Thursday, May 31, 2007

All Walks of Life

I threw some vegetables in the hot wok. They sizzled as they intermingled with the flank steak amid the hot peanut oil and I stirred them. Next to the wok, on the stove, was a big pot of steamed rice.

"This is not going to look like something a cat threw up?" Rosa asked.

I laughed.

"I am going to teach you how to use chopsticks," I replied.

As we ate our Asian inspired cuisine, Rosa never could get the hang of the chopsticks. I finally gave her a fork.

"I like your southern cooking better," she said. "I never was much for Chinese food."

I then took Rosa home and headed to my nightly A.A. meeting. I walked in, fixed a cup of coffee, and sat down amid a growing group. This was the midweek Big Book study which is the Bible of Alcoholics Anonymous. Philip, the local patriarch, walked in and placed a CD player on the table. Apparently, we were going to be listening to CDs of narratives of the Big Book.

As I sat and listened, I noticed the great diversity of the patrons of A.A. in these meeting halls. There was my mother's gynecologist sitting next to me. Across the table was William, a car mechanic, who always looks dirty and unkempt from doing his job all day. We also had the little old retired lady who lives on Social Security with her twenty cats. People from all walks of life attend these meetings seeking help, comfort, and solace.

I had almost decided to quit going, but then I realized why I attend these meetings. It is the people I have grown to know and love such as Wanda and Tim that keeps me coming back. I sometimes rail against the religious aspects, but that is par for the course for A.A. There are no other alternatives in the small town I live in. In big cities such as New York they actually have 12 step programs with the religious references removed. "If you can't beat them, join them," I thought as I left last night's meeting and drove home.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Moral Inventory

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

That was the main topic of AA last night. I sat in the meeting drinking my coffee as I listened to many people share. It was a busy meeting. One fellow who rarely speaks really opened up last night and told of all the people he had stolen from to support his addiction.

"I would even steal money out of my elderly mother's purse," he said with an air of exasperation as his head hung low.

I thought of my own moral foibles I acquired while drinking heavily. I was a habitual liar and most people in my life had grown to distrust me. I would lie for the sake of lying. I lived in this grand fantasy world exacerbated by my mental illness that I wanted everyone else to believe. One of the hardest things to do in my life was learning to be honest in my recovery. Now, I am probably too honest and share too much. I always was an all or nothing kind of fellow.

"I would scream and holler at my kids in a drunken stupor," Wanda then said after the standard AA introduction. "I constantly berated them. It took years for them to forgive me and love me again."

This surprised me. Wanda has always seemed like the kindest of persons and has been so caring in our friendship. I listened intently as she shared and the tears of remorse rolled down her cheeks. The elderly lady who often attends walked over and gave her a tissue which was a kind gesture.

The meeting ended with the whole group emotionally spent, but with this feeling of resolution, peace and calm. I walked outside and sat for about thirty minutes waiting on George, but he never showed up. I then walked on over to Rosa's house which was near and we ordered a pizza, watched the three channels her old TV can pick up, and talked until late in the night. I told Rosa all about last night's AA meeting.

"I just can't share like that in a group," Rosa said.

"I never thought I could either," I replied. "But when you start to hear other people doing it, it can be contagious."

It was well after midnight when I left Rosa to walk on home. It was a full moon and all the broken beer and wine bottles on the sidewalk in Rosa's neighborhood glittered like little jewels in the bright moonlight. "There is beauty in everything if you just know where to look," I thought. I made a resolution to find more beauty in such things in my life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bathed in the Waters

An abridged story from my book, Hardscrabble Times...

The brothers and sisters called her Churney. Her real name was Myrtis. It was her job to churn the butter every day after the cow had been milked thus her nickname. It was the only chore she could handle and do successfully.

"Can't have my biscuits without fresh, sweet cream butter on them for supper," Poppa would say, encouraging her.

Churney would smile and vigorously plunge the butter churn knowing it pleased Poppa. She loved him dearly.

Churney had always been different. She didn't have a normal interest in boys for a girl her age. She was also extremely socially aloof. The brothers and sisters all looked out for her knowing something was not quite right.

"Do you think she is retarded?" Maxie, a brother, asked Annie Mae, Churney's sister, one day as they were picking pole beans in the garden.

"Don't say that," Annie Mae said, putting a handful of picked beans in a wicker basket.

"Well, something's not quite right," Maxie quipped.

"She just needs our help," Annie Mae said.

Around the age of thirteen, Churney discovered church for the first time. It was a long ride into town by mule and wagon for Sunday school every week, but Churney made the journey anyway. Mrs. Carlyle, the Sunday school teacher, would ride all the way out to the Mayberry homestead to pick her up doing God's work.

"You are going to make a fine young Christian girl," Mrs. Carlyle would tell Churney as they rode the hour wagon ride into town.

One day Poppa was in town buying seed at the Feed and Seed for next year's crop.

"That girl of yours is getting baptized in the creek this Sunday," Mr. Slocomb, the proprietor, said. He was also a Deacon in the church.

Poppa had never been one much for church and religion. He called them highfaluting things. He was too busy being a single parent and feeding and supporting a big growing family of eight girls and boys to be bothered with such stuff.

"Are we going to see you there?" Mr. Slocomb asked.

Poppa rubbed his bristly chin as he thought for a moment.

"Which creek?" Poppa finally asked.

"Old Simms creek," Mr. Slocomb replied. "9AM this Sunday morning."

The big day had finally arrived. Poppa got all the children scurrying to polish their shoes and put on their best clothes. The children moaned and groaned not accustomed to wearing shoes. Churney was dressed in her finest white dress that her sister, Sally Lou, had made. Poppa then got one of the boys to hitch up the mules to the wagon and soon they were headed for Old Simms creek on a beautiful late summer Sunday morning.

"What do they do in a baptism?" Walt asked sitting next to Poppa in the front of the wagon as it rocked and swayed from the undulations in the old dirt road.

"The last one I saw they about drowned the poor fella," Poppa said, popping the reigns to urge the mules on.

"You wash away your sins and take the Lord Jesus into your life," Sally Lou said, piping up from the back of the wagon. "You become born again."

"All that from dunking you in a creek?" Walt asked Poppa.

Poppa smiled but said, "Hush boy. This means a lot to your sister. Don't you make light of it."

A great gathering of people had gathered on the banks of Simms creek all dressed in their Sunday best. Brother Jim preached a long winded sermon wearing thin the patience of the parishioners as the children stirred restlessly. The time for the baptism had come. Brother Jim walked down into the cool waters of the creek dressed in a white baptismal robe.

"Come here child," he said, holding out his hand for Churney.

Churney walked out into the waters grabbing Brother Jim's hand.

"Do you believe there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons?" Brother Jim asked.

"Yes," Churney said sheepishly.

The time had arrived and Brother Jim thrust Churney under those cool creek waters washing away her sins. She was born anew in Christ. Many an Amen was said on the creek bank from the church members. Churney felt as if she had been touched by the very hand of God. Thus began Churney's lifelong love affair with the Church and doing God's work.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogging Faux Pas

I broke one of my cardinal rules about blogging and that is never to write about religion or politics. They are just too polarizing. I apologize and will keep my views to myself. I don't feel this overwhelming need to share my views anyway. I just felt like writing this morning and the last post just poured out onto the page without much thought. I felt it was a well written post, but people seemed to be more interested in the religious aspects than the writing.

On a positive note, Google mailed my first check for the revenue from my blog advertisements. I was so excited that I walked over to tell my father immediately. He has been thinking I have been bullshitting him for weeks that I was actually making money on this journal. This check was $211 dollars and the next check will be well over $400. My hopes of being able to buy a new computer and digital camera are coming to fruition.

Well, my pimento cheese sandwiches are made along with some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are still warm from the oven. I am now leaving to go pick up Rosa and to head over to the AA meeting hall for the first Tri-City mental health support group. Wish me luck!

A High Price to Pay

It's last Thursday night. I am sitting in my AA meeting gleaning ideas for my mental health support group. "I don't want it to be religious and I don't want some damn twelve steps to slog through to get help for the group," I note mentally as I sit there thinking. "We will draw strength from each other by our company, fellowship and conversation."

My deep thoughts are interrupted as Sandy, a man who I don't much like, talks. He is a holy roller.

"I asked my higher power this morning to do with me what he will," he says. "I let God guide me through my day. But for the grace of God, I stayed sober today."

"Each to his own," I try to think open mindedly as I mentally cringe at the thought of this poor, deluded soul having to bow down to some mythical being to get help. "Each to his own."

Sandy is a bitter old lonely man who is sober, but seems and acts so unhappy. I would rather have a few last years of drunken bliss than a lifetime of miserable sobriety.

The meeting ends and I quietly escape out the front door to find George waiting out front on me in his Buick. I get in the car as I buckle up and then drive off.

"You know about you always calling AA a religious cult?" I tell George.

"Yeah, what about it?" George says as he sips on his beer.

"You're right," I say. "Some of those poor people are completely brainwashed. They are like automatons."

"But they are sober, right?" George asks, playing Devil's advocate.

"They are sober, but with a very high price to pay," I reply. "They don't even have control of their own lives. The program has overtaken them. Twelve steps written by some drunken doctor in the 1930's rules their lives."

"Are you going to quit going?" George asks.

"I don't know," I say, pensively. "I really don't know. I enjoy some of the camaraderie. I enjoy having something to do every night. It gives me purpose."

"You're starting to sound like one of those cultists," George says, rightly.

We grow quiet as I think and drive George through the drive-thru at McDonald's to get his usual bag of cheeseburgers. We leave the restaurant as I watch George crack open another beer as he eats a burger. "If I could only drink like George," my alcoholic mind thinks. "He can handle his liquor." I realize I don't have any answers. I don't know if AA is right or if AA is wrong. I do know there is something terribly distasteful about it to me. I finally take George home and walk back to my house. As I walk, I echo Sandy's words in AA that night leaving out the God reference. But for the grace of ME, I stayed sober today. I am one step closer to finding the answers I seek.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Art and Zen of a Tomato Sandwich

The first garden grown tomatoes of the summer season have arrived at the farmer's market. These tomatoes put to shame the mealy and tasteless tomatoes you can buy at the supermarket. I was standing in my kitchen carefully peeling a large, ripe red, and fragrant tomato with my fillet knife as Rosa watched on.

"Get the mayonnaise out of the fridge," I told Rosa as I opened a bag of fresh bread.

Within minutes we were sitting at my kitchen table eating delicious tomato sandwiches with homemade dill pickle spears and potato chips.

"I thought about you all last night," Rosa said, eating her sandwich. "It worries me when you get upset."

"You mean the Tylenol deal?" I asked.

"Yeah," Rosa said. "Your father can be such a shithead sometimes."

I laughed.

"Oh, that didn't bother me," I replied. "I have decided to not sweat the small stuff. As long as I have food and a roof over my head then I am happy. Life is too short."

"Doesn't it aggravate you?"

"It used to," I replied. "I used to let it drive me to drinking. I decided to no longer let such stuff get to me."

"Will you do me a favor this summer?" Rosa then asked, changing the subject.

"What?" I asked in response.

"Take me to the beach and let me see the ocean," Rosa said. "I haven't been in twenty years."

I smiled warmly.

"It sounds like me and you are going on a road trip."

"Are you serious?"

"I promise," I reply. "I will use some of the money from the advertisements on my journal."

We finished eating and Rosa helped me clean up my kitchen. I would wash a plate and then hand it to her so she would dry it with a towel. I thought of my post from early this morning about just being content to be. The littlest things are bringing me the most satisfaction these days. I thought of the art and Zen of a tomato sandwich shared with a dear friend with heartfelt conversation – little pleasures that no amount of money could buy. I bid Rosa goodbye with great contentment as I watched her walk down the street towards home. Good bye dear friend. Until tomorrow.

Mozart and Aliens

I can remember my first experiences with paranoia and schizophrenia. I was a college freshman and had just left home for the first time. I can remember feeling as if I was constantly being watched and that I was an alien and looked weird. Everyone told me I looked normal and girls pursued me, but something was not quite right mentally. The delusions then started with me thinking I was the next Mozart-like musical prodigy and had super musical abilities and powers. I would compose sweeping and strange musical compositions on the piano spending hours over at the music building until late at night. My voice performance professor at the time praised my singing abilities constantly and this only served to reaffirm my delusions.

My second year of college was when I began to withdraw from the world like an autistic child. I discovered alcohol and felt better (or so I thought) for the first time in years. I would drive way out into rural areas on dirt roads away from the constantly watching and prying eyes of my peers and drink beer until comfortably numb. This got to be a nightly occurrence and my grades and friendships began to suffer greatly.

"You're drunk again," my good friend and college roommate would say when I would enter the dorm room way after midnight. He was genuinely concerned about me, and my schizophrenia and drinking ruined our friendship.

I continued to think I was an Alien and super musical prodigy until my third year of college. Amazingly, I managed to hold on to my scholarship somehow and stayed for three long years. My college experience ended with me going into an alcoholism treatment center in Atlanta.

"We hope you can come back," one of my professors told me as I was leaving. "You have a musical gift."

My father thought it was just alcohol and I had fallen into the trap common to some college students – drinking with friends. Little did he know that my drinking would become a lifelong love affair with dire consequences.

Life continued on with me taking a string of jobs over the years. Each job would end with me quitting after growing irascibly paranoid that my bosses and coworkers were conspiring against me and were after me and out to get me. I would be under the delusion that I would be fired anyway and would beat them to the punch. I can proudly say I was never fired from a job. Reality was that my bosses and coworkers loved me. They thought I did a bang up job and I was always one of the hardest of workers. That is the irrationality of the paranoia and delusions of schizophrenia.

A miracle happened when a new doctor diagnosed me as schizophrenic and prescribed Zyprexa. Within two weeks, my life immeasurably changed. I got a very good paying job at a major university in research. I got married and bought a new house and car. I still drank, but I could moderate it to the point where it wasn't detrimental to my life. I had found my Holy Grail and new lease on life.

I felt too good though and quit taking my medications. I thought everyone was trying to control me with those pills and was terribly sleepy all the time due to the Zyprexa. I thought I was cured like many schizophrenics before me – a common trap for us. Life degraded fast putting my then wife through hell. It was about this time that I found religion and began to do what I called deciphering the Bible. I quit my good job at the University due to what I believed was a grander calling and would spend all day on the internet reading religious websites and writing grand, convoluted, and incoherent essays about religions, the Bible, Jesus and God. Every night would find me glued to the television to get my nightly dose of modern scripture from Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. I was writing a new book to the bible and was an apostle.

The story ends with me a drunken and crazy homeless bum. My poor ex-wife had had enough and gave up on me. I was bitter for the longest time repeating for better or for worse. I couldn't believe she had betrayed me. It took my parents swooping in to save me as they have often done over the years. I had learned my lesson about not taking my medications and about drinking which actually exacerbates my symptoms when I thought it helped. Life these days is a pleasant status quo. Schizophrenia still lurks on the horizon, but with proper management I am able to live about as normal as I ever will be. I still have half my life ahead and me and let's hope it isn't like the preceding fifteen years of drunken un-medicated hell.

Content to Just Be

My favorite radio program ended after midnight. I donned my backpack and climbed aboard my trusty Schwinn mountain bike and rode down to Fat Albert's convenience store in the cool and humid night air. I walked into the store and prepared a large cup of hot chocolate and purchased a red hot pickled sausage.

"Will that be all?" Kim, the clerk, asked as I handed over some cash.

"Yes ma'am," I said, leaving the store to sit outside on the bench and drink that frothy concoction.

I managed to escape the usual hundred questions about Carolyn and whether or not I have talked to her or seen her. She worked at Fat's for years.

As I sat there sipping on my hot chocolate, I thought about life and what I wanted to do with the many decades ahead of me. Most people have school, careers, families, grand aspirations, etc. I read a lot of journals and there seems to be a lot of much ado about nothing – people always living frenetic lives filled with the cookie cutter sameness of a million other Americans.

"Certainly there has to be more to life than money, a job, kids, and keeping up with the Joneses," I thought. "Everybody does that."

I inhaled and exhaled deeply enjoying the night air as a welcomed calmness and peace overcame me. I realized I was exactly where I needed to be in life. I was content to just be – content just to be alive. There I was – sitting on a little bench outside a convenience store in the still of the night enjoying the greatest gift of all, life. I had finally found my grandest aspiration.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tylenol, Its what’s for Breakfast

My father once again accused me of "getting high" tonight because I slept through the prearranged time for me to walk over and get my medications. I was just taking a nap so I could stay up and listen to my favorite Saturday night radio program that airs until well after midnight. He thinks I am getting high off of Tylenol.

"How did you learn to get high off of aspirin and Tylenol?" he asks me as I was sitting on my bed blearily getting dressed.

I laughed and it just served to piss him off more and he left huffily after giving me my schizophrenia medications.

I called Rosa and told her about it needing a friend to talk to.

"Dad thinks I am getting fucked up off of taking Tylenol," I say.

Rosa burst out laughing.

"That is so naïve," she says. "Every crack head and druggie in the world would be mainlining Tylenol if that were true."

"I know," I reply. "It is all so silly and rather tiresome. Now he will not speak to me for several days."

"You ought to go buy a case of beer or fifth of whiskey and sit in his backyard getting drunk," Rosa says. "Give him something real to worry about."

Rosa then asked me why I didn't take George on the drunken express tonight. I had to remind her that Saturday night is George's weekly poker night with all the crackheads over at Pookie's house.

"Well, let me go take about ten Tylenol and get a good buzz," I tell Rosa, sarcastically.

She laughed uncontrollably and then regained her composure to say, "I am coming over and we can have a Tylenol party."

I told her good night and hung up the phone with a big smile on my face.

Blogging for Fun and Readership

A long time reader asked me how I built up such a large readership in just one year. When I started this blog last April, I had two people reading, Pipe Tobacco and Annabel. I thought I would share some tips to help you build up a readership for your blog as well.

  • A little known fact about blogger is how to manipulate the next blog button. Every time you publish your blog it pings and puts you in the queue for the next blog to come up for people to browse. I downloaded JitBit macro recorder on my spare computer and set it up to automatically republish my latest blog post every minute. Be careful with this though or you will be blacklisted as a splog (spam blog). This was bringing in an average 5000 readers a day to my blog.

  • Comment on other blogs. I take an hour every day and hit the next blog button and read other people's blogs and comment on what they have to say. Make sure that your comment is relevant to the blog post of the author and that it is sincere or it will just be viewed as spam. I have met some of the coolest and most endearing readers by doing this. Laura of 2 LMZ farms comes to mind.

  • Look at some of the popular blogs such as Waiter Rant and emulate what they do. I realized a long time ago that writing dialogue could make a rather mundane day or interaction seem interesting and fun to read. Waiter taught me this.

  • Sign up for all the major blog directories such a Blogarama, Blog Catalogue, Blog Shares, etc. These social networking sites bring in a few readers everyday and maybe one or two will stick around.

  • Ping all the major blog search engines after publishing every post. There are over fifty blog search engines and programs such as Blog Blaster make this a simple click and forget affair. This causes these search engine's spiders to come and crawl your blog. One of my biggest search hits is "Car Living" about the time last summer I lived in my car for a few weeks.

  • What about traffic exchanges such as BlogExplosion? There are several of these services and they are bullshit in my opinion. Thrifty people must surf for credits and visit a blog for 30 seconds to earn a half credit. Each full credit brings you one visitor to your blog, but they can't directly bookmark your blog to come back. They have to do it through a proprietary service offered by the traffic exchange. I also feel the fact that lazy or time constrained bloggers can just buy thousands of credits thus spamming the browsing experience causing it to be tedious to earn credits the old fashioned way. I've tried this and it brought no traffic to my blog that consisted of lasting and contributing readers. Don't waste your time or hard earned money.

  • Lastly, blog for fun and they will come. I wouldn't blog if I just didn't love writing and sharing it with others. The comments I get every day from my blogging friends brings me immeasurable joy. Thank you all for reading and the time you take by interacting with the blog and improving the quality of my life. I hope this little write up was helpful. Now go and blog so I will have something to read! :0)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Kinder Times with Poppa

I arrived home last night from driving George for about an hour and called my parent's house.

"Come over and get your medications," My father says after answering.

I walk over with my flashlight lighting the way. The back door is open and I take a seat in the den as my father hands me the handful of pills and vitamins I must take every night. He made sure I took them and then sat in the chair next to me as his cat, Macy, jumped into his lap purring furiously.

"How was your day, son?"

"I had a good day, today," I reply.

"What did you write about on your journal?"

"Oh, I wrote about Rosa eating supper with me and then asking me how Cain from the Bible managed to get a wife."

My father laughed.

"Your grandfather used to ask your grandmother that all the time and it would piss her off," Dad says.

"I wish I could have known him," I reply, solemnly.

"He would have taken you fishing and hunting all the time," Dad tells me. "You would be two peas in a pod."

My mother walks into the room and sits on the sofa. She is wearing her nightgown and starts to ask my father questions interrupting our conversation.

"Not tonight," my father says, stopping her. "I've worked all day and had a hundred thousand questions for ten hours straight."

My mother doesn't protest and just sits quietly and listens.

"What did you cook for supper?" Dad then asks me.

"I fixed some grilled cheese sandwiches and some minestrone soup by a recipe I got off the internet. It was delicious."

"You always were the best of cooks," Dad says. "I want you to bake your signature lasagna one night for me."

"I would love too," I reply. "It would bring me joy."

My medications were kicking in causing my eyelids to feel as if they were made of lead. It was time for me to head home and go to sleep and curl up with Maggie.

"Love you," Dad says as I get up from my chair. He reaches out for my hand.

"Love you, too," I say as I clasp it and then leave to walk on home.

I know some of my recent posts have been disparaging about my father, but he is a good man who loves me deeply. No other person has stood by me through all I have gone through with my illness and homelessness. If it wasn't for him, I would probably be some mentally ill drunken street person talking to himself on some derelict street corner in an inner city. I love you Poppa.

Email Roundup

Here are some paraphrased questions I have been asked via email lately. I am a dufus with email and it incites my social anxieties so I thought I would answer them here instead for all to read. I get so many emails that I am going to take down that link on my blog and have given up on trying to respond to them all.

You took down anonymous comments. I can no longer comment on your blog. Why?

I have found that nine times out of ten that anonymous comments are negative, cowardly and hurtful. My honesty about my mental illness and addictions invites derision. It takes five minutes to sign up for a blogger account if you want to comment or you can always email me. I might not answer back, but I do read them.

I was dismayed when you went commercial on your blog. The advertisements are distracting. I urge you to take them down.

I get this email a lot. My income is $837 dollars a month. I am allowed to make an extra $600 dollars a month working part time without penalty. Because of my schizophrenia, paranoia, and social anxieties, I cannot work a traditional job for long without life getting fucked up. I put up the advertisements in an effort to better support myself and to increase the quality of my life. I have made over $600 dollars so far with them. So you can see that it is well worth my time. I hope you will overlook the ads and enjoy the written content.

Do you make this stuff up? Your life seems so interesting and you say you have social anxiety, but you have a vibrant social life. My life consists of going to work, coming home, watching TV, and going to bed. The same is for my wife.

If I made this stuff up, I could write about wildly more interesting things than the conversation du jour of I and Rosa – conversations and interactions filled with intrigue, sexuality, and adventure. You are reading little vignettes of my life – the little interesting ten percent I wish to share and enjoy writing about. The other ninety percent of my life is usually me sleeping, smoking my pipe, browsing the internet and voraciously reading books in my lazy boy lounge chair. I am sure you don't want to read about all that. I also think my writing about my life with dialogue makes things seem far more interesting than they really are.

I found you via I notice you do not write a lot about schizophrenia compared to the other blogs on there. Is there a reason why?

I have read some of those very same blogs like you and find they are tiring. Some of these blog authors seem to obsess about their illnesses and pontificate endlessly about their medications and doctor visits. It comes across as obsessive to me. I have schizophrenia, but I try not to let it define me. Yes, I do deal with it and it's symptoms on a daily basis, but I choose not to write about it often. I don't want the blog to become another whiney, let's bitch about our mental illness blog. If I wrote about my schizophrenia all the time, this would be a very dark and brooding journal. It is a personal choice of course. You may find those other blogs your cup of tea.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dan Rather, the Prophet

Rosa was standing in my kitchen next to me as I made grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches this afternoon. A pot of homemade minestrone soup was bubbling on the stove.

"I got asked a question today and I didn't have an answer," Rosa says as we stand there. "And it made me think."

"What was it?" I ask, intrigued, as I flipped the grilling sandwiches so they wouldn't burn.

"Where did Cain's wife come from? Was it his sister?"

I laughed.

"Now that question would throw the Christians into a frenzy," I say.

"What do you think?"

"I don't know and I don't care," was my response.

"Didn't you used to be big on religion?" Rosa asks.

"Yeah," I said. "I read the Bible and I also thought Dan Rather was a prophet and was sending me scripture through the television."

"Dan Rather?!" Rosa asks as she smiles incredulously.

"Don't ask," I say. "I was crazy."

I fix Rosa and me a plate of a sandwich and a bowl of piping hot soup. We walk into my den to sit and eat as we watch The Weather Channel.

"Monday is my first mental health support group meeting I am starting," I say as I take a bite of my sandwich as the melted cheddar oozes out of the other end.

"You're really passionate about this, aren't you?" Rosa says. "It's all you have talking about for days."

"I am scared shitless as well," I reply. "I am so worried only one person is going to show up and then I will have to fill an hour with conversation. You know me and my social anxieties."

I put down my plate and walked over to my computer desk to get the flyer I made and then handed it to Rosa.

"This looks great," she says.

"I am going to drive down to Kinko's and have a bunch of copies made," I reply. "Driving George tonight is going to pay for it."

"What kind of refreshments are you going to have?"

"Soda, diet soda, pimento cheese finger sandwiches, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and coffee," I reply.

"Okay," Rosa says as she smiles. "I am coming with you Monday to support you. Just don't expect me to talk."

"It will probably be just me and you anyway," I reply.

We finish our meal and Rosa leaves to walk home after giving me a hug goodbye. I feel one hundred percent better about Monday now that Rosa is coming with me. With her help, I think I can get through this.

The Support Group Idea Grows

I contacted the local Mental Health Clinic this afternoon and they said they would be glad to refer people to my new support group. They will also allow me to put up flyers in the lobby where clients pick up their medications. Now, I need to call the local psychiatric ward of the hospital and see if they would be willing to refer people as well.

I talked to Philip, the local patriarch and committee member at our AA meeting hall. He said I could use the meeting hall as long as it didn't conflict with AA meetings. He also said I must pay for the refreshments, heating and cooling costs. I am going to ask my father to help with this until donations will pay for these expenses.

I am so afraid that for the first few weeks I am going to be the only person there sitting alone.

I made up a flyer to print and place around in various places. I removed addresses and phone numbers for privacy purposes to show on the blog. Click for a larger view.

Keeping up Appearances

My father asked me last night why I never drive my car. There are many reasons. One is that I don't want to be a slave to the big oil overlords and will not pay these high gas prices. Two is I have a lot of paranoia surrounding driving. Three is that I just genuinely like walking. My medications for my schizophrenia can cause terrible weight gain and the walking helps me lose weight.

"How many miles have you put on that car since I gave it to you two years ago?" Dad asked.

"Three thousand," I replied. "I am going on my seventh week on the same tank of gas."

"I have a lot of people saying they see you walking around town and they ask if you can't drive," he then said.

"Ah, don't worry about what those assholes think," was my response. "I certainly don't."

"Well, it makes you look poor," Dad replied. "Most people don't walk these days and have a car."

I then realized that my father was embarrassed by my walking. We live in a car centric culture and it is a status symbol. Times have certainly changed in the past twenty years. My mother, the teacher, would always walk to work many miles every day in the late sixties. Now she would be embarrassed to do so and it would be considered eccentric or abnormal for a teacher to walk to work. Even as a very young child, I always walked to school and would walk home to my grandmother's house. Now, kids have to be driven everywhere.

There seems to be some certain kind of social engineering going on these past few decades. There isn’t any money to be made by people walking, but there is lots of money to be made by people driving – car repair, gas costs, oil changes, tires, etc. All of these items are often taxed heftily. Sidewalks are removed to make way for widened roads. The bike racks of my youth have long been replaced by the expansive black asphalt parking lots.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Arch and Keystone

I and Rosa are walking back from fast food row. Charlie's wife gave me a bunch of coupons for free double cheeseburgers at Burger King. It is a beautiful day with a brisk breeze. The national weather service has issued a red flag warning because of that wind and the low humidity. Rosa went to great effort to "dress up" today and wasn't wearing that ubiquitous baseball cap she always wears. Her hair is pulled up into a bun with great care almost looking Pentecostal. Lipstick adorns her lips and a make-up base covers the blemishes on her cheeks.

"I can't believe we just walked a mile for a free cheeseburger," Rosa said with a sarcastic air to her voice as she grinned.

"I'm a cheap son of bitch and can't pass up a deal," I reply as I smile.

"How did the doctor visit go?"

"I'm blasé about the whole affair. I no longer care. I just want a quiet and serene life with little drama. They can do what they want."

We pass in front of that grand old abandoned cotton mill. In the huge parking lot across from it next to that little park I like to inhabit on my nightly walks, a traveling fair has set up camp. A big Ferris wheel towers into the sky and the smell of roasting peanuts and cotton candy wafts near us upon the air. It brings back fond memories of my childhood and the yearly fair that would pass through town. It was good to know that kids of this modern age are getting to enjoy such things as well.

"Do you ever have days that you want to use so bad you can't stand it?" I ask Rosa speaking of our addictions.

"Oh, God," Rosa says. "I hate those days. I usually call you when that happens."

"There is a new injection out for alcoholics that you get once a month," I say. "It is supposed to stop the cravings and the 'high' you get from alcohol."

"Are you going to take it?" Rosa asks.

"I asked my doctor today about it and he wouldn't prescribe it. He says he needs to read more about it. It is too new."

I and Rosa then head on over to the dollar store so she can buy a backpack. Her old one has grown threadbare. I stand aimlessly as Rosa shops and picks out the perfect pack. It reminds me of all the times my ex-wife would drag me along on her shopping trips and I would do this very same thing.

"Call me tonight," Rosa says as we walk out of the store.

"I'll call after supper," I say.

We part ways and I walk on home. As I walk, I think of me and Rosa's friendship. Never before have I felt so comfortable with someone. It is a wonder to me – a man who suffers from extreme social anxiety. She almost has a magical way about her. I now firmly believe some higher power or being put her in my life for a reason. I am the arch and she is my keystone.

Mental Health Adventures

I handed the store clerk a $5 dollar bill to pay for my coffee and cigars.

"Do you need a lighter?" She then asked trying to make an extra sale.

"No thanks," I replied as she handed me my change.

It was a beautiful morning as I walked home. Very cool, but I must enjoy mornings such as these as the sultry days of a southern summer will soon be upon us. I passed the many houses along the way – the occupants just waking for another day. The Episcopalian church was on the corner and I marveled at its beautiful architecture. If I were a religiously inclined man, I would go to this church with its grand procession of Scottish bagpipes every Sunday at service's end.

I arrived home to the phone ringing. That sound causes my anxiety to skyrocket. I waited until my answering machine picked up. It was my father.

"Remember you have a psychiatrist's appointment at ten," he said. "I and your mother are going with you."

"Damn!" I thought. I was feeling agoraphobic today and not in the mood for some grand mental health adventure. I also don't like my parents going to the doctor with me because I cannot talk candidly with my doctor about the mental and family issues I am experiencing.

"I am going to ask the doctor to give you something for your nerves," he said.

"As long as it won't fuck me up and isn't addictive," I replied.

"I think I am going to ask him to try Klonopin," Dad said.

I sighed deeply and audibly.

"What's wrong?" my father asked.

"I just feel you all are trying to drug me up," I said. "If I wanted to be drugged up then I would drive down to Fat Albert's and buy a case of beer. That always worked wonders for my anxiety and schizophrenia."

"We will talk about this with your doctor," Dad said huffily and we got off the phone.

What he really meant is that I will sit there quietly while he and my doctor discuss what they think is best for me. I will have little to no input in the process. Oh well, it could be worse. I could be dead, homeless, or bat shiat crazy. Look at the positive, Andrew.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Night Ride Home

George was solemn last night and wasn't drinking much. George has always been a happy drunk, but lately he has taken a turn for the mean and surly. I think it is just his alcoholism progressing. Someone asked why I am still carrying him around every night and it is simple. He is an old friend and I am not about to give up on him yet and I also need the money. It is a hundred dollars a week that I am making and I already live on a paltry income. That one hundred dollars makes a huge difference in the quality of my life these days and allows me to start saving money again. At one time, I had over $5000 dollars saved up and my new house exhausted that money.

I took George home around 9pm and picked up Rosa. We drove down to Sonic and both got a cherry limeade, my favorite drink. We sat in my car drinking them as we talked.

"You are quiet tonight," Rosa said, worried about me.

"I have my shot for my schizophrenia and blood work in the morning and I dread it," I replied.

"What kind of shot is it?"

"It is a huge needle and they inject it into my ass," I replied.

Rosa shuddered.

"Glad it's you and not me," she said.

I took Rosa home and then went by my parent's house to take my nightly schizophrenia medications. I was just sleepy and tired, but my father swore I had been drinking.

"Have you been drinking that mouthwash or beer again?" He asked.

I looked at him and said, "Dad, you know. I am a grown man and I don't particularly like being accused of something I haven't done. You take three Xanax a night to sleep and no one gives you a hard time and you are addicted."

I walked home disgusted and will just have to deal with the repercussions today some time.

VAfriend asked about my new house yesterday. I am all ready to move in except for two small items that need to be completed. My back steps have to be built and Maggie's dog door has to be installed. I am waiting on a friend of the family to do this instead of hiring an outside contractor (saving lots of money). My friend, Charlie, tried to get my father to move me in a month ago, but dad had a fit. He wants everything completed before I move.

Well, I am off to get some breakfast started. It is exactly 5am. Good day.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Brusque and Uncouth = George

It is 9pm. I and George are on our way to a nearby town to make a beer run. They don't sell beer here in our hometown on Sunday. It seems like everybody and their grandmother is on the interstate tonight. I curse at the traffic as big trucks blow past me as if I am standing still.

"Dammit!" I mutter, exasperated. "The speed limit is seventy."

I and George had just had a conversation about what he said to Rosa the other day – berating her for her colorful past.

"I was just playing around," George says.

"It wasn't funny and I didn't appreciate you doing that," I reply. "Rosa doesn't show it, but it hurt her feelings."

"What do you see in that chick anyway?" George asks. "She's nothing but an old whore and a crack head."

"She's a good friend with a very good heart when you get to know her."

"I still say you two are fucking."

I ignore George's callous response. We pull into a convenience store off the interstate as George goes inside to buy a cheap case of beer. He walks back out and cracks open a beer as soon as he sits back down in the car.

"Ah, I need that," George says after guzzling down the brew.

"George, you need a hobby other than drinking," I say.

George laughs heartily.

"You mean play with those toy trains like you?" he asks, incredulously.

"They are not toys," I reply, defensively. "Model railroading takes a lot of skill and is an art form."

"If you say so," George says as he cracks open another beer.

I leave the interstate and drive out towards God's Country. An hour passes and George has put a sizable dent in that case of beer after many roadside bathroom breaks. We finally pull up into his mother's driveway. George's mother turns on the porch light and stands at the front door.

"Hey baby," she tells me as I walk with George to the door to say hello. "Here is your twenty dollars."

"Thank you so much, Mrs. Jones," I reply.

"Do you want to come in for awhile?" she asks.

"I better head on home," I reply. "It is getting late."

We bid each other goodbye and I get in my car to drive home. I had had enough of George tonight and was tired. George was unusually brusque and uncouth. I earned every bit of that twenty dollars putting up with him. I soon collapsed in the bed with Maggie and was sound asleep.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

TV on your Computer

I thought I would share what TV on your computer looks like with Windows Vista Media Center. I have a dual monitor setup where I can write on one screen and watch and record TV on the other. Here are some pictures of what it looks like. Click on an image to enlarge and get a more detailed view. It only took a few minutes to install this TV tuner card and set everything up.

The Channel Guide

Sleeping Beauty

My father is in Atlanta for a wedding this weekend. This means my mother is giving me my medications. Mom tickles me in that she wants to get it over with. I am supposed to take my medications before bed, but my mother will give them to me early in the morning so she can get it over with and go back to bed. That way she will not have to obsess over it and worry about it all day.

Ring. Ring.


"Come over and take your medications," my mother said on the other end.

I walked over and my mother was standing on the back deck in her house robe and bedroom slippers with my medications in one hand and a glass of water in the other. He hair was all amiss and lopsided.

"What are you going to do today, mom?" I asked as I took those many pills.

"I am going back to bed and sleep for the rest of the day."

"Did you sleep during the night?"


I don't see how my mother can sleep all night and then sleep all day. I have a hard time getting more than five hours of sleep. It must be a terribly loathsome way of living – sleeping your life away.

I have been brainstorming lately about starting a support group for mentally ill people here in the Valley. I already have a venue where we can meet as in the A.A. meeting hall. I am unsure how to attract people to come, though. I am aware that larger cities have such support groups, but in a small town such as this we do not. The nearest support group is a forty-five minute drive away (NAMI) and I cannot afford to drive down there more than once a month. I am going to contact the local mental health clinic come Monday and see if they will refer people. That seems to be my only recourse.

I then called Rosa around 8am.

"Did you sleep well?" I asked as she answered the phone.

"I slept like a log," she said as she yawned.

"Come over at twelve and help me eat the rest of this chicken spaghetti," I said. "I am going to fix some biscuits and make a green salad. Dad gave me some fresh garden tomatoes the other day."

"Sounds great," Rosa said sleepily.

"Oh," Rosa then said abruptly. "You didn't take those pills, did you?"

"I've decided I am not going to take them," I replied. "I would rather be an insomniac than sleep all the time. At least, I will be living life."

"I am proud of you," she replied.

Rosa told me she would see me at twelve and we said our goodbyes and hung up the phone.

I am now going to go make my biscuit dough and put it in a wooden bowl in the fridge and cut up my salad. I don't know if I can wait till twelve to eat. I am already hungry and that casserole is calling my name. Good day.

Tranquility Base

This evening found me in the kitchen cooking. I prepared Pioneer Woman's chicken spaghetti. Check out her blog. It is a great read and she is a wonderful photographer.

"This is absolutely delicious," Rosa told me as we sat eating. "And I am not much of a casserole person."

Rosa and I finished our meal and she helped me clean up the kitchen afterwards. I then fixed my mother a plate and I and Rosa walked over to my parent's house to give it to her. I introduced Rosa to my mom. They seemed to get alone quite well.

"Your parent's house is huge," Rosa said as we were walking home.

"I personally wouldn't want it," I replied. "It costs dad a fortune to heat and cool the damn thing."

Rosa finally left to go home and I readied myself for my nightly AA meeting. I drove myself to a nearby college town to the meetings held in an old former Catholic Church. I noticed Dana's, the Celtic Beauty's, car in the parking lot as I arrived.

"Hey stranger," she said as I walked into the meeting hall.

We talked for about ten minutes until the meeting started. I then shared some of my misgivings about I and my father's relationship and his recent attempts to drug me into submission. The consensus was that I should just say no and I agreed. Xanax is terribly addictive and I just knew I would be hooked in a matter of days. I also revealed for the first time in all the years I have been going to AA that I have a mental illness. I would never do this at the stodgy and conservative group in my hometown.

"I struggle with bi-polar," a lady told me as she came up to greet me after the meeting. "My doctor has me on lithium."

"I take lithium as well," I said. "Does it upset your stomach?"

"I always try to eat when I take it," she replied.

"Walk out to my car with me and let me give you my phone number," I told her. "That way you can call me if you ever need a friend to talk about mental health issues."

She did follow me out to my car and I wrote my number on a napkin. She asked me if it would be okay if she could call me tomorrow night when she got off of work. I told her I would be pleased to speak to her for awhile. I then left and drove on home and spent the rest of the evening working on my computers and installing a TV tuner card I had ordered on the internet. Saturday is George's poker night so we didn't go on the drunken express.

Well, let me head to bed. It has been a busy day.

Friday, May 18, 2007

One Pill Too Many

Rosa was giving me a hard time about my new medications this afternoon. My father took it upon himself to call his doctor friend and get me two new prescriptions for Xanax and Librium. I am to take them three times a day.

"I don't want to see you doped up," Rosa told me, worried.

"I have such terrible nerves, though," I replied. "Maybe they will help me."

"You will just sleep all the time," she said. "I used to take that shit and all it did was to make me hungry and sleepy – kind of like smoking dope."

I was caught in a corner and couldn't escape. My father will expect me to take all those pills every night with my medications for my schizophrenia. I didn't tell Rosa this, though.

"Will you promise me you aren't going to take that crap?" Rosa asked as we walked home from Rodger's Barbeque after lunch.

"I promise," I said, hoping I wasn't lying to my best friend.

The honest truth is that I want to feel different. I want to take those pills and sleep away my existence. I get so tired of dealing with my schizophrenia, my social anxiety, and my shaky nerves that I would welcome the escape. I realize I would just be substituting another substance for alcohol, though.

Alms for the Poor

"You're still kind of dopey," Rosa told me yesterday afternoon as we were sitting down at the shopping center.

"Well, dad gave me enough medication to anesthetize a horse," I replied.

"Did it feel good?" Rosa asked, always the consummate addict.

"It just knocked me out and I slept for sixteen hours straight," I said. "I feel like a new man this afternoon."

I and Rosa watched as one very grubby old man came walking up the sidewalk. He was stopping to ask shopping center patrons for spare change and was mostly being spurned. People would hurriedly walk past him without making eye contact as if he were a leper avoiding him at all costs.

"Who's this dude?" Rosa asked me.

"I don't know," I replied. "I have never seen him before."

He finally made his way to I and Rosa.

"Senor, my car is broken down and I need some money to buy a new battery," He said in a heavy Hispanic accent. "Can you spare some?"

I reached into my wallet and gave him a five dollar bill.

"Gracias senor," he said as he shook my hand profusely and then walked off.

"You are the biggest sucker," Rosa said. "He is just going to go drink with that money."

"It's not my place to judge," I said thinking of my own homeless days. "Besides, he looked like he needed a few drinks."

Rosa was angry with me for giving that old bum money, but I didn't care. I knew from my own homeless days that little comforts such as a beer or some smokes are what make life bearable. I gave the money unconditionally and it is not my place to judge. That is one of the biggest lessons my homelessness taught me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sometimes You Need Help

I have always been notorious for going it on my own. The rigors of my mental illness and addictions have caused me to become more humble over the years when asking for aid. I was having a terrible go of things with regards to my schizophrenia and my alcoholism this afternoon. It didn't help that I had over one hundred dollars in cash in my wallet left over from I and Rosa's night out. I was just beside myself with agony and agitation so I called my father a moment ago.

"Dad, I need your help," I said, shakily.

"What's wrong, son?"

"Will you keep my wallet tonight? I have driven down to Fat Albert's three times to buy beer, but managed to resist. I just don't trust myself with money at the moment."

"Walk over and I will unlock the backdoor."

I walked the short distance to my father's house and took a seat in the den as I handed my father all that money and my credit cards.

"I am so proud of you," he said as he sat down on the floor next to me and held my hand. "You did the right and responsible thing."

"I hate to bother you," I replied. "I just need some help."

"I know," he said as he squeezed my hand. "You just let me help you."

"Have you had some good comments on your journal today?" he then asked. "I know how important that is to you."

"I am so lucky," I replied. "I have some of the coolest and most supportive people reading my blog."

"What have you done today?"

"I spent a long time down at the shopping center with George and Rosa, and then Rosa came home with me for awhile."

"She doesn't take advantage of you and your condition does she?"

"No way – we are the best of friends."

Luckily, my father knows little of Rosa's past or he would be aghast at the company I keep.

"Let me give you something to take that will make you feel better," he told me as he got up to go into his bathroom.

"Now, this is going to knock you out and don't you dare tell your brother and sister I gave you this much to take," he said, handing me three Xanax and three Librium. "I want to see you take it."

I walked into the kitchen and took the pills with a glass of water as my father watched.

"You go home, go to bed and get some sleep," he said as he gave me a hug. "You will feel much better when you wake up."

I thanked dad, gave him one more hug and walked home. I am already feeling those medications and a sense of calm and a feeling of tranquility has overcome me. It is some much needed relief as I was quite literally beside myself. I hope I will be able to sleep soon.

Callous George

It is mid-morning down at the shopping center. A great congregation of the gang has gathered. Even that old standby, Cap-with-Tag-Guy, has made an appearance. He is stoically silent as always as he leans upon the nearby wall listening to his Sony Discman as he gyrates to the music.

"Hey chicken man," George tells Ferret laughing hilariously.

"Don't call me that," Ferret replies, sullenly.

I can't help but smile. George can be so unruly sometimes.

"How much for some breasts?" George then asks as he laughs even harder. "I like my breasts spicy."

For those of you new to the blog, Ferret is a long time friend who is now working over at Kentucky Fried Chicken. George loves to pick at Ferret about his crappy and menial job.

"If you don't shut up," Ferret says, "I am going to tell everyone about Pookie stealing your wallet yet one more time last night."

George clammed up quickly. I was interested in hearing about George's latest faux pas with Pookie.

"How much did she steal?" I ask George.

"I let her borrow it," George says, finagling the truth.

"Uh-huh," I say, not believing a damn thing George just said.

Ferret had enough of being berated by George and walked off just as Rosa was walking up. Rosa glared at George with a eat shit and die look.

"Here comes yo girlfriend," George says of Rosa to me.

"I wish he would go away," Rosa says to me quietly out of earshot of George as she sits down next to me.

"Been selling yo pussy lately?" George asks Rosa coarsely.

"Fuck you, you drunken lush," Rosa replies, not missing a beat.

George laughs. Big S is sitting next to Rosa and me upon the bench and he chuckles as well.

"George, have you been drinking?" I ask.

"Nope," George replies. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

"Let's walk back to your house," Rosa tells me as she gets up and grabs my hand.

"You better pull out your wallet cause you are gonna have to pay for a piece of that honkey ass," George says of Rosa, brusquely, as he laughs once again.

I glare at George with a piercing stare. I don't take kindly to him berating Rosa about her past. George doesn't have much room to talk as he has quite a few skeletons in his closet as well.

"I almost kicked that son of a bitch's ass," Rosa tells me, angrily, as we were walking home.

"Don't mind George," I say. "That is just his version of having fun."

"I don't know what you see in that old lush. It certainly isn't funny," Rosa says. "He is just not good company."

It is hard to explain me and George's camaraderie. We have been friends for years now. I have a sneaking suspicion that George had had a few drinks thus loosening his tongue today. George sure did go a long way this morning in burning the remnants of the bridges between him and the gang. He will sober up and hopefully realize how much of an asshole he was.

The Road More Traveled

The midnight hour has long since passed. I look at my watch as I walk and it reads 3am. I am on mile three of my nightly hike and am running out of steam. My old nemesis, schizophrenia, has hit me hard tonight.

"Does it ever end?" I say to myself as I hike. "I get so tired of dealing with this damn disease."

Thus is the cyclical nature of my mental illness. It ebbs and flows much like the tide – many times hitting me when I least expect it.

"I now know why so many schizophrenics commit suicide," I say, furthering my conversation with myself. "Death is the only peace of mind from this terrible affliction."

My paranoia strikes hard as I walk down a darkened back street on my way to my home. Haunted by my vivid imagination and the misfiring synapses of my mind – I am tormented by the voices in my head.

"You deserve to go to hell," they say. "You are a terrible person. God hates you."

Shadowy figures meld in and out of the darkness. I shudder in fear.

"You deserve to die," the voices continue. "Why don't you just end it all? You would be doing the world a favor."

I look at my watch again turning on the indiglo feature to light its face. The time is now 4am. The last hour has passed by in what seemed like a millisecond. I am walking by that little convenience store run by the Middle Eastern men. A lone neon Budweiser sign blinks in the window beckoning for me to come inside and buy a few beers. I am drawn to that mesmerizing light like a moth to a flame.

"One beer won't hurt," I tell myself. "Alcohol will calm the voices and let you sleep."

"No, dammit!" I then say as rationality hits. "You may never be able to quit drinking again you fool."

The voices in my head play on my foibles and increase in intensity. I finally arrive home, take a shower and sit down to write this. A lone tear erupts and rolls down my cheek as I try to capture in words what happened tonight. The nightmare that can be my life and the intensity with which it is lived is more than I can bear. It is times like these that I would normally turn to mind altering substances to change how I feel and alter my reality for a brief few hours – anything to feel better or just different.

"One day at a time," I tell myself as blissful and escaping sleepiness overcomes me. "Take it one day at a time."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Beauty comes in all Forms

There she was – standing at her front door waiting on me. She looked gorgeous and I almost couldn't believe it was the same Rosa I have been hanging out with for the past many months – the same Rosa who was once homeless, smokes cigars, wears men's t-shirts, blue jeans, and old women's boots.

"Dear god girl," I said, astounded, as I got out of the car to open the passenger's side door for her. "You look ravishingly beautiful and fantastic."

"Thanks," Rosa said as she smiled broadly and blushed – eating up the positive attention.

We arrived at the Italian bistro after a short drive and they gave us a small and secluded corner table in the back of the almost empty restaurant. Upon the table was lit a single candle creating a romantic and cozy ambiance of subdued light. Italian arias were playing softly on the sound system. I ordered us an appetizer of fried calamari, fried vegetables, and marinara sauce – and soon, after that, the main courses arrived.

"How are your clams and linguini?" Rosa asked as we sat eating.

"Great," I replied. "You want to try it?"

"I'm not much on seafood," Rosa said, turning up her nose to my clams.

Rosa's chicken parmesan looked and smelled delicious as well. Rosa didn't leave a bite on her plate which pleased me to know she enjoyed it so much. The only mar on the dining experience was the length of time it took our server to bring our check after eating. That is one of my pet peeves about sit down restaurants. I finally got up to catch our server and ask for our check. He brought it out to us shortly afterwards apologizing profusely.

"Thank you," Rosa said as I was driving us home. "Thank you for treating me like a lady. Not too many men have done so in my life."

"You're welcome," I replied, having genuinely had a wonderful evening. "I only wish I could afford to do this more often."

"Next time, I will treat you," Rosa said. "You know – women's lib and all."

I smiled as I reached over to hold my best friend's hand. The evening would prove even more interesting as it progressed after dropping Rosa off at her home, though.

I left Rosa's house and managed to make it to my nightly AA meeting just in time for it to start. I was very pleased to find a young black man in attendance. I have been hoping that if more black people were to come to these meetings then George and Ferret might be tempted to attend as well. Calamity struck though as one of the curmudgeons that is the group's old-timers had to rain on the proverbial parade.

"Hi, I am Carlos and I am an alcoholic and an addict," the young black man said as we went around the room introducing ourselves.

"There are other meetings for addicts," Bob, an old timer, spoke up and said – interrupting the introductions. "This is a closed meeting for alcoholics only."

The young black man looked extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable at first, and then haughtily got up and escaped out the front door of the meeting hall.

"Screw this shit," we all could hear him mumble huffily as he left and slammed the front door.

I grew so angry. These stodgy old-timers are the bane of our local AA group. They are one of the main reasons I have been driving the long drive to a local college town to catch my meetings – meetings filled with young and compassionate people with a finger on the pulse of the modern alcoholic.

"I thought that was terrible, Bob," I said, speaking up, causing the whole room to grow uncomfortable and await Bob's reaction. My hands were shaking I was so nervous for doing that and I surprised myself because my social anxieties would normally cause me to shy away in horror at doing such a thing.

Another lady in the group agreed with me and got up to leave. Old Bob crossed his arms in a defensive posture as he sat and stayed steadfast in his opinions and views. I was tempted to get up in protest and walk out as well.

The meeting ended and I walked out of the meeting hall with a resolve to never visit this certain chapter of AA again. I am going to miss my good friend Wanda, but I just can't take people in genuine need getting thrown to the curbside like that due to some goddamned technicality. There are many more AA meetings in the area with which I can grace my presence. I just hope that one young man didn't go off and get drunk or use because of one stodgy old fart in AA. This is not the first time this has happened with this very same group. I wash my hands of them.

The Softer Side of Rosa

I was sitting down at the shopping center at lunchtime today. I had just stopped by the little Korean restaurant and ordered stir fried chicken and rice foregoing Rodger’s Barbeque. I was deftly eating my lunch with wooden chopsticks as Rosa sat next to me on the bench near the dollar store.

“Don’t Koreans eat dogs and cats?” Rosa asked, brusquely.

I smiled and cringed at the same time.

“If they do, then this is some damn delicious canine and feline,” I replied, amused.

I immediately thought of my blogging bud Abbagirl and her mother’s delicious Korean cuisine. What Rosa said was terribly non politically correct, but she didn’t mean any harm. It was an ignorance brought about by not visiting much of the world other than the states and this little corner of the world we live in.

“Wine me and dine me tonight,” Rosa then said.

“You mean a formal date?” I asked.

“I want to go to the little Italian restaurant down in the Valley for dinner,” she said. “I have been craving chicken parmesan.”

“How ‘bout I pick you up at five,” I said, glad to have something interesting to do for a change.

“I am going to knock your socks off tonight,” Rosa said, gleefully. “You know that shirt you bought me at the mall? I am going to wear that with some dressy pants and will put on makeup and lipstick. You won’t even recognize me.”

I hadn’t seen Rosa so excited by something in a long time. I was glad to give her something to look forward to tonight. Despite Rosa’s burly demeanor and appearance, she is still a woman at heart. I have often been seeing the softer side of her recently as we have become closer and closer friends. She puts on a masculine and steely persona from years of living a hard life, but that front seems to be breaking down lately.

“Are you going to dress up?” Rosa then asked.

“I am going to knock your socks off as well,” I said as I smiled. “I will wear my favorite button up shirt, some khaki pants, and my leather dockside shoes with navy socks just for you.”

“We are going to have so much fun tonight,” she said, giggling as she gave me a hug. “I can’t wait.”

I left Rosa sitting on that bench smoking cigarettes to walk down to the bank to withdraw enough cash to fund tonight’s dinner date. Oddly enough, I am looking forward to this as well. The last date I went on was with my ex, Carolyn, and we ended up fighting and arguing for most of the evening. I realized it was the death knell for our relationship which ended shortly afterwards. Let’s hope I and Rosa’s date is without such negative drama. I am sure we will have a grand time.

A Pill for Every Occasion

One of the perks of having a father who is a pharmacist whose best friend is a doctor is that medications are readily available. My father feels there is a pill for every occasion. Last night as I was taking my nightly medications for my mental illness, I told him of not being able to sleep for months. He gave me two Librium and I slept like a baby through the whole night for the first time in the longest time.

“Don’t take both of them at once,” he told me knowing me all too well.

I walked home and took both of them before bed anyway.

My mother is on a plethora of medications for her schizophrenia. They cause her to sleep around the clock - severely reducing the quality of her life. Personally, I would rather be crazy than live such a life, but I would never dare tell my father that. My mother is complacently medicated much to my father’s relief. It is all rather sad if you think about it.

At one point in my life, I was on the same medications as my mother. I slept all the time and could barely hold down a job. My then wife would grow so exasperated with me.

“Something’s wrong in that you need to sleep all the time,” she told me.

“It’s my Zyprexa for my schizophrenia,” I replied.

Rachel didn’t believe me so I talked her into taking one pill just to prove a point. She slept for twenty four hours straight and never again gave me a hard time about sleeping due to my medications.

De Rigueur

I was reading Cheryl's blog this morning and she was writing about worrying that she sounds like a broken record as far as her blog is concerned. I worry about the same. My days constitute of the same routine: I and Rosa going to get breakfast, lunch at Rodger's Barbeque, hanging out at the shopping center in the afternoon, my nightly AA meeting and then taking George on our nightly drunken express. I am a creature of habit and have to live this way to do well with my illness. I am thinking of only writing when something out of the ordinary happens. I realize the blog is getting boring and my writing has been milquetoast lately. I try so hard to write about the mundane in an interesting way, but I have found myself struggling with things to write about lately. I don't want the blog to become the daily conversation between Rosa, George, and I unless that is what you all want to read which I doubt. Let me know what you all would like to see on the blog. I need your input. If you get enjoyment out of the blog then I do as well.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Ladies of the Night

Spent most of yesterday working on computers. My friend Charlie brought me his wife's computer that had quit working. I immediately knew what was wrong and changed the power supply and got it working again. Charlie was overjoyed when he came to pick it up and take it home as I had saved him hundreds of dollars. I also put together a new and much faster computer yesterday for myself and am pleased. I finally just broke down and charged some computer parts to my credit card. My old computer is on its last legs and will now become a file server for my music and videos. That's about all it is good for.

Rosa called me last night as I was crawling into the bed. We ended up talking for what seemed like hours. She asked me a hundred questions about my former marriage.

"What was your ex-wife's favorite thing to do?" she asked as I was lying in the bed on my cordless phone.

"Rachel loved to eat out," I replied. "We spent a fortune eating out while we were married. I would have rather we stayed at home and cooked."

"What kind of food?"

"Anything Asian or Chinese," I replied. "We would drive all the way up to Atlanta just to eat sushi or bento boxes."

"I never did like Chinese," Rosa said. "It always looked like something a cat threw up."

I laughed.

"Why couldn't she have children?" Rosa then asked.

"Rachel had polycystic ovary syndrome," I replied. "Her ovaries were filled with cysts interrupting egg production."

"Did you own your house?"

"I took out a mortgage and bought our house just before I and Rachel got married," I said. "I gave it to Rachel in the divorce along with the payments. Rachel got our new Volkswagen as well. I didn't want it or the payments. It was a chick car."

It was my turn to ask questions.

"What was your daughter's father like?" I asked Rosa. "And were you two married?"

"Oh, hell no," Rosa replied. "We were never married. Peter was a bastard who loved me and left me. I haven't seen him in twenty years."

The conversation then took a nose dive into the gutter as I and Rosa got to talking about her past prostitution days.

"What was the the weirdest thing about being a hooker?" I asked.

"Weird men wanting anal sex," she said. "I drew the line at that. Nobody was sticking their strange wanger up my poop chute."

I burst out laughing.

"Was it scary?"

"It could be," Rosa said. "I was so hooked on crack that I would have done anything for my next fix, though. The thought of getting your next rock overcame your fears. You got used to it."

"What was the worst thing about prostituting?" I then asked.

"The police," Rosa said. "The police would harass us ladies of the night. When I lived in Atlanta, their police were the worst – bunch of corrupt bastards. I spent many a night in jail waiting on one of my working girlfriends to come and bail me out."

"Did you make good money?"

"I made damn good money," Rosa said. "I would charge $20 dollars for a blow job or hand job, and $40 dollars for a missionary style screw. I smoked it all up in my crack pipe, though."

The midnight hour had arrived and I yawned deeply. Rosa told me goodnight and that she would see me in the morning. I hung up the phone, rolled over, and went to sleep for a few hours. I love I and Rosa's talks. She has lived such an interesting life.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

No Beer after 2am

It's early Sunday morning on Mother's Day. I am on the last leg of my nightly three mile jaunt. I stop by my favorite convenience store for a demitasse break and to see my favorite clerk.

"I love Sunday mornings," the clerk says exuberantly as I step up to the counter to pay for my cup of coffee.

"Why?" I ask, intrigued.

"We stop selling beer at 2am," he says. "All the drunken crazies go home and go to sleep."

I smile. I know the drunk and crazy role all too well.

"Had this one guy come in at midnight," the clerk furthered. "He was so drunk he could barely stand up. I wouldn't sell him any beer and told him to leave. He said he was coming back in the morning when I get off to kick my ass. Can you believe that?"

I could believe it. I worked at this same store on third shift for over a year. I have vivid memories of the drunken shenanigans some of the patrons would pull after midnight and before. Nothing would surprise me after being a convenience store clerk for so long.

"He's long home in the bed sleeping off that drunk," I replied, trying to assuage the fears of my friend.

I finally found the bottom of my cup of joe and bid my favorite clerk goodbye. He was still talking as I escaped out the door. I was thirty minutes from home and headed that way.

Earlier in the evening had found me at a totally un-noteworthy AA meeting. George picked me up and I jumped into the driver's seat and we headed for the country on the drunken express. George broke with tradition last night and was drinking wine instead of beer.

"Why are you drinking wine?" I asked George as I drove.

"It was on sale," George replied, nonchalantly.

George had finished his second bottle when we arrived at a little small town on the outskirts of the county – those empty wine bottles clinking as they hit each other rolling around on the floorboard of the backseat. George had been quiet for awhile and then drummed up a conversation.

"I made $175 dollars at work yesterday," he said with a sly and drunken grin as he slurred his words.

"Holy shit!" I replied. "That is almost a quarter of what I draw in disability every month."

"It was a fluke," George said, drunkenly. "But it allowed me to pay off some debts I owed. Every time I would drop someone off, the phone would ring for someone else needin' a ride."

George's job is volatile income wise. One day he will make a hundred dollars – the next, he will only make twenty. I have often asked George why he just doesn't get a more mainstream job with a stable income and he told me he doesn't get along well with management types.

George was just finishing his third bottle of wine as I drove back into town. It was time for me to take him home and go about my nightly hike. George's mother will not let him bring alcohol into the house so I watched as George poured out the last few inches of wine left in that green bottle.

"Night man," I said as I handed him his keys.

"See ya my little white brotha," George said as he held out his hand for me to shake it.

I walked on home after shaking George's hand to get my backpack and gear for my walk. It was a pleasant night with all's well that ends well.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rolling Back the Clock of Life

The Sun peeked over the horizon this morning with a dazzling array of orange, red, and yellow amid bright blue skies with nary a cloud. I was sitting with my best friend, Rosa, in a local diner eating breakfast around 7am. The waitress had to come out to draw the blinds on the windows the sun was so bright to the east. I and Rosa both squinted until the shadow of those blinds overcame us with relief as they were drawn.

"I drank a six pack of beer last night," Rosa said eating a spoonful of her buttery grits with a wedge of half eaten toast in the other hand.

"What brought this on?" I asked, surprised, as I looked up after putting my newspaper down on the table. Rosa had my attention.

"I don't know," she replied. "I guess I just wanted to feel out of the ordinary. I am not much of a drinker though."

"I could have used a six pack myself last night. I was having a tough night."

"Remember the last time we drank?" Rosa asked.

"Vividly," I replied as I cringed. "We ended up in bed."

Rosa smiled coyly as she ate her last piece of bacon. The waitress then brought our ticket and I paid. Rosa and I left the restaurant and began the journey back to my home. I could feel a nap coming on.

"Do you ever think of me in that way?" Rosa asked as we passed over the small creek next to the dollar store.

"What way?" I reply. "Oh, you mean sexually."

I blush.

Rosa laughs and says, "You are so modest. I like that about you."

"My medications for my schizophrenia completely blunt my sex drive," I respond. "It is a known side effect. I can't remember the last time I was aroused so don't take it personally."

"We need to see about getting you on some Viagra," Rosa said as she reached out for my hand.

I burst out laughing.

"I am sure my father would just love me coming into his pharmacy and filling a prescription for Viagra. I can be the schizophrenic love machine."

Rosa giggled like a little school girl. I liked seeing this softer side of her. It was as if the clock of life had been rolled back twenty years. We were talking like teenagers again. We soon arrived back at my house and Rosa started to watch an old Batman movie on television. I and Maggie crawled into bed and took an hour nap. Now, I have the whole day ahead of me with a weather forecast of thunderstorms. It is going to be a damn good day. Hope you all have a great weekend.

No Gods of my Understanding

I sat surly and attention deficit in AA last night. I wanted to be anywhere but there and kept looking at my watch. That hour passed by excruciatingly slow. One elderly lady talked for twenty minutes about her pets and the hell they have been giving her lately. Yawn.

"This is when you need a meeting the most," I thought as I sat there drinking really bad coffee as I fiddled with the dollar bill I would later place in the donation basket.

The meeting ended with the entire group standing around in a circle reciting the Lord's Prayer. I couldn't wait to bolt out the door and light up a cigarette. My good friend Wanda was sitting next to the door of the porch puffing on a cigarette as well.

"You never share in these meetings anymore," she told me. "I haven't heard you share in weeks."

"I just haven't had much to say," I replied, apologetically.

"Well, when you share it really helps others."

I don't need this shit.

"I'll try to share tomorrow night," I replied.

There really aren't too many bad things going on in my life at the moment to bitch about. I have those minor quibbles with my father and his role as the family fixer, but other than that things have been good. I shudder to think if this is the calm before the storm as it often is. My natural tendency for self destruction often occurs when the pasture is greenest so to speak.

"Have you been working the steps?" Wanda then asked of those fabled twelve steps.

"I stopped at step two," I replied. "I just can't believe some mythical power higher than me is going to take away the urge to drink."

"It's a God of your understanding," Wanda said, correcting me and growing frustrated with my lack of belief.

"I just can't understand any gods," I replied.

I could see from the look on Wanda's face that she was growing exasperated. She had that "this guy is going to drink any day now" look I see often in AA. The people in AA think their way is the only way, but if you look at the statistics, the numbers that get sober with AA are abysmally small. I would love to see the results of a double blind research study with sugar water as the magical elixir placebo as it compares to going to these meetings.

"Who do you consider your higher power?" I ask Wanda.

I already knew the answer.

"My lord and God, Jesus," she replied.

I sighed as I put out my cigarette in the ashtray and bid Wanda goodnight. I walked home thinking about the steps and they just seemed so daunting to me. It reminded me of the trouble I had with college and those rigidly set paths to certain goals.

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

I took comfort in that I could at least get one step right: step one. I doubt I will ever get beyond step two. There is just something terribly distasteful about not taking responsibility for my past addictions and throwing it into the hands of some grand mythical pooh bah in the sky. I will take my chances with reality. I've had enough delusion in my life due to schizophrenia to last a lifetime. I don't want anymore.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Money Falling off Trees

I was so overjoyed to see Rosa out and about after lunch today. We were sitting down at the shopping center with the threat of thunderstorms on the way. A person who wrote me who reads the blog says I am codependent with my friends. Maybe I am, but it is a good codependent. I wanted to reply that they were a surly old judgmental cow. lol

"Are you still carrying around that drunk every night?" Rosa asks as she sits smoking a cigarette.

I was so glad to see her feeling her old self. Rosa hates George.

"Can you believe George's mother, Mrs. Jones, is paying me $20 dollars a night to do it?" I say.

"You're shitting me!" Rosa exclaims. "That is a hundred dollars a week!"

"She inherited some money from a relative that passed away," I reply. "That is how she could afford to buy George that new Buick."

"Money seems to fall off trees for you," Rosa says.

"I know," I reply. "I am pretty lucky, aren't I?"

Rosa and I then broke into a discussion about homelessness since we have both experienced it. I was telling her about the homeless guy and his recent forays into getting a home.

"He always blames everything and everyone else for his homelessness," I say.

"Well, from what you have told me that guy is a total idiot," Rosa replies.

"Oh, he is brilliantly smart," I reply. "He knows how to play the system to his advantage. He doesn't have to work. He gets three meals a day and shelter. Every time he decides he is tired of the streets he eventually manages to find a home."

"He is homeless by choice then," Rosa says.

"Exactly," I reply.

"What kept you homeless?" I then ask Rosa.

"The drugging," she replied. "Paying rent ate into my crack money and crack was more important. When I got clean and moved down here to get away from my old using buddies, I immediately found a place to stay."

"Same for me," I reply. "I was more interested in drinking copious amounts of beer all day and not taking my medications. I was crazy when I was homeless. When I sobered up my parents gave me a home."

"Do you realize how lucky you are that your father bought you a house?" Rosa says.

"Yeah," I reply. "But I do have to pay a price for it. Dad can be so overbearing."

"You are a Saint for putting up with him," Rosa says. "I would have told him to stick it where the sun don't shine."

I laughed. Rosa doesn't take shit off of anybody.

"Well, let me go get my haircut," I reply.

"Drive by the house afterwards," Rosa says. "I want to see how it looks."

I told Rosa I would and walked on home to get my car. If you have read for a long time then you know one of my biggest phobias is going to the get my hair cut and styled. Wish me luck!

Chemists try to Cure Crack Addiction

Chemists at Georgia Tech and the Mercer University School of Medicine have been trying to discover a drug that will help cocaine addicts break their habit. The team, led by Dr. Howard M. Deutsch, published their findings today in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Their strategy is to make a drug that gives addicts a sensation similar to cocaine without any risk of a deadly overdose. By replacing cocaine with a less dangerous drug, doctors will be able to slowly wean the addicts from their habit. Methadone has been used for years to help heroin addicts quit spiking up. The FDA more recently approved the drug Chantix to help people quit smoking.



Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Project

"You are going to be my project the next few weeks," my father told me this afternoon as I was taking my medications over at his house. "We're getting your mind straight and now we are going to work on your appearance."

"Oh, shit," I thought. This was going to be another of my father's grandiose plans to reinvent Andrew.

"Tomorrow, I want you to go get your hair cut and styled," he said, handing me forty dollars. "After that, I want you to start jogging with me every night."

"I have my job," I protested. "George's mom is paying me to drive him around every night."

I didn't mention the George drinking part.

"Why can't he drive?" my father then asked, much to my chagrin.

"He has a drinking problem like me and we don't want him to get another DUI."

"I never did like you hanging around that George," my father then said.

If it were up to my father, he would actually go so far as to pick my friends for me – no doubt, the boringly middle class automatons from his circle of friends.

"I want you to start dressing up everyday," he then said. "Take pride in yourself and your appearance for a change. Quit wearing those old t-shirts and blue jean shorts and for god sakes go buy you some new tennis shoes."

I was growing frustrated with this conversation. I hate "dressing up." My father can be such a busy body.

"I also want you to go down to the eye doctor and get some new contacts that you can wear. I will pay for them. You look better without glasses. I will get your mother to make an appointment."

Like I said, dad was trying to reinvent me. I had the choice of acting surly and non-cooperative or giving in and bowing down to my father's wishes. It is best not to make waves I decided. My father is one of the most headstrong and stubborn old goats I have ever encountered and I just didn't have the will nor the fortitude to contest him and his plans for me.

"Dad has put me on his reinvent Andrew plan," I told Rosa later on the phone.

"I get tired of how your father treats you," she replied. "You are thirty five fucking years old!"

"He means well," I said. "He just wants me to be upper middle class acceptable."

"Putting on airs you mean," Rosa replied.

I laughed.

"Yes, putting on airs."

A Sick Friend

I grew very worried when I didn't hear from Rosa yesterday. It is not like us to go a day without talking. I feared she had had another round with her crack cocaine addiction and was at the crack house. My worst fears were abated when I drove over to her house this morning. She was alive, but just barely.

"Sweetheart, I have been worried like hell about you," I said as she opened her front door after I knocked. "I didn't hear from you yesterday and you aren't answering your phone."

Rosa looked pasty and white – like death warmed over.

"I've got the old stomach flu," she said. "I haven't eaten since the day before yesterday."

I walked into Rosa's kitchen to check her cupboards and fridge for anything light I could fix for her. She badly needed groceries and didn't have anything to drink.

"I'll be right back," I told her as I left to go to the grocery store just up the street to buy some stuff for her.

I arrived back at Rosa's house after spending $30 dollars shopping. I pulled out a big pot from under her stove and started some homemade chicken noodle soup. I poured in cans of chicken stock and then emptied foil packages of white meat chunked chicken, sliced celery, carrots, wide egg noodles, and an onion. Rosa was also overjoyed that I had bought her two twelve packs of Sprite which is a soft drink that is easy on a sick stomach. Soon the smell of the chicken noodle soup was wafting throughout her house.

"Thank you so much," Rosa said as she stood in the kitchen next to me drinking a lukewarm Sprite. "That soup smells delicious. I am starving. I hope I can keep it down."

"That is what friends are for," I replied as I stirred the soup one last time and put the lid on. "Let this simmer for about an hour."

"Can you do me one more favor?" Rosa then asked.

"Sure," I replied. "You name it."

"Can you go by the convenience store and buy me some cigarettes? I ran out the day before yesterday and felt too ill to get out of the house to buy more."

I left and bought Rosa four packs of cheap cigarettes down at Fat Albert's and took them back to her. She surprised me with the haste at which she opened up a pack and lit up. Rosa was desperate for some smokes. I bid my friend good bye and told her to call me tonight to let me know if she was able to eat and was feeling better. The stomach flu is just one of those ailments that has to run its course. She will be fine in a few days.