Saturday, June 30, 2007

Temptations Abound

I sat down at the railroad tracks in the hot sun upon my favorite perch behind the bank before lunch. I was entertaining wild parties to be thrown when my big Adsense check gets here in a few days. I want to just pitch my tent in the woods and spend a couple of weeks drinking copious amounts of beer and listening to the weather band of the radio completely sequestered away from society. Can you tell I am struggling today? The better angels of my nature are on vacation.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sunlight Dancing in the Window

The sun sank low dancing in the window as I sat in last night's A.A. meeting. I watched oblivious to the internal goings-on as several black children played in the field across the street through the window. It was an open meeting with anything goes as the topic. I smiled as the little elderly cat lady talked about her cats. William, an always quiet and steadfastly silent man, then spoke up surprising me – his dirty and calloused mechanic's hands shaking from nervousness. He is such an awkward fellow reminding me of my own social anxieties.

"I've been a year without a drink and I still struggle," he said with his head hung low as he sat his coffee on the table to keep from spilling it.

"Alcoholism is a lifelong disease," Phillip, the wise patriarch, chimed in. "It will get easier. Just keep coming back and keep working the steps."

Wanda sat next to me drinking her own coffee. She had on the most wonderful perfume that teased my senses and her nurse's scrubs. Despite her advancing age, I noticed she is still a beautiful and alluring woman. I quickly looked away before she could catch me staring at her. I have always been enamored with older women shunning the younger models.

The meeting ended and I put a five dollar bill in the donation basket as it passed keeping in mind that I would have easily spent that on beer during my drinking days. Wanda walked up behind me and put her arm around my shoulder pulling me close.

"I hear you gave up on your support meeting," she said.

"I know," I replied. "I feel like a failure."

"Well, I think you are amazing just for trying to start something so hard," she said. "It took years for A.A. to take hold and get going."

Her saying that made me feel better. I seem to be able to start things, but have a terrible time finishing them. It is the story of my life. I gave Wanda another hug and quietly slipped out the backdoor to walk home. A cacophony of katydids greeted me in the humid summer air. Memories of my Memaw and nights spent on her porch drinking sweet iced tea and listening to said katydids came to mind. I realized that the here and now is what is important as you will never get a moment again. It is not about starting or finishing something. It is about living in the moment for tomorrow may never come. It took me 35 years to learn and realize that.

"Everything is going to be okay," I said to myself as I passed through the mill village and into the old part of downtown.

Everything is going to be okay…

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tijuana Mama

I have a new addiction. These pickled sausages called Tijuana Mamas. I bought four this morning along with two Surge energy drinks.

"You are going to get sick," Rosa said of my over indulgence.

I ate all four sausages and they are so hot that tears were pouring down my cheeks. I quickly drank both ice cold energy drinks.

"God, those are so delicious," I told Rosa, wiping the tears from my face.

Rosa looked at the label of one eaten sausage.

"They have pork and beef hearts in them!" she exclaimed. "That is just gross and you smell like vinegar."

I laughed.

"I could eat four more," I said.

Rosa and me left Fat Albert's to walk back up the street to my house.

"When do you finally move?" she asked as we walked.

"Tomorrow," I said. "I have been waiting on my internet to get hooked up."

I worry I am going to see much less of Rosa when I move. My new house is not in walking distance of all my favorite haunts. I will be dependent upon that damned car of mine. At least I will have much more independence from my family.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

As We Understood Him

My sometimes sponsor, Tim, had just gotten finished scolding me last night for not working the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve steps. I have come to the realization that these twelve steps are nebulous at best. A sponsor is supposed to guide you through them. Maybe I should "fire" Tim and seek another. Don't think the thought has not crossed my mind. Tim does more scolding than guiding.

I am still stuck on step three – made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. I have come to believe in a God, but have yet to come to terms with understanding him. It is hard for a lifelong atheist and agnostic to grapple with such a weighty subject after a lifetime spent ignoring or avoiding such issues. Tim tells me I cannot go forward until I overcome this hurdle which is supposed to be a simple step according to his wisdom. As I have learned in life, nothing is ever simple and I am a complicated man.

I leave Tim to his ruminations as I sit down next to my dear friend Wanda. She smiles and gives me a hug and gets up to go fix me and her another cup of coffee. The meeting starts with a reading of the twelve steps and twelve traditions. There was that step three again as if it were taunting me – as we understood Him echoed through my mind. I spent the rest of that long hour deep in thought as I mulled over what I heard people share.

As I walked home after the meeting, I entertained notions of Gaia or Mother Earth as the God of my understanding. It certainly fit my philosophy of life and humanistic leanings much better than the pretentious claptrap that are most organized religions. My sponsor would howl and scoff at my unorthodox views though. It finally all grew too painful and tiresome to think about and I finished my walk home with thoughts of pickled sausages and Garcia Vega cigars. I decided to leave such weighty subjects for another day. One day at a time as they say in A.A.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Knowing When to Fold

My support group yesterday was a complete washout. I and Rosa locked up, left, and then I drove by Philip's house to hand him the keys to the A.A. meeting hall.

"You sure you don't want to keep trying?" Philip asked me standing at his backdoor.

"I know when to fold," I said using George's often used poker reference.

Rosa was pouting with me as we drove home.

"It's not like you to give up," she said.

"Rosa, sweetheart, I just don't have it in me," I replied. "There are NAMI meetings down in Auburn people can go to."

Earlier in the afternoon, I went scouting for places to try an urban homelessness experiment. To the right is a picture of the place I am going to camp once I get settled in my new home. It is behind that grand old abandoned cotton mill next to the railroad tracks in a very deserted and isolated area. I was excitedly telling Rosa about it. It is going to be a grand adventure.

"Why?" Rosa asked of my planned adventure.

"Cause it will be fun," I replied.

"I can think of a thousand more fun things to do than to play homeless," Rosa said.

I laughed. She just doesn't understand my zeal for camping and urban camping will be a novel experience. I didn't tell her of my living in my car for a few weeks last summer. I'm sure I would have been chided.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bushed and Worn Out

Charlie and me spent all day moving. This apartment looks so bare now. The only things left to move are my computer and its desk and my bed. I have to call the cable company tomorrow and get them to come out and install cable lines to each room then install my internet and I will be moved. I am going to hang out here all week because I have a check from Google Adsense for $462 dollars being delivered by courier and I don't want to miss that. That is buying me a new digital camera and computer desk.

The house looks so great and I am so lucky. I drove over a moment ago and just sat in my den on my couch for thirty minutes enjoying the ambience. I can't believe I have my own home and it is completely paid for. The thermostat was set to eighty degrees and it felt so cool and wonderful. I am tempted to sleep over there tonight to see how quiet it is. In the back bedroom is the bed I always slept in during the summers I spent on my grandmother's farm. It brings forth a wave of nostalgia to see it in that room.

Rosa hung curtains and pictures today. I have this huge picture of the last supper and I told her to hang it over my entertainment center.

"But you aren't even religious," she said, amused. "I don't know if I would want Jesus staring at me while I watch violent TV or dirty movies."

I laughed.

"It was my grandmothers and hung over her mantle all my young life," I replied. "It has sentimental value."

Rosa shrugged and went about hammering in the nail and hanging and balancing the huge mural with my help.

Well, I am tired and am going to call it a night. I will write again in the morning.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sober at Midnight

Breakfast is finished and I have washed up. I turn on the TV to the Weather Channel as Maggie plops down at my feet and stares at me insistently.

"What do you want, girl?" I ask, reaching down to rub her head.

Maggie whines putting her paw on my knee. That is her way of saying, "Walk me. I need to get out of the house."

"Okay, I get the hint," I say as I grab her leash and my keys and we head out the door.

It is a beautiful morning and almost chilly belying the forecast of one hundred degrees today. I have become extremely dubious of the daily claims of my beloved weather guessers. Lately, they get it wrong more than right.

Maggie stops to smell every interesting looking piece of debris on the road. She is in dog heaven with a world guided by aroma. The neighbor's trash is an especially interesting stop as we make our way back home. I have to pry a discarded piece of foam plate from an old package of ground beef from Maggie's mouth. She is none too pleased. I scoff at my neighbor's terrible handling of their trash.

I am still sleepy from last night. The witching hour found me at a midnight A.A. meeting in a town about 30 minutes away which are held every Friday and Saturday nights. It was a small group of mostly desperate alcoholics trying to stay sober during what is primetime drinking time for us ex-inebriates. I felt right at home. We went around the room talking about what our lives were like on a weekend when we were still drinking. I heard quite a few tales of woe. One fellow sat with his hands shaking. I wanted to reach out, hold them, and steady his nerves. I've been there before.

The drive home was long and quiet up the interstate with thoughts of my warm bed and a cold glass of milk on my mind. I arrived home to find a message from my father saying my final move to my new house will be next weekend. He and Charlie are gathering lots of help so we can move in one day. Finally! A home of my own with privacy without prying parental eyes watching my every move. I will never be homeless again. It was fittingly good news to the end of a good day.

Windows Live Writer

I am writing and publishing this post with Windows Live Writer. It is currently in its second beta and free to download. I have found it very stable so far so give it a try if you want a more robust blogging interface.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Bright Morning Dawns

Rosa and me sat down on the bench behind the bank near the railroad tracks this morning. We had just been to the diner to eat breakfast which was delicious.

"Ferret used to sleep here when he was homeless," I told her pointing to the bench down from us.

"His feet would hang off," Rosa said. "He is so tall."

"I know," I replied. "It must have been uncomfortable."

A train then roared past bringing me great amounts of joy. Great mechanical clamoring faded off into the distance as the end-of-train device went blinking around the corner through downtown.

"I bet you just had a train orgasm," Rosa said, snarkily.

I laughed.

"You know," Rosa then said. "We live terribly boring lives. All we do is loiter around different areas in town."

"I've had enough excitement to last a lifetime," I replied. "Boring is the new cool for me."

Rosa agreed that her life had been a little too exciting at one point as well. It is amazing both of us aren't in jail and are still alive. I try to tell myself that every day when I get to feeling sorry for myself. It could be a lot worse.

Last night, Wanda took me to a small Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a little town about an hour away. It was held at a Southern Baptist conference center. We had a twelve and twelve study which is a meeting about the twelve steps and twelve traditions of A.A. What stood out most to me was that the meeting was mostly middle aged women. I felt right at home.

"What did you think?" Wanda asked me as we were driving home in her old heap of a car.

"I enjoyed it," I replied. "I thought A.A. was an almost exclusively male club."

"Well, you have always said you are more comfortable around women," Wanda said. "I thought you would like that meeting."

Wanda brought me home and the first thing I did was pack and light my pipe as I turned on the television to what was on PBS. I thought of the many wonderful people that have filled my life since getting sober. I was such a terrible loner when drinking heavily. Despite a terrible start to yesterday, I took it one day at a time, made that phone call, and put another day of sobriety under my belt. For that, I am grateful.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Bottle of Venom

George and me sat outside the state liquor store waiting for it to open this morning. I was keeping a keen eye on my watch.

"You really going to do this?" George asked.

"I'm tired of being sober," I replied. "I just want to get drunk."

Soon, the doors opened and George and me walked inside. Thousands of bottles of liquor greeted me as I made my way to the back corner where the Southern Comfort is kept. I grabbed the largest bottle and paid. George bought a bottle of the cheapest vodka he could find. We made our way back out to my car and headed home.

I was really quiet on the drive home. I felt as if I had committed the biggest carnal sin. I took George home and made my way to my house. I sat for the longest time in my lazy boy lounger with that bottle of liquor on the table next to me. Disgusted, I got up in a rush and poured $30 dollars of liquor down the drain. I then got on the phone and called Wanda.

"I came so close to just drinking," I told her. "I had a bottle of liquor on the table beside me."

"Meet me for lunch," Wanda said, "and we will talk."

I met Wanda at a local barbeque joint and we talked over chips and barbeque sandwiches. I was so relieved that I got up the courage to make that phone call. I needed someone who understood.

"You know I was sober for ten years and then started back drinking last year," Wanda told me. "I had to start over again and I wasn't working the steps."

This surprised me as Wanda always seemed so assured and steadfast with her sobriety.

"It was almost an obsession this morning," I replied. "The only thing I could think of was getting a drink."

"That's why they say in A.A. that alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful," Wanda said. "You have to be ever vigilant."

I didn't tell Wanda this, but I have grown battle weary lately. I am tired of being vigilant and having to fight that urge constantly. I go to meetings. I practice the guidelines preached in A.A. I am doing everything they say to do and yet I still struggle all the time. It gets so tiresome. I just want to go to sleep and sleep away the rest of my life. I guess I am just depressed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Body Art

Rosa was extra clingy today as we whiled away the hours down at Fat Albert's convenience store. I said to hell with my diet and ate two huge polish hotdogs.

"You are going to die from cholesterol eating two of those," Rosa told me with a jab in the ribs.

I grinned as I stuffed my face. My hunger was insatiable today.

Fat Albert's is an interesting place. During my youth it was a big arcade and I, my brother, and friends would walk down and waste countless quarters on video games such as Q-Bert, Pacman, and Donkey Kong. That same arcade is now a big room devoted solely to the Georgia state lottery trade. It tends to be an African American hangout. I have found that the lottery attracts poor people as that is most of the clientele. Some pitiful looking folks walk through those doors to buy lottery tickets.

"I think I am going to get another tattoo," Rosa then said as we were sitting outside on a bench in the hot sun.

"Were?" I asked.

Rosa pulled down her shirt exposing the top of her right breast as she pointed.

"I want a purple rose right there," she said.

"I don't get the whole tattoo thing," I replied. "What are you going to do when you are eighty and those knockers are hanging down to your knees? That rose will look like a stretched purple blob."

Undaunted, Rosa scolded me for being so cynical.

"It's an art form," she said. "Body art."

I rolled my eyes as I lit up another cigarillo and crossed my legs. I was left with thoughts of Rosa at eighty, covered in tattoos and being a dirty old lady. It gave me a big smile.

Damn Good Times

Rosa and me spent a lot of our time yesterday loitering down at Fat Albert's convenience store until the big storms rolled in. I was excited all day about the weather and was driving Rosa crazy talking about it.

"You know how to tell the weather forecast?" Rosa said.

"How?" I asked, playing along.

"Get your ass outside and look up at the sky!" Rosa exclaimed and we both burst out laughing.

Rosa had bought several of the scratch-off lottery tickets and won $10 on one. She bought us a round of drinks and snacks with her new found largesse. My diet went to hell.

"I've never won a dollar on the lottery," I told her, munching on my nacho cheese Doritos.

"Not anything?"

"Not a dime. That's why I don't play."

Rosa walked back inside and bought one more ticket and then handed it to me to try my luck. Zilch, nada, nothing. I didn't win a thing.

"See?" I told her. "I have terrible gambling luck."

Thunder rumbled on the horizon so I and Rosa walked up the street back to my house. Soon, the skies opened up and it rained like I haven't seen it rain in what seemed like years. I glued myself to this computer watching the radar as Rosa watched television keeping her fingers crossed that the power wouldn't go off. I then fixed Rosa and me a lunch of tuna salad sandwiches and chips and carried her home once the rain slacked off.

I also had my shot for my schizophrenia yesterday morning. My doctor gave me a month's worth of samples of Topomax, an anti-seizure drug. He said that recent studies have shown that it helps with alcohol cravings. I got online and found a plethora of side effects with the most alarming one being extreme drowsiness. Just what I need – another drug to take. I am debating on whether to try it or not.

Well, that sums up my day yesterday. Pretty boring stuff, huh?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Room of Dreams

It's 2:00 AM. I am standing in my favorite convenience store holding a bottle of Gatorade. In front of me is a dingy looking fellow. He fumbles in his pockets after putting a twelve-pack of beer on the counter. My favorite clerk rolls his eyes at me as I stand in line.

"Will that be all, sir?" the clerk asks impatiently as the fellow straightens out a crumpled mass of sweaty and dirty one dollar bills and places them upon the counter.

The man mumbles yes and then leaves with his purchase forgetting his change.

"Drunk son of a bitch," the clerk spits venomously. "You see what I have to put up with all night?"

I nod in agreement knowing all too well. I was once like that dingy fellow with the twelve-pack of beer and the crumpled mass of ones. I purchased my drink and then walked up the few hundred yards to my favorite spot in the little park across from the mill – my quiet place of contemplation. I sat as I mulled over the previous day's events.

My support group went okay. Only three people showed and two of them were me and Rosa. The other lady named Mary is such a kind soul and was very understanding of ours being a fledgling group. I promised her things would pick up over time.

"Rosa, I am worried there are just not enough crazy people in the Valley to support a group like this," I said, driving us home afterwards.

Something about what I said struck Rosa as funny and she laughed.

"Oh, I think there are enough crazy people to go around. They just need to find you and many are in denial," she replied.

In this day of Prozac, Wellbutrin, and atypical antipsychotics, maybe people have found their panacea in drugs. Maybe support groups are passé. It genuinely worried me.

"You know that old Kevin Costner movie about baseball?" Rosa then asked.

"Field of Dreams?"

"Yeah," Rosa said, borrowing from the movie. "You start it and they will come. Just give it time."

I liked that analogy I thought as I swung through town to take Rosa home. I am building my own field or room of dreams. It certainly is a dream of mine to have a thriving group of mentally interesting people coming together in friendship and with a common cause to help each other. Maybe next week will bring more to the meeting. We need some kind of critical mass to build for it to grow. I believe these small groups are intimidating to newcomers. I know they would be for me and my social anxieties.

Monday, June 18, 2007


"Honey, you look tired," Wanda told me after last night's A.A. speaker meeting.

"I am exhausted," I replied. "This whole not-drinking thing is kicking my ass."

"You need to practice H.A.L.T." Wanda then told me. "Never let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired."

Those were wise words to live by. My insomnia seems to oscillate and I am in one of those periods where I get little sleep. I told Wanda about this.

"I know you are a diet coke addict," she said. "I see it all the time with certain newcomers. Don't drink cokes with caffeine."

I told her I would try and comply. I need my caffeine though and am stubborn about this. I get the most awful headaches coming off of it.

"Wanda, does it ever get easier?" I asked just before walking home.

"Yes, honey, it does," she replied. "Don't believe all those surly old timers. Just keep coming back, work the steps and you will find some peace."

I felt better after hearing that as I walked through the old mill village on my way home. As if it were some sign of better times, I heard my first katydid calling in a tree near the road. It brought me immeasurable joy. You know summer has arrived in the South when you hear that shrill nocturnal call of, "Katy did it!." It was a much needed distraction for my over serious and sensitive trains of thought I was experiencing yesterday evening.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Day of Rest

Sometimes they say less is more and that is going to be today's blog theme. I won't get into the gory details, but yesterday was one of the god-awfullest days with my alcoholism in a long time. All I could think of was having a drink or two or twenty. When I walked into those hallowed halls of A.A. last night, I felt as if two warring countries had decided to call a truce after a hundred year war. I was that tired and addiction weary.

Mt. Cheaha Storm

Lightning over Mt. Cheaha, Alabama last Friday afternoon. It was a busy day for storms in Alabama much to my delight.

Photo credit: Unknown

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Other Magical Hour

It has become our custom to spend each evening on my back porch drinking coffee and smoking cigarillos after supper as Maggie plays with her toys in the yard. I have noticed a day's end magical hour opposite of the morning where the sun sets, the chimney sweeps swoop down chattering noisily to their chimney perches, and the lightning bugs begin to dance in the backyard in the twilight. A golden sunset lighting the remnant clouds of the day's thunderstorms greets us on the horizon.

"These are wonderful times," I told Rosa, cigarillo in one hand and coffee mug in the other.

Rosa just smiled quietly as she nodded and took another drag of her little cigar.

Later in the evening found me sitting in that welcoming A.A. hall with a diet coke.

"You look different," Mary, the elderly cat lady, told me last night as she gave me a hug.

"I have lost 25 pounds," I replied, proudly and vainly.

"You can really see it in your face," Mary said.

The meeting began and we talked of letting go and letting God. For the first time in a long time, I sat listening without cringing. Usually, that three letter word connoting omnipotent beings would bring an adverse reaction out of me. Maybe there is hope for this old agnostic yet. I have seriously been contemplating attending the Episcopalian Church down the street from my home shying away from the many boisterous Baptist churches on every corner of this small Southern town. One day at a time as the say in A.A. I only have to put one foot in front of the other for the time being. Life really is that simple…I hope.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Spangled with Stars

These early morning hours are hardest on the insomnia addled soul. I sat for the longest time listening to Coast to Coast AM out of New Orleans enjoying that hot and steamy coffee from my thermos. The minutes would tick by excruciatingly slow – each hour as if it were a moment of time stood still. The thing I noticed the most was that it was a pitch black and clear sky spangled with thousands of stars yet you could see bright lightning on the horizon. My grandfather would always say you could see a storm for a hundred miles on a clear Southern summer night.

I left that park across from that old cotton mill and walked through town about a mile away from home. Took a shortcut through the car lot near Rosa's house. Stopped for a moment to look at the prices. Some of these pretentious cars were almost as expensive as my new house. I mused that I would never probably be able to afford such a vehicle for the rest of my life and it didn't bother me at all. My little Honda will be transporting me around for the next decade I hope. After that, come what may. I rarely drive anyway.

The diner had started serving breakfast at 4am for the early morning blue collar work crowd. I put out my cigar, walked in, took a seat and grabbed a menu.

"What are you having, honey?" The sleepy African American waitress asked with pad in hand.

"Get me the eggs, grits, toast, and bacon platter," I said, "and a large orange juice."

My meal was quickly brought out and I sat eating as I people watched. All the railroad workers come in this time of the morning after a night of riding the rails and I wondered what far flung towns and distant environs they had visited overnight. They laughed and talked boisterously over breakfast platters and unending mugs of coffee. I envied them of their job and camaraderie.

I wiped my hands and mouth with my napkin and put a generous tip on the table. I left the diner just minutes from home. I saw that lightning flash brightly one more time on the horizon lighting the distant thunderhead and smiled. Someone in this drought stricken south was getting a good rain and storm. I envied them as well as I would have loved to have curled up in my bed to the sounds of rain and thunder. Maybe such a nature's serenade would have induced sleep. I pulled my backpack tightly upon my shoulders and walked home with thoughts of raging storms, comforting beds, and cool air conditioned air on this hot and humid night. Sometimes, it is okay to have insomnia. I would have missed this wonderful morning of mostly solitude.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Relish Rally

I picked Rosa up early this morning so we could go shopping up at the farmer's market. Rosa was looking divine wearing one of the shirts I had bought for her a few months ago down at the mall. You wouldn't recognize her from the photo I put on the blog of her in her t-shirt and that ubiquitous baseball cap.

My mission this morning was to make my grandmother's spicy tomato relish I always loved as a child. She always served it over what she called fried corn which was basically creamed corn cooked until thick in a large cast iron skillet. The recipe called for hot peppers, cider vinegar, fresh tomatoes, and sugar. I already had the cider vinegar and sugar, but needed fresh, garden grown tomatoes and peppers which I picked up at the farmer's market. Rosa bought some fresh okra and tomatoes with which she was going to make a succotash for our supper.

We finished our shopping and then headed out for breakfast in my car as I drummed up a conversation.

"Dad told me yesterday that he hired a lady to come cook, clean, and do my laundry," I told Rosa.

"You spoiled little shit," Rosa said. "It must be nice having a wealthy father."

"I protested," I replied. "It is going to be weird having a lady in my house all day and having a key to the house as well. I told dad it was really going to work on my social anxieties."

"You must be almost moved then," Rosa then said.

"Jimmy James finished my back steps yesterday," I replied. "That was the last thing we had to do and my last obstacle. I will do the last bit of moving this weekend with Charlie's help."

I've been thinking of asking Rosa to be my roommate. I am going to have a total of three beds in the house. I just don't know what my father will say. He probably wouldn't know for months anyway. Annabel, my blogging buddy, is also coming up from Texas to visit and I want to wait until after that to ask Rosa. On both I and Rosa's income, we could live a very comfortable life with no rent or car payment with our only household expenses being groceries and utilities. I will continue to mull over this for some more weeks to come. I have the pleasure of time.

I and Rosa then ate a quick sausage biscuit with mustard at McDonald's and I took her home. She wanted to go back to sleep some more. She promised me a rendezvous down at the shopping center later as we will lazily talk and smoke our favorite cigarillos. Well, let me get in the kitchen and experiment until I can recreate my grandmother's tomato relish recipe. I have a couple of cans of creamed corn begging to be cooked and then topped with that delicious condiment of my youth. Good day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wrapping up the Day

One of my favorite times after an A.A. meeting is my ritual of standing on the back porch smoking as I talk to my A.A. friends. I have grown to trust and admire many of the people I attend with. Wanda, my favorite A.A. soul, was asking me questions tonight about my days.

"What do you do with yourself all day not working?" she asked. "I would grow crazy trying to fill the time."

"I never get bored," I replied. "I write, read voraciously, spend time with my friends, and walk a lot."

"Well, I worried about you getting bored. Boredom is terrible for trying not to drink. Glad to hear you stay busy."

"Oh, I stay busy," I replied as I smiled warmly.

There was a throng of people out on the porch tonight. Wednesday nights has grown to be one of the busiest nights for our A.A. meetings. Everyone seems to love these Big Book studies. Tonight, we studied the stories of the worst case scenario drunks and how they got sober. I could relate wholeheartedly. Most of them had to hit rock bottom to start climbing back up. Divorce, homelessness, and my experience being an un-medicated schizophrenic was my "rock bottom."

I know some of you may be wondering what happened to George and our nightly rides. Amazingly, George has not been drinking lately. George drank so much that he developed some pretty severe stomach and intestinal problems. He went to the doctor about a year ago and the doctor also told him he was on the verge of getting cirrhosis of the liver. Whatever works as they say and I am just glad George is taking a break for the time being although I miss that one hundred dollars a week Mrs. Jones was paying me to drive George around as he drank. I would gladly pay a hundred dollars a week to see George sober so can do without the money.

I know Abbagirl will be glad to hear I saw Dumpster Diving Dan today. I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but he was digging in the dumpsters behind the shopping center earlier. He looked better than he has in awhile. Dan can look kind of gaunt many days like he is not eating enough. Dan still comes by and gets his weekly supply of Chef Boyardee. He asked me recently to tell my mother to get the canned lasagna having liked it better than the usual beeferoni and spaghetti and meatballs mom brings me. I was glad to tell mom to change from our usual and to bring a bag of that lasagna. Dan was pleased to get it.

"It has real chunks of tomatoes," I can remember Dan saying excitedly the other week.

I think Crusty asked today in a comment what experience I had with my neighbor last night. Keep in mind I was already having auditory hallucinations and delusions so it may not have happened, but my neighbor showed up on my back door complaining about Maggie barking. I had never seen him before and he was a strikingly handsome young man. The whole experience was very surreal so I am still debating on whether it was a hallucination or real. Maggie doesn't bark that often unless someone comes into the yard so I am thinking I imagined it.

I believe Cheryl had asked about my getting my tooth pulled. About a month ago, I cracked a molar in half eating a bag of nuts. It was excruciatingly painful at the time and my mother called my favorite dentist and got me some pain medications and an appointment to get it pulled. Luckily, the pain subsided, but due to the popularity of my dentist, I had to wait a whole month to get it pulled. I have a phobia about the dentist second only to my phobia about getting my hair cut so I will only go to this dentist. He is a kind soul who knows of my mental illness and phobia and helps me through these experiences. It took a family affair to get me to go though. My father come over that morning to give me a pep talk and later went with me to the appointment. It was terribly painful getting that tooth pulled and I was glad to get it over with. I had been dreading it for weeks. Now I have a gaping hole where a molar used to be and it will take some getting used to.

Well, I am sure rambling tonight and need to try and sleep. I hope you all have a good day tomorrow and thanks for the comments of support today. I appreciate it very much.



Touchy Feely Guy

"You are touchy feely," Rosa told me on the phone a moment ago.

I had called her to ask if I share too freely. I can rely on Rosa to be brutally honest and blunt.

"You are not like normal guys," Rosa furthered. "You share your feelings and your thoughts freely."

"I think it is my mental illness and my experiences with homelessness," I replied. "I feel life is too short to not share your feelings."

"I find it endearing of you. We would have never become friends if you weren't that way."

"Thanks," I said.

"You going to AA tonight?" Rosa asked.

"Yeah," I replied. "Tonight is the Big Book study so I won't have to share or speak. I can just sit there and listen to those CDs."

Rosa laughed.

"You wear your heart on your sleeve most of the time, and yet you struggle with social anxiety."

"I know," I said. "It's a strange combination, isn't it?"

"You just keep being you and things are going to be just fine," Rosa said. "I love you just the way you are."

I hung up the phone with a smile feeling much better. I think it is also odd that I, as a guy, have a best friend that is an older woman. I guess I am just an eclectic bag of oddballs. Life certainly has been interesting these past few years.

A Double Edged Sword this Blog Be

Posts and their comments like earlier today cause me a lot of anxiety. I kick myself in the ass for putting that kind of stuff on the internet. I debated on taking down that post. I try really hard not to write about the negative aspects of my life and my schiz. I sometime just can't help but to use this blog as a form of written therapy and my thoughts just pour out often colored by my mental illness and I hit publish. I really need to quit writing such personal and revealing stuff on this blog and take a cue from writers like Waiter at Waiter Rant and just write little innocuous vignettes of my life. I noticed waiter doesn't reveal anything of his personal life and still writes a captivating blog.

The Nemeses Strike Back

My old nemesis insomnia is back. I sat up late last night in my den drinking coffee, smoking my pipe and writing ideas in my paper journal for the blog and my book. I was trying to come up with tales and stories I have never shared upon these electronic pages. I was also plagued by my other nemesis schizophrenia as well. I kept hearing people walking upstairs and talking, and the house would be dark and empty when I and Maggie would go upstairs and look.

“It’s all in your head,” I told myself trying to shake it off.

Still, it feels and seems so very real and is so disconcerting.

I also had an experience with my next door neighbor last night and I am still trying to decide if it really happened or not. The memories of it are vivid enough, but it seems surreal as if it were just a dream.

My father went grocery shopping with me last night. He wanted to make sure I am eating balanced and nutritious meals. My recent rapid weight loss has disturbed him.

“You like salmon, don’t you?” he said at one point as he placed cans of pink salmon in my cart. “Fish is supposed to work wonders for schizophrenia.”

We ambled about Kroger as he picked out items for me to cook and eat. I arrived home with lots of nutritious food, but it was very costly and I cringed when I had to write that check.

We then drove over to Fat Albert’s so I could purchase four of my favorite red hot pickled sausages which are a weekly treat. My father had my nightly medications in his car and gave them to me to take. I washed them down with an energy drink. We then arrived at my house and he left. I rushed into my bathroom and purged those medications into the toilet. I was sleeping all the time and feeling dull, blunted, and dim witted. I am now starting to feel normal again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nice Blogging and some Past Due Thanks

Abbagirl wrote a wonderfully written post of her beginning her day with the grocery chain she works for. Check it out here. I highly recommend it. I didn't know she could write like that.

My good friend Diana wrote me a wonderful letter from Canada the other day. It was a pleasure reading it. Thank you so much dear friend. I miss you so much and wish you luck in your new job this summer. She is going to be a sous chef for a restaurant in a beautiful resort region of Canada.

I also want to thank Cheryl for the magazines once again. You really made my day that day I got that package in the mail. There was a PC World magazine which I love to read. I liked the magazine you sent so much that I got online and got a subscription. Also, check out Cheryl's blog for the ongoing saga of the battle between her and her moles. I find those tales so endearing and smile inducing.

Mosaic Mind, I miss you and worry about you. I got your email and read it earnestly. I have a terrible time composing emails so I wanted you to know I am thinking of you and love you dearly as a friend. Mosaic Mind asked about how I pay for my medications living on disability. For the longest time, my father's pharmacy covered the costs of my medications. Now, Medicare Part D covers them completely (no donut hole like you Mosaic) and they run around $1500 dollars a month. Mosaic Mind also asked about what I and my father are going to do about my medications when I move. Dad is going to drive by every night around 10pm when he gets off of work to give them to me. He said it would be a long time before he trusted me in taking them on my own. He means well and I love him dearly anyway.

Well, let me go lie down. Having a tooth pulled is not very fun and very painful and I am still kind of shaky and recovering. It also cast me $190 dollars so that puts a big dent in my budget for the month after ordering that new LCD monitor yesterday. Thankfully, the advertisements on this blog will help pay for some of that. Take care all and I will write again tomorrow.

Unbridled Joy

I awoke early this morning to the sound of thunder outside. I sat up quickly in my bed and smiled. I then pulled on my shorts and shoes and ran into my darkened den to awaken my sleeping computer and check the local radar. RAIN! Glorious, sweet rain was on the way as swatches of bright red and lush green marched southward across our county upon the radar. It wasn't long until my phone rang. It was my father.

"Isn't this just wonderful?" He said, sleepily.

"That sound of rain is nature's symphony."

"I thought you would be up, like me, watching the weather."

A bright flash of lightning lit up my windows followed by a deafening boom of thunder.

"Let's get off this phone before we both get electrocuted," Dad said and we hung up.

It is now 7am and still raining steadily. I am soon to go crawl back into the bed and sleep until my dentist's appointment.

The support group meeting went well yesterday. The same two ladies showed up and we discussed local options for vocational rehabilitation. I spoke of the tenacity with which you must have when dealing with this program. I have found that driving down there personally is a much better solution than to try and haggle with them on the phone. Ah, the foibles of government funded programs.

Well, sleep awaits. One more thing before I go. I ordered this yesterday and can't wait for it to get here. The first part of my new computer will be arriving in two or three days. By Christmas, I will have a lean, mean, new blogging machine!

SAMSUNG 226BW Black 22" 2 ms (GTG) DVI Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 1000:1(DC 3000:1) - Retail

Windows Vista Certified

Monday, June 11, 2007

That Elusive Magic Pill

Her baseball cap hung low over her brow with her hair pulled up underneath. She was sitting next to me on the bench. She was dressed in a very old and faded Sponge Bob Squarepants t-shirt and some faded blue jean shorts. She looked just like Rosa always does.

"Tell me more about your past and your illness," she asked, drinking her soda and smoking a cheap cigarillo.

"Well," I replied, "when I was married, I would just disappear into the woods for weeks and live homeless."

"You're shitting me," Rosa said.

"Rachel would drive way out into the country, find me, and coerce me into coming home. I wouldn't take my medications then."

"What did you eat?"

"I lived mainly on beer, beef jerky and freeze dried meals. I would pump water through a filter out of the pond to drink."

"I can't imagine you doing stuff like that now. You are so responsible," Rosa said as she scoffed.

"I think about it every day," I replied. "I want to walk out my backdoor with my big backpack on and just disappear, leaving my life behind. I have to fight the urge."

The sky had grown overcast, threatening rain. I grabbed Rosa's hand to pull her up and urged her to walk home with me.

"You know what I would always dream of when I was homeless?" Rosa asked as we walked.

"What?" I replied.

"I would dream of a nice husband, two story house, a car in the garage, and kids. I would get clean for a day with those dreams in mind and would find myself smoking my pipe by the end of the day, fucked up and broke."

"Addictions can rob us of so much."

"They robbed me of getting to see my little girl grow up," Rosa said. "Momma raised her while I was out partying and fucking around."

"We need a magic pill," I then told Rosa, "a pill that cures my schizophrenia and alcoholism. I want a normal life."

"But you wouldn't be you!" Rosa exclaimed.

"Yeah, you are probably right," I replied, but it wasn't much solace or comfort.

I am still searching for that elusive magic pill, but the cynical side of me knows it will never come. It is far more profitable to treat mental illness and addiction than to cure it. Whole industries would wither and die without them for we live in the land of the almighty dollar. Until then, I will take comfort in my friends and the support groups that have come to mean so much to me. And there is always today for we must take life one day at a time – a mantra I have come to live by.

Casting a Long Shadow

Sat on my favorite bench in that little park after midnight. A train roared through downtown causing me to turn up my little radio. In my hand was a cup of coffee, black, poured from my thermos. This diet has caused me to forego my usual cream and sugar. It has taken some getting used to my coffee without my usual condiments – especially the bitterness.

On the horizon stretches that grand old cotton mill like some silent sentinel. Its weaving and spinning looms fallen long dormant and quiet as the work was sent overseas for cheaper labor and the workers were left to fend for themselves in unemployment lines – once the lifeblood of this little Southern town - times change.

I realize after-midnight is my witching hour – a time where my senses are heightened, my awareness's sensitive, and my sight keen. I think of the waning crescent moon that will soon be full come the end of the month and the jokes my father often tells of insane and crazy people spurred by that moon to do extraordinary things. I must be sure to prepare my wolf's bane for the moon to come.

I finally stand after drinking the last of my coffee – my body casting a long shadow in the glow of a street light. I stand erect for a moment and stretch – sore from my exertions of moving all day. It is going to be a good week, I muse. I then disappear into the night to walk home – my witching hour passed. The bed waits.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Good Times and Sad Times

I read a post momentarily ago where someone I have read for the longest time wrote they would never have the mentally ill or recovering drunks or addicts in their lives. I have been reading them for so long that I felt I knew them personally. It hurt. C'est le vie, I thought after regaining my composure. Sadly, this is par for the course for many people. I do want to say that some of the recovering addicts, alcoholics, and mentally ill people I've met and befriended have been wonderful additions to my life. I have also met some of the happiest and most fulfilled people in A.A. Enough of that train of thought though.

I just tried my first online A.A. meeting and it was chaotic! It was like a busy AOL chat room for recovering drunks. I am not a big chat room fan and couldn't last the whole hour. I logged out with relief. The poor moderator was like a cat covering up shit. Take my advice and find the time to go to a real meeting. It is easier on the eyes, the soul, your sobriety and mental health.

Talked to George on the phone this morning. He had just gotten back from taking his mother to church which will last for hours. Blacks in the South will hold church services for much longer than their Caucasian counterparts often lasting until way into the afternoon depending on how "filled with the spirit" the preacher gets.

"You always talk about religion," I told George. "Why don't you go to church?"

"Man," George said. "It will take up my whole day."

George was in good spirits and was telling me he hasn't had a drink in two days. Hallelujah!

"Does this mean you are going to try and quit?" I asked him.

"I don't know why I ain't drank," George said. "I just got tired of it."

George will often do this and is completely unlike me in this regard. When I was drinking heavy, I couldn't go a day without a drink or twenty. George can take these fasts from time to time which always surprise me.

Well, let me get to moving. Charlie has already loaded up and taken two truckloads of my stuff over to my new house. I need to get off my duff and help him before he gets to cussing. Good day!

Lazy Chairperson

Last night's A.A. meeting was of the kind I dislike. The chairperson went through the opening formalities and then started around the room asking each person to speak. If I were new to A.A. then this would have immediately turned me off to the program and I would have never gone back. It is laziness on the part of the chairperson for not preparing and coming up with talking points and leading the discussion.

"What am I going to say?" Rosa whispered to me filled with anxiety.

"Say you are glad to be here, but don't need to speak tonight," I replied back quietly.

It was one of the longest hours of A.A. I have ever experienced and both Rosa and I were glad it was over.

"If that were my first meeting then I would have never come back," Rosa told me as we were walking home.

"I know," I said. "I apologize. That chairperson was a dufus."

It was a long walk home as I was already tired from moving house all day. I did manage to get my washer and dryer hooked up and running. Jimmy James also made great progress on my back deck and steps. It is just a matter of days and I will be moved in.

Well, let me head to the grocery store to go buy Maggie dog food. She just walked by carrying her food dish in her mouth. This is a not so subtle hint to me by her that she is hungry. Till we speak again.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Closed Meeting

Rosa gladly went to A.A. with me last night. It was a closed meeting for alcoholics only.

"Don't say you're an addict," I told her quietly as we walked in and sat down.

Philip, our patriarch, came up to shake her hand and greet a newcomer before the meeting.

"Are you an alcoholic?" he asked Rosa.

"I drink a lot of beer," Rosa replied.

That was good enough in Philip's book I guess and the meeting began without Philip saying anything else about it. I sighed with relief.

"These A.A. people take that stuff so serious," Rosa said as we were driving home afterwards.

"They have to," I replied. "Many would die if they went back to drinking."

"I can understand that," Rosa said. "Cocaine would have killed me."

"Drinking's gonna get your ass too if you don't quit drinking those six-packs of Budweiser every day," I said as I smiled and pulled onto main street.

"Well, it is starting to worry me too," Rosa said.

I was so glad to hear her say that and realize the problem of cross addiction. It is so easy to substitute one substance for another. Maybe, Rosa will go with me to A.A. more often. She would be doing me a favor as well as her presence seems to subdue my social anxieties.

PS - Posted my grandmother's cheese straw recipe for Crusty Beef and others. Scroll down for it.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Meal Alone

I push my plate away from me. This eating alone sucks I decide. I had just had a supper of baked chicken and cornbread – not exactly a rounded meal of the food groups. Dieting is so hard for me, but I am determined to get back to my normal weight. I have found it helps greatly with my social anxieties.

The phone rings and I answer. It is 10PM and almost bedtime.

"Come get your medications," my father says and then he hangs up.

I walk over in the cool night air. The smell of the summer air and the ambience of crickets calling brings joy to my soul. I walk into the house and sit down in the den.

"I am so proud of you lately," my father says as he hands me my medications.

I take them and he checks my hand for errant pills.

"You've done so well these past few months."

My father's words are of little comfort. I am no longer a child and long ago quit basing the worth of my life on his opinions.

"What are we going to go about your medications when you move in a few weeks?" he asks.

"I will just have to take them," I reply.

"No," my father says. "It will be a very long time until I trust you with them."

I sigh.

"Goodnight," I say as I get up and walk back across the yard to my house.

It could be worse, I tell myself. My father has given me a more normal and conventional life. He really does mean well. I think of all the people mired in poverty and homelessness and it softens my humiliation over the way my father treats me. I will never again have to worry about such things.

The evening ends with me drinking a glass of skim milk and having one more cigar before retiring. Maggie knows the routine and is already curled up in the bed awaiting me. I turn on the air conditioner. Turn off the lights. I then lay down on the bed and in what seems like moments, I awake to the morning sun shining through my windows. It is another day.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Muse and a Wing

"How spicy?" the clerk at the Korean restaurant asked me with a heavy accent.

"Hot," I replied, pulling out my wallet to pay.

"Two dozen hot and spicy chicken wings," he then said, after a short wait, handing me the to-go box of wings. "That will be $4.17."

I paid and then ambled on down the sidewalk towards the grocery store. It was a stunningly beautiful day and I felt glad to be out of the house. I took a seat on a bench after buying a soda from a machine and proceeded to dig in as they say and eat my meal.

After finishing my lunch, I sat and thought of the last few years. Much has gone on in such a short time. My biggest claim to fame was that I got sober and I am still in amazement with every day that passes without me getting drunk. Once I got sober, other things in my life started to fall into place and sort themselves out.

I also thought of last night's A.A. meeting and my epiphany. I am still searching for that elusive spirituality, but feel I am one step closer. My wise friend Wanda was so kind in separating the religion that I thought was A.A. from what is in reality the spirituality of A.A. I will give George an earful the next time he calls A.A. a religious cult.

And then there is Rosa. I remember the first time we met. I was walking across the parking lot from the bank when she stopped me and asked for a cigarette. She looked homeless, haggard and tired. She had just gotten clean and sober after years of being addicted to crack cocaine.

"Are you homeless?" I asked her as I handed her a cigarette.

"No," she said, looking offended. "Do I look homeless?"

"The only reason I asked was that I was once homeless as well," I said, trying to diffuse her offence. "I just wanted you to know I understood."

It was a terrible and awkward start to our friendship, but that friendship would soon grow to encompass a fondness and closeness like none I have ever experienced in my life.

Last, but not least, there is George – my friend of many years. Despite all of George's drunken debauchery and raucousness, he is still a kind soul who just happens to enjoy one too many beers. We have grown apart this last year, but I still consider him someone I could go to in a time of need. Our nightly drives have served to strengthen our once severing bond. I look forward to the always interesting conversations.

The sky had begun to grow dark as I finished my musing thinking. The National Weather Service had warned of storms today. Such storms would serve as the proverbial icing on the cake for me on this day and I smiled as I looked skyward to the rapidly building cumulus clouds. I decided to walk on home to spend the afternoon watching weather radars and reading weather reports. It is going to be a grand day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sojourning with Drunks

I sat drinking the terrible and weak coffee at tonight's A.A. meeting. I was feeling extremely lonely and isolated when I arrived and took my seat. The meeting soon started with the usual formalities and then the group launched into a discussion about the spirituality of A.A.

"Damn, another religious discussion," I thought close mindedly as the meeting began, preparing myself for absolute boredom and a wasted hour.

"A.A. is a program of spiritual recovery," Tim, my sometimes sponsor, said. "When I was drinking, my soul was devoid of spirituality and life. I turned away from God."

"Spirituality," I thought as I sat there feeling as if someone had just said a word in Cantonese.

That is such a novel concept to me, spirituality. I wrestle with so many aspects of A.A., but I keep coming back as my friend Wanda often tells me.

"Stay in these rooms long enough and it grows contagious and the ideas will grow on you," she has often said. "Just keep coming back."

I want to believe in something. I wholeheartedly understand mankind's desire to believe in something grander and wider scoping than himself – a unifying force that explains the unknown and allows for an afterlife – a force that could take away the desire to drink and give an alcoholic peace and solace.

"In AA, I believe that religion is for people who fear hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell. In claiming that AA is religious like you do, one would have to assume that AA must share a common denomination. Well, I think we don't. I think you are wrong," Wanda told me as we were sitting outside smoking after the meeting. Her wisdom took me by surprise.

Imagine that! A.A. is not religious, but spiritual! I felt as if I had an epiphany. I had gotten the two confused. Organized religion has always left such a sour taste in my mouth over the years, but I felt maybe I could get a handle on this whole spirituality thing. There was hope for me yet!

No More Nuts and Twigs

Rosa was telling me at lunchtime how she misses our going to eat breakfast and lunch together. I had to agree. I get tired of being hungry all the time. I feel as if I am living off of nuts and twigs when I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

"You look sexier every day," Rosa did tell me of my weight loss.

I laughed.

"I am going to be a bag of skin and bones if I keep this up," I replied.

"If you could have anything to eat right now, what would it be?" Rosa asked.

I thought for a moment as a myriad of choices went through my mind.

"The Rockhampton Ribeye down at Outback," I replied. "I love that sour cream and horseradish sauce they give you with your steak."

"I'd have a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia," Rosa said. "That stuff is so expensive, though."

"You can eat anything and not gain weight," I told Rosa.

"It all goes to my boobs," Rosa said as she pushed up her breasts and wiggled them from side to side.

I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. Nothing Rosa can do can shock me these days. I've been around her too much.

Annals of the Weather Obsessed

"Severe thunderstorm – Etowah County. Headed this way," I told my father on the phone. "Damaging golf ball sized hail has been reported."

"Bring it on!" my father said, excitedly. "We need the rain."

"It is thundering here right now," I replied. "But the National Weather Service seems aloof about issuing warnings so far."

"Call me with any new developments," my father then said. "I've got prescriptions to fill."

The weather obsession gene runs far and long back into my father's side of the family. Interesting weather such as yesterday will get us all as excited as some people get about their favorite television shows. We have also been terribly dry with a persistent high pressure ridge over the South. This ridge seems to be breaking down.

I was sitting at my computer reading the latest weather discussion on the NWS website when there was a knock upon the door. It was my dearest friend Rosa.

"Hey sweetheart," I said as I opened the door struggling to keep Maggie from running outside.

"I didn't want to get caught alone if the power went out," Rosa replies. "Alright if I stay over here? Your basement is safer than my old house."

"You're always welcome," I said.

Those big storms finally arrived with driving rain. Rosa would cringe at every thunderous boom of thunder. I would smile and laugh with glee.

"You are like a kid at Christmas," Rosa said. "This shit scares the hell out of me."

The storm passed almost as soon as it arrived. The thunder faded off into the distance. Luckily, we didn't lose our power and Rosa got to watch her favorite, Court TV. I thanked the weather Gods for yesterday's wet bounty and was content for the rest of the day. The simplest of pleasures bring me the greatest of joys.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sally Lou’s Traditional Southern Spicy Cheese Straws

By popular demand, I thought I would share my grandmother's spicy cheese straw recipe. I can eat these things until bloated.

  • 4 ounces of butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 10 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of Tabasco (to taste)
  • 1 cup sifted all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter. Mix in cheese, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Stir to blend.

Slowly stir in flour until completely mixed in. Put dough on a lightly floured work surface and form into a roll. Cover roll with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour until firm and chilled.

Pull out dough and cut into four pieces. Roll each piece until it is thin and then cut them into appropriate straws. Place on a slightly greased baking sheet and cook for 10 – 15 minutes until slightly golden brown and semi-crisp on the edges. Makes about 4 dozen cheese straws.

Baring my Posterior for Posterity

I sat in my doctor's lobby reading a Podiatry Today magazine. A constant parade of elderly people would walk by on canes and walkers. One elderly lady sat down next to me.

"Terrible drought we are in," she said, making small talk.

"I know," I replied. "The long term weather models are hinting at a wetter end of June though."

"I sure hope so," she said. "My tomato plants have been suffering."

I return to my magazine until I notice my father's accountant walk in dressed in a suit. He doesn't recognize me and I sigh relieved. My father's friends always ask me what I am doing for a living these days and ask if my brother and sister are enjoying being doctors. It embarrasses me.

"Andrew?" my nurse, Rebecca, said as she opened the door to the waiting rooms.

I hurriedly got up to leave the lobby behind.

"Do you want to weigh in today?" Rebecca asked.

"Sure," I said, stepping upon the scales.

"Wow," Rebecca replied. "You have lost twenty pounds since I started weighing you."

I smiled proudly. I really have worked so hard lately to lose weight. It has been a struggle though. I am a big guy with a big and healthy appetite.

We walked into the waiting room and Rebecca prepared the injection for my schizophrenia. She inserted the two inch long needle into my butt cheek deftly and quickly. There was no blood as there sometimes can be. I barely even felt it. It was over as soon as it started.

"Thank you for making this so easy," I tell Rebecca.

She smiles and says,"Thank you."

I drove on home glad that that little ordeal is behind me for two more weeks.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Fine Day for a Meeting

"Good evening," I said. "Welcome to the Tri-City mental health support group."

My hands were sweaty and my knees were shaking. I had a thousand butterflies in my stomach. The room seemed to be spinning. I was testing the very limits of my social anxieties.

"We are an informal and anonymous group that meets every Monday night to support each other and talk about how our illnesses affect our lives," I furthered. "Thank you all for coming."

I started the conversation with telling about my history of mental illness and how it had affected me over the years.

"I thought God was speaking to me too!" Mary, a newcomer, said when I got to the point I was talking about my rabid and weird religiosity. "It drove my then husband and my children crazy. I kept telling them they were going to burn in hell for being nonbelievers and sinners. It was a terrible thing to do."

"And you actually believed God felt you were so important as to directly communicate with you," I chimed in, glad to have another finally speak.

"Yes. Exactly," Mary said nodding her head in agreement.

"When I was manic, I spent money like it was going out of style," Kay, another newcomer added. "I spent $30,000 in less than a year. It took me a decade to pay most of it off."

"I have been known to spend recklessly as well," I replied.

The meeting went really well with the two people who called me for directions showing up. Rosa didn't say a word through the whole meeting until afterwards when she spoke to me as we were cleaning up the kitchen.

"You have a stage presence," Rosa said. "I got to see a different side of you tonight."

"Rosa, I was so nervous that I almost didn't make it," I replied. "I was scared to death. I felt like I was going to puke all over that podium."

"Well, I am proud of you and proud to call you my friend," she said.

I melted at Rosa saying that and gave her a big hug.

"Now, what are we going to do with all these leftover, scrumptious cheese straws?" Rosa asked as she smiled coyly.

"You can have them," I said. "They will all just go to my ass."

Rosa burst out laughing.

"And a nice ass it is!" she said as she patted me on the left cheek of my posterior.

I then walked into the meeting hall and sat down with a relieved sigh as Rosa finished cleaning up the kitchen. I thought of all the things I've done these past few years and felt I had finally found something I could sink my heart and soul into. I marveled that people can come together and help each other just by talking and sharing what ails them. I know I have often been a staunch critic of Alcoholics Anonymous, but it taught me that helping others will actually help you as well.

"You ready to leave?" Rosa asked, breaking my deep concentration, as she turned off the lights in the kitchen and walked out with a cardboard box of leftovers and sodas.

"Yeah," I said as I quickly drank the rest of my diet soda, got up from my chair and we started to walk out the back door.

I turned to look one more time at the dark and empty hall as I smiled and then shut the door to lock it. My therapist keeps telling me that social anxiety is manageable if I will just put myself out there in situations such as tonight and overcome my deepest fears. I will have good news to tell her next week when we meet.

Drugged Dilemma

The drizzle was falling quite sideways and steadily like weather more befitting a Scottish moor than the Southern plains of Alabama. At the streetlight on the corner, a lone catbird called his boisterous early morning song crying to the entire world that this little corner was his. I pulled up the collar to my jacket as I began this morning's three mile walk on a quest to get slim and trim again.

One of the more discouraging side effects of certain medications for mental illness is weight gain. For the longest time, I could eat almost anything I wanted. Lately, after a medication change, I have had to fight to keep the weight off. I was getting quite chubby for awhile there. This morning before my walk, I peed and then waited to put on my tennis shoes until after stepping upon the scales. I have lost eighteen pounds, but I have to starve myself to do so.

"I don't think I am going to take these medications anymore," I told my father last night.

"What?" he asked stunned and flabbergasted. "What do you mean?"

"I don't like the side effects," I replied. "I gain weight at the drop of a hat and feel sleepy all the time. I have to take two hour naps all during the day just to make it."

"You're just coming down from a high," my father said, trying to reassure me this random mix of medications were the ones for me, and that was about how we chose these medications.

My father told my doctor that I had "mood swings" and was on a "high" all the time. The doctor prescribed this extra handful of meds to subdue me and placate my father.

"You can't stop taking your medications," my father finally said firmly.

"But isn't it my body and my choice?" I asked. "You are not the one living with the side effects."

"You can't make those kinds of decisions for yourself," he replied. "You're mentally ill. That is why I have power of attorney."

I sighed. I may have a mental illness, but I am not stupid. I have watched my mother stay constantly drugged over the years to keep her in the bed and "calm" as my father likes to call it. She will wake up sometime in her later years with grey hair like a drug induced Rip Van Winkle and wonder what happened to her life. I don't want to be in that unenviable position. I really don't know what I am going to do.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Nature’s Gift

A storm blew through this afternoon bringing our first rain in weeks. You could almost see nature turn a shade greener. I walked through my rain soaked neighborhood on my way to my A.A. meeting. All the birds were chirping and singing jubilantly at nature's great gift that was bestowed upon us today. We have been in a terrible drought.

I arrived at the A.A. meeting hall after walking through Rosa's neighborhood on the way. My good friend, Wanda, was sitting on the back porch smoking cigarettes and talking to the dreaded Sandy.

"Wasn't that rain incredible?" Wanda asked as she got up from her chair to give me a hug.

"It was wondrous," were my words. I hadn't been that excited in a long time to see such a sight.

I and Wanda then got on the topic of that addict that got ran off a few weeks ago by an old timer, Bob.

"That made me so uncomfortable," Wanda said. "I felt so sorry for the fellow."

"I got angry," I replied. "I thought it was a terrible thing for Bob to say and do."

"We don't need any addicts at A.A." Sandy said, smugly.

"Weren't you an addict?" I asked, my anger growing once more.

"Not to any drugs," Sandy said.

I realized it was fruitless to argue with this man and changed the subject. Alcohol is a drug and a mood altering substance no matter what Sandy thinks and he is an old timer and should know better. He was as much an addict as any person who smoked crack or snorted cocaine.

"Have you come to terms with a God of your understanding?" Wanda then asked.

"I'm keeping my mind open," I said as I smiled. "I almost quit coming because of religious conflicts and then decided to give it another try."

"Until you find Jesus, you ain't stayin' sober long," Sandy said. "Jesus took away my urge to drink."

I sighed, but smiled at Wanda. I realized Sandy was an old fool and couldn't help his bigoted ways. You would think after years of a 12 step self help program, he would be a kinder and more forgiving soul – more open to other ideas on sobriety and living life.

"Keep coming back," Wanda said. "That's all I ask of you. It works if you word it."

"Time for a meeting!" the chairperson then said, sticking his head out the door.

We all filed in after putting out our cigarettes and cigars to sit down and begin another Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I shared about my support group meeting tomorrow and that I needed everyone's good wishes to get through it. I talked of my extreme shyness and social anxiety which I have rarely revealed in these meeting halls. Even stodgy old Sandy wished me good luck and spoke about tomorrow's meeting.

"I think we were all insane when drinking," he said. "Sobriety brought us back to sanity and gave us a new lease on life. I hope your new meeting will bring some comfort and sanity to those seeking help."

I was truly surprised at his compassion and thanked him. I walked up to him after the meeting to tell him so.

"Sandy, I know we've had our disagreements," I said. "But I do appreciate your words of support."

"A.A and support groups saved my life," he replied. "I hope your meetings will do the same for others."

We shook hands and I left to walk on home knowing George was not going to show tonight. He had called me earlier saying he was "sick" which meant he had been drinking all day and had a terrible hangover. Sunday is his day off from his fly-by-night taxi service. As I walked, I thought of Sandy and his kind words. "There is hope for the old fool yet," were the words I said to myself as I passed the shopping center and headed home.

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Writer’s End?

I have had the most terrible writer's block this week thus my short posts. I just sat down to try and capture I and George's late evening drive last night and came up blank. This is so frustrating. Usually, writing comes so easy for me and I take it for granted. I think I am burned out from pouring my heart and soul into my book (which will never be published.) I am now thinking the whole book thing is a waste of time although it will help me become a better fiction writer by practicing the craft. Please bear with me and let's see if we can't get this blog back on track next week. I write for fun and when it is not fun like this week it makes for a laboriously boring process and it shows in my writing. Hang on to your horses and just give me some time to regroup.

Rosa Dabbles with Beer

"You sure are drinking a lot of beer lately," I told Rosa yesterday.

"I need something to take the edge off," she replied.

This has worried me deeply about my best friend. I have noticed as the days have progressed she has gone from drinking a single "tall boy" Budweiser to drinking a six-pack. I am not trying to be a busy body, but know all too well the insidiousness of addiction.

We sat on the side of Fat Albert's convenience store as Rosa drank her beer and I smoked my cigars and drank a diet soda. I have noticed a shift in the gang hanging out down at the shopping center to Fat Albert's which is only minutes away. Fat's has all the vices – lottery tickets, cigarettes and cigars, junk food and cheap alcohol. I can buy a twenty pack of little cigars for .93 cents.

"What are you cooking us for supper?" Rosa then asked me as she finished beer number three.

"What would you like to eat?" I asked.

"Cook some of your southern style cubed steak and gravy with biscuits," she said.

"That is always one of my favorites as well," I replied.

4pm found me in the kitchen cooking with Rosa watching television on my computer. I salted and peppered two pieces of cubed steak and then dredged them in flour frying them until done. I then set them aside and poured off most of the oil adding flour to make a roux. After the roux had darkened to a chocolate brown color, I added some milk until the gravy got good and thick. I then re-added the steak and simmered them in the gravy for another hour. This will cause the steak to be fork tender. I served the steak and gravy with steamed broccoli, rice, and biscuits. Rosa thoroughly enjoyed the meal and so did I.


Some things that have been going on…

  • This morning, I have lost 17 pounds on my diet. I and Rosa quit eating at Rodger's Barbeque everyday because it was so fattening and the portions were so huge. My father asks me every night why I am not going.

  • My friend, Charlie, put in a dog door for Maggie here at this house. It has been one of the most welcomed things. Now, I don't have to worry about accidents on the floor anymore when I am gone. Maggie started using it the day Charlie put it in.

  • My good friend, Cheryl, sent me some magazines and a note yesterday via the postal service. It was so good to hear from her and I stayed up late last night reading those magazines. Thank you dear friend.

  • I have pretty much exhausted places to put flyers for my support group in the local area. I am hoping for a better turn out come this Monday. It will help next Monday not being a holiday.

  • I finally start moving stuff to my new home today. I and Charlie are moving the couch and the piano and all the stuff I had in storage after my divorce which is boxes and boxes of my Model Railroading kits and supplies. Charlie has also got me up a queen sized bed for my bedroom which will be nice.