Category Archives: religion

The New Job…

Okay, this is as good a time as any to dish out the “new job” blog…

A few minutes ago I got an email from my division chief patting me on the back for crafting a well written one-page request email. To put that in perspective…at my last job you were lucky to get an honorable mention if you made it through a thirty six hour shift without losing consciousness.

Before I get into all of the greatness of contracting for the federal government, in general I’m still in a pretty calm place. We just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, I’m turning 41 on the 4th of July, and my “other” birthday is July 12th. Tonight we are eating at one of my new favorite restaurants- Justus Drugstore.  Still working the program…remaining as accountable to that as possible. I was leading the 8am Saturday meetings for the past three months, and now I’ll be leading the 6pm Thursday meetings. I genuinely enjoy going, but obligating myself insures I’ll attend. The noon meetings over by where I work are good, but there is nothing like your home group.  Remaining accountable to the program means watching out for highs and lows of emotion in order to avoid the egomaniacal pitfalls that are part of life….specifically the feelings of “YES! I got this job and am doing well because I’m the greatest sonofabitch alive!”, or the equally ego-driven “Oh, I know I’m just not worthy of these good things that are happening…”. I try to stay away from all of that, and extreme emotion in general, which I know has a negative impact on the entertainment value here….but I am treating my newly found sanity with cautious optimism and don’t want to rock the boat.

Plus, I’m just making out like a bandit these days and stop to appreciate it all as much as possible…. great wife and marriage, a dream job where I work 9-5 and no weekends, new stuff around the house and a nice new flowerbed out front, high-end dinners out without freaking about every penny, good friends, farmers markets, an overgrown herb garden, a round of golf with my cool new clubs every damn weekend…..and if all I have to do is work the program to keep all of this, or keep me sane if any of it goes off the rails, then I consider it a bargain.

So it is with gratitude and wonderment that I approach the new job…. one that I didn’t even have to go looking for after seven months of following every friggin’ lead I could find.  Even when things get a little surreal or ridiculous around here, all I have to do is remember what it was like week after week with no leads and no hope.

Without getting into specifics that could get me into some kind of trouble, I’ll just say that I currently work as a contractor in a large federal agency in the IT department. And granted, it is such a different environment from anyplace I’ve worked that I could take the piss right out of it for about 6,000 words if I got into one of my modes. I will say that, in regard to the stereotype of the angry, lazy, government employee, you do see some of that. And you do see every type of disability….when the weather is bad, the Little Rascal scooters are lined up like Sturgis downstairs.  But overall, people are pretty nice, and unlike places I’ve worked like Sprint and IBM, people who make really good money here generally don’t go around putting on airs. At the Sprint Campus, someone making 50K would go into hock and lease a new Lexus just to keep up with the faux-yuppie image….and in general, someone making more than twice that here probably still drives their 2005 Chevy truck or Honda…and even though they happen to have some property and a cabin down by the lake they don’t pull the Sprint/Corporate bullshit and act like it’s a tudor in The Hamptons. It is pretty laid back here. The government goes at the government’s pace, and you hear almost zero talk about politics….because the government goes at the government’s pace…the Fox News/CNN battles that stoke the fires of public outrage really don’t spark that much conversation here. For all of the well meaning liberal white-guilt bullshit “diversity” talk you hear in the corporate setting, diversity is real here. When confronted with a well meaning liberal riddled with white guilt (who usually lives in the all-white yuppie enclave “close enough” to the hood to pretend to be urban) who has something to say about diversity, I tell them “If you really believed in diversity, you’d hang out in the DMV or the tax office to make friends”.  Well, working here is like working around everyone you run into in the tax office or DMV….age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief….it is all well represented here in what I refer to as “heaven”.

And it’s heaven because the government has processes, and you learn very quickly who owns those processes, and if you are smart you learn how NOT to piss them off.  Find out what food they like and bring it to the monthly birthday celebration….just be friendly and know your damn place. Do your job. Do YOUR job. Don’t go figuring out how someone else can do their job even better. Getting things done on time here is like extreme overachievement in the corporate world. Know your place, don’t be all loud, and if I didn’t mention it before…know your place.  IF you can know your place and be happy with your place, and I am extremely, ecstatically, enthusiastically ENAMORED with MY place, you’ll do okay. Sure, some people are just angry…that’s their thing.  And if they can make YOU angry, even better for them…..but you spot them quick and tend to avoid them. They are the people who you can literally hear grit their teeth when you hurry on to the elevator at the last second and push a floor before theirs.  So I kid you not, this is something a couple of us do…we wait until we are AT the elevators and we wait for a door to open up. We do not rush to catch one. When we are in a meeting with federals and the conversation abruptly comes to a halt, that means “time for contractors to leave so we can talk government stuff”. You just better know that, nobody is going to say it. When we go to a luncheon, we get our plate of food and leave….we do NOT sit down in the middle of all of the federals and chill with them for an hour thinking we’re getting in good with them. And as crazy as it sounds, it’s the little things like that that will keep you off the radar and allow you to do your job in peace. Now, you have to work with some of the angry people on a regular basis, but it only takes about five seconds of thought remembering how much worse it was at Sprint or IBM to put things in perspective. And like I said, for the most part, people are pretty cool and there are some very interesting and highly qualified folks around here, and while the job can be challenging you generally have realistic expectations put upon you.  You are actually allowed to LEARN THINGS and then PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE….such a different concept.  But in general, it’s not the work you have to worry about, it’s the people.  My masters in org psych is paying off BIG TIME here….because it’s all about getting along with people and personalities. Your boss may be high up on the food chain, but the person with more “power” may be the 70 year old admin you keep pissing off by tying up the printer with those 100 sheet print jobs. It could take your federal lead six months to get rid of you, but THAT lady….she could have you packed and out the door that afternoon because she has worked for the right people at some point. Total common sense stuff, perhaps too mundane, predictable and boring for some, but I love it….I finally found a gig where I can work to LIVE, not live to work.  I put in 40 hours, go above and beyond whenever I can, am always stepping up when volunteers are asked for, and I’m damn friendly and personable. If they want me to work over in the evening or on a weekend (which hasn’t happened yet), that means our homeland security guys need at least a 2 day lead time in order to set up our security access for off-hours. And the cherry on top is that I got nearly a 10K raise when I took this gig. Those promises on pages 83 and 84 of the big book are absolutely real…..I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. 

So I guard all of this. Guard my home life and guard my sanity.  I don’t rush off into all of the tangents that keep me constantly amazed…especially this insane political partisanship of the past 2 years.  It’s nothing but bad reality tv, but people buy into it.  I guess the new thing is to hate federal employees because they are forcing Obama to raise taxes, because they are the only ones who will get all the money?  It’s shit like that people will say to me when I happen to be among any of the Fox news crowd….lots of slogans, lots of catchphrases, lots of posturing, but sadly few facts or figures to back it up.  Granted, I know those on the left can do the same shit….99% of political arguments boil down to going back and forth matching tales of hypocrisy. Government employees are parasites….well, I would have stayed at IBM indefinitely if the already highly profitable company didn’t decide they could boost their profits even more by sending my and 15,000 other jobs to countries where they can pay people four bucks an hour. So to me all of this boils down to, who do you trust more to run things?  The government or big business?  I realize it’s a nightmare choice, but higher taxes have had way, way less of an impact on me than all of the American jobs that are being outsourced so that fewer and fewer people can guarantee they get more and more of the money.  What I hear from the tea-partiers is “well, jobs go overseas because the companies are getting taxed so much”……so by that logic, if taxes are lowered, all of the jobs are coming back?  And of course there is the whole Arizona immigration thing….which is something that blows my mind. Yes, illegal immigrants are a big problem, but as per usual the knee-jerk redneck contingent would rather have a sabre-rattling good time rousting them than do anything to make a real impact.  They want to send a message to the liberals rather than do something for their country.  And by that I mean…why are the illegals coming here?  They come here because people give them money to work. So instead of making a big deal about the failure of government to control the borders, how about we prosecute anyone who hires an illegal for treason?  I’m constantly told by the Fox News/Limbaugh drones very specific things that mean I “either support America or I support socialism”.  Well I support America…..and I love it enough to put people in prison for hiring illegal aliens to do a job.  But they literally don’t even acknowledge that argument when I bring it up, because then I’m threatening big business…I’m threatening capitalism and unrestricted trade.  And I’m threatening it because in order to cut off the cash flow to illegals, which WOULD keep them in their home country, that would mean that the heads of major companies who support things like ignorant Arizona legislation would have to go to prison.  Companies like Wal-Mart, Tyson, Dole….right now they can afford to pay the wrist-slap fines they incur when illegals are found in their businesses, so the infamous Arizona diversionary tactic works just great for them.  And in short, that is one of the things that just amazes me right now…..there’s no good debate anymore, just anger.  No real dialogue about these things.  So other than this last paragraph I don’t give it much thought, and when I’m drawn into the blackhole that is the discussion with a tea-party minded Palin apologist, I try to bring it all back to “so in all of this what can you or I do RIGHT NOW to make a positive impact in a way that actually makes a difference in our lives and does not involve rhetorical, lazy arguments on a national scale?”.  And more often than not, that question ends the discussion….because people generally don’t want to think or do any work, or make any rational sense. The high-minded conservative “work ethic” only applies to whatever got them to a position where they are comfortable enough in life to say “that’s just tough shit…we can’t all go broke taking care of everyone” when faced with questions about what to do with the extension of unemployment benefits or the fact that so many people can’t afford basic health care.  It’s much easier to demonize EVERYONE like they are that stereotypical welfare mother who keeps cranking out babies because babies mean even more money from Saint Obama, than it is to actually get involved with changing a process….the more time you can spend telling someone what they are doing wrong, the less time it leaves you to worry about what you can do that is right.

And with that, I bid you a good evening and a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. And you know why I don’t have time for some kind of a smartass sign-off?  It’s because I’m a social parasite who gets to leave work now and I don’t want to use any of my own time to talk with you…..

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The Gravy Train with Biscuit Wheels…

We went to see Kevin Smith a little over a week ago at The Midland. Great show,I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he’s a gifted speaker/communicator and he went for three full hours. Part standup, part industry insider gossip, and questions from the audience running the gambit from the finer points of ass to mouth to nerdy shit dealing with the extras on the recent Blu-Ray release of Chasing Amy. Smith’s career has run the gambit from creating the indie flick phenomenon Clerks to the recent release of Cop-Out.  I’ve heard a lot of people poo-poo him for selling out or becoming irrelevant, and I’ve ridden the fence on that one myself.  Smith brought this up the other night and made a point that spoke to me personally in relation to my blog. He said everyone keeps expecting him to make the next Clerks, but when he made clerks he was living in his parent’s basement and was one miserable fucker.  He added that if you want him to be able to write something like Clerks again, then let him come home and see his beloved wife blowing you….then he may be able to get some of the angst back long enough to whip out another dose of misery. The point was, he’s happy now, he’s older, he’s rich, a family man, and he’s no longer the guy who can do Clerks. So he has to do other things that make him happy, and hopefully keep him relevant….to his fans, the people who will always relate, if nobody else.
 
Other than being a fat guy, I’m no Kevin Smith. However, after listening to him I really believe he is one of the few people in the world I would never have to edit myself in front of…his off-the-cuff humor is pretty twisted, and no matter how “normal” I become I’ll always, thankfully, have a part of my brain that is positively fucked. Lately, in casual conversation when watching TV, I’ve been on this kick where I’ll (for example) see someone holding a folder in a business meeting and I’ll say “I wonder what would happen if they were standing there holding a child’s disembodied hand?”. And it will go on like that for about a week….not just a disembodied hand, but a child’s disembodied hand. And of course it doesn’t pop to mind when I’m watching The Office, it’s always at a time when Tim Gunn is holding a ruler on Project Runway, or something else completely benign.
“So seriously, how do you think everyone would act if that was a child’s disembodied hand he was using to point at the garments?  Do you think they’d just respect it because it was Tim Gunn?  Because there is NO DENYING that fucking hand has been hacked off of the end of a kid’s arm like twenty minutes ago.”
 
So there’s that. And those moments come and go, and usually I could give less of a shit if anyone else thinks it’s funny, because to me it is hysterical. I always imagine some bleeding heart like Rob Reiner starting a coalition to ban the use of children’s limbs as props on television, for fear that the general public will then believe it’s okay for them to run around playgrounds with pruning shears having their way with youngster flesh. He’d come up with some stupid acronym like W.I.G.B.A.M. (Will It Grow Back Again, Mommy?), that would be all the rage for the limousine liberal set.
 
ANYWAY, I’ve been too uncomfortable, even apologetic, about the direction of my blog after sobering up. I’m definitely not saying it was always fueled by alcohol, that was usually NOT the case, but things were different. I was different. And I don’t think anyone who reads it regularly would appreciate non-stop insanity for the sake of shock value. I’m a real guy with real shit going on, and I know the absolute worst thing to do would be to enforce a regular schedule here. I can’t depend on recreating something that was funny two years ago to keep it afloat. Life goes on, I keep writing this thing as the motivation comes, and that’s pretty much it.
 
Right now, things are just good. Life is normal.  The new job started last week, so I’m generally up a little after 6am to take a shower, let the dog out, make coffee and hang out checking email and Facebook until it’s time to get dressed and hit the road with my lunch that my wife usually packs for me. Not a bad situation. Then work is a pretty steady 9-5 with no big surprises or pressure…….I cannot overstate the greatness of a government gig, even as a contractor. It is THE way to slide into middle age, it is my personal version of creating an easy big studio flick like Cop Out. Being financially responsible and living within our means without having to worry about pinching every penny. Things like buying the good Farm to Market bread instead of whatever happens to be on sale….THAT is the good life.
 
And the obsession with cooking never stops.  My father in law and his wife are in town this weekend, so I’ll get the smoker going.  Then in a couple of weeks I get to do a for-real hyper-planned meal for friends who are about to have a baby. In the middle of all of that is school, which I’m losing enthusiasm for now that I’m working, but even that isn’t so bad. You do meet some batshit crazy people who just don’t get what school is all about….but I have to expect that kind of culture shock since the last schooling I had was grad school, and now I’m at a junior college in their addiction counseling program. If nothing else, it’s damn easy to get an “A”.  Throw in evening walks in the park with my wife and my dog, working together to plan the week’s evening meals, and figuring out what to do with the weekend since we’re both working now….and I have no complaints. After a few years of intermittent insanity, this is the life.  The American Dream, as far as I’m concerned.  If that’s selling out, then fuck it, selling out is awesome.
 
Of course, probably none of this would be possible without the calm and rational approach to life that comes with sobriety.  At almost nine months, it’s not always the first thing on my mind in the morning or the last thing on my mind at night, but I do know that meetings are something I’ll have to do for the rest of my life, and I’m thankful for the insurance and the structure.  The Saturday 8am meeting that I’m leading now is something I genuinely look forward to all week. I go to other meetings, it’s just my favorite, and I provide the good donuts. I just finished my fifth step with my sponsor a couple of weeks ago, so the focus now is that this is indeed not just a new life….it’s life. This is the beginning of all things, and the strength that comes from that is what will get you through the intermittent insanity that is sure to come.  If nothing else, I now everything will be better than it would be if I was drinking….especially the crazy, unmanageable surprises, losses and failures. 
So when the good times are here, I’ll take them. And with spring in the air as a bonus, and the farmer’s markets on their way…..these are the good times. New furniture is being delivered this weekend, and I’ve begun pricing thermal immersion circulators to take my cooking to the next level.
 
And I do keep seeing some crazy spikes in readership from time to time, I know people are out there reading, so thanks for the repeat business.  To some degree, this is all for me and about me….but my ego demands attention from others as well.  And that’s all I’ve got for right now. Feel free to take the hand thing and run with it. 

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Well, Momofuku You Too! ….

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So I started this blog because of my love of food….a love so deep and misguided that I had to have surgery to avoid an early death.  But I haven’t talked about food that much lately because most of my cooking has been of the day to day Suzie Homemaker variety, and most of my dining out has been the same handful of places due to the lack of employment.  Plus there’s the whole recovery angle now.  Last week’s No Reservations (I just watched it….finally got a DVR!) focused on food obsession and had a segment on food bloggers.  Compared to what’s out there, I definitely would NOT call this a food blog…..and that’s okay with me, I like to mix things up, and while I appreciate food blogs for recipes and restaurant tips, many seem to go in a direction I don’t particularly admire.  Many of them take things to the level of nerds who love to show their dicks in Intel vs. Athlon arguments, partake in cyber-bullying and oneupsmanship, and very few have anything resembling a sense of humor or irony.  As much as I love food, I don’t ever want to come off like a douche, because it is something so elemental and important to me that I can’t stand the thought of taking myself so seriously.  I want to have a fuller life than that.  eGullet used to be a big part of my internet life, and I DO owe meeting my lurking wife to that website, but either it has changed or I have changed….or both to some degree.  It has become as boring as fuck, like a room full of W.A.S.P.-y whites who are chomping at the bit to correct you on some meaningless point, and thereby keep the website (the end all be all of food wisdom oracles) clean, concise, correct…..and so fucking sterile I can’t even think of any decent obscene imagery to describe it.  Shit like…”But in your original statement you inferred that BLAH BLAH BLAH, and while that may have been true in reference to the cultural aspect of BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH, you forgot to take into account that the translation of the dish, is, in itself, a BLAH BLAH BLAH MOTHERFUCKING BLLLAAAHHHHHHHHHH”.  So those types of dipshits turn people off to the website, but hey, they get to feel smart in a vacuum full of boring doppelganger dipshits who also enjoy minutia that  jumped the shark the same day someone had the spare time to take it seriously enough to outline a code of ethics.  A couple of years ago I would have been giddy at the thought of people from the food nerd community getting a few minutes on Bourdain’s show, but now it’s just annoying….kind of like eGullet can be if you spend too much time there.  I mean, if I ever get to the point where I am engaging people  in order to wax poetic on a humorless, humorless, humorless eight page thread about the best type of wooden spoon on the planet, please put one in my brain. Seriously.  And if I ever approach a level of self-importance where I annoy you with a camera at dinner like it is the sane thing to do, sound like I’m a baseball card collector when I’m reminding you of how many cool restaurant experiences I’ve had, or generally lose the sense of irony that comes with the realization that in a few hours I’ll be shitting out this two hundred dollar meal……then kick me in the nuts one good time before you put one in my brain.   Bourdain needs to do that one over……he has a lot of crossover appeal and it would be nice to let the world know that not everyone whose kitchen toys are worth more than their car comes off like a socially retarded douchenozzle when you talk to them about their favorite subject. 

SO WITH THAT SAID…..I finally got to cook what I think of as a “real” meal over the weekend.  Sure, I’ve cooked some great dishes, God knows I’ve had the time, but a “real” meal to me is one that takes a couple of weeks of cookbook research, followed by a process of elimination to narrow down potential courses, followed by the listing of all ingredients, specialty hardware/techniques that are needed…..followed by….a timeline for all preparation leading up to the meal.  If I’m not cooking something two days in advance in order to have everything ready…..then it’s not a “real” meal.

The occasion for Sunday’s dinner was the result of a raffle I may or may not have mentioned in the fall…..basically, I donated a “you name it and I’ll cook it for you” meal for an AA fundraiser, and the people who won it came over this weekend.  They were trying to figure out what they wanted me to cook for them, and while we were chatting after a meeting one day it struck them…..Asian. Dammit.  I’ve never cooked Asian food before, specifically anything Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese.  At least, I haven’t cooked it on a level where I would consider it a “real” meal…..so damn, you know how obsessive I had to get with that sumbitch.  Oh, and to complicate matters, I had to take dietary restrictions/allergies into consideration…… no corn syrup, no msg, no wheat….and get this….no PORK!  Asian…..and no pork.  Oh well, I was up for a challenge, these were super cool and friendly people and I wanted them to have a memorable meal.

Long story short…I did not stick to any strict theme…first of all, they wanted my famous cream of mushroom soup (Top Chef recipe…simple and it rocks), and some sort of rich, chocolatey dessert.  So after much pondering, reading and obsessing, I settled on the mushroom soup served with homemade shrimp toasts, my wife would make a Vietnamese rice noodle salad, then lettuce wraps with beef for the main, and finally that mega-insane “Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte” with Amarena cherries. 

It took a lot……a LOT….to boil it all down to that list, not to mention shopping for specialty ingredients, which I love to do anyway.  Everything ended up being well received, but I said all of that just to have an excuse to talk about my new favorite book…..David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook.  Total genius stuff….a profanity laced joyride that would be fun to read even if you didn’t cook any of the recipes.  I needed a GOOD excuse to cook from it….I’m not overstating my abilities when I say that it’s not for the entry-level home chef.  Many of the recipes will have a few tablespoons of something that is a completely different recipe in the book, and that recipe will have crossover too….but I wanted to keep it real and not take any shortcuts.  The main dish was the one thing that drew from the book…..lettuce wraps with beef sounds simple enough, but when you are adding half a dozen different sauces and pickled elements it adds considerably to the complexity of the prep work.  I did Chang’s sauteed onions that cook for about an hour to get them just right, his famous ginger scallion sauce, and a pickled mustard sauce that requires you to make a batch of his quick pickled cucumbers and pickled mustard seeds.  But the big boy, a revelation to my kitchen, was his “ghetto sous vide” technique that I plan to use just about any time I need to prepare any cut of steak.  The key to that is having a Foodsaver…it’s one of those things you won’t know how you lived without once you use it.  So the steak, in this case flatiron, goes into the bag with an onion/garlic/soy based marinade, and it sits for a day.  Then things take a turn for the weird…..the ghetto element of the sous vide.  Well, Chang has proven to me that you don’t have to spend a grand on a thermal immersion circulator in order to cook in a bag.  Basically, all you need to do is get a pot of water in your sink and run the tap so that it stays between about 120 and 125 degrees….it takes some finesse, and in my case some adjustment to the hot water tank, but when you get it in that zone you put the bagged steak in the water for about forty five minutes to an hour.  Check the temp from time to time and you’re good.  All you want is for that steak to stay in there long enough to achieve approximately 125 degrees throughout, which in my kitchen is a pretty perfect rare to medium rare. Then you shock it in cold water, take it out of the bag, dry it off and hit it in a ripping hot pan or on the grill for a minute or two on each side. Perfection. Even the usually tough flatiron just melted….I cannot say enough good about this technique.  Slice it on the bias and then surround it with the aforementioned sides and sauces, along with a huge garden of assorted sliced vegetables. Everyone loved it.  Then the death blow…that chocolate torte.

It was good to get back in the kitchen and do something like that. I do love cooking for people, and I have to admit the ego-boosting accolades do not suck.  There is some stress and obsessive compulsive behavior involved, but the payoff is worth it. 

Yep, that’s about it. Just wanted to brag in food nerd show-my-dick fashion…….Lost is on pretty soon. Different subject for a different day, but that show has ended up sucking….big time.  In short, I think the appeal is based solely on the anticipation the viewer experiences from week to week, boosted by the investment one has to put into the show…which does not allow you to then admit the fucking storyline was written by hitting random items on a dartboard.  If you don’t believe me, watch a whole season back to back on DVD….when you do that it’s easier to see the cheesy ridiculousness.  It’s just not that inventive or revolutionary….oh, it’s great network TV, don’t get me wrong, but before you scramble off to some weekly discussion to pore over the details of this week’s episode, go read the fucking Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy or something….damn. 

I’ll talk to you guys later.  Have a safe St. Patrick’s Day…..or as real alcoholics call it….Wednesday.

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Prostitution Whore!

Motherfucker.   Now every time I have a valid post topic instead of the rambling or total silence of late, I have that stupid goddamn Amy Adams from “Julie and Julia” in my head…….”Tra la la la la!  Well all, today I’ll be cooking sweetbreads!  With NO FEAR!  Just like Julia!  And I’ll squinch my face up and prove once and for all that the only reason I have an acting career is because I can look and act exactly like that annoying Meg fucking Ryan in You’ve Got Mail!  Yay!  Maybe my husband will burn me alive for taking screen time away from Meryl Streep!  Which I would deserve! “.  Yeah, I liked the movie a lot, but that bitch has got to go.  Not a good blog voice to have in your head while you are trying to write.  Where’s my fucking movie deal?  Oh, and the post title is a line from an episode of Jersey Housewives that is currently on a commercial in heavy rotation.  I couldn’t think of anything relevant. We love the Housewives shows on Bravo, and those two words screamed by a woman with the worst hair I have ever seen in my life just cracks me up every time.

So tra la la la laaaaa!  Well faithful readers, today before I practice my annoying nose squinching I just wanted to say….. I got a job!   It hasn’t been an easy six months.  I’ve never been without a job for this long since way back when I was a lazy ass in Bible College.  So long story short, after hundreds of resume submittals, dozens of interviews, and a few close calls, yesterday I faxed in a signed offer letter for a contract with a government agency.  So….between our two incomes we are pretty well covered.  I’ll use what is left of my severance to pay off a little bit of debt and we’ll start socking away rainy day money in case this rollercoaster starts up again.  Six months of no work totally sucked, but in the end I’ve got a for-real nine to five job with no evenings or weekends, all the extra federal holidays, and since it’s the government,  going above and beyond on the job can actually hurt you.  I’m looking forward to the normalcy of a two income family in a nice suburban home with a dog and a cat and the bounty of spring on the way.   If you ask me, THAT is the American dream.

But of course…nothing is ever that simple.   I probably mentioned that shortly after IBM gave my entire team’s jobs to foreign contractors, I was up for a position with a local company…..I waited and waited and waited to hear from them because the interviews went great and they acted like they were lucky to get me.  It turned out, they had to give the job to someone they offered it to previously, because the background check that came back bad for them ended up being a moot point.  Oh well, that’s the way it goes, and they did mention a similar position would be opening up in January.  So in January I started checking back with the recruiters, and sure enough, I was back in the mix for a similar position.  After a phone interview they said was just a formality since I’d been through the whole battery of questions and assessments, I’ve waited and waited and waited to hear back from them.  My recruiters once again said they were extremely interested in having me join the team, but for whatever reason they were still interviewing people…flying them in from different parts of the country to talk to them.  Despite their reassurance, because that’s what recruiters are paid to do….give you false hope no matter what, I kept plugging away applying for everything I could find.  Then a  couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine I used to work with gave me a call to tell me there was an opening on his team; a contract position with a federal agency.  So I was like “HELL YES!”…government contract positions have holy grail potential, with the ultimate dream being a permanent gig with the fed.  If  you think I don’t dream big enough, that’s fine, all I really want is a happy life where I don’t have to pinch every penny, eat well, and travel with my wife from time to time.  Getting into this gig has several levels of interviews, even though I know someone there I’m still up against a lot of other qualified people….but of course, I rule at this particular type of nerd work.  So the good news as of last Friday was that, thank God, thank God, thank God, I got the job offer.

THEN AS SURE AS SHIT….literally an hour after HR called to say my offer letter was on its way, the recruiters from the OTHER job called to say management from the other company wanted to take me out to lunch to introduce me to the whole team and have….yet another….informal interview.  But honestly, the job was pretty much mine if I wanted it…this would be more of a “sorry to make you wait” peace offering meant to give me a level of comfort with taking the position.  So that lunch is tomorrow…..and even though I’ve returned my signed offer letter and really want the federal job instead, I’ll go and hear them out and see what’s what.  After all, I don’t want to burn any bridges or piss anyone off, my particular niche of IT is a pretty small world.  I’ll let them know I have another offer in the pipe, and since I’m going through a recruiter it’s not like they can try and hire me on the spot.  There’s the haggling they do over my rate, offer letter, etc. that still has to happen. 

So here’s the deal, the job I don’t want as badly pays a healthy amount more.  Both jobs pay really well, either one is a significantly higher salary than I’ve made up until now in my career…..so yeah, I know, world’s smallest fiddler for my rich white man’s dilemna.  The job I’m meeting about tomorrow would be a really good chunk of change, BUT the hours are longer (possible overtime though since I’d be hourly), it’s more stress, more assholes to deal with, and unless the economy and job market really pick up it wouldn’t boost my skillset enough to beat out the same over-qualified project managers that have been taking the jobs I’d be perfect for for the past six months if I got laid off again. Speaking of that, layoff and/or travel potential are much greater because they do hire offshore people, and the benefits are not nearly as good as the government job.  But the money is better, and one specialty I’d be called upon to use would be my ability to run the living shit out of meetings, be a nazi on timelines and keeping things on track, and keep the client in line….and I’ll be honest, that can be pretty fun. A big game of chess one day, playing chicken the next.  Total heads on stakes leading to your cubicle type of shit.  And up until this point in my life I would have jumped all over it….between the money and the mindfucks it would feed my ego and imaginary reputation big time.  But I knew from the moment I got the call about the job I’ve been waiting on forever, I would just be happier with the other one.  Steady hours, no weekends, better benefits, learning new technologies and skills, not to mention a recognized name on my resume instead of another widget company…..a great job for a guy new to sobriety who is loving life in the suburbs.   Oh, NOT TO MENTION the fact that I was practically ready to make a deal with the devil to land ANY job….going back on the friggin’  phones as a CSR until I could get my Addiction Counselor certification and go make half of what I’ve been used to…seemed to be imminent.  So no tears from this white man, no chance.  I’m living a charmed life and I realize that.

But even though, logically, spiritually, intellectually and pragmatically, I know the job I’m taking is the right one….the voice in my head kept throwing out doubt and whispering…..”money money money money money money money money”.  I doubt everything all the time, second guessing myself is a way of life, and this has been no different.  White man’s dilemna gone awry…never focus on what you got, always worry about what could go wrong.

And this is where I get insanely gay……last night I had a dream.  One of those super duper vivid dreams that can only be brought on by needed sleep and trazodone.  This dream was a using dream.  I don’t have a lot of dreams where I drink, some people do.  And when I do they are always super panicky and I wake up worried like I’m going to have to change my sobriety date.  From what I remember, my dream last night revolved around me and my wife getting ready to take some kind of vacation or long weekend out of town.  When we arrived at the hotel she went off to look for something, I’m not sure, she just went off for a while and I was unpacking and resting.  Then somehow, as often happens in dreams, people unexpectedly showed up for no reason.  It was one of my oldest friends, ex partner in crime from way back in the porn store days who spent a decent amount of time in the joint that I was spared…way back in the porn store days, plus some buddy of his I didn’t know.  We were talking and they just started pulling out bottles. Tons of them, all sorts of booze, and the weird thing was……they were pulling them all out of their pockets like their pants were clown cars.  I was uncomfortable with it, then suddenly I had a bottle in my hand.  I remember exactly what it was…. a half pint of Jim Beam.  And THAT was when I got a sudden moment of clarity that said “I think I’m dreaming this”, because clown car pockets aren’t that big of a stretch compared to me ever touching a fucking half pint of anything.  No self respecting drunk deals in that quantity of booze….. a half pint is what you slam when you’re in line waiting to pay for real bottles of liquor. Then, bottle in hand, I started chatting with the guys some more and thinking of how to cover my tracks…..I told them “you guys know not to mention this to anyone, right?”.  And indeed they did, no explanation needed from me, they knew I’d been sober for a long time and was choosing to go off the wagon.  Then I picked the bottle up to take a drink, stopped and just said “Nah, I can’t do this”.  Next came one of those bizarre Field of Dreams moments….if you believe in such things….I’m not really sure I do…..but that aside, I started waking up immediately after that and in my head I heard…”the job you’re taking is the best one for your sobriety”. 

So that’s that.  What little doubt I had is gone, because it’s just the damn truth.  Go with what is best for your sobriety, because if it’s good for that it’s going to be good for everything….your family, your sanity, and you’ll just sleep better at night.  Everything seems to work out in its own time.  In a lot of ways, my unemployment has done me a ton of good.  I’ve learned a lot about priorities; what’s really important, what’s worth worrying about, and things that are in your control vs. the things that are out of your control.  I’ve got a good life, and it’s time to be thankful for it and live it instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’ll be working as soon as all of the reams of paperwork are filled out, my wife is working, spring is on the way, and I’m going on eight months of sobriety.  But in the midst of all of the good, I know that going to meetings and spending time around those tables is just as important as it was the first day I got out of the hospital.  It’s insurance.  You don’t have to dwell in the bad, but as soon as you start forgetting about it, you are in real danger.   And if you don’t believe that, well then, you are probably one of those pussies who thinks a half pint of Jim Beam is more than about two swallows. 

That’s it for now gang…..I still suck at bowling, school is good but painfully boring (different story for different day there…junior college addiction courses are harder in many ways than grad school), and I’m working the steps.

I’ll check back in after I get my first paycheck and can see whether or not I can blog from a new iPhone.

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The Quotidian…

Wow, Dec. 19th?  Seriously?  That was my last post?  Am I really going to start every post amazed at how long it has been?  Probably……I think I’ve slipped into that vortex that seems to be the norm for every civilian blogger.  I can’t think of much beyond everyday stuff that is impacting me, and therefore that is all I can think of to expound upon.  So here you have the regurgitated laundry list of shit that will sound like your Aunt Betty yammering on about the impact of the sugar diabetes on her life.  And you know what I’m going to do to make it a TOTALLY legit “blog” post?  Oh, you’ll love this…..I’m going to publish this AS SOON AS I FINISH IT…..I’m not going back to check spelling or grammar, and when I find all of the mistakes later, I’m not going to fix them!  How genuine is that?  Hell, the screwups will make me sound as smart as one of them Fox News correspondents…..

So things are good. Still job hunting, which sucks, but now that it’s the first quarter of the year a lot of employers are actually posting IT positions.  I got a ton of new cookbooks over the holidays, so I’ve been cooking more.  I don’t know how many people have come up to me recently and said “maybe you should be a chef”….and I’m nice about it when they say that, but that is the ultimate rookie mistake.  People who love cooking at home becoming chefs….a recipe for disaster.  Sure Pioneer Woman has an interesting angle and got lucky with her celebrity, and her book is good, but first of all, cooking for a living is real work.  And I hate real work.  I don’t think I’d like it if I had to do it for a living. The magic would be gone.  So my friends at AA will have to settle for my monthly potluck contribution of bacon sauteed brussels sprouts.  And how gay am I to be so excited that the new issue of Bon Appetit arrived in the mail today?

So things to pass the time…..meetings, of course.  I just passed the six month mark on January 12th and got my coin at my home group as well as the hospital where I went for treatment.  I got to speak to a group of people who are completing the outpatient program as part of the six-month routine, and I’ll get to do that again at the year mark.  I haven’t been sober that long, but it’s still strange to speak to people who are so fresh into recovery.  As you look around the room you can tell who is hearing what you have to say about the necessity of AA for long term sobriety, and who is hoping you shut up soon because they are either agnostic, don’t think they are bad off enough to need aftercare, or they have some cool new program that is an alternative to AA but only meets once per week at an odd time in an inconvenient location.  The sad fact is, the majority of addicts relapse, and the goal is just to be the one who doesn’t.  As far as my loyalty to AA and its efficacy, if you know me and have read even a fraction of what I have to say about religion, for me to be this dedicated to it should be proof enough of what is referred to as “the miracle of AA”.  Drunks and addicts talking to drunks and other addicts, with the chief goal of not drinking today.  So when I talk to the outpatient people or to newbies at meetings, what I have to say is pretty simple….keep the pain you found at your bottom fresh enough to draw from it from time to time, and hold onto any feelings of hope or love you felt for any of the people who were in treatment with you.  And keep going to meetings.  Don’t worry about the God shit, the mysteries of “the twelve steps”, or how you feel out of place at first.  As long as you dedicate the time to find a good group and you keep coming back, all of those things will work themselves out.  I’m no prophet and I only have a few months of sobriety, but I know that everything in me was built to detest something as cheesy and church-like as AA, yet it is working for me and I haven’t had a day since I came home from detox where I had to “white knuckle it” to keep from using.  So that’s my soapbox….if substance abuse has continually spun your life out of control and you have been unable to stop on your own, and you get sober long enough to figure out why AA (or some similar longterm program)  isn’t for you, it is a statistical fact that you have an 85-90 percent chance of relapsing.  And when you relapse, it is never, ever, ever, prettier or gentler than it was the last time. 

So the program is taking up enough of my time for me to be one of those AA droids….and I’m okay with that.  The people at the hall become like a second family, and much like I describe a fraternal organization that I belong to, it’s kind of like hanging out with a really great group of church people minus the politics or religion.  In fact, and this is a stretch of the imagination you may not be able to handle….I joined the citywide AA bowling league.  I’ve never really bowled a day in my life, so the score for my first game was something like 34. But in three short weeks I managed to bowl a high game of 123, but my average is probably somewhere around 7o or so.  It’s crazy, but I do look forward to bowling every week.  And joblessness aside, I’m pretty happy and calm, my wife is happy, the animals are happy, and no matter how shitty a day can be I know that I’m not going to have to deal with the pain and guilt of blackouts or hangovers.  BUT the shitty thing for any of my friends who read this, especially after these increasingly long breaks, is that I just don’t have that pop,  fuel, or whatever you want to call it, that has been the muse for most of my legendary posts.  I guess I’m just not that angry, and I don’t obsess on one thing ad nauseum until I’m able to get fired up and craft something substantial.  Anger wasn’t always the catalyst, booze wasn’t either.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m not some gentle pacifist now, trust me.  I still come up with some insanely twisted shit, but it’s mainly shared while watching tv.  A fleeting feeling or thought, and then it’s gone.  It doesn’t hang around long enough for my standard 2000 word post.  But oh my God, the things I’ll say…..and reality TV is such great fodder…..that Toddlers and Tiaras show….my lord….I have strong opinions that are very off color at best, illegal at worst.  Don’t worry, I’m not stopping the blog, I’m just trying to find a way to happily and constructively contribute on a more frequent basis.  I do spend time thinking about it, trust me. I’m not one to quit anything once I start….even to the point of my own demise.  A more “recovery-centric” blog?  Not sure, maybe.  I figure my honest take on it could be of some help to someone somewhere.  At least more help than an explicit post about the remake of “Behind the Green Door” starring the cast of Toddlers and Tiaras and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  Not as hilarious mind you, but perhaps more constructive.

Oh, so the other biggie is that I’m back in school.  Kansas City Kansas Community College, to be exact.  Yes, after an illustrious career as a summa cum laude student all the way through grad school, it’s back to Junior College.  Why, you ask?  Well, it’s because I want to become the ultimate cliche…..the guy new to recovery who is going to become a certified addiction counselor and set out to save the world!  Just kidding, about the cliche part.  Honestly, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll probably be in school in some form for the rest of my life. I like school. I like a challenge.  And I’ll tell you exactly what I told my concerned sponsor when he found out what I was doing (he’s seen the cliche about a million times during his decades of sobriety)….I’ve always loved to study behavioral sciences.  I love them enough to have spent my time in grad school studying org psych, because I realized long ago that I didn’t give enough of a shit about people to do something noble like help them or counsel them (and yes, I know I was a minister, the irony is not lost on me).  So organizational study I could get into…you don’t have to constantly deal with individuals in your face with all of their crap.  When I was sitting in detox and attending meetings, it was the first time that I truly cared about a stranger. And as I’ve attended the many meetings I go to, I find comfort in the empathy I feel for people who are suffering in the exact same way I did in coming to terms with this disease.  So maybe counseling will be for me, maybe it won’t. I’ll find out. Until then, it’s cool to learn the science behind addiction and its many counseling theories.  Understanding about the “old brain” and the need for relearning habits by going to meetings, for example.  It’s interesting stuff, and it keeps my brain busy.

And before I go, I have one final word……Haiti.  I am not a fool….yes, I realize that we have our own problems here in the U.S., and yes, I am aware that with millions of dollars in aid pouring into a third world country, there is a huge chance for the mismanagement of some of it.  Those things aside, I still cannot get my mind around the conservative backlash.  Apparently, Obama doesn’t feel like he is black enough, so he has to boost his political profile by helping “for real” poor black people….he has no feelings whatsoever for these people, it is solely political.  And, as always, he cares about every other country before this one.  I think that about sums it up, and I’m pretty sure it’s what that dipshit Palin will open with when she joins the Fox news team.  Yes, abandon your post as governor because the media “was mean to you”, and proceed to join the media.  She’s just another reality TV star, and unfortunately there are people stupid enough to ignore the fact that if she looked like Janet Reno, we would have absolutely no idea who she was.  She will never hold a national office. All she has is her reality TV fame, and by that I mean her “I’m not ruling out 2012” tease that is the only thing extending her 15 minutes of fame.  She’s a real politician, and she’s making her buck off of it while she can, but that is forgivable because she ain’t about to go murderin’ no unborn babies I tell ya!  But oh yeah, I forgot, I voted for Obama….which means I also possess a hatred for democracy and this country, and I’m probably one of the idiots who gets on the George Clooney bandwagon and sends money straight into the pockets of Haitian politicians.  It’s just awesome to know that there are big enough pricks out there who can completely overlook the fact that an earthquake hit one of the poorest countries in our hemisphere and killed over 100,000 people (numbers that I’m SURE are trumped up just to get more of our money, right?), basically decimating the quality of life for years and years to come, and the best you can do is sit on your ass, politicize it, and continue to do ZERO for the people in this country you say should get the money before the Haitians.  The type of people who, when I say bring the troops home from Iraq (or send them to Afghanistan where the real war is happening), are quick to tell me…”if you don’t want to stand behind our troops over there, feel free to stand in front of them”…or one of those dumbass finite black or white bumper sticker sayings….yet they’ll still find a way to poo-poo people who want to do something for another person because they are probably a liberal.  As always, when I write about these things I fight fundamentalist stupidity with fundamentalist stupidity……and no, the irony is not lost on me that 99.999% of the party-line discussions we have in this country are nothing more than a tennis match of “your guy did the EXACT SAME THING that you’re saying MY GUY DID!”.  Those discussions go nowhere, and when I talk to some fundamentalist conservative face to face I can’t hate them nearly as badly as I want to, because neither of us can hide behind a keyboard and we usually aren’t smart enough to quote the studies and statistics we THINK we know about….and that is my little secret in life these days…put yourself in the other guy’s shoes.  Despite my ramblings, I really try to do that in my daily life.  If my brain functioned like this blog I would drop dead of a stroke.  My liberal and sarcastic viewpoint isn’t some passive aggressive stab at the people in my life who believe the opposite.  If you think that, all I can say is, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you.  In fact, if you’ve spent three seconds with me you know that I’m comfortable saying these things to your face.  Even worse, in fact….if you were here you know how I’d relish the picture of the Palin homestead that I paint for you….where Todd snorts up all the book profits and forces Sarah and Bristol to do a mother/daughter spread for Playboy, followed during the second Obama administration by a full-on Palin women gang bang video.  SO ANYWAY….all I’m saying in all of this is, before your retarded dittohead ass says another negative word about the outpouring of time and money to Haiti…write a fucking check or donate a few fucking hours of your time to something that you feel deserves it.  Chances are probably about….oh, I don’t know….100% that you won’t.  You’ll just have some HILARIOUS remark you weren’t original enough to create yourself like…”I don’t have any money left after your savior Obama went and quadrupled the deficit like he did!  HYUK! HYUK HYUK! “.  Face it dickhead, if those were little white kids they were digging out from under those buildings your opinion on the matter would be completely different.  And don’t act all horrified, or blow me off telling me Obama would never help white kids…..I’m white as hell, live in an all white neighborhood, so I don’t have the ammo to play the race card….but you know deep down in your heart where nobody else can see it…if those were little white kids in that rubble, you would not be talking so much shit. 

So cool, pulled it off in the clutch….a little sarcastic angst for you anyway.  But that’s about it. Wife just got home and I started dinner late.  Man am I going to be pissed when I go back and see all the mistakes I’m not going to correct…..

Carry On.

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Restaurant Etiquette…

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Okay, I’ve been working on a long post that means a lot to me, but in the meantime I’ve thought of something that gets my blood up in classic unsavedlovedones fashion…….with the holidays here, the aggressive frenetic crowds are hitting stores and restaurants like a flood, and pretty much exhibiting the exact opposite spirit that this time of year should embody.  I love to cook and I love to eat in restaurants…something I can thank my parents for, because even though we never had any money to speak of we managed to eat out quite a bit when I was growing up.  So I learned how to act, how to tip, how to show respect to the staff, and most of all, how to appreciate the fact that I’ve been lucky enough at this point in my life to have eaten at some of the very best restaurants in the United States.  I’m sure my advancing age doesn’t help with my intolerance of complete idiots in restaurants, but what I view as an overblown sense of entitlement has become more and more pervasive in the past few years.  I don’t know where it comes from….more people are eating out more often due to the competition and marketing in the industry, plus the modern lifestyle leaves less room to cook, so there’s just a higher density of douchebags?  Much like the invention of the VCR has completely ruined the moviegoing experience because people sit and yack like they think they are still at home; the proliferation of fast food chains leads Joe Consumer to believe that skilled waitstaff in a high end restaurant are no different than the teenager working the drive-thru at Taco Bell?  Not to mention the fast food “customer is always right” law of the land may lead people to think the squeaky wheel should always get their meal for free….

Anyway, it’s the holidays and the wife and I are getting ready to head out to dinner on a Saturday night…..on the Plaza….during the holidays.  I honestly don’t dread it, she’s new to the area and the Plaza lights are truly impressive, we’re newlyweds, and now that I’m sober this sort of thing doesn’t make me flinch like it would before.  We’ll have a great time, but as anyone from the KC area knows….the Plaza has the highest number of knuckleheads and their motard children in all the land, especially during the holidays.   Now, you’ll never find me down at The Cheesecake Factory, Bennigan’s, Applebee’s or Chili’s during this time of year (and as far as The Cheesecake Trough, NO time of year), because they can be painful enough on a Wednesday in March.  I do feel for the staff in those places, because the turn and burn attitude the corporate world has for its patrons AND its employees makes those restaurants complete madhouses of stress, anger, inefficiency and apathy.  If you’re a veteran server at one of the major “good food fast” chains, you deserve a medal. And not just because you are constantly bombarded with non-tipping Christians.

I don’t want to sound classist, like I think those places cannot exist in this world and their servers don’t matter as much as the ones at my favorite restaurants.  I’m all about greasy spoons and one of my favorite restaurants will ALWAYS be Red Lobster.  It’s just that in the past few years since surgery I make my dining dollar count by eating mostly at mid-range to high-end local restaurants when I want a nice evening out on the town.  And the shit that I witness and hear from friends who are chefs, managers and servers just blows my mind.  Oh the humanity.  So I’ll make this post briefer than usual and just list out a few pet peeves….I’ll add to them as they come to mind……

#1- Tipping:  It’s not a fucking contest to see how many things you can notice wrong with the restaurant or the server, so that you can drop the tip down to fifteen percent or less (and if twenty percent isn’t the low-end norm for you when you get good, efficient and friendly service, then go fuck yourself. I cannot stress that point enough.  There is fucking in this corner and yourself in the opposite corner. It’s time for the two of you to meet.)….if you are one of those miserable people who doesn’t know how to just enjoy yourself and have a good time at dinner, then stay home.  YES I KNOW THERE IS BAD SERVICE OUT THERE…..but before you castrate the server, make sure it’s actually a problem with the server and not one of the million things that can derail service in the weeds.  And take things into consideration like the time of year, how busy the restaurant is…is it eight pm on a weekend night and it’s taking longer than normal for you to get a table or your meal?  Well, that’s normal.  No, none of those things are YOUR  problem, but if you’re the type of prick to say “neither of those things is my problem”, stay the fuck home.  Also, if you’re using a gift certificate, then tip on the original amount. Not rocket science, but there are enough idiots out there who don’t do it to make me squeamish when I hand my server a gift certificate and have to assure them that I know the deal.  And do I even have to mention the flaming douchenozzles who go to the trouble of subtracting alcohol and tax from the total bill before calculating the tip?  If not, I will anyway.  It boggles the mind to try and think of the appropriate punishment for you, but I’m sure it involves some kind of poisoning.  Tipping is how a server makes their living.  They are bringing you food, and if a few bucks is really that big of a walletbreaker for you, then chances are good it’s time for you to re-evaluate your dining habits.  Learn how to cook, dumbass.  Oh, and if you’re that soldier in the Facebook group discussion about tipping waitstaff who said “Why should I give anything extra to someone for doing their job?  Where’s my tip for doing MY job to make it safe for idiots like you to complain on the internet?”……well, I seriously just wish you hadn’t made it home.  In all seriousness, your family should be smaller by one.

#2- Children: Hoo boy, will try to keep this one brief.  Granted, I don’t like kids, so I’m biased.  But what I like even less than a kid is the parent of an unruly kid in a nice restaurant.  It’s not the child’s fault, it’s the mouth-breather parent who thinks everyone believes their little one is as precious as they do….especially when they are tripping servers, throwing shit everywhere, screaming, and god knows what else.  I realize that a parent has to develop a coping mechanism to block out the higher frequencies of their child’s shriek in order to keep their sanity and do things like get a good night’s sleep, but the rest of us can hear the little fucker just fine.  And I’m not talking about Chili’s or CiCi’s Pizza here….I’m talking about primetime Saturday night in small high-end dining rooms where the noise bounces around the room, or Sunday brunch in what would normally be a very calm and inviting space, ruined by a spastic midget.  When I’m at Applebee’s, I know I’m rolling the dice, but just because you can afford to pay a premium to feed your brood in a top-tier establishment doesn’t entitle you to ruin it for the rest of us.  And if you’re one of those yuppie dipshits who says “oh, not MY child”, YES!  It is YOUR fucking child!  You are EXACTLY the person I’m talking about!  You’re clueless to it, and you need to deal with reality!  If your child is screaming, you forfeit your right to a hot meal.  Take the kid outside and when they shut up come and enjoy some tepid grub.  And when they start up again, I don’t give a shit if it feels like you’re doing calesthenics with all the up and down….get the hell back out of the room.  It’s people like you who make me militantly pro-choice.  YES, I am aware that the only way a child is going to learn how to dine out properly is to do it, I thank my parents for going to the trouble to allow me that experience.  But at the same time, the unwritten rule was that if I fucked up I wouldn’t have to worry about having any goddamn teeth to eat with the next time.  So there’s a good Plan B for you.  Throttle the little shits.  If you do it where I can see it, dessert is on me.

#3- Groups:  Point of sale/service  technology has come a long way in the past decade, but not far enough to wait until the last second in a packed house for you and the rest of your Red Hat whore buddies to decide to split a check eleven different ways, and leave it to the server to figure out which of you transferred your bar tab over (a dick move to begin with….pay your bartender and tip them, dumbass) and which of you were going halfsies on the desserts you shoveled into your gaping maws.  Yes, technology makes it easier to split tickets, but have the decency to let your server know in advance.  And the “one check for parties of 6-8 or more” rules exist for a reason….and it goes back to point #1, don’t take it out on your server, they aren’t doing it just to get one over on you.  Part of the reason you feel like leaving a shitty tip because your server is too slow is probably because there is ANOTHER dick across from you making them split the bill fifteen different ways….think about it.  Generally, I try not to dine in big groups. For many reasons, chief of which is that I don’t have that many people in my life whom I trust not to be a dipshit in a restaurant.  If you go out in groups of friends or co-workers, you know what I’m talking about.  There is always one asshole who makes the whole group look like pariahs.  They have no concept of the fact that they are the only one pissing, moaning, running a server ragged, and finding reasons to fuck them on the tip.  I used to work with a guy who would act like he was being cool by putting everyone on one check and taking cash from all of us, and then paying with his credit card.  He wasn’t cool. At all.  He was eating his lunches for free by leaving about two bucks as a tip for a group of ten, after we had all kicked in for our meals and tips.  Some people you just have to cut loose. If you have one person in your group who sticks out, cut them loose.  Your life will be happier, because if they are too self absorbed, egocentric and self-serving to go with the flow of the group, they are just a shitty, unhappy person anyway. 

#4- Rewriting the Menu:  This one is pretty self explanatory, but important enough for me not to just roll it into one of the other topics.  When you see “substitutions not allowed”, don’t look at it as a way to test the archaic and bullshit rule that “the customer is always right”.  That’s usually on the menu for a reason….it allows things to come out of the kitchen quicker, and it helps control the costs of some dishes.  Beyond that, most places are pretty reasonable when it comes to requests to leave something off, or get salad instead of fries, etc.  Chefs, owners and servers generally want to make you happy, and they don’t mind some substitutions.  What I’m talking about here is literally rewriting the menu or recreating dishes.  Dressing on the side or no croutons is a normal request…..asking for a fresh batch of Caesar dressing that does not contain anchovy is completely insane.  No sauce or a different vegetable is normal…..pulling single aspects from seven different menu items so that your dish is completely customized with a different cooking technique and preparation, is again, completely insane.  And I say this because if you do this shit, you are the kind of asshole who does it during the height of the dinner rush, you get pissy when it doesn’t arrive to your exacting standards, AND, wait for it……you probably have the balls to argue over the cost if it’s even twenty five cents more expensive than the original version that you bastardized.  Oh, but no big deal, you can just subtract that quarter from the tip, right?  Right!  You should be dead….stone cold fucking dead. Sooner than later.

#5- Church Folk:  If it’s a Sunday afternoon, Sunday night or Wednesday night, and you and your friends just got out of an AWESOME church service where the spirit moved mightily, and you are all hopped up on the outpouring of the latter rain, ready to spread the message and spirit to a lost world, and you are hungry and ready to descend en masse upon an unsuspecting restaurant waitstaff  because you just aren’t ready to go home yet………. go home.  I can say with 99.999% certainty that what you view as friendship, hope and zeal is interpreted by the sane world as you being a total dick.  Not a good witness.  Nobody tips worse than a church group.  Nobody.  And as cool as it is that you figured out a way to save a buck by ordering ice water and a ton of lemon slices with extra Splenda packets with which to concoct a penitentiary version of lemonade…….again, to the rest of the sane world, you’re just being a total dick.

So that’s about it.  As much as I like to find holes in my own logic….I really can’t find any here.  Totally airtight.  And it’s good to be back in the swing…..I can be clean and sober AND an angsty bastard! 

Happy Holidays to you all, I seriously hope you have a great time with family and friends.  Just don’t forget to tip your servers and bartenders a little extra during their two weeks of holiday hell.

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Dysfunctional Elitism…

Eh, not too much going on here of late…looking for jobs, cooking and cleaning, going to meetings….and of course I HAVE been watching plenty of reality television.  I’m hoping that Bret Michaels will be back for a new season, but in the meantime I have to say that Tool Academy is a fine, fine substitute.  The Atlanta Housewives were pretty good this season, and now we’re into the third week of the original gold diggers from Orange County.  Last night saw the premiere of the second season of Tough Love, and I’m ecstatic about the new crop of completely bizarrely insane females who do not possess reason, logic or intelligence….the shaming that they will experience as they are dogged out every week will be sublime.  With fall here I’m pretty happy with a lineup that makes a couple of our other favorites, Top Chef and Project Runway, look like McNeil Lehrer in comparison.  And how about that Russell on Survivor?

After being in treatment myself, I’m not sure how I feel about Dr. Drew’s franchise……Celebrity Rehab and Sober House provide some good entertainment, but Sex Rehab pretty much sucks.   I was kind of half-watching last night, and during either the episode or a preview, whoever the skanked out ex-Miss Teen America is was getting in Dr. Drew’s face or telling him to fuck off or something.  That gave me a great idea.  Remember that clown that would come and sweep people off of the stage during those Apollo Theatre talent shows?  Well, between that and those constant commercials for the movie “Precious”, I got my latest brainstorm.  I think it should debut on Sex Rehab, but there is a ton of crossover potential for it.  Basically, when someone gets REALLY out of line and in Dr. Drew’s face, telling him to fuck off or whatnot, a really HUGE black woman needs to burst into the room, chairs and tables rattling and falling as they part the way for her…..and she needs to start screaming at the offender- “You did NOT just talk to Dr. Drew like that!”.  But it doesn’t end there, it goes on for at least two or three minutes and she just keeps screaming the same thing, building up a sweat, spit flying…”YOU DID NOT JUST TALK TO DR. DREW LIKE THAT! YOU.DID.NOT.JUST.TALK.TO.DR.DREW.LIKE.THAT….you did NOT just TALK to Dr. Drew like THAT!”.  And the key to the whole thing is that she is as insane and out of control as possible, with the camera cutting to Dr. Drew every once in a while, and he’s just sitting there taking notes and observing.  And it has to go on for a while, long enough to freak the person out and long enough to waste a segment of television time large enough to let the audience know they are fully committed to the new format.

Of course, as the popularity grows and the woman becomes an instant celebrity, she can pop up on different programs.  “YOU DID NOT JUST PUKE THAT MAGGOTY FISH ONTO JEFF PROBST!  YOU did NOT just puke that maggoty FISH onto JEFF PROBST!”.  I think that before her fifteen minutes were up it would be successful enough to worm its way into the regular primetime lineup.  For example, there are a million shows now that are basically the same thing….like those Criminal Order Victim Whispering bullshit shows.  “YOU DID NOT JUST RAPE THAT BABY CHILD!  YOOUUUUUUU did NOOOOOTTTT just rape that BAYYYBEEEEEE CHIIIIILLLLD!”. 

Anyway, I think it’s a hell of an idea.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?  Even if you aren’t into reality tv, you’d surely tune in just to see a Precious lookalike losing her shit all up in some unsuspecting person’s personal space.  And it would add a little umph to the usual morning-after-The-Office-episode water cooler talk.  I can just see the memos going out to the staff from HR now….”Due to the recent heart attack suffered by Myron Hubbard, we have to ask that employees stop running up to their co-workers and screaming in their faces like that gigantic black woman from the television”.

And now to totally switch gears, here’s a joke I made up that only a real drunk would find funny.  In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy….If you have to take a drink so that you DON’T fall in the shower, then you might be an alcoholic.  When I thought of that joke it reminded me of something I shared during group while I was in the hospital.  I think of the bond that addicts share as “dysfunctional elitism”.  To an outsider, AA can look like just another stupid club or even a cult.  I know that in the past I passed the same kind of judgment…AA’ers seemed like preachy clones and could come off as holier than thou.  Therein lies the perceived elitism.  Coming at it from the inside now, I wouldn’t necessarily call it elitism, but there is absolutely a cameraderie and common bond that cannot be denied.  And that’s a good thing, it’s what keeps people coming back and eases the need for a drink.  This Saturday we’re going to the 35th anniversary party for my group…..food, dancing, karaoke…exactly what you’d find at pretty much any big organizational party, minus the alcohol. And sure, my kneejerk reaction would be that it sounds like the gayest fucking thing imaginable. However, that bond and ease of communication and socialization that comes along with it will make it a very good Saturday night.  But ultimately, the vast majority of gatherings are closed. Members only.  However, the price of membership is to be completely fucked.  Lots of very broken people looking to get better……there you have the dysfunction.  And I don’t look at the label of dysfunctional elitism as anything negative……it’s pretty funny, but maybe only to the people who get my Foxworthy style joke.

So things are still pretty calm and good around the house.  We spent Halloween evening at my sponsor’s house, having dinner and playing board games with him and his wife.  My wife took a day off for her birthday on Friday, and we spent the day going down to the River Market and to the Nelson Art Gallery before meeting my parents for dinner.  We’re trying to decide what to make for Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother’s, and we are fully stocked as far as the Christmas tree and ornaments are concerned.  In the past, I’d still enjoy all of these things, but in the back of my mind I’d be anxiously awaiting my alone time.  Now it’s possible to just calm down and enjoy the moments themselves.  Even with the seemingly endless job search and related drama, I’m in a very good place.  Just got off the phone with a good friend of mine from out east.  One of the only people I can have prolonged discussions with in which we completely disagree on fundamental issues, yet somehow in the end manage to solve all of the world’s ills.  So out out of here for now, but shall return….

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Obese Grandmother Gets Nude In Christmas…

Okay, when I can’t think of a snappy title from now on, my default action will be to grab something from my dashboard that someone googled to end up at my site…..this one was pretty unique (close runner-up was “Pastor Being Fucked”).  My favorite one as of late though is when people type in “unsaved pussy” and get here…..my guess is they mis-keyed (I was going to say fat fingered….but too easy of a joke) “unSHAVED pussy”.  And I get way more hits with unsaved pussy than I am comfortable with….but welcome to you!

So I’ve been cooking a lot…..trying to find stuff to do with my time during my favorite time of the year that doesn’t include obsessing on getting shitfaced with all of this free time on my hands.  I’ve pretty much got the daily job search streamlined, so it only takes up so much time.  So cooking is something I enjoy, and I can make a passable dinner.  This week has been chicken and noodles, homemade pizza and risotto.  I’ve never made my own pizza dough or sauce, but now that I’ve done it I have no idea why I waited this long…maybe because I finally have a pizza stone I can use.  Biggest revelation was how great sliced and sauteed (in bacon fat) Brussels sprouts can be on pizza, not to mention the combo of Thai garlic chile paste, ricotta, caramelized onions and mushroom soy sauce marinated chicken breast.  The bacon and Brussels sprouts combo will be debuting at the monthly AA potluck tonight…..but not on pizza (UPDATE: the people at the potluck lost their damn minds over those things….they were gone almost instantly, will have to make a double batch next month).  Today I went out and picked up 20 pounds of beef bones for stock. The meat department just got a bunch in this morning and cut them up for me fresh……I’ll be testing my limits tomorrow, seeing if there is such a thing as eating TOO MUCH bone marrow on toast w/some sea salt and a little parsley.  My gigantic stockpot will be chock full, simmering all day tomorrow after I harvest the roasted marrow….and as usual, I won’t have any stock when all is said and done….I go ahead and reduce it until I’ve got about a gallon of demi glace! 

Anyway, enough of the Suzie homemaker crap.  Like I mentioned before, this really is my favorite time of the year.  USUALLY it’s the kickoff of the real party season that slides on through to the New Year.  So this is about as different as it gets.  An alien planet.  I’ll try to keep things on point, especially if I’m going to burn up blog space with these revolutionary AA nuggets on a regular basis. 

Usually autumn just gradually creeps up on me, I take it for granted and there isn’t ever a singular moment that says to me “it has begun”.  This year was a little different.  We were at the movies last weekend doing a I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell/Zombieland double feature (and by double feature I mean walking into the second movie for free), and at some point in the first movie some guys were walking into a bar…..and whammo, autumn was upon me.  No suffering, no booze craving, nothing dramatic at all…just a subtle click in my brain as I pulled up an old image I’ve lived a thousand times; walking into a bar way before it got busy, the air conditioning set to arctic in anticipation of the drunken hoardes, bellying up to the bar and ordering the first drink, chatting with the bartender in the relative quiet, and feeling the first sip work its way into my blood.  That first drink always kicked off a cheesy carnival music version of “The Sound of Music” in my head, as my body welcomed the dopamine rush and I settled into the safety of the knowledge I was on my way.  There’s nothing like that first ka-pow that hits your brain during the first drink…you can follow it up with a hundred more and you never, ever get that first rush of happiness and comfort back again.  Until the next first drink.  So yessiree, the electric crispness of autumn air, comfy in a bar, cruising through the top shelf bourbons for hours….praise God from whom all blessings flow. 

I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, when I do I can’t say it’s torture.  It’s just a reminder of how different things are for me this year, and this is not a bad thing.  I went to a really good noon meeting yesterday that helped put things into perspective when the wandering mind begins thinking too hard about this alien planet.  We talked about the second step, coming to terms with a greater power having the ability to restore us to sanity.  To seek sanity, you have to admit that there was insanity…..no problem there. BUT much of the insanity was triggered by the religious insanity, so coming to terms with a higher power that didn’t want to crush my spine could be difficult for me.

I can’t say that growing up in a works-based religion MAKES you an addict, but it definitely helps.  By that I mean, once you accept the fundamentalist/Biblical literalist version of Christ…..who IS the loving deity of John 3:16 (at first anyway), THEN it’s time to get to work and make sure you STAY saved, because faith without works is dead.  So even though salvation and grace are free gifts and you could never do anything to be worthy of them on your own, you still have to attach a blue collar work ethic to your faith and cowboy up and EARN it.  That’s a lot of pressure, and is completely at odds with the “Jesus as your personal savior” evangelical banner ad because it creates a system where the WORKS create the RELATIONSHIP instead of any works/growth/learning, etc. happening as a natural and logical result of the relationship.  It’s the red blooded, blue eyed Republican American Jesus phenomenon….if you work hard enough you can have or do anything, and if you AREN’T working hard for it then you probably aren’t really saved.  And that begats the “members only” club mentality, which begats the arrogance, which begats the isolationist attitude and the greatest religious motivators of all…..fear and guilt.  If people can’t accept the definition of God’s love on YOUR terms, then maybe you can scare them into loving him. 

Sorry, I know I go on those religious rants all of the time, but I say all of that to say this….works were always easy for me.  When I was working at a church I could always do as much or more than everyone, and the more things I did to make me feel guilty, the more work I could do to make up for it.  And the more I offset guilt with works and jammed all of those conflicting feelings down deep, the more judgmental I became because everything had to be black or white.  Guilt doesn’t work.  The same goes for my post-pastor life…..I never really had to work THAT hard to get by.  School was easy for me, I was a quick learner at work, and when it comes to people I can generally find a way to get along with or befriend almost anyone….especially if there is something in it for me.  But with booze comes that same teeter-totter effect that is found in the works/faith dichotomy……working harder to get over the issue of drinking too much, and ultimately watching things come to a critical mass that I couldn’t schmooze or intellectualize my way out of. 

This is an example of what a lot of AA’ers call “my best thinking”……the trap of trying to think your way out of the cycle of addiction.  Then you are well into the insanity.  Oh the insanity and all of the tricks you use to rationalize it or just gut it out.  For me, it was falling back on all of the behaviors that made things so “easy” for me in the past.  I’d use my willpower, stoicism, intellect or charm to make it into a period of sobriety….and honestly, most of the time I probably WAS a manageable drunk.  I never fucked up too badly for a very long time, but I didn’t realize that part of the “unmanageability” of alcoholism was the planning that went into it.  So I’d take it too far, go to a few AA meetings and think I could pick up some tips to either drink properly or stop all together.  Hook right, hook left…..switch it up, try it again…..but over time it never gets better. 

So here I am at the end of all of that, during my favorite drinking time of the year, and it was during the aforementioned meeting that something really hit me.  I’m a very visual person…once I can put some kind of picture around a concept I’ll usually be able to internalize it.  Back to the higher power……what is that REALLY?  It’s not the fundamentalist tormentor of my youth, and it’s not some kind of cosmic feel-good fairy.  So how could I frame it in an understandable manner….in a way that it could be some kind of tangible icon to help me into longterm sobriety?  And when did my writing become so gay? 

I’m rambling, so here it is, the visual……when I tried to use all of the tools and tricks that got me to where I was, to no avail, I was like a billionaire with a huge steamer trunk full of cash….on a deserted island.  The money, ego, popularity, charisma, and intelligence at my disposal…..meant nothing.  The God of my understanding was the one standing on my deserted waterfront property going “so where did all of THAT get you?”.  Things can be just as easy as they were before, as long as you surrender all of the old behaviors and replace them as you learn.  It’s kind of like my dog and her pinch collar…..you don’t have to strangle her to walk her properly, it just takes a little tweak with the collar once in a while.  That’s me now, constantly correcting my mind to put it in check….as long as it isn’t allowed to get too far out of whack, you’re restored to sanity.  I can be all happy now doing a ton of gay crap like being productive and dependable. 

That’s about it, sorry for the lack of depraved humor and unbridled ill-tempered hilarity.  Overall I’m pretty calm and happy, living the dream of unemployment checks, job listings and MySpace Poker.

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Depression Is An Ego Trip…

I was driving home from a meeting the other day and I had one of those lightbulb moments.  I’m in the middle of that hellish limbo right now where I’m waiting to hear if I’m going to be hired to do a job that I’d be perfect for….I’ve had two interviews that went well, but I am reticent to believe that it will actually come through.  So I’ve been a little restless and agitated….that’s what I was focused on before my lightbulb moment.  Financially we’re in the clear for the forseeable future, but this unemployment thing does not sit well with me.  And not having some booze to fall back on is the undiscovered country for me. 

Have I fallen into a deep depression during all of this?  No, not really.  The meds help, I’m sure.  Between Wellbutrin, Neurontin and the miracle drug of sleep aids….Trazodone, I’m pretty even keel.  But I’ve pretty much always been that way……my car explodes and my heart rate remains the same…..if the Publisher’s Clearinghouse van pulled into my driveway my heart rate would remain the same.  I’m damn near comatose in my ability to control my emotions.  BUT if a pot lid falls off the counter and starts spinning around and around and around on its edges, making that racket as it sloowws down and finally collapses……something like that sets me into a homicidal rage.  And if you are on the phone with me and you’re chewing on food…..I’ll clip your fucking spine with garden shears so that you have to eat through a tube from then on.  Bottom line, it’s all about control and anxiety over what you can’t control, and that is one of the main fossil fuels for depression.  So this was going through my mind as I was driving along…..what was it about me that allowed me to keep total composure in the worst of times, and at the same time have no visible reaction when something fantastic just happened to me?  A voice in my head went “well maybe it’s because you’re just not used to good things happening for you”.  And most of the time that would kick off the melancholy piano music and emotional slow burn that would allow me to suck down a couple bottles of wine or just hole up in front of the tv for hours on end.  But not this time.  THIS time another voice followed up on that thought with “oh buuuullllsshhhhiiit!”. 

I don’t have to get into details here, but despite all of the trials of this year, I generally have GREAT shit happening to me on a regular basis.  Big things, little things, and it’s not because I’m some gem of a human, it’s probably just because whatever God is at work up there knows I’m a giant pussy, so he has to throw me constant softballs to keep me going.  So where does all the negative self-talk that fuels depression come from?  In short, I believe much of it can be attributed to ego.  As a disclaimer I’ll say that depression can be a very serious, and sometimes fatal, phenomenon.  And there is always room for a professional to come in and counsel, prescribe meds, etc.  But at its core, it is an ego trip.  By that I mean it is something that allows you to shut down and escape all responsibility.  Like a giant, dysfunctional safety blanket.  Its effect is a lot like alcoholism, so it makes sense that the two go hand in hand.  The more inside yourself you get, the more you shut down, the more looming the big picture becomes, the more detached you become and responsibilities you escape from……the more it is all about YOU.  Whether you’re the manic and egomaniacal frat rat alpha male who wears too much Ed Hardy and uses too much hair product, or the depressed and bookish mole person who weeps to Morrissey and sits in bars alone making a silent scene with a feverishly scribbled little poetry notepad, you are the center of the universe.  You’re as big a cliche as I became, and as big a cliche as every annoying mini-van driving soccer mom.  And I don’t mean that to sound like “get your shit together, whiner!”…on some level we DO have power much of it, but there are usually enough factors out of our control that require some sort of intervention…..be it professional therapy, group therapy, etc. 

It’s just an easy trap to fall into. The pity party cliche.  I think part of it is the need to regress back to childhood, when you weren’t responsible for anything, and that is not totally unnatural.  We just tend to take it to an extreme.  My ex was someone who I grew to hate because she would willingly fall further down the rabbit hole before she’d reach out for help and get some kind of a grip on her manic depression.  Things had to be burning down around her before she’d take the smallest step towards change.  Control issues, denial…..you name it, they all play a part in that weird meltdown alchemy.  For me it was the booze and riding the highs and lows good chemistry could provide for me, AND that was my own thing that I wouldn’t get help for until things started to burn down.  Now, I’m not giving the ex a pass here just because I see parallels in our behaviors, I’ll be happy if I never see or hear from her again.  Booze driven depression helps you flex the ego and control muscles….as long as I did my job well enough and my wife never saw me completely wrecked, I was in enough control to give myself a pass. 

At my core I can be a pretty judgmental prick.  Forgive me for stating something so painfully obvious.  It’s something I have always struggled with because I don’t want to be one of those bitter, angry people who live in a plate glass McMansion and hurl boulders at anyone and everyone in order to deny their own shortcomings or failures.  I guess everyone does it to some extent, but addicts are like autistic savants with it.  Self absorption begats judgmentalism….I could be just as big a dickhead as the evangelicals I hate.  Fundamentalist freaks are way more obvious about it, but most people survive on their need to tell OTHER people what THEY should be doing.  Perverted theology creates a make-believe system of rules and regulations that allow followers to point the finger and never understand why everyone thinks they are an asshole (and to believe that anyone thinking they are an asshole must mean they are right in their judgment, because the truth is SUPPOSED to hurt people).  Also, there are the anti-smoking zealots who hold the bad science surrounding secondhand smoke like a little treasure next to their heart, because now they can tell EVERYONE what to do in restaurants and bars….not because they give two shits about the health of the patrons or employees, but because they finally found a way to put legislation around their little pet peeve.  A million examples……people with enough expendable income to make a religion out of being “green” or “organics-only”, me with my giant brain and wild life experiences that make me more knowledgeable and in-tune than everyone else.  We use religion, bad politics and biased ethics to PROVE why our way of thinking is right, we surround ourselves with likeminded individuals to bolster our fucked up worldview, and when the rest of the world refuses to kneel down and come around to our way of thinking…..we use another handy little tool, the bastard child of the psychological beasts, ego and control…….we use guilt. 

Ah, guilt.  God knows I’ve railed about that one both drunk and sober, to an annoying extreme.  Guilt is a fantastic motivator.  If you can’t win them with love, scare them with the fear of hell and their own failures.  From the time we are born, disappointed mothers, angry gods, disapproving teachers and surly employers program us to respond in Skinnerian fashion to that tiny little cattle prod.  Yes, we have to learn the basic differences between right and wrong in our daily dealings with others, but guilt is some shit that can get out of hand quickly. 

The only new thought on guilt I can share here is something that came to me last week during an AA meeting (a different one than the meeting that brought up the ego rant….I go to a lot of meetings).  Yes, there I was surrounded by a group of likeminded people who are convinced beyond all doubt that they have the answer……but I realized there is one big difference.  Okay, a couple of big differences.  First of all, there is real diversity in an AA meeting.  By real, I mean it’s not that fabricated bullshit that is the bread and butter for liberal, drum-thumping academics and highly paid corporate consultants.  Like I have always said, if you want to live the lofty ideal of “diversity”, then go make fucking friends down at the DMV or tax office.  THAT is diversity.  And honestly, the closest I’ve come to witnessing real diversity outside of those two hellholes is in the AA halls.  Religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, income level, you name it, you find it in AA.  And everyone gets along (for the most part), because what brought us there is how incredibly fucked up we were.  The second big difference is that guilt is never used as a motivator to get people to change.  Sure, there is plenty of shit we all feel guilty about from our past, as I’ve mentioned before we aren’t there to excuse ourselves from past behavior.  However, guilt is does not promote real learning or real growth.  And the thing I’ve found the most comfort in, is the very thing that makes every fundamentalist completely write off AA as pure “secular humanism”.  There is no control in place, there is no set leader, there aren’t any paid positions, and most of all……while we all have to believe in and rely upon a higher power, there is no set RULE on who “God” is for everyone.  Oooooooooohhh, spooooooky……..putting your eternal soul in jeopardy by aspiring to be the best and most reliable person you can be without acknowledging you are doing it to escape hell!  I can’t even count the number of sermons, including full-costume illustrated sermons, I’ve sat through that were based SOLELY UPON the premise that “there will be a lot of ‘good’ people burning in hell”.  Sure, I have a Christian worldview and believe in the simplicity of the New Testament’s message, but that kind of guilt is bullshit. And more importantly, it does NOT work.  Case and point, I can tell you that I’ve experienced something completely new for the first time in my life…..being honest and thinking about others just because it is the right thing to do.  There were points during my ministry days when I lived as an absolute hypocrite, drinking on the weekends, going to clubs, you name it……and it was my failure as a Christian and the guilt that came along with it that made me keep doing it.  There are many who would say I’d never really let Jesus into my heart and gave my life over to him, but to them my response is…..your methodology for people to get there is completely flawed because it has nothing to do with personal experience or growth, it’s all about the show, the works people have to perform, and getting socialized enough in that mindset to “belong” to the group.  The driver is guilt and the gatekeeper is a guy who gets PAID to keep the numbers of customers increasing from Sunday to Sunday. 

Now, without the guilt based on a flawed interpretation of the Bible, I am able to feel closer to God, closer to people, way more open to change, growth, servicework for others, and the ability to share my experience without beating anyone over the head. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of assholes in AA who DO preach and beat people over the head (this blog is what I use for THAT), and meetings that don’t encourage new people to attend so that the old timers have it to themselves, but there is a certain bliss for me in being a newbie.  I’m in no way ashamed of this phase of my life.  I don’t wear a damn AA shirt or have a bumper sticker, but if someone asks me why I’m not drinking or has questions about the program or a friend/relative who may or may not have a drinking problem, I’m happy to talk about my experience in a very low-key and real way.  And while I’d like for everyone who is experiencing the hell of addiction to get into the program, I’m not out to recruit or convince them.  More specifically, I’m not going to goad or guilt them, which is pretty much what they are expecting or already used to.  It’s up to the individual to decide whether or not they have a problem, and the only requirement to be an AA member is a desire to stop drinking.  That’s it.  No complicated theology, tithes, grandiose expectations, etc.  The farthest I’ll go is to ask questions like “Can you have just one or two drinks socially and then stop for the night?”, “Do you prefer to drink alone?”, “Have you ever tried to stop drinking, or changed brands/liquors as a way to cut back, and failed?”, “Do you drink for the effect you feel when you are drunk?”……stuff like that, all completely valid things that EVERY alcoholic, if honest, would probably answer “no, yes, yes, yes” to, depending on where they are on the downward spiral.  And from there, all you do is go to meetings, get a sponsor (and your sponsor isn’t there to tell you who your god should be or to induct you into the secrets of AA), begin to understand and work the steps, and if you do that…..correcting the failures and shortcomings that have been fed by guilt and shame up to this point will just work themselves out as a natural progression of the program.

So that’s about it for now.  I found out Friday that I was a shoe-in for the job I had interviewed for, but they had to give it to the person they originally offered it to who protested when their background check came back with a problem.  The good news is they loved me, so when something else opens up there in the near future, it’s probably mine.  Now normally, hearing some shit like that on a Friday would mean I could tear it up all weekend, but instead I went to meetings, made chicken and noodles, went to the Farmer’s market, took the dog to the park, started a Six Feet Under marathon with my wife, ate at an incredible Thai buffet, went on a long nature hike, and of course…..HBO and Tool Academy on Sunday night.  I think everyone can agree that while I sound like a boring old man now, it is a hell of a lot better weekend than it would have been before.  I do apologize that I will no longer be able to entertain you with posts like “Best. Saturday. Ever.”.  I encouraged my sponsor to read that post before reading the one I did a couple of weeks ago.  Great contrast!

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Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Tent Revival, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

A Searching Moral Inventory…

The emergency room is never a good time.  Yes, I’ve mentioned that fact before, but the last time I was there I at least got copious amounts of opiates to ease the pain.  This time was different, and before I get too deeply into it, I know I’ve been taking way too long between posts.  I hate those dicks who start up a blog and then post less and less until you never hear from them again.  But I have a good excuse!  I’m not one to revel in drama or self pity, so you can take it to the bank when I say everything I’m about to write is 100% truthful, and the only reason I’m sharing it is because I’d have to be a real asshole to gloss over it or make a joke about it….especially when you consider the fact that this blog was created as a way to share the nitty-gritty about my addictive personality and everything that goes along with it.  And to make up for my absence I promise you the longest post I’ve ever written,  full of adventure and intrigue….

So where was I?  Oh yeah, emergency room.  Oh boy.  Whenever I’ve gone there in the past it’s pretty much a normal exam room with all of the normal tools of the trade strewn about the room….a somewhat comfy bed, etc.  Not THIS exam room. Not THIS time.  I didn’t even know they had psych/high risk rooms……but sure as hell, they do.  And I sat in that fucker with my dad for something like three or four hours before I was admitted.  Seriously…..the TV is behind plexi-glass, there are no sheets, no pillowcases (no pillows now that I think about it), the bed is a slab, all of the drawers and shelves are locked shut, there is no sink, no open outlets, and the nurse who checks up on you and takes your blood is a huge black man who could break you in half with one swat.  At some point a social worker came in to talk to me, and from what I can remember he basically asked the same question in a dozen different ways….”do you want to kill yourself or anyone else?”…..in order to determine (once your blood work came back and let them know you AREN’T going home anytime soon) WHICH side of the ominous “sixth floor” you’ll be checked in to….the “bat shit crazy/no shoe laces” north side or the “just keep ’em from dying from withdrawal seizures” south side.  I was a south sider….no matter how bad my life has gotten, I’d never ever kill myself, and as far as killing anyone else….most people just don’t interest me enough to give them that level of attention or emotion.

So what got me to the emergency room, you ask?  If you are really asking that question, you either haven’t read much of this blog or you’ve never spent much time with me.  I have what scientists call a bit of a problem with alcohol.  To put a finer point on it, I’m an alcoholic.  I’m not usually one for such finite labels, but this shoe fits. Big time.  Long story short, everything came to a head about two months ago when I began what would end up being my last big bender…..about seven days of drinking around two fifths of bourbon per day and not eating any solid foods.  When that Sunday evening rolled around and by some miracle I was still getting around under my own power, I knew my choices of where to go from there were limited; I had to either A) detox on my own at home….which I’d done before after just a few days of heavy drinking, and those experiences were bad enough to let me know that I could NOT do it after a week of drinking and not eating, B) keep on drinking in order to “stay well”….because after the first couple of days you aren’t doing it for fun, you’re doing it to keep from getting sick, or finally C) surrender, call someone and get them to drive me to the emergency room where I could get the help I needed.   So I took what was behind door C and made one bastard of a hard call to my mother and told her what was up.  Shortly after that, my dad came over to pick me up and drive me to the hospital.  He was surprisingly cool about the whole thing, and I know it had to be rough to see me in that condition….I’m pretty sure I was drinking up until the point when he pulled in the driveway, and when they finally took my blood several hours later I was still registering a respectable .30 blood alcohol content.  The journey between my bariatric surgery and that ride to the hospital is something that will be chronicled in the months to come, but things got worse and worse over the past year or so.  I’d try to stop drinking here and there, but to no avail…I’d always pick it back up and every time I did I’d push the envelope even further.  The fact that I was one hell of a highly functioning alcoholic didn’t help matters….I managed my job and my relationships.  I was able to shield my wife from the darkest moments because she was on the other side of the country from me most of the time.  But man, when I finally crashed, I crashed hard.  I’m just glad when I finally found that bottom that is constantly mentioned in AA meetings, I was lucid enough to reach out for help.  A lot of people aren’t that lucky, and I met many of them during my four days in the Addiction Recovery Unit.

Oh the ARU…..it seems like it was such a long time ago.  I don’t remember going from the ER upstairs to the ARU, but I think my dad was able to get out of there before the sickness started to set in.  That shit would not be cool to see, and I figured I’d be locked in a padded room while I shook uncontrollably and shit and pissed myself for a couple of days, but no…..there is actually a very humane protocol when it comes to dealing with addicts.  And I have to say, I was lucky enough to score a room at what has GOT to be the Waldorf Astoria of hospital ARU’s….I’m too big of a pussy for social detox.  It was probably around midnight when I finally got upstairs to my room, and the nurse was a sweet older lady who started pumping me full of the drugs.  I was still completely shitfaced, and joked about how they were going to get me off of the booze by getting me high on drugs.  And sure, they were giving me some good old fashioned benzo’s with a battery of other stuff, but reality set in when she told me “most of this is anti-seizure medication, because without that you could die”.  Most of what went on that first night is pretty spotty in my memory, but I remember THAT. 

So they put me out cold, which was the most merciful thing they could do.  And when I woke up the next morning I was not in a good way.  They kind of leave you alone that first day….they let you know when the meals are being served and when the different group meetings are starting, but the first day folks REALLY stick out.  The worst hangover you could ever imagine having is like a slight headache compared to the physical and mental trauma of a real detox….even with the drugs.  I actually made it all the way down the hall when breakfast was being served, but when the nurse put a tray of food in front of me, the nausea overtook me before I got to see whether or not I could actually hold a fork yet.  So I went back nighty night for several hours……waking up for them to give me all kinds of drugs, vitamins, supplements, etc…..they take your vitals CONSTANTLY, and are always peeking in on you when you are sleeping.  Later that day I actually started going to group meetings, because that’s what you do in detox…..you go to groups, morning noon and night, learning and discussing everything to do with your addiction, what it has done to your life, and what you plan to do to NEVER end up back in detox again.  Other than that, there isn’t a hell of a lot to do in the ARU.  One TV down in the lounge, a few games and puzzles, including my favorite “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright”…that was one great puzzle.  The highlight of the day was filling out your menu for the next day over breakfast. Seriously, you look forward to that like Christmas.  When you’re not eating a meal, you’re in group.  And honestly, out of all of the great moments I’ve had in my life, it is hard to think of anything that has made a bigger impression on me than my four days in detox.  The staff in the unit and my counselor/case manager are all world class……she was even insistent on getting in contact with my wife to see what she needed out of all of this (in hindsight, the way I broke it to my wife was pretty funny…I called her up while I was in the ER and opened with “Hi babe, I have got some GREAT news!).  It’s a lifechanging event if you let it be, but it’s really just the bandaid before the real work begins.  I was in hideous physical condition when I came in there, so their job is to just get your physiology evened out enough for you to be safe out in the world….but if you don’t have a plan after you leave there, you’ve got about a 90% chance of relapsing. Usually within the first year. 

Did I mention that there isn’t SHIT to do while you’re in the ARU?  You do meet some interesting people, that’s for sure.  My biggest gripe was that you can’t shave while you’re there.  They have these horrible electric shavers you can use, but no blades. In fact, if you are forward thinking enough to actually pack a bag before your arrival (I wasn’t), everything but your clothing (money, wallet, cell phones, razor, etc.) is locked in a safe.  Then if you want to use your razor, a nurse literally has to stand there watching you while you do it, then the razor goes back in the safe.  I thought they did that just to keep you from committing suicide or something, but in reality it’s so you don’t hurt yourself by accident if you’re still shaky……and that totally makes sense. If I tried to shave that first day I would have looked like a bushman who lived for scarification rituals.  Oh, this brings up a very pertinent and interesting topic…..when you are locked up on the sixth floor, they are NOT fond of you trying to kill yourself.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that they’d hate for that to happen.  So they put in some serious safeguards that I obsessed on the whole time I was there, trying to make an exhaustive list of the counter-measures.  These counter-measures include, but are not limited to: no curtain rod in the closet, no doors on the closet (you could hang yourself on the open door…..and without any doors you have to see the restraint pads and straps they keep in there in case you become a danger to yourself or others), all of the sprinklers on the floor are either flush with the ceiling or have a dome over them so nothing can be tied to them, the brackets holding the shower curtain in place are mounted upside down so that any weight at all would pull the whole rod down, the phone cords on the two phones we had access to were literally about 18 inches long, the shower nozzle only protrudes from the wall about 1/2 inch, and my favorite…..the flourescent light fixtures are outfitted with plexiglass over the bulbs, and the plexiglass lays on top of a metal frame…..so if you actually broke the glass to try and cut yourself it would fall down on the plexiglass and you could never get to it.  Oh, but the most ingenius anti-suicide thing, which also confirms that hanging must be the suicide method of choice……all of those handicap bars that you see in hospital showers and next to toilets that you can grab onto are outfitted with a metal plate that fills all of the space between the wall and the bar.  Basically, you can grip the bar but you couldn’t thread anything around it…….how long did it take them to think of THAT one?  Then ironically, even though we were up on the sixth floor, all of the windows were wide open and had a blinking neon light over them that said “JUMP MOTHERFUCKER!”…..so go figure.  Overall, security is taken very seriously, and for good reason.  In order to call or visit me, I would have had to give you a personalized code you’d use to make it past reception or reach me on one of our two shared phones.  And your ass is locked in up there…..no coming and going whatsoever.  Sure, I went in there completely voluntarily and could have left against medical advice if I insisted, but they wouldn’t make it easy for you.  And if you’re over on the north/psych side, security is even more serious.  I had to have my mom go to my house to pick up some clothes for me so my dad could bring them up, and whenever I start taking recovery lightly I just think of what it must have been like for another human being to walk into the asylum my house had become…..no shit, it was like that last hotel scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  And I don’t say that lightly.  When I got back home I literally had to clean for a couple of hours just to be able to sleep in my own bed.  So when the clothes arrived, of course they go through them before you can even touch  them.  My dad and I laughed that #1- my mom the therapist actually packed a belt for me, and #2- they didn’t take the belt out before handing over my clothes.  Of course, I’d have no place to tie the belt and hang myself, but I still felt like I needed to teach them a lesson by ringing the emergency buzzer in my room, and then when they arrived I’d be standing in the middle of the room with the belt cinched around my neck, holding the other end up in the air….”SEE?  SEE?  You people need to be more VIGILANT!”. 

I’m sure as I continue to work on my recovery, I’ll have more introspective things to share.  I’m actually enjoying being sober, believe it or not. I do have to say that during my time in the ARU, it was probably the first time I ever really cared deeply about people I didn’t even know and did it on my own free will, the Lord wasn’t requiring it of me.  All sorts of drug and alchohol problems, every background you can think of….housewives, teenagers, artists, union pipe fitters, an 84 year old veteran who was at Normandy….but we all had addiction in common.  I am one lucky, lucky sonofabitch…..I’ve got a great wife and family, a house, no job right now but a great resume, and in treatment you meet people who literally have nowhere to go once they leave the hospital.  They’ve either lost their jobs and houses, or they’ve burned every bridge with friends and family, or both.  Some arrive via ambulance, others in handcuffs.  The real wakeup call of the week was the guy who they moved to the room next to mine.  He was in restraints the entire time I was in there, screaming incoherently much of the time, going through the kind of DT’s that required a nurse to be in the room with him 24X7.   You are hopeful for many who seem to really be connecting with the program, and others will definitely have to find another bottom before they get it.  Basically, I honestly learned to love and appreciate people I had just met, because they share the same disease.  And yes, it’s an actual disease. That was something I couldn’t or wouldn’t believe or grasp until learned doctors diagrammed the normal brain vs. the addict brain during one of our groups.  Most people recoil when you compare addiction to diabetes or cancer, but between the science and the fact that I’ve had some substance I’ve been addicted to at every point during my life, I know it’s a disease…..but it’s a disease that tells you it isn’t one, which makes sobriety something you have to work on every day.  So yeah, I’m a for-real, genuine alcoholic because I cannot have one drink without having twenty.  I drink solely for the effect and social drinking is something I cannot relate to or understand.  Say what you want about Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step methodology, but it has been proven with about seventy years of success, surviving the microscope placed on it by medical science.  The doctors and counselors in the ARU know a hell of a lot more about addiction than I do, and they constantly reminded us of the importance of working the program once we left.  After I was discharged from the ARU, I completed six weeks of intensive outpatient treatment and I began attending regular AA meetings.  I’ve been sober since July 12th, and I know I couldn’t do it without working the steps.  I think I’ve written more than enough about my disdain for organized religion, fundamentalism and group think to give my newfound love of AA some credibility.  I’m not someone who drinks the Kool-Aid, but this thing works.  And the statistics back me up……if you leave treatment and don’t get in some kind of program to stay sober, you have between an 85 and 90 percent chance of relapsing.  Those are just the facts, and when you are a statistic you’re not doing it to be cool or unique…..there is a misery in addiction you can’t really understand until you experience it, and that is why AA is so effective.  Everybody gets it without you having to explain a thing. 

If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that I’ve been to AA meetings numerous times in the past.  I’d go in and think I could learn enough to either stop drinking or “learn to drink properly”…..and that road ended with me needing anti-seizure meds in a recovery unit.  In the ARU, something finally clicked and I finally connected with the program.  I found my bottom, and even though it could have gotten worse (and if I relapsed I’d end up finding an even worse bottom), I finally felt the powerlessness described in the first step and I found comfort in surrendering to the fact that I’m an alcoholic and letting that burden go.  Accountability to my wife and family, as well as a bunch of other alcoholics are the things that will keep me sober.  TV and the movies do not portray AA or NA very well…..there are definitely tears in meetings, but we don’t all sit around wallowing in story after story about the drinking….we all “get it”, so there’s no reason to tell the stories….we’ve all been there.  It’s about being totally honest with yourself and others, and focusing on a spirituality that promotes personal growth.  I wish more churches functioned like AA, it would be incredible.  We alcoholics don’t drink because we are weak or flawed, lack character or morals…. it’s a disease, and saying that isn’t a way of denying responsibility for our actions or an excuse to misbehave or be unique snowflakes, or absolve ourselves of the guilt we have over what we’ve done to others and to ourselves…even non-alcoholics could benefit from the tenets of the program, everyone has SOMETHING they need to work on.  Have I hurt people and lied to them because of my drinking?  Am I ashamed of myself and the way I kept it from my wife, and how I made her worry about me?  Absolutely, and when it comes time to deal with the rest of the 12 steps, I’ll be on solid enough footing to handle things like making amends.  It’s like any other group of people I’ve written about….once you are face to face with someone who belongs to a group you hate or marginalize based solely on what you see as their one defining characteristic, and you are forced to think of them as a human being, your perspective begins to change drastically and your world view begins to shift a little….unless they just happen to be a real asshole, or more likely, unless YOU just happen to be a real asshole.  If you could sit in on a detox group meeting and listen to the stories….diverse but strangely identical, you’d come to the conclusion that these are basically good people who are sick and need help.  People in recovery are some of the most honest and self realized people you will ever meet…..we know that denial is one hell of a tool that can keep you drunk or resentful, and you are only as sick as your darkest secrets.

So life is good, it is manageable again.  My wife is living with me here in KC, she just found a job and I’m looking for one.  And I love working the program.  Alcoholics Anonymous is the thing that is going to keep me sober.  I’m an alcoholic for life, I can’t ever have a drink, and that’s okay.  I don’t have to think about not drinking for a month, a year or a decade, I just have to work on today.  I have a great sponsor, and I’ll spend Friday night with my wife down at the AA hall enjoying a potluck dinner with a bunch of recovering drunks….and I will proudly receive my sixty day chip.  When was the last time I went sixty days without a drink?  Probably when I was in ministry, but then I was just killing myself with food.  Sure, if Jerry from a year ago got into a time machine and showed up on my doorstep, he’d kick the shit out of me for being such a boring sap.  But the hell with all that…..I’ll get up early Saturday morning hangover free to go to the market and my favorite meeting of the week at 8am.  I’ll be productive, out from under all of the secrets, lies and guilt, and at midnight every night the sobriety clock starts over again……it can only happen one day at a time.  And with that I’ll pass.

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Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Tent Revival, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery