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Wednesday, February 25, 2009



I’ve come to find out my dog is homophobic. Or she could possibly be jealous, or maybe she has a Victorian sense of propriety, but Bungee does not take kindly to my hugging Other Bill. Each time one of my arms goes around his waist or two arms around his neck, Bungee will run into the room and start barking at us until we stop.

She reminds me a little bit of Other Bill’s Aunt Eleanor. Eleanor was not cantankerous or mean spirited, but could easily be mistaken for cranky. She didn’t take shit from anyone, and when she said no, there was not a sole on earth who could change her mind to say yes. When she wanted her way, she got her way, and she liked making her way known.

The day of Bill’s mother’s funeral, we were in the kitchen where his mom had cooked us hundreds of meals. Other Bill had a flashback of one of those meals while remembering that no matter what, a meal in that house would never be the same again. I saw tears filling his eyes and put my arms around him and held him tightly. Eleanor, who was also in the room, turned around and saw us, and apparently she thought we were having a moment of passion instead of a moment of grief.

“STOP IT!” she barked. “STOP THIS BUSINESS!”

Instantly, the weeping stopped and turned into laughter, just as she was realizing that she misinterpreted our reason for being tactile and muttered, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought—” and the sentence was never completed.

That was nine years ago, and now neither of us says, “Stop it” without adding on the addendum, “Stop this business.”

And now Aunt Eleanor is gone, but apparently a part of her ended up in our dog. “Stop it!” Bungee barked the other day when I was teaching Other Bill how to waltz out on the patio, “Stop this business!”

What is it about dogs and the things they eat? I don’t know if it’s just the boxer breed, or if all dogs behave like this, but anything that tastes either bad or like nothing at all has to be eaten and sent through the digestive system.

Our former boxer, Murphy, whom we inherited after their two owners died, was just like that. She ate, for example, drywall. Nothing quite like the taste of powdery plaster stuff encased in thick paper to put a smile on her pushed-in face. And we couldn’t keep a Frisbee in the house to save our lives.

Murphy was no retriever. You’d flip the Frisbee across the yard, and she’d chase it, grab it in her mouth, lie down and start chewing on it. I accidentally left her in the fenced yard alone once, only to discover that the latest Frisbee (one that glowed in the dark) was nowhere to be found. One night after a heavy rain, I went out back with her and noticed tiny star-like specks glowing in the grass. It was magical, like Tinkerbell fairy dust. On closer inspection, the glowing confetti was just undigested glow-in-the-dark Frisbee that had been pooped out and scattered by the shower.

Murphy had been trained, oddly enough, to quit her sniffing around and hurry up and poop. She would now and then respond to the command “Business” to do this.

“Murphy: BUSINESS,” Gary used to say. Usually she would just turn around and look at him like: What do you mean, BUSINESS? Am I supposed to run and get my steno pad? After Gary died I no longer used this command. I’d just let her out in the back yard. She could business when she wanted to.

In order to maintain peace, I continue to occupy a bed with a noisemaker. Other Bill cannot or will not go to sleep unless the television is on. Conversely, I need absolute silence and stillness in order to sleep. Breathing will wake me up. My ideal sleeping spot would be in an insulated coffin off stage in a sound-proof booth, as they used to say in the game shows. Other Bill lies in bed, wearing ear buds plugged into the TV, but I can still hear the noise coming out of them. So I have to wear industrial foam earplugs.

And I have to buy several hundred pair a year. This is because early in the wee hours, the industrial foam earplugs start to hurt my inner ear so much I pull them out and put them in one of a hundred choice spots, all of which are known to Bungee. It is quiet then unless there is snoring, so I can just continue sleeping without the plugs in my ears.

And when I wake up, they’re gone. No matter where I put them—and I’ve left them in and under the bed, under my pillow and on the nightstand—Bungee has already put them in her stomach. She thinks they are Snausages. So after a rain, the back yard is filled with neon yellow, bullet-shaped little foam inserts that are good to no one. And all I can do is order more.

Bungee likes to let us know when she is ready for some freshly bought dog food. Along about the time the 40 pound bag of food is about 80% empty, she will insist it’s stale and that it’s time for new food. Even though she can talk, (or at least say, “Stop this business!”) she likes to inform us of her decision that she’s not eating anything else from That Bag by shitting somewhere inside. Usually on furniture.

We naturally always assume she is sick again and do what the doctor who charged us $600 did the first time this happened: We stop feeding her for a day or two. This only pisses her off. We will give her a morsel of Expensive Canned Food That Only Vets Can Sell a few times a day. She likes that, but she wants more, and we are afraid to give her more, because we’re worried she’ll shit in the house, which she does no matter what we do. But she will continue her protest, ratcheting it up to another level. Not only will she shit in the house, but she will eat the shit and then vomit it up all over the two-room domain she rules over while we are at work. We had so much shit-puke in so many places in our house one day that I considered just coming inside wearing a hazmat suit and brandishing a pressure washer. That stuff gets in your tile grout and will not come out no matter what. The smell is worse than rotting flesh. We have to open all the windows and wrap crime scene tape at the perimeter of the property. Eventually she will just come to reason and continue eating what she considers to be stale food.

It’s all very futile of her, because the end result is still the same: She eats the old food until it’s gone. I don’t know why she just doesn’t just stop it.

Stop this business.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who Wants to Be an Idiot?


A defense contractor in Washington, DC hired me in 1980 solely because I could type 120 words per minute. I was a 23-year-old slacker, who, with my bachelor’s degree in hand, drifted among employers who would pay me five dollars an hour to sit at a machine all day.

I didn’t really have much of an interview. I had a typing test. I didn’t know anything about the company or what they did. I didn’t really care, either, as long as they cut me a check every two weeks.

I was a phototypesetter. This was before personal computers and laser printers. The machine I used was a hundred-thousand dollar wonder the size of a chest freezer, and it flashed light through a spinning disk of mostly black X-ray film. The disk was about the size of a 45 RPM record, and held four clear sets (each a different font) of all the letters of the alphabet, both cases, as well as the numbers and some typographic symbols. As the disk spun, a light would flash through the clear letters onto an unexposed piece of photographic paper, which was then developed, dried, and glued onto cardboard mats that were photographed and sent to press. My machine was especially coveted because you could use four disks at once, thereby having sixteen fonts on the fly, without having to pause the machine to change the disk.

In order to work there I had to get a Department of Defense security clearance. There were different security levels, each of which seemed to take a long time to get, due to the intense background investigations that were done. Federal employees spied on you and talked to friends, neighbors, former friends, former neighbors, and anyone else they could track down that would talk to them. For the first few weeks I was there I worked on unclassified material. It didn’t take too long to get my Confidential clearance. A few months later I got my Secret clearance, and then a few months after that, my Top Secret clearance. I was paranoid that I’d lose my job because I was gay, but apparently if you were out, you were fine. It was the closet cases they had a problem with, because they could be easily blackmailed.

None of these clearances did me any good, because most of the time I sat and typed a whole lot of acronyms, and I had no understanding of what they stood for, except NATO.

I was paranoid the whole time I worked there. Remember, this was 1980, before the time when every place on earth was covered with webcams. There were cameras in the parking lots, and there was not one corner of the building of all the floors that was not being videotaped, except, allegedly, the bathrooms, and even then I had my doubts that someone in security was watching me pee.

I worked behind a door with a push-button combination lock on it, and the code would be changed every sixty days. All publications that were confidential and higher had to remain in a safe until they were distributed for people to work on. Only one person had the safe combination. So any time I had to leave the locked room, I had to print out what I had typeset, clear the screen, pack up the paperwork, and give it to the lady who knew the safe combo, and then go and pee or get a sip of water, and then come back and do the reverse of everything.

When you worked on Secret material and you were near a window, you had to close the blinds, and when someone came in the room, you had to check their little badge and see if they had the little red box, which meant they had a Secret clearance. If they just had a blue dot, they only had a Confidential clearance, and you had to dim your screen and turn over everything you were working on. It was officially called, “protecting your work.” I never once worked on anything Top Secret, which was represented on my badge as a black triangle.

The Graphics department, except for the supervisor and the safe lady, were a bunch of low paid hippies. On several occasions I can recall, those of us with Top Secret clearances would go out to lunch or on our 15 minute break in my 1963 Volkswagen convertible and pass around a joint, sing along with Blondie, and end up eating from large feedbags bought at Jo-Ann’s Nut House in the mall just down the street. People with lower clearances couldn’t be so bold, because they had something to lose. They still had creepy people spying on them and interviewing people who knew them.

The people not in Graphics or Editing were white men in suits, presumably Republicans. They had meetings; long meetings with big slide shows.

The bigwigs met in a bomb-proof think tank in the sub-basement. I never saw it and had no idea how to find it, but I pictured getting to it would take some kind of Get Smart maneuver, passing through multiple doors, and then finally dropping down into an atomic bomb-proof area from a fake telephone booth. Frequently the bigwigs would have a Ridgewell-catered lunch, and when they were finished, the omnivores from Graphics were allowed to go eat their scraps and leftovers, provided we cleaned up the mess.

It was an odd place to work. You had to know the rules. I was always worried that someone was watching me. Security was tight. You weren’t allowed to talk about what you were working on, which was fine, because you never knew really what it was. We made a lot of maps, never knowing what country the map was representing. Before there were insertable digital images, there was clip art and rub-on graphics that you could adhere to the map. I loved the rub-ons. I used to walk around with a rub-on mushroom cloud on my forehead, until I was told to cut it out. They were very serious there, totally humorless, and completely committed to the security of whatever it was we were doing. For the most part, you minded and protected your own work and kept your mouth shut, unless you were out of the building eating bags of cashews. Privacy procedures were always adhered to, even if you were high.

I was thinking about this today after I made a major faux-pas at work. It was at this time I longed for the days when I had security and privacy paranoia built in to my modus operandi.

Our photocopier had been down for two days, and when I heard it running again, I grabbed my pile of stuff I needed to copy and headed into the copier room.

“Oh, great, it’s working again,” I said to the detective sergeant who was using the machine, photocopying multiple yellow pages of diagrams of wide-open vaginas. That was something that for the entire eight years I’ve worked here, I had never laid eyes on. And quite frankly, I didn't really want to. There or anywhere.

“Whoa!” I exclaimed, “What are you doing?”

With a stern look on his face, he quickly flipped over the beaver shots and muttered, “You’re not supposed to look at that! She’s still here, right over there.” He pointed around the corner.

“Oh. Sorry. God, I’ll come back later to make my copies,” I said as I quickly fled the room. I didn’t look up and see what was around the corner, because I knew there was a sexual assault victim there, probably staring at me with laser-burning eyes.

And for the first time in decades, I had a yearning for a Volkswagen convertible and a joint, just so I could forget about what I'd done. I felt horrible, and I was crippled from doing any work the rest of the day, because all I could think was: What an idiot you are!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I’m cold.

I can’t get much further south and still live in the US. I live in South Florida, yet I’m cold. It’s 78 degrees outside, and it’s February. You’d think I’d be warm. But it’s about 70 inside, and I’m cold.

I have a small ceramic heater that is pretty much pumping out the heat all day long. Sometimes I stick my feet right up next to it until the soles of my shoes are almost gooey. I frequently wrap my hands around my neck to get them warm.

I’m cold here at work because they cannot regulate the climate control system in this building. Last year it was so cold that there were rockhopper penguins mating on the south side of the building. People complained. The HVAC guys quickly found a solution to the problem: they routed all the cold air to the north side of the building, where I sit.

Since then I have shut off the two vents that blast Arctic tornadoes through them. So nothing gets through, except the whooshing sound of the wind, bypassing the vent. Even the heat, which is on maybe two times a year, doesn’t get through. I would leave the vents open at night for heat, but I don’t know when they will run the heat and when they will run the air conditioner. They run the air conditioner here when it’s 47 degrees outside.

I don’t complain about it. It doesn’t do any good. The people on the south side of the building belong to a stronger union. Other people have complained about it, to no avail, and shut off their vents, too. Apparently no one is disturbed by the side of beef I leave hanging in the hallway. I slice off a slab each day for my lunch.

I’ve always been cold. When I worked in Virginia, I worked in a trailer, so I was even colder then. For 5 months out of the year, there was a glacier frozen to the exterior paneling that lined the outside of my office. I was literally working from an igloo. You had to either wear ice cleats or be a figure skater to navigate the treacherous ice-covered plywood deck between the groups of trailers. The Winter Olympics could have been held there. I’m a morning person and was always the first to work, and I always worried that Jeff Gallooly would be hiding, ready to spring out and break my kneecaps with a collapsible ASP baton.

I had my little space heater on in my office 24/7 during the winter. When someone else turned on their space heater, the breaker would trip. I had seniority, so my heater got precedence. I’ve had this space heater for 20 years, and it did a good job in my Virginia office, which was small. Now I have a big office that I share 3 days a week with a woman who is always hot. She wears too much perfume that constantly has me sneezing, so until she lays off with the Avon, she’ll just have to sweat. That’s my compromise. I haven’t mentioned the scent, and she hasn’t mentioned the heat. We seldom speak. It’s complicated.

I take Coumadin, which some people refer to as a blood thinner. It really doesn’t really make your blood more watery. It just makes coagulation a little more difficult. Coumadin is basically rat poison in small doses. When a rat eats Coumadin it explodes in a messy hemorrhage. Maybe Coumadin is making me cold. Maybe it’s another age-related thing. I don’t care. I just want to be warm.

I need a bigger heater. I need something that’s propane-fed. I need something that is a fire hazard, like an eternal flame. I wonder if I could get JFK’s gravesite moved from Arlington Cemetery to my office. They can keep the body; all I want is the heat. I’ve even thought of importing some very cold homeless people to my office so they can burn big 50 gallon drums of trash in my office. I’ll arrange for a ventilator fan to suck out the smoke.

I was trying to stay warm by growing out my hair. I have a reverse Mohawk hairline. Hair grows perfectly well on the back and sides, but there’s a strip of flesh that’s exposed in the dead center of my head. I was actually thinking about doing a comb-over once the back and sides grew long enough. That’s how desperate I am for warmth. But when I started looking like Dilbert’s boss, I had to take the clippers to my scalp. Now my head’s cold again. And I work at a paramilitary institution. They punish you if you wear a hat inside.

When I moved from Virginia to Florida, I sold all my nice soft, thick wooly socks that I used to order every year from LL Bean. That’s right: sold. eBay foot fetishists will pay big money for used socks, frequently more than they cost brand new. Now I wish I had them back. My desperation is so deep that I have actually Googled “Electric socks.” I found a pair for $154 for the plug-in model. Another hundred bucks for the lithium battery pack and charger. That seems a little extreme. Are they machine-washable? You think I’m taking one pair of socks to the dry cleaner every day and waiting for them to be 1-Hour Martinized? I think not.

Maybe my problem is acclimation. Because of my location, I have adapted to the heat. I love the warmth. I don’t complain anymore in the summer when it’s 96 degrees outside with 90% humidity. That just feels like home. Even in the summer, our home thermostat is set at 80, and we keep cool under ceiling fans, which are in every room. Maybe I need to go back and spend some time in Virginia, or Maine, or, God forbid, Quebec, so I can de-acclimate. I’d rather spend time in a small, sealed aquarium filled with starving piranhas. At least the water would be warm.

Canadians and other annoying northern folk come here for the winter. When I retire and get cold, where am I supposed to go? Ecuador would be nice. It’s hot there year round. But I don’t speak Spanish. I can’t even stop and get directions in Miami. I once vacationed in Seychelles, tiny little islands in the Indian Ocean just south of the Equator. They are so small they don’t even show up until the fifth zoom level on Google Maps. I’ve always wanted to go back. It’s the most amazing place on earth, with friendly English speaking inhabitants and sand smooth as corn starch. Every day I ate fish that were still swimming an hour before dinner. That would be a perfect winter retreat. The problem is cost. I entered “Flexible Dates” from Fort Lauderdale to Praslin Island, Seychelles in Travelocity. Apparently Travelocity is too embarrassed to give me a quote. When I entered it into, it came back with “Prices from: $10,524.” That’s four stops, and that’s coach. You’d think for ten grand I’d at least get a Mylar envelope of honey roasted peanuts.

So I guess I’m just stuck. Nothing to do except bitch about it, which I think is my calling in life, anyway. But if things get beyond that, I’m bringing in a case of Sterno.

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Friday, February 6, 2009


The first time it happens to you, you are ill-prepared to deal with it. You are shocked, appalled, and later depressed or possibly suicidal after being asked one simple question: “Do you qualify for the Senior Discount?”

I wasn’t having a bad day, or even a bad hair day. I had not been up all night drinking and smoking crack. For a man of 45, I thought I could pass for, say, 50. I spent my youth at the beach before sun block existed, and my wrinkled, leathery face reflects that. I just didn’t see it coming.

I was in a Salvation Army store in Hallandale Beach. It was 4 pm on a Wednesday. This is how vivid this memory is. I had a couple of vintage t-shirts resting on the counter, and before the cashier rang them up, she asked me, “Are you a senior?”

You have to understand that at that time, and still today in most thrift stores in South Florida, Wednesday is Senior Day, when you get a 50% discount if you are sixty-five (read: 65) years of age or older.

I’m sure my jaw dropped, and my face, I’m sure, looked as if I had just taken a bite of compost. “No!” I exclaimed, while thinking, that’s right I said NO, you little minimum-wage earning, lowlife hussy.

Immediately after that, I rushed home and looked in the mirror. Maybe I should moisturize, I thought, but I never followed up on that. I was two decades behind Senior Discount Day. Clearly, the cashier had vision problems.

That was seven years ago, and since then, from time to time, I am asked not only in thrift stores, but restaurants and other businesses, if I am a Senior. Even worse, and more often, I get the Senior Discount automatically, without being asked. I have become complacent with it. I have learned not to obsess about it but instead, be happy that I got a discount, often a big one.

One thing that irritates me: It has never happened to Other Bill. He is two, sometimes three, years older than I am (depending on the current month.) He did not grow up at the beach. His eyes don’t droop, and he has plenty of collagen left around his eyes and cheeks. But last week we were out and stopped off at Wendy’s for a quick burger. We ordered the same value meal but paid separately. I noticed that his meal cost less. And I knew why. I have gotten the 10% discount at Wendy’s several times. I wasn’t going to say anything, because I do what I can to protect Other Bill, especially if it involves silence and doing nothing.

But then he asked, “How come mine was cheaper?” He had to go there.

I raised one eyebrow. “Do you really want to know?” I asked.

He said, “Yeah.”

I looked at him with pity. I knew this was going to sting. I put my hand on his shoulder. “You got the Senior Discount,” I told him.

It was his first time. He’s still not over it. The first time is difficult. You think it’s a mistake.

I could have said, “I don’t know.” But it had been seven years from the first time I had been shocked by it, and my misery loves company. My misery, in fact, wants an audience with stadium seating.

His jaw dropped, and he turned maroon. I tried not to gloat while he was busy switching back and forth from being appalled to wondering if he should bitch-slap the cashier.


There comes a time in every gay man’s life when he has to just quit trying. You cruise someone in the bar in your twenties and take home what you want. In your thirties, you check someone out, and maybe they’ll check you out, too. In your forties you find younger guys who are “into daddies.”

In your fifties, you should just stay home in bed. There are no younger guys “into granddaddies.” You should just order delivery pizza every night. Shop via Internet. Like it or not, you are The Elephant Man. You are invisible to kids in their twenties. People in their thirties might smile at you from a distance, but when they see you up close, you literally vaporize. Men in their forties are trying so hard to look like they’re not fifty that they don’t have time to look at anything but the mirror.

When you’re fifty, it’s time to give it a rest. Game over; give it up. You stop looking at men in their 20’s and 30’s, because if they see you looking at them, they look as if they just took a bite of compost. Ew. Lumpy old man just cruised me! Maybe you can wink at a guy in his 40’s, but if you wink at a guy in his fifties, he is like: Ew. I want someone younger!

I say this because today I got the one-two punch. It’s a Thursday. At 2:30 pm I was in a different thrift store. Thursday is Senior Day there. I am 52. I took a six dollar shirt up to the front of the store. The cashier was an older, white gay man, I guessed in his late sixties. He rang it up for three dollars. Didn’t even ask.

Great. Just great.

I’m used to it now. I even do things to make myself look older. Instead of shaving my head, as a lot of my younger gay brethren do these days, I’m letting it grow out, just to see where the hair ends and the baldness begins. I intentionally walked crookedly and slowly up to the cash register. I wanted the cashier to think that maybe I was recovering from a stroke. Hey, it’s fifty percent off, baby.

I was pleased to get the big discount. It’s like the rush a shoplifter gets after getting away with a heist.

After I left there, I went to the grocery store and bought some stuff for dinner, and, as always, I got in the line with the cutest bagboy. I don’t mind waiting. I could take a decent amount of side glances at him since I was wearing my sunglasses. This bagger was in his late 20’s or early 30’s and was just drop-dead gorgeous. Nice head of thick, brown hair, cut beautifully; bulging biceps and sharp hazel eyes. His taut pecs rose above and to the sides of his tightly-tied black apron, and he bagged my groceries with military precision. I paid the cashier, and then the bagboy said to me:

“Do you need help getting that to your car, sir?”

Do I need HELP with that! I thought. What IS it about me that says “Medicare Patient” to you, you delicious-beefcake-minimum-wage-earning runt? (He was short, but who cared? He was Adonis.)

So I’ve reached The Point. I’m staying in bed. I am not going to bother to go to the gym anymore. I will eat at McDonalds after a thirty-year boycott. I will start taking blood pressure medicine. I will sit home and look at Internet porn while wishing I could afford some Viagra. I might even stop bathing.

I am Senior.

Hear me roar.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ambien Haze


Other Bill has always, in the 17 years I’ve known him, had odd sleep habits. He used to go to bed at 2 am and wake up at 6 for days on end and not be any worse for it. But as he’s aged, he’s required more sleep. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that instead of organic things like yoga, listening to relaxation tapes, or reading, he has turned to pharmaceuticals. It’s what our generation does.

It is no secret in the world of drugs that Ambien, in rare cases, they say, causes some odd nocturnal behavior, including sleepwalking, sleep-driving (yes, you read that right), eating, and amnesia. One Ambien patient woke up in the middle of the night, only to find herself painting her front door.

Unfortunately, Other Bill is one of those rare cases. I would venture to say the worst rare case.

Case in point: one of the side effects of Ambien is aggressive behavior. He usually takes his pill about a half hour before going to bed. By bedtime he is totally dosed, and he gets annoyingly affectionate. Just as I am about to close my eyes and drift into peaceful slumber, Other Bill will jump on me, start pecking on me over and over, drenching my face in kissy-spit and say things like: “C’mon, babe. Gimme some stuff. Gimme some sugar.” Peck, peck peck. I literally have to fight him off of me. Initially I thought this was cute and funny. Now I just want to cut him.

Other Bill is 6 feet tall and weighs in the 220’s. I am 5-9 and weigh 160, so it is tough to get him off of me. Sometimes I have to resort to pinching, and just last week, I slapped his face. I felt horrible, but it was the only thing that would shut him up.

Then there’s the crying.

Almost anything will make him cry while he’s on Ambien. If by some chance he does drift off to sleep and is on his back, he snores like a wood chipper. I will whisper to him, “Bill, would you turn on your side, please? You’re snoring.”

He immediately starts to wail, in between apologies.

Did you ever see The Joy Luck Club? Remember the final scene where June Woo travels to China to meet her twin sisters that she has just recently learned about? Heart-wrenching scene, because the twins were expecting their mother, but they learn then from June that their mother has died. But everyone’s happy because they are a reunited family.

It doesn’t help that the music alone in that scene would make Donald Trump cry. Anyway, Other Bill and I saw it in the theater when it came out, and I wasn’t just shedding tears, I was wailing during that scene. Deep, from-the-abdomen, loud wailing. It was the kind of wailing where you completely drain yourself of oxygen, and when you inhale, it’s that machine-gun sound of dozens of little gasps. I cried so loud that people in the audience, although crying too, started to laugh. And Other Bill has never let me forget it. I was still machine-gun-gasping when the lights came up.

That is how he cries when I make the turn-over request. Not for very long, because I rub his back, and whisper, “It’s okay, everything is all right. Just go back to sleep.” And not long after, he does.

Sleepwalking is another “rare case” side effect. Other Bill once woke up in the back yard. He had been wandering around and only woke up after he stepped in dog poop. Fortunately, he didn’t come to bed with it on his feet.

Recently, he has put on a few pounds. The other day I went to get some ice cream, and it was gone.

“Did you finish off the Moose Tracks?” I asked him.

“No,” he told me.

I looked in the trash can, and there sat the empty carton, which was half full the day before. He then remembered that he got up and scooped out the rest of the carton and woke up just as he was throwing the carton away. He was mortified. Then I remembered that there have been several times I in the morning while making my lunch that I noticed the refrigerator looked damn near empty compared to the day before. I thought maybe Other Bill had just tossed out the expired stuff, the wilted lettuce, the limp carrots, the leftover pot roast and potatoes, the half-a-cake. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Now I know that stuff was not tossed out. It was tossed into his digestive system. There is at least one “rare case” Ambien user who mysteriously gained over 100 pounds. Not such a mystery anymore.

Because I’m in my fifties and have a prostate the size of a honeydew melon, I get up once or twice a night to pee. And because of that honeydew, it takes me a long time to drain my bladder. It’s as slow as giving blood. So I sit down to pee. I would say that at least 80% of the time I go to the bathroom, Ambien Boy gets up in and, still sleeping, brings me a pillow to hold while I pee. I don’t know why. He doesn’t know why. I just thank him and accept it.

Unfortunately, this delivery is not just a drop-off. He waits, as if he were expecting a tip. And then he gets annoying. He starts tapping my shoulder. “C’mon, Bill,” he prods, “let’s go.”

“I’m not finished yet,” I tell him. This doesn’t make any difference. He starts shaking my shoulder. “C’mon. Let’s go. Let’s go back to bed.”

When he first started doing this, I yelled at him. It’s tough enough for me to keep the flow going without disturbing annoyances. Yelling at him was a big mistake, because he would lay down on the bathroom tile, start wailing and pounding his fists and kicking his feet, and crying, “Why do you have to be so mean to me?” He’s like a 3 year old in a grocery store whose mother refuses to let him have a box of animal crackers. It took forever to get him up off the floor and back to bed, where he cried himself back to sleep.

He remembers none of it. He thinks I’m making it up. He continues bringing me the pillow, and annoyingly urges me to go back to bed with him, and he gets more and more insistent that we leave the bathroom before the last trickle is complete.

“I’m not finished,” I sigh, after being shaken for a minute.

“I don’t hear anything,” he says, thinking that because there is no splashing sound echoing from the toilet that I am just intentionally holding him up. I ignore him.

“I don’t hear anything,” he repeats. I still ignore him.

“Bill…” he continues.

“WHAT?” I snap.

And off he runs to the bed, wailing and weeping and gnashing his teeth.

I put up with a lot, don’t you think?

So now when it happens, I just find my center, and as he pokes me and says, “Let’s go,” I just keep saying, “Not yet.” It’s just become part of the routine, although I am thinking about having a prophylactic prostatectomy so I can sleep the night through and just pee in a diaper.

So finally, when I’m finished, I stand up and pull up my shorts, and he takes my hand, very Winnie-the-Pooh-like, and walks me back to bed. Sometimes he tries to get in on my side of the bed, but I gently steer him to the other side.

There have been two instances where Other Bill has displayed odd behavior to the public sector: Once when my family stayed with us; the other time when his family stayed with us.

When my cousins and sisters came, we stayed up late and talked and talked about people Other Bill never knew. He put up with it and asked questions and pretended to be interested, but as it got late, he decided to go to bed, so he took his magic pill and went to the bedroom about a half hour later, while I was trying to play a DVD of old home movies. For some reason, it wouldn’t read in the living room DVD player, so I dragged everyone into the bedroom where Bill had just crawled into bed, and we watched the show.

And then the kissyface behavior started. All over my cousins and sister. It was so much like having an annoying alcoholic misbehaving in front of my family. Way too many, I love yous and chicken pecks on people’s faces.

And when his family was visiting, everyone was about to retire, so he popped his pill, but then everyone decided to stay up a little longer and chat some more.

I had gone to bed but got up again when I heard roars of laughter from the living room. Other Bill was in a lounge chair, holding his nephew captive in his lap, doing the kissyface thing and repeating over and over how much he loved him, and why. Other Bill had always participated in Matthew’s growing up, and always showed him acute affection when he was a youngster.

But at that time, Matthew was 26.

Other Bill has since been forbidden from taking his Ambien until all persons in the house are either gone or in bed for the night.

And then I had to take away his computer privileges.

It seems that for a while he was getting up and sending people, admittedly, humorous emails. Humorous, until you got to about the 39th paragraph, and then it just became monotonous. Rambling, far-fetched tales where he really stretched for the humor with nonsensical metaphors and interminable comparisons that made absolutely no sense.

And then he wrote an email to some family members, and totally trashed his aunt. This aunt has always been ripe for parody. She hen-pecked her husband to death, and even in her 80’s, dressed like That Girl, including the big sunglasses and the too-obvious flip wig. Sadly, Other Bill unintentionally sent this message to his cousins, That Girl’s children.

So now I disable the Internet connection before going to bed so he can’t do this.

Recently he has developed an even more bizarre affliction. And this is the last straw, I swear.

Other Bill wears an oversized football jersey and the underwear he wore all day to bed. The other morning, he said to me, “Are you taking my underwear off me in the middle of the night?”

“What?” I asked, with That Tone in my voice.

“Well for the last couple of weeks, I’ve woken up without my underwear on, and I don’t know why.”

I just stood there with my hand on my hip staring at him. You’d think by now he would be able to recognize his Ambien Haze, as we have come to call it.

He just stared back, shrugged and said, “What?”

You’re doing it. You’re taking them off. You just don’t remember because of the Ambien,” I told him.

The most interesting part of the morning is when I tell him about how many pillow delivery events there were the night before, or tell him of conversations we had. He remembers none of it. Not even the face-slapping incident. He is drowning in denial.

But in the last week, this new behavior has turned ugly. Four times in the last week I have woken up, uncomfortable. There is something I’m lying on that is wrinkly and bunched up and hurting my face. It’s his dirty underwear.

I’m sending him to the doctor next week. He’s switching to Lunesta. And if he doesn’t, I’m buying padlocks for the bedroom doors and am moving into the guest bedroom. We’re not waiting until the day comes when he is sleep-driving down the street, weeping uncontrollably while gorging himself on leftover beef and broccoli from a take-out carton, and I’m following him in my car, honking the horn, flashing the lights and trying to get him to pull over and wake up.

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The First Blogger


If you’ve read most of this blog, it’s not hard to find the most epic event of my life that completely turned everything upside down. Just search for the word, “father” or the phrase, “who died when I was six.” It’s almost obscene how many times they appear in here, so if you don’t know by now that my father died when I was six, you’re not paying attention or might want to get yourself screened for ADHD or blindness. If you do know and are sick of hearing about it, you have probably clicked your mouse on an X while muttering to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, boo-hoo, send yourself some flowers. You’ll feel better.”

Even I’m sick of reading it. I remind myself of this woman at work who, whenever she sees me (and I literally hide from her, so I try not to see her) reminds me of what poor health she is in, because she is an “insulin-dependent diabetic.” “Insulin-dependent diabetic” is her “My father, who died when I was six.” Boo- hoo. Send yourself some flowers. Maybe if you didn’t snack on sticks of butter and fried pork rinds during your morning break, things would be different.

So I’m going to tell you a bit about my father. Feel free to click the get-me-the-hell-out-of-here button at any time, as this might appear to be dripping with sentiment, especially towards the end.

My dad was one of the earliest bloggers. Even before there was a computer or an Internet, my dad penned an article for the now-defunct St. Petersburg Independent newspaper in the late 40’s and most of the 50’s. Sometimes he reported on fishy-smelling goings-on in city hall. He was an investigative reporter even before there was a term for it. Other times he wrote about conversations he’d eavesdropped on at the lunch counter he frequented, standing in line at the post office or bank, or conversations he heard on a bus or in a movie theater. I am sure there were people who came home from work or shopping and opened the evening paper, only to be mortified to read about something they’d been caught doing the day before. Or that day, even. Sure enough, their conversation, verbatim, had been documented by the columnist of A Matter of Opinion. And Lord, didn’t they look silly once it was in ink, punctuated with my dad’s style.

No one was safe from embarrassment or humiliation. When he brought it to light that despite frequent calls, no one from public works had picked up his green yard waste that had been rotting in the alley for six months, the mayor himself rolled out, towing a trash trailer, and afterwards got bogged down in the sandy alley because no one from public works had made a delivery of crushed seashells, either, to the alley to help pack down the sand.

And it wasn’t infrequent that he wrote about something that happened at home. He had made my mother somewhat of a minor local celebrity by documenting the behavior of The Lady of the House, which he always called her in the column.

My mother clipped most of his articles and kept them in boxes for years. When she would request duplicates, my father would bring home additional papers the next day. The funnier they were, the more copies of them were retained. Some were sent to my aunt in Denver, which eventually got mixed in with the others in the boxes.

I had no idea she had kept these until I was thirteen. (Do the math. How many years after my father died was this?) One summer I came home from my annual three month stay in Colorado with my aunt, and found that my sister Kathryn (who died when I was fourteen. No, no, that’s a lie. She’s still very much alive.) had taken all the articles, divided them into five or six categories and Elmer’s Glued them into enormous scrapbooks that, when stacked, were waist high. At that time I had little interest in them, because you had to read 20 or 30 of them to find one that was about the family, and I just didn’t have the patience for it.

My sister (who’s alive, remember?) maintained these volumes of scrap books for the longest time, and sometime in the late 80’s asked me if I wanted to hold onto them for a while. I did, promising myself that I’d read them all.

So they sat there for years until one day I opened them up and discovered the newsprint (which was 40 years old in some cases) had turned brown and started to crumble. In order to preserve them I spent a weekend at work, photocopying them one by one. Did I say work? I meant Kinko’s. It took forever. Eventually I reluctantly threw out most of the newsprint versions, and the new versions, printed two sided on copier paper, fit nicely into three fat three-ring binders. Much easier to handle for the reader, which some day I would be.

Then I moved back to Florida, to that boggy, damp environment and one day noticed that there were pages sticking together and sticking to the backs of the vinyl binders. It was time to get these on digital media.

I spent weeks feeding them through the scanner, creating gigantic PDF Files. Did I say at work? I meant at home. It was a slow, taxing process, but during that time I read a lot of them, got rid of duplicates, sorted them out into even more categories, and burned them all onto CD’s for family.

During that time I learned more about my dad than I ever knew, mostly good things. He stood up for civil rights at a time when it was unpopular to do so. I learned that he was also more tolerant and liberal than my mother would ever be, and I learned how he suffered during the war when he was stationed in New Guinea. I also learned that of all the articles we had saved, I was only in four of them. Four. IV. Four out of twelve years of writing. My mother was The Lady of the House; my sister Kathryn (still living last time I checked) was The Little Urchin, and in the four articles in which I starred, I was referred to as Son and Heir. In one I was sick, and in another the Little Urchin had fed me coins, the little bitch. For the most part, I wasn’t portrayed in the most flattering light. I was almost three when he started writing editorials across the bay for the Tampa Tribune, and the Matter of Opinion column had been closed down.

I know of my limited appearances, because after all the articles were scanned, I ran detailed searches. The Lady of the House was in dozens, scores, possibly hundreds. Then that darling Little Urchin and her zany toddler antics, like the time she was bitten on the butt by a goose, were all over the map. Son and Heir: four stinkin’ hits. Even worse, the freakin’ parakeet, Sporty, was showcased in at least 20 columns. Outdone by a bird. Simply by being the last born, I lost out of the fame lottery.

It had always been my intent that during my retirement I would go back to the St. Petersburg Public Library and check out the microfilms of the Independent and read every article my dad ever wrote. It was how I would honor him, by squeezing out the last letters of everything that was typeset onto newsprint. I would know everything I could know.

But after discovering the puny number of articles I was in—did I mention it was just four?— I was going to step up this investigation pronto, so Other Bill and I drove across the state, and I marched into the St. Petersburg Public Library and demanded access to the microfilms. At first I was so eager, I just wanted to start with the first ones. The first thing I wanted to do was find the first one and the last one he’d written. But that was tough to do, because the microfilm reader/printers were purchased, I’m guessing, during the Eisenhower administration, and they are placed under fluorescent lighting that make them impossible to read from. The only way to read them was to print them out, at a quarter a pop. And there were 12 years of these, or so I thought. I was there for several hours, and grew more and more frustrated. And broke. I went back to the drawers that held the films and discovered that there were eight years of missing microfilms, including all of 1957, 1958, and 1959, which were the only ones I could have been in. My heart sank. I checked with the librarian, but she didn’t know where they were, or if they ever had them.

When I got back home, I called the archives of the St. Petersburg Times, who took over the Independent in the 70’s. They told me they don’t make their archives available to the public, but I was determined to get around them. I would write my congressman. I would form a radical band of hotheads and name the group Journalism Justice. But before I did that, I asked them nicely to check the archives and see if they even had microfilms from 1952 to 1959.

They didn’t.

So I did research. I called the Tampa library, the library at the University of South Florida, anyone who showed up as having copies of the Independent, including the Library of Freakin’ Congress. All of those had either none, or just selected handfuls of issues that came out on historic days.

For whatever reason, no one archived the Independent for those years. The Times was the morning paper, and I guess for cost-cutting reasons, it was decided only to keep those. What they missed during the morning and afternoon would just be caught the next day. That was enough.

So what could I do, except accept defeat. Be grateful for what you’ve got, was one of my mother’s catch phrases, and I guess she was right. So, maybe the Little Urchin and the Lady of the House and that goddamned parakeet got more ink than I did, but none of them got anything like this, which I am including because no one can prove that they own its copyright anymore. Or that it ever existed, for that matter.

Spring Arrives For Small Boy

By William G. Wiley

The almanac makers say that the vernal equinox will not be around for a couple of weeks yet.

But obviously, they don’t know what they are talking about.

Actually, spring arrived a couple of weeks ago. And I have all the evidence to prove it.

That was the first day in many weeks when the sky was decently clear, the air balmy and the sun had a degree of warmth in it.

And that was the first day that Son and Heir, having arrived at the noble age of one in early January, had an opportunity to explore the world outside the immediate confines of the four walls which have more or less limited his activities since he arrived on the scene.

It was a good day to explore. And, as soon as he was released through the front door he let it be known that this was his world which he wasn’t about to share with anyone. None of this business of being held by the hand and guided about the premises. He’d been studying the outside scene from inside through those long cool weeks, and it was time for close personal investigation.

Ants Investigated

So he toddled down the front sidewalk working out an itinerary. The first thing that needed attending to was a herd of ants which had been thawed into activity and were busily scurrying up across the sidewalk lining up a food supply.

These demanded close inspection. He squatted down for a closer view and watched them for the better part of a minute before they needed a good poke.

He poked, smashing one ant while another climbed on his finger and made its way up his hand. He studied it closely as it circled his hand, and then waddled back to show it to me. I flicked it off his hand and he immediately lost interest in ants.

There were better things to do. Bird chasing, for instance. A mockingbird had flown down from the pine tree and began grubbing the lawn for whatever might be found there. Son and Heir descended upon him with arms flapping and the bird flew back into the tree, cursing angrily.

Blossoms Chewed

Then Son and Heir noted that the freeze had missed a couple of blossoms on a flame of the woods bush. He picked one, put it in his mouth and chewed it. It didn’t taste good and he spat it out.

So he toddled out to the front sidewalk and strolled up and down until it occurred to him that the cracks in the sidewalk might constitute intriguing avenues of adventure. He picked up a twig, sat on the sidewalk, and plowed the sand from the crack.

A neighborly cat came mewing by. Obviously it was in the need of patting. So it was patted. Then its tail was pulled. Then it was chased with great flappings of arms. The cat disappeared around the corner of the house, and that adventure was over.

Then came a game of trailing the hose. After picking up a hung of it the little boy noted that the hose didn’t end at the edge of the sidewalk, but trailed off through the grass. He followed it across the lawn and around the corner of the house. In a moment I heard him squawking and hurried forth. He had followed the hose into the azalea bushes, got himself entangled and couldn’t get out.

I brought him around in front again. He lay on his back, watching the clouds. A breeze came and dipped the fronds of the palm trees so the sun got in his eyes. He flopped over on his belly and poked his fingers in the grass. And when he turned so I could see full in his face, he looked like a squirrel. I hurried over to investigate. There was a good reason for his appearance. He’d tucked away a palm nut in either cheek. He gave them up with only a brief struggle.

Then he waddled back and sat on the steps in the sun with me. The warmth made him sleepy and nod.

We called it quits and went inside.

It was quite a day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Ligher Side of Alcoholism


I get so self-righteous these days about drug and alcohol related scandals. Michel Phelps, sucking on a bong: a disgrace! Drunk drivers free to roam after a second DUI: they should have their legs cut off at the knees so they can’t drive!

I wasn’t always like this. In fact, I was quite the anti-prohibitionist in my youth. I started stealing bourbon from my mother when I was fourteen, although “stealing” is not really the right word. Better ones would be “helping myself.”

My mother frequently left me alone on weekends, beginning when I was thirteen or so. She was dating, and later married a man who had a home in the middle of the state, an hour’s drive away. They had bought a ramshackle house on a lake and spent their weekends trying to make it habitable. Sometimes I went and helped. Other times I stayed home.

When you’re an adolescent and you hear about people sneaking pHisoHex bottles filled with vodka into parties you would never be invited to, you get a little curious to find out what that is about. There was a liquor cabinet in our house right under the cigarette drawer. There were half bottles of just about everything there, but mostly there was Early Times bourbon. It was, after all, a Southern home, and the tall, mint julep glasses were kept on the shelf with the good china.

I grew up with the smell of bourbon. It was on my mother’s breath, and it was on my dear father’s breath. Occasionally, when I was not much more than a toddler, he would allow me a small sip from his bourbon and water. I kind of actually liked it, but always made a sour face when I swallowed, which seemed to amuse him. At Christmas, Mom made bourbon balls, so I was pretty much living on bourbon street from day one.

I learned soon enough that bourbon could be mixed with cola, root beer, or orange soda, and make for a sickly sweet, mind-altering taste treat. The problem was, it gave me the most uncomfortable case of hiccups every time I drank a glass of it. It was a cartoon cliché. By the time I was fifteen, I replaced what I drank from my mother’s bottles with water so she wouldn’t know I was sneaking it. By the time I was 16, I embezzled entire quarts, because bourbon was bought in three-fers at a shamelessly named store called Liquorama, and it should come as no surprise that Mom couldn’t keep track of what she bought.

Before Liquorama was built, houses of spirits were small, dimly lit mom-and-pop shops with unlit parking lots so the world wouldn’t see your shame. The liquor store clerk would wrap your bottle in a tall, skinny bag and twist the top shut for you so you could sneak out and pretend that maybe you had just bought a few pairs of socks or a small baguette. Buying booze in the 60s was just one step above slipping into a peep show.

Whenever my mother or dad went to the liquor store, I always wanted to go along, because I enjoyed the seediness of it all and loved the smell. Liquor stores all smelled so clean, like doctors’ offices, but the shops themselves were in leaky, run-down buildings with dirty tile floors and cracked windows. I would have to wait outside the liquor store while a parent went in, catching only whiffs of the store as the door was opened and closed. Kids were not allowed inside.

But in the 70’s Liquorama came around. Built on cross streets at one of South Tampa’s busiest thoroughfares, Liquorama brought alcoholism out of the closet. It was the size of a grocery store, and it had a huge, colorful, brightly lit, spinning sign out in front, welcoming all who came near it. Giant letters spelled out the week’s specials, splashed haphazardly across the giant picture windows that lined the front of the store. Shame and intimidation were thrown out the window, and people were saying it loud: “I’m drunk and I’m proud!” They even let kids in if they were accompanied by a person of age. Their shelves were new, everything was clean, and the floors were buffed to reflection.

Liquorama had the audacity to offer its shoppers grocery-store sized carts, and you got discounts if you bought in bulk. You never saw skinny little bags anymore. People left there, beaming with the pleasure at having saved a lot of money by buying a case, instead of just a quart. Its parking lot was luminescent and inviting, and they were open late. It was as elegant as a trip to the yacht club.

Liquorama became an even bigger hit once the drinking age was lowered from 21 to 18. Today I prudishly think, “What was the state thinking by doing that?” but apparently the liquor lobby was better funded than any religious body or temperance league.

The 70’s were a stain on every other decade in America. Indeed, it was a smeary wipefest on the butt cheeks of history. Look at who ran the country: Nixon, Ford, and Carter (okay, I liked Carter and still do.) Look at what people wore (shiny acetate, flammable shirts and platform shoes), how we behaved (like stoned, drunken idiots), and what kind of music we listened to (because “that’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh” we liked it). Mix that with a generous portion of alcohol, Quaaludes, and mushrooms; add the dark, thick gravy of hashish oil. Season with Valium and acid. Lather, ingest, and repeat daily, and maybe you can see how our view of normalcy could have been just the slightest bit tarnished.

In our mid-teens, we were always trying to look older and trick Liquorama into selling to us. We dressed like 60’s hippies to attempt to accomplish this, but without much success. Knowing someone just a year older was a feather in your cap, even if you were 16 and they were 17. My dear friend Julie often took on the burden, not just because she had nerves of steel and bigger balls than any of us, but because her patience was as short as a clipped fingernail, and she got sick of arguing over who would do it. If she was unsuccessful inside, she would merely flag down an older alcoholic on his way into the store. Inexplicably by today’s standards, those people always bought the bottle and kept the change. And we were happy to let them have it. At last my hiccups were gone, because I had my own job, my own car, and I earned money that could be given to moral halfwits who would buy me rum. Life at sixteen was good, I sometimes thought.

Again, it was the 70’s. No one took responsibility for anything.

My most favorite booze-friendly establishment was this mega-disco on the northwest side of town called The Mad Hatter. They had a big, flashing-light dance floor, mirror balls and dizzying light machines and seizure-inducing strobes. There were speakers the size of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music was deafening, the lyrics insipid and repetitive, but we gave it all tens because it was easy to dance to.

Around the dance floor were tall tables with stools. The tables had long, draping tablecloths on them, and it was at one of these tables where I received one of the two hand jobs generously given to me by girls I knew.

There were delightful pinball machines that gave you three games for a quarter and five balls a game. But all of this paled by comparison to the Mad Hatter’s greatest feature: The Saturday Drink or Drown Night.

I suspect that there are few left who remember Drink or Drown night. A lot of the participants ended up dead on the highway. The rest are now suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. Those who remember must have somehow managed to stop drinking, and perhaps have had Recovered Memory Therapy which brought this twisted, satanic event back to light.

Drink or Drown Night, simply put was this: All you could drink for five dollars. I think it was five; maybe it was ten. And I think it was Saturday, but it could have been Friday, or Friday and Saturday, or all the time. Are you getting the picture? I think most of it remains buried under the part of my life I reminiscently refer to as, "blackout."

Drink and Drown Night included all the beer, all the wine, all the highballs, all the cocktails, all the martinis, all the cordials, all the liqueurs and daiquiris and mai-tais, and all the grain alcohol your stored in your pHisoHex bottle that you kept in pocket or purse, because sometimes the lines to get the drinks were so long, you needed to have a pick-me-up while you waited.

It was pandemonium, pure and simple. Naturally, I went whenever I could find someone who would go with me, which was often. The place was soaking wet from spilled drinks, thrown drinks, vomit and urine. Clouds of marijuana smoke poured from the restrooms and mixed with the dry ice clouds hovering around the dance floors. Or there may not have been dry ice. It could have just been my vision. There were threatening arguments; there were wet t-shirts, and women yanking down each other’s tube tops. It was packed and hot; everyone sweated, yet despite it all, the whole place managed to maintain the spicy aroma of Paco Rabonne cologne (in the penis-shaped bottle) mixed with the pungent stench of Jovan Musk Oil. People passed out on the dance floor, and the rest just danced around their bodies, soaked in the fluids on the floor. Thus, the drown part of the evening, ladies and gentlemen.

Leaving the place was tricky. People lined up at the doors, and every few minutes a brave lookout staggered out as a sentry to make sure there were no fights with weapons going on. When the all-clear was given, people would dash to their cars as best as they could dash, but even then it was possible to get sucked into a brawl that followed you out the door.

People who were smart in that part of town on Saturdays (and/or Fridays, or all the time) locked and dead-bolted their doors. Only crazy people would be driving in that area late at night, even though there were two drive-in movie theatres within spitting distance of the Hatter.

Finally, after enough complaints, the city council took measures to put the kibosh on Drink and Drown Night, not just at The Mad Hatter, but at any establishment that offered a smorgasbord of alcohol for one low price.

I don’t bring that lushy, exotic time of my life into my memory very often. I’m a little embarrassed about it. I had a reputation as being a fairly dependable drunk driver. There were times I was so tanked that I had to drive with one eye shut so I wouldn’t see double. It was just short of a miracle that I was never arrested, or worse, killed somebody. So when I see similar things happening with young people today, I forget I was once in their shoes, overdoing anything that could possibly be overdone. I am the worst possible hypocrite. I think, “What is with these kids? Why are they doing this? Haven’t they learned from our mistakes?”

But then I think of the hand job, and I understand.