Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oops, I Dropped Something

Car vs. bicycle usually means the cyclist looses, as in this case. Cyclists should realize that on a brisk Saturday morning, the most a cell-phone-toting weekend driver is concerned about regarding such confrontations is the minimal paint transfer a collision would incur. So running a stop sign on a slow traffic morning is morally justified. Boy I’d like to shove that cell phone up that beige Volvo driving mother puss bucket’s arse!

The above accident happened Saturday morning while I was trying to push the limits of both bicycle and cyclist. I was racing, estimated 30 mph in top gear, to a regular morning meeting giving myself just the required ten minutes to make it on time. Shoes tied tightly into toe clips, MP3 box playing that forgotten song, I didn’t hear the approaching car, but I saw it. Because of that, I narrowly missed it by turning my front wheel sharp, too sharp to stay upright. I kind of knew it was going to result in a pitchpole of the front forks. With feet securely attached to pedals, the bike and I were one. With all the energy of forward momentum transferred to pavement via my back and head, I hit the deck. Well, I shouldn’t say all; I do believe I took flight. When I finally made contact with Mother Earth it was in the form of a spank to my back and a pop of my head; a bounce is more like it. Thanks to the sacrificial Schwinn helmet, my scull was never touched nor damaged by the pavement. This was by design. However, I’m out one helmet.

When all had stopped, I lay motionless on my back staring at the Volvo that caused my injuries. While taking inventory of my injuries I was distracted by what I can only describe as a Jewish soccer mom who while keeping constant eye contact stopped the offending vehicle from doing more damage by running me over. Later I would learn there was a reason for this.

“Are you alright?” she responded. While still in the midst of inventorying, I stopped to answer, but in doing so took a deep breath and discovered I’d been winded. Like a prize fighter with the wind knocked out of him, I felt like I was punched in the gut, only from behind.

“Can you get up?” she asked. Good question, I thought. Continuing my bodily inventory, I realized the crowd forming. My urgency to get up was tempered by the feeling a football player must have when his internal couch reminds him the world is watching.

“Wait. You might be injured. Don’t move,” the soccer mom warns.

Screw that lady, “I’m fine. Help me up,” as I painfully expel air without wincing. I force my outstretched hand in greeting style in order to elicit a hand shake gesture, which she habitually responded to. I reach a bit further and grab her hand giving her a signal pull to notify her that yes, you are going to lift me. As she pulls me up, I let out a whimper of pain. “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea?”

“I’m okay, really,” I reply.

“I watched you as you hit ground and kept eye contact.” And why was that,, I thought? “I’d slipped on ice this winter, hit the back of my head, and lost consciousness. It didn’t seem like you did. Your helmet is broken pretty badly.” Oh, really, as I removed it, looked at the damage, then rubbed my scull where it took the hit and felt no pain, bump, warm blood, nothing.

My back is a different story, and as I type it is still bothering me. I was in so much pain that it justified a hospital visit. The nurses put the fear of God in me, talking of CAT scans and X-rays. When the doctor examined me and my urine, he reported nothing but muscle trauma, gave me the Rx equivalent of aspirin, and sent me on my way. I didn’t fill them for fear of cross addiction.

I’ve got other minor scraps and bruises, and one badly scraped ankle. Because it was attached to me at the point of impact, the only damage to the bicycle was a derailed chain. My back is okay today. We’ll see how it pans out over the next week.

Without Wax,

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Full Five Months

Like many a recovering alcoholic in Saint Paul, when the weather gets good, the drunk get cycling. Unlike the West Coast where I grew up, cycling in the Midwest has seasons. There’s only one A.A. that cycles all year round here and he’s a few clowns short of a circus. But many of us embrace the new spring freedom and happily mount up.

Lately I’ve tried combining two modes of transportation with mixed results. Our buses have bike racks. Being the procrastinator that I am, I’ve become quite the racer when it comes to buses. If you can’t catch the bus you want, why wait for it? Just run it down! I’ve discovered that the two modes of transportation have three comparative points worth mentioning:

1. Buses must stop at red lights where bicycles can negotiate them,
2. A bicycle is like an express bus in that it doesn’t make all stops,
3. Buses power up and coast down hills where bicycles crawl up and race down.

This gives the cyclist several advantages and disadvantages when it comes to racing the bus you’re interested in using to terminate your spring ride. Unfortunately, it meant never catching the bus that would take me to my one meeting that I know would score me a five month medallion. Saint Paul lies several hundred feet below surrounding suburbs, being that the Mississippi River runs through it. Although I was only five minutes late, and could easily make up the time by taking advantage of the first two points, it’s the latter that botched my efforts.

You have to dig your way out of the river front communities. I caught up with the bus by taking a few short cuts that the bus had to avoid in order in order to pickup as many fares downtown as possible. I was yards away from the bus when it made its critical turn out of town and up a steep hill. No problem, I thought, I’ll just catch up on the downslide. But there was none. In its place was another hill. That combined with the fact that I don’t really pay close attention to all the turns a bus makes while I’m riding it (and the fact that Jesse Ventura was right, drunk Irish men really did design the streets of Saint Paul – I’m Irish so blow me all PC types), I lost the bus, along with my sense of direction. It being an overcast day and all, I ended up heading south on a street I clearly intended to be heading north. Thankfully, a local fireman who happened to be out for a stroll pointed me in the right direction. He must’ve thought I was a drunken Irishman.

So, what planned on being a short bus/bike trip lasting only twenty-five minutes became a healthy hour and a half bike tour. Alcoholics are punctual and unforgiving folks when it comes to disrespecting meeting start times. Suffice to say, I didn’t earn a medallion for my efforts. Five month medallions are difficult to attain. They’re rare and I thought because I received a four month there that it would happen today, but alas it was not to be. Either it’s rarer than I’d thought or burbs don’t respect cycling: I parked in an empty bike rack.

Short but sweet; I did make the meeting’s tail end. You do tend to get more out of meetings when you can hear everyone speak. This will not repeat itself.

The bus rides that followed the rest of the day were typical for milestone days. I over heard a young man discussing the Camel Club, a since deprecated dry bar for A.A.s. I asked him about it in a way that wouldn’t reveal to a non-A.A. our true subject matter in order to respect what anonymity he felt like protecting. The way in which he responded did appear to be anonymous. We mourned the loss of the Camel Club.

On my way back from the meeting, after mounting my bike on the front of the bus, I’d taken the seat on the mostly empty bus near the front usually reserved for elderly, handy capped, and the full-legged lady in short skirt that any decent gentleman would care to relinquish his seat for. Such an opportunity presented itself when an older lady stumbled on the bus. Distracted by tying up my gear I failed to notice her getting on the bus, but couldn’t miss the waft of Whiskey breath as she passed. Being that she was voluntarily disabled and elderly, I offered my seat. This compounded her perplexity as she turned to confront me and promptly fell flat on her patootee. I reached down to help her up at her rejection, which quickly turned to comfort as I forcefully righted her to standing position rather quickly. In her drunken state, I believe it the most erect position she’d attained in hours; she thanked me. In an inebriated slur, she said, “I forgot my bag,” which was brown and promptly retrieved, she took my seat. From my own drinking days, I could easily identify it as a 1.75 liter plastic bottle of cheap bourbon, brown bag molded by grip around its neck.

I have a gift for guessing a woman’s age. I had initially thought her in her 70’s, but after closer inspection, discovered her to be much closer to my own age. Horribly aged by booze no less, she made a fool of herself. So much so that the young man I’d just been having a discussion with early regarding the Camel Club who was closest to the action said nothing when she fell just left of him. He didn’t bother to help her at all when he clearly was in range. I smiled gracefully, treated her like a lady as I helped her up, while giggling all inside. Most people don’t find alcoholism as entertaining as I do I guess.

I interviewed a new sponsor. I like him. We spent an hour in The Café and he agreed to endure my existence.

After nearly falling asleep at plasma, I decided against my better budget judgment to treat myself to a shopping excursion at Wally World. I bought only staples: hotdogs, milk, etc. It was my attempt to recharge my cell phone’s minutes that brought me to the counter that I made my next purchase. Loitering around this big bin filled with old and unwanted DVDs for $5.50 a pop was a beautiful young blue-eyed lady from Europe; excuse enough to play in the bin. There I found North Dallas Forty, a movie I grew up with and coincidentally was just thinking about buying the day before. It ads to a growing list of traditional seasonal movies: The Music Man for Fourth of July, A Christmas Story for well, Christmas, and American Flyers for spring cycling. This last one I just broke out of storage because I’m getting back in shape for cycling season.

It was this old movie that made me think of North Dallas Forty, you know, for football season. ‘70s drug culture meets the corporate world of football and all it’s politics; it’s a classic. The story is as true today as it was during the sexual revolution. Professional football teams pump their star athletes with drugs just to get them out on the field, and then penalize them for using recreational drugs. It’s the dramatized auto-biographical novel of a Dallas wide receiver made into a movie. It’s “far out.”

Five months is a lonely milestone I guess. No one remembered; no one called. I simply went home, popped in North Dallas Forty, and crashed on the sofa.

Without Wax,

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New Department

Morning! After working at my new job for two days, I have to say I'm very happy! It's the same company, just a different division.

Enjoy the scenery.

Without Wax,

Friday, April 07, 2006

Follow Up On Previous Post

Some continued info on yesterday's post:

All I know is what Barry told me, and he didn't meet with me yesterday to collect rent as agreed upon. I left a voice mail for him to contact me the next afternoon.

However, I did go shopping for sober housing and what I found out was very enlightening.

A) A couple of friends I went to Treatment with know of The Escape and say they're very efficient at taking disadvantaged addicts' and alcoholics' money.

B) None of the sober houses had ever heard of The Escape.

C) All of the sober houses said that, by my description of events, what they are doing violates laws they themselves are governed by and that I should seek legal help.

Since I'm working an honesty program and more interested in remaining sober than any legal satisfaction I may achieve over this, I wouldn't think of getting distracted at this point with a legal battle. If I took this to a lawyer it would only excite they're curiosity to the point that they'd probably sell me on pursuing this and that's not what I want over this. I'm also not on a crusade to make sober housing safe for all alcoholic-kind. I watch a lot of super hero’s entertainment, but that's as far as that goes: fiction.

However, there is one thing that I just can't let go of: In the short month that I've lived here I've fallen in love with this house.

Without Wax,

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What Else Can He Throw at Me?

Our sober house got bought out by one of the largest non-profits in the Twin Cities, which shall remain un-named (unless of course an inquisitive reader requests it via e-mail), and has decided to make some changes for the better. I’m guessing better profit quota, but who am I to say? I’m a mere alcoholic; what do I know? I mean, for a non-profit, they’ve got quite an impressive Web site. Nothing like efficiency when cashing in on the disadvantaged.

Okay, enough of the slamming. Let’s get down to brass tacks. After our new manager’s second meeting with me he’s asked me to leave. His intention was immediately, but after some cajoling, I was able to swing staying until the end of the month, given that rent is paid in full in two days. As illegal as that sounds, without access to a lawyer, I’m not sure what legal ground I stand on in regards to sober housing. The contract I signed was too simple to be of any legal help to me; I need a specialist.

With his extensive experience as an armature psychologist (amateur, armature, either works) he’s diagnosed me as ADHD. This coming from a man that can claim the highest achievement in his professional career as cook, Barry H. M. is a chronic relapsers who’s barely achieved two years of sobriety. Most sponsors have more time than that. Even asking the proper questions, such as are you on medication, have you gone to a psychologist, etc., he somehow dismissed these facts in his diagnosis, which leads me to believe there are other motives involved.

This leaves me two days to decide whether to pay this month’s rent and stay for just one month, or cut and run with rent to another sober house. I would be leaving on good terms both financially and otherwise, and I’d get back my $200.00 deposit.

The fact remains though, that because of an obscure rule in the Sober Contract, I’ve been voted off the island. All agreements must be democratically decided by house members. However, since two members have already left because of the take-over by The Escape, leaving two other than myself, I don’t see how that’s technically possible. I know how one of the members would’ve voted. I am left at taking Barry’s word. The Cuilinn House is prime real-estate, set in the Victorian district of Saint Paul. All she needs is a little love. I’m sure The Escape wants to start on a clean slate, although this is clearly contrary to their advertised policy. After I and the other guy who’s looking for an apartment leaves, there’ll be only one man (and I use the term loosely) left.

I’ve never relapsed, attend four A.A. meetings a week, and am the cleanest resident by far. I don’t know where this is coming from, but the reality is that I’ve been uprooted again. This is pissing me off. I’m in walking distance of everything in my world right now: Gym, Café, numerous meetings, shopping, etc. Not to mention I just changed all my addresses over. This is the second time I’ve changed addresses for rebate checks. Each time I do there’s another several week delay. I’m never going to see that money.

My best female friend in the program turned me onto her house and I’m considering it. Close by, the rules are much more lax, and rent is cheaper. Plus there’s the added distraction that you can have a friend of the opposite sex spend the night; clearly not in my plan, but a man has needs.

So, Higher Power, if you have Internet access, enough with the tests please. I will do your bidding, be of service, send up the useful prayer morning and night. But please, I beg of you, one break; just one break on this one please? I’m at my wit’s end.

Without Wax,

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Redneck Robert

There comes a pivotal time in every relationship when one must take inventory. When a man has befriended you in a way that clearly shows no self interest, he gains implicit trust. Such is the case with Robert D. That’s why these words are so difficult to pen.

Four men from The House comfortably seated in a sedan on their way to an A.A. meeting, jovial atmosphere replacing the all-to-common tobacco odor. We were doing the right thing as men and it felt good. Then what upshot occurs t’was a racial slur of the black flavor, not uncommon from a house filled with men, half of which are African American. By this time, these comments only slightly peeked my defenses; one must be alert for any fight that might break out. This was not the case, since the slur was too playful.

Then another chimes in, and yet another. Not paying close enough attention, distracted by some young thing walk the streets, my mind only works the math: one, two, three, that leaves me; to do what? By this time, the black man in the car should’ve defended himself verbally. Eyes up, where’s the token black dude? It wasn’t until then that I had realized that I was in a car filled with only white men. So was it my time chime in?

Senses acute now, I relieve my distractions from the slut on the street and pay attention to what is going on inside the car. Take inventory of the men you’re surrounded by: Are they known racists? Two of them are. But that last joke was anything but humorous. It was downright antagonistic. Who was it from? I turn my head to lock retinas with the third and last speaker who, grinning like an ignorant redneck, is clearly waiting for my response. It’s Robert. I respond with nervous laughter.

Mistaking that for acceptance, he voiles off another racial slur. One man responds, “He called me a racist. I said, ‘You’re the only racist in the room.’” I know the black man he’s referring to, and he’s right: he is a racist. What is clearly going on here is white men venting, an all too common phenomenon not unexpected in our close cramped environment. The racial social experiment The House advocates engineered to inflict upon the overcrowded residents for our own good has built up to somewhat of an unhealthy venting release.

But the racial jokes start coming out like rapid fire from the man sitting to my left, far too many for me to keep up with. He’s said more black jokes in five minutes than I know and I’ve failed to find the humor. Okay, so Robert’s a redneck; big deal. Just put it aside and deal with it when we’re alone. But my mind can’t let it go, so it works the problem subconsciously. Why would a good man like Robert choose to harbor such resentment towards blacks?

Some time passes and the answer comes. Robert so happens to be standing next to me later that evening enjoying a smoke outside in the privacy of cubic yards of thin cold air. I drop my stare, put on my most sincere understanding face, and ask, “Your sister was raped by a black man, wasn’t she?”

“Yes she was,” Robert intensely replies.
“I understand.” I take a deep breath, squint my eyes, and decide to leave it hanging in the bitterly cold night air. I let a moment pass and change subjects. How does that justify your vengeful attitude towards an entire race? You’d think that by murdering her violator, serving in the military in lue of prison time, and expressing his guilt in closed meetings would relieve him of the anger that is clearly tearing at his moral fiber, but it has not. Because of the racial mix of such meetings, the minor fact of the race of her attacker remained concealed. Some internal pain is necessary to motivate a man. But this is not a healthy inspiration. It does no good; not for him, his violated sister, and especially not for the uninvolved black men in the world. This unjust induction is evil.

I begin to question our friendship. I once had a friend that was a racist. He was my best friend growing up, Edward N., who was married to a temperate, if not dedicated, woman Gretchen N. who taught him the error of his ways. But at his peak, I’d never met a more racist individual. Edward and I are still best friends to this day. I searched my heart for enough compassion to harbor another racist in my life but found a void. There comes a time in a man’s life that he must take his stand against what he believes in, and as far as racism is concerned, I can no longer tolerate its existence. I believe I’m the closest I’ll ever be to understanding the moment Martin Luther King, Jr. had the first inspirational thought that gave birth to his “I have a dream” speech.

I am a pluralist. I no longer consider Robert D. my friend. I’ll send up a useful prayer for his soul.

Without Wax,

Monday, April 03, 2006

April’s Fool

With little warning, April brought with it a new owner for the Cuilinn House. Since my sponsor was also our manager, he ceased to be employed at that job. One would think this a good thing for Wax since it eliminates the conflict of interest obvious in my relationship with my sponsor. However, his hasty escape after the seven course meal I’d prepared for a dozen men was served without even indulging; you’d think I’d have a clue.

It wasn’t until after the meal, consisting of two pork loins, roasted potatoes smothered in gravy, green beans, garden salad, buttered rolls, pineapple chunks, and English toffee cookies; at our weekly house meeting, that the phone call came. The announcement from Tom S. read like a telegram: I just wanted to tell you that I’m no longer your manager; and I’m no longer your sponsor. No real explanation. Just the standard cop-out: “I don’t feel you’re working the program.” Yah, whatever pal.

I can’t say I didn’t see the writing on the wall. I’ve never been a sponsor before, so I haven’t read the rule book, but if there is one I’m sure it would have in it: Thou shall not hang up on your sponsee. If it doesn’t, common sense would dictate that your conscience would have a field day with you if it caused a relapse. Tom’s must be on vacation. For a man that spends thousands of minutes a month on his cell phone, you’d think he’d be a better communicator. Lately, he ended most of our phone conversations by hanging up in frustration. That makes me wonder how he ended the phone conversation prior to his only other sponsee's relapse?

He has been acting weird lately, even given the stress he’s been under. But I’m sure that doesn’t excuse his behavior as a sponsor. Anyway, he’s been recommending things I should work on that he states are in the Big Book, but are clearly not. For example, no sexual relationships in the first year of sobriety. Good advice, but not in the Big Book. And that you must be honest to everyone: employers, female relationships, etc. The Big Book says to be honest with yourself, the title of which is Alcoholics Anonymous. What can you expect from a sponsor with less than one year of sobriety: a highly recommended requirement.

In retrospect, I did not choose this sponsor. He may have chosen me. As a manager, he had a quota to make; beds to fill. He said early on that he gets more out of this relationship than I, but that Big Book quote’s been used to death. If he was honest about that, I can't see the reason for termination. Next time, I’ll choose my sponsor more carefully.

And since we’re being brutally honest, my sponsor reads this blog.

To you Tom S.: You are no longer welcomed here at my personal Internet space. Please loose it’s address and never disclose it to anyone.

Your April Fool,

Without Wax,