Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 40: Whosoever Arises Shall be Assisted with Great Power (What the heart is and what it feels), a forty day finale of unbidden joy...


 Status: The finale that is DAY 40 of Succulent Sobriety starts out with the story of a succulent soul mate. Over the last (shit) eleven years I have been blessed beyond the dilatory discourse and scattered scope of human measure to have a feminine-dual, a genderless splotch, a narrative time signature, a creature of poetic pulchritude spiritually sautéed with metaphysical grace, a creature who more or less creatively complements every subatomic facet of my being,  a dome light casting a corporeal key-hole silhouette against the molecular quilt of reality, the plosive hiss of the bride exhaling a punctuating breath across the  doily valence of a  promenading veil. 

The highlight of my life has been shared with this individual. Our rapport is as gentle as the stubby dactyls on a newborn’s footprint or the incipient wisp of the first clean  breath of spring. No money, no literary accolades could possibly supplant the canteen of joy stowed inside the area code of my chest that somehow resembles the horizontal winged-gild of this creature’s smile. Snap a cardiac sonogram of everything that is inside of me and you will see an emerald park bench abutting the shores of Lake Michigan outside Chicago, my arms buckled around the lower hemisphere of her lithe anatomy, lifting her up because when you are madly in love that’s what you do.

For a long time this swaying  black-haired creation with wings was my muse and I spent about two years scribing her looong romantic missives, pounding beer after beer while crafting poem after poem buoyed beneath the scent of her spirit, basking in the mystical fragrance of her memory, orienting the cursory cyber arrowhead of the mouse across the screen saver where the subtle hyphen of her lips would atomically dissilient into bouquets of loss as I passed out at the helm of my keyboard, a city skyline of aluminum cans in various Frank Gehry stages of corrugation in front of me like a neglected shrine of votive candles planted at a forgotten rockstar's grave.
Physically I have not seen my feminine tandem since autumn 2006  (nothing like being separated by the nuptial tarp of the Atlantic) but the residual patina of her smile accompanies me daily like a stuttered pulse.
She also gave me the copper, which is the most precious thing I own.
 She also gave me dreams.

When our dalliance was a daily waltz groping with the interior narrative of discovery I would nocturnally harvest five or six portentous dreams about this creature a week where I was reeled out of my body into a pasture of cumulus and light, coalescing, finding myself somehow being as one with her. Over the last couple of years the dreams arrive maybe twice a year where I wake up, my sockets dripping with tears and longing.  
The following dream I experienced in the catacomb darkness of my mother's basement where I crash when I can't sleep, the night of June seventh, the night Succulent Sobriety was originally scheduled to end. 

In the dream I was with my dear friend and literary curator Natashia Deón and we were giving a reading for DIRTY LAUNDRY LIT (coolest lit series on the scalp of this planet) and we were in Hollywood only we took a shuttle bus with a bunch of writers’ I have never met and ended up in a desert.  Our reading was scheduled to transpire in a remote cave, tenebrous and dark, as if the eyelids of the planet were welded shut in supplication and prayer. We lit candles and saw a mandala indicating that the cave was a sacred Hopi Indian site. As we began to read the cave was illuminated, metaphysically transmogrified into a holy place replete with sweeping stalks of Doric columns sprouting like ivory husks in the arable acropolis in the field that is eternity. There were spangles of light ricocheting in baubles and orbs and the more we read the more palatial and Parthenonesque the dream purlieu became we discerned that, where once there was darkness was now an altar bleeding with light brimming artists' of diverse color and age and ethnicity, each one  serving some greater universal consciousness via the development of his/her craft. Via giving everything that is inside of one's chest for one higher goal.

It was a symposium of peace and heralded serenity and there was laughter and no bias and somehow, more individuals kept appearing, plopping out of the quantum ether like soapy childhood bubbles on  Easter Sunday and laughing and giving and loving free from the invidious sociological manacles of bias and spite. It was humanity as an aesthetic apiary of oneness, all lifting their hands and worshiping the light they were helping to create by their spiritual altruism,  and there was joy dolloped with unifying fits of laughter and when I turned around in an almost a carousel of dervish display of  soul-wrought wailing I espy her behind me, the dark-haired girl of my dreams.

Normally in the dreams we are together and our arms are draped like sails around each other's neck and we are magnetically tugging  and there is this nuclear glow between us. Sometimes I will wake up and feel like she is in the room with me. I almost always wake up bathed in a permeated daze of peace, tears skidding down my cheekbones in an avalanching nostalgia of bliss.
This dream is somehow different. 
In  this dream she is completely ignoring me. When I go up and endeavor to hug her she swivels into the converse direction. When I ask her to worship with me she dissipates into the golden mass. I go on a quest to find her. Everyone around me is glowing and singing in a perennial state of bliss only I am forlorn because I am not with the creature who completes me. I find her again by the door.  Again I traipse up to the swaying dark-haired lass who the last decade of my life has more or less orbited around and again she completely ignores me.
The more I chronicle my dreams over the years the more I have discerned that the residue of my  nocturnal  shadow reacts in pretty much the exact way my physical being would respond in succinct situations, as if my brain can not intuit the distinction between the curtain of dream and the cocktail of reality. In the dream I respond to her as I would in real-life.   I tell her that I love her. I tell her that the pinnacle of my existence in the slated realm of phenomenological being has been spent in the tempo of her breath and golden time-signature of her spirit. In the dream I apologize for verbally exploding on her three years past. In the dream I ask for forgiveness.
In the dream I place the metaphysical talisman of the copper in her hand.
In the dream I kiss her forehead and tell her I love her.
And in the dream she is taciturn, and completely ignores me while this circus of light and spangles of bliss perennially transpires.
She then leaves and, in the dream, I do the only thing I know how to do. I leave the womb of bliss adorned with the chorus of writers' and artists. I exit the womb of the Hopi Indian cave and I go out to find her. 

I then find myself in a desolate alley of an inner city, the dregs of society. When I locate the swaying black haired girl of my dreams she is making out with an Spaniard man I have never seen before whom she refers to as 'Rodrigo.'  I accost them and break up their little back-seat junior high make-out session. I glaze into her countenance and ask her, after all this time, why am I  never fucking good enough for her and in the dream she still doesn't have the balls to look me in the face and barter sentences. I tell her that I love her again and ask her why. Again she is reticent. When the Spaniard lad gets in my face I hurl him to ground and he begins to whimper.

Again I ask her why she is like this.

Again my inquiry is met with a hummed blanket of silence.
I then did something I would never do outside the stanza of dream. I reach into my pocket and fish out the copper. The copper was glowing in iridescent winks. I held up the most precious thing I owned and, sans a second thought, threw it as hard as I could into the direction of my beloved.
I then turn around and walk away.
In the dream I remember that I didn't look back. In the dream I remember wanting to look back at my bride and her fucking beau and even my beloved copper all lying their like splattered bowling pins one final time.
But in the dream I remember not looking back.
Physiology: “An African story called, ‘The Leopard Woman’ paints a man’s story from the other pole of magic. In the story a man a woman and their infant, who is strapped to the woman’s back, are walking in a forest. Hungry and tired, they come upon some bush cows.
 ‘You are capable of transformation,' the man says to his wife. ‘I am not. So why don’t you go transform yourself into a leopard and go kill a cow for our dinner?’

‘What shall I do with our child?’ she asks. ‘How can you ask this of me?’

‘Just put him here,’ says the man, at the bottom of the tree.

She does not want to do what he has asked her, but does. She takes the child off her back and puts in the base of a huge tree.

Soon the transformation begins. Her hands become claws, and her face becomes hairy and changes in structure; all the while she is glaring at the man. She turns into a growling leopard. When she is fully transforms she moves to attack her husband and he clambers up the tree Now she circles around the child as is to eat it. The man knows he should do something, but he’s too frightened.  

Finally she  goes off and kills one of the bush cows. . She drags it back and begins to transform back into a woman. When the transformation is finished she calls back to her husband, ‘Come back down! What are you so afraid of?’

‘I’m not coming back down until you put the child back on your back.’ He says, trembling. If she puts the child back on her back then he knows that she won’t turn into a leopard again.  

She does as he asks and he comes down. She looks him in the eye and says,  
‘Don’t you ever ask me to do that again,”  He resolves not to and they eat the food.


There's a Buddhist anecdote where a man who is threatening to commit suicide informs his Zen master of his plan. Rather than dial a hot line the Zen master nonchalantly turns to the man and says, "Why don't you just go ahead and kill yourself now so you can go on and enjoy the rest of your life later."

Five months ago at the snapping fresh linen outset of another spring I decided to endeavor to go 40 days sans alcoholic ambrosia as a Self-diagnosis, a psychological biopsy to discern why I felt the need to drink all the time.

I made it thirty-eight point three days.

Here's what I have gleaned from the experience:

I've learned that I like beer and that I'll probably always be a drinker and at times, pound more libations into my anatomy than is probably salubrious for my literary longevity.

I've learn that my addiction to drowning down as many barley-pops into my thirtyish frame of being has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with alcoholism as it has to do with shit that has happened in my past; myself employing highly-accented hoppy liquid as a transitory gauze in an effort to heal, wishfully hoping welts of the past will scab over with every voluntary swig. 

I've learned that there is absolutely nothing wrong with AA and that there is a certain beauty to throwing up your hands like a referee and a field goal and capitulating that you just can't do it on your own anymore.   

I've learned that everyone has shit from their past and a lot of people who have had less opportunities than I have deal with their shit every day in healthier manners than I ever could. 

I've learn there is such a thing as yearning and growth and sometimes, in order to achieve the level of growth desired it is necessary to momentarily give up (or, in the biblical tradition 'sacrifice') in order to achieve a succinct caliber of growth.
  I’ve learned that I don’t have a body but that I merely live in one for an extremely terse finite quantum half-breath of what is perceived as calculated winks of time.

I’ve learned that drinking six beers a day is healthier than being addicted to something asinine and vacuous and materialistically affirming like, say, Pintrest. 

I've learned that I'd rather have a couple thousand dollars in the bank than an apartment strewn with crushed aluminum shingles and a complimentary beer belly that resembles a yeasty cumberbun.

 I’ve learn not to be shackled to the victim hood housed in the prison of the past. For years I was a slave and felt worthless, felt that I wasn’t good enough because I went to a high school where the avg ACT score was somewhere in the ballpark area code of 9-16 and that, in college, when I realized that I had some mutant kind of gift where I could drink for 16 hours straight and still be sauntering around campus with sea legs, a copy of Ulysses tucked under my arm while my contemporaries, the golden haired-lads with trust funds and futures who are now married to sexy overtly dentally-hygienic wives who sit around shooting vapid texts all day and now live in a subdivision where all the houses look like mortgaged liposuction remain fallen facedown in their own piss-ass weak pilsner.     

I've learn there are alternative ways to have fun other than drink and masturbate all the time.

I’ve learned that the more you work at your particular devotion to your craft and the more it blooms into fruition the more people will fucking hate you (Boy, it just sears more than anything else when a family member or someone you used to date and/or be inside of comes to you and (lovingly) lambastes your ambitions and dreams by stating that you don’t know what you are doing with your life and that you are a flippant failure)  People you thought were your lovers and friends, people you have helped out and supported will stab you in the back, Judas, tweeting the GPS navigational coordinates of the Garden of Gethsemane for 30 silver-laced thumb-affirming Facebook status updates.

I’ve learned that there is no better feeling in the world as a writer then when someone you have never met before comes up to you at a Reading or a dinner party and blithely informs you that something you have spent secluded hours upon hours polishing and crafting means the fucking world to them.


I’ve learned about the gentle beauty of friendship and the privilege of having a Lewis and Clark (or Thelma and Louise if Thelma harbored a penis) type of rapport.  Valena, we conquered not only this state but christened a bucolic slice of the Midwest through our desultory drives and infinite conversations, driving through the dusty arteries of back country roads, writing fairy tales about Goofy Ridge, finding the fallen headstone of the late-great RICK BAKER in Leroy, Illinois (it was as if I was standing over Jim Morrison’s grave at Pere Lachaise in Paris)  witnessing the sun lumber and faint over the reflective glaze of Spring Lake, over the gushy spumes of trickling water at Mathieson Grace, against the tectonic crags at GARDEN OF THE GODS, looking for barns and white-trash leprechauns across the sprawling coifed emerald golf course that is the state of Wisconsin, the covered Bridges of Southwest Indiana,  prostituting each bridge arching across the leaky drain of the mighty Mississippi River,  cringing at the nasal screech of timeless desolation that is a whistle of a country train at dusk or the sight of a prehistoric columbine plowing across a chessboard of dried corn. Two weeks ago we set out for a three hour jaunt to Missouri to buy cheap cigarettes (i.e,  around 32 bucks for a cylindrical carton of Marlboro Special Blend 100’s vs. around 65 in Illinois) and ended up eighteen hours later watching the pilsner  flavored sun transition into an incendiary billiard of light against the back drop of Mount Rushmore , drinking beer in the fumbling alchemical shadows of the  Black Hill in South Dakota, camping out beneath a stain-glass trumpeting jism of stars, running naked with Mountain Goats  (well, I ran naked with mountain goats)…Valena, your friendship has been the highlight of my summer. The growth I yearned for when I started Succulent Sobriety I have witnessed in  your uncharted benevolence and grace. In your shy soda-bread  of your smile.

In the subtle bat and whispering azure of your eyes.
With everything left it my chest.
Thank you.
I've learned that I have worth as a human being. For years I felt like a fucking statistic treating my body and ambitions with as much respect as I would the urinal puck located in the Men's room my favorite West Peoria Watering hole. Worth that is not vain nor narcissistic. Worth in that I have a job to do as a writer and that, as much as I enjoy getting my readers' soused on the happy hour shot of my sentences or hung over on the suds of the page, I also have a duty to get them home safely and to tuck them in and make them feel loved.

I’ve learned that, like the dream, no one person or event is going to come along and be the transformation I need. No spontaneous spurt of financial augmentation, no wedding dress strewn like an ivory puddle across the carpet of a wedding suite, and no (and I say this as delicately and with as much cultural deference I can muster) no Deity, no solipsistic cultural notion of ‘God’ is going to come along sprinkle fairy dust, no pastor is going drip holy water or spoon feed me blessed vittles, a mock panacea to assuage my pain, neurologically speaking, no different from what I have been doing drinking fifteen beers a day for the last five years. 
I’ve learned that whatever spiritual currency one subscribes to the ethos remains almost exactly the same: Crucify your ego and then give everything that is inside one’s chest for something greater than yourself.

Then give a little more.

I've learned that, like the dream, change and growth often takes place in patches of our life that are often emotionally arid and creatively dry (the desert) and womb like dark (i.e, the Hopi cave) and that true growth and change often means voluntarily succumbing to the harrowing darkness of Hades, to sip from the silhouette of your own shadow, to embrace that part of your being that is uncomfortable in order to be sentient human being you were destined to become.
I've learn that, like the African story of the wife who is capable of transformation, I can't ask any one person who do the work I need to do to help me grow.
I've learn that, akin to the Buddhist proverb prefaced above, sometimes it necessary to commit suicide, not to the cathedral of flesh that is the gift of your body, but to your old neurologically harnessed methodology of thinking. To look at the world through the the lens different perspective. Death to the infantile ego. Birth to the mature. The resurrection of the body. The life everlasting amen.

 For a long time I felt that the only way to experience the bliss of this planet was to get as joyfully fucked up as was humanly possible.
For a long time I was wrong.
For LAST CALL, the final round for all perusing  Succulent Sobriety, my goodnight faretheewell midnight shot for all is this: Never forget the color of your name. Never forget the  unique key-signature of your heart and the melody of your song. Never stop giving. Never stop squeezing and finding the coppersque gold in others, or as James Joyce's doppelganger posits in a letter to his mother at the end of PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN where, after reading a missive from his mother in which he is to sever himself from the manacles of the past the protagonist Stephen Dedalus contemplates on what the heart is and what it feels before breaking into an amen. Before welcoming oh' life in a Whitmanesque Yawp, going forth to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy soul of the uncreated conscience of  his race. Our race. The unity and oneness sprouting off the scalp of the planet in billions of clustering exclamatory stalks of consciousness all somehow rising as one into universal smatterings of cosmic light.

    "Whosoever arises shall be assisted with Great power," is a golden Baha'i adage.   My prayer for the beatific brow of my faceless readers' is that they may accumulate the audacity to believe in the miracle of their own flesh, to quaff from the keg of courage and conquer their own demons, to inwardly traverse to places in their psyche that are dark and baffling in order to incubate, to be reborn, to grow.


Promise me this, and you've given me the greatest gift any wayward writer, succulent or sober, could ever hope to achieve.

 Thanx for readin' and escorting me on my quest for growth via chronicling the drunken foibles of my past in an endeavor to till the wheat fields of eternity with the seeds of perennial growth for all mankind. In the immortal words of Guru Rumi let the beauty you love be why you do.

As long as we are here we are immortal.



Special Thanks: You. Simply you. Thank you for reading. It means so much.

Extra Special thanx: Kyle Devalk, Natashia Deón , Brianne Ahmann, Larry Bradley, Hollyee Green , J. Whitmore, The Tartan Inn, Tiff G, Kristin F, and of course, (everyone altogether, in unison)
"Where we would be without our good friend Barbara Antoniazzi ???"

Gratitude to my muses who over the spilt calendar squares of the last half-decade have permeated the  high alcoholic content of my poems with the draught of their hearts...each of whom I love rather ardently and each of whom I had to emotionally jettison in order to grow, respectably, Cheri-Lee, who gave me the shot glass of youth,  Kirbie Chop-Chop, who gave me the carafe of  humor (dorkwad!), and Arya  Joon who metaphysically milked and then kissed the keg of all and joy and  amended-peace  (phuckin' Aires!!! I tell you!!!)

Extra-extra special gratitude and thanx: Jenn Gordon, incumbent mummy Beth O'brien, 
 Linda Von Behren, and (oh yeah) the refulgent holistic hosanna's of Valena Jackson.....
love, longing,  drizzled vats of succulent happiness to you all...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 39 (c.): Succulent gratitude (just plain sux)... Readers' appreciation day blog...a drunken mosaic of joy...

The neon signs go dim. The bartender carols out "Last Call."
What commenced in the Spring has transitioned into Fall
A sabbatical deemed by critics as abstemious yet forlorn
To go forty days w/out beer,
"Hey, Why not just give up porn?"

Forty days sans a cold one, a six pack, 24 case or pitcher
Forty days to make my liver inestimably richer
Forty days w/out Happy hour, Keg stands, beer pong, late-night frolick
Forty days to learn that N/A stands for non-alcoholic.

Forty days, a scrupulous intense self-analytic rout
You only dream of rain in the midst of a creative draught
Words, manna from heaven, 40 days on which to feed-   
-and now is the time to thank those of you who took the time to read--

As Vermouth is to a Martini, as Kim Deal is to The Breeders
This poem is a Toast of gratitude just for you, my dear readers:

There is Larry Bradley who writes about Barber shops in crisp stanzas as if with shears
Jake Long who whenever I need a friend to talk has perenially been near.
 David Hale's insight guides me like a Peruvian Shaman
And even though she smokes ersatz e-cigarettes I still adore you, Brianne Ahmann.

There's Regina Mooney whose lips remind me of college French and senior walk
My oh my how I enjoy 'Wasted Wed’s' with my poetic brother, Kyle Devalk
As we intellectually posit while pounding beers, beat literature  and bliss
Always a pleasure to hang out with my neighbor, new mummy, Jen VanNess.

Thanks to Stephanie Green Smith whose memoir just plain kicks phucking-ass
When I hang out with Mike Galletti of Dirty Gentleman we always drown a cold crate of Pabst
My girl Krista Buchannan saw me read while sipping iced chai tea
Thank you Becky Lynn and J. Whitmore, whose witticisms are nothing short of incendiary.

And while she corrected my botched analogy concerning  the vicissitudes of the feminine “clit,”
I’m eternally gratefully to Natashia Deón and her kick-ass series Dirty Laundry Lit
Which gave me Hollywood, traipsing down the heralded Walk of Fame
Man, I’ll never forget touching the ivory finger tips of Miss Sarah St. James.

Thank you dearest Molly Fleming who to me will always be Mrs. Paroo
and to Kristin Frazee who sent me a picture of her sexy new Tattoo
Invariably my drinking sabbatical availed me time to financially catch up on bills
and to reminisce about  performing on BLACKSTARSEA hosted by the impeccable Josh Wills.

Gratitude to Ash in London who delineates the color of my dreams
It’s hard to meet someone more talented than the graceful Holly Greene
Who sang at Champs West while I drank Oxygen backed with a double shot o’ Hydrogen
How cool it was after all these years to hear from my dear Aunt Marilyn.

For local artists who inspire me like cool Stormy Monday and Diva Suzette
And the Beautiful creatures whom through this project I feel blessed to have met
”Skeet-loving” Tiffany Gray and a beautiful scribe named Athena
And WOW what a summer did I ever have with a reader named Valena
Promenading across county lines, sunset smoking, drinking gas station cappuccino
How honored I am to be invited to the aesthetic union of Carissa and Roxy Reno.

 I’m Thankful for Cumbo Cannella, book thief, proprietor of the voluptuous double G-cup
And the hearth-sized heart of Harshi and Erich Gilbert who gave my prose two thumbs up
Diane Hollister and Michelle Veal,  culled Cullum-Davis Library lore
And where would I be w/out my Sunshine (smile!) behind the counter  at the corner liquor store.

Thanx to Patrick ‘The Great’ McReynolds who got embarrassed when I espoused his romantic foibles and fates,
And cool playwright Karen Howes who I tried to seduce my quoting William B. Yeats’
Song of Wandering Aengus, Golden apples of the Sun,

The Silver apples of the moon
Thank you so much to the Tartan Inn as we partied all last June.

To my  brother DAZ whose GOBZINE captures vignettes of hamsters and fairies
After the death of his father you’re still my hero Cousin Larry
And even though reading my prose gave them optical blisters
I’m so grateful to have two of the most fragrantly talented sisters.

And to those I forgot to mention due to lapsed mental ambiguity
Remember when the cops find you drunk in the cemetery to use the word, 'Perspicuity'.
Never forget Rumi’s mantra ‘ Let Beauty you love be what you do.”
(It's been  21 years since Young Columbus England and I’m still blessed to know Mark-Andrew)

With gilded Daedalus wings may your every dream flutter and soar
As Gavra Lynn cries out, “Darkness doesn’t scare me anymore!!!!”
From that poor man’s poet who candidly chiseled out his vices for the planet to pan and perceive
(Everyone) “Where would we all be without our good friend Barbara Antoniazzi?”

Dear Reader, thank you for accompanying me on this forty day moratorium
even though I foundered on day 38 and moved into a craft beer emporium.
Think of that old writer while sipping  your next alcoholic brew

And realize what’s inside is not as magical as you.

From closet tubesock sperm, as Ovum is to semen
Never be afraid to go inside and conquer your own Demons
Be intrepid and audacious, the Dharma to Kerouac's itinerant bum

Know that someday you will be the person you yearn to become.
Thanks for reading. May this autumn bring you leaves of sunset tiles.
Sobriety never sux in the forever succulence of your smile.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 39 (b): The courage to differentiate between our wants (which are never satisfied) and our needs (which are always provided for) defense of Alcoholics Anonymous...

Status: My first kiss duly transpired Friday Oct. 11th, 1991. It was junior high night at the Christian center and I was in seventh grade. Her name was Jessica and she had loopy earrings and fritzy auburn hair that somehow resembled a side order of curly fries. The maroon and gold fluffy mid-nineties integers sewn below the lapel of her high school jacket indicated that she was a sophomore at East Peoria while I was a seventh grader attending a Lutheran grade school across the river, though I lied, prevaricating that I was only in town a short while visiting my cousin and attended a fictitious high-school on the north shore of Chicago with the word Glen in the title.

It was mid-October. Shards of stain glass leaves raked and scurried against gravel parking lots cascading in dervish swivels and leafy seizures. Somehow I remember wooing her by quoting Markey-Mark and the Funky Bunch lyrics (rote) and somehow I remember sitting down next to her by the creek in the woods and somehow the next thing I remember was that our respective heads were cantilevered, awkwardly tilted, gravitating with pursed ring-pop lips in the direction slightly above the other's respective chin. She wasn’t exactly fat, more like ample. The sort of girl Ben Franklin might fantasize over espying the sight of her cottage cheese loins delicately alighted in a Victorian girdle. I remember the hottest cheerleaders in high school always sort of looked like stuck up Grateful Dead Teddy Bears with bad perms and side pony tails. During the inaugural act of teenage osculation her eyes were stamped shut like suburban blinders, emulating every kiss culled from every slow-motion bubblegum mid-eighties teenage pop oriented drama ever seen. My eyes remained welded open, the size of twin trash can lids waiting  to be inopportunely clanged together like cymbals in a junior high play. Everything was dry and then everything was just full-frontal sloshing and wet. I remember trying to suck on something that was squirming and moist that kept undulating and kicking like a fetus inside the bridge of my lips. I remember that I could taste the flavor of the stars and hints of a distant bonfire in the crimped sway of her hair. I remember cupping my arm behind her lumbar as if trying to climb her and the next thing I realized I was lying on top of her in the fashion of Pete Rose Johnny Hustle sliding head first into second base.

I remember one second we were kissing and then somehow our torsos are welded together in a pulsating denim pentagon.

I remember it was autumn and I am all of thirteen years of age.

I remember simply not wanting to stop.


Physiology: You see them all around only you would never know. Idling at bus stops. Skirting through the dim-lit linoleum at Walgreens. Sometimes you talk. Sometimes there is a silent yet gravid nod of earnestness. If you have been in the program for a while a conversation will indubitably ensue. There is usually a facial skitter cosigning acknowledgement. Sometimes a smile. Sometimes a squeeze of the arm or a hug. Some are court ordered. Some arrive dreary eyed and blitzed. Some go outside after the serenity prayer to vomit. Some are shaking from D.T.’s. Some have been through physical and emotional shit I wouldn't wish to inveigh on any viable creature bearing a pulse. A surprising number are professionals who make five times my annual income and arrive in posh vehicles and smile and greet you in the fashion in which overtly smiley and annoying people you don't know greet you in the annex of an out of state church you are visiting.

They come and they congregate in almost Sunday School fashion forming isosceles triangles with their shoulder blades, smoking, ashing filtered stems in an old Maxwell House coffee can, loafing on the wooden deck outside. I remember when I attended my first initial meetings I tried to look strung-out, tried to emulate the black-and-white jaded-dole eyed rectangle author photo of my mentor David Foster Wallace. Tried to look intellectually pensive, pawning off the appearance of a jaded academician.  I remember there being uproarious puffs of laughter in the room and feeling like I was seated at the adult table during Thanksgiving dinner. I remember people of disparate ethnicity and age seated together at the same table like a sociological mosaic smiling and chuckling and drinking coffee and commiserating about the inevitable pathos of day to day living. 

There is an emotional crutch. There is psychological I.V.  A spiritual hammock. A drip of hope in a weary world that continues to churn its cosmic neck with galactic insouciance into whatever future there may be one day at a time. 


Status: The lady with the long red hair is older and she is a survivor. When we first met she tells me about a friend she had gone through treatment with who is my age and who just died from a heroin overdose. The next day I find his name in the paper and wedge the obituary under the office door where she works. She thanks her capital-g notion of a higher power deity for her sobriety. She thanks God for enabling her to take things one day at a time and for granting her the courage to accept the things she cannot change. She smokes likes Chimney at Chernobyl five minutes before the incendiary frisson of nuclear light. She commutes an hour to work in a car that is non-smoking swearing and chanting the serenity prayer like a Buddhist mantra. She has poignantly made amends with things she has lost and has accepted the things she cannot change. She has succumbed to a peace in her life that is palpable when you are around her. She has a sponsor she swears on. She is there for others in times of need.  

She looks at each calendar square as an easel brimming with unlimited potential, a blessing sprouting with digits.

When I tell her that I am starting a project to investigate the philosophical pandering’s concerning why I feel the unerring need to drink all the fucking time she cusps my hand and gives it a little squeeze. She tells me that I can do this. She calls me by my first name. She tells me I can do this, David.

She is gregarious. She is older. She elucidates the jargon. She tells me what is meant by a ‘Belly-Button,’ anniversary. She tells me about when she got clean how she had a funeral for the child she miscarried while she was smoking crack. She is into Yoga. I tell her all about my crazy drunken forays. I tell her how every time I imbibe I feel like I slough all the pain and itinerant hurt and that  I don't feel like a  fucking failure. I tell her how every time I imbibe I feel immortal.   

She smiles. She looks at me like I am entertaining. She doesn't judge or harbor biases because I am drinking and she has made a commitment to stay sober.

"You can do this." She says to me again. "You can do this, David."



Physiology: I attended my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting early 2009, crunching over clotted banks of chalky January snow trudging against the inky night of a starless winter to a nondescript building sharing its entrance with the Basket Case. I recognized it was an AA meeting from the Triangle trapped in the bubble emblem winking out from the window a la Free Masonry like fashion. When I used to drink at the Basketcase back in the day I remember seeing working class members that attended the meetings outside smoking cigarettes.   A month earlier I had lost my job at Bradley University due to a series of defamations (as has every writer in academia of note) and, after feeling worthless and seriously contemplating suicide (brushing it off because you can’t get piss-ass drunk when you are piss-ant dead, much less write) I decided to attend AA on my own volition.

I decided to discern why I felt the unerring need to drink all the time.

I didn't want to go.

 I drank 16 beers to accumulate the courage to leave my apartment. I drank a beer en route, finishing the beverage at the corner of Main and Sheridan, punting the can across the street, trying to hit the pastel rodent on what was then the Church Mouse. I am an affable lush. I have never gotten a DUI or been arrested or court ordered to wear a totalitarian manacle to measure my blood alcohol content. I almost always have a beer cracked open when  write and I write my ass off every day. Somehow over the past decade I slipped in the habit of hitting happy hour after picking up my paycheck on Friday and partying for three days straight in a slot machine blur of bar stools and beer bottles and cigarette smoke.

Almost always I end the night staring into the passenger-side window of my computer screen looking at the poverbial love-of-my-life, the one-who-got away there-son, cupping the mouse, sliding the cursory arrowhead over her  hair in front of me, wondering what happened with us.

I continue to traipse, forming pterodactyl tracks in the snow. I am smoking like a motherfucker.  I can hear the sallow chimes indicative of bad Karaoke in the Basketcase.  The lights stretching outside the building is the color of a lost yawn.

The last thing I want to do is to go inside and get warm.


Status: I ask the classy lady with the red hair if she misses going out. If she misses partying. If she misses getting her freak on. I tell her I am at day five of my forty day sojourn. I tell her this is the longest I have gone without an alcoholic beverage in almost eight years.

She looks at me and smiles. She asks me why I insisted on forty days.

"Historically forty is a gestation period. It is always a period where people are lost and fumbling around and looking for something only they don't know what it is. When was is lost and searchin change is imminent and so is growth."

I ask her what she does for fun in addition to smoking and copious amounts of masturbation.

The lady with the red hair laughs. She squeezes my hand again.

"You can do this, David. I believe in you. You can do this."

She continues to call me by the twin-syllables of my first name.




Physiology:  Much of AA meetings are fashioned in the format of Church. There are Old testament and epistle readings  guised in plastic sheaths entitled HOW IT WORKS (which includes the 12 steps) followed by a reading of what is known in AA as the twelve traditions. There is then a daily meditative reading culled from the Big Book read in the fashion of listening to the gospel reading in church only nobody rises, they just look down and inwardly nod. Coffee always seems to be  percolating in the backroom. There is sometimes cake or a home-made batch of cookies. Via  recitation of the HOW IT WORKS/12 step epistle reading orated at the outset of every meeting, everyone in the room more or less admits that they are completely 100 percent helpless over their 'cunning, baffling'  alcohol predilection  and that their lives have become completely unmanageable. During this confession it is also acknowledged that the only force that can assist the plural 'us' vault over our addiction with alcohol is the psychological awakening of a non-denominational  'God' or personal 'Higher Power.' 

The person chairing the meeting often notes a list of local AA events such as socials or barbecues or incumbent Guest Speakers before notably inquiring if anyone in attendance has an alcohol-free anniversary to celebrate. If someone does they are awarded a coin/slash/token that looks like something you would slit into a ski-ball machine at Showbiz. If there is an anniversary there is always applause followed by smiles and shoulder patterings of encouragement.

A kettle is then passed around.  Each AA group is self-sufficient but a free-will offering is employed to ensure the maintenance and continuity of each chapter. No one in AA gets paid. The money is used to keep the electricity going and coffee brewing. Most members of AA have no problem placing a five in the kettle and then fishing out three ones to make change, something you would never see during a traditional Church offertory.

 The apex of nearly all AA  meetings consists of a twenty-to-thirty minute narrative jam session. A period of verbal sharing where the person states his/her name and publically confesses that he/she is an alcoholic accompanied by mass acknowledgements in the form of various intoning salutary 'Hi's' imminently followed by the persons previous said name. The only unwritten rules are that no one argues and that no one interrupts. Almost always you will hear someone explicate just how blessed they feel to be here in this room alive and sober today. Members with serious sober hangtime often talk about juggling mortgages or tattered relationships or health problems. Many will talk about the day-to-day struggle to remain sober especially when engaged in a rift with a co-worker or spouse. Occasionally someone who shot up copious amounts of heroin back in the day will sound like they are placing their narcotic of choice  on a soapbox pedestal of seniority, heralding that their drug-induced trauma kicked the wheezily alcoholic content of  your boxed wine cooler ass. More often than not, even if the addiction is going back up for second helpings of the Blood of Lamb during Mass, everyone in the room listens, everyone in the room commiserates with a nod, everyone says your name in jilted unison and smiles and nonjudgmentally accepts you, there but for the grace of God.

Many of the anecdotes shared are brimming with well-known AA bromides, easily pawned off as pathetic platitudes or campy cliches at first. The widely anthologized One day at a Time. The easy does its. The back sliding begins when knee-bending stops. The letting go of old ideas and change being a process not an event and how denial is not a river in Egypt. 64% of all narratives make a notion of thanking the members individual notion of a God or Higher Power for getting them here tonight. Many members (often it seems to me burly tattoo-riddled Bikers) will make a point how grateful there for this sort of fellowship and support system since they sure as shitfire weren't get any support from the church they grew up in.

The story-telling often escalates into some sort of emotional anagnorisis, pivoting on a spiritual catharsis with the hopes that, through divulging one's own struggle, fellow strangers in the room will find solace and peace and perhaps even hope.

AA meetings end with everyone in the room standing up holding hands, forming a human-puzzle piece, tucking their chins into the direction of the floor tiles chanting the Serenity prayer in stuttered unison, imploring the God of their understanding simply to grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change,  the courage to change the things they can and the wisdom to know the difference followed by the Lord prayer. Sometimes prior to the prayer the member chairing the meeting will rhetorically ask the question, 'Whose Father?'  To which the members wreathesdin a stalk of clasped hands will reply, "Our Father," before breaking out in the remainder of the prayer followed in tandem by the community fist clutching cheer, "Keep Coming Back. It works if you work it but you've got to work it every day!"


Status: Minutes after posting a Facebook group page for Succulent Sobriety I receive an I.M. flare from a neighbor whom I’ll call Ben. An acquaintance for over a decade, he married a friend of mine and now lives down the street. From time to time I see Ben and his wife performing Karaoke around town.

He seems intensely curious why I have decided to stop drinking for forty days and why I feel the need to chronicle the tale. When I tell him that after my forty days are up we'll have to all get together for  couple of beers he tells me . He informs me that he would love to meet me out only he doesn't drink.

"Why are you always in the bars if you don't drink?" I inquire.
“You kidding, man, sober people can party.”

He tells me that he has been sober and always drinks coke whenever he goes out. I tell him I always thought his coke had a few splashes of rum in it but I guess I never had the acumen to inquire.  Ben then asks me if I think he’s the only one in the bars not drinking.

“Recovering people love to party man.”

I ask him if he feels hypocritical chairing meetings yet frequenting local bars.

“When you attend AA you learn to have confidence in yourself and do things you love and not feel the need to drink.” He tells me that he’s known rock stars and comedians whose career revolves around performing in bars and that they are not going to refrain from going to work because the bar serves beer.

He then asks me what I love to do. He asks me if I need alcohol to do what I really love to do with the limited time I am allocated with life here on this planet.

 He calls me brother.


Physiology: My first hardcore junior high make-out session  with the semi-portly curly-fry haired girl in the woods lasted all of five minutes.  The moment I  straddled my limbs around the inflatable life raft of her splayed body wildly frisking her back in search of anything remotely resembling a horizontal elastic strap my adolescent foray into adulthood was  notably truncated by my friends Tim Flanagan and Patrick 'The Great' McReynolds who were conveniently spying on us. While Tim began warning us about the evils of lust and the incendiary snickers of Hell that will invariably accompany our untoward behavior, Patrick had a cheesy future Brother-in-Law-coordinating-the- Bachelor-party smirk glued on his lips and felt the compelling need to shake my hand offering his unadulterated congratulations  in front of poor Jessica, who would adopt the moniker Second Base in the junior high cafeteria  for the remainder of the semester.

Later that night I got Jessica's number but was too coy to call. She would have found it odd since I lied and told her I was from the hoity-toity Chicago suburbs anyway. 

I saw her only once again after that.

 It was the winter night I tramped out loaded into the unforgiving cold to seek help because I couldn't understand why I was drinking so much.

It was that night I saw Jessica, the first creature I had kissed when I was in 7th grade.

She was seated in front of the room, chairing my first AA meeting.

I didn't recognize her right away. Her hair was still long but it had straightened. . She seemed less vivacious then she was in the fall of 1991. Briefly I considered being an asshole saying something like, "Hello my name is David and I'm an alcoholic, and boy did WE ever get it on to Markey-Mark and the Funky Bunch twenty years ago."

Only I didn't. I sipped watered-down coffee and listened as Jessica talked about having a Meth addiction and how she even stole needles from her grandmother who was diabetic to shoot up.  She talked about how shooting up meth made her lazy and not want to do anything but lounge around all day and watch Lifetime and text shady people in search of accumulating more amphetamines. She talked about doing anything with her body in order to be able procure funds to supply more dope.  She talked about how it was only after her son was taken away by DCFS that she began to take what is referred in AA jargon as a moral inventory of one’s life. She talked about how, after a year of sobriety, she was able to reinstate custody of her son and how maintaining both her son and her sobriety are the most important things in her life.

 At the end of the meeting I held hands with strangers and bowed my head, supplicating to a power greater than myself for help, asking whose father it was, stating it was ours.
I  then left the meeting. The lady who I made out with another lifetime ago never knew who I was or that we had practically made sloppy teenage love in the woods all those years ago.
I left the meeting without telling her the identity of my name.
I remained anonymous the entire time.


Most of us don't know much about the fleeting breath of time we find ourselves evaporating against across the foggy windshield of this planet. Millions of years constituting the evolutionary backwash and genetic residue christening our perception of reality. Our addictions. Our emotional fetishes. Our desires and our loves.

Say what you want to about AA. That it's a cult. That it is for pussies. That it is only for junkies or people who are lightweights or lower income derelicts. That the bulk of the members who attend are court ordered and don't have a high school diploma and have a hard time reading aloud from the 12 steps pamphlet because they read at a second grade level. Say that AA is no different than attending a local church ofrcongregational setting choice (only everyone contributes to the sermon and curses and smokes outside afterwards and no one judges anyones behavior).

Say what you want about the organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous but know this:  

There is a distilled beauty in congregating in a room with random strangers and watching someone publically admit that they just can’t do it on their own anymore.There is a beauty in witnessing human beings yield to an inscrutable power transcending the vicissitudes and intellectual contours of their own understanding. There is a beauty on witnessing human beings refusing to be sociological  victims of their circumstances. There is a beauty in watching human beings jettison and refute the pain of yesterday; refusing to be neurological inmates in prison of the past. There is a beauty in realizing that they have made a psychological commitment to humbly experience this terse film-strip of reality in the fashion in which they were born, crying  out sans substance yet crying out nonetheless, moment by moment, meeting after meeting,  year after year, lifetime after lifetime, one day at a time.



People who have seen me perform sometimes note tears skiing down the slope of my cheekbones in medias performance, almost always when I'm reciting a piece by a writer I love, words, narrative appetizers and esculent vowels gnawing into the alphabetical prairie of the page.

 Sometimes it is George Saunders. Sometimes it is Lorrie Moore. It's difficult for me to recite certain passages by Shakespeare or Whitman or Yeats sans breaking down in a gulching avalanche of triangles and tears.

The last story in almost any edition of the Big Book features a personal narrative of a writer who chronicles his botched odyssey with alcoholism. From being a literary wunderkind, to a vodka-blitzed wizened wordsmith to a cirrhosis-riddled middle-aged  copy-right editor to an enervated esophageal hemorrhaging soused statistic of expired promised and anesthetized ambition to after years, finally drying out, discerning the narrative pulse of his own ethos through attending meetings, through sitting in a cluttered circle with random strangers in a dim-lit room while drinking weak coffee, through sharing stories finding strength in his sobriety and finding it oh-so succulent indeed.

Like my literary fetishes, it's a story that forms dampens prisms of moisture around my eye sockets while releasing rivulets of joy in my chest:

"We are taught to differentiate between our wants (which are never satisfied) and our needs (which are always provided for). We cast off the burdens of the past and the anxieties of the future, as we begin to live in the present one day at a time. We are granted "the serenity to accept things we cannot change"-- and thus lose are quickness to anger and our sensitivity to criticism."

I love that. Our wants are never satisfied, though our needs are always provided for. No matter how desultory destitute or flat out fucking impecunious my life has been at times  I have been blessed beyond the scope of human measure to always find sanctuary (even if it was living in the back of my station wagon in the old Jumers parking lot) or (menial) employment or even the occasional cold beer.Even though my wants were never satisfied. The creature I consider my soulmate  who lives in Europe and who gave me the mystical highlight of my life when we groped each other's hand on a holy relic and then held each other for hours, for days, for eternity, not kissing, just holding each other and feeling loved ; or the doily-skinned twenty-one year old who gave me the best sex ever on Bloomsday a year ago and how we kissed in the rain and made love for what seemed like collected art movements and I dreamed about proposing to her in an abandon house and how the fire alarm across the street always went off when we made love and how I never felt physically closer to another human being before she dissipated in a spring wisp, or good ol' Chop-Butt down the street.

How I hurt so much after these three beautiful creatures who I would gladly sacrifice 95 percent of my entire literary corpus just to be around them when they are feeling grouchy and bloated on their period and who, each on their own romantic volition, passed me over in favor of short-haired vacuous fucks (fucking Aires!!! and the street I live on is Ayres!!!) leaving my chest a Yahtzee cup fraught with lost legos and sandbox splinters and how for years I felt wounded and worthless supplanting my hurt by pouring as much alcoholic ambrosia in my body as was humanly possible to assuage the pain and psychologically augment my esteem and foster my self-worth all the while feeling loved and less alone and less of a sensate failure on the arable scalp of the planet.

Yes readers, my wants often were never satisfied.

But somehow my needs were always provided for.

The last paragraph in the Blue Book is a tautological coda, a doxology of the heart, a paragraph availing the promontory of individualization and self-worth. It is one of the most beautiful testaments of leading a life untethered from inevitable pangs of the past, hatching into the unlimited pasture of infinite potential, the vivid fragrance of one’s identity, the beauty and unparalleled uniqueness of one’s own destiny--- the color of your own name.

“Above all we reject fantasizing and accept reality. The more I drank the more I fantasized everything. I imagined getting even with my hurts and rejections. In my mind’s eye I played and replayed scenes in which I was plucked magically from the bar ( addendum: or writing desk in the woods, wink) where I stood nursing a drink and was instantly exalted to some position of power and prestige. I lived in a dream world (wink, again).  A.A. led me gently to embrace reality with open arms.  And I found it beautiful!!!  For at last I was at peace with myself. And with others. And with God.”

Amen to that, brother.

Amen indeed.