There is always a wild and unpredictable feeling that accompanies a move to a new area. In very rare instances, that area is not an unknown arena but rather a time tested experiential location filled with either positive or negative memories and feelings.
With several cases in point over recent weeks which stand out even amongst the 40+ different housing and city changes over the previous 24 months it strikes me that perhaps I am not alone in these occasions.
First, New Bedford – a city built originally on the whaling industry and once the single wealthiest in the entire western hemisphere. It was the New York City of its time. Today, it sits as a sprawling and squalid shadow of its former self. A huge portion of the city hovers under the illegal immigrant status, yet both they and their families are able to regularly and quite effectively work over an already overtaxed system in creative and remarkable fashions. Far from an irregular event is it for a young woman to show up at the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA or “welfare office”) and secure nearly free housing, food stamps, and a guaranteed check on a monthly basis – only to walk out and begin making calls on the newest phone the market has to offer.
The city itself is predominantly populated either by the indigent, nearly indigent, or fisherman who fluctuate between those states depending on the last trip and how much was blown on their return to the docks where the prostitutes, drug dealers, and other “entertainment” providers sit with cars at the ready to ensure the checks are cashed promptly and whatever is desired is immediately available at their fingertips. It is one of the densest concentrations of opioid addiction in a state that is under a crises the likes of which has never been seen. The yellow brick road is a literal pavement of syringes, nowhere more than a casual eyeshot in any direction.
This finely tuned squalor was where much of the insanity that I ran through following my crack cocaine induced destruction took place. It’s where I lost my wife, my home across the river, had my first new love in nearly a decade before losing her to the grips of heroin and finally seeing what it was like from the opposing side of the table – watching an addict you love destruct, and NOTHING you can possibly do will help. It’s where my best friend went from the consummate and brilliantly arrogant healthcare professional I had met originally became an absolute animal. It’s where I learned how to inject speedballs and began my foray into the truly sickening world of dope.
It’s where I went insane for the first time since my years as a teenage meth addict. But as an adult voluntarily living homeless on the streets, refusing to sleep and food in lieu of drugs for days at a time until my body would demand rehydration and yet another trip to the hospital for IVs would begin. New Bedford taught me the real meaning of ignoring tomorrow and living strictly under the immediate need for a fix of any kind. Overdosing and being left for dead under a bush in a bad neighborhood along with the terrible shock of waking up. That there was no light, no memory, no message and just a blackness that was closest to blinking. The initial experience of simply expecting to wake up from death, and the frustration that it seemed that for whatever reason I was not to be permitted such a simple escape from the daily frustration and misery.
New Bedford taught me to pawn everything in sight, that material items, even the most sentimental, intrinsically have only a single value – that of cash. If you refused to close out the memory and loss of each component of what you once considered to be your life it would be enough to send you over the edge. I learned to numb even when the drugs were gone and there was only an aching feeling that something was terribly wrong.
I learned to expect and understand what would transpire if I called certain dealers who would demand sacrifices of the more physical nature. That there was a way to close it out, embrace the pain as deserved an simply shut down whichever part of my brain should have been screaming no in a vain attempt to preserve a sense of personal value. My first true experience with a jail where no one was there to offer their assistance in easing the situation.
New Bedford taught me starvation willingly, arrogance, desperation, abandonment, hysteria, psychotic behavior, willingness to overlook, junkie pride, losing trust, a taste for anger always bordering on violence, loneliness, resignation, degradation, disgust, hatred, shame, isolation, manipulation, lies, betrayal, deceit, hope, disassociation, confusion. It taught me for the first time since I had been in the deepest portions of my meth addiction what it really meant to crave the release of death and how cowardly I was.
And I had pride in how my stories always elicited shakes of heads and the inevitable, “you’re fucking nuts man.”
So I left.
I moved away to program after program, always staying as far as I was able to from a city where it was impossible to walk a street without encountering someone I knew or was known by. Once you’ve been on the news you even become recognizable to those upstanding members of the community who would have had no reason to associate with you other than to comment about how you looked so familiar.
Of course wandering through the streets shirtless with blood streaming down your arms from injection sites and asking strangers for needles is not usually considered to be a low profile method to avoid notice either.
Aside from the point – I left.
Nearly two years later I was offered an excellent job….in that goddamn city. Fresh out of jail, my rationale was that if I maintained several cities as insulation than surely I would be able to avoid the swirling pool of madness that seemed always to draw attempted escapees back in.
I was wrong of course.
There were a million memories on every corner, a recollection of some obscure event, some half remembered person, a story, an event, a failure, a SOMETHING.
Inevitably as always is the case, it became known that I had come back to the area and my phone started to ring again. Even though I was living nearly 10 miles outside of the darkest areas of my past, there was no escaping it. At points of relapse over the previous years there were times when I would willingly spend $75 on a taxi or Uber in order to get to “Brockton by the Sea” (another moniker for Whaling City, or New Beige). Instead of a confident no, it was soon to be a short push into acknowledging myself to be a short bus ride from wherever I needed to be.
When the other shoe fell, and the house I was living at asked me to leave, I was forced back into the more affordable region of the Beige – at $500 a month, which was okay despite the fact no running water existed during the walkthrough, sewage had backed up, dishes had not been done in nearly 3-months, a closet was filled with trash bags since the previous week’s pickup had been neglected.
But it was okay at the time, because it was affordable and temporary.
Even after I saw the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) pamphlet and learned – so I thought – that my new roommate, a remarkably charismatic and intelligent young woman had been in recovery for nearly 8-months. It was thrilling and welcome to be able to share a commonality and bond as we were both working on building up our lives to become more than they had been. There were no qualms about the upfront cash I had given her for my move in, I was back to trusting people, holding onto a naive and woefully childish dream that people were what they said and taking it at face value.
Until I was asked not to tell anyone I was living there, and informed that her father controlled her money and I should give him the rent from there on out, and that she really wasn’t working full time, and that the rent was actually going to be $700 as the landlord had vowed to increase it if someone else moved in, and a million other signs.
Within three days it was simply volunteered that she was actively using, and that the money I had given her had been spent immediately which was why my presence at the house had to remain a secret. Moreover, would I consider lending a few more dollars and shoot her up since snorting the brown wasn’t cutting it anymore – a fact witnessed when nearly two grams did nothing visibly to change her behavior.
She had a dealer that would front and she was into him for several hundred. The issue was resolved initially by introducing her father to her connect and having him pay the difference directly. Than taking in a cat to watch for one of his friends. Eventually the turn was taken as it always is, sexist though it may be, commonly for women and sadly for some such as myself, occasionally for men.
The used condom belied the prior night’s lie that it had been a blowjob and nothing more.
It was amazing to speak with her father, a man of compassion who had not yet been broken of hope and was convinced that a bottom had already been reached. That if he were only willing to selflessly offer support with rides, money, food, hell – a brand new phone that lasted all of 12hrs before hitting the market – everything would be all right.
I saw my mother in him. At least in the earlier years of my spiral.
He was likeable, smart, well read, and easy to talk with.
His daughter reminded me of myself. A face that was easy to trust, a personality open and quirkily cut with intelligence that wiped away suspicion and confirmed.
It was an interesting perspective on how terribly effective what I would consider normal behavior is in ousting others character evaluation and ensuring that there is an immediate thread of trust built. Underneath the easy smile is a raging fire of manipulation and capacity for widespread destruction, emotional scarring, and selfishness.
As things fell apart, in retrospect, I have to look at her as a manifestation of what the world must view me as – that’s a painful thing.
To shorten this up a bit, New Bedford helped terminate my determination and weaken the walls of resistance i thought were built strong.
After so many years away – my family (bless them a million times over) and IIIIMiMiIII decided that it was time to bring me home. Oregon. The one place that called me.
3,000 miles from the insanity, the black balling at hospitals and rehabs, from all the connections and memories I was constantly assaulted with. An opportunity to rebuild my passion for life, and reconnect with the individual I was supposed to, and wanted, to be.
I nearly didn’t make it. I stepped out of detox with a blood pressure of 170/130, but I had to catch a flight and there was no other option….I took the risk of a seizure, because fuck it – I had one shot to do it, and I wasn’t going to miss it for all the tea in China.
At the airport, it crashed in on my (as well as the night at the hotel prior with MiMi). I was going to lose more than just the bad aspects of my life, but the immediate access to the biggest love of my life. I was in many ways abandoning the woman I admire most in the world. Despite my deepest desire to stop hurting her and everyone else that cared I was going to do it again because I was selfish enough to “just go”.
MiMi encouraged me to do it as the right thing. That kind of strength is astonishing.
I am fortunate to have such an option presented to restart my life, I recognize that.
Currently I work serving coffee, beer, and climbing gear at a pay that accounts for a 70% drop. But you know what, I’m happier and more relaxed than I’ve been in years. Climbing again, an old obsession that consumed my life in a very positive way.
Sometimes what has to happen is to jump ship and swim to a new shore.
Though addiction and mental health issues are not immediately tied to the landscape we occupy, there can be an enormous feeling of relief in leaving behind that memory crusted wasteland to one that offers opportunity to plant new roots in welcoming soil.
A geographic is what brought me to New England originally…I arrived with one backpack of clothes. Twelve years later I got off a plane with three.
Let’s see where this goes.
My apologies for not getting on earlier. Everyone following and others have been so incredibly supportive of this site and my work that I feel guilty over a prolonged absence.
However, for the first time in many moons that absence is not related to horrifying events, rather the beginning of a renewed vigor for life and the culmination of some challenging work.
I am being tested at a new position in the hopes it will be come something long term – I’ve thrown myself into it beyond 100% in the attempt to do so. Happily, and with great satisfaction.
I’m finally paying child support, not as much as I would like to be giving to my kids, but everything that I can afford. Consistently and with the intention of finally becoming a consistent presence.
I talk to my children once a week, reliably, and without fail. I have 5 different alarms that go off and warm me so that if I collapse in exhaustion either the alarms, or calls from multiple people warning me, will get my ass up to be there to speak with my remarkable son and daughter. While the animosity is thick between my ex-wife and I, somewhere I’m finding the appreciation and respect for her that I should have. She’s been raising my children while I was unable to. It is my responsibility to earn my way back into the family I destroyed, not expect it handed back with a smile. I don’t think that way all the time, but as I build a better existence and confidence I find that it takes away the undercurrents that I let drag me farther from them.
I’m living in a stable location….more than 40 moves in 2-years….STABILITY would be a blessing in so many ways. It took me almost 3-weeks just to put my suitcase away because I was certain that something would go wrong…now I’m considering bringing more clothes that have somehow survived all the travel.
My squishy and delicious Mimi without who the world would have stopped so long ago. Forever and always will I be hers, and she mine.
I think I’m getting closer to happiness.
God damn if it didn’t take one hell of a journey to get here, and he (or she) shows that I gave up time and time again. They also know I’m terrified that the other shoe will drop at any second – usually I’m the one wearing it when it does.
I’m optimistically terrified of arriving at a new future, a start to something better, and becoming what I was intended to be.
My love to everyone who continues to support the blog. I will be trying to get more consistent again as everything balances out.
Happy 2017, merry-post “holiday insert” – and my wishes for kindness, satisfaction, joy, and contentment in the coming year.
Tonight the world is peaceful.
The landscape of hope breathes life to we Travelers.
She takes in those who walk upon her,
Brings us to the peaks of our mountains.
She shows us clipped horizons opened to infinity,
Has us inhale crisped air cleaned with freedom.
Where lights cluster above,
Their thousands of points glimmering success,
You’ve made it to join the others,
A star in your own sky,
An inspiration to the next Traveler.
Hope will lead you to become something more,
And the darkness will always give way to your light.
Plummet describes in a word the dumb shit,
The result of a life lived from one hit –
-to the next and that second of fuck it.
As intense wash the waves,
Through your secret filled caves,
Telling memories back from where you sent them away,
Until the shores are a littler cascade of broken mirrors pelting your gaze,
Each reflection a question,
Each flash a suggestion,
Of what happened and why,
Where you broke the faith and started to cry.
Each lens is a how of what could have been,
Who you are without all the sin.
No more pills and bottles and rock,
Bags of dope, sacks of coke and the inevitable cops.
Living on streets and the pity of strangers,
Acting devil may care to numb out the danger.
When each shot you took put a pin in your son,
Blocked his love just as well as you holding a gun.
You got loaded and loaded,
Raised finger and goaded,
As your legs washed out at the thighs,
From a tide on the rise.
If not for the merciful care,
From those you punish unfair,
You’d be sunk,
Out to a personal sea in a trunk.
Boxed up tight when you ran out of fight,
Away from the world and your right,
As a man to do your best to make it alright.
And as long as it took,
For you to confess as a crook,
Thief of dreams, hopes and beliefs you forsook.
You can’t change the past,
It’s gone while the onrushing future hits fast.
So you accept the regret,
Live learn love and refuse to forget.
Keep strong in surrender,
Committed to change,
Because in the end you’re not alone,
And are any of us really so strange?
Exhibitionism at it’s finest calls for a complete strip down – but like most nudity, sometimes those watching would prefer the clothes stayed on. Authors must dangle and hope the meat on display attracts the eye. Easier perhaps when your life is wrenched from the most vivid hallucinations of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson then run through the Douglas Adams’ improbability drive. Prodded with LSD and electrified glow-sticks into the Minotaur’s lair to play. Surely that would entertain?
This is a lifelong dream, a Purpose or a calling that I’ve never been able to just put ahead of everything else. Please share, and thank you for taking the time to browse. Thank you.
Headed to jail today to wrap up a sentence and hopefully get a brand new lease on life without probation. Thanks to everyone for the support – and my love to those who have been there all along. Mom, dad, Mimi, Wolf, Anya – thank you for believing in me even when it’s all crumbled to dust.
EDIT 12/12/16: Was asked to remove the picture of my son as part of my ongoing dispute with the ex-wife. Image has been replaced with “Fort Taber” which is the location this interaction originally took place in the short story by the same name as this excerpt. Thank you for reading.
A Boy Named Wolf
Drugs/Alcohol: “I am not an individual, yet each singular person has the capacity to carry my spirit into the world. I am multiplied with each additional user, yet the core of what I am remains the same. I am not contained within powders or bottles or needles. Merely vehicles by which I extend myself physically into the world. On the plane of thoughts, I am a gateway to dreams, goals, opportunity, capacity, capabilities and opportunity. Emotionally, I am happiness, relief, dependable joy, relaxation, inspiration, and intensity unleashed. For your spirit, I provide for comfortable faith in a tactile form which offers succor to all who kneel and bring me inside their life.
I am a God who responds. Who ensures your prayers will be answered immediately. I am gratification instantly without the annoyance of patience. Why would you not want me? I an the perfect answer to your questions not even asked.”
Wolf: “I’ve seen your work in my life, in the sickness of a father, the loss of my home, tears from mother, and a sister who doesn’t know “DADDY” as anything other than a voice on the phone. There are no dreams with any substance you truly provide. No lasting materialization of each temporary respite from reality. Each fades to an increasingly nightmarish awareness as you strip health, dignity, and passion from those penitent before your strength of persuasion.
Smiles only mask tears as, boldfaced, your flock sells such sweet lies to the innocent children begging for the love of time lost.
“Physically, regardless of form, you corrode the natural state of each being. You disregard the value of life, diminishing the ability to explore the world we inhabit. Your demands for attention outweigh the critical needs of food, water, and shelter. You let your acolytes freeze, burn, and starve for your favor. Their dependence on you grows until your absence inflicts pain while your presence soothes the body and places the agony on their mind and soul. You are rust on a cog in the machine that is our body. Our one indispensable and limited currency to share and create precious moments with – time. You cut our lives short, and we can never regain that. Each moment so brief that we are hardly aware of its passing until it has gone. Even having escaped you, the damning repercussions of your presence will haunt the body with ailments and injury well past when you have departed.
You are the plea for death, to cut life short in mercy, for in desperation you trick our bodies to betray us.
“In mind, you cause your lovers thinking to be so distorted as it must be to fit existence into conforming with your view of the world. It must warp to escape the horror that has become life. Defenses of the mind are erected, devolving willpower in lieu of rationalization, justification and denial. Barriers to the truth that they are not intellectually inferior, but infected by a sickness of the mind that cripples the capacity to confront, honestly, personal shortcoming in order to improve upon them. You delude, misguide, frustrate, reshape, and manipulate the mind until your followers rely on you to lead and direct every choice and belief.
You weaken the gift of thought, voiding the opportunity to mentally defeat you. No answer do you offer, only the question, why?
“Emotionally, you shatter confidence, replace hope with fear, pride with arrogance, love with hate. You contaminate innocence with misery, motivation with desperation, joy with despair, excitement with impulse. Regret begets guilt, guilt begets shame, and shame erodes the experience of the present and the internal support of conviction and commitment to construct a fulfilling future – much less belief in an ability to do so. Satisfaction and acceptance with hollowness and insecurity. You are the complete removal of optimism and hope.
You are the ultimate resentment in self. You are obsession, self-loathing, and self-destruction.”
“You are bankruptcy of the soul, there is no spirituality to be sound in you. Where faith should increase as blessings are counted, gratitude succumbs to grandiose beliefs about our place in the spectrum of control. The dilution of the spirit by artificial inflation of ego. Eyes are cast down instead of up when your supplicants seek nurturing. All values are destroyed to make way for your replaced design of integrity.
Your capital is misery, spreading like a plague to crush out the glow we each are born with – the blessing from beyond. You become the reason for prayers unanswered.
Drugs/Alcohol: “Child, you have not tasted the wealth of my love yet. There is fire here to prime you to any task filled at your slightest whim. Oceans of milky light cast from the fullest of moons to soothe you into peaceful waking slumber to dream and adventure as only the imagination can let you.
Courage at the waiting lips of a bottle wanting to embrace yours as only a lover could….”
Wolf: “No. Lies. Stories. Manipulations and deceit. No. Not now. Not ever. You have stripped away the love that once beat loudly in the heart of the man I knew as father. I’ve seen his broken eyes, and watched the crippling frustration of a young man dying as an old one.
No. You have claimed enough from me and my family. You CANNOT and WILL NOT have any more. Leave, you are not welcome here.
I love you more than words can ever tell and am so proud of you Wolfie. You are always on my mind.
Please excuse grammatical errors (proofreading at 4am is tough). This is an excerpt from a story I’ve been working on to try and process my absence and loss of family owing to drugs and alcohol. Wolf is actually the name of my son, and I am so proud of him. He knows (I hope) that he is still my sunshine, now and always, even if I can’t be there. Format was played with a little. Please comment, email me – I am truly interested to know what the larger world thinks of this kind of writing.
A single cup of water given for free to a thirsty and tired traveler may have truly been life saving. His kidneys had been compromised had not had luck finding a kindly individual over his hike to get back home from the hospital that would consider buying any sort of liquid in nearly 8 hours during a blazing summer in New England.
She didn’t judge as every store in Brockton, MA had – or as the nearly connecting “MiniMart” located nearly next door had. He was soaked head to toe in foul sweat from a confusing night involving hallucinations, collapsing, sleeping in water, and convulsions.
Crowning the clearly homeless ensemble was a backpack, rough unkempt beard fuzz, a shredded tongue a sickly shade of white to match cracked lips, baggy pants with pockets and twitching and compulsive check-ups on everything to ensure it was still there.
That young woman didn’t know he had been in a hospital that morning because he thought he may have had a seizure or a stroke at the age of during the night and was too ashamed and confused to ask for help from his housemates. He had only slept 1-hr out of the last 96 despite walking 8+miles a day,. She didn’t even bother to give a quick “I need to check with the boss first.” Her first reaction was a smile and a “Sure.”
To someone who had so regularly scraped the bottom, and had been turned down over, and over, and over that morning based on first sight. Despite the apparent urgency for those of us stuck in the sun, even tap water was off limits.
It was a simple action for you to do Ms. Sarah/Sara – but I thank you and would give a nod to the owner as well, ;-). You’ve got someone special there, and he appreciated that Styrofoam cup (that even had ice) in the way a dying man does his next breath.
Keep being you, and thank you, meant from the heart – (hoping that you check the workplace page from time to time and get to see this, 🙂
“The smallest act of kindness can return a spark of hope and belief when those fires seem dimmest.”
P.S. This place Randolph Famous Pizza where she works, has some of the best looking (and I’m told AMAZING) pizzas on the South Shore are.