Saturday, December 31, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: GOUGE AWAY, The Pixies

Now nearly thirty years old, The Pixies' Gouge Away is one of that band's signature songs now. And like many songs on this list, it doesn't necessarily "mean' or refer to one thing. The images in the song are biblical, evocative of Samson and Delilah. And for the first several years the song was out, I believed the song was merely about the power and control issues inherent in any relationship.
Then I got together with, and addicted to drugs with, Sabrina's mother. And while the previous lens I saw the song through didn't vanish, what did happen was that I realized that drug addiction magnifies many "normal life" situations. And most specifically, I have not heard this song since about 1998 without thinking of the love triangle that the relationship became--with drugs assuming the position of power over both of us. 
The three day parties in the song were six or seven day runs in addiction, but many of the other images of the song had their analogue in our real life--or as real as an drug-soaked relationship can be. I remember nights when my locks were stroked; days when I woke up after passing out from exhaustion to find things gone, or myself under attack. I remember the desperate search for weed to take the edge off. I remember rubbing "bad charms" and a number of other ritualistic behaviors. And this is another song where the actual music reminds one of the discordant background noise of a relationship in addiction.
And although they don't make it into the lyrics, the live version of the song has Kim Deal singing "High, High, High" in one verse, and making noises of contentment in another very similar to the reaction when the high hits. All told, this is a nice, jarring reminder of what the reality of active addiction can do to a relationship.

Gouge away
You can gouge away
Stay all day
If you want to
Missy aggravation
Some sacred questions
You stroke my locks
Some marijuana
If you got some
Gouge away
You can gouge away
Stay all day
If you want to
Sleeping on your bed
You break my arms
You spoon my eyes
Been rubbing a bad charm
With holy fingers
Gouge away
You can gouge away
Stay all day
If you want to
Chained to the pillars
A three day party
I break the walls
And kill us all
With holy fingers
Gouge away
You can gouge away
Stay all day
If you want to

2016 Last Dance

It's technically New Year's Eve, although I am working night shift again and there's a full day and evening ahead. And I really cannot decide whether it was a good year or not. And no, this is not going to be one of those wistful, whining posts about the number of celebrity deaths in the past year. At the risk of sounding cruel, I don't care if celebrities die, especially when they're older than I am. Was it a shame Carrie Fisher had cancer and died at 60? Yeah--but it's a bigger shame that my peer group in high school has suffered about a hundred cancer deaths, out of a baseline population of about 3500, because IBM poisoned the ground here and then blew town, so far successfully resisting and delaying any day of reckoning for doing so, too. Is it too bad Debbie Reynolds died the day after her daughter? Yeah, it's sad--but the woman was 84 years old, and even in the modern age, 84 is on the far side of the life expectancy median. Debbie Reynolds lived a long and full life, and will be mourned--but it's not a tragedy.
And for the same reason, the election of 2016, although sickening, does not profoundly alter my daily existence, at least not yet. The one election I care the most about, that for county executive, went the way it needed to. If all politics are local, we're in better shape than we've been in for six years. And although the Trump administration looks ominous, I'm taking solace in the fact that he's a fake and a blowhard, and I'm counting on his career record of incompetence to mitigate the extent of the damage that might occur.
For myself, death came knocking too often this year. Several people I knew died from overdoses, and my daughter's good friend lost a 13YO sister to suicide brought on by mental health conditions. And the drug epidemic took a toll even among those whose life it didn't claim. Two good friends are in prison, out of chances, because of their relapses. The specter of drugs, for the third consecutive year, flipped over the table between my most significant  other and myself; and I've long since grown tired of picking up the pieces and holding the fort down. I was unemployed the first quarter of the year, and although my career has resumed and I am grateful for the job, it's proving very difficult to make up lost ground. My daughter has endured a very stressful and at times painful year, and that has eaten away at my own heart for far too long.
There are reasons for optimism looking ahead to 2017, to be sure. Sabrina has, at least for the moment, dropped the albatross of a boyfriend; whether they stay broken up, and/or whether the next installment is an improvement, remains to be seen, but at least the known quantity has been sidelined, at least for now. My own relationship is both in a familiar limbo--me waiting on her to get out of an institution--and heading for new territory--the commitment ante has been upped on both ends, and if it's going to work, a few necessary adjustments have already been implemented. On the recovery side, it was a year of recommitment to the process--I changed sponsors, actually did some real step work for the first time in years, gained some new insight, and opened a whole other dimension to my recovery. The home group I joined near the end of last year served well for the year, till the end; it's no longer a comfort zone and I'm not going to be able to attend it regularly going forward, so I just officially changed it the other night to another meeting that I have grown to love. I got hired for a different position in a different program in the same agency in September; although it has been excruciatingly slow transferring, I am reliably assured that my last night shift is going to be January 21-22. I am again eager to move on; I had grown comfortable for a bit back at this job, but recent developments have reminded me of just how fragile a good roster of kids can be--and how much just one roster change can poison an entire work environment. And the possibilities for career advancement seem to be greater in the new program.
Am I happy? Yeah, on balance. I am going to see Lauren today, which always cheers me up, and it is now just over seven weeks until she comes home. And if there is something that I have relearned and grown grateful for, it's the notion that my material needs will be met if I do the right thing consistently, and that my judgment is generally sound. It's taken a long time for the potential that attracted me to Lauren to begin with to finally percolate to the surface, and it's unfortunate for her that she has had to go through what she has gone through to get it to rise to the top--but it is there, and she is, at least for the moment, happy and appreciative. I am glad to see Sabrina snapping out of her funk; she isn't "over" the fuckboy just yet, but I'm glad to see her take steps to  reassert control of her life, and it has reaffirmed my faith in her general capabilities. And as hard as coming to work has been the last few weeks, knowing that this difficult youth has exhausted the patience of authority and that he will soon move on has given me the strength to keep showing up--and as I mentioned, I am looking forward to the next chapter.
A few toxic influences in my life have been removed; others, I have taken steps to actively avoid and keep at bay.  I have become involved in the fellowship again, on a different level than ever before; it's kind of nice to be viewed as a bit of an elder statesman, and even better to asked for input but not being loaded with additional responsibilities, at least not yet.
So as the last day of the year ticks by, I am OK with the going forward. Because I am moving in that direction, too.

Friday, December 30, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: REPO MAN, Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop is one of the most notorious and long-lasting users of drugs in the world of music. How ironic is it, then, that his best song about addiction was a song written for the soundtrack of a movie? Yet Repo Man, from the 1984 cult classic movie of the same name, is a genuine masterpiece, without being terribly explicit, about what it is like to live an alienated, drug-infested life.
The lyrics make reference to several different drugs, and near the end of the song, the singer acknoweldges that he is what addicts call a "garbage head"--"using my head for an ashtray." But the song is full not necessarily of using references, but rather a listing of reasons why he feels like he needs to get high. "The river of a useless land" is one of the picturesque descriptions of an empty culture I've ever heard. "Infinity" throwing a curve that dumps one in "shit you don't deserve." Life roaring by in a blur. No inspiration coming from drinking, and a thin skin besides. And the memory of teenage awkwardness and loneliness. And the constant refrain of "looking for the joke with a microscope" points to the real problems--the pain that fuels addiction is never relieved, but is never-ending.
The song ostensibly is a justification for why the singer is in a dead-end, unrewarding job like a repossession agent. By accident, almost, Iggy Pop wrote a classic. And musically, the guitar work of Steve Jones, of Sex Pistols fame, help tells the story, too--it is a driving, consistent, strong, and ultimately kind of tiresome rhythm, one that is a perfect metaphor for the unrelenting shittrain that is the life of the singer.
By the way, the movie was great. If it was before your time--watch it on You Tube. It's worth it.

And the lyrics:
I was riding on a concrete slab
Down a river of a useless land
It was such a beautiful day
I heard a witch doctor say
Ill turn you into a toadstool

I'm looking for the joke with a microscope

A muscle twitch, an auto it swerves
You want to speak you lose your nerve
Infinity throws you a curve
Dumps you in shit you don't deserve

As life roars by you in a blur
Leaves you murmuring a dirty word

A page out of a comic book
A chicken hanging on a hook
A reverie, a babbling brook
A sermonette, a TV. cook

Shaking my hand at your fake head
A suicide, a certain look

A microphone, a blues guitar
Piques a feeling near and far
Stupidity a mental scar
Cruel cruelty, oh cruelty
Harboring no inspiration
An alcoholic at the bar
Every insult goes to far

I was pissing on the desert sands,
When the desert whispered to me,
It said, isn't this a shame?
Things will never be the same...
I've learned this gets me so edgy

Now I'm looking for the joke with a microscope

I was a teenaged dinosaur
Stoned and obsolete
I didn't get fucked and I didn't get kissed
I got so fucking pissed

Using my head for an ashtray

Now I tell you who I am
I'm a repo man
And I'm looking for the joke
Yeah I'm looking for the joke
I'm looking for the joke
Looking for the joke
Looking for the joke
Looking for the joke with a microscope
I been looking for the repo repo repo repo man
Looking for the repo repo repo repo man
Looking for the repo man
Looking for the repo man
Looking for the repo man
Looking for the repo man...


Cold Silence is James Abel's latest Joe Rush thriller. This story is a nightmare scenario straight out of the fever dreams of terror response planners; a manufactured virus, combing traits of leprosy and necrotic fasciitis, is released in the country, with deadly results. The perpetrator is a Jim Jones-type preacher, and Rush, a Marine doctor, and his team race against time to find him and the antidote. It's pretty standard potboiler fare, except for the twist that the personal danger to the hero doesn't end with the demise of the villain. Overall, this is a pleasant diversion to kill a day or two.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: OTHERSIDE, Red Hot Chili Peppers

It didn't take a genius to figure out that Otherside had something to do with drugs; the line "push the trigger and pull the thread" really doesn't have too many alternative meanings. But the "other side" that is present throughout the song is the battle that every addict faces when trying to stay clean after getting clean.
The first few times I heard the song, I actually thought of a scene, repeated several times during my active addiction "The ashtray's full and I spilling my guts/she wants to know am I still a slut". How many times did that conversation take place--it was a dozen if it was once, and for people who are deep in active addiction, this is a point of conflict that never quite subsides, especially if one or both partners is selling their bodies because it is the only salable commodity either possesses. And while I did not sell myself, I was often accused of cheating (not entirely without reason, especially toward the end)--and sometimes it seemed as though we spoke of nothing else. Those scenes are seared into my memory... and it did have a salutary effect after I got clean. I never, ever have brought up what has to be done to get the next one to any woman I've dated clean who is also clean. I've also not stepped outside a relationship since the one with Sabrina's mother ended with 20 months clean. Women in recovery tend to be--suspicious, certainly insecure. And I have made it a point of commitment over 16 years to be able to answer, to the question "Are you still a slut?,"no.
The going back and forth between using and stopping for a short period is not part of my recovery story. But it is a part of the vast majority of the people in recovery, and I can certainly identify with it, because every time I woke up during the last 18 months of active addiction, I swore I was not going to pick again--until I did. "I tear it down, and then it's born again." And the plaintive cry that is the song's refrain--"How long must I slide?" is another phrase that active addicts ask many times a day. Bottoms may hurt like hell when you reach them--but they are never quite a surprise, in the sense that the addict always knows that they are in free fall.
And no one hates what they have become more than themselves.

The lyrics are in the video.

In The Rain Gutters Of Social Media

It was a day when very little actually happened, but you'd never know that from social media and the crap that was percolating through it. Before the day was out, I had to employ the War Games Principle a few times, in the interest of maintaining (inner) peace and keeping chaos and drama at bay.
The first thing that crossed the radar today was someone posting a screenshot of text messages that made it clear that the McHale Experience has been released from wherever she was. I had blocked her phone number months ago, because I really do not want to deal with her ever again, and when I checked my Verizon Wireless account. I discovered that blocks only last 90 days. Of course, I reinstated it, and then made a decision that I had wrestled with in the summer. I blocked her, even though we are not Facebook friends, on Facebook. I don't want her to have any inkling of what I am doing, and I am not in the least bit interested in what toxic webs she is no doubt weaving already. And then I commented on another friend's post later in the day, and some other person that I'm not friends with somehow came to the conclusion that I was casting aspersions on her (less than savory) judgment and character.
Which led me to do something I should have done a long time ago. When I was hanging our with the Experience, I became acquainted with, in some cases re-acquainted with, a number of people from a village about 15 miles from Binghamton. And without exception, every one of them has had major addiction problems, a few have proven to be serious douchebags (of both genders), and is the breeding ground for the two most gangrenous souls I have ever had the misfortune of meeting, the Experience and a brook I should be leery of ever crossing again (and won't have to anytime soon, since she was just sentenced to four years in state prison). As a matter of fact, I could think of only one person from this place that I even remotely like--even she is fairly messed up and puts far too much of her family stuff out for public consumption, but unlike the others, I don't truly believe she's terminal. And she is the only one that I did not end up blocking before the day was out.
I just don't need the drama and the bullshit, and it isn't like any of them are ever going to show up in 12-Step meetings for any length of time anyway.
And I had cause to think to myself that I am glad that I have enough self-assurance and maturity to not ride the relationship merry-go-round like so many others. There was one in particular that caused me to literally shake my head. A week ago, her man had left to go to the store and didn't return for several days, without any word at all, and she was "through" and all the noise you usually hear. The day after Christmas, there were a zillion pictures of a happy family Christmas and a "promise" ring on her finger...sigh. This was the second or third time in the last few months that the guy departed, and I'm pretty sure it's going to happen again. And we'll get treated to more posting about how she's had enough, and then he will back like nothing ever happened a week later... we all know people like this. I'm more sad than anything else when I see this sort of stuff; it must be a painful existence, to wait for the next storm, to have old wounds reopened so regularly.
I'm not perfect in that regard; I'm well aware that I'm on my fourth go-round with my own significant other. But I've never lost myself in any of times we've been apart; my dignity has been bruised more than once, but never shredded, and I've been much more circumspect than many others are about what I put on social media about it all. Indeed, one thing that has helped us repair the damage between us is that the world has not been exposed to all the dirt, and that name-calling and manipulative posturing and prosecution briefs have NOT been part of what the bits I have posted about what has happened.
But part of being active on social media is that you see a lot of it, and sometimes you see things you want to comment on. With rare exceptions, I resist temptation these days. And I do a lot more private messaging than I used to; you can accomplish a lot more if someone doesn't feel embarrassed or made to look foolish.
And I like it better this way.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: SEMI-CHARMED LIFE, Third Eye Blind

Semi-Charmed Life was one of the most popular songs in America during the months when my active addiction was at its worst, and for the first few months I was clean, as well. The song is very chipper and energetic, with a nice little happy beat, and there are a lot--a lot--of words crammed into a 4 1/2 minute song. So many, in fact, that I was only just to beginning to understand the full meaning of the song when I got arrested and then went to rehab. One of the many great things my friend and roommate Rocco did for me while I was at Boca House was give me a greater understanding of this song. But I promptly forgot it as soon as I wasn't hearing it every day, and I didn't really remember it until my daughter got into '90's music a few years ago. And its full impact, its full statement, is still very very circumscribed by the censorship prevalent when Tipper Gore was the Second Lady; the words "crystal meth" were unintelligible in the radio version, and the most explicit set of verses were cut out of the radio version entirely.
But this song is painfully accurate to anyone that has lived through active addiction while part of a relationship. I have never done crystal meth, but crack has many of the effects, and once I got the whole picture and all the words to the song, it hit me--well, like the plane crash mentioned in the lyrics. Combined with an exquisite level of craftsmanship--the harmonies are perfect, the many words are fit into the rhythms in a Dylanesque way, and the music tempo reflects the up and down of feeling while using wonderfully--and the fact that this song is a member in good standing of what I started calling, nearly 40 years ago, an Excitable Boy (after the Warren Zevon song of the same name) song--where the happy, grooving music is completely at odds with the subject matter.
The first series of verses sets the scene; this is a couple into their sex, drugs, and rock n'roll. In the beginning, drugs are fun to use with someone you're into. I'm not going to go into details, but I am going to say that the first few months I was with Sabrina's mother, a lot of inhibitions went by the wayside, and a lot of fun was had. And most addicts will tell you that the deeper into drug addiction they fall, the less enjoyable, and then the less interested, one becomes in sex. That was true for me; as a matter of fact, I grew very tired of her and really was only interested in sex (and not very, at that) with other women by time addiction ended. "I want something else", indeed. And I was tired of smoking crack--actually, I was tired of the problems that increasingly were associated with obtaining it. To the point where I was saying, a LOT, near the end that I was tired of it.
But I, and we,  didn't stop. And as often as Shannon and I fought, as tired as I was of her and she of me, neither one of us was listening when the other said goodbye. Because the other always came back, whether it be minutes, hours, or at most a day or two. And in the same way, our protestations that we were "done" were ignored, too. In one of the most shameful things I ever remember doing, I finally got her to agree to be admitted to the local rehab--and then I convinced her to leave 36 hours later. Because we just kept using, kept "bumping," always searching to "get back there," to the time and place when using was fun and we weren't so terribly sick of one another.
And the part that was cut from the single version is the part that I most identified with:
And you hold me, and we're broken
Still it's all that I wanna do, just a little now
Feel myself, heading off the ground
I'm scared, I'm not coming down
No, no
And I won't run for my life
She's got her jaws now, locked down in a smile
But nothing is alright, alright

No, I was not "coming down." Not voluntarily. I was scared all the time. I wouldn't run for my life; my addiction came to an end because I stopped dodging the dealer I owed money to.  And nothing, nothing was alright. 
The further we get away from the 90's, the more I appreciate Third Eye Blind. How's It Gonna Be is another song about relationships that has deeply affected me and that I have identified with strongly, and Jumper, too, and it's a real shame that the music world changed on them right after their career started. But whoever wrote their songs had a level of insight into relationships and the effect drug use had within them than hardly anyone else ever did.
I wanted something else to get me through this life. I am very fortunate that I found it, with relatively less pain and fuss and consequences and yet more pain than most of my contemporaries and peers. It's no longer a "semi-" charmed life, It's now charmed.
 The video I am including is the full version, not the radio cut, and includes all the lyrics for good measure.

The Closing Of A Window

While the self-image that Americans have of themselves as the great shining City on the Hill, the colossus dedicated to truth, justice, and the American Way, has always had the ring of denial, especially for those Americans that are not male and Caucasian, it nonetheless did serve as the national ideal, the cultural myth that guided our souls and provided a moral framework for a very large majority of our citizens. Even the powerful that would have preferred to ignore that image in the pursuit of wealth, power, and influence had to pay heed to it, for a very long time, and especially after the New Deal took root in the country. Growing up in the 1960's and 1970's, it was absolutely inconceivable to me and almost everyone else in my generation that the moral commitment to a flawed but fundamentally just society would be altered in any significant way.
But the story of my adult years, on a national scale, has turned out to be the story of how that commitment has been altered, and is continuing to be altered. There has always been an element of injustice in American society, especially in the area of the country that tried to leave the Union in the 19th century. But what I am talking about is something new, something not seen before, and something that is changing the shape of American society beyond recognition. It's not even just Trump; he's a symptom, a result, not the actual issue and of himself.
There has always been an element of partisanship in American politics, sometimes harshly so. But in the last thirty years, the tendency of one side to view the other as disloyal, as traitorous, has taken root. Or maybe that's just the rhetoric employed to justify the means of power employment, of going beyond accepted and traditional norms to change the way of governance and ultimately the culture of at least some of the country. And once the painting of those opposed to that side as disloyal began to set in concrete, it was easier to justify ignoring the laws, precedent, and standards of fairness in order to grab and consolidate power, and, incrementally but truly, to erode what we liked to believe were inalienable and unchangeable standards of our "democracy."
It's not Trump's Twitter account that bothers me. It's not the more naked exercise of racism. It's not even the demonization of Democrats in many parts of the country. It's not even the predatory capitalism that has become the normal economic model in the USA in the last generation. They are all unpleasant, and they are signs of problems, to be sure. But what is new, and frightening, are the blatant manipulation and (to call it what it is) cheating by Republicans in the last decade or so that is scaring me. It was the outright lying to start the Iraq war. It was the legal falsehoods generated to set up the surveillance state. It was the absolute refusal to govern, the obstructionism, the blind opposition to Obama that marked his entire Presidency. It was the refusal to fill slots in the nation's judiciary, up to and including the Supreme Court. It was the awful, illegal, and incredibly partisan gerrymandering of congressional seats after the 2010 election. It is the using the ill-gotten results of elections to build supermajorities in state legislatures to take actions like the effective outlawing of unions in Wisconsin, of effectively banning abortions in Texas, of creating a police state for non-Caucasians in Arizona, of the continuing attempts to make Alabama a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, of privatizing public utilities in Michigan to the point where a large city has not had a safe water supply for three years, where a dozen states have effectively disenfranchised large numbers of legitimate voters, where every state has gone to a vote counting system where manipulation of the vote totals is easier than it ever was.
But what is happening in North Carolina is the coup de grace, an actual Third World gambit that I would never have believed, even five years ago, would be allowed to happen in America. The overwhelmingly Republican legislature first fought the election of a Democratic governor by every means fair and foul, and then, when the result became official, decided to pass laws that cut away and restricted the power of the governor to near zero. It is a coup, plain and simple; it is not a refusal to cede power, but instead a taking of the power of the executive branch into the hands of the legislative. And North Carolina is hardly the only state with Republican supermajorities, and I have a feeling we are going to see this move repeated all over the country before long.
This is not American, or any other kind of, democracy. This is crap you read about happening in places like Belarus and Cameroon and Iran. This is unprecedented. And no one seems to care, and no one seems to be fighting it with any kind of effectiveness. This is not Trump's doing, or something that I think he even approves of (if there is one thing I believe about Trump's governing philosophy, it is that he believes in the power of the executive branch).
The rot goes deeper than that. With the voting franchise restricted, and the vote counting mechanisms compromised, we are well along into the process of losing what was a flawed but real democracy. And it is being replaced by a joint junta of moneyed interests intent on extracting as much wealth out of the country and its populace as possible, legalities and decency be damned, and by a bunch of ideological zealots who care not for facts or truth and intend to force their views on all of us. The two forces are not identical, but there is enough convergence of interests to make the power grab real--and the one point of agreement that they share is that those that dissent from their views and visions is not only wrong, but illegitimate, and as such needs to be suppressed and punished.
American democracy is not in trouble because Trump was elected President. It has been in trouble for a long, long time, at least as far back as 1994 and maybe even as far back as 1966. I truly believe that the roots of the current political situation go back to the Johnson Administration--and not to the formation of the Great Society, but to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Racism is the patch of gangrene on the national soul, and it has not only not been eradicated, but it is survived and been resurgent in all sorts of ways virtually since the passage of the law 51 years ago. The number of people in prison has quadrupled since 1980--and disproportionately filled with non-whites. The initiatives undertaken to materially help minorities in the 1960's and 1970's have been gutted--not necessarily by outright legal discrimination, but by making harder for everybody. The upward redistribution of income has been simply breathtaking, to the point where actual affluence has become an unattainable goal for almost all Americans regardless of race or creed. The elites that benefited from racism and the restrictions on immigrants in place up until World War II have reasserted their dominance, and did so by figuring out that it was easier to do so by bringing everybody down, not just targeting minorities.
And this is what we have. It is the tendency of every generation to assume that the state of "normality" as they come of age is going to be permanent. I've seen a lot, a lot, of change take place in the world since I was young. The Cold War sure seemed permanent in the 70's and 80's--but the Communists have been out of power in Russia for a quarter-century now. Unions sure seemed to be a permanent part of American life in the 70's and '80's--but now, proportionally, fewer non-agricultural workers are union members than the percentage of non-peasants that were part of guilds in medieval Europe (think about that for a while). The country that excoriated the Soviet Union for its heavy-handed militarism in the 1970's now intervenes all over the globe, without even deigning to make a propaganda excuse anymore. The country where "freedom" is a buzzword locks up more of its citizens than any other place on earth, and spies on its own people as bad or worse than any "police state" of forty years ago did. The forces of "law and order" here kill with impunity. Those enforcing the will of the American power structure overseas were despised by a large segment of the American people circa 1970 (even as many of those that fought were drafted against their will); now an all-volunteer force that "polices" the world with brutality and with questionable motivations are monotonously and dubiously dubbed "heroes" by a fawning media, predatory power structure, and ignorant general population.
The window that was open to a better and brighter world that seemed possible two generations ago, when American stood tall against fascism, and a generation ago, when America served as a beacon of hope and an alternative to the drab and soul-killing emptiness of Communism, is closing fast. It is especially depressing to those of us that lived through and witnessed the last decades of the Cold War. Did we really struggle so mightily and for so long only to, after "victory", to ape the "defeated?" Because the government and power structure of the United States of America is starting to look more and more like that of the Soviet Union with every passing year--minus the ostensible commitment to its citizens that even that awful, decrepit, failed system paid lip service to. I really never thought this was possible here, that the warnings of Sinclair Lewis and George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter Thompson were hyperbole, products of paranoid imagination.
They were not.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Far From An Axe & Hardly Broken

Greetings unknown audience! My name is KellyJean and I'd like to take the VERY brief moment in which I should be attending my responsibilites to instead introduce myself.  Well maybe more like introduce my presence & simply my intentions. I have graciously accepted the kind and thoughtful offer made by my buddy Steve, to become a 'contributor' here on his personal blog.  I have been blessed to become aquainted with Steve earlier this year as I crossed the threshold between 2 different ways of life, and embarked on the journey of recovery.  Steve is what "they" better yet: what "we" call a predecessor amongst the fellowship that he and I are proudly members of. So before I could even start to get to know him on a semi personal level, I held respect for him and valued the experience, strength and hope that his time alone offered. As time has gone by I have developed my own perspective and opinion of who I see him to be, beyond a predecessor.  Steve, much like myself, is certainly an intellectual who possesses & is also capable of thinking with depth.  Depth, to the level that I am referring to, is found few and far between in my experience.  I suppose I believe that any and all are CAPABLE of growing, expanding and obtaining such depth...but I haven't seen that happen in any capacity worth mentioning.
But anyway, I am not sure what my contributions will be yet, but I do know that writing is therapy to me. So random thoughts, specific personal topics, thoughts stirred from certain events.....I don't know where this road is going to take me but I do know that I am excited to start engaging my intellect again and sharing it for the unknown to absorb.....Ive got a few different ideas for my first official entry but wanted to introduce myself first and acknowledge my humbled acceptance of Steves offer to be a contributor here on his personal space. So thanks buddy for the push I needed to start engaging in a way I once loved to.

Till next time
Forget me Not.....

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: WALKIN' ON THE SUN, Smashmouth

Walkin' On The Sun was the debut song from Smashmouth in the late 1990's, and it's popularity spanned the end of my active addiction and the beginning of my recovery. It quickly gained some notoriety for its acidic commentary about the commercialization of hippie culture, and that was a part of the song's message, to be sure. But just as prevalent was the idea that the relatively harmless drug activity of smoking pot ("toking' is mentioned more than once in the song) has also become commercialized--and dangerous.
This song, too, has its place in my recovery process. The closest I ever came to relapsing was in August 1999, with just over nine months clean. I am not going to tell the entire story, but I am still clean today for a couple of reasons. One is that all the meetings I had gone to up until that day kicked in, and even though I had already given money to someone to go cop for me, I still decided to give my sponsor a chance to talk me out of using before I actually picked up. I don't really recall anything specific he said in the twenty minutes I gave him, but as I left his house, I was now undecided about whether to keep the rendezvous with the person I had asked to go cop for me (she had used with me in the past, and there was no doubt that she was going to meet where she said to meet; she knew I dropped hundreds and even thousands of dollars during a run, and shared liberally. And she ended up coming in the rooms a couple of years later, and she told me she waited at Liliana's for a good hour waiting for me to come back before deciding to smoke it up). I turned on the radio, and this song was playing.
And I had heard this song fifty times if I had heard once before that afternoon, but I swear to God, I had never paid attention to the last two lines of the song. "Put away the crack before the crack puts you away/you need to be there when your baby is old enough to relate." I remember sitting at the stop sign, just staring at the radio, not believing what I had just heard, clear as day. I had just sent someone to buy me three bags of crack, nine months after I had been locked up for possession, and just over three months after being sentenced to three years' probation for it. But one of the many things that had gone wrong that day, one of my excuses for thinking I needed to get high that day, was that a visit with Sabrina, then still in foster care, had been cancelled that day. I had also been speaking to my caseworker--actually, Sabrina's caseworker-- the previous week, and she had indicated that although I was complying with the service plan, she still didn't think much of my chances to successfully raise Sabrina, and one reason she gave was that I took Sabrina, when I had her, to meetings with me. I remember raging against her ignorance and her prejudice-- and I would do the same today, because it is just as ignorant and prejudicial as it was then--and the worker sarcastically asking me, "Do you think she's going to relate to anything said there?" The comment stuck in my craw, and I have to tell you that she is two week short of her eighteenth birthday, she has gone to an awful lot of meetings over the years, and she must have related to something, because she doesn't use drugs of any kind, including alcohol, and is actually pretty intolerant of her peers that do.
Anyway, the point is that I never showed up at Liliana's, and thus my original clean date is still my only one. And this song has something to do with that.

It ain't no joke I'd like to buy the world a toke
And teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
And teach the world to snuff the fires and the liars
Hey I know it's just a song but it's spice for the recipe
This is a love attack I know it went out but it's back.
It's just like any fad it retracts before impact
And just like fashion it's a passion for the with it and hip
If you got the goods they'll come and buy it just to stay in the clique

So don't delay act now supplies are running out
Allow if you're still alive six to eight years to arrive
And if you follow there may be a tomorrow
But if the offer's shunned you might as well be walkin' on the sun

Twenty-five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin' and clappin' man what the hell happened
Then some were spellbound some were hellbound
Some they fell down and some got back up and
Fought back 'gainst the melt down
And their kids were hippie chicks all hypocrites
Because fashion is smashin' the true meaning of it

[Repeat Chorus]

It ain't no joke when a mama's handkerchief is soaked
With her tears because her baby's life has been revoked
The bond is broke up so choke up and focus on the close up
Mr. Wizard can't perform no godlike hocus-pocus
So don't sit back kick back and watch the world get bushwhacked
News at 10:00 your neighborhood is under attack
Put away the crack before the crack puts you away
You need to be there when your baby's old enough to relate

[Repeat Chorus]

You might as well be walkin' on the sun
You might as well be walkin' on the sun
You might as well be walkin' on the sun
You might as well be walkin' on the sun

Book Review: BLOODLINE

Bloodline is Conn Iggulden's third installment of his series of historical novels about the War of the Roses. This book focuses on the rise of Edward IV to the throne, the imprisonment of the prior king Henry VI, and the turn of fortunes for the Neville family, who had been instrumental in deposing Henry before Edward married and who had fallen out of favor after the king married a woman of the Woodville family. Iggulden generally does a good job in his work, and this book is no exception; it would have taken me a day to read if it had not been Christmas time. What is notable in this work is the absolute savagery that engulfed England during this time; it was a true Darwinian nightmare, and death and misfortune came seemingly out of the blue. I am anxious to see how the series is going to end; the eventual last "Rose", Richard III, is already part of the narrative.

Monday, December 26, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: HATE ME, Blue October

Hate Me came out about ten years ago, and I remember this song fairly well because of a sponsee I had at the time. He was kind of/sort of trying to recover, but was handicapped by three big factors: 1) his ex-wife was (and is) an established member of the fellowship, 2) he was between jail bids, and he knew it; he had done a small sentence in this county, but was facing a year's term in Pennsylvania, which he eventually had to serve, and 3) he really didn't want to change. But he did feel guilt and remorse about much of what he had done in the previous two decades, to both his ex-wife (a feeling he managed to lose for at least part of every day, but it was real) and his daughter (which he did feel ceaselessly, at least at that time), and I remember him saying to me that he felt like he could have written this song.
It is written from the viewpoint of someone newly sober (three months) that is realizing the enormity of the problems of his addiction, and how badly he had treated those whose only crime was that they loved someone who didn't act lovably. The self-hatred that is constantly referenced in the song, that is its title, is something that is very real in early recovery. Amends seem to be too monumental a task to even contemplate, and as the full scope of the damage becomes clearly, it truly does seem to the person in early recovery that the partner/child really ought to hate him--because he would deserve it. It is a measure of how soul-deadening active addiction is that the concept of forgiveness, of loving someone even though they do hurt us, is beyond us.
It is also a measure of the self-centeredness that is the actual disease of addiction. It relieves the addict of the responsibility of making amends if the people they are owed to hate him and don't want him around. It also is a convenient excuse, both to not examine the addiction period in detail, and also provides a ready-made reason to relapse. When I heard, and still hear, this song, this is what I hear, what I see--not the remorse, but the self-interest and absorption that underlies it. This is nothing more or less than the recently-sober singer trying to backdoor-manipulate either forgiveness or a reason to give up.
Seeing it for it is does not make it less genuine. Indeed, this is a necessary phase of true recovery. The positive of the song and the sentiments is not what is being said, but the facts that the effort is there and that they are being said out loud. A closed mouth does not get fed; if the addict does not voice these sort of feelings, they cannot be (hopefully gently) influenced to see that the disease of addiction, contrary to what they want to believe, is still alive and kicking after the substance is down. It's the self-centeredness, the obsession with themselves, that needs to be addressed for long-term recovery to take place, not merely staying abstinent for a length of time.

(If you're sleeping are you dreaming
If you're dreaming are you dreaming of me?
I can't believe you actually picked me.)

(”Hi Justin, this is your mother, and it's 2:33 on Monday afternoon.
I was just calling to see how you were doing.
You sounded really uptight last night.
It made me a little nervous, and a l... and... well... it made me nervous, it sounded like you were nervous, too.
I just wanted to make sure you were really OK,
And wanted to see if you were checking in on your medication.
You know I love you, and...
Take care honey
I know you're under a lot of pressure.
See ya. Bye bye”)

I have to block out thoughts of you so I don’t lose my head
They crawl in like a cockroach leaving babies in my bed
Dropping little reels of tape to remind me that I’m alone
Playing movies in my head that make a porno feel like home
There's a burning in my pride, a nervous bleeding in my brain
An ounce of peace is all I want for you. Will you never call again?
And will you never say that you loved me, just to put it in my face?
And will you never try to reach me?
It is I that wanted space

Hate me today
Hate me tomorrow
Hate me for all the things I didn't do for you

Hate me in ways
Yeah, ways hard to swallow
Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you

I’m sober now for three whole months it’s one accomplishment that you helped me with
The one thing that always tore us apart is the one thing I won’t touch again
In my sick way I want to thank you for holding my head up late at night
While I was busy waging wars on myself, you were trying to stop the fight
You never doubted my warped opinions on things like suicidal hate
You made me compliment myself when it was way too hard to take
So I’ll drive so fucking far away that I never cross your mind
And do whatever it takes in your heart to leave me behind

Hate me today
Hate me tomorrow
Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you

Hate me in ways
Yeah, ways hard to swallow
Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you

And with a sad heart I say bye to you and wave
Kicking shadows on the street for every mistake that I had made
And like a baby boy I never was a man
Until I saw your blue eyes cry and I held your face in my hand
And then I fell down yelling, “Make it go away!”
Just make a smile come back and shine just like it used to be
And then she whispered, “How can you do this to me?”

Hate me today
Hate me tomorrow
Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you

Hate me in ways
Yeah, ways hard to swallow
Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you
For you
For you
For you

[Children voices:]
If you're sleeping are you dreaming,
If you're dreaming are you dreaming of me?
I can't believe you actually picked me

[Girl:] Hey, Justin! [12x]

Thoughts on the Passing of George Michael

I was not a big fan of George Michael the musical artist. There were a couple of things he did as part of Wham! that I truly did not like. At the end of Wham! and the beginning of his solo career, he became one of those artists that I sort of secretly liked or at least didn't mind the songs, but they go so overplayed that I ended up disliking them anyway. And then, as I and he got older, his output declined, and I can honestly say it's been a few years since I heard anything of George Michael's on the radio, even his older hits.
I woke up this morning to discover he died yesterday. Details aren't real clear at present, but a spokesman said he died in his bed, at home, of a heart issue. At Fifty-Frigging-Three years old. When someone my age dies of natural causes, you better believe it gets my attention, especially someone famous that hasn't been in the spotlight for a few years, and that hasn't been living a notoriously dirty lifestyle. As I write these lines, I am waiting for the aspirin to kick in, because I slept 11 hours last night (after getting 9 hours of sleep in the previous 4 1/2 days) and I was so stiff and achy when I got up that I felt like Lazarus shuffling out of the cave. I'm afraid to get on the scale, because I know it's a number that's going to be one I've never seen before, and even though walking the dog all over the West Side in the last two months has given me more exercise than I've had regularly in years, I'm still at a lot of physical risk. It's pointless to start a diet until the New Year, but this year, it's not really going to be a choice. I'm on two blood pressure meds now, and it's still very high.
I don't know what George Michael was suffering from, or whether it was a bolt from the blue. And it doesn't matter now, because he's dead. Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any rumors of drug use or diseases that weren't public knowledge out there; Michael had had a few arrests for minor (ie pot and hash) possession over the years, but nothing like stays in rehab. And as the news has been sinking in, I've been remembering that I actually had come to respect Michael a great deal before he disappeared off the public stage. For starters, during the Wham! days, it was clear that he was the creative talent in the duo--but he kept them together for long enough so that Andrew Ridgeley could be financially set for life, and over the last thirty years, he even was game for a couple of Wham! reunions (it was Ridgeley who pulled out at the last minute, a couple of times--go figure). Michael was deeply involved in virtually every high-profile charity recording/concert bit there was for a decade--the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" project, Live Aid, the Freddie Mercury memorial concert, and others. And when he was publicly outed as gay in 1998--to no one's surprise, I might add--he didn't engage in denial or fight it; instead, he owned it, and it ceased being news immediately. He regularly performed on behalf of gay rights organizations and causes for the rest of his life.  He talked openly about not coming out, and I actually admired his answer, too--he was not afraid of a public backlash, but rather he was afraid of what his mother would think, which certainly is something many gay people can identify with, and had the ring of honesty to it. Michael performed a number of high-profile duets over the length of his career, which indicates that he didn't have a narcissistic drive for the spotlight like many stars do. He was a prominent liberal voice in a Britain that was increasingly conservative for his entire adult life; he was openly and vocally against Britain's Iraq adventure from the beginning. Taken together, the portrait that emerged was that of a decent, well-meaning, and reasonably well-grounded man that was dealing with, imperfectly but somewhat effectively, some serious inner turmoil.
I've seen a lot of tributes this morning on social media to him, mostly from women that were teens during his heyday, which is only to be expected, I suppose, from someone who was a teenybopper idol for a decade. I have two overriding memories of how George Michael affected my life. The second was the cover of Somebody to Love at the Freddie Mercury concert. It was several years before he was publicly outed, but given that Mercury was dead of AIDS and the fact that the concert was a charity event for AIDS research, as Michael was up there belting out the song even better than Mercury had done it--there was little doubt that the song had a great deal of meaning to Michael, too. I was not quite 30 at the time, still evolving in my political and moral views, and although I had already moved past my father's homophobia by then, this was one of those moments of clarity that you never forget--it was perhaps the first time, watching him sing, that I realized that homosexuality is not merely an expression of sexual preference, but of emotional preference as well. Or put more bluntly, gay men and women fall in love and crave emotional, not just physical, intimacy just as much or more as heterosexual people do. I truly had never seen that aspect of homosexuality prior to that moment, thinking of it up until then as merely a sexual preoccupation, and I lost whatever lingering homophobia I had at the moment forever.
The first time was one of those emotional snapshots, a reflection of a particular time and place in a person's life that is captured in the brain and heart like a Leonardo painting or a Michelangelo statue. The first half of my senior year at Geneseo is, even at this distance, incredibly vivid and vibrant in my memory. I spent it on the emotional rebound from a significant relationship that had ended in the spring, and it was full of what today are called "side chicks," an incredibly close-knit floor of guys that partied hard and bonded harder, and a bit of personal notoriety due to a quasi-fraternity (it was actually grounded in being the antithesis of a fraternity, and none of us, especially me, expected it to become the big deal that it did) I founded and headed exploding all over campus and the town. And as the semester drew to a close, I caught a bit of fortune, in that my last final was Monday morning, two full days before the end of finals--which meant that me and a couple of other guys' end-of-tests bacchanalia started two full days ahead of everyone else's. And one night indelibly etched into my memories is Tuesday night of that week, hanging in my room with my then-girlfriend who was studying for her finals, waiting for Mike Keller to get ready so we could go out (Keller was one of those guys that was old when he was young; I loved him like a brother, but God, he was slow and deliberate, like an old man, and did nothing quickly), and I ended up spending about three hours with her, in perhaps the most non-physical intimate interaction I've ever had with anyone I was with prior to getting clean. It was Tuesday, which meant WUWU had the two-for-Tuesday song format, and at some point during the evening (I've written about this evening on this blog before, because another song played that night was Boys of Summer, a song that is completely welded with Joann in my memory because of this night), the two big hits for Wham! that year, Careless Whisper and Everything She Wants, were played back-to-back. We used to make a lot of fun of Whisper; as sappy songs go, it actually wasn't that bad, but it was so overplayed that several, umm, alternative lyrics were often heard around the Basement of Jones Hall; my personal contribution was "I've never going to like this song again/got no nerves left to get on" and some other lines lost to too many bottles of Sangria and 2-for-1 specials at the Inn Between. But this night, as it played, for some reason, it dawned on me, as Joann was talking about something or another, that as pleasant as the situation at that moment was, the fact was that I was sitting there, and hanging for weeks with, someone else's girl--she had been with some dude from home in Watertown for three years, and I think she ended up marrying him. And I had a moment of clarity that as much as I enjoyed her company, she was not The One. And although I didn't know it at that moment, we had already had sex for the last time--"never gonna dance again/the way I danced with you". And then Everything She Wants came on, and I remember clear as day thinking that, although I would never say so in front of the guys on the floor, I actually liked the song, and I said so, swearing Joann to secrecy, as it played. And she kept the secret, as far as I know... The song has actually returned to my consciousness in the last couple of years; I've found it coursing through my head more than once as I've been dealing with various developments in the relationship I'm in now. It asks some valid questions, and the answers have not often been comforting. I am hopeful, obviously, that changes have taken root--but there is a part of me this morning that is wondering about God's will.
I mean, obviously, George Michael's life did not end last night because God wants me to take stock of my personal situation. I am hardly that self-centered and self-absorbed anymore. But I also realize that my concept of God means that He can use any development as a way to draw closer to Him and to make me examine how I am living my life, too. I'm not quite at the point of the singer of the song, but up to this point, there are certainly lines I can identify with, and one of the things I will have to stay aware of after Lauren comes home is the balance required in a successful and functional relationship, something I have struggled with over the past three years or so.
Anyhow, this essay has gone to places I wasn't intending to go this morning. Rest in peace, Georgios Panayiotou; you've earned it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: THAT SMELL, Lynyrd Skynyrd

I don't often talk so much about the pivotal role Lynyrd Skynyrd's That Smell played in the fact that I now have 18 years clean anymore, because so much time has passed. But believe me, if I had not heard this song at a very pivotal time in my life, none of what has followed would have happened, and the chances are overwhelming that it would not have turned out as well as it has.
First, a few words about the song. It makes reference to the four main drugs that were available to be addicted to at the time the song was written, in the late 1970's--alcohol, cocaine, heroin, Quaaludes. And the song is unrelenting in its depiction of the reality of being addicted, as opposed to the denial and excuses. The entire song is a juxtaposition of the appearance versus the reality--and the ultimate reality is that if the using continues, death is going to be the outcome. And it will be no surprise to anyone around the using addict.
I remember my last run of 5 to 6 days like it was yesterday, and the events of what was to be the last day of active addiction are burned like a cattle brand into my brain. I'm not going to relive that entire day, but the basic gory details were that after the confrontation at the old Howard Johnson's between MOTY and myself, I knew the police had been called, and I had no intention of being there when they arrived. My car was dead down by the river, and we were driving MOTY's, which did not need a key to be started. I jumped in it, turned the ignition and pulled out of the lot, and knew that it needed some gas. I had change in my pocket--$1.56; I will always remember that--and pulled into the gas station by the motel to put the gas in. I could hear the sirens getting closer, and as I got back in the car, a number of thoughts were going through my head. First and foremost was the realization that I had no place to go. I also realized that she was likely to tell the cops I stole the car, and I did not need the hassle that would have come with that. So I turned on the car, not wanting to go back but not wanting to run, really, either.
And this song was on the radio. Specifically, right at the point where the lines "you'll be all right tomorrow/But tomorrow might not be here for you." It hit me like a forearm shiver. I knew  I was near the end; I was wasting away, using rope for a belt, my heart wasn't right, I wasn't showering, I hadn't shit in weeks (because I hadn't eaten food in weeks), and I was paranoid and beyond tired of feeling afraid and hopeless. And as the chorus of "ooooo that smell" assaulted my ears, I knew--I knew--death wasn't far away for me, either.
And I realized that, as awful as my life had become, I did not want to die. Not then, not at 35, not addicted to crack. I pulled out of the gas station, and instead of heading for Front Street, I went back to the hotel, and met my fate within minutes.
And I cannot hear that song now without thinking of that moment in time. It was perhaps the first moment of clarity of what would become my recovery process. It was essentially two seconds of honesty--the smell of death did surround me.

Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you're in my way
There's too much coke and too much smoke
Look what's going on inside you
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Angel of darkness is upon you
Stuck a needle in your arm
So take another toke, have a blow for your nose
And one more drink fool, will drown you
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Now they call you Prince Charming
Can't speak a word when you're full of 'ludes
Say you'll be all right come tomorrow
But tomorrow might not be here for you
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Hey, you're a fool, you (2:30)
Go on stick them needles in your arm (2:34)
I know I been there before (2:50)
One little problem that confronts you (3:28)
Got a monkey on your back
Just one more fix, Lord might do the trick
One hell of a price for you to get your kicks
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Hey, you're a fool, you
Go on stick those needles in your arm
You're just a fool, just a fool, just a fool

Another Christmas Arrives

I am at work as I am writing this, and dealing, hopefully for the last time, with a particularly difficult resident and the nonsense he cause. But even as annoying as it is, my feelings are tempered by the fact that this work week is nearly over, and that this year's Christmas season has gone much better than most in recent memory. The family is getting along, and we had an enjoyable Christmas Eve shrimpfest for the first time in years. The present-giving went happily and smoothly. My daughter is managing the needs of two families smoothly, and is spending the night at her mother's house on Christmas Eve/morning for the first time since she was about nine years old. She even took the dog with her, as her mother recently got a puppy.
And even though I could find a bunch of things to complain about if I was so inclined, I'm in real good space. It helped that I was able to chat with Lauren this morning for a while; she clearly was buoyed by being able to talk to me, and I continue to grow more and more convinced that all will be much, much different when she comes home this time, that the hopes and dreams of past years are finally nearing fruition--because she wants it this time. It struck me today that if I were to make a list of people I met this year that have become significant parts of my life, it would run twenty-five, even thirty, names deep--and that's amazing to me, because I normally don't make a lot of friends or grow close to those that enter my life. There's so much to be happy about, so many good things to be grateful for, that I simply am not going to get caught up in the things that could be better.
And that's a big part of Christmas, isn't it? No one  has it perfect. But we all have much we could be and should be grateful for, and on balance, life is good. Especially for me. And while I really don't do "merry" real well (although if I don't stop eating so much, working as a Santa is a real possibility), I am happy, and am capable of spreading goodwill and Christmas cheer. And I hope everyone reading this has as good a Christmas as I am having.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: BAD, U2f

If Wire is the U2 song about dealing with a friend's addiction that no one knows, Bad is the one that everyone knows. They are actually from the same album, 1984's "The Unforgettable Fire," but the reasons Bad is so much more well-known are two: U2 chose to sing it at Live Aid in summer 1985, and it turned into a 15-minute opus when Bono went into the crowd and, for an agonizing few minutes, appeared as though he was not going to reemerge, and then, later that year, a live version was included on "Wide Awake in America," an EP (there's a concept that has been firmly relegated to the dustbin of history) that sold moderately well.
And both of the well-known live versions are really good, much better than the original album version. In fact, it can be plausibly argued that the live releases of this song were the underlying reason why they went from top-echelon stars to the biggest on the planet when "Joshua Tree" came out in 1987; because they were MTV stars already because of the live performances. Bad is, like Wire, full of angst and frustration at the inability of a loved one to do anything to help an addict that does not want to be helped. And the "roll call" of emotions is devastatingly effective--"isolation, desolation, temptation, separation", all the rest, are something both addict and their loved ones can identify strongly with. To this day, I'm not sure if the song is from the point of view of the friend, or if it is a dialogue; you can make a case for either.
But in any event, it remains, 30 years later, a powerful song. I am going to include both live versions that I referred to, without putting the album version up; it's pretty lame compared to these two.


If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go
If I could throw this lifeless lifeline to the wind
Leave this heart of clay
See you walk, walk away
Into the night
And through the rain
Into the half-light
And through the flame
If I could through myself
Set your spirit free, I'd lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
To let it go
And so to fade away
To let it go
And so, fade away
Wide awake
I'm wide awake
Wide awake
I'm not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no
If you should ask then maybe they'd
Tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Bruised silken sky and burning flag
Colors crash, collide in bloodshot eyes
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
If I could, you know I would, if I could, I would
Let it go
This desperation
Separation, condemnation
Revelation in temptation
Isolation, desolation
Let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
Oh now, and so to fade away
I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
Wide awake
I'm not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

Read more: U2 - Bad Lyrics | MetroLyrics 


The Case of the Dotty Dowager is part of British author Cathy Ace's series about the WISE women's detective agency. WISE stands for Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English, and the four women that make up the team are indeed a cross-section of British society. The plot revolves around a old dowager duchess that claimed to have seen a dead body in her home, a body that was not there when investigators arrived, and the team takes a week and a couple hundred entertaining pages to figure out that the old lady was telling the truth. The end is a little abrupt, and a bit obvious as to setting up the next book in the series, but this was a pretty entertaining and different take on the genre. I hope the library continues to pick up new books from this author as they become available .

Friday, December 23, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: HYPNOTIZED, Fleetwood Mac

If most people had to name a Fleetwood Mac song that they thought had to do with drugs, they would name Gold Dust Woman. There's only one problem with that; while there are references to drugs and drug culture in that song, it's not really about that. There is an earlier Fleetwood Mac song, from the era before Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham joined the band, that is very much a "trippy" song that is clearly about being stoned. That song is Hypnotized. 
I actually first knew this song when Bob Welch, who was in Fleetwood Mac in the early '70's, put it on his solo album in 1977, As it turned out, it was very faithful to the original version. The song is one where the music conveys what the song is trying to say, as well as the words. The music is, well, hypnotic, and the chorus and backing vocals stick in the head like a mantra. The drumbeats and other instruments also are repetitive, soothing and yet intoxicating at the same time.
And the lyrics are dreamy, full of images that are somewhat beautiful but a bit off kilter. And the last verses make it explicit that some sort of hallucinogen is being sung of ("Where a man can fly over mountains and hills/he don't an airplane or some kind of engine and he never will"). And after hearing it in high school a bunch of times, I wondered what it would sound like if I were stoned while listening to it.
Well, there was this night in 1984 when that itch was scratched. And trust me, it sounds even more enhanced and trippy when one is high. I don't think it's coincidence.
Fleetwood Mac played this song often in the first few years after Nicks and Buckingham joined the band, but hardly ever did so in the last three decades. There are a few live versions on You Tube, that do it justice, though. But the original, and Welch's version, are both still out there, and even though the song is now 45 years old, it's still a good listen.

And the lyrics:

It's the same kind of story
That seems to come down from long ago
Two friends having coffee together
When something flies by their window
It might be out on that lawn
Which is wide, at least half of a playing field
Because there's no explaining what your imagination
Can make you see and feel
Seems like a dream
They got me hypnotized
Now it's not a meaningless question
To ask if they've been and gone
I remember a talk about North
Carolina and a strange, strange pond
You see the sides were like glass
In the thick of a forest without a road
And if any man's hand ever made that land
Then I think it would've showed
Seems like a dream
They got me hypnotized
They say there's a place down in Mexico
Where a man can fly over mountains and hills
And he don't need an airplane or some kind of engine
And he never will
Now you know it's a meaningless question
To ask if those stories are right
'Cause what matters most if the feeling
You get when you're hypnotized
Seems like a dream
They got me hypnotized