mental health · people · rehab · sobriety


guitarMy roommate Mikey and I dug up a guitar from the rec room closet, some thrift-store quality six-string, small-bodied with a laminate top.

“I dunno, Mikey—the D-string is missing the fucking tuning knob.”

Mikey, though, was a scrappy ex-Marine—youngish—with a knack for problem-solving. He was slight of frame, half-Portuguese half-Mexican, and could’ve passed for a young Che Guevarra were it not for his battalion tats and ear gauges.

“We can figure this out. We need some music up in here.”

I tuned the guitar save for the D string, which buzzed noisily against the frets.

“Well, it’s not like we can go up to the nursing station and ask for a pair of pliers. Sharp objects and all. Imagine: can I get my Librium—oh, and a needle-nose?”

Mikey laughed, which was good. He was in for PTSD and suicidal ideation after a training exercise had laid him flat on the ground, shot by his buddy on accident.

(‘Where’d you get shot?’ I’d asked him. He pointed to the area above his right clavicle, where the neck meets the shoulder. I thought of the Angle of Luis, the imaginary line used in Jacobin times to guide the guillotine blade: where the bullet entered then left Mikey’s body was at the angle’s apex).

We searched the Day Room for something to MacGyver the guitar. Mikey, ever resourceful, settled on a ballpoint pen. The pen is mightier than the sword, after all, or in this case a pair of pliers. He unscrewed the butt of the pen and held it up for examination, fingering its clip.

(Mikey fell on the training field into a trench, his right arm useless and tangled in gear. With his left hand he wrested a field knife from its scabbard and hacked at the strap of his assault rifle while spewing blood from the mouth).

“Let’s try this,” and Mikey pinched the clip of the pen against the cap like an impotent set of tweezers and set to work on the D-string gearwork. We took turns with the makeshift pliers and bullied the D into tautness.

“Just a smidge more.” I played the D against the G.

“Perfect.” C chord, D, A, then G. All sounded good.

(“What’re you in for?” he’d asked.

“Substance,” I said simply, though the answer could’ve been more complicated. I’d been on ludestra, topomax, vraylar, escitalopram, aripiprazole, naltrexone, buboprion, benzodiazepines, trazadone, mirtazapine. Oh—and vodka. Call me Tennessee Williams, albeit a Tennessee Williams who hadn’t yet swallowed the cap).

Mikey handed me the guitar and I started playing ‘Autumn Leaves’, just funked up with lots of staccato.

“Righteous.” Mikey picked up the guitar case and started drumming out a backbeat. Me and my buddy, the young Che look-alike, our own makeshift happy band in the Day Room of Sharp Mesa Vista hospital.

Melissa joined in, Veronica too. Lyndon, the blind guy who had lost his vision in a rugby accident (and I never got to ask him if he still dreamt in color)—we all sang along and tapped out rhythms while waiting for meds, for nighttime snack, for discharge, for second chances—maybe third–, for homes halfway and otherwise, for whatever spirit to escape its shivery place inside of us and make us whole. We were altogether too loud considering the hour, but because we were laughing, the nurses let us be; and it was proof that, despite our could-be sadness, despite our private desperations, there was in that moment the greater capacity for pure, unbridled joy.

“That was awesome, Mikey.”

“Feels good, Bro.”

I’ve not looked back since leaving that hospital, but instead look for Mikey wherever I go, in the Rooms, in my recovery, so that I can continue growing a joy undiminished, to live, and in the return to living, perhaps sing.

alcohol · favorites · mental health · people · rehab · sobriety

Surrender, Pt. 1

fallingmanI stare at the Kandinsky print on the wall rather than Paul, a subtle maneuver upward, for I’m used to losing myself in the damask carpet, wanting to be part of its pattern, when I speak. The Kandinsky is a pastel Rorschach, a benign something, hung there because it is a benign something, and the office is designed to be inoffensive, non-representational, so that sitting on the couch is to be in some mode of bas relief, not entirely there and therefore not entirely, three-dimensionally, petrified. A cup of coffee cools on the glass table and Paul sits quietly, a blank canvas.

Paul resembles Richard Milhous Nixon, just handsomer, with a broad face and carefully slicked-back bangs that, were they to fall in his face, would reach the tip of his Richard Milhous nose. I imagine he drives a Prius. I imagine his morning breakfast is beige.

“I can’t seem to surrender, Paul. My ambivalence holds me in place. I’d like to, but.” My eyes settle on the bookcase. Paul has the DSM-IV. I know there’s a fifth edition, but I don’t hold it against him. “How does one surrender anyway?”

Paul doesn’t uncross his legs or shift in the wing chair that dominates his side of the office.

“In this case, you have to think of yourself as being in a burning building,” he says levelly, “With the only option for appreciable change being to just jump.”

I am quiet. Paul is quiet.

“You have a safety net. You’ll know you’re safe once you’re caught, but it requires an act of will.”

Incongruously, I say: “I don’t want to leave a Thom-sized hole.” This is an aside mantra, a stopgap, a gambit against erasure. It’s something I say all the time. It sounds right to say, and how we all need our summonses.

“You know David Foster Wallace talked about a burning building, too,” I change the subject while keeping with the metaphor. “He said a man jumps from a burning building not because he is suddenly comfortable with falling, but just because the alternative is so much worse.”

I’m not parrying Paul. I ponder that I may be agreeing with him. I think suddenly of that iconic photo, the Richard Drew one, the North Tower still intact but shedding souls and the idea of freefall is dizzying.

I had said, ‘I surrender’ before, at Casa Palmera, to the admissions director who pulled my file with an almost alacrity.

“We figured you’d be back.” He had a self-righteous air, which matched his overall mien; it also matched his car vaingloriously parked in front of the building, all lacquer and gleam. I hated him. While he detailed the terms of my surrender, he fingered a six-year sobriety token between pudgy fingers—seemingly for effect—and I hated him a second time.

“I’m serious now,” I said meekly. I blew a 0.16. I got a bed.

Fear:   Face Everything And Recover. It’s what they teach you there. Else Fuck Everything And Run. Two types of surrender.

“I’m serious now,” I repeated three days later as the nurse tried to convince me to stay. “I’m leaving.”

“Where you gonna go,” the admissions director asked, with a sneersome face worn to resemble tough love. “I mean, you’ve essentially lost your family,” he lied.

“I have places I can go,” I lied right back.

The director was annoyed—this was going to be a ding on the recidivism record, a spot of tarnish on Casa’s otherwise brass finish. The halls were shiny. The food was Mediterranean and served on actual dinnerware. There were salad forks, masseuses, biofeedback options, yoga and meditation. To leave this place was to leave recovery, period, the alternative being no alternative in the director’s mind as evidenced by the waiver I had to sign upon my exit.

‘Against medical advice, the undersigned faces the potential consequence of: Relapse. Death.’

I affixed my signature, then took a black Mercedes up and out of the Del Mar hinterlands, a fine death cab if there were one, and stared out the window as we passed the well-arbored equestrian farms, the gated manors, the eventual coastline. The moon of my breath appeared on the blue window, disappeared, then appeared again. Down the highway there was the fact of a burning building; I folded my hands in wait.

alcohol · mental health · people · rehab


Lyndon was born in the year of our Lord, 1965, so was named after LBJ though he’d later bear no resemblance to the cantankerous Texan, neither by disposition nor mien, but would instead be soft-spoken with a tousle of blonde hair, eyes rendered sightless by a rugby accident that also—in his words—rendered him hopelessly, haplessly, and alcoholically senseless.

The rule was: you couldn’t touch Moses—or say his name even—when Moses was on harness, Moses being the seeing-eye dog that dutifully guided Lyndon through the corridors of the hospital. He was a dark-haired German Shepard who, like his namesake, led his people through the proverbial desert toward whatever milk and honey was appropriate to the moment: a freshly made bed; the cafeteria queue; the chair by the window, which was reserved for Lyndon though his eyes registered nothing of the light that streamed through its glass; the penniless fountain across from the koi pond.

Lyndon’s eyes had recessed in his sightlessness. He bore a look reserved for either the blind or the haunted, maybe both, and he spoke from the seemingly same recess, laconically, with his hands always resting on his knees, palms up.

“I can tell you are kind,” he’d say, with regard to most everyone, and he’d say this while staring straight ahead, rarely turning his head in the direction of his addressee. He wore a large wooden cross round his neck, red, and so seemed an aged pope bestowing anonymous benediction upon the rooms. “You are kind. I can tell that.”

Lyndon, with your unseeing eyes, which for half a lifetime knew sight, with your unseeing eyes and your papal frailty, I wonder I wonder: do you still dream in color?

alcohol · favorites · mental health · people · rehab

Jack in the Patrick (Unpop Goes the Weasel)

jackpat.jpgPatrick is holding court on the back patio. A seated Trout, who is reluctantly in attendance and working on the Sunday crossword, is not even sure if the back patio should be open. The cafeteria is closed, and the septuagenarian Ms. Ellen, who earlier taught seated yoga in the Group Room, had reminded Patrick that the back patio is available during eating hours only.

She also reminded Patrick to wear a shirt, as there is a dress code. Ms. Ellen, though is retiring in two days, and her day in-day out seated cow-cat doesn’t exactly manufacture authority. Nor do the fact of orthopedic shoes during Vinyasa.

Patrick had been sunning himself earlier, and journaling, out by the asphalt walking path, near the fenced-in pool, which was for who knew what patients. The schizophrenics had the Ping-Pong table in the South Wing; the pool seemed to be for the pool guy only, who fished out the water bugs with a skimmer at 10a.m. daily. The pool was otherwise a failed Hockney painting, bottom-murky.

“Trout—you gotta hear this.” And Patrick is busy punching up texts on his phone.

“How’d you get that phone in here?” Trout asks. “Never mind.” Patrick was not exactly a rule-follower. Trout shakes his head. Patrick is practically manic.

Trout is stuck on 47 down.

James pipes up from his recessed seat near a potted cycad. He’s wearing a black hoodie pulled up over his head and hiding a cigarette. Earlier, he had admitted to being busted twice by the Korean security guard while trying to steal a smoke, but—since he’s withdrawing from heroin—tobacco only seemed fair.smokewire

“What’s up, Patrick?”

James is hiding his hand behind the potted plant, which is already yellow, and there are wafts of illicit tobacco.

“This message—from my girlfriend!”

Patrick is a short-timer, needs a ride to Mojave.

“Fucking hot out there,” Trout says. “Death Valley was 127 degrees yesterday, second highest recorded temperature on the planet. Seven degrees shy of hottest.”

Trout is still stuck on 47 down.

“I know! And Mojave was like a hundred-fucking-nine. I told my girlfriend it’s 73 out here and she told me to fuck off.”

bb94f4ce1a0c3989dffc9eca585bdf6c--wire-drawing-wire-sculpturesEric suddenly appears in a red flannel crew neck and blue flannel pajama bottoms. Comes out of some side door from somewhere, and—like a mad gibbon—moves opposite the caucus and places two hands on the vending machine glass at the patio’s far end. He then disappears behind the vending machine and crouches down.

Trout: “What the fuck?” putting down his paper and glancing toward where Eric disappeared. Trout’s pants are neatly cuffed, his shirt sleeves neater. He’s the asshole of the bunch.

Mike speaks up: “Monkey looking for Freon? Hell if I know.”

Mike is sitting behind Trout’s left shoulder, shirt off, and with a Vikings hat creased to resemble a BDU patrol cap atop his head. He’s a handsome black man, portly, with a neatly trimmed beard. Seated he’s exactly two rolls–stomach and tits—and has deftly sharpened pinkie nails which he hasn’t trimmed after almost four weeks of Program.

Mike’s VA, like Patrick, and they call each other ‘Chief’ out of deference.

“Here it is, here it is,” and Patrick holds up his phone.nudewoman

He reads from his illuminated screen: “Hope you’re ready for me when you get here. I’m gonna fuck your brains out.” He laughs, “Ha-HA!”

Patrick is Nazarene-chic with a caved-in chest and wasted pecs. He wears shirts, generally advertising tequila, and is bandied on all wrists and ankles with assorted beads and twine. He looks like every Donald Sutherland film of the Seventies with bouffant hair and an anachronistic moustache. He wears cock-eyed Ray-Bans with tape on the earpieces to hold them in narrow place.

Trout had a hard time figuring out why all of Patrick’s shirts were ripped two inches south of the collar, but—in keeping theme with the hemp bangles—Patrick also wore assorted necklaces, which he liked to display. Two inches south of his collar was a roughly cruciform pendant, battered silver, with a bauble in its center. A poor man’s pave on display.

vagMike says: “Nice. Can’t wait to get me some pussy.” James meanwhile takes a drag from his cigarette, looking around.

James is all hawk-nose and probably could care less about the banter at present. He could only get out of bed twenty-four hours prior.

Trout shrugs. “Good for you, Man,” and returns to his crossword.

Eric comes bounding over from his simian perch behind the vending machine.

“Dude, dude, dude!” he says to James. “Let me have some of that!” James obliges.

It ‘s safe to say that Eric has the dumbest haircut on the planet, a buzz cut of sorts, but with a hairline opposite of receding. His forehead is made small by wolf-boy overgrowth, and he’s got those goddam mismatched pajamas.

Trout figures out 47 down. On to 63 across.

“So how you gonna get there?” Trout asks Patrick.

“Gotta get a bus, but I need my license first WHICH I told my sister to send me.” He punches the air with his contraband phone.

“Wait,” James asks, retrieving his cigarette, ”You need a license now for a bus?”

“Well, YEAH,” Patrick says.

“Like MTS?”

Mike laughs. He usually only talks when pussy is the conversation d’jour, but he’s still a few rodeos ahead of James.

“Greyhound, Dude. Greyhound.”

“I told my sister to send me my license, but then she says she ‘feels uncomfortable’ sending that sort of stuff by mail,” Patrick is exasperated. He holds hands like electrical charges above his head.

“I KINDUV NEED THAT, I tell her.”hartung

“So not MTS?” James asks again.

Mike chuckles, and no one bothers answer.

Eric is reaching for another drag, but James has already extinguished his smoke against the trunk of the potted sago. This is a complete disregard of prehistory. Sagos existed in the time of dinosaurs and well before Sir Walter Raleigh. Tobacco showed up only a few millennia before Christ.

Patrick bounces in a circle with hands still above his head. “Goddammit! I need to get on that bus!”

Trout: “Because of…? What’s her name?”

“Tina? No—not just Tina. I need to get into the VA Center downtown—I need my personals.”

“So, like one hundred nine degrees and then a 180° back? To the VA?”

Patrick points emphatically and taps his philtrum, the divot above his upper lip.

“Yes, yes, yes, Trout. I’m supposed to get a bed there. Year-long program. Christ—haven’t been downtown in thirty years. I hear my boot camp is now all shopping malls and shit.”

“Wait, what? Whendja go to boot camp?”


“Liberty Station?”

Patrick taps his nose and prances another circle: “YES!”

Trout laughs for the first time.

“That IS all shopping malls and shit. Golf course, greenbelt, restaurants, playgrounds. That place got closed down in ’86? Yeah—they finally re-zoned it. Now it’s all commercial.”

gunTrout puts his paper between his knees, momentarily. “Where did you serve, Patrick?” He cocks his head, suddenly and keenly interested.

Patrick has bled-out tattoos, green ink on his forearms where the track marks could be, and these are military souvenirs where there aren’t otherwise medals. The pool at the end of the patio is likewise green and nondescript. Moths fly in the low light, to be fished out tomorrow from the shallow end.

“Central America? Iraq?”

“No.” Patrick points, Jack in the Patrick, “No—DC! The whole fucking time!” This is somehow a joke.

Trout picks up the paper again. The last answer was ‘ayeforaneigh’, some crossword nonesuch involving horses and politicians. He decides the crossword is stupid, a dalliance, a needle in the head jerk-off; he folds it away.

Wolf-boy Eric says, belatedly: “Downtown. You can totally score downtown.”

“Greyhound station in particular,” Patrick whirls and, again, points to Eric.

He then reels himself in, reversing his sprung accordion.

Un-pop goes the Weasel.


James meanwhile has fallen asleep.

“What’s up, Chief?” Mike asks, readjusting his hat, wiping his armpits with his discarded but matching Vikings jersey.

Patrick shakes his head. A Greyhound bus to Mojave would take sixteen hours. By car, six. Ten hours extra is the devil’s time, especially as passenger and not as driver. Patrick seems to be realizing this.

Mike intuits Patrick’s dismay and scratches the side of his nose with a pinky nail.

“My roomie here, Trout—he normal. Right, Trout? You normal?”tumblr_nmq4liuwiP1trjatho1_500

Trout turns toward Mike for the first time. They’ve roomed together for a few days, have ignored each other’s snoring. They’re easy, throw snacks back and forth between beds.

“Relative, my friend. Relative.”

“Yeah, well—we ain’t normal, Chief,” Mike says, returning attention to Patrick.

Eric really should be a baboon. His blue flannel bottoms match a mandrill’s indigo ass.

“Yes! The Greyhound station!” Eric’s Librium hasn’t kicked in yet. He murmurs something about meth.

Patrick intones, “Every time I get on a Greyhound—shit—it’s the same story.” There is momentary pathos as the vending machine hums it sad advertisement of Fiber-One bars and Chobani yogurt—rehab food.

Patrick perks up, can’t be a sad clown.

“It’s always some motherfucker from Corcoran sits next to me—ha!”cage

Patrick pins his chin to his chest in mimicry of somebody broaderr than he and baritones: “Hey—I just got outta Corcoran. Wanna score in the bathroom?” Patrick giggles and jazz hands beneath the outside flourescents: “And I say, ‘Sure!’ Probably where I got Hep-C.”

Trout picks up the paper again, sighs. This is Willie Wonka shit.

“Shooting up in the bathroom of a Greyhound with bus tap-water isn’t probably a good thing. And that’s, like the first twenty minutes.”

Patrick taps his temple, pretending to Scarecrow-think.

“Nope—nope, not a good thing,” he decides.

In a patient-guided meeting earlier in the week, Patrick mouthed every single word of the twelve-step preambles. The preambles take up half the time. It’s like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but with nine extra verses, hand over your liver, not your heart.

“Think I’m gonna go upstairs,” Trout says, pushing himself out of his chair, molded as it were to resemble some Henri Moore sculpture, organic and unlike the asterisk tattoos on Pat’s arms, else Eric’s dumb haircut.

“See you up there?” He gives knucks to Mike.

“Oh wait, wait, wait, Trout. Gotta tell you this. So Pam wanted to shave her legs tonight and needed a nurse to watch…”

“Who’s Pam again?”woman

“The Goldie Hawn lookalike. Goldie Hawn!”



Trout thinks to Goldie Hawn, plays deuces in his head and comes up with a withersome 1.5.

“Sure, Man, sure.”

Patrick excitedly pulls at his ripped collar. “I said: Hell—I’ll watch!”

(Patients can’t use razors without the badges witnessing, eagle-eyed)

“Get this, Trout—I’m gonna go up to the nurse’s station tonight and ask what it takes to get a condom up in here. Funny, right?!”

Trout smirks. “That’s funny, dude.”


“See you upstairs, my friend.”

Mike calls after Trout: “Hey, Roomie—you always be sitting by yourself at lunch. Me and Chief here—we be repping with the Ladies.” brain

Moths do their peripatetic thing and Patrick finally sits down on a table, strips his Wabo-Cabo tank off and places his fist to his chin, abruptly quiet, the sudden naugahyde thinker.

His wife died two years ago.

Trout sits with the paper in the upstairs. Downstairs is scary, all DT cases and medical instruments jamming the hallways, whereas upstairs is hotel-like. There is the fact that you can regally descend the elevator to breakfast, which makes the upstairs seem like Four Seasons in comparison to downstairs’ one-star.

Patrick charges past Trout to the nurse’s station. He speaks quietly but rapidly to the nurse.

“The bus is 186 dollars. I don’t have my license, yet.” The exchange gets quieter and more hurried. After a few minutes, Patrick taps the desk and says loudly, “Thanks, Erica!” and strolls away.

“Hey, Trout!” And he leans in. “I did it.

“Did what?”

“Asked for that condom—ha!”

“That’s funny, Man.”

Patrick strolls off down the hallway. He refuses his pills; Mike, too. Says they’re making things too weird. Everyone’s supposed to have their vitals taken and their pills administered before bed.

But this is all voluntary. All an act of good faith.

id75240_smThe day before, Roberto, the tattoo artist from LA was discharged. Greaser hairline, all-black, svelte, manicured, the words ‘Meat is murder’ stenciled along his brow. Ropy veins and swallows decorating his neck. There was cake in the courtyard, the schizos played Ping-Pong on the other side of the fence. Ten people gathered, wishing Roberto well. Even Trout got a piece of the pie.

Patrick separated himself.

“Hey, Trout.”


“Isn’t that beautiful?”


“I mean, ten people laughing, not one drug. It’s beautiful, Man.”

He fingered his necklace through the ripped collar, the battered pave´.

“I wish, Man, I fucking wish,” he says, slowly shaking his head by the penniless fountain, water in a constant recycle, the sound of white noise.



depression · mental health · people · rehab · Uncategorized · writing


Let me tell you a story.

This is one of two things I say of recent.

The second one is: “I have a plan.”

I don’t know ASL, so I make the same sign for both statements. I raise an index finger and circle it front of my face. I stop, with my index finger pointed up, my thumb and middle finger in an ok sign, the whole hand gesture paused just in front of my mouth.

“Lemme tell you a story,” I say. “I have a plan.”

I have this friend, Janet. She’s Irish; she tells me I’m seanchai. I’m being lazy by not adding the appropriate accents where they need to go, but I figure Americans are naturally ignoring of these things and don’t care about accent marks. I also figure content is more important than form, so let me keep writing.

Janet—she’s my Mamo´. I’m not replacing my mom, certainly,–I love my Mom– but you pick up surrogates along the way who can help you in different ways. People gain in importance as you grow.

As any mom would do—these OTHER moms–they’ll grant you wisdom in their own graces.

Janet: see calls me ‘seanchai´’, which means ‘storyteller.’ She also calls me ‘Dutch Baby’, ‘Armadillo’, ‘Tin Man.’ We have lots of words for each other, and special names are the inheritance.

“Mamo´,” I tell Janet, while enjoying a coffee at my regular place, “I’m pretty happy right now.”

Janet used to live in Aspen. She was in a writing group with Leon Uris and Hunter S. Thompson. I say this perhaps loosely and braggardly. Janet—she just sees this as a fact of her existence. She sees this as fact of her life, and –yeah—any story involving the Dr. Thompson is a fun one. (I’m excited being runged one generation below her, that I’m one Kevin Bacon degree away from Thompson).

But Janet tells me she like facts. She was a journalist for thirty years. She has a way of erasing celebrity and talking about people as they are: just people.

She told Dr. Thompson to quit shooting his fecking rifle errantly, and out the window. Janet’s kid was going to school down the hill.

“Eh, I’ve never hit any one,” was his defense.

“What happens when you feckin’ do? When you do hurt someone?” Janet responded.

It was their last conversation, but Dr. Hunter S. Thompson stopped shooting his guns.

Janet will forgive me for sharing this fact.

“I have a plan.”

Again, this is where we tell each other stories, and sit opposite each other, the see-saw stalled. Mom, celebrity, starry-eyed-kid. Doesn’t matter who you are in this dizzy life.

Don’t shoot out the window. Keep telling stories. Seanchai´ like a guy that doesn’t eventually shoot himself in the chin.

Dr. Thompson wrote exactly one great thing, among all those things he wrote about being completely fucked out of his head and being in bat country. Clarity among the bats. I know Johnny Depp is the barometer of cool; he lived in Thompson’s attic, adopting Thompson’s accent when prepping for Gilliam’s version of ‘Fear and Loathing’. Depp is cool and all, but he beat his wife. And Thompson shot himself. Putting that aside for a second:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

What is winning?

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t it? And what is ‘winning?’

Mr. Dr. Thompson, I ask this everyday.

“Let me tell you a story.”

“I have a plan.”

I went to group therapy today. I’ve learned that I need a multiplicity of voices to make me feel better. And I thrive in a group setting where before the fact of any voice outside of my own would scare the shit outta me.

Last August I was hospitalized for my depression and anxiety. THERE. I said it. My big confession.

I told Jenn, “I don’t want my boys to see me like this.” ‘I went on a PR trip’ was the cover story. But really I laid in a hospital bed for six days thinking the worst while I reset my numbers to zero and with great intent at building them back to 100. I was inexplicably, without comment, disappeared. But better than a gun to the chin.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson—I fucking beat you with an ace of spades.

You did your breakdown in LV; I bet against the house and got better.

Now, I meet and make new friends on the daily.

In therapy, in group there’s this white-board that has a list of questions. Rate your depression. Are you anxious? Etc.

I tell Billy, the counselor—“I’m excited to be here.”

I haven’t been able to go for a few months because my schedule has precluded it. I’ve been stuck working nights, raising penguin chicks. Which is a great imprisonment of schedule.

“Billy,” I say, “I love your board, but I’m passing tonight.”

Why quantify things, things 1-10 when you can better qualify it? I say:

“Let me tell you a story.”

And I read from my writings. I read (I’m not adding the link as self-advertisement. I don’t FUCKING care about traffic. It’s simply what I read, and it’s important).

And I read and talk with a voice that commands the room for a second, one I absolutely didn’t know I had. I point to everyone that has already spoken and I repeat their story and bring them into the story I am myself telling.

My friends Bill and Randall tell me, afterwards, “Dude—it’s not what you said, but how you said it. Form and content are THE rules of rhetoric.

Jenn is proud of this new voice of mine. We have a new habit. I’ll tuck her in, lay at the footboard while she gets tired on the pillows and I’ll talk and talk and talk while her eyes do their heavy thing.

I’ve always got a lot of writing to do.

Jenny says: “You know what Cayde said tonight?”

I smile, knowing it’ll be great before I know what it is he’s said.

“He said he was mad at you.”

Not new. Raising Cayde is playing chess with myself, and often no one earns check-mate.

“Go on,” I smile.

“He said,”Jenn yawns, “That he was mad at you for not being here tonight. He said that you’re the best daddy in the world and that he had no one to play Jeopardy with.”

We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…

Janet was an editor. Were she to still wield the red pen, and on my behalf; were she to still be telling Hunter S. Thompson to behave himself, she would change the ‘were’ to ‘are.’

“We ARE riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”

I see my friend Jen today and she says, “Hello, you Brat.”

She’s inexplicably wearing sunglasses indoors because she’s pregnant and her body does funny things, and we all have to adjust to what it is, the funny things our bodies tell us to do to be normal. She is sitting on a chair and grips me around the waist while I give her a hug and kiss her on the head.

“Quit making me cry, Brat. Quit writing.”

“I’m never gonna stop making you cry, Lady.”

Don’t MAKE me put down that pen.

She’s my friend and, Man, do I have good friends. She’s gonna be a Momma and I’m SO happy for her.

I write on the keyboard, I write in my head. I write while I talk to Jenny as I put her to sleep. Weaving words always, and always happy.

Seanchai´, Dutch Baby,Tin Man.

‘Lemme tell you a story.”

Also: “I have a plan.”