...After 8 years of just being dapperly drunk all the time writer David Von Behren endeavors to go 40 days without slurping an alcoholic libation, living to tell the tale by blogging about his daily snorkel into sobriety one day at a time, airing out his liver like fresh spring linen, forgoing the substance that has been his creative rod and staff in order to chronicle the dreams of all mankind...
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Day 23: When the axe came into the forest the Trees said the handle is one of us…
axe came into the forest the Trees said the handle is one of us…
Status: 23 Days. There is something about the prime
number 23 correlating with interminable athletic achievement and unparalleled
individual greatness when it comes to sports in the city of Chicago. There is
the standard numerical stitch of number 23 sewn into massacring red of Michael
Jordan’s jersey cosigning dual digits of immortality. There is the grace and
poetic facility of number 23 Ryne Sandberg at second base for the Chicago Cubs
during the 80’s, nonchalantly fielding an improbable base hit before seamlessly
transitioning a double play as if pirouetting in cleats. There is number 23
Devin Hester returning a football in the opening kickoff of Superbowl XLI
sprinting into the frenzied applause of the end zone. For my beloved Southsider’s the Chicago White
Sox there is number 23 3rd baseman (now coach) Robin Ventura minting
golden gloves as if panning for the elusive mineral next to Jack London in Fairbanks
Alaska. There was #23 Jermaine Dye’s clutch hit in game 4 of the 2005 World
Series leading him to the series MVP and the Sox to their first series title in
There is Jordan leaving, doffing the digits that heralded
such hosannas, the restlessness and ache of the wandering man, retiring from
his craft at age 30 shortly after the untimely demise of his father, wayfaring
his way into another sport, wielding an oak sabre in front of a farm league
strike zones, the perils and isolated passages of the wild man who yearns to discern
the color of his own name. Who yearns to quaff from a cocktail contrived from
his own sweat; to drink the angostura bitters’ of his ownblood. Who yearns to transform and ascend and to
become rather than simply to be. When Jordan returned to the game after 18
months of spiritual sabbatical he chose the number 45, the flesh of his #23
armor leering at him from a reserved shrine in the rafters, squinting ,
scrutinizing, beckoning. The Bulls’ failed to advance in the playoffs’ and Jordan
return the next season, Superman, clad once again in his familiar cape, the
numerical icons two and three superseding the sight of an imprisoned red S, the
Bulls’ went on to win the next three consecutive championships with Jordan
cementing his legacy as essentially the greatest of all time.
And of course, from a biblical perspective there is
the 23rd Psalm and the author whose name I (at least according to my mom) made
a metaphysical vow somehow to live up to.
(Emotional) physiology:Not having alcohol in the daily dugout of my
life has made me a bitter person. Not a vowel-altering better person. A bitter
person. It feels like my visage should be adorned on the cover of a Penguin
edition of Moliere’s Misanthrope giving the sophomoric thespian required to
read the text for his intro to Theatre class the finger. Before alcohol was a social
gauze. It was peroxide splashed across the emotional pangs of the fissured
chest. It healed and as long as I continued drinking on a daily basis I
remained in what I perceived to be optimum mental ballast. I had no remorse.
The existential shredding’s of failed relationships, stalled careers,
phenomenological solitude were duly supplanted by six-packs, by twelve packs,
by 24 packs, by seasonal blackouts, by waking up with a hung-over carousel of
canaries chirping above my forehead, mistaking a migraine for a nimbus of
In Robert Bly’s IRON JOHN the ideology of the wound
is seen as an imperative gift vital for growth andimperative for the psychological gestation of
exiting the alleyway of boyhood and entering the advent of being a man, or,
James Joyce posits at the end of a very long book, when the protagonist of
ULYSSES is drunk with the doppelgänger protagonist from THE PORTRAIT OF AN
ATRIST AS A YOUNG MANand they leave the
brother and amble home only to find themselves welded in the other recognition
of the other, “The child man weary, the manchild in the womb.”
is no known culture or mythological tradition in which there is not a journey
into the underground, into the dark cave, into the dark center of human life.”
dog-eared potbelly page-turner that is the narrative of my own life wounds that
have been scabbed over through years’ of the ritualistic daily pouring’s of
alcoholic ablutions are starting to appear as fresh welts. They are starting to
trickle into menstruating crimson splotches of hurt. And with the voluntary
absence of my beloved daily beer intake void from my life at least for now, the
demons and dragons are remain a prowl pawing at the lip of my psyche with
vaporous huff befogging the window panes of my dreams in an outlandish mist of
Before if I had a tiff with a person it would be
rectified following the, “Well have a few drinks, a few laughs and let bygones
be bygones,” mantra. I learned a long time ago that, just as I want my reader’s
to experience post-coital echelons of bliss that is the human condition using
words (faithful scribe I am) that words can be used to bite, to gnaw and to
wound. Twice in my life I have used words to stab, to inflict pain, the
psychologically bruise, and while I was battling, swinging the sentences of my
own sword to defend what I perceived to be the (solipsistic) norms of my own
hurt, I inflicted substantial pain on people I care about.
I wanted them to commiserate with my hurt. My
empathize with my emotions and part of me (indubitably) wanted them to bleed.
“For a man to be truly healed he must allow
something entirely different from himself to enter into his consciousness and
to change him.”
There’s a wonderful scene in the bible I remember from
when I was about the size of a goodyear tire attending Sunday School where,
after Jesus is betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane by a duplicitous kiss,
Peter brandishes his sword and starts hemming away at Roman earlobes, Christ
admonishes Peter by telling him to, “put back his sword,” before healing the
earless sentry and willingly going off to pursue his ordained ethos.
There’s a lot of ways to read this but from a
stimulating and enlightening Jungian perspective it reads as follows: a.) that
we are often deceived by the vacuous ‘kiss’ of reckless materialism and the
profligate-promises of the flesh, b.) that sometimes we are so inured we ‘lose’
our collective hearing (ie, the ear being truncated)and that certain truths are not only
difficult to stomach but hard to accept let alone hear via the pre-conditioned
of our neurological synapses whichpretty much involuntarily governs the day-t-day choices that we adhere
to, c.) that are first impulse when we encounter something we don’t understand
is to ‘strike’ it, lancing a disparate train of thought with our own minuscule
comprehension of what we perceive reality to be, d.) that we need to be
deliberate in our attacks (as Rumi says, BE THAT DELIBERATE!!!) and ‘put back
our sword so to speak and e.) our hearing, our senses will be spiritually
regenerated, i.e., our wounds will be healed our understanding of the
inscrutable pulse of this planet will be indelible enriched and psychologically
augmented, and we will experience the world in a new and different way.
descender makes an exit— from ordinary and respectable life— through the wound.
The wound now is thought of as a door.”
Two nights ago before the pattering arpeggio of yet
another spring tempest I went to a local watering hole to hear a friend of mine
sing. She has a radiant voice and she told me that she had selected two songs to
sing just for me. Being 23 days abstaining from alcoholic ambrosia I no longer
feel the shakes and have no problem being inside a bar and not drinking. What I
wasn’t prepared for was that, when I arrived, I saw inside the bar ametaphorical dragon, a person (once friend)
who has been neo-poetically propagating uncouth and unfounded rumorsabout me (sick shit. That I’m a rapist. That
I’m a purported pedophile. Things are career marring and intentionally defaming
andliability pending). And while I know
his foibles, am keenly aware of his own addictions, the illicit shit that he’s
divulged and mired himself in over the years I had a choice make outside the
bar. Do I go inside, buy a round for everyone say something flippant and witty
and, while deluged in drink (and breaking my succulent 40 day odyssey),
momentarily forget the scarring damage that has been done to me over the past
month. Do I go inside (sober) butwielding my verbal katana slicing into the facts, stating truisms that
could essentially make the bar lose their liquor license and my friends who are
tending bar lose their jobs or do I simply put back my sword and walk away.
I placed my sword back in it’s metaphorical sheath
and walked in the rain, to the West Peoria hardware store (which was actually
the sight of the original Haddad’s 40 years ago for all you West Peorian
aficionado’s out there).
I then forked over thirty-five dollars and bought a
Because that’s what you do when you are really pissed
off at someone. You traipse in the rain to the West Peoria hardware store and
purchase a double-bladed five lbs. Collins axe with a hickory handle.
I then went home and went to bed.
The next day I went to my mom’s house in the country.
I’ve been landscaping her back yard (am in the process of building another
writing desk in the woods a la Thoreau).My mom lives in the house that was my grandma’s house when I was growing
up and the backyard is a sylvan welkin of sprawling coniferous evergreens. My
grandpa had a green thumb and just plodded seeds into the scalp of the planet
everywhere he lived (the bulk of Smithville rd. above the hill past the church
should be consecrated as the Lloyd Von Behren arboretum) and while the trees are stalking and magnificent
vernal exclamatory boughs of botany many are overgrown and occluding light
which is turning the soil and grass to shit below.
I could have borrowed my Uncle’s chainsaw but there
was something about groping the stem of a double-blade axe that would serve as
a surrogate sword.
I placed goggles on my head granting me the semblance
of an unemployed flannel-clad hipster sporting a bad haircut in a BECK video. As I struck the blade into the elongated neck
of the conifer, flecks of bark began to spray, the scent of lumber massaged the
air with the fragrance of freshly squeezed pine.
I began to swat into the stem of the living creature
with deference for the four decades it has spent granting scenery and shade to
members of my family. As I struck into the interior of the tree I thought about
the hurt, the weight I was ferrying. I thought about my friend who was propagating
nasty rumors. I thought about the people who have financially fucked me over. The
lover’s who have used my heart as a tampon over the years.
I thought about all this and, with each stroke,
began saying the persons word followed by the words, “I forgive you.”
Forgiveness is easy. Anyone can forgive. Love is
hard. Christ said love your enemies. He didn’t say don’t have enemies. He said
have enemies and to love and accept them.
So I superseded the word “Forgive’ with the words “love
and accept.” I continued to think about people I had tiffs with and I continued
to tell them, while jousting sideways into the tree, that I love and accept
I did this for five trees and four hours, sweat cascading in beer bubbles down my neck, down my face, down my head. I continued my sideways windmill motion, swatting the sabre into the side of the tree, stating aloud that I forgive. Stating aloud that I accept.
Stating aloud that I love.
It was like I was asking the wood to take my wounds.
There’s a lot of love in this world.
There’s a lot of wood that still needs to be