me most times. I often find that keeping up with these social rules to be one of the hardest, most exasperating, and most tiring aspects of me living my life. For most people these are second nature and most mentally healthy people never give them a second thought. Don’t believe me? Pay close attention to your social interactions today and notice the delicate dance it can be.

I was watching an episode of Judging Amy yesterday. In it was portrayed a very troubled child. He came from the perfect family. They were loving, laughing, and caring. This was pure torture for the boy though and disturbed him greatly. He was an introvert and not the extroverted people of his significant others. I saw myself in that child and something clicked within me when reminiscing about my own childhood and my life as an adult. I was that very child and his family was like mine; forever trapped to dance this delicate social human dance when I am metaphorically lame and crippled.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Charlie to the Rescue…

Charlie came by tonight to see me once again. He was bearing the gift of this week’s medications and a six pack of sprite. I don’t know why he always brings me soda, but he does. I had run out of my risperdal and it was an emergency delivery. No wonder I felt like crap all day.

“Now you take this damned medicine like you should,” He told me good heartedly. “We are going to one day get you well.”

“Sorry about not locking the doors last night.”

“Now dammit!” He said. “We live in a crazy world and people will kill you without a second thought for your material possessions.”

The last time a murder was committed in this small town it was by a mauling pit-bull years ago. I don’t understand Charlie’s scariness. There haven’t been any recent crime waves here in decades.

“I got Jimmy James to install Maggie’s dog door today,” Charlie then told me. “You are going to have to teach her to use it.”

“She will,” I say to assure Charlie. “She’s as smart as a button.”

“Well, I don’t want that damn dog to be shitting all over your new house. I’ve put a lot of damn work into it as well.”

I laughed. Charlie gave me a hug and then drove on home. I walked inside with a big smile on my face. Charlie is so high strung.

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Brain Chemistry Awry…

It is hard to describe my experience with schizophrenia. I am experiencing slight symptoms today. Faces seem odd and contorted causing me to miss the all important social cues. I doesn’t help that I didn’t sleep at all last night. I stayed up all night trying to read a book and smoking copious amounts of cigars as I paced the floor. I finally got in a two hour nap this morning. I usually sleep so well these days so I don’t know what is going on with all that.

Paranoia also reigns supreme during these times. I have this all encompassing feeling that something is wrong or about to happen. It can be paralyzing. I am worried my family is mad at me or out to get me and cause me strife. I also can’t drive without thinking the police are out to get me and I am being followed and watched. I know these fears are baseless. I just can’t get them out of my mind. Such is the madness imparted upon me by my screwy brain chemistry.

It also didn’t help that my good friend Charlie scolded me last night for not locking the house. He means well, but I can’t take any criticisms at all. I am so overly and so damned sensitive. I have what my father calls “the key disease” and never take my keys out of the locks or I will most absolutely lose them. I haven’t taken the key out of my car in over two years either on purpose. Living in a small town can make you gilded about crime. I live in such a quiet neighborhood.

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Moments of Togetherness…

“You seem to be taking your medications these days,” Carolyn says blithely as I sit over my bento box enjoying my teriyaki grilled chicken.

“I don’t have a choice,” I reply. “Remember? I get a shot in my ass every two weeks.”

Carolyn shudders and also smiles.

“I hate shots,” She replies as she eats her freshly prepared sushi.

“My ex-wife loved this restaurant,” I tell her.

“I wish you wouldn’t talk about her,” Carolyn says. “She was nuts. She needed to be medicated.”

I smirk. I don’t like Carolyn belittling my ex-wife though. Rachel had her faults, but she tried so hard when dealt with the most trying of circumstances. She loved me to the bitter end.

“My drinking drove Rachel crazy,” I reply in Rachel’s defense as I take another bite of my chicken.

“I can’t imagine you drunk,” Carolyn says.

“You don’t want to imagine me drunk,” I reply candidly. “I was not a very nice person when drinking.”

“Well, don’t ever start back and we will be fine,” She replies.

We finish our meal. I pay and leave a tip. The traffic out of Atlanta is horrendous. I look over to find Carolyn has fallen fast asleep. It is getting close to midnight. I reach over to grab her hand and she stirs and looks over at me.

“I love you, faults and all,” She says sleepily. “Rachel was a fool to leave you.”

I grasp her hand tightly as I pull off of the Lagrange exit to get some gas. Carolyn has fallen back asleep. Her face is all alit by the bright lights of the convenience store as I pull up to the gas pump.

“It’s good to not be alone,” I say as I stand out in the harsh cold as I swipe my debit card to fill up.

I can still see her sleeping in the car. It is so good to not be alone.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Shaken, not Stirred…

Our meeting at Sushi Huku went well. Times spent with her are so meaningful to me. I know I am such a damned romantic.

I almost had a slip up today. I drove down to Fat Albert’s to buy a case of beer. My dear friend, Miki, saved me though. She got completely pissed off at me for trying to buy that case of beer.

“I am not going to sell you that!” She said adamantly as I placed that case of beer upon the counter.

At first, I grew angry. Then I realized she was right.

I walked out to my car feeling like a total idiot. Miki followed me outside.

“I am proud of you and know Carolyn will be as well,” She said.

“I know,” I replied. “I am such a goddamned fool. Thank you.“

I drove home feeling like a total tool.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Carolyn Called…

She often calls when I least expect it. I sat today in my lazy boy, reclined, half asleep, as the phone rang. I screen my calls to weed out those most dreaded and most dastardly telemarketers and to assuage my social phobias surrounding the phone.

“Hey, you there? I want to talk to you! Pick up the phone! I know you are there!” Rang out upon my answering machine’s speaker after a few rings. It was Carolyn.

My heart rate increased and my anxiety skyrocketed as I listened to her talk. I reclined forward in my lazy boy and placed my face in my hands as I listened.

“Well, I guess you are not home. I was just thinking of you. I wanted us to head up to Atlanta tomorrow night and eat at that Japanese restaurant you so love. I will call again tonight. It will be my treat.”

I walked over to the answering machine and pushed play to hear her message again. Her voice sounds so comforting; so sanguine that there is hope of us getting together for the weekend. My feeble and so soft heart melts as I dial her number to call her back. I am such a pussy.

“Hey,” I say as she picks up the phone and says hello. “It’s me. I just got your message.”

“I was hoping you would call,” She says. “I’ve thought about you all day.”

“All of this is hard on me,” I reply. “One minute you love me and the next, you shy away from me.”

Silence reigns supreme as she is surprised by my candidness.

“You scare me sometimes,” She finally says. “I don’t know what to expect. I love you though and I miss you.”

“I love you too,” I reply cautiously. “I miss you so very much.”

Sushi Huku?” She asks speaking of the Japanese restaurant I so dearly love to eat at. “Will you call and make the reservations?”

“Hold on,” I say. “I will call you back in a few minutes.”

I walk over to my parent’s house and call the restaurant and set an 8:00 PM reservation time. I cannot call long distance on my home phone to save money. I walk the short distance home and call Carolyn back.

“Eight tomorrow night is when we will eat,” I say.

“Let’s go in your Honda,” She says. “I love that car.’

“I will pick you up around six,” I reply.

We hang up our respective phones and I have a good cry. This willy-nilly back and forth relationship is so hard on me. I don’t want to be lonely and I love her so much. I know deep in my heart it will never work out, but I can’t pass up on the time spent with her. I just wish I was a normal man, without the rigors of a mental illness to hold me back. She would love me then.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Fresh and Clean as a Whistle…

Yesterday was a quiet day in Andrew-Ville so I don’t have much to write about today. The only notable thing that happened was that Rosa came by at lunch and hung out for about two hours and I also had a meeting with my father’s lawyer yesterday morning. I and mom didn’t go out to eat last night. She is going through a depression of sorts and is staying in the bed for most of her days. She suffers from a harsher form of schizophrenia than I and so does her mother and my great grandmother as well. It’s kind of a maternal family curse.
I have often heard people say in the South that life is about as hard as you make it out to be. That is a bunch of Pollyannaish bullshit after what Rosa has gone through over the years when she told me about much of her past.
Yesterday morning found me down at my father’s pharmacy. We had to go speak to his lawyer about the Visa credit card I had applied for a few months back. I didn’t carefully read the many pages of very fine print when I applied for it online. I never used the card (tore it up when it arrived) and they are still trying to bill me for $278 dollars in “finance fees” on a thousand dollar line of credit I never used. I refused to pay it and will take them to small claims court if need be. It is a matter of principle and not necessarily about the money. While we were at the lawyer’s office, we also had power of attorney papers drawn up for me so that if I grow very ill again, as I have over the years, my father, brother, and sister will have power of attorney to make decisions on my behalf. I know it needs to be done, but it is still kind of scary and sobering to have your life in the hands of others.

Rosa was in fine spirits yesterday. She wanted to watch one of those “court” shows on TV. I think it was Judge Judy. I don’t watch that tripe.

“You sure smell good,” She told me when she walked in my door.

“I just took a shower,” I replied.

“Irish Spring Soap,” She said as she whistled loudly mimicking the commercial. “Fresh and clean as a whistle.”

I laughed heartily at her saying that.

I fixed us both hotdogs and potato chips for lunch and we sat and talked a long time after her show had ended. I am so amazed at what she has gone through in life and she still has an upbeat attitude about it all. If I would have experienced what she has, I would probably be a far more broken man. I have often heard people say in the South that life is about as hard as you make it out to be. That is a bunch of Pollyannaish bullshit after what Rosa has gone through over the years when she told me about much of her past. The same holds true for me as well.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tardive Dyskenisia...

Sounds like some tropical disease, doesn’t it? No, I don’t have wormlike parasites living on my eyeballs. This condition was the main discussion and focus I had yesterday with my new psychiatrist. Tardive dyskinesia is a disorder associated with and caused by high dosages of the psychiatric medications I am taking. The symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease.

It was a long, apprehensive drive down the interstate to see my new doctor. My former doctor of over ten years had retired and moved back to India to be with her family. I am going to dearly miss her. I had butterflies in my stomach wondering if this new doctor would use me as the medical equivalent of a guinea pig.

Strike one. I sat in the lobby for over forty five minutes to be seen. The new doctor was running late. Dr. Reddi, my old doctor, was as punctual as the finest, most accurate, digital clock. Strike two. When I finally got to see him, I noticed his shirt wasn’t neatly tucked in. Part of it was hanging out of the back of his khaki pants and he looked disheveled. This very fact would have driven my mother crazy and she would have refused to see him. The care and condition of my mental health was in the hands of someone who looked like he stayed up all night drinking at a frat party, threw on some clothes, and stumbled into work. I am glad to report there was no strike three.

“You realize you are on an extremely high dosage of risperdal,” My new doctor said. “Are you aware of tardive dyskenisia?”

“Yes,” I replied. “But this high dosage is the only dosage we have found to work effectively.”

“Hold out your hands flatly and then touch each finger with your thumbs one at a time,” He told me.

I did as he asked.

“Stick out your tongue and hum,” He then told me.

I followed his directions to the letter.

“Well, you don’t have any symptoms of tardive dyskenisia yet, but we need to monitor you closely. Would you like to try and lower your dosage by 3 milligrams?”

“I would rather stay on what is working well at the moment,” I replied. “I am doing better than I have in over a decade.”

“Okay,” He said. “But if you start to have any nervous tics or tremors in your hands, you come see me immediately.”

He wrote me a prescription and kept me on all my current medications which made me feel relieved. I arrived home to many messages on my answering machine. My brother and sister are both physicians of internal medicine and were worried about the outcome. They had called and left messages of support and concern. My father had also called as well. He had tried to get off of work to go with me, but couldn’t get his associate pharmacist to come in. She had some function at her kid’s school to attend to. I called dad as soon as I got home.

“This new doctor is nice,” I told him on his cell phone. “He kept me on my current medications.”

“Thank god,” My father replied relieved. “I was so worried he would try to change things and we would have to start back from step one."

“Don’t tell mom, but he wasn’t a snazzy dresser. His shirt was hanging out of his pants.”

My father laughed.

“That would have just driven your mother crazy,” He said. “She would have gone doctor shopping immediately.”

I finally got off the phone with my father and took a nap exhausted from the day’s exertions. I can’t take a lot of out of the ordinary things added to my daily routines.

Well, Maggie is anxiously awaiting her one scrambled egg and piece of bacon. As usual, I am up well before dawn. I am going to go get some breakfast started and get my day going. I hope you all have a good day and thanks so much for the many comments lately. They make journaling so enjoyable and worthwhile. Good day.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Miki’s Malaise…

Tuesday night is traditionally my shopping night. I and my father went up to Kroger to buy our groceries. Dad had to get a few things to fix some desserts for my sister’s baby shower this weekend. I walked out of Kroger with only spending $54 dollars on groceries for the week. For that, I was proud. Maggie even got a big bag of pig ears which she is currently enjoying one of those poor deceased pig’s auditory appendages.

As I was loading my groceries in my car, Charlie pulled up beside me and rolled down his window.

“Happy Valentine’s Day you little shithead,” He said jokingly.

“I love you too, sweetheart,” I replied facetiously with a big grin plastered upon my face.

Charlie burst out laughing and drove on away. I do dearly love that man. Charlie circles the parking lot until his autistic son, Randall, purchases his nightly can of shaving cream and walks out to be carried home. It is an unfailing nightly routine for Charlie and his son.

I left Kroger and then drove over to Fat Albert’s to buy this week’s allotment of little cigars. Miki was on duty tonight and wasn’t feeling well. She perked up some when she saw me walk in though.

“The usual?” She asked as she forced a smile despite feeling so badly.

“The usual,” I replied as she rang up two cartons of cigars for nineteen dollars and twenty four cents.

“One more hour and you will be off of work,” I told her. “I know you will be glad to get home and get some rest.”

“I think I am coming down with the flu,” She replied. “This next hour will probably be the longest hour of my life.”

The conversation then turned to the subject of Carolyn. Miki and Carolyn are close friends and worked together for years at Fat's.

“Carolyn told me about you two breaking up. I hated to hear that,” She said. “You two were a good couple.”

“Yeah, the past month has been kind of tough,” I replied.

“She still loves you,” Miki said. “She told me the other day on the phone how much she misses you.”

“Well, she has a weird way of showing it,” I replied flabbergasted.

Our conversation was beginning to tread on uncomfortable territory. I didn’t want to rehash my failed relationship with one of Carolyn’s close friends. I politely told Miki that I had to head home to get in the bed early for a doctor’s appointment in the morning. I do have to see my psychiatrist at noon. I dread having to go do that tomorrow. It is such a long drive just for a fifteen minute visit to get my prescriptions renewed. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do though.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dearest Dad…

My father came by last night just to visit. My father loves all his children, but he is not one to just drop by for a chat. My sister often jokes that hell would freeze over before he would drive to Birmingham to see her. It completely surprised and flattered me.

“Your house is so clean,” He told me as he walked in. “That is a good indicator that you are doing well.”

When my mental illness strikes, my house will turn into a disaster area. It is a direct barometer of my mental health.

“Let’s go for a ride out Spring Road and just talk,” Dad said.

We got in his car and headed out that dark country road. A heavy fog had rolled in and it looked like a spooky scene out of a Stephen King novel.

“Dad, do you think I can get a part time job again?” I asked.

I could see the tension build in his face.

“You worked for years and just couldn’t take all that shit,” He said. “You are like your mother. She can’t take it as well.”

“It just makes me feel worthless sometimes not being able to support myself fully.”

“What’s number one?” Dad asked me.

“What do you mean?”

“Your number one priority is staying mentally healthy and sober,” He replied. “Without those things everything else is meaningless. You just concentrate on doing those two things.”

“I know,” I said kind of sullenly. “I just get tired of living on so little. I just thought it would help my self worth to work a simple job.”

“Let’s see how you do in the next few months and we will see,” Dad said. “I may need you to start working down at the pharmacy again. We will have to get you a pharmacy tech’s license though.”

I thanked my father for the offer. It gave me a glimpse of hope for the future. I really would like to have a small part time job these days. I will just have to wait and see what the future brings.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Finding Serenity...

I am walking through downtown on my way to Sarah Jay’s for supper. Everyone is getting off of work and highway 29 is clogged with cars.

I am glad I am walking,” I thought as I followed the sidewalk less traveled by most.

The sun is just beginning to set and the buildings I pass cast long shadows in front of me. These short winter days have a tendency to impart the doldrums upon me. I shake off my melancholy mood as I arrive at the restaurant reassuring myself that the days are indeed getting longer.
I sit quietly drinking my coke as I stare out the large plate glass window next to me with a view of the highway. I wonder about all those people in their cars, where they are headed, and what their lives are like.
I look inside and see a large amount of people eating their meals. All types from all walks of life form a diverse cross section of patrons inside. Blue collar workers sit eating their country fried steak platters. A business man in a grey suit sits reading his newspaper over a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. I grab the handle of the heavy glass door and walk inside to join this eclectic mix of people.

“What can I get you?” The waitress asks as she walks over brushing her bangs out of her face.

I study the menu for a moment trying to decide what to eat.

“We have a special on a meat and three veggies platter tonight,” She says trying to help me make up my mind. The restaurant is busy and she has many tables to attend to.

“Get me the foot long chili dog with extra onions,” I tell her and she writes it down.

“Do you want French fries with that?”

“Yes, please.”

I sit quietly drinking my coke as I stare out the large plate glass window next to me with a view of the highway. I wonder about all those people in their cars, where they are headed, and what their lives are like. I don’t envy them of the rat race they are embroiled in as they are most likely heading home after a busy and tiring day of work.

My meal arrives and I eat with a ravenous hunger. The chili dog was delicious and I place a tip on the table and walk up to the cashier to pay.

“Was everything okay, honey?” The cute and dirty blonde haired cashier asks.

“It was delicious,” I say as I invoke a smile.

I leave the restaurant and begin my walk back home. The raucous noise of the busy highway beside me perturbs me. I think how I could never live life on the go like that. I have to have a quiet, serene, and simple life filled with little, if any, stress. I finally part ways with the sidewalk by the highway as I take a shortcut through the car lot. The silence is so welcomed as the din of the busy highway fades into the distance. I arrive at my quiet neighborhood to find serenity leaving busy downtown behind. Peace envelopes me. Another day is done as the sun slips below the horizon.

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Visages in the Mirror…

I awoke too early this morning and couldn’t sleep. When I can’t sleep, I often like to tinker with my computers. If you look at my photo blog, you will see my computer setup which my brother calls the “bunker.” I had ordered two 512 megabyte sticks of DDR ram the other day on sale for the grand total of $74.99 which was a steal. I installed them and now have 2 gigs of dual channel computer memory on my main blogging and video gaming computer. This really helps when running memory intensive programs such as Photoshop CS2.
A lot can happen in two years; a lot of very good things. Time heals old wounds as they say.
After my tinkering, I took a shower, brushed my teeth, and blow dried my hair. As I stood in front of the mirror, I noticed how old I look these days. The rigors of my mental illness and my drinking days have taken a toll upon me physically. At least, I don’t look as bad as I did when I was homeless.

I then fixed my usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and cheddar cheese. Maggie also got her one scrambled egg and a piece of bacon. I and Maggie are such creatures of habit. We eat the same thing every morning without fail.

Speaking of homelessness, this month marks my two year anniversary of obtaining a home. I will never forget that brutally cold and rainy February night when I called my mother for help.

“Mom, I am in a mess. I need your help. I am so cold,” I said as she listened on the other end.

“I need to talk to your father first,” She said. “He will know what to do.”

I was estranged from my father at the time. He had told me that he never again wanted anything to do with me and to never call. My desperation overcame my fears of his wrath and his rejection.

“Where are you now?” My mother then asked.

“I am over here at Fat Albert’s on their payphone.”

“To hell with your father,” My mother finally said adamantly. “He will just have to be mad at me. It won’t be the first or last time. Meet me over at your late grandmother’s house. I am not about to have you freeze to death.”

I drove over on my motorcycle and met mom at Memaw’s house. It had been vacant for over a year after she had passed away. My father had continued to pay for and keep all the utilities on.

“Let’s get you inside and get some heat on and make up a bed,” She said as she got out of her car and followed me inside.

Mom made a bed and turned on the central heating and air. I will never forget how good that heat felt. I had been miserably cold for months. It was one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced in my life. So many people take such things for granted.

I couldn’t sleep in that soft bed for weeks. I would sleep on the hard floor in my sleeping bag. My mother would come by everyday to check on me and bring me a meal from various restaurants in town to make sure I had enough to eat. My father was none too pleased. He came over one day and sat in a chair in the kitchen as I lay in the next room in the bed.

“I can’t take your crazy shit,” He told me angrily. “If you are going to live here then you have to take your medications and stop that damn drinking. You are nothing but a sorry ass drunk. No wonder Rachel divorced you.”

I didn’t say anything and just listened. He soon left and I spent the rest of the day wracked with guilt. It has taken two years of very hard work on my part to rebuild our relationship. He now tells me he loves me. He also bought me a house. I had to clean up my act though by taking my medications and by also stopping my habit of drinking twenty beers a day until I passed out. A lot can happen in two years; a lot of very good things. Time heals old wounds as they say.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Delirium Tremens...

We had a sad apparition of a human being at my AA meeting tonight. You could tell just by the shaking of his hands and pale pallor of his skin that he was experiencing extreme alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Everyone within the group offered their support and a few urged him to go to detox at the local hospital. He wasn’t very communicative though. It must have taken all the will he could muster to come tonight. One member fixed him a cup of coffee and brought it to him which I remarked as being thoughtless and embarrassing for him. He could barely keep his hands still let alone hold a steaming hot cup of joe. That cup of coffee sat untouched upon the table as the meeting progressed.
I definitely had to take it one day at a time to endure my first week of sobriety. My only reprieve from thoughts of drunkenness was blissful slumber every night.

Tonight’s new member reminded me of my first few days of withdrawal from alcohol. I could barely hold a cup to drink from it. I had the most awful night sweats. My every waking thought was of getting a drink to calm these most discouraging symptoms. I definitely had to take it one day at a time to endure my first week of sobriety. My only reprieve from thoughts of drunkenness was blissful slumber every night.

After the meeting, I and Wanda were sitting on the back porch talking of this newcomer. Wanda has a cumulative eight years of sobriety.

“I’ve seen that so many times over the years,” She said. “They come and you never see them again.”

“Maybe we will see him tomorrow,” I replied.

“Only by God’s grace will he quit drinking,” She said. “He will have to have a spiritual reawakening.”

The whole experience tonight put me in such a somber mood. I could see myself in that poor fellow. If I wouldn’t have gotten sober, death would have surely awaited me. I wondered if the same thing would befall him as well. There are so many alcoholic souls out suffering through desperate lives who will never find these hallowed halls of AA and the wonderful people who help support you. I am one of the lucky few.

I am not a religious man and I rarely pray, but I said a small prayer for that poor addicted soul surprising myself as I mumbled those words as I rode my bike home.

God, if you are real, work your magic tonight. Help that man turn around his life. I know I am not a Christian, but I hope all I have heard about you is true and that you are forgiving. Forgive me for my transgressions and look out for that man who needs you the most right now. Amen.


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Coats for the Cold…

I am walking down 4th avenue on my way to the shopping center. I noticed a black man in a newer model car stopping to take pictures of each and every house as he slowly inches up my street. The whole deal makes me wary.

“Can I help you?” I say as my curiosity overcomes my inhibitions.

“I work for a real estate company and we are assessing property values in the area,” He tells me. “Sorry if I alarmed you.”
Rosa left me sitting in front of my computer as she headed back down to the shopping center. The more I get to know Rosa, the more I like her. She doesn’t put on airs. What you see is what you get. I am lucky for her to have entered my life. I’ve never had a lot of good friends and I now count her as one.
Satisfied, I continue on with my walk to the shopping center. My main intent for walking down there today was to find George. I am still kind of perturbed about the whole incident of him telling everyone about my mental illness. I want to confront him.

I arrive at the shopping center and it is bustling with activity. Throngs of cars fill the parking lot as people are doing their Sunday afternoon shopping. I sit down on a bench to wait awhile to see who shows up. I reach into my backpack to pull out a bottle of Gatorade and my cigarettes in anticipation of a long wait. Far off, in downtown, a train horn wails in the distance warning motorists to steer clear of the tracks. It evokes memories of my many travels and hikes down those tracks.

I was in a surly mood, but my spirits were immediately lifted when I saw Rosa walking slowly down from the grocery store. In her hand was a plastic sack of what I presumed to be lunch.

“Hey gorgeous,” She said as she walked up and sat down next to me upon the bench.

“Have you seen George?” I asked.

“I haven’t seen that crazy guy in days.”

“I wonder if he is back in jail,” I replied.

“I would have read it in the paper,” Rosa says. “I don’t think he is in jail.”

I watched as Rosa pulled out a loaf of bread, a small bottle of miracle whip, and a package of sliced ham to begin making some sandwiches.

“Do you want one?” She asks.

“I just ate some hamburgers before walking down here,” I replied. “I am full. Thanks though.”

I noticed Rosa’s coat as we sat. It is on its last leg and it tattered and torn.

“Walk home with me after you finish eating,” I told her. “I have a coat I haven’t used in years that you will just love. It is a Timberland and still looks brand new. It might be a bit big though.”

Rosa finished her sandwiches and we walked the short ten minutes up 4th avenue to my house.

“This house is gorgeous,” She said as we stepped inside.

“It’s not mine,” I replied. “My friend Charlie bought it. I will have to show you my new house.”

I walked into my closet and brought out that coat.

“It needs to be dry cleaned,” I said. “It has been in the closet for years and is kind of musty.”

Rosa tried it on and showed it off to me.

“What do you think?” She asked with a big smile on her face.

“I think you look just dapper,” I replied.

“Now that I know where you live, do you think I can walk up here and hang out with you some days?”

“You would be welcome anytime,” I reply.

Rosa left me sitting in front of my computer as she headed back down to the shopping center. The more I get to know Rosa, the more I like her. She doesn’t put on airs. What you see is what you get. I am lucky for her to have entered my life. I’ve never had a lot of good friends and I now count her as one.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In search of daughters lost…

Yesterday found me working on my new house all afternoon. I spent time smoothing and sanding the joint compound that hides the joints and nail impressions in the drywall in preparation for painting my bathroom and kitchen. I finally grew tired and turned a bucket upside down and sat upon it as I admired my handiwork.

This home is all mine,” I thought with a feeling of pride and awe.

I still can’t believe I have a home that is paid for and that I will always have a place to live.
“I heard from my mother a few years ago that she was in jail for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. That has been maybe five years ago. I don’t know if she is still in jail. I haven’t heard a word about her since. My mother is dead now. She used to write her all the time.”
Jimmy James, my workman, showed up in the afternoon to start building the steps adjoining my laundry room. He came walking inside carrying two very large bottles of cheap wine and put them in my fridge to chill.

“I work better after a few drinks,” He said.

“Two bottles of wine are more than just a few drinks,” I replied amused.

“I used to could drink a case of beer a day,” He said. “And it never stopped me from doing a good job or showing up for work.”

“Why did you quit?”

“I got married.”

I laughed. Rachel never could control my drinking despite her most fanatical efforts. When I got tired of her nagging, I would pack up all my camping gear and disappear off to our many acres of land in God’s country for a week or two at a time. She would eventually come and find me and drag me home. I was never more miserable than being around that woman. She was a completely different person within a month after we had gotten married. My father likes to joke that she drove me into being an alcoholic. Rachel was a pretty intense little lady.

“I’ll put in the dog door tomorrow for Maggie,” Jimmy said bringing me out of my deep thoughts of marriages past.

“Thanks,” I replied as paid him in advance the forty dollars for today’s work.

I left Jimmy James to continue building those steps and drove over to the shopping center to see what the gang was up to. I saw my favorite of the gang, Rosa, walking down from the grocery store. I pulled up in the fire lane, got her attention, and said, “Hey good lookin’. You need a ride?”

Rosa smiled and walked over and got in my car. I drove us down to Sonic to get us both a cherry limeade, my favorite Sonic drink.

“How does someone on disability afford a car this nice?” Rosa said speaking of my 2001 Honda CR-V as we drove down highway 29 to finally arrive at Sonic.

“It was a gift,” I said as I parked. “I gave my old beat up 1990 Geo Tracker to a poor high school kid who wouldn’t have been able to afford a car. He’s cleaned it up and it looks nice these days considered it was manufactured the year I graduated from high school.”

“I wish someone would give me a car,” Rosa said with an air of jealousy in her voice as she drank her limeade. “You are lucky as hell.”

We sat for a few moments until we finished our drinks. I was about to crank up the car and head back over to the shopping center to drop Rosa back off.

“You get on the internet, don’t you?” She asked.

“I spend too much time on the ‘net,” I replied.

“Do you think we could find my daughter on it?” Rosa asked. “I would just like to know she is okay.”

“We could try,” I replied. “Do you know if she is married? I would need to know her current last name.”

“I heard from my mother a few years ago that she was in jail for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. That has been maybe five years ago. I don’t know if she is still in jail. I haven’t heard a word about her since. My mother is dead now. She used to write her all the time.”

“We could always try,” I said as I pulled back onto the highway and headed for downtown.

“You know about George saying you are crazy the other day,” She said changing the subject from less weighty issues. “You don’t act crazy at all.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “I take some medications that keep me in check.”

“I am going to kick that son of a bitch’s ass the next time I see him for telling people that,” Rosa told me very animatedly.

“George was just drunk,” I said. “He probably doesn’t even remember doing it.”

I finally pulled back into the parking lot of the shopping center. Rosa got out and stood at my door.

“I better see you tomorrow,” She said. “Walk down and we will smoke a few cigarettes and shoot the shit. I want to try one of those highbrow expensive British smokes I gave you. Dan wants to see you as well. You keep missing him.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow if it is not too cold,” I said and drove on home.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Gifts from one with little means…

I’m walking down the lane to the shopping center yesterday. The sun is setting after a gloriously warm, but mostly cloudy day. Long shadows from the low hanging winter sun lie upon the street in front of me cast by the great oak trees lining the side of the road. I am lost in my thoughts as I trudge forward mulling over in my mind these previous weeks of my life.
In my travels through life, I have found that some of the poorest people are the most giving. I walked home with a great feeling of empathy for her and a warm feeling in my heart.
The sun grows ever lower and the temperature soon drops. I place my hands in my pockets to warm them and button my coat tightly to keep out the cool late evening air.

I arrive at the shopping center as I pass the dumpsters where Dan spends his mornings looking for those morsels of forsaken food that only he and a few rivals hold dear. I think of the alternative lives of these people that have so touched me deeply over the years from our mutual acquaintance. I admire them for their willingness to live beyond the means and confines of conventional society. Often looked down upon my most, I hold them in high esteem.

As I pass the hair salon around the corner, I stop for a moment and look in. It looks so warm and inviting as women sit in chairs being primped and pampered by their hairdressers. I marvel at what women have to do to look presentable and beautiful; pressured by society and peers to look a certain way. Just like most things in life, today’s popular hairstyle will be next year’s passé relic. Fashion is such a fickle beast.

My eyes light up when I see Rosa sitting upon her usual bench smoking a cigarette. Upon her ears are adorned the headphones from her CD player and she is mouthing the lyrics without actually singing the words.

“Hey stranger,” I say as I sit down next to her.

My sudden appearance startles her.

“Dammit,” She says removing her headphones as she laughs. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“What have you been doing?”

“I went on a job search today.”

“Any luck?”

“I might have a job down at McDonald's,” She says. “But without a car, I don’t know how in the hell I am going to get to work. It is a three mile walk to get there every day.”

“Things have a way of working out when you least expect them,” I reply.

“I missed you yesterday,” She says. “I was hoping to get to see you. I have something to give to you.”

“What is it?” I asked intrigued.

Rosa reached into her backpack to pull out a small paper sack and handed it to me.

“Go on and look inside,” She said as she smiled excitedly with anticipation.

I opened the bag to find two packs of my most favorite cigarettes, British Dunhill’s.

“Where in the hell did you find these?” I ask. “I thought you could only order them online in the states.”

“That little convenience store ran by the Indians had a few packs in stock and I snapped them up for you,” She said. “I had heard you mention the other day that they were your favorites.”

“How much did these cost?”

“Five dollars a pack,” Rosa replied.

I started to reach for my wallet to pay her back.

“Don’t,” She said. “It is a gift from me to you. You are my friend.”

“I am honored to be your friend,” I reply.

“You might have to give me a ride to work some days when it is raining or too cold though,” She says.

“I will give you a ride any day.”

I said goodbye and left Rosa to put her headphones back on and to continue what she was doing. I am beginning to think Rosa might have a slight crush on me. It warmed my heart that Rosa would think of me in such a way when she has so little money to spare. I have received a lot of gifts in my life, but that gift of those Dunhill’s probably was the most thoughtful of them all. In my travels through life, I have found that some of the poorest people are the most giving. I walked home with a great feeling of empathy for her and a warm feeling in my heart.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Respite from the Cold…

The temperature soared above seventy degrees yesterday. I so enjoyed our little respite from the cold that I walked an extra three miles on my daily jaunt. I noticed robins everywhere as I hiked. They were marching across the many yards in my neighborhood like little red breasted stalwart soldiers in search of a meal.
George has been known to disappear on these drunken binges from time to time.
I tried to meet up with George yesterday afternoon to ask him about his little transgression the day before. I drove over to his house just in time to eat supper with Mrs. Jones, his mother. Mrs. Jones invited me in. I had already eaten a small meal of some leftover cheesy chicken and rice casserole that I had cooked the day earlier, but wasn’t about to pass on one of Mrs. Jones' fantastic meals. Mrs. Jones is a wonderful cook in the great tradition of southern African American ladies. She had cooked fried cubed steak and gravy, buttery sticky rice, steamed broccoli, and homemade biscuits.

“I haven’t seen him in two days,” She told me of George as we sat her table and ate. “I think he is on a bender and I am worried about him.”

“He is probably over at Pookie’s house.”

“Dat girl be nothin’ but trouble.”

“I know,” I said. “But what can we do?”

George has been known to disappear on these drunken binges from time to time.

After our meal, I helped George’s mom wash the dishes and then headed for home.

“Don’t be a stranger, baby,” Mrs. Jones told me as I walked out the door.

“If I find George, I will call you,” I said.

She gave me a hug and I drove on home to take a shower and get ready for my Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Writer’s Lament of a Love Lost…

I picked up my cordless phone at midnight and pressed the “on” button. My thumb hesitated as I started to dial her number. I almost called, but the insanity passed. An all together different insanity took grip of my feeble, easily swayed, and addiction prone mind.

“Damn,” I muttered as I set the phone down upon my kitchen counter. “I need a drink.”
I can picture her lying in her bed with her cats alone as I write; the phone on her bedside table silent and just waiting for me to call. A stoic reminder of all the late nights we spent talking about mostly nothing, enjoying each other’s company.
There was a lone can of Budweiser in my refrigerator from my drinking days; a single survivor of the many nights I would spend drinking myself into a stupor alone. It was hiding behind the jar of jalapeno flavored dill pickles next to a pitcher of sweet ice brewed tea. I walked to the fridge, opened the door, and stood there for a moment as that cold air poured out and flowed over my sock adorned feet.

I miss her,” I thought. “I don’t want to be lonely anymore. A drink will make you feel better.”

I cracked open the Budweiser and that strong smell of fermented barley and hops wafted up to my nostrils. It almost made me sick to my stomach. I had forgotten how much I hate the acrid smell of beer. I was hoping that one can of Bud and the rush of its alcohol would give me the courage to call.

There was a moment of hesitation. A tear erupted and rolled down my cheek.

“If you drink this one beer then you will go buy more and you will get drunk,” I told myself. “It’s the first beer that gets you drunk and not the following twenty.”

I know myself all too well.

I turned to the sink and poured the beer out. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time. The heat of the moment had me firmly in its grasp and all I could think about was escaping to inebriated bliss.

I walked into my den and sat down in front of my computer as I carried the phone with me. I placed it next to my keyboard upon the desk as I began to write…

Will I always be alone? Will I always have to carry this torch that is my burden to bear in solitude? I want to call her so badly, but couldn’t face the rejection if she acted coldly to me. I want her to come over and climb into my bed as I hold her for hours into the night. I want to smell her hair and to run my hands upon the baby soft skin of her back.

I can picture her lying in her bed with her cats alone as I write; the phone on her bedside table silent and just waiting for me to call. A stoic reminder of all the late nights we spent talking about mostly nothing, enjoying each other’s company. I turn back to my computer and continue to write once I pull myself out of my deep thoughts.

I remember those weeks when we first met. Tentative flirting over a store counter grew into long nights of passionate love making. Nights spent holding each other, laughing, and acting silly as if we were teenagers once again.

I stop writing as I think of those nights. I lose my writer’s muse. I am emotionally spent. It is time to go to bed. Another day draws to a close with my only companion a little wire haired terrier that would never forsake me. Goodnight Carolyn. I will always love you and understand why we can’t be together. I will always have the memories we formed together.

C’est le vie,” I think as I close my word processor without saving what I had written. “It was good while it lasted.”

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Secrets, Glibly Told…

I found out today that George is telling all of the gang down at the shopping center that I am “crazy” and that I have schizophrenia. I met up with Rosa this afternoon and she sheepishly asked me about it.

“You know that older black dude you always hang out with?” She asked.
I left Rosa and the shopping center with my feelings hurt and with a sense of being betrayed. I rode my mountain bike on over to the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall with a lot of pent up anger welling up inside me.
“Yeah, George.”

“He was telling Big S and a few others today that the reason you are on disability is that you have a few screws loose.”

“That loose lipped son of a bitch,” I replied. “I can’t believe he is going around telling that. I trusted him with that information as a close and confidential friend.”

I have hinted to Rosa that I have mental “issues,” but have never come out and said it. She thought it was mainly my struggle with staying sober as she struggles with the same crazy issues surrounding sobriety.

I left Rosa and the shopping center with my feelings hurt and with a sense of being betrayed. I rode my mountain bike on over to the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall with a lot of pent up anger welling up inside me. Wanda was sitting behind the meeting hall, smoking a cigarette on the back porch, as I chained my bike to the metal post out back.

“You are quiet tonight,” She said.

“I am pissed off mad.”

“Talking about it always helps.”

“It is really not something I want to talk about,” I told her tersely. “It is just too personal to share.”

I don’t want everyone in AA to know I am a schizophrenic. I love Wanda to death and care about her deeply, but she has a tendency to gossip. I feared this juicy little tidbit of news about me would just be too tempting to keep secret.

I sat in my AA meeting and could not concentrate. We went around the room to share tonight. It came my turn to speak.

“Hi, I am Andrew and I’m an alcoholic and I am going to pass on speaking tonight,” I said huffily.

“Thanks for just being here,” Several people said as we then continued on around the room.

The meeting ended and I rode my bike home feeling better and better with every passing mile. I just had to take a time out. I know it’s odd that I talk so freely about my mental illness on this blog, but then again, I don’t have my real name or photo plastered all over it either. These people that were told about my illness today are people I have to deal with on a daily basis. In a perfect world, disabilities would never be discriminated against, but we don’t live in a perfect world. In my many years of dealing with having a mental illness, I have found people to be very judgmental and gossipy when it comes to you having a debilitating mental ailment such as schizophrenia. They will all think you are some kind of crazy maniacal serial killer. I am not a violent person at all and would never harm a flea. Try telling that to the general public and my so called friends though.

Conversations at Dawn…

The sun peeks over the horizon with a sudden flash of orange. I get up to begin breakfast and start another day. My phone rings very early this morning and I wonder who could be calling at such an early hour. It is my father.

“I am going shopping for your niece’s birthday, today,” He says. “Do you want me to get something from you for her as well?”
I have taken great care to take my medications religiously lately. I have also taken great care to reach out to my family and to not get enveloped in the selfish shell that my illness can foster.
“I was just going to send her some money,” I reply.

“You need to put more thought into a gift for her,” My father says with a scolding air. “Sending money is a lazy and thoughtless gift.”

“Well, she has all the toys and clothes a child could want,” I say. “She is spoiled rotten. I don’t know what to get her.”

My father thinks for a moment and realizes I am right.

“I will get her another nice outfit for you,” He replies. “Your sister-in-law can never have enough clothes for her.”

The conversation wanders away from birthdays for little girls to more personal things. We get on the subject of how well I am doing these days as far as my mental illness goes.

“I can tell you are taking your medications,” My father says. “You are so rational and easy to talk to. Our relationship is so different.”

I agree with him. I have taken great care to take my medications religiously lately. I have also taken great care to reach out to my family and to not get enveloped in the selfish shell that my illness can foster.

“Are you excited about your new house?” He then asks changing the subject.

“I can’t wait to move in,” I reply.

“You know we love you and you will never lack for anything as long as I am alive,” He says and it deeply touches my heart. A few tears well up in my eyes.

“I love you dad,” I say.

“I just want you to be okay,” He replies before saying goodbye. “You will always be my firstborn and the most special of my children.”

A feeling of peace and wellness overcomes me as I hang up the phone. My father is a very wonderful and wise man who only wants the best for me. We have often had a turbulent relationship in the past due to my schizophrenia, but he always pulls through for me. He never gives up no matter how filled with perils the road ahead my lie. Most fathers would have given up long ago in exasperation and placed me in a group home for the mentally ill. He certainly has the money to do so. There is nothing thicker than blood I think as I pour myself another cup of coffee and go about starting my day.

Drawing Lines in the Sand…

My post on religion yesterday elicited an interesting response. I got quite a plethora of nasty hate mail over that one. What is disturbing to me is these were all self proclaimed Christians. I also got quite a bit of emails from people who agreed with me. People were divided down a pretty thin line. As they say, there is a fine line between love and hate.

Many emails wanted me to clarify my views on religion. I appreciated the comments and emails that disagreed with me and that weren’t vitriolic ad hominem attacks on my mental illness and character. I will attempt to clarify my views. Keep in mind that my own experiences with mental illness and extreme religiosity when ill have biased me and colored my opinion of this subject.

I believe religion is an entirely manmade construct and phenomenon. For over a million years, we evolved with more tribal notions of spirituality and religion. Often, the environment and nature played a major and significant role in these early religions if you can call them that. Our gods were manifestations of various natural forms around us such as what is exemplified in most Native American religions to this day. Christianity and other modern monotheistic religions are a relatively new occurrence in the timeline and history of mankind. I have no doubt that Jesus was a great man, but seriously doubt he was the son of some mythical, omnipotent being after being born to a virgin.

The society you are born into also plays a major role in what religion you will adhere to as an adult. Your parent’s religion will be a hugely determining factor into what religion you grow up believing in. Yes, if you are born in the states, the odds are that you will be Christian which is the dominant and majority holding religion. It is not unlikely that you will migrate to a different sect such as from Baptist to Catholicism. It would be extremely rare for you to migrate to a completely unrelated religion such as Islam though. On this same frame of thought, a person born in the Middle East will, in all likelihood, be a Muslim. The same goes for Hindus, Buddhists, and others.

I broke one of my golden blogging rules when writing about this subject yesterday. One is to never write about religion and the other is to refrain from talking about politics. I find them too divisive and polarizing as far as a readership goes. People take these subjects entirely too seriously and will often project their own feelings and emotions upon what you write many times taking the meaning out of context which was shown by a few comments and several emails about yesterday’s post.

Life, like writing, is a learning experience. I learned another valuable lesson yesterday with what I had written. It certainly makes for an interesting blog, but a harrowing mental experience for me. I think I will stick to writing about my daily, simple life in dialogue. Writing is such an enjoyable form of expression for me and I would hate that experience to turn this blog into a constant flame war over subjects that quite frankly, don’t interest me at all, I find inconsequential to my daily immediate life, and that bore me to tears. I hope you all have a great day!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Tailspin…

I have often said I am socially clueless. I am an idiot savant with some regards to social repartee. Other social aspects escape me entirely. I reckon public journaling to be akin to standing next to a busy highway naked. Everyone can drive by and see your dangly bits. My dangly bits are often me writing exactly what is on my mind without forethought of the repercussions. I openly write about my mental illness, my alcoholism, and other subjects that most people would shy away from sharing. I would ask someone to hand me a shovel and to help, but I am doing a pretty fine job of digging this hole on my own.

A Prayer before a Meal…

I sat quietly over at Rodger’s Barbeque today eating a lunch of a pulled pork barbeque sandwich, a cup of Brunswick stew, and a bag of potato chips. I managed to arrive early enough that the restaurant had yet to grow filled with the noon time lunch crowd. The same elderly couple I had seen at Merl’s Diner the other morning was also eating lunch at Rodger’s today. They once again prayed silently before their meal. I don’t know why seeing that show of religiosity makes me so uncomfortable. Maybe it is because I associate such religiousness with intolerance, mental illness, and close mindedness.
If you see me with a bible then you know I am not long for a visit to the mental hospital and am most likely not taking my medications.
“Honey, do you need anything else?” The waitress asked me pulling me out of my people watching stupor.

“Get me another barbeque sandwich, please,” I replied as she left me to disappear back into the kitchen.

Rodger’s has some of the best barbeque in the area. My cousin, who lives in Hong Kong, always eats there religiously when he is in the states. He has been known to buy a few pounds of the pulled pork and a quart of that wonderful Brunswick stew and gorge himself upon them.

I then finished my other sandwich, wiped my face and hands with my napkin, and left a tip of two dollars upon the table.

“Put this on my tab,” I told the cashier as I handed her my ticket.

She smiled as she looked at me with her one good eye and told me she would see me tomorrow. I try not to stare at her glass eye, but catch myself doing it. That one artificial eye always wanders off into the distance as if looking off into space. It is so hard for it not to illicit a fascinated stare.

As I walked home, I thought of that elderly couple once again and their blatant parade of their religion. The only time I have ever been religious in my life was when I wasn’t medicated for my schizophrenia and grew to believe God and Jesus were speaking to me with various signs and codes through the television. I would keep a journal of these various “speakings of God and Jesus” every night. My favorite avenue for these signs and codes was the nightly news broadcasts. All of this drove my then wife crazy with concern and exasperation. If you see me with a bible then you know I am not long for a visit to the mental hospital and am most likely not taking my medications.

Video Tour of my New Home...

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Memoirs of a Mental Hospital

Originally written on February 14, 2006 after one of my many visits to the psychiatric ward of a hospital...

I sat in the dining hall at a window on the ninth floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I watched as plane after plane took off at the distant airport on the horizon. Flurries of snow were blowing and snarling in great swirls and eddies. Outside the room were two patients arguing over who could use the phone; one finally stomping off to go get a nurse to resolve the situation. The incessant drone of the television invaded my mind and was an ever present background noise. I got so tired of that damned television that week I was in the hospital.

My roommate I called Pops. He was an elderly black man in his seventies. Stark white week old stubble covered his chin, neck, and upper lip. In his younger years, he had gotten shot in his right arm and it had become withered and useless. It hung to his side like a mummy’s shriveled appendage devoid of life. He talked in code that I have yet to decipher. Our conversations were spent with him saying something and me asking him several times to repeat himself to no avail. I finally would just grin and nod in agreement. He would smile back and laugh a hearty and throaty chuckle.

Another fellow patient was a young 24 year old girl I will call Lacey. She was a classic manic depressive in the manic phase. She couldn’t sit still and was constantly talking to me, others, and herself. Her hands and feet were in unremitting motion. She also had a habit of showing her breasts to any who would ask or to whom she was attracted too. I got the displeasure of seeing them several times and just grew accustomed to it. I saw more naked breasts in those few days in the hospital than I could see in a porno.

There is a strict routine on a psychiatric ward. Up at 5:30 a.m. so nurses can take your vital signs. Breakfast at 7 a.m. sharp (usually the best tasting meal of the day.) Meds at 9:30 a.m. See the psychiatrist sometime between then and lunch to adjust meds. Lunch was at 12 p.m. which followed noon time medications. Art therapy followed lunch then vocational rehabilitation. Dinner arrived at 5 p.m. The patients would all huddle around the cart waiting for their trays. After dinner meds then free time until bedtime which meant most of the patients would gather around that noxious television and argue over what to watch. I would sit in the quiet dining area reading my books and thinking deep thoughts while I re-gathered my mind.

Medicare would only pay for five days of treatment so I drove the three hours back home and settled back into my usual life. The hospital now seems like such a distant memory, yet this morning, I was sitting in the dining hall eating breakfast as Pops mumbled and Lacey fidgeted. I was surrounded by people and commotion and now, once again, I am alone in this quiet apartment; alone with my thoughts and this bastard of a mental companion that is schizophrenia.

Close Encounters of the Crappy Kind…

I almost ran into my ex-wife this afternoon. I was down at the dollar store to buy a bottle of shampoo. I rounded the corner over near the pharmacy when I saw her standing in the aisle with all the over-the-counter medicines.

“Son of a bit--,” I muttered under my breath as I ducked back around the corner.

I just couldn’t face seeing her. My hands were shaking and my voice was unsure. I walked on home without my shampoo. She lives in another town and I have no idea why she was up here shopping. She must have been visiting her parents which live nearby my new house. I am actually going to be living in the same neighborhood as my former in-laws. I shudder at that thought.

Charlie came over this morning to get me to help him move this monstrous floor rug. It was the heaviest damn thing I think I have ever picked up and I am a big, muscular guy. We both struggled, grunted, and sweated as we put it in my car and drove over to Charlie’s house to place it in his son’s room. That rug was so unwieldy to carry. Charlie put a tank of gas in my car for helping him.

“I am like a whore,” I told Charlie. “There is just no telling what I will do for a tank of gas.”

Charlie laughed and laughed at me saying that. The laughing was contagious and soon I was chuckling as well.

Yesterday, Jimmy James, my workman, put crown molding in my bathroom and laundry room. He also finished framing the windows in my laundry room. I think I will start painting them this afternoon. A very kind person emailed me this week warning me that paint fumes can be a trigger for a former addict such as an alcoholic. I had never thought of that and will wear a respirator as I paint today if I can stand wearing the damn thing.

I am also in the current process of negotiating with several local fence building companies for the lowest cost of putting a fence in my backyard for Maggie. I don’t know where I will come up with the money. I am also going to get Jimmy James to put a dog door in the wall of the laundry room near my back steps that have yet to be built. I swear. This house has been a money pit. I will leave you all with two pictures of my new crown molding in my bathroom and laundry room. I am going to paint them a crème color. Good day.




Saturday, February 3, 2007

What Tomorrow May Bring…

Dinner is finished. I’ve just washed my dishes, put away my leftovers, donned my backpack, and walked down to the shopping center to buy some more cream and sugar for my coffee drinking session this evening. It is a drab, dreary, and overcast Saturday. The temperature is hovering in the forties. I am bundled up in my warmest jacket. Rosa is sitting down by the dollar store as I walk up to greet her before finishing my shopping. I sit down beside her.
I watched as Rosa pulled out two cigarettes putting both in her mouth and lighting them. She handed me the other. It was a Newport menthol. I am not fond of menthol cigarettes, but smoked it out of respect for the very kind offer.
“We were just talking about you,” She says.

“You and who?” I ask intrigued.

“Dan,” She replies. “You know. The old man that rummages through the dumpsters out back.”

“Ah, Dan,” I say as I smile. “I haven’t seen old Dan in days.”

"That’s why he was asking about you,” Rosa says. “He was wondering where you have been.”

Rosa was dressed in sweat pants and a tattered and worn coat with an old New York Yankees baseball cap pulled down low over her brow. If you didn’t look closely, she would have been easily mistaken for a man. Around her neck was hanging a pair of headphones tethered to a Sony Discman CD player. I could hear music softly emitting from it.

“What are you listening to?” I ask.

“Elvis Costello,” Rosa replies as she pulls off the headphones and hands them to me to take a quick listen. I know the tune well and I start to sing along.

“…Oh it's so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl. And with the way you look, I understand that you are not impres--,” I sang.

I pull the headphones off, stop singing, and say, “Okay, I am embarrassing myself.”

“You have a beautiful voice,” Rosa says. “I wish you wouldn’t quit.”

I blush and tell her of my three years at the University of Montevallo as a voice performance major.

"I couldn’t ever imagine going to college,” She says. “Why did you quit?”

"I was young and dumb,” I reply. “I didn’t want to be a music teacher caged in some stuffy old classroom teaching wet nosed high school kids. That is about the only way to realistically make a living with a music degree.”

I watched as Rosa pulled out two cigarettes, putting both in her mouth, and lighting them. She handed me the other. It was a Newport menthol. I am not fond of menthol cigarettes, but smoked it out of respect for the very kind offer.

“Well, I am going to head home and watch my British comedies,” I say as I flick the extinguished cigarette into the boxwoods planted in the flowerbed in front of us.

“I will tell Dan I saw you,” Rosa says.

“You tell Dan I said to stay warm,” I reply.

Rosa told me she would as I got up to walk to the grocery store and then home. As I walked up the road by the newspaper office, a tulip tree was blooming in full glory.

Tonight’s frost will get you,” I thought.

Such is the tenuousness of life. Today’s beauty will be tomorrow’s brown and frost burned vegetation. It reminded me of my own experiences with mental illness. Much like the weather, I never know what tomorrow may bring.