Monday, April 30, 2007

To Soothe the Savage Soul

Sat on my favorite bench in my favorite park after midnight listening to the radio, staring at my small town's skyline stretched out before me. City lights danced in the distance mirrored by the background of a starry night sky. It was all staggeringly beautiful and I was glad to be able to enjoy this moment with a semi sane mind – my medications doing their job. I didn't realize how much I had missed these pseudo southern summer nights after such a winter of long, disparaging periods of cold darkness. It was a beautiful, spring night as a bright waxing gibbous moon marched stalwartly across the night sky soon to be full. It made me think of my father often saying a full moon brings the crazies into his pharmacy. I never believed such claptrap, but it did make me smile to think of rabid pill takers insanely assaulting my father's pharmacy for their monthly fix of medications. I have been known to stand outside the pharmacy awaiting its opening doors to get my fix as well – although I am not sure if the moon was full or not.

A fog soon started to roll in off that grand Chattahoochee as the one 'o' clock hour arrived – that grand abandoned cotton mill turning a dark grey in the mist alit by moonlight. I pulled on my backpack and thought of Summer and her concerns about me and my nightly travails through town in the wee hours of the morning with my most valuable possessions slung upon my back. I have always been an affable man with what I will do and the friends that I make. Take the gang for instance – all mostly unsavory individuals with which my life has become intertwined. I guess it would take just one bad experience and my affableness would be cured for good.

Arrived home to find man's best friend at my door vigorously wagging her tail. I have had a lot of companions in my life both human and animal and none has been gladder to see me or more loving than this little mutt of a dog. I got down on the floor and vigorously scratched Maggie's back as she licked my arms and smelled every available square inch of me as if my body was a book of my travels with which she could read by smell.

Thought long and hard of yesterday evening and being spurned by that Celtic beauty, Dana. It embarrassed me deeply, but I was a better man for trying. Events such as yesterday help me overcome my social anxieties and fears. Practice makes perfect as they say and there is no better therapy than experiencing real life situations for one with my condition. I do hope we can just be friends and help each other in our newfound sobriety. I look forward to seeing her smiling face at my meeting tomorrow night and hope she harbors no ill will towards me because of my mild advances the previous evening.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shot Down in Flames

I once again ran into the Celtic beauty at my nightly AA meeting. Her red hair flowed down around her shoulders and her perky lips were a subdued rouge complementing her hair as she sat a few chairs down from me. She also had on a pair of comfortable looking grey sweat pants and a L.A. Lakers sweat shirt. I wondered if she liked basketball. Her name is Dana.

During tonight's AA meeting we discussed the twelve steps as a road to recovery. Much was said of Alcohol being a disease of the mind and of the spirit. I thought of all the terrible things done while drunk – things said rashly – that I would never do when sober and of a rational mind. The say alcoholism is a form of insanity – always doing the same thing and hoping for a different outcome. I agree with that.

The meeting ended and I walked Dana to her car. I thought we were becoming fast friends. Reality brought my hopes to a screeching halt.

"Would you like to go get some coffee and talk over at the Waffle House?" I asked, mustering up all my courage and subduing my social anxieties for a brief moment.

She smiled uncomfortably and said, "I am just coming out of a terrible divorce. I would rather not get involved, but I am flattered that you asked."

"Damn!" I thought as I was shot down in flames - spiraling to the ground. I could feel my knees grow weak, faltering and a sweat broke out upon my forehead out of nervousness and shame.

"I'm so sorry," I said, apologizing profusely. "I didn't know."

"It's okay. Don't worry about it," she said. "Will I see you tomorrow night?"

"Yeah," I replied, trying to regain my composure as my voice squeaked. "I will see you here."

She shut her car door and drove off to home. I felt like such a fool. It was not the first time I have been turned down by a woman, but it felt as if it was the worst time. I just knew from the other night that she wanted to get to know me better. She seemed so outwardly friendly with me – mixed signals. Oh well, at least I tried. I would have never known unless I asked. Better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all – and I had already fallen in love with the idea of dating this woman. Next time, I will stick my toe in the water to test the temperature more carefully before diving in.

Making Windows XP Look Like Windows Vista

I bought Windows Vista Upgrade and just didn't like how much of a resource hog it was. I did love how it looked and set out this morning to make Windows XP look just like Vista and run as smoothly as XP. Here are the results…



Download and install the Windows XP Crystal brico theme pack and then install Google Desktop sidebar. Viola! You have a very passable representation of Windows Vista without the cost or all the hassles of a new operating system.


I will eventually migrate to Vista when I put together my new and much more robust computer, but this will suffice for now. I am very pleased with the results.

Saving Grace

I stayed on the phone with Rosa last night until midnight. She talked me out of going to get that six-pack of Heineken.

"I don't like you when you are drinking," she said. "You are a different person. But you are easy to bed."

"I know," I replied. "I just feel this empty feeling and want to fill it with alcohol."

"Do you want me to come back over and stay the night?"

"No, I am fine," I replied. "You go get some sleep."

I then left the house just to clear my head as I went on my nightly hike. I had a discussion with my favorite all-night convenience store clerk. He was telling me of the merits of Plumper's porno magazine and I smiled deeply as he talked, amused.

"Big women are just more beautiful," he said, looking wistful.

"My ex-wife was a big woman," I replied. "I thought she was gorgeous."

"You were a lucky man," he told me. "Why did you get a divorce?"

"Ah, it's a long story," I said, not wanting to delve into my days of drunken debauchery sans my medications for my mental illness.

"I see all these skinny women in Playboy and Penthouse and want to tell them to eat a sandwich or two or three."

I burst out laughing. My ex-wife never had that problem. She struggled with her weight so and the pressure society puts upon women to be svelte and slim. I always thought she was being silly and was fine just the way she was. My grandmother would have called her healthy.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

My old Nemesis, Social Anxiety

That old nemesis of mine struck hard today. Slept most of the afternoon and woke to late shafts of sunshine shining through my bedroom windows. Swirls and eddies of dust were carried around on those shafts of bright light. The sound of children playing outside wafted in through my open windows and was comforting. I got up, put on my shoes and walked to my window to look out. The neighbor's kids were playing baseball. I longed to be a kid again and join in on their game.

Suppertime found me in the kitchen fixing a southwestern feast. Rosa joined me for supper. I served chili sans beans over steamed rice and baked a big iron skillet of Mexican cornbread.

"You cook so damn well," Rosa said sitting at my table eating.

"This chili is not too bad, is it?" I asked.

Rosa smiled and took another bite in return.

"You sure are quiet tonight," Rosa then said.

"I've had a rough day," I replied. "I want to get in my car, drive off and never return."

"You better not drive off without me!" Rosa exclaimed. "I would be bored to death without you. Is it your schizophrenia?"

"Yeah," I replied, sadly.

It's par for the course for my life some days. You win some, you lose some. I am just glad to be alive and maybe tomorrow I will awake to a better day.

I never made it up to my AA meeting to see my Celtic beauty. She will have to wait until tomorrow night. I was deeply disappointed in myself that I couldn't overcome my social anxieties and fears to go. I really need a meeting. I think I am going to go get a six pack of Heineken and cast my cares to the wind. I feel one coming on. The proverbial storm clouds are on the horizon already. Soon, you will be able to hear the thunder and feel the rain. Good night.

Blogging with Word 2007

Did you know you can write and publish directly to your blog with Microsoft Word 2007? It was very simple to set up and this post proves it works. I discovered it this morning just playing around with Word. It saves a very time consuming step for me when copying and pasting and then editing my blog posts. I thought this was neat and wanted to share it. If you need any help setting this up then just email me or drop a comment.



I have received an overwhelming response to the blog in the form of emails this week with over 30 in my to-reply box. I can be terrible with email, but I promise those of you that wrote you will receive a personal response from me within the next few days or so. I was going to sit down to start responding a moment ago and got overwhelmed with what to say. It's my social phobias acting up and I am so afraid I will write something stupid. Look for an email from me soon and thank you for taking the time to write to me. It means a lot and I enjoy reading them almost as much as I enjoy getting comments. I even heard from a train engineer for Norfolk Southern railway that visits from schizophrenia.com where I am linked in their blogs of note section. I thought that was awesome.

Schizophrenia Revisited

Had a discussion with my father last night of my recent experiences with schizophrenia. I was over taking my medications and he once again checked my hand and under my tongue for errant pills. It can be rather humiliating.

“I think everyone is watching me and laughing at me,” I told him as we sat in his den. “It is so discouraging and drives me crazy.”

“That must be so tiresome,” My father replied with a worried look upon his face.

“I was sitting in Rodger’s eating lunch and thought every burst of laughter was about me and that every prying eye in the restaurant was focused upon me. I wanted to jump up and run out screaming.”

“You didn’t, did you?” He asked, worried.

“No,” I replied. “When I am on my medications I know it is happening and can temper the crazy impulses.”

“You seem so much better now that we have your medications on a regular schedule,” he said. "You look better."

“Oh, I have lived with this since the early nineties,” I replied. “I am better. It is just worse sometimes than others. It comes and goes.”

“I feel the same way,” my mother chimed in sitting in the chair across from me. “I think everybody is talking about me and watching me.”

“You two must think you are pretty important,” My father said kind of facetiously.

“It’s not that at all,” I replied. “It is self deprecating to be exact. We think something is odd with us or that we look funny. We think we are being made fun of.”

“We need to talk to your doctor about this,” he said. “This worries me.”

I tried to tell my father that we can only manage my schizophrenia to a certain extent. It will never leave me nor will I ever be cured. I will always have symptoms and through my medications the symptoms are greatly reduced to where I can live with them without becoming psychotic. My father, the pharmacist, thinks we will find some magical combination of pills and I will become the next Nobel peace prize winner, a doctor, or person of great accomplishment. I long ago quit living in that kind of fantasy land. I will always live a simple and low key life to better manage my schizophrenia and its symptoms. I just wish my father could understand that. He puts so much pressure on me to live an orthodox and successful life. It is all rather alarming and disturbing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Of Gods and Celtic Beauties

Saw the Celtic beauty at my A.A. meeting again tonight. These meetings are in another town (quite a lengthy drive) and are much more liberal in scope. I like them much better than the extremely conservative meetings in my small hometown.

“I am struggling with the issue of a higher power,” She said, sharing during the meeting. “I feel I should take responsibility for my addictions and not just give them away to some mythical being in nether land.”

Ah, a woman of my own heart. You could feel an air of uncomfortableness go around the room, though. We live in a theocracy after all and even A.A. doesn’t escape the rabid religiosity of this country much to my chagrin.

The meeting then ended with several people coming up to talk to her about what she shared trying to reassure her that religion was the key to sobriety. I caught her as she left the Old Catholic church that was now the meeting hall and she was walking to her car.

“I use the A.A. group as a whole as my higher power,” I told her as she turned to look and see who was speaking to her.

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” she said, smiling warmly.

“I have trouble with the whole God thing and higher power malarkey myself.”

“I guess it is how you are raised,” she replied as she stopped walking to talk to me in the parking lot. “I just wasn’t raised in a religious family. We never went to church and my father taught us to question authority, especially that of religious figures.”

“I grew up the same,” I told her. “My father was rather irreverent about the whole idea of religion as well.”

I walked her to her car and noticed there was no wedding ring on her finger. My heart leapt up into my throat at such a fortuitous happenstance. She is just absolutely, stunningly gorgeous.

“Will I see you at a meeting here tomorrow night?” she asked, unlocking her car door. “I noticed you don’t come much.”

“I live in a town nearby and just come up here on occasion for a change of pace,” I replied, overjoyed that she wanted to see me again. “I will certainly see you tomorrow night.”

She smiled warmly again and got in her late model Toyota to drive home. I haven’t been this mesmerized by a woman in years and wanted her so badly and I barely even know her. “Baby steps,” I told myself as I walked to my CR-V to drive home. Baby steps, indeed…

Fried Chicken of another Kind

Saw Ferret this morning down at ye olde shopping center. He was reveling me in tales of working at Kentucky Fried Chicken these days.

“It’s a cluster fuck,” Ferret told me. “You don’t want to eat there.”

“I never liked KFC anyway,” I replied. “What bothers you most about it?”

“Nobody ever washes their hands when handling the food and I saw a piece of chicken dropped on the floor and a manager put it back in the heating bin to sell.”

“Gross,” I replied. “That’s why I rarely eat fast food. You pay people shit wages and they will do shit work and will just not give a crap.”

“I’m glad to have the job though even if the hours aren’t that great,” Ferret said. “I just go in and do my job and go home. I try not to let the bullshit get to me. It pays the bills.”

I don’t mean to be disparaging about Ferret, but when he was homeless, he wasn’t the most clean of persons. He would go weeks without a shower and wouldn’t change his clothes or shave. I can only imagine the bottom of the barrel KFC is scraping to hire such an individual. He still looks kind of rough around the edges these days even though he has a home and opportunity to take a bath every day. I think I will continue to cook my own chicken and take a pass on Kentucky Fried Chicken and fast food in general.

Oasis in the Night

Another night was spent in my tent sleeping upon the ground. My father will stand at his bedroom window and watch me as I bed down for the night - my tent lit and glowing by my candle lantern like a great green and orange pumpkin in the backyard. My sleeping in the backyard disturbs him, but what can he do? He knows I am on my medications as I have to walk over to his house nightly and take them to ease his mind. I have to wait thirty minutes so he can be assured I will not throw them back up and they have a chance to take effect. I do feel better these days with his help. I love him dearly and don’t mean to worry him.

I have just struggled so with insomnia and found I sleep better outside now that the weather has turned far kinder. For months after I regained a home from my homelessness, I would sleep on the floor of my bedroom in my sleeping bag. The bed was far too soft and unfamiliar to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe my recent forays into the backyard camping harkens back to those homeless days long past. I certainly have slept much better lately, if only brokenly.

Set out for this morning’s hike around 1am. It was another gorgeous night, if rather damp, after all the rain of yesterday. I trudged past the many dark houses in my neighborhood – the occupants long asleep. Street lights at intervals lit my way with their sodium halide lighting – like little oasis in the dark of the night. I deeply breathed in that cool night air filling my lungs with welcomed oxygen and exhaled with a sigh. All was right in my little world for yet another morning.

Passed the convenience store around 2am and didn’t stop. My social anxieties got the better of me this morning. I just couldn’t bear the mindless small talk. I saw my favorite clerk through that big plate glass window sitting on the counter no doubt reading another porno magazine as he smoked cigarettes and played pocket pool. As usual, the parking lot was deserted as I trudged by. I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to spend long and sleepless nights bored out of my mind working such a menial job. I admire that man and the work he does that makes the world go round – selling the gas and convenience items that make our lives easier.

Well, let me get some coffee started and let Maggie out for her morning run. It will soon be 5am and my favorite radio program will help me greet this new morning. I hope you all have a great day and I will write again soon as the day progresses and something interesting happens. Good day dear friends.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Picnics, Sexuality, and Storms

I and Rosa are sitting out at the park by the river behind the lake. I have a quilt thrown upon the vividly green grass. The laughter of children can be heard by the little fishing pond as ducks drift across it's surface. For lunch, we are eating warm fried chicken and Rosa prepared some potato salad. It is delicious. Storm clouds are looming on the horizon and rain is on the way. We hurry to eat before the skies open up upon us.

“I love a man who can cook.” Rosa tells me as she takes a bite out of a fried chicken leg.

I smile and say, “Thank you. Your potato salad is delicious as well.”

“I try, but I am not as good a cook as you.”

Thunder rumbles on the horizon.

“It looks like a good storm is brewing,” I say.

“And we were just having so much fun,” Rosa replies.

We pack up our picnic and run to the car as the rain begins to fall in earnest. I throw everything in the back of my Honda and we head for home.

“I saw your friend George this morning. He was drunk,” Rosa tells me as I drive us back into town.

“When is George ever not drunk,” I reply.

“Did you used to drink like George?” She asks.

“I drank worse than George,” I reply. “I couldn’t handle my liquor. George can. It was rather pitiful.”

“You seem so strong now.”

“Even the strong have weak moments,” I reply. “That’s why I go to A.A.”

“I wish I was younger,” Rosa then tells me.

“Why?” I ask.

“Cause I was prettier then and more your age and you would want me. I didn’t have all this grey in my hair and these wrinkles in my face.”

There is an awkward silence.

“It’s not that I don’t want you,” I say, trying not to make light of what Rosa just said. “I just think of you as a friend.”

“Friends with benefits?” Rosa asks, alluding to sex, as she smiles demurely.

I laugh and reach out to hold her hand as I drive with the other.

“Yes, there are a lot of benefits to being your friend,” I say downplaying the sexuality of Rosa’s last question.

We finally pull up in my driveway and arrive home. Rosa reclines in my lazy boy lounge chair and is soon fast asleep with Maggie in her lap. I sit down in front of my computer to write this and soon start on chapter seven of my novel. It is just a wonderful day full of good things, good food and great conversation. My schizophrenia is at bay for the moment.

Professorial Moments

Last night I fell asleep in my tent dreaming of my homeless days. Cold and shivering – I struggled to keep warm in those disturbingly vibrant memories bouncing around in my head. I awoke suddenly and realized I was safe in my backyard with my home mere yards away. The night was warm and comforting with the smell of rain upon the air – a great juxtaposition from my dream. Through the deep silence, calmness enveloped me. “It’s okay,” I told myself as I unzipped my sleeping bag and sat up to light a cigar and my candle lantern in the dark black of the night. One of the few times in my life that I welcomed reality.

Treated myself to some hoop cheddar cheese and water crackers for supper - a cheese and cracker normally so expensive that I do not buy it. I felt spend thrifty yesterday evening during my weekly adventure to the grocery store. Also bought a loaf of expensive cinnamon raisin bread that will be a welcomed breakfast food slathered with creamy peanut butter and enjoyed along with a cold glass of milk and a ripe banana.

The cold snap of a few weeks past seems to be a distant memory these days. Tonight was so warm, evoking memories of southern summer nights. Soon, the katydids will start to call in earnest bringing forth a flourish of memories of sitting on my grandmother’s front porch on summer evenings as a child. I do so miss her dearly and I and my father were talking of her yesterday.

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. The sky was a summer blue – full of islands of silvery light, like pools of liquid mercury. Hard to be miserable on such a day and the beauty of it made me forget the harsh reality of my existence and that harsh mistress that is my constant companion, mental illness. Sat for the longest time in the backyard reading some of the books I checked out at the library as I smoked my pipe looking professorial. Pipe Tobacco would be proud and I thought of him as that pungent bluish tobacco smoke curled around my face as that warm and lit pipe was nestled in between my fingers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Shoplifter’s Tale

4am found me walking up my driveway to home. I had just been on my usual early morning hike and stopped by to see my favorite convenience store clerk. He was blowing the parking lot with a leaf blower as I stopped by to get a cup of coffee.

“I just put a fresh pot of coffee on for the morning crowd,” He told me after turning the blower off and following me inside after unlocking the door.

“Sorry to interrupt you,” I said as I stepped to the back counter to pour a cup.

“No, don’t worry about it,” he replied. “You gave me an excuse to quit. I hate blowing that damn parking lot.”

The clerk’s next task was to go out and wash off the gas pumps with a bucket of soapy water and a rag. I followed him outside to continue our conversation.

“Caught a shoplifter last night,” he told me as he wiped off the face of one of the pumps.

“Tell me about it,” I said taking another drink of coffee as I stood next to him.

The morning air was crisp and cool, but not uncomfortable. Not a car was on the nearby highway which would be bustling come morning as people headed to work.

“This guy walked in asking for a glass of water, handing me a Solo cup,” the clerk said, beginning his tale. “I turned to the sink to fill up his glass. As I turned my back to him, I looked at the security camera’s monitor to watch. He reached way over the counter, thinking I couldn’t see, and started grabbing and stuffing Newport cigarettes down his jacket.”

“Slick,” I replied of the shoplifter.

“We repeated the process as I got him another glass of water. I wanted to make sure he had quite a bit of cigarettes before calling the police. He walked out the door and didn’t get two blocks away until the town's finest nabbed him.”

“Well, I guess it made for an interesting night,” I said smiling.

“Oh yeah. That will make the time fly and get your adrenaline pumping,” he said. “I can’t stand shoplifters and love to catch ‘em.”

I left my ever vigilant clerk as he began to mop the floor and walked on home. I have come to enjoy these little trips into town to talk to him. We have become fast friends. I feel a certain camaraderie with him as I did his same job for over a year while in college. It is as if an old comforting routine in my life has returned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wayward Bound

Early evening, I was lying in my tent reading by the flickering light of my little candle lantern. I am reading The Hobbit for like the hundredth time in my life. I got lost in the pages and the wonderful ambiance that surrounded me as I lay there. I could imagine myself on some great journey in search of fame and fortune, wayward bound. I am at the part where Bilbo and his dwarven companions are ensconced by the elves. As I read, I am listening to a minidisc of the soundtrack Willow. That grand and sweeping soundtrack set the perfect ambiance for such escapist fiction and fantasy.

Earlier in the evening found me at my nightly A.A. meeting. Tonight we discussed step nine of the twelve steps where we try to make amends to those we have hurt or harmed. It is so hard to dredge up the past and even harder to share it with someone else. I realize I share freely on the blog, but there seems to be some disconnect for me on some level when it concerns writing on this journal. I have a hard time realizing that actual, real people really read this boring drivel I share.

“Should I write a letter to my ex-wife apologizing?” I then asked Wanda after our meeting tonight as we sat on the porch smoking.

“Would it hurt her?”

“She would probably tear up the letter seeing it post marked from me,” I replied.

“You really need a sponsor to talk about such things,” Wanda then said. “I feel uncomfortable giving you advice on such matters being a woman and a friend.”

It was not what I wanted to hear. I don’t want a sponsor and many in A.A. keep telling me I will not stay sober long without one. It is frustratingly maddening for me as I deal with my social anxieties and the pressure my A.A. friends are putting upon me to “work the program.” It makes me want to shy away from going to these meetings. But I know I will just gradually seclude myself without them and will gradually go back to my old ways of living life. I never could cope with life’s obstacles in a healthy and normal manner and A.A. has taught me some pretty important life coping skills. For that, I am eternally grateful despite many of the misgivings I have about the program.

A Family of Sorts

I’m at that park by the abandoned cotton mill. Maggie is tethered to her leash and is busily grooming herself at my feet. Rosa is sitting next to me nonchalantly filing her fingernails. The sound is grating and getting on my nerves.

“Will you quit that?” I ask tersely as I laugh, my skin crawling.

Rosa smiles and puts the file back into her backpack.

“Sorry, honey,” She says. “That was almost a marriage moment.”

Rosa pulls out another letter from her daughter and begins to read it to me. It had arrived earlier in the day.

“Dear mom,” Rosa reads. “You would be glad to know your granddaughter looks just like you. She is going on 2 years old and is into everything. I have a hard time keeping up with her.”

Rosa pauses to look across the street as an ambulance and police car come whizzing by with their sirens wailing. I turn to look as well.

“I didn’t even know I was a grandmother,” Rosa tells me wistfully putting the letter in her lap. “We are supposed to meet next month and I am so fucking nervous.”

“God, I would be nervous as well,” I say as I comfortingly pat her on the leg.

“Will you go with me?”

“I don’t think my social anxieties can take meeting strangers,” I reply.

“But it’s my daughter and granddaughter.”

“I will think about it,” I say. “Maybe, by next month, I will have built up enough courage.”

“You know you are my only real friend,” Rosa then tells me. “I used to think I had a lot of friends when I was using, but they all disappeared when I put down that crack pipe and got clean.”

“The same thing is happening with me and George,” I say. “Now that I am not drinking, we are growing farther apart. I notice he has no qualms about hurting my feelings. He said I was fucking you this morning and made fun of me about it.”

Rosa looks at me, grins mischievously and says, “I only wish.”

I blush.

“You know how sex complicates things,” I reply. “I and you almost lost our friendship when we slept together.”

“Yeah, I was pretty pissed when you dissed me after that. You were treating me differently after that afternoon. I couldn’t take it.”

“It was just weird,” I reply. “I didn’t know how to act or what to do.”

“Well, I am just glad we are cool now,” Rosa says.

“Me too,” I reply as I put my arm around her shoulder. “Me and you, friends forever.”

Maggie looks up at the both of us sitting there as she pauses from scratching. We almost look like a family I decide. A definitely odd ball family with a 46 year old ex-prostitute and ex-crack head, a formerly homeless man who was the drunks of all drunks, and a little mutt of a dog with a terrible under bite and wild wire hair. It made me smile thinking about it.

A Beer for a Friend

I spent a long time this morning down at the shopping center. I was sitting reading a magazine as I waited for some of the gang to show up. George finally came pulling up in that beat up old car of his and beckoned me forward.

“Buy dis brotha a beer,” he said as he rolled down his window.

I walked inside the grocery store and bought a single Milwaukee’s Best Ice beer. I felt extremely self conscious about it as if everyone would think I had started back drinking. The things I do for George, I thought as I stood there.

“I hope this is not for you,” Virginia, the cashier said.

“It’s for a friend,” I replied.

“Uh huh,” she said suspiciously. “I shouldn’t be selling you this.”

I never did like Virginia. She always was a surly old cow.

I walked back out to hand George the beer. He cracked it open and guzzled it down and then lit a Garcia Vega cigar.

“Where’s your crazy chick of a friend?” George asked of Rosa.

“She’s at home sleeping,” I replied. “We talked this morning.”

“I still say you two are fucking,” George then said. “You spend all your time together.”

I got disgusted with George and got out of the car and told him goodbye. He drove off to go do what George normally does. It makes me angry that I can’t have a best friend who is a woman without everyone thinking we are sleeping together.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Human Condition

I am walking with Rosa. We have just returned from eating breakfast at Sarah Jay’s. It is a cool morning and I have on my warm and favorite fleece pullover. Rosa is wearing a navy blue toboggan and an olive green sweat shirt and sweat pants. Her long brown hair, streaked with grey, escapes in tufts from under that wool cap. She will occasionally reach up to brush the hair out of her face and to pull it back behind her ears. We both got two coffees to go and are slowly drinking them as we walk. The police station and fire station are passed on the way back to my house. The sun is peeking over the horizon and treetops casting its first rays of glorious warmth.

“I almost used last night,” Rosa tells me as we walk slowly.

I didn’t hear from Rosa yesterday and just knew something was wrong or bad had happened. I was glad when she called me this morning about going to get breakfast.

“You know you can call me anytime of the day or night,” I reply, scolding Rosa. “I am always there.”

“I know,” She says. “It was stupid. I called my old dealer, but chickened out at the last moment and hung up. Calling him brought back a rash of terrible memories of lonely nights smoking crack from my pipe. I didn’t want to go back to those terrible nights of using.”

Rosa scares me when she talks like that. I, too, walk that that thin line between sobriety and using so I understand. Just the other night, I stood in that all-night convenience store surveying the beer offerings. That green, cold and delicious six-pack of Heineken was calling my name. My favorite clerk watched nervously as I stood there knowing of my aversion to alcohol. I tend to be overly open and honest about my alcoholism.

“There is not a night that goes by that I don’t think of drinking,” I then told Rosa as I took the plastic lid off my to-go cup of coffee and took a drink.

“Do you think it will ever get easier?” she asks. “This just seems all too depressing.”

“Yeah, I think it gets easier every day,” I reply, trying to bolster my friend’s spirits. “I know it does for me.”

Rosa reaches out to hold my hand. Her hand is wonderfully warm from that hot cup of coffee she was holding. I think of our friendship and our closeness as I walk with my best friend. It is so nice to not walk alone and to have someone with me that understands. For a brief moment, my social anxieties are assuaged. I am not an overly religious man, but think Rosa was placed in my life for a purpose. We didn’t meet by accident.

“Can I just stay with you all day today?” She then asks me. “I don’t think I can bear being alone all day after last night.”

“I would welcome the company,” I reply, casting my social anxieties to the wind. “We will go get some lunch at noon and you can watch Court TV.”

I think of the human condition as we pass the carwash just mere minutes from my house. Our lives are such fleeting moments in the grand scheme of things, but what wonderful journeys they can be. I thanked my lucky stars for these moments such as today. I’ve known the deepest of sorrows and the greatest of joys. Today was a day of joy and I got to share it with one of the most special persons in my life. I was having one of those moments where the human condition was truly worth experiencing. And I was experiencing it without that old crutch of mine, alcohol. That truly is a miracle. The human condition…and what a wonderful condition it can be.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

An Email from a Pen-Pal

My pen-pal Robert wrote me an email yesterday and I thought I would share what he wrote. Many people with mental illness deal with these same issues Robert talked about and the recent occurrence at Virginia Tech. of April 16th only makes this harder. I post this with permission from Rob.

Hi Andrew,

This is Rob your pen-pal from California, who is also mentally ill.
I just wanted to say thank you for what you put on your blog today.

I find saddening that this incident will cast more shadows of fear for those who truly don't understand the mentally ill. I'm very fearful now that people will think I'm a bad guy because I keep to myself allot and have Major depression and BPD.

I keep to myself because I just don't have any friends that live close to me and as you know money is always a tightrope we have to balance on.

Your blog spoke exactly to me about what I have been feeling these last few days since that awful event.

I'm not as good of a writer yet, but thanks again for speaking of us and those that suffer with these illnesses.

Your are truly a good voice for those of us who have none. God bless and take care. I would have posted this on your blog, but it said I needed an account and was scared to sign up for something I would have to pay for- your Pal in california-Rob

Three Drunks Conversing

I’m down at the shopping center. It is an absolutely gorgeous spring day. I am embroiled in a conversation with George and Ferret over the merits of Alcoholics Anonymous. George is smoking his favorite Garcia Vega cigars and nursing a bottle of Wild Irish Rose wine. Ferret is nervously fidgeting as he watches George drink that swill. We are all sitting on a bench up from the dollar store.

“A.A. is nothing but a religious cult for white people,” George says. “Those people are brainwashed.”

“You are the poster child for someone who needs to go to A.A.,” I reply. “And A.A. is more spiritual than religious.”

An aggravated look comes over George’s face.

“I’m not an alcoholic,” George says. “I just like to drink.”

“If you’ve been in jail multiple times for drinking then I would say you’re an alcoholic,” Ferret chimes in rightly.

George laughs nervously and says, “I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Like the time you ran over your mother’s mailbox, drunk,” I say.

“The mailbox was in the way,” George replies with a goofy grin trying to play that off.

I and Ferret laugh heartily. George was traversing down that river named denial. I’ve gone down that river a few times myself over the years. My drunken homeless days come to mind.

“What do you get out of A.A.?” Ferret asks me, curiously.

“I get a sense of belonging and camaraderie,” I reply. “Everybody looks out for each other.”

“It bothers me that no black people go, though,” Ferret says.

“They all go to the Narcotics Anonymous meetings,” I say. “You should try some.”

“I still think all of you are a bunch of brainwashed idiots,” George then chimes in.

“Fuck you, George,” I reply. “You need those meetings about more than anybody I know.”

George smiles at getting a rise out of me. That was his intent. This is all just a fun game for him.

“Ferret, if black people start coming to those meetings then maybe more will show up as well,” I tell him. “Maybe you can start a trend.”

“I will think about it,” Ferret says. “I still feel extremely uncomfortable about going though.”

I realize A.A. is not for everyone. Much of A.A. doesn’t suit me as well, but I take the good with the bad. People such as Wanda have immeasurably helped me in staying sober. I can go and talk about my trials and tribulations with a group of people that care and understand. I do understand George’s concern about it being a religious cult. It is. Like I said, I take the good with the bad and the good definitely outweighs the negatives of the program. I just leave the religious aspects on the wayside when I enter those doors for a meeting. I do hope Ferret decides to start going with me.

“Go to church,” George then tells Ferret. “Jesus can take away the compulsion to drink. Jesus can do anything if you ask him.”

I smirk. George has tried church many times, but he still ends up drunk at the end of the day.

“Some mythical being in the sky isn’t going to keep you from drinking,” I reply. “You can read in the Big Book about many drunks trying church and religion and it never works. They always end up back in the gutter, drunk.”

George grew offended at me saying Jesus was mythical.

“You trying to say Jesus ain’t real?”

“No, I am saying that Jesus ain’t gonna get you sober,” I reply. “You are going to get yourself sober with the help of a support group and A.A. is a support group. Your average church is not equipped to deal with the issues a drunk can face.”

George then wanted to start arguing about religion, but I wasn’t playing that game. I cut him off by telling him to just drop it.

“Will you go with me to a meeting?” Ferret then asked.

“I will go as many times as you need me to,” I reply. “It helps me stay sober by helping others stay sober. That is the cornerstone of the A.A. program.”

“I like that,” Ferret says. “Helping yourself by helping others. I really like that.”

There was a glimmer of hope expressed in Ferret’s eyes and face as we concluded our conversation. I’ve been there too before. Alcoholism is such a lonely and desolate disease and you grow comforted that others share your same plight and have experienced the same trials and tribulations. Ferret told me he would think about going some more, and would let me know soon. I can only encourage, but not make him go. That first step is up to Ferret. May he find A.A. and that new way of life as they say in the program.

Of Porn and Police Patrols

I’m sitting in that Park by that grand old abandoned cotton mill. It is well after midnight. The air is cool and has a palpable dampness to it. It reminds me of the term the British coined: rising damp. I am drinking coffee from my thermos and a lone police cruiser pulls into the parking lot just a few feet from me next to the post office and rolls down his window. A bright crescent moon adorns the early morning sky.

“You okay?” the officer asks from his patrol car.

“Yes sir and good morning to you,” I reply.

“I see you out here a lot in the morning. You can’t sleep?”

“Yeah, I walk every morning to just get out of the house. I like this time of the night to think and gather myself,” I reply as I take another drink of steaming coffee from my thermos cap.

“Well, I was just checking on you,” the police officer says. “You have a good night.”

I watched as he pulled off and disappeared beyond the post office to go about his nightly rounds. It was comforting to know the police were being so kind and just looking out for me. In this heightened age of hysteria after 9/11, he could have checked my ID and made a big deal of me sitting in that park alone at such an ungodly hour.

I left the park and walked over to the convenience store just down the road. My favorite after-hours clerk was sitting behind the counter, smoking a cigarette and listening to the radio. I noticed the very large no smoking sign on the door as I walked in and smiled. He was breaking the rules when no manager was around.

“Hey bud,” He said. “Good to see you. I’ve been wondering where you have been.”

“Had anymore patrons drinking beer in the bathroom?” I asked, jokingly, as I walked past.

He smiled broadly and said, “No, but I would catch that son of bitch on my watch.”

I knew how the clerk felt. When I worked here years ago, I would make a game out of catching shoplifters and caught quite a few during my tenure there. The only downside was that I had to spend a lot of time sitting during trumped up trials in kangaroo courts that can be our court system.

I then walked over to peruse the magazine section and picked out a magazine about PC repair/Computer Hardware and took it to the counter.

“You fix computers?” The clerk asks.

“I am pretty good with it,” I reply. “I can usually fix anything electronic.”

“My computer at home is slow as hell and I might get you to come check it out.”

“Just let me know,” I said. “And I will be glad to help.”

“Porn,” I thought as the clerk rang me up. I have found that many people’s problems with slow computers when it concerns guys, is that they are visiting a plethora of porn sites. Those websites are rife with Trojans, worms, and various viruses. I thought of all the early mornings I have walked in to find this clerk busily playing pocket pool to an issue of Plumpers magazine. I smiled as I walked out the door to head home. Men will be men. I never could get into much porn though. I guess I am the odd man out.

I’m not a Killer

My book is quickly coming together. It has been years since I have been so consumed with writing something other than this blog. I lie awake in bed thinking about where I will take my characters next and how to describe their surroundings and experiences. It is all so exciting. I know I will never get published, but still…the book will be a product of me and I have poured my heart and soul into it. I think I have really captured the South during the depression and the wonderful tales my grandmother reveled me in growing up. She made life seem so worth living and vibrant and vivid. The book will be dedicated to her and her life.

This evening found me sleeping in my tent. I awoke to a loud crash in the woods nearby as Maggie began to bark furiously. I turned on my flashlight, unzipped my tent door, and peered down into the woods. A lone doe stood frozen in the light. She finally turned and disappeared into the bamboo thicket. You would think that deer would be quiet creatures, but they are not. When I was homeless, I would often get awoken by deer wandering through my campsite at night. I finally got Maggie calmed down and back to sleep and I drifted off as well for a grand total of five hours of slumbering bliss.

I finally awoke, dressed, and went for this morning’s daily hike. I am finding these early morning hours to be my favorite time of the day. I feel so comforted that my chances of human contact are slim to none. I realize this is just another irrationality of my mental illness. It is not normal to want to avoid social contact. It scares me that I will be viewed by readers as another one of those loner, crazy killer types with a mental illness. The public tends to have a kneejerk reaction to such matters after what happened at Virginia Tech fueled by the mass media feeding frenzy after such an event. I wish I could assure you all that I don’t have a violent bone in my body and never have.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Virginia Tech Tragedy: Distinguishing Mental Illness from Violence

Statement of Ken Duckworth, MD
NAMI Medical Director


April 18, 2007

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) extends its sympathy to all the families who have lost loved ones in the terrible tragedy at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. We are an organization of individuals and families whose lives have been affected by serious mental illnesses.

Despite media reports, Cho Seung Hui, the shooter in the tragedy, may not actually have had a serious mental illness relative to other diagnoses. But the possibility opens the door for reflection on the nature of mental illnesses—what they are and what they are not— with regard to symptoms, treatment and risks of violence.

The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that the likelihood of violence by people with mental illness is low. In fact, "the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small." More often, people living with mental illness are the victims of violence.

[...]



Read the full NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) article here.

I and my father had a discussion about this last night. He felt that mentally ill people are dangerous. I told him he was more likely to be harmed in a car accident than by an altercation with a mentally ill person. It is this kind of stigma and narrow mindedness that those of us with mental illness have to continually fight. Statistically, mentally uninteresting people (my term) are far more likely to commit crimes than mentally ill people. You can look at the prison population to prove that easily. It saddens me that even my own father falls prey to this tired and overused portrayal of mentally ill people. Maybe one day we will be free at last to quote the late and great Dr. King. The Cho Seung Hui’s of the world certainly don’t make it any easier for us to overcome these baseless fears.

A Rendezvous with Ferret, Dexter, and Dan

“Where have you been?” I asked Ferret at lunchtime today.

The shopping center was bustling with activity this morning being a Saturday and a beautiful day. I even caught a glimpse of George as he pulled out of the parking lot. I hate I missed him.

“Monte let me move back in on the condition that I sober up,” he replied, looking like a new man.

“God, you gave me a scare there for awhile,” I said. “Me and you sure know how to tie one on.”

“I got another job,” Ferret then said, proudly.

“Where?” I asked.

“Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Ferret responded. “And don’t give me a hard time about it. George has been making fun of me about it. He is calling me the ‘chicken man.’”

I had to stifle back a smile and a laugh. George can be so unruly sometimes. I knew that smile and laugh wouldn’t go over well with Ferret though.

“Hey, I would work at KFC if my father would let me,” I said trying to make Ferret feel better. “My father won’t let me work. And it’s not like George has a real job anyway.”

Ferret did look good and I was glad to find him doing better and sober. When I found his campsite deserted yesterday I thought the worst had happened and that it was an ill omen. I was glad those were baseless fears.

Ferret left me to go do some shopping when Dexter came walking up wanting to borrow a few bucks. I see Dexter everywhere around town, but rarely write about him (which I am going to change). He is slightly mentally retarded and draws social security. His claim to fame was that he got arrested for stealing the cooked pork chops out of someone’s kitchen awhile back. Dexter was just hungry and didn’t mean any harm. The judge dismissed the charges when he realized Dexter was retarded.

“You ain’t got five bucks?” he said in his stuttering and staccato voice.

I reached into my wallet and handed him a five dollar bill. Dexter doesn’t drink and will only spend money given to him on junk food and sodas.

“I’ve been giving Dan a run for his money,” Dexter said proudly of Dumpster Diving Dan as he grabbed the five dollars from my hand.

“You started dumpster diving?” I asked.

“Not food, but I like finding stuff to sell,” he said.

I have seen Dexter checking the dumpsters an awful lot lately so what he said was true.

“I found a pretty decent bike the other day, but my aunt won’t let me ride it,” he said. “She says I will hurt myself.”

You have to keep in mind that Dexter is very akin to a grown child with the same mindset.

“I sold it to some kid down the street for five dollars,” he then said. “That kid sho was glad to get it.”

“I bet he was,” I replied.

“Well, I am going to go get something to eat and a soda,” he said.

“I’ll see ya later, Dexter,” I replied as I patted him on the shoulder and then he walked off to visit the convenience store.

It was good getting to see Dexter and Ferret today. Dexter has his faults, but he is such a simple and kind soul. I feel a certain fondness for him and his mental disability. I know I sometimes bitch and moan about my schizophrenia and the limits it has placed upon my life, but at least I am not simple and retarded like Dexter. Bless his soul. I am afforded an intelligence that God didn’t see fit in giving him.

I then walked on around to the back of the shopping center to find Dan digging around in the dumpster behind the dollar store.

“Damn broken bottle of shampoo,” I heard him mutter tersely as I walked up.

“Hey Dan,” I said.

“Shit!” Dan said, clasping his chest. “I didn’t hear you walk up. You scared the hell out of me.”

“Sorry about that,” I replied. “You finding anything interesting today?”

“Go look in my truck in the bed,” he said.

I walked over to Dan’s truck to find a small broken entertainment center in the bed. It was worse for wear.

“Gonna fix it up and put my TV on it,” Dan said as he walked over.

Dan is the epitome of the old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. What one person would throw away as trash, Dan covets as a special find.

“Here,” Dan then said pulling out his wallet. “Let me start paying you for that Chef Boyardee I get from you every week.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” I replied.

“I insist,” Dan said. “Here is five dollars. You will be doing me a favor by selling it so cheap.”

I sheepishly grabbed the five dollars and put it in my wallet. That paid for the five dollars I let Dexter borrow that would never get paid back. It just made me like Dan all the more.

“I’ve got one more thing to give you,” Dan then said opening the driver’s side door of his Toyota Tacoma pickup.

Dan pulled out some dirty old stuffed toys in a bag and handed them to me.

“Scrap doesn’t like toys, but I know your Maggie loves ‘em,” he said.

“Thank you Dan. She will appreciate it. The dirtier, the better as far as Maggie is concerned.”

I shook Dan’s hand and walked the short distance up by the newspaper office to home. It was so good getting to see so many of the gang today. As I had written earlier, things are starting to pick up now that the weather is warm and absolutely gorgeous. The gang is back out after a long and deserted winter. This will give me lots to write about and I hope you all enjoy hearing about the daily trials and tribulations of George and the gang.

Morning Dawns

I stayed up all night working on my novel. I have finished five chapters so far. It is a fictional piece about a family of share croppers growing up in the great depression of the South in the thirties. I have titled it Hardscrabble Times. I am modeling it after my grandmother’s life. I may start serializing the novel if any of you are interested in reading it. I will chop it up into blog friendly tidbits.

Rosa cooked breakfast this morning which consisted of those canned Pillsbury biscuits, orange juice, and coffee in the kitchen upstairs.

“God, I need a cigarette,” Was the first thing she said after walking downstairs after breakfast.

I watched as she stepped into my den to light one and stood there smoking.

“What are you looking at?” She said as she smiled.

“Oh, just you,” I said. “I do the same thing first thing in the morning. That first smoke after sleeping all night is the best of the day.”

I just wish I could sleep like Rosa. She managed seven hours of sleep last night. I am seriously contemplating getting a sleep aid, but worry that with my obsessive compulsive addictive mind I will get hooked or will abuse them.

Well, let me get a shower, take Rosa home, and get this day going.

No Kids…

“Come on in, doll,” I told Rosa last night as I stood at my backdoor.

She was having another tough night after the experience earlier with getting to hear from her daughter and I invited her over for the night. As is often the case with those of us who struggle with addictions, family matters can be hard on us.

“I’m scared,” Rosa told me as we sat in my den. “I am scared I will ruin things and use again.”

“Take it one day at a time,” I told her. “Keep it simple.”

I walked into the kitchen and fixed us a pot of coffee as Rosa sat in my den with the TV on, smoking a cigarette. I was deeply, deeply lonely last night and welcomed the company.

“Have you ever thought of having kids?” Rosa then asked me as we sat drinking coffee.

“Oh, no,” I replied as I smiled. “I have a hard time taking care of myself some days, let alone taking care of some kids.”

“Didn’t your ex-wife want children?”

“She couldn’t have any,” I replied. “She had cysts in her ovaries.”

“I think you would make a wonderful father,” Rosa then said. “You are so kind and caring.”

A tear rolled down my cheek and I stifled back a sob.

“I wish I could have been a father,” I replied wiping away the tear. “I would hate to pass on this terrible disease though.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Rosa said with great care.

“It’s okay,” I replied.

We walked upstairs and I turned on the air conditioning. Rosa got under the covers and in the bed, and I lay on the bed next to her as we talked until way after midnight. I felt her hand reach out for mine in the dark and I clasped it.

“I don’t know what I would do without you,” She said softly and sleepily.

“I know,” I replied. “I feel the same.”

Rosa then went sound asleep and I quietly walked downstairs to work on my novel for awhile while I drank coffee and smoked cigarettes. It has been another insomnia fueled night. At least, one of us is getting some rest.

______________________________________


Someone had asked in my comments when I will be moving into my new house. I have two things left to do then I will be able to move in. Jimmy James has to finish building the back steps to my laundry room and then install Maggie’s dog door. I am waiting on Jimmy James to finish a job he is currently working on. Hopefully, I will be moved in, in a few weeks. I have waited two years for this to happen so a few weeks is not going to hurt me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Reunion of Sorts

“You’re still laughing,” Rosa told me this afternoon.

“I can’t help it,” I replied, giddily.

I had been down to Ferret’s campsite only to find a broken tent and a damp, long extinguished campfire. I wonder if Ferret must have a home. He certainly hasn’t been staying down at the river lately. I walked home and opened my back door to find Rosa sitting in my den with Maggie in her lap watching the television. She has learned I never lock my backdoor.

“What’s going on in schizophrenia land?” she asked me as she sat petting Maggie.

I walked in and pulled off my backpack and fleece pullover.

“Oh, I am having one of those giddy days where I laugh goofily at everything.”

“I love you when you get like that.”

“It worries me, but I can’t help it,” I replied.

“Read this,” Rosa then said handing me a hand written letter.

I took off my glasses so I could read better and was enthralled by what I read.

“She wrote you back!” I exclaimed, looking so excited after reading the short letter.

“That’s my little girl,” Rosa said, proudly. “And I have you to thank for it.”

The letter from Rosa’s daughter was very kind, but cautious. I can only imagine hearing from a mother you haven’t talked to in years, or a daughter for that matter. It was one small step to them getting back together. I felt overjoyed at Rosa’s good fortune and smiled gleefully at my part in this endeavor.

For Cheryl...

Twilight

Vines on a Wall.

Evergreen

On Love and Rosa…

I had written on my previous post about my days seeming like a broken record (I took it down. Thank you Jay M. for the comment, by the way!) I and Rosa are creatures of habit and we do the same things every day. Lunchtime finds us at Rodger’s Barbeque eating lunch on my tab. We then often walk across the river talking and to see what is going on over at the shopping center where the gang congregates during the day. After that, I will walk home to take a nap and Rosa will watch my television waiting for me to wake up. I just told Rosa we are going to have to try something adventurous tomorrow.

“So, are we going to make wild animal sex?” She asked me in response jokingly.

I burst out laughing. I realize I love Rosa, but not in a traditional way. It is more of a sisterly love. I have found the female equivalent of my kindred spirit. We are a lot alike sans my mental illness. We both struggle with addictions. We both can’t work due to disabilities. We have similar likes and dislikes other than George. There just seems to be this synchronicity shared between us.

I realize Rosa would like for our relationship to blossom to more intimate levels. Just like her comment above, she often makes comments filled with sexual and intimate innuendo. I fear we would ruin our friendship and almost did when we slept together a few months ago. I don’t want to lose the special relationship we have. It means too much to me. It is hard though and that line between friendship and intimate relationship is easily blurred.

Strange Dudes

I and Rosa walked over once again to Rodger’s for ribs day. My father had put sixty more dollars on my tab yesterday so I and Rosa had plenty of money to eat on. These meals only cost $5.25 including the drink so I find it hard to eat up sixty dollars every week so I don’t mind Rosa helping me in this great culinary largesse. I wouldn’t tell my father that though.

“I noticed your tent was in the back yard this morning when I walked over,” Rosa said.

“I slept in it last night,” I replied.

“Doesn’t that scare you sleeping outside in town?” She asked.

I smiled. Little did she know, but I was truly crazy last summer.

“I used to just sleep on the ground in the backyard last summer every night,” I said.

“You can be so weird sometimes,” Rosa said. “That would scare the shit out of me and I would never be able to sleep.”

“I slept like a baby,” I replied.

Rosa and I left the restaurant and walked over to the shopping center looking for George.

“I still don’t like him,” Rosa told me of George.

“You two are my best friends and you don’t get along. I find that sad about the most important friends in my life.” I said. “I wish you two would make up and dismiss your differences.”

“The only way I would like George is that if he sobered up and quit being a mooch off of you,” She replied. “He uses you as a money lender and wouldn’t look out for you like I would.”

I realized Rosa was jealous of me and George’s relationship. She is actually competing and vying for my attention over George. I can’t say it isn’t flattering. I’ve never had people fight over me before.

Today, a very shifty looking new character was hanging out down at the shopping center. He was a white guy in his late twenties with a weathered beard and face. He looked like he had been exposed to the most extreme of elements and weather for months. Rosa, like George, has a sixth sense as far as people are concerned on the streets.

“I don’t trust that dude,” She said after he had left when he walked up to ask for a smoke.

I also got weird vibes from the dude and didn’t trust him as far as I could have thrown him. Luckily, he left to continue on with his journey to another town.

“That dude is on meth,” Rosa said after he had left the shopping center. “You could see it in his eyes and face.”

I don’t know what it is about the shopping center, but it attracts such interesting and many times nefarious characters. The summer months also see heightened activity down there as well. It is going to be an interesting May, June, July, and August. I will have lots to write about. Hang on to your britches cause it is going to be a wild ride.

Heavenly Conjunction

Spent the night in my tent. I curled up in my warm sleeping bag and got around three hours of sleep. Blearily, I walked back inside to check my email, start some coffee, and light a cigar. I have found that Maggie thoroughly enjoys these little jaunts into the backyard. I wish she wouldn’t spend the whole time stiffly alert and barking. Each barking session starts like a muted cough and grows with intensity. I know she thinks she is protecting me, but there is little of harm in my backyard other than errant raccoons and ambling possums interspersed with the occasional stray house cat. All enough to keep Maggie in a frenzied, frenetic state. My homeless days in the wild woods taught me to be very unafraid of what goes on after midnight in the dark of the night.

I noticed last night after sunset a trifecta of heavenly goodness. A conjunction of Venus, the bright moon, and the red star, Taurus, splayed across the horizon in the early evening sky. I took a picture using the tripod Carolyn had bought me on E-Bay. The usual dark side of the moon was slightly illuminated by earthshine revealing features eons dark. My second choice of professions after being a meteorologist was aspiring to be an astronomer. I still have plans for purchasing a telescope and hopefully my blog advertisements will one day fund such a purchase.

My father went to see a play by Shakespeare last night with a friend, Henry V. I was invited to go, but my social phobias got the better of me. These damn phobias cause me to miss out on so much some days. I would have enjoyed seeing Henry V even though I have seen it in its various adaptations many times. My favorite adaptation was the film starring Kenneth Branagh.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Grab Bag

Dumpster Diving Dan came by this afternoon to get this week’s grab bag of Chef Boyardee that my mother had brought Monday. I was growing concerned about him as I hadn’t seen him early in the mornings on my daily walks. I noticed Dan has lost a lot of weight and his jeans were barely hugging his hips today as he walked up my driveway.

“Are you getting enough to eat?” I asked him, concerned.

“Why?” Dan asked.

“You just look like you’ve lost a lot of weight,” I replied.

“Oh, I’ve had a touch of the consumption for a few weeks,” He said. “I am just now getting over it.”

It was good to see Dan and to know he was on the mend. Out of all the gang, Dan is my favorite of the bunch second only to George. He is such a kind and fatherly old soul and I welcome time spent with him.

Dan left me standing in my driveway as I watched him drive off to no doubt go on his rounds of checking the many dumpsters around town that he frequents. Just like Dan, his truck is a little worse for wear these days I noticed as he drove off. I hope when I am in my sixties that I am not reliant on dumpstered food to supplement my diet. I have tried dumpster diving out of a sense of curiosity a few times and it was slim pickings. Dan is a more stalwart individual than I about such matters. I guess perseverance does pay.

Fields of Gold

A picture I took a moment ago on my daily drive out Spring Road.

Vampires of the Night

It’s 3am. Like the great Vampires of fiction, I have taken to sleeping during the day in spurts of rest. After midnight will find me walking the streets of this sleepy town listening to the radio. What is a busy and bustling small town during the day grows sleepy and quiet after the midnight hour. It is comforting to know most of the people that so scare me are asleep in their beds for another day and I am out of harm’s reach. I am given about ten hours of social respite every night. I am having a terrible rash of social anxiety lately. My father came over last night admonishing me for turning off my phone’s ringer and answering machine most of the time these days.

“What if we need to get you in an emergency?” He asked with a whining tone to his voice.

“It’s a two minute walk from your backdoor to mine,” I replied tersely and unremittingly.

“I just don’t understand this phobia with the phone. You exasperate me.”

My father talks almost constantly and excessively on his cell phone so he doesn’t understand my phone fears. He is such an overly social creature like some great actor on a stage and in his element. The endless chatter drives me crazy. I often have daydreams of throwing that cell phone upon the ground and stomping on it to create a welcomed silence. I find it a rude and an unruly little contraption.

I have been often asked to portray what I feel with social anxiety. It is this deep seated fear of all things social and human. A flourish of butterflies in your stomach is accompanied by a clammy feeling of the skin and this all pervasive feeling of fear and anxiety. The only cure is silence and solitude behind locked doors and within quiet rooms. Throw in the paranoia of schizophrenia and the constant perceived sounds of what sounds like car doors and backdoors shutting and you can see why my disease can drive me bat shiat crazy some days. The anxiety can sometimes well up to a boiling point for me and I will disappear into the woods for a hike or to go camping. Luckily, I haven’t done that much this year, but the option is always open and comforting.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Explaining RSS

Lisa of Ladybug Hill fame had asked me about RSS feeds. It is now the de facto way I read my many blogs I keep up with on a daily basis. I use Google Reader which is easy if you already have Gmail or a Google account. You can easily search for your favorite blogs and then hit “subscribe.” Viola! You are done and now ready to read via the RSS feed. I am subscribed to over thirty blogs and only have to visit one webpage to see if any have updated. It simplifies the whole blogging experience. The only downside is that it makes you a lot less likely to comment as you have to visit each individual blog to do so. I just love technology. Hehe.



DraMa and Fatty nominated me for a “Thinking Bloggers Award.” That was very kind of them and brought a big smile to my face. It is nice to know that someone appreciates and takes pleasure out of what I do every day by writing this journal. Drama tagged me to do the same and nominate some, so I ask you to visit my favorite blogs below to your left. These people are my first stops everyday encouraging me to keep blogging on. My favorite blogs are people that write every day and do not disappoint other than Waiter Rant. He makes up in quality what he lacks in quantity.

Once again, thank you DraMa and Fatty. I appreciate it very much and encourage you all to visit their blogs and tell them Andrew sent you.

Headlights at Noon

The weather today was befitting my mood…melancholy. I didn’t feel bad. I just felt blah; kind of devoid of emotion and feeling. It is common with my medications. The sky was cloudy and grey with a cool breeze and the weather guessers say rain is on the way, although I will believe it when I see it. It has been so dry here and we are seven inches behind on our rainfall total for the year.

I stopped down at the shopping center, but none of the gang was to be found. So I carried on over to Rosa’s house hoping she would spice up my day and she did. She was in a wild and suggestive mood. She answered her door still in her pajamas which consisted of sweat pants and a cotton t-shirt with no bra on. I must add that Rosa is quite well endowed as far as the breast region of her chest is concerned and her “headlights” were on full bore. I couldn’t help but stare.

“I was hoping I would get to see you,” Rosa told me, demurely, as I stepped inside.

The smell of something wonderful cooking was emanating out of the kitchen. I walked in and pulled the lid off the pot, curious.

“Spaghetti!” I exclaimed. “Awesome. That is my favorite.”

“You gonna stay for lunch?”

“I just ate at Rodger’s,” I replied. “Today is meatloaf day and I never miss it. It’s my favorite meal.”

I stood by the stove as Rosa began to boil some pasta and occasionally stirred the spaghetti sauce. My eyes kept wandering down to stare at Rosa’s chest. I felt like a dirty old man.

“You like what you see?” Rosa then asked, embarrassing me. “You keep staring at my tits.”

I laughed nervously diverting my eyes. Rosa smiled. She is not much one to mince words and although it can be startling at times, I do like this about her.

Rosa then finished the pasta and pulled out a plate. Upon the pasta, she used a 1-cup measuring cup to pour over a generous serving of pasta sauce. She then took her plate into her den to sit on the couch to eat. I followed her and sat watching the television. Rosa let me have a bite of the spaghetti to taste it. I had never tried Rosa’s cooking before and I have to admit, the spaghetti was delicious.

I finally grew bored with the television and Rosa was intent on being a homebody today. So I left to continue with my daily hike with the noontime hour finding me walking up my driveway to home. My father had come by while I was away to do a beer check. He left me a note on my radio explaining that he had been by. I smiled. Used to, such an occurrence would upset me. I realize this is more for dad than it is for me. It gives him peace of mind and also keeps me on my toes so to speak by having someone checking up on me. Isn’t it hard to believe I am 35 years old? I shudder to think what some of you must think about me. I need to quit sharing such overly honest and forward stuff on my blog.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blues Skies Above and Beyond

I sat in the little park in front of that abandoned cotton mill after lunch. It was such a beautiful spring day with the trees now heavily laden with this year’s leaves. I stared at a bright and clear blue skyline lit by a gloriously shining sun. The sun sparkled off the many panes of the windows in that grand old mill across the highway from the park.

“Good day,” An old man with a cane said as he walked briskly past upon the sidewalk.

I waved and continued with my enthrallment in the beauty of the day.

“Hey,” He then said loudly and started to walk towards me as he turned. “Your John’s son, aren’t you?”

“Shit,” I mumbled under my breath as my solitude was disturbed. I walked down here to escape other people. Not to get embroiled in mindless small talk.

“Yes,” I said putting on a feigned air of kindness and forgiveness.

“Your dad is a good man,” He said. “I have been trading with him for years.”

Luckily, the man didn’t talk for long and I was once again surrounded by the sounds of nature and not the cackling of another human being. The only sound marring my serene moment was the many raucous cars on the highway nearby. I realized how much I had missed the color and the temperate days of spring and summer after a long, drab, and brown winter. Just as nature is reborn every spring, so are my spirits and demeanor. I experience a renewed vigor with regards to life this time every year.

I sat thinking for the longest time about my recent life these days as two pigeons cooed and marched around at the foot of my feet. I tossed them some crumbs from the packet of cheese-on-wheat crackers I was munching on thoughtfully. I thought of Rosa and George, of Dumpster Diving Dan and Dexter (who I never write about), and the various misfits and characters that inhabit my unorthodox life; all people who make my life so interesting, vivid, and complete. I know what to expect from these people and what you see is what you get. Unlike my father’s many wealthy friends driving their BMW SUVs as they rush home from stressful jobs and hurry to take the rugrats to soccer practice. There is just so much more to life than such things I have learned and I have lived that life and know the difference. I was once very wealthy and now live on $837 dollars a month. I have something supremely precious that money can’t buy and that is time to think, write, and enjoy the company of my friends. My days aren’t filled with the mindless chase for food tokens and pieces of green paper to pay off borrowed debt and borrowed time.

I finally roused myself from my moment of solitude and began the walk home serenaded by the many songbirds singing and jubilantly rejoicing in the arrival of spring. Good days like today make me glad I am alive and that I can appreciate the many small gifts I am given on a daily basis. Good friends, sober times, no voices rattling around in my head, stable and close relationships with family; all things that make life worth living and that no amount of money can buy.

Foibles

Last night found me late in the kitchen cooking a pan of cornbread and a skillet of hamburger helper cheeseburger macaroni. Rosa was sitting at my kitchen table.

“I got worried about you earlier when I called and you wouldn’t answer,” She said after walking over.

“My dreaded phone phobias are acting up,” I replied. “I’ve got my answering machine and the ringer turned off.”

“What scares you about the phone?” Rosa then asked.

“People scare me,” I replied. “People can say and do some of the most hurtful things and I shy away from contact. I sometimes wish I lived on a deserted island.”

I was having a rough go of it last night and it also showed by the hurtful things I wrote on my blog about Diana. I was extremely paranoid and thought everyone was out to get me. I hate it when I get like that.

“Schizophrenia is a selfish disease,” Rosa then said.

“What makes you say that?” I asked, confused.

“Well, first of all, you think you are so important that people are out to get you,” She said. “You only think of yourself.”

I didn’t like where this conversation was going and grew quiet. I genuinely don’t consider myself a selfish person. I go beyond and above the call most of the time for my friends and the people in my life.

“You got quiet,” Rosa said.

“This just drives home my feelings about people being callous and hurtful. What you said hurt my feelings,” I responded.

I wanted to be alone as we sat eating. I wanted to be anywhere but here. Rosa finally left and I sighed with relief. She was in a confrontational mood and I was ill prepared for it. I went and lay in the bed for several hours thinking until I finally drifted off to sleep. I was glad to have yesterday behind me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cheryl’s Gift

My good friend, Cheryl, in New England sent me a blogging care package last week and it arrived today. I picked up Who Let the Blogs Out?, the book she sent me, and found myself hours later still enthralled and reading. The book is written by Biz Stone, the founder of blogger. The foreword was by one of my favorite geeks and bloggers, Wil Wheaton. Scroll down and find Wil’s link in my favorite blogs list to the left. Wil’s and Cheryl’s blogs are some of my first stops of the day after booting up my computer in the mornings. Thank you Cheryl and you are a sweetheart. A copy of Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 2 is on the way. *winks*

Bowing Out

I never made it to the birthday party yesterday. I called my father in a panic and told him I would be staying home. I was adamant that he not argue with me about it. He complied.

“I just want you to be okay,” he said, understandingly. “We will bring you over some cake and a meal after the party.”

Dad showed up much later in the afternoon with some chocolate cake, a gift card to Belk’s for $500 to buy me some new clothes, and a supper plate. Dad had cooked chopped sirloin wrapped in bacon, baked potatoes, barbeque bread, and a salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. The meal was delicious and I shared my good fortune with Maggie.

Rosa then called me late last night having a hard time. Sometimes, when I am having a tough day, it is easy to get lost in another’s problems and I threw myself to the lions so to speak. I drove over to Rosa’s rundown house to pick her up. We then swung through the drive-thru at Wendy’s late last night to get a frosty and went for a long drive. Rosa was having a terrible go with her addictions.

“What was crack cocaine like?” I asked her, curious, as we drove way out into the country far beyond the city limits.

I was hoping by us talking about it, it would dispel that spell of the drug that had a hold of her last night.

“The first time was like the best sex you’ve ever had,” she said. “The last time was like the worst sex you ever experienced. You keep using hoping to experience that first time, but it never happens again.”

“My drinking was the same,” I said. “Except it took years to get that way. I got to where I drank to feel better, but it didn’t actually make me feel better. I felt worse. It was just a habit.”

“And a hard habit to break, it is,” Rosa replied, forlornly.

Midnight found me pulling up into my driveway with Rosa sound asleep in my passenger’s seat. I woke her and we both went upstairs as I turned on some lights and turned on the central heating and air. I pulled back the covers on the large king sized bed in the back bedroom for Rosa.

“You sure you don’t mind me staying the night?” she asked.

“I think we have both had a tough day, today, and I would welcome the company,” I replied. “Think of this as your safe house.”

I walked downstairs to get Rosa one of my XXL cotton t-shirts to sleep in and told her good night. She gave me a hug and told me thanks for being such a good friend. Rosa just doesn’t realize how much and how selfishly I need her as well. It is easy for me to forget about my own problems when I get entangled with hers. I finally retired to my own bed comforted that another soul besides me and Maggie was in the house. I thought wistfully of calling this house on 4th avenue the lonely hearts club. We misfits and societal deviants need a safe place to hang out as well. Good day.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Giddiness Continues

That is my latest symptom of my schizophrenia, giddiness. You will often find me smiling or laughing when I am supposed to be sad or frowning. I told my sister, who is a physician, about it yesterday.

“You feel giddy?” my sister asked, fascinated.

“I haven’t felt this good in years,” I replied. “I can’t help but smile and laugh all the time.”

“Do you laugh and smile when you are not supposed to?” She then asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “It often happens when I am by myself or when something bad has happened.”

“Interesting,” my sister said. “I haven’t heard of this happening with schizophrenia. I like how you describe it as giddiness though. You have a way with words.”

Rosa also told me my giddiness is contagious. Every time I laugh, she will start smiling and laughing as well. My father thinks there is something bad wrong with me and is growing very concerned. He feels it foretells another episode with my mental illness.

“Are you okay?” he asked me last night for the hundredth time.

“I feel fine,” I replied, smiling. “It’s just kind of uncomfortable that I will do this at untoward moments.”

“You are worrying the shit out of me,” he then said.

“I can’t help it,” I replied, emphatically.

Today, we are having a big birthday for me and my sister along with barbeque, homemade ice cream, and a birthday cake. I am trying to find ways of getting out of it. I am sure my father has invited a hundred people over for the party and the social aspects of such a gathering will make me extremely uncomfortable and ill. My idea of a birthday party is just me and the family getting together for some cake and ice cream. Not this grand spectacle my father feels compelled to put on. Wish me luck on getting out of this mess today. I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Caught in a Storm

“Rain sucks when you’re homeless,” Ferret told me this afternoon down at his campsite by the river.

The sky was grey and foretold rain on the way. We had an 80 percent chance of severe weather and storms. Ferret was blasé about the whole affair, and was more worried about being stuck in his tent for a few hours without beer.

“Let’s walk up to the shopping center,” I said. “You will stay dry up there.”

“Nah,” Ferret said. “I think I am going to lie down and take a nap.”

I left Ferret after helping him seam seal and waterproof his tent and walked back up towards home. The sky was now very dark, ominously dark. I worried I would get caught in a downpour any moment. I heard the first rumble of thunder and my heart sank. I love adverse weather. I just don’t like standing out amidst it without shelter.

It did start to rain and rain hard it did. I fumbled inside my backpack until I finally pulled out my little foldable umbrella. Its canopy was not quite large enough to shield me from the rain and I got soaking wet. Luckily, I was only about ten minutes from my house. I would cringe at every strike of lightning as I was holding what would pass as a fair lightning rod. I arrived home unscathed, but shaken.

My heart went out to Ferret today. I could remember being homeless during a rain storm and all you could do was lay in your tent and wait it out. If you didn’t have books or a radio then it was one boring predicament. The good thing about drinking when I was a homeless drunk was that it passed the time. I spent many a rainy day curled up in my tent nursing a few twelve packs of ice beer. Then, I would sleep drunkenly until the storms passed. Often until next morning to start the whole process all over again.

Don’t Say Disability

“You do well for a person with disabilities,” My father told me tonight as I had walked over to his house to take my nightly medications for my schizophrenia.

I cringed at him saying that and it bothered me for the rest of the night. I try not to think of myself as disabled. It is such a stringent term. When you think of disabled people, you think of wheelchairs, the blind, and the paraplegic. My disability is not readily apparent and I often get questions and blank stares when I tell others I am disabled. It is not like I have some large growth protruding out of my head causing my schizophrenia. Humans are such visually oriented creatures and can usually only see skin deep I have learned.

I then walked home to call Rosa, needing a friend to talk to. She answered her cell phone after a few rings. It was growing close to midnight, but I knew she would still be up watching television in bed.

“Do you think I am disabled?” I asked her, worried and self conscious.

“I think you are amazing for what you have to deal with,” she said. “You just need to act crazy as shit the next time they review your disability, though. I would go off my meds for a few weeks.”

I smiled. Rosa has a way of looking at the practical side of things. She can be my truth sayer at times.

“Can you work?” Rosa then asked me.

“Oh god, I can’t deal with all that shit,” I replied. “The social aspects of a work environment drive me even crazier than I already am.”

“Then you are disabled,” Rosa said. “That’s why you draw disability. I would say schizophrenia counts as a pretty major disability.”

“But I don’t want to be disabled,” I said innocently, sounding as if I were a child.

“I know, honey,” Rosa said. “I know……but you do so well though, so don’t ever quit keeping on. Get your disabled ass in the bed. I am going to sleep.”

I burst out laughing at Rosa’s jovial brusqueness. We hung up our phones and I let Maggie inside the house after she had a run through the yard to empty her bladder for the night. I do so dearly love Rosa as a friend. It is so nice having someone you can be so open and honest with. If only I could have had that kind of relationship with my ex-wife. We would still be married. Good night.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Smile and a Laugh

“I see you’re still smiling and laughing today,” Rosa told me as we sat at Rodger’s eating.

“Am I embarrassing you?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

“Oh, Lord no,” she said. “I used to be a hooker, remember? It takes a lot to embarrass me.”

Today was ribs day at Rodger’s. For $5.25, you got a heaping serving of pit cooked baby back ribs, three vegetables, and a drink. A hearty deal you just couldn’t beat. I and Rosa sat eating like the ravenous creatures we were.

“I saw Ferret this morning,” Rosa then told me over the table.

“Was he drunk?” I asked.

“I couldn’t tell. I didn’t stop to talk to him. He kind of scares me.”

“Ferret is harmless,” I replied.

“I don’t know,” Rosa said. “He has that hungry look in his eyes. I don’t trust drunks.”

“Well, I am a drunk,” I replied.

“Silly, you know what I mean,” she said. “You’re not currently drinking. He is.”

I and Rosa finished our meals and I put the cost on my tab. We walked across the river and headed back to my house. I know I and Rosa look like an interesting couple walking through town. Charlie had told my father last night that he keeps seeing me walking around town with a strange woman. My father asked me about it last night.

“Charlie says he keeps seeing you with this woman around town.”

“Oh, that’s just Rosa,” I replied. “She’s my best friend these days.”

“You’re not dating her, are you?” he asked.

“What would it matter if I was?” I asked, growing uncomfortable with this line of questioning. “I am 35 years old.”

My father dropped the subject and went on to finish preparing the chicken salad he was fixing.

“You don’t have to get testy,” he said as he was putting some chicken breasts in his crock pot to slow cook overnight.

I am pretty forgiving of my father’s intrusions into my life as far as my mental illness and the drinking goes, but I draw a line at my friends and relationships and he usually knows this. I don’t blather about Rosa, George, and the Gang to him as I know it would only worry him about the company I keep some days. We are definitely an odd ball group of misfits and my father would worry that I am being unduly influenced by these strange characters. What you don’t know won’t hurt you as the saying goes. The same holds true as far as my intimate friendships are concerned with regards to my father.

Onward, I Ever Walk

This morning was overly cool and I will be glad when summer finally arrives. I walked downtown to watch a few trains pass in the predawn dark. There is just this tangible excitement that builds as you first hear the far off wail of a locomotive horn as a train enters town. Soon, you will see a bright headlight round the corner far down the tracks in the dark as the train approaches. The ground will rumble beneath your feet as the train passes with many container cars marked “China Shipping.” The kid in me always rejoices at this grand spectacle of modern locomotive machinery.

I then stopped by Fat Albert’s this morning for a hot cup of coffee. My ex-girlfriend Carolyn worked there for years and the clerks all know me exceedingly well. I was greeted by hearty hellos and good mornings as I walked in. I stood at the counter to pay for my coffee after carefully fixing it.

“Do you ever hear from Carolyn these days?” The manager, Patty, asked me early this morning. “I haven’t heard from her in ages and was wondering how she was doing.”

“You know we broke up,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” Patty replied. “I just thought you two might still be talking.”

“We no longer talk, but last I heard she is still working at Wal-Mart.”

“You two were such a good couple. I hate you broke up,” Patty replied.

“Yeah,” I said growing silent as I drank my coffee.

Patty rung me up and I paid and left to walk up the street towards home. I thought of Carolyn as I walked. I still get the occasional call on my answering machine were no one talks, but you can hear someone breathing with a television on in the background. I just know it is Carolyn. It has been very tempting to pick up the phone and say hello. I was never good at saying goodbye. If I were to pick up then I would start that emotional roller coaster going all over again. It is best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Funny Side of Schizophrenia

I spent most of my birthday morning with Rosa. She gave me a new wallet from the dollar store as she had noticed the other day that my old one of many years was growing threadbare. It probably was the most thoughtful gift of this year’s birthday even though it probably only cost a couple of bucks. I gave her a hug and thanked her as I unwrapped the gift, realizing what it was. It even has a compartment to hold a spare house key and car key which will come in handy as I inherited the dreaded key disease from my father and lose my keys easily.

Rosa also got to see one of the side effects of my schizophrenia today as well. Our conversation went as follows…

“What’s so funny?” she asked me as we were walking through downtown heading for home after eating lunch at Rodger’s.

“It’s my schizophrenia,” I replied. “One of my medications or either my mental illness makes me feel giddy at intervals and I will smile and laugh uncontrollably.”

Rosa grinned broadly at this interesting turn of events.

“Well, if you’ve got to have side effects, then laughing and smiling would be a good one to have,” Rosa said, completely enthralled by this occurrence.

“I know,” I said. “But I look crazy as shit walking down the street alone as I smile and laugh goofily like some madman at seemingly nothing.”

“I would rather be with some happy crazy guy than some surly normal dude,” Rosa then said.

“At least I give these nosey small town, small minded people something to gossip about,” I said as I laughed. “Look, there is John’s son walking through town laughing at imaginary jokes. He is happily crazy. Poor thing.”

Rosa burst out laughing, putting her arm in mine, and pulling me close as we walked.

“I just love you to death,” she said. “You are so good at taking things in stride. I love that you can laugh and make fun of your mental illness.”

“I love you to death, too,” I replied as we walked.

We walked on to my house so I could check my mailbox for birthday cards and Rosa then plopped herself in front of my television to once again watch that boring drivel called Court TV. It has been a good day despite some flare ups with my mental illness.