Flakes of Reality
Are you bummed that March Madness has come and gone? Lacking in sports betting opportunities now that the Kentucky Derby has been run? Upset that the football season is so far away? Don’t give a shit about professional basketball like the rest of America? Are you a Red Sox fan?|
If so, and you’re in dire need of a useless but bracketed sports event to bet on, then you’re in luck, as right now, the first Annual Asylum Dumb Fuck Tournament is well underway.
We have a points system through which we can reward each other for individual comments that are classy, humorous, nonsensical, perverted, and whatnot. But we don’t have any for sheer stupidity, and even if we did, many of our forum members don’t just excel at single stupid comments, but have long and well-established careers in the sport of dumb fuckery. So while points may work for some instances, when it comes to being moronic, it only seemed apt that we had a full blown 4-bracket 64 person tournament.
So mmmtravis, the Jim Brown of Dumb Fucks, has organized and is now in the process of running this grand event in The Lost Forum. The pace is fast, the excitement exciting, the competition fierce, and already, we’re nearly down to the Stupid 16.
What does it take to be the #1 Asylum Dumb Fuck? Well, our contestants have many different methods. You can stick your stupid nose in everybody’s personal business and offer page after page of unsolicited advice. You can get arrested under hilarious and humilating circumstances and then post about it. You can accuse the administration of this site of things that are obviously and verifiably false, time and time again. You can have sex with one of us (always a favorite). You can have a terrible sense of humor mostly predicated on pictures of fat naked old people. You can be English. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
But, I warn you now, this is not a competition for rookies. We count among our members some of the most moronic, some of the most slow-witted, and some of the most blazingly stupid forum posters you’re likely to meet on the entire internet unless you frequent trollkingdom.com. If you follow the current tournament, you’ll note that the competition is not to be taken lightly.
So check on in, register, and start posting away, exposing yourself in all your stupid, stupid glory, and maybe YOU can earn yourself a place in next year’s tournament. You don’t HAVE to be stupid to post here, but it sure helps.
Well, with the Wisconsin primary upon us and Super Tuesday rapidly approaching, it looks like we might have to say goodbye to Howard Dean, the evanescent "Madman of Montpelier" who spent his entire run for the nomination tearing off hands and eating babies. |
He was an entertaining candidate, to say the least, and the race will be less unnerving without him. But fear not, puny mortals, for you haven’t yet seen the last of Howard Dean! And, if you’re in the mood for a bit of reminiscing for the days when the process of finding a Democrat nominee looked to tear off America’s head and shit down it’s neck, here is a remix of the Howard Dean campaign. So ride off into the sunset, Howard Dean, with your head held high. You made America proud. And pretty weirded out.
But we must soldier on! This is, after all, an election year, and while John Kerry looks to ride away with the Democratic nomination, with a Kennedy driving him over the final bridge to the convention, and George Bush is already busy siphoning social security into his massive ad campaign to get Americans to let him spend more money on his ad campaign to get Americans to let him spend more money, there is plenty more political punditry to be propagated. This is just the beginning! The pregnancy for the general election is only in its first trimester, and we can’t abort now, America!
Why, we have yet to get the full story on a young George Walker Bush, drunk out of his ever-lovin’ mind, sneaking onto Maxwell Air Force Base, stealing a T-38 Talon, and flying it to Canada, snorting coke through shredded bits of the Bill of Rights all the way. Or his impending political strategy, "Contract With the Devil For America".
Nor have we heard the last about John Kerry’s youthful exploits, such as the story, not yet picked up by the wires but all over internet rumor sites, of Kerry at a rally with Hanoi Jane Fonda, his intern at the time, in which, with a hail of pyrotechnics behind them, he tears off her brassiere as a protest to the Vietnam War, or feminism, or some damn thing.
And there’s international news to be had as well. Kim "Me So Horny" Jong-il still plans to join forces with Iran and invade Israel. Osama Bin Laden has yet to be found running his Cum N Blow in Queens. We haven’t yet carpet bombed Djibouti. The prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, has yet to liquidate his government in favor of the Berlusconi Dance Squad. Russia has an upcoming, ahem, election. And, in the coming months, look for Greg Dyke to pilot a tank through the walls of Parliament in England, while Lord Hutton shouts "Mr. Blair, tear down this network!"
So join us, for this season of domestic derangement, foreign fatuousness, election escapades, security shenanigans, and general govern-mental gobbledygook. We’ve got a happening little political forum right over yonder. Or, you can throw your thoughts on politics or anything else to the wolves in The Lost Forum. And, if politics isn’t your game at all, we’ve got plenty more cozy nooks in the internet crannies for you to check out.
Pull up a chair and stay awhile, stranger.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine.
People have never been my strongest suit. The apartment is wall to wall with them. Drunk people, sober people, short people, tall people, girl people, guy people, girl people, girl people. Lots and lots of people.|
Many people simply shove their way into the crowd, stampeding toward the kegs like a black rhino through the underbrush. Walk through the door, dive in and swim.
I sliiiiiide my way past, barely touching a soul. The second I step into the place from the cold night outside, I disappear into the throng. Ducking, weaving, bobbing. Float like a butterfly, but keep your stinger tucked away. This isn’t that kind of party.
I don’t touch anybody if I can help it. I can feel the heavy bass pounding the floor almost as much as I can hear it. A girl to my right, back turned to me, flips her hair and it brushes against my shoulder. I jolt a bit at the contact. A group of jocks, every one of them clutching shiny red plastic cups, join in laughter at something or other. People. Lots and lots of people. Everybody wanting to unwind after a hard day of not going to classes. Faceless voices and voiceless faces surround me under a heavy cloud of indiscriminate conversation and discriminate smoke.
Despite having been out of the sub-zero weather for only a few moments, my palms are already sweating. The rest of my body may soon follow; the crowded bodies raise the temperature in the room slightly above the comfort level. So many goddamned people.
I head for the booze, at the far end of the apartment. A group of pretty blondes block my way, but I artfully dodge them and take it to the hole. My throat is tight now; it’s starting to take conscious effort for me to swallow. Already.
Shitty hippy music is pounding in my head. Who the fuck blasts hippy music anyway? And why do they turn the bass up so goddamned high? What’s the matter with these people? Everybody knows that hippy music is treble music.
At last I reach the corner of the room where the keg rests; the fruitful reward for a pilgrimage brief. Curses. A half-circle perimeter of drunks, wanna-be drunks, and way-too-drunks effortlessly shift in and out of place near the spigot, creating a beautiful symphony of alcoholic motion. Men and women shift. Pump pour drink move pump pour drink move pour drink move. I insert myself into the dance.
A few moments and brushed shoulders later, I emerge from the tap-dance, holding a shiny red plastic cup of my own. I proceed to drink foam as I distance myself from the concentration around the keg.
I don’t know anybody here I don’t know anybody here I don’t know anybody here I don’t know anybody here. Occasionally, I’ll bump into somebody I know, and we’ll exchange brief nods, followed by the observation that neither of us knows anybody here. This happens several times. One such exchange goes as such:
“Hey,” he’ll say.
“Hey,” I’ll say.
“I don’t know anybody here,” one of us will say.
The haze in the room smells distinctively piney.
By now I’ve found a neutral corner. A pocket of much sought out loneliness in a mass of overpowering socialization. I have a good 5 feet to myself. People pass me going to and coming from the bathroom as I stand by quietly and drink my foam.
A pretty brown-haired girl gives me a pleasant smile as she passes me by. I try to offer her a pleasant one of my own, but it feels wrong. It feels more like a smile that says I’m Slightly Irritated or I’m Generally Unpleasant. I had aimed for a smile that said I’m Sort Of Horny. Either way, she registers nothing and continues on.
My muscles are tense and the foam isn’t helping. I’m sweating, not like a pig, but like a pig with an adrenal disorder who’s entering the twentieth mile of its first Boston marathon. My teeth are clenched tightly.
I stand there, cognitively knowing that nobody gives a shit about the guy standing over against the wall, but feeling that I’m not part of The Crowd—literally and figuratively, I suppose. And I have this sensation that at any moment I’ll be found out. Like a foreign cell in the body, suddenly the immune system will realize that the base has been breached and commence with the expungement. And I don’t want to be snot.
I sneeze unconsciously as I fumble about trying to bring a pack of cigarettes from my coat pocket.
I smoke, and it calms me some. Foreign cells soothe me.
Out of the human-surf emerges a small cadre of people, heading to the door to my left. One of them, walking point, is fidgeting with an ornate glass bowl, hardly noticing the crowd as he cuts through them. But The Crowd is all knowing, and unconsciously part to allow him free passage. The Crowd protects fools and drunks and hippies.
As his small clan of reefer madness files into another room, a pretty slight girl hands one of her friends a bag of weed, parts ways, and walks right up to me. Her hair is in a handkerchief and she’s wearing a long green dress with matching green sashes around her waist. She has a small face and nice eyes, and her ears are so pierced it’s a wonder they found enough room for all those holes.
“Can I bum a butt?” she asks. I stare at her for a moment, not registering, just staring, a blank expression washing over my face.
Wait, I have to answer.
“Huh?” I say. Her smile widens and she tilts her head a little.
“Can I have a cigarette?” she asks, in a slightly more flirtatious tone. I look down at my own cigarette, now half ash of untended-to carcinogens.
“Oh. Shit. Yeah.” I mumble as I begin to clumsily fumble around my coat pockets for the pack of smokes. It takes me a few tries, but I finally come up with the pack, open it to her, and let her slide one out.
“Thanks,” she says sweetly, turning back and walking into the room the cadre of potheads had disappeared into, closing the door behind her.
“No problem,” I say to myself quietly, finishing my own cigarette and lighting another.
The crushing crowd had been swelling and I hadn’t noticed. My 5 feet of space is now down to maybe 3.
Fucking potheads. Buy your own fucking cigarettes. Never have any money, but they always have plenty of weed. I think it was the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers who said "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope." The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers probably never had a job either.
I try and take another sip of beer and realize I’ve already drained it. I take the empty shiny red plastic cup from my lips and scan the room. Standing on tiptoes, I try to see above the crowd so I can judge how far it is back to the keg, but I’m not tall enough. The crowd is elbow to elbow by now, and I make a decision (without even having to think) that I’m not going to try and brave the masses for more foam.
So I just stand there. I don’t feel like a cigarette anymore and I can’t drink, so I just stand there, trying to look suave but not wanting to draw attention to myself at the same time. It’s hard to do either when you’re standing by yourself against the wall holding an empty shiny red plastic cup.
By now, I’m having to force myself to swallow. Each time it feels like I’m about to choke or vomit or do something that would surely lead to A Scene, but thankfully, each time I avoid the embarrassing.
The Crowd parts a bit and Jake, a person I see all the time and every time have to make an effort to remember his name, walks to me. Jake is a tall lanky fellow, never without his faded black hooded sweatshirt covered in patches that say “Madness” and “DK” and things of that sort. Also never without a glassy, vacuous look on his face.
“What’s up, Tim?” he says vacantly.
“Nothing much,” I say. We immediately start looking around us, as if searching out more important people we should be talking to but in reality just trying to look as if we are searching out more important people we should be talking to.
“Man, I don’t know anybody here,” he says. I start fumbling around for my cigarettes again. This damned coat has, like, 12 fucking pockets.
“I don’t either,” I say back to him. He turns to look at me, ruining our Important People charade for a moment.
“You need a beer?” For the first time, I notice he’s walking around with a 6 pack in his hand. Three bottles are left. I stop the hunt for smokes.
“Sure,” I say as he hands one to me. “Thanks.”
“No problem man.” We resume pretending to look for people cooler than us that would want to talk to us. I twist off the cap, let it drop to the floor, and suck down a healthy swig.
Some asshole turns the hippy music up even louder and The Crowd registers its enthusiasm.
“So anyway, what have you been up to?” Jake asks, raising his voice to pitch above the Rusted Root or Phish or Grateful Dead or Insert Generic Hippy Band Here.
“Nothing much,” I yell back.
“That’s cool,” he says, nodding a few times absently. We spend another few moments standing there, looking around the room. “Later man,” he finally says, plunging himself back into The Crowd with a nod.
I start fumbling for my cigarettes again, my personal space having shrunk dangerously to only about two feet. I finally find my smokes and pop one to my lips.
The din of The Crowd, combined with the blaring hippy music, is reverberating in my head. Sweat is dripping off my brow and my hand is shaking a bit. It’s getting hard to distinguish individuals now. Just one big mass of flesh and smoke and music and shiny red plastic cups and short black skirts and thigh high boots and red sweaters and…
And then I see her.
She’s wearing a turquoise top with thin spaghetti straps, her black hair not up like she usually does it, but freely flowing down her neck and shoulders. I catch sight of her just as she is laughing at a joke told by someone unseen, her hand coming up to shield her open mouth as she giggles wildly, her other hand clutching a shiny red plastic cup.
I know Mary only peripherally. One of my friends, Kevin, knows her well, and every now and again I would be with him and he would bump into her and the two would talk and I would stand to the side and not say anything at all but still try my best to look my best and Kevin and she would stand there and jaw merrily and the moisture in my mouth would mysteriously disappear and somehow migrate to my palms and occasionally I would nod at an appropriate moment or say “hi” or “nothing much” or “fine” or just “heh” but she was just far too attractive to talk to like you would a human being.
I’m aware of the sensation of blood either flushing to or flushing from my face.
Mary was saying goodbye to the unseen joke teller and was making her way to the bathroom as I watched in some sort of fearful detached fascination, like that Russian guy who spends all his time watching Polar Bears in the Arctic, standing behind a camera sometimes only a few feet from them, staring into the viewfinder with an odd combination of interest, fear, and attraction. One time he got too close to a large female and instead of standing up and flailing your arms and yelling and advancing and whatever else it is you’re supposed to do to ward off bears, he stayed crouched down staring into the viewfinder, which apparently to a bear indicates that he was prey, so the bear went after him and he ran all the way back to his shack but the bear cornered him in his kitchen and the guy had to use pepper spray to finally drive the bear out.
I wonder briefly if Mary carries pepper spray.
I bring the forgotten beer bottle to my lips and suck down a third of the contents in one swill. I don’t like to admit this, but sometimes I get this weird sensation when I’m in crowds, especially social gatherings mostly filled with strangers. I look around, and I don’t see girls. I see vaginas. Walking, talking, drinking vaginas. I don’t mean in a literal sense. I’m not crazy or anything; I don’t see a bunch of vaginas shuffling around, drinking from shiny red plastic cups and laughing at unseen jokesters telling unheard jokes. Just as a concept. I see a girl and I think “vagina.” Like they’re something other than human. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Not at all. I think I’m just one of the few who consciously recognize it. I see guys all the time and I know they’re doing the same. They stand there and they say “Yeah, the snowboarding trip ruled…” or “Man, I’m so wasted…” or “So how have you been?” or “So what’s your major?” or “hi” and all they’re really saying is “Please baby baby please.” Pleading with vaginas. It’s so pathetic. But I don’t even see it like that. I’m just aware of it.
It’s sort of messed up, and pretty hard to explain.
“Oh HI Tim!” she says, making me jump. Oh yeah, Mary. I had been staring at her but not even realizing she was walking up to me.
I start fumbling around to find my cigarettes, almost in a panic.
“Heh,” I say. Dammit. I had a good working template going and I fucked it up already. “Hi, Mary,” I finally squeeze out.
“So how are you doing? I just came here with some friends but I don’t know where they…” For no apparent reason I suddenly tune her out unconsciously. I can’t figure out which fucking pocket I put my cigarettes in. I need a fucking cigarette.
Man, she has a beautiful smile. She’s saying something about how man, she’s so wasted but to me she sounds more like Charlie Brown’s parents than anything else. I still can’t find my fucking cigarettes and I’m furiously patting myself down trying to locate them. I know that if I don’t find them in another second or two I’m going to look like some sort of crazed freak on a bad acid trip but knowing that doesn’t stop me because I NEED TO FIND MY FUCKING CIGARETTES!
“Are you okay?” she asks, suddenly shifting her tone slightly.
“Fine, just looking for a cigarette,” I say quietly, barely above the goddamned bass-heavy hippy music that is scorching my ears. I make eye contact for a moment, registering how gorgeous her big brown eyes are, before suddenly averting my gaze and going back to the cigarette search. For some strange reason all I can think about are polar bears, vaginas, and cigarettes; the corresponding neurons firing so quickly that they jumble up into a single concept and coinciding mental image. My palms are sweating so much that I have to wipe them on my jeans every now and then before going back to the search of my coat pockets.
I can’t find them. I’ve searched all my pockets three or four times and they’re just not there. Somebody must have picked my pocket or something; some sort of conspiracy to make me look like a maniacal asshole.
“I gotta go,” I say hurriedly. “Nice talking to you.”
Mary registers a puzzled expression on her face but I barely have time to see how attractive it is as I shove past her and into the throng of writhing masses, stampeding my way towards the front door like a black rhino through the underbrush, people turning to stare at me as I barrel past them. Not in a run, but certainly in a rush. I feel dizzy. I am in a cold sweat. I just know, know, that I am about to hyperventilate or pass out on the floor or throw up or do something that would cause A Scene. I quickly walk through The Crowd, knocking more than a few shiny red plastic cups out of the hands of more than a few jocks and hippies and polar bears and woman who shout curses to my back, my head swimming the whole time. I can feel black specks buzzing into my consciousness, sure that I am going to pass out or go crazy or…..
I burst out the door of the apartment and into the cold night air. The moment the chill hits my face the panic starts to fade immediately. I stumble over to the end of the deck and lean on the railing, taking deep breaths.
I can hear the bass from inside the apartment, muted and distant and registering little more than a vibration in my boots.
I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“Hey Tim, you okay?” I look up at the voice. It’s Jake, looking at me with buzzed concern mingled with stoned fascination.
I sniff twice and stand up straight, zipping up my jacket for something to do.
“Yeah man, I’m fine. Just really fucking hot and crowded in there.”
“Yeah it was,” he said smiling, removing his hand and taking a swig of his last beer. “You need a ride home? Ben and I are leaving in a minute. Fucking don’t know anybody here.”
“Sure, cool. This place is dead anyway.” I reach into my pants pocket for a tissue, and instead discover my half-full pack of cigarettes. I hold them for a moment, still in my pocket, before taking them out and grabbing one.
Crashing through the thick brush, the leaves and twigs crunching under my feet as I fled, I can’t remember if the tears were because I was screaming inside or if they were because I kept getting whipped in the face with errant branches. I was trying to hunch down, an arm thrown forward to make my way, as I ran down the small hill into a heavily wooded ravine. It was late at night, and the lights from the neighborhood were fading away behind me as I made my way through the overgrown forest. |
In one hand I had a pack of my mother’s cigarettes. Merit Ultra Lights. Normally I would only pick off one or two at a time when I found an open pack lying around. Tonight, I had been brazen enough to just grab an unopened one from the cupboard, consequences be damned. In my other hand I was holding on to the cardboard handle of a six pack of wine coolers. There were only 4 bottles there. The wine coolers had been on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator door for what seemed like years. My mother wasn’t a big drinker. She went through a period of a few years after the divorce where she would go through a large cardboard box of white zinfandel in two days, but that had tapered off over time to the occasional glass of wine or two before bed. I was only 16, but in my household, you noticed such things.
They say if you have one parent who is an alcoholic, you have a 50/50 chance of becoming one yourself. My parents had split up when I was 12 because of my father’s drinking, so I suppose it’s lucky alcoholism never took with my mother as well, because then I would have really been screwed.
Because of my father’s drinking, alcohol was a taboo thing in my household, save for my mother’s occasional indulgence. My siblings and I had been indoctrinated for years about the evils of alcohol. We were told how it could turn a good man like my father into an adulterous bastard who would leave his family for beer and women half his age. We were warned over and over again how easily we could fall into the same trap. If we ever get drunk for the first time, we may very well fall into a downward spiral of alcohol and shame was the message. We were told how quickly it could all get out of control, especially given the history of my family. Alcohol was a grave, grave danger; that was the closest thing to a religious conviction my immediate family had.
Something had happened to me that day. A girlfriend had broken up with me. I failed a test. I had a fight with my best friend. I can’t recall what it was, but it was something that seemed vitally important to a 16-year-old boy and would just seem silly to me now. Whatever it was, it was so crucial that it had driven me to steal a pack of cigarettes and some wine coolers and to run out into the woods behind my house set on getting drunk for the first time in a place where my family or neighbors wouldn’t be able to see me. All the warnings of my mother and what I had seen of my father screamed at me that what I was about to do was akin to suicide. But at the moment, self-destruction seemed like a pretty good idea.
I hustled down the hill and finally found myself in a small nook behind a large felled oak. I carefully placed the wine coolers on the ground and lit myself a shaking cigarette as I stared at the Bartles and James at my feet. The cuts on my face from the heavy brush were being cleaned with the warm tears washing down my face leaving trails of warm stinging liquid mixing with blood. I looked hard through the smoke at the wine coolers in front of me.
“I really shouldn’t do this,” I thought as my hand went for a bottle.
I woke up 4 years later in a small institutional room with three beds. The sound of an electric razor—they didn’t allow regular razors here--is what had interrupted my sleep, though without the booze in my system, sleep had been difficult to achieve and even more difficult to hang on to. I had spent the better part of 5 hours that night in bed, tossing, turning, and sweating. Chris, a guy I had only met the day before, was in the small bathroom that belonged to our communal “drying out” room. The door to the bathroom was wide open, and he was standing in front of the sink wearing only a towel around his waist. He was humming to himself and smiling broadly. This was his 6th time in rehab.
“Good morning!” he said cheerfully when he noticed I had woken up. I grunted something in return.
“Didn’t sleep well last night, did you? I could hear you fidgeting most of the night.”
Chris shrugged it off.
“Didn’t bother me, I couldn’t sleep either.” He began to crane his neck so the razor could reach under his chin. “When you finally did knock off, you were talking in your sleep a lot. Pretty funny.”
“What was I saying?” I asked, swinging my legs over the side of the bed as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Another shrug from Chris in response.
“Couldn’t really make most of it out. Stuff about ‘get away from me’ and shit like that. I dunno.”
I let this pass as I hunted down some clothes. I didn’t want to talk to Chris. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had spent the two days since my arrival trying to not look like a person who wanted conversation. Unfortunately, at Valley Hope, it didn’t work very well. Drying up drunks and rehabilitation counselors are so Goddamned chatty. The place was filled with 60 patients and 20 or so staff who did nothing but talk about sobriety all the time. The recovering crack addicts, like Chris, were the worst of the lot. In a few moments, if I let him, he’d start interrogating me about my sudden sobriety. Was I having shakes? Was I sweating a lot? Did it feel like somebody had yanked me out of a pool and was making me stand by the side, wet, naked, and shivering, while they lectured me about going swimming less than 30 minutes after having eaten?
Rather than answering yes to all these questions, I grabbed my jacket and went outside to smoke.
I sat in Theron’s office, looking down at my feet, not wanting to meet his gaze. At Valley Hope, they assign you a counselor and a chaplain. Theron was my counselor.
He wasn’t all that older than I was. He was a short man in his late 20s, who had been to Valley Hope himself years ago to shake off a rather nasty crystal meth addiction. Despite looking like a teenager, he had a brassy baritone voice and was never without a wry grin that always said to me “you’re nothing special. I’ve seen your kind hundreds of times before.”
This was our second meeting. The first one, days ago when I was still living in the drying out room with Chris, had been more orientation than anything else. Since that initial meeting, I had been moved into a room of my own where I wasn’t as closely supervised.
After a moment of silence in which Theron waited to see if I would open up first, he started chewing on his pencil. He was always chewing on pencils whenever he was thinking.
“So Brad, why do you think you drink?” This was a stupid question, and we both knew it. We both knew that I had no idea why I drank; not many alcoholics do. Theron was asking because he wanted to see how I answer stupid questions. He wanted to see the face I present before he got under the mask.
“Why not?” I answered, forcing a fake smile of my own. He grinned back at me and I felt like punching him in the face.
“Well why are you here?” Another stupid question.
“Beats me,” I said, shuffling my feet.
“Well, your mother told us a bit about you when she came in here with you,” he said, taking the pencil out of his mouth and reaching for my file. “You just got fired from two jobs, the sixth and seventh in as many months. Last year you dropped out of college because your drinking had gotten out of control. OUI charge in June. Your friends and family were all very worried. They came to you and you agreed to come here. That about size it up?” I shrugged.
He put the file down and folded his arms, instituting another unbearable silence. Theron was absently chewing on his pencil. I could hear the sound of the wood clanging against his teeth as I stared down at my shoes, paralyzed. His teeth kept banging against the pencil as he waited for me to realize he had more patience than I did shame.
“I don’t think I really need to be here,” I finally whispered. The clattering pencil was silenced for a moment. “I’m mostly just doing this because my mother’s so worried.”
“Well, if you’re here, then you obviously need to be here,” he said with that grin.
I finally looked up at him at that, and he smiled warmly at the small accomplishment.
“What the hell does that mean?” I asked honestly.
“Well, people who drink normally don’t normally go to rehab. If it’s enough of a problem that you ended up deciding to come here, for whatever reason, you obviously belong here.”
“That’s sort of backwards logic, isn’t it? People deserve to be here just because they are here?”
Theron unfolded his arms and his eyes lit up. He swiveled around in his chair and opened his desk drawer, pulling out a laminated sheet of paper that he quickly handed to me.
On the paper was a brief quote, set against a brown background.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the cat. “Or you wouldn’t have come here.”
---Lewis Carroll, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’
I remember witnessing my first alcohol-withdrawal seizure. I had been at Valley Hope for a week by then, and had begun warming up to the community there. Having been sober for 8 days, I was actually beginning to feel good, physically and mentally, the side effect of which was me turning into a guy who liked to have conversations about sobriety.
Mike had been admitted 3 days prior. A construction worker from Kansas City, he didn’t say much. The most that you could get out of him was a nod or a smile, though he enjoyed playing chess, and would become chattier when sitting in front of the black and white board. He would start talking about his family, his children, and his job as his caustic leathery hands moved pieces around the board with an adroitness and intelligence that seemed to contradict his dirty flannel shirts, brown work boots, and green John Deere cap. But away from the chessboard, walking the halls of Valley Hope, he tried hard to not look like a person who wanted conversation.
He had been having a hard time of it since the moment he walked in the door. He couldn’t sleep, he had no appetite, and he was always shaking and sweating badly.
We were all in the classroom listening to the counselor talk about addiction and the lengths some are willing to go to fulfill their own imagined needs when from the back of the classroom there came a giant croak. I say croak because that’s exactly what it sounded like, as if some giant bullfrog were sitting back there and decided suddenly it needed a mate.
I looked around the room in stunned curiosity, scanning the room for the source of the surreal noise, and I saw a room full of people doing the same. Finally, all our eyes settled on Mike. His face was lifted in a pained sneer. One hand was dangling lifeless to his side; the other was raised as if he were a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The rest of his body was contorted and tight. You could see the veins in his neck protruding as if he were lifting something far too heavy for his strength.
When I spotted him, my brain shut down. It was too much for my senses to take, and so my body allowed me the mercy of simply stopping. The thought of running to help him never even occurred to me. I just sat there, glued to my red plastic chair, staring dumbly at the scene as if I were sitting in a theater watching some sort of crazy staged production that just didn’t make any sense.
The room erupted into chaos. A paramedic who was trying to get over an addiction to painkillers rushed over to him. The counselor tried to get us to back away and give Mike room. A few others ran out of the room to get the nurses. After a few minutes, we were all herded out of the classroom into the cafeteria, where we could calm down.
I remember the counselor looking at all our faces somberly as we stood in a group in the cafeteria, hushed and harried from the sudden experience.
“I’m really glad you got to see that,” he said quietly.
Days later I was walking to church with Chris. He and I had become friends by then; he seemed much less annoying when I wasn’t sweating alcohol out of my system. I had become close to a lot of people at Valley Hope. When you go through a major life-changing experience with a group of people, they become your family very quickly. Soldiers who find themselves in battle know this. Baseball players in the heat of a pennant race know this. By now, we knew it too.
Chris was rambling about the various going ons at Valley Hope. Gossip ran rampant among all of us. Who was sleeping with who? What former friend who had recently left the center had just relapsed? Who had stopped making their classes? What was that new guy like? What disparaging comment about Chris had John made, and how was Chris going to handle the situation? In a lot of ways, it reminded me of middle school. And it was very refreshing to us all. Caring about unimportant things is a step up from caring about nothing at all.
During my first week, a small group I was in gave me an assignment: write a letter to my father. It was not meant to ever actually reach him. I hadn’t heard from him for years and wasn’t quite sure where he lived. It was just supposed to be a way to put my thoughts down on paper. I had protested the assignment, assuring the leader of the small group it wasn’t necessary, that I really didn’t CARE about my father or my parent’s divorce. I was fine with it, I always had been. It had broken my siblings in various ways, and had torn apart my mother, but I had always been the strong one. I had always been the one who had “taken it well”. I was told to just do it anyway, and to take my time with it.
There were many times over the next few weeks when I had opened up a notebook, sat down with a pen, and just stared at the blank pages before giving up. During lectures I would sometimes let my mind wander to thoughts of my father and what, if anything, I had to say to him, always coming to the conclusion that the business with my father they kept harping on was nothing but a paper tiger. When laying in my bed at night waiting for sleep to take me, I would sometimes make a mental list of what I wanted to do the next day, always putting high priority on the letter to my father only to convince myself the next day that I had more important things to do.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would go to my small group session, and the first thing they would ask me was “Brad, have you finished your letter yet?” It got to the point where I loathed going to my small group because I knew they would pester me about a worthless assignment that held no meaning to me, or my recovery. Finally I got fed up with the procrastination and the irritating gentle reminders, and on my 21st day of rehab, I decided to just sit down and write.
By the time I got to “Love, Brad”, my face was soaked with tears and my eyes were red and puffy.
I stood outside the back door that lead to the parking lot, smoking a cigarette with eager anticipation, a backpack slung over my shoulder and a suitcase laying at my feet. twenty or so of my closest friends at Valley Hope—including Chris, Mike, and Theron--were standing around with me, all of us happily and anxiously chatting away, waiting for my mom to pull up to take me home for the first time in 28 days.
I was inundated with compliments, well wishes, and pats on the back from the group. All the attention was making me smile in spite of myself, warm blood coming to my cheeks in a blush as if I didn’t deserve to be this happy or this optimistic but just couldn’t help myself. Theron kept saying things like, “You’ve made a lot of progress here.” Chris would every once in awhile make a well-intentioned comment about how he remembered how happy he was the first time he left Valley Hope, followed by an uncomfortable silence in which we all allowed him the chance to amend his remark. Mike was telling me about how much the letter to my father moved him and how he had promised himself he would get back in touch with his kids because of it.
I just kept kicking at my feet with an idiotic “Aw shucks” look plastered across my face.
“Are you nervous?” Theron asked with that grin of his.
“Sure I am.” I answered, finally able to return the smile in kind. For the first time since I was 16, I felt really good. I felt like I was finally living my life again.
We all talked some more, as if it wasn’t just me, but all of us that were graduating into sobriety. The conversation was about me re-entering my life, sober for the first time in 4 years, but it felt more as if they were all building my confidence as I prepared to try to woo back an old lover. Take me back please, baby baby, please.
The moment we saw my mother’s car pull into the parking lot, we erupted into a sudden rush of hurried encouragements and a harried attempt at exchanging phone numbers. Last minute pieces of advice and happy returns were given as the group took turns jotting down their phone numbers in my notebook.
It took nearly ten minutes for me to finally get my luggage into the trunk and escape the small crowd before I slammed shut the passenger’s side door and my mother put the car in gear. As we drove away I was awkwardly craning my neck to look behind me at the people standing around the backdoor, waving me off. I still wonder what became of them all.
My mother pulled out of the parking lot, and after a few minutes, Valley Hope had faded away into the distance behind us. I turned around then to face the open road ahead, smiling broadly and letting out a deep breath of contentedness as I settled into my seat for the long ride home.
“Do they sell beer here on holidays?” I asked the clerk behind the counter. She gave me a puzzled expression in return.
“Ummm, yeeeah?” was her answer. My cheeks reddened at that. I wanted to tell her that I was from the parochial state of Kansas, where the liquor laws are so complex it was amazing that I had taken to memorizing them all. I wanted to tell her that I was moving to Maine. Look here, you can see my car outside with everything I own packed in it! I haven’t lived in the state of New York since I was 12, when my parents split up and my mother and siblings and I all moved back to Kansas. My father lives around here, somewhere, I think. At least he did when we left. It’s a valid question; in some states they won’t sell you beer on Veteran’s Day, which is too bad because that happens to be my birthday. Hell, this is the first time ever I’ve legally bought alcohol. I’m 21 today, you know, and I’m sorry if I’m not accustomed to this state’s liquor laws. After all, what do I look like, some kind of drunk!?
Of course I didn’t say any of these things to the clerk. I just nodded, handed over the 10 bucks for the 12 pack while she twirled her hair, and walked out.
When I got back to the hotel room I set the 12 pack next to the bed, turned on the TV, and plopped down in the chair. After a few minutes, I reached for the pack, ripped it open, and grabbed a bottle. The cool, wet glass in my hands sent a million sense memories shooting through my brain. I had cried the first time I ever got drunk. Then, it had seemed as if I had been setting into motion the mechanics that would one day bring death to me. Now, after 5 months of sobriety, it just seemed like something to do. It felt inevitable.
I twisted off the cap, flicked it across the room, and, holding the bottle by the neck, took a healthy swig.
When we opened up the new forum software, there was much talk of the poll feature and whether or not we would enable the feature. As we had many other things to work with at the time, we promised we’d re-visit the idea once things had settled down.|
Well, they have, and we did. After much deliberation among the admins, mods, and Dead Inside, we’ve decided to enable the feature.
We do have some reservations about it, however, and just to let you know we will be keeping an eye out in case it starts getting abused. We do have the ability to not allow specific members the ability to use polls if anybody in particular begins to abuse them, and if it gets too out of hand we may just disallow all polls in all forums and create a forum just for polls (or just disallow them altogether).
We don’t expect problems, but we will be watching for them.
So polls are now available to those that choose to use them. Please use them sparingly.
Check out the lovely Miss FunkaY on cell block 4.
Hey there. |
Time to change the bookmarks.
If you haven't been around during the last day, you may not yet know that we are now fully in the process of converting our old UBB board into a brand spanking new vBulletin board, with all sorts of bells, whistles, and significant advantages over the old board. We will never have to archive again, never have to delete old threads, and will now revel in the mucho better flexibility, reliability, and Dingleability that our new format allows.
While for the most part the format will look just as comfy and cozy as the old one, there are many significant features that we are sure to capitalize on in the future (and the present). There are terrific advantages for the members as well; all sorts of options that people have been clamoring for for many months are now here in full force.
So here is our new forum in all its glory:
If you haven't been around for awhile, check it out, put in an appearance. We bet you'll like what you see.
We haven't finished with it all yet. Many days will be spent throwing in hacks, upgrades, options, etc etc. So it is still under construction, though even now it is for all intensive purposes as usuable as the old one ever was.
So enjoy, stop by, kick your feet up, grab me a beer, and we'll see you on the boards.
Over and out.
In March of 1991 I was living in Rochester New York. I would have been about 12ish or so at the time I guess. It had been a fairly heavy winter that year as I recall, but nothing living in upstate New York doesn't prepare you for. |
But one particular night still lives in Rochester folklore. A night when Mother Nature stood up and screamed "you think this is YOUR planet? You think YOU'RE running the show? I'll show YOU who's running the show!"
For those that don't know, an Ice Storm is when freezing rain hits, and the temperature is still well below freezing. I don't know the meterological specifics, but basically what happens is the entire area is covered with water and then that water turns quickly to ice. The world quite literally becomes frozen in ice.
I remember only bits and pieces of the night it all happened. I was awakened very late at night to a tree in my room. It had fallen through my window and was now poking through my room only a few feet away from me. Outside it literally sounded like a war was going on. Enormous crashes, sirens, bangs, pops, and impacts.
For those that can't figure it out (as I couldn't at the time), most objects can't really withstand having 500 pounds suddenly added to its frame. Especially trees. They hate that. So what happens is that too much ice will encase a branch and then the branch falls. Too much ice encases a tree, and the tree simply topples. Old roofs and whatnot just collapse. And I'm not just talking about rickity sheds or small baby trees. I'm talking gigantic oaks will just come crashing down, destroying whatever happens to be in it's way. Magnificent old houses will shudder and topple. Office building windows get covered in ice and the entire sheet of ice some dozens of feet in area, will slide off whatever floor it is on and smash to the ground. Power lines and poles falling everywhere, on a city-wide scale (Rochester is by no means a small town). It was a total war zone.
We didn't sleep the rest of the night as I recall. The power went out all over the city at around midnight. We just stood huddled around candles in our basement listening to walkman radios for news and looking outside at the deafening noise of the sky falling just outside our range of site. Occassionally, a falling tree would tear through part of our home.
I can't really find much documentation on the net (this was a few years before the net "broke" but as I recall damage estimates as high as 5 or 6 billion dollars where being tossed around for that first night alone. The only thing that can really come close to the experience would be a major earth-shattering earthquake or volcano explosion. Martial law was declared before the sun even rose. The entire city was without power, and a good fifth without homes.
I remember when the sun finally rose, the morning after that violent night, when everybody first stepped out of their homes and took a look at the world around them.
It was, in a word, magnificent.
For those that haven't seen something like this it is almost impossible to describe or even convey. The first thing that struck you was not all the damage, the live electrical cables sputtering about in the streets, 75% of the trees lying horizontal, many on objects, the house next door looking like somebody had picked up a hundred year old oak and simply smashed it right through the middle of the structure, all the damage, all the destruction. No, the first thing that struck you was how awe-inspiringly beautiful the world looked. Everything sparkled. Everything was covered in ice, reflecting light in all directions. The world looked like it was encased in an exoskeleton of diamonds. The trees, the houses, the bushs, the grass, the street, everything. It was brilliant, it was so bright you had to put on sunglasses. It looked like some other world, some other planet, some fairy tale. We went to bed in just another suburban neighborhood and woke up in a land of fairydust. Indescribable.
After that wore off then the sheer power of the violence was seen. Decimated is a good word to use to describe what the city looked like. Like in The Regulators by Richard Bachman, it looked like some roaving band of people with enormous cartoon guns rode through the city and just destroyed everything in sight. It took your breath away. The city had, in a word, fallen.
My mother and new baby sister were in Kansas thank God visiting our family (where ironically enough they braved a tornado practically upon getting off the plane) and when we managed to contact them my father simply told his wife "I think you should just stay there another week or two." So it was me my dad my brother and my sister, the kids all around 12. I can't imagine how we got through it intact. If the power goes out for more then 30 seconds these days I go fucking batshit. We, like many, were without power for 16 days. 16 DAYS!!! It was like camping. We were stranded in the wilderness of suburbia.
The damage didn't stop that first night. The Ice Storm lasted another few days, though that first night was by far the worst and the nights that followed mostly consisted of "aftershocks". More problems arose when the ice started melting. Watching literally a ton of ice fall off a 9 story office building onto a parked car is pretty fucking cool albiet a bit of a shock. There was also a helluva lot of human goodness. It became like one big foxhole. Community spirit. There was one guy on the block who had a generator and he would spend his day going up and down the neighborhood plugging it into each house for about an hour. People let the people whose houses didn't fair to well stay with them, oftentimes complete strangers. People donated what they could to others, gymnasiums became shelters, a group of men would among falling ice and trees brave the weather to fix the old ladies roof down the street as quickly as possible, a neighborhood effort was made to track down the two missing dogs of our neighboor (who tucked tail and ran from the backyard the second the fence was smashed beyond recognition, we were all worried about all the downed live powerlines but they turned out okay). It really helped bolster my opinion that human beings are all basically good.
In any case after a few weeks order was finally restored and the city started rebuilding itself. Power came back on (that was a great day), roofs were mended, insurance companies declared bancrupcy, etc etc.
But I can't tell you how awesome the world looked that morning we all came out of our homes, rubbed our eyes, and stared at the world as if seeing it for the first time.
But I'll certainly never forget it.
I'm not a superstitious person by nature, but I believe there is a lot of stuff out there that I don't understand in the least. And, if cornered, I would have to say that people like the Native Americans and Wiccans and self-proclaimed witches probably have a better bead on "The Truth" then, say, Christians. |
I'd never really thought of anything like spirit animals or any of that sort of stuff. It just wasn't a notion that had any resonance or even meaning to me.
But a few years ago I had a dream, and this dream was re-occurring for about a month. I still get visions of it now and then. Tastes of it.
It was probably the clearest and most powerful dream I've ever had, and in telling it it's kind of hard to see why. It was just....different, then say casual dreams. Like one of those epiphany dreams in Stephen King novels. Just one of those dreams that you wake from and it is burned indelibly onto your soul, and that seems monumentally personally important even though you have absolutely no fucking clue why. Ever had a dream like that?
I was in a dark a thick forest and was feeling quite uneasy, just a general sense of dread that weighed on me to the point where it felt very physical. Like a yoke around my neck and shoulders. I was wandering through the forest, trying to find my way to somewhere, a clearing, a glade, anything to escape the dark and overpowering forest. I was wandering around, making a lot of noise as I would stumble in a general direction I felt I needed to go in. I wasn't lost exactly, but I didn't really know where I was or where I was going. I felt like I had been in this forest for a long time. Far too long. And the urgency to escape, to simply GET OUT, was overpowering.
In any case, I could begin to make out an area ahead, a clearing in the forest. Now, in the forest, there was almost no light. It was day, but the trees were so heavy it blocked out much of the light, and the light that did come through was itself dark, like the light during a very heavy thunderstorm.
In any case, there is this big ditch, and then a rise next to it, in the shape of like a medium sized ocean wave. I stumbled toward it, desperately wanting to get past it as it seemed to me that a clearing would be just beyond it.
Next thing I know, a bunch of wolves start coming out around me. From behind trees, just generally surrounding me, snarling and obviously wanting to do me harm. The Enemy.
They made their way around me and formed a circle, me being in the middle. I grabbed a big stick that was next to me, and starting brandishing it threateningly, waving it around and shouting, trying to scare the wolves off. From above me I could see more wolves on the top of the rise, I was at the bottom, in the trench. The wolves were closing the circle, and I was more scared and anxious then I can ever remember being, in life or in dreams. One came too close so I swatted it in the face with the stick, and it backed off a bit. But still they were closing their circle.
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. One of the wolves above me lunged down at me, and I swatted it in the side with the stick and moved out of the way, into the path of another lunging wolf, that I also swatted and dodged. Then all the wolves started lunging at me, and in that split second I leapt forward, using one of the wolves back as leverage, and leaped to the top of the rise and started running for what I now saw was a gorgeous clearing not 10 feet away. The wolves were right on my tail when I made it to the clearing.
Suddenly I was there. In the clearing. The wolves had stopped pursuing at the edge of the dark forest, and in the clearing I was bathed in warm light, but still I kept running, although this was a run of joy now. It was as if the woods were in the dead of a winter storm and this clearing was enjoying a gorgeous spring afternoon. Despite the fact that the wolves were obviously too scared to go into the clearing and were now retreating, I was still running.
Running in itself was absolute a remarkable experience. I felt the wind beat my face as I ran swifter than probably is humanely possible. It was euphoric, exuberant, whatever.
As I was running a herd of horses enveloped me. They were running also, running with me, I was dead in the middle. The one beside me was more beautiful than any horse I had ever seen, and we gave each other a knowing glance. I felt akin with them, a part of them, and a great affinity for them. This was safety, this was where I belonged. We weren't running anywhere in particular, just running for the sake of it, running as One. Even though it was just a dream, it was an experience I'll never forget. I felt more alive then I have ever felt. I was awash with vitality, love, happiness, and peace. Quite zen. It was a dream, yes, but that feeling was very real, and I have yearned for it everyday since.
When I awoke that morning, I was still not superstitious by nature. I still didn't have a clue as to "The Truth". I still had no clue about the Way Things Work.
But I knew with lucid certainty that the Horse was my spirit animal.
Hi! Big news!|
Say hello to our new column!
Existensial Dialetics by Spooky!!!
Look for a thoughtful excursion into grey matter every two weeks, as Spooky takes time out of his busy schedule to give you the low-down on the thoughts of smart dead guys.
As usual, please support the literary endeavors of our members by reading and then commenting on the pieces in the Suppository.
And WELCOME SPOOKY!!!!!
Showing 1 - 10 of 52