For some inexplicable reason, the sun rose again; people got up, fed themselves and their pets, went to work and were just taking their lunch break when I finally got up the nerve, or maybe the strength (Iím not sure which), to go for a walk.
I try to get down to the promenade every day to check on my friend, the ocean. It was still there, thank God.
It was January in Los Angeles, so, naturally, it was also smoggy and very warm. In fact, it was insultingly warm; smugly warm; superior-ly warm; a kind of fuck-the-rest-of-you-Iím-calling-in-sick warm.
The beach was crowded ( for January ) with people tanning in the ďmid-winterĒ sun, while children cavorted in the sand, and dogs and birds playfully messed about. Surfers waited patiently for the next set; the smog hung lazily in the air out on the horizon. I listlessly pulled out a pack of smokes and began my day. It occurred to me as I began my morning hack and wheeze, that the people on the beach below might as well be insects for all the importance their existence had on me. Iím so jaded I thought, jaded and cynical. Jaded and cynical and blasť. And tired, most of the time. So tired , in fact, that I could hardly muster the strength to suck another lung-full of smoke from my cigarette.
Somehow I had lost most of my strength; not my physical strength really, but my will to keep going through the motions ( little did I know what was in store for me down this same road in just another year). Iíd lost most of my motivation to accomplish anything except the act of drinking. The Act was the centerpiece of my existence; all things, all else took a back seat to my worship. I wouldnít let anything threaten my practice of the act; and, thankfully, the act kept me from being anything but vaguely aware of the swirl of emotion that constantly surrounded me. I was caught in a blizzard of doubt, hatred, and confusion with the act as my one fixed point, my one true friend, my guiding light.
Of course it wasnít like I was a zealot or anything; I only practiced the act half of the day. The other half of the day was reserved for sleeping/ insomnia, thinking and sometimes working; on work days Iíd knock another four or five hours off of my worship time--course Iíd have to worship more stringently on those days, to make up for the slack time. But I was very devout. I never drank before noon.
So, on this particular morning, prior to my devotional to the liquor store ( house of worship) I was having a brief flirtation with reality. You see these occasional moments of clarity when everything is laid out before you, the past, the future, the whole timeline, in a very succinct and precise fashion and if you are very careful and hold your breath just right and donít make any sudden moves, the damn thing will leave you alone to get on with the business at hand! But if you flinch, the damned thing will chew on you for hours like some beast of prey and leave just enough meat on the bone for a light snack later on ( usually around three oíclock in the morning). I almost always flinched.
And on this morning, as I waxed philosophical, I began to notice my lack of enthusiasm even as my life was eating me alive. Nothing was penetrating; nothing was getting my dander up. I was impotent, passionless; I watched the world around me falling apart and I was powerless to do anything about it; nor did I care a flying fig!
Prior to my crawl to the edge of the beach, I had sat watching the morning news, distractedly, trying to pay attention. Everything had this aura of artificiality about it. It wasnít an outright fact, but more of a sense that something is just not the same; as if the known universe was somehow flatter or something. As if weíd misplaced a dimension, like a sock lost somewhere between the dryer and the bed. I even tried adjusting the TV, thinking that that was the problem, but the colors were still subdued, the newscasters pale and lifeless, the events so very far away.
And, again, that ancient feeling, not even a feeling really, a vague intuition that I am not really of this world; just barely clinging to this world. Itís not like being an outcast and struggling to win back oneís rightful place in the hearts and minds of a loved one or a member of oneís family or gang or anything like that. No, itís more like you donít have a place in your own heart ; no room at the Inn, so to speak.
Growing up is an awkward process, at best; but growing up awkward is not a pretty picture. You never know, until after the fact, what to say, what to do or what to wear. You just learn to live with confusion and chaos. In fact, I would find myself getting scared if things were going all right. Thank God I discovered the Act.
Of course, the biggest drawback to the Act was the act itself. Itís that old dichotomy, salvation often delivers you into even more devilish circumstances.........
written in 1982
(I quit drinking on May 7th, 1984. I used to celebrate this occasion by throwing a party, but it just doesnít seem that big a deal anymore... only a marker for the point on the timeline where I began to turn my life around... no big deal, really. Still, I feel that some acknowledgment of the occasion is necessary, so this year, a special "insert" commemorating that time before was featured in the May, 1998 Lummox Journal ($2 or SASE w/ $.55 postage to PO Box 5301, San Pedro, CA 90733-5301, USA). It is a fragment from that time when I answered to a different Muse. I share it with you now and hope that you will find it interesting.)
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