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I have recounted some of the positive effects I had on the Army’s medical supply system, in theater and out. When you do something in the service, especially in wartime, you have a blank check to complete your mission. The comptroller wanted a tally of what you spent but you were free to spend as much as needed.
When I went to the private sector, it was the opposite. Looking back, I was no longer a logistician. I became a bean counter and actually cut the supply lines in order to track every penny spent by providers. My job was partially one of automating the space between the loggies and the nurses. Here’s how it went.
I finally got my BA in sociology in 2015. As many know, the paper pedigree opens you up to new job opportunities. I was a college graduate, but I was also terribly sick from bipolar. Still, I managed to get hired somehow because of the magic paper and my enthusiasm for returning to logistics.
Now back in the service, we in supply either controlled what left the warehouse or the supply was behind cabinets you couldn’t access without a keycard. Those approaches helped us curtail abuses by providers. Now I know when someone in healthcare needs something fast, you tend to not give a damn about logging your choices. But it was for their protection as well as helping us keep track of what was being used. Let me explain a little.
At one of my Army gigs, every type of supply used in a unit had its place in a cabinet and underneath it was a button you could push whenever you took something and the machine would debit the amount you took in the computer system. It couldn’t have been made easier, but for some reason people couldn’t abide by the rules anyway. That in turn made it difficult to know what to bring them on a daily basis, because the levels in the machines were off every single day. So there was no easy solution to allowing providers to access what they wanted while keeping track of what they accessed. That problem was much more intractable at this private hospital I began to work at in 2016. People, it was a mess. There was no locked cabinet with simple pushbuttons to encourage people to account for their supply. It was just sitting there on shelves and there was a computer adjacent to them and they had to badge in and enter their transactions by scanning the barcode below the product. Needless to say, providers were not encouraged to do the right thing because everything was right there for the taking. And when their closets were short on supply, they’d bitch to upper management about the logistics shop. We had to tell them time and time again that if you want the right amount of supplies, you have to use the damn scanner so the computer can generate a proper pick sheet and then we bring you the right amount of shit. The lesson never took with most units. Thus, we had the extra task of counting the closets before we generated pick sheets so that the proper number of supplies were brought up.
It fell on me to go to war with the providers. I am sad to say that I participated in making it harder for the nurses just so we could tightly manage supply. On one level, we were just trying to make the system work for everyone. There were egregious mistakes that I made, though. Once I tried to stop nurses from abusing the special order system to order basic supplies. That function on the computer was only to be used for supplies outside what was in their closet, not for them to push a panic button and make logistics hop to whenever they ran out of the basics. I tried to punish them by removing the button and got myself in a lot of hot water. There were nurse managers who supported some of my reforms but I did not feel like I had the backing of upper management in logistics. No one was guiding me on how to do things, I had to learn the system on my own and come up with my own fixes to these dilemmas. And I was crazier than fuck throughout all of it.
I developed a vicious case of anxiety over the job and quit after seven months. Following this position I took a job as a produce clerk while I waited for a disability rating from the VA. It was favorable, and I’m totally and permanently disabled which means my work career has come to an end. I think that’s a fair conclusion. Being housebound is not the greatest thing for me, but it might be a shade better than not doing a thorough job in the working world. If I get wound up and stay that way, I can’t do anyone any good. It’s simply too easy to wind me.
I was trained as a medical supply logistician by the Army. It’s the only job I’ve really ever felt good about. My first instinct was to help people get well. Yet, along the road in my career, I found myself in the service of the devil. I went from making it rain for healthcare providers to counting beans to deprive caregivers of quick logistical service. It’s been a weird ride.
I had a good feel for the job, coming in first in my class in advanced training. I spent a few idle years at Fort Bragg doing nothing for anybody until George Bush decided to blow up the Middle East in 2003. I was shipped to Iraq and began a six month stint in the deserts around Karbala with a forward mobile hospital. Sadly, my co-workers and leaders had no acumen for the job; we were constantly being torn up by providers because we couldn’t do simple tasks like keeping them in gloves. None of us had ever deployed so we didn’t understand the scope of the job. In due time, I was separated from the logistics shop to work solely with the pharmacy. Procuring drugs was an important job and I was pretty good at it. I created my own system by hand for reordering supplies, counting each day what we had and judging the velocity of a product by comparing the previous day’s total.
Now, pharmacists are the most wound-up people you could ever work for. I went through three of them while in Iraq and they were all the same, constantly fulminating and panicking that supplies would dry up. In fairness to them, I may have been a little unaware of just how important some drugs were. Nevertheless, the pharmacy always got what it needed even though I kept a tight shop. I became a master trader, and I built a network of goodwill in the units stationed around us. Later we moved to Baghdad and I repeated the mission for another six months, doing a job I was proud of. It feels weird to say it, but I felt good about my time in Iraq even though I was part of a machine that had decimated a country for no good reason at all except to commandeer and control the second largest pool of oil on the planet. At the time, I was too naive to understand that.
When I came home in 2004, I spent one more year at Fort Bragg and then was transferred to Fort Bliss and began work at the William Beaumont Hospital. At first, I worked with the regular crew in the warehouse, filling OmniCell units daily to a dozen areas in the hospital. The director of logistics took a shine to me though, and once again I separated from the normal crew to work at the hospital as kind of a facilitator between the warehouse and the providers. Having a logistical face at the hospital that providers could access seemed to calm the nerves of medical professionals who felt that we were too far removed from the healthcare mission. And that was true everywhere I went; the relationship between logistics and healthcare was always antagonistic even if it was a matter of life or death. We did not understand or appreciate each other at all.
I started unraveling a bit at William Beaumont. I didn’t know what was wrong yet, but there was something shaking loose in my brainpan. While I started to lose control I was sent to leadership training to become a sergeant (not my choice; I was always content being a specialist who knew his shit but they push upward mobility), and did a terrible job there except when it came to testing which earned me another award. But that shit had nothing on Korea, which I was shipped to after exactly 364 days in Texas.
I got picked up as a sergeant as soon as I arrived. Good lord, I was a terrible leader. What a year. I could not keep track of my soldiers to save my life. The opportunities to show my skills as a logistician disappeared because I was now technically no longer in that business. I was a laughingstock and I couldn’t get out of my own way. I began to hide from everyone and I could not sleep. It was in Korea that I took my first medicine for depression. I was not diagnosed but was given trazodone for my troubles. Trazodone was tricky; if you took it at the right time and got enough sleep it was OK but god forbid you fall short of your sleep quota. It would actually make me feel worse than I had before I took the drug. That would be true of a great deal of the medication I was to use going forward.
I was separated yet again from the daily grind at the warehouse. This time it wasn’t because I was good at what I was doing, though. I was given a mission to reorganize the warehouse a little. I kept watch over two soldiers, moving and consolidating supplies from the top floor to the bottom floor of the warehouse during non-business hours. I knew how the computer supply program worked more than most and so was able to alter locations, quantities and print reports. I had that going for me, but mostly I was removed from the day shift so that no one had to see me suck. I was hated. I think that year in Korea was one of the worst in my life. I was getting tired of being separated from my wife and young sons. Near the end of my hitch in Korea in 2006 I began to think seriously about leaving the service. I wasn’t up for the leadership role and I was not going to be sent anywhere again. It did not occur to me that life would become infinitely harder if I left the Army. It was a steady job that paid OK but I couldn’t see past hating my work suddenly.
Our final move was to Colorado to Fort Carson. Again, I completely failed as a leader. But I did get a chance to show off my logistics chops because as in North Carolina, I was the only one with a good grip on the ordering system. Incompetence tends to pool in the Army. I made it rain again; happy customers were getting supplies regularly. In three months time, guess what would happen? Another trip to Iraq was on the schedule. By now I was suffering mightily in the throes of undiagnosed bipolar but it would be a long time before I found out what was troubling me. I was positively livid about a possible trip. I was not going to accept another deployment and made that clear (I had initiated separation plans and they stop-lossed me). Fine by them; they didn’t want me anyway. They would send me to do some bullshit task in leadership where I would lose it completely. That’s another story, though.
First we had to ramp up for deployment. Customers began submitting large orders to prepare, and I fielded many with skill. I went on a week’s leave about a month before the deployment and I left a group of orders to be submitted to my soldiers and my sergeant. When I returned, the orders had not been touched at all. I was very frustrated my co-workers’ lack of urgency. Desert training was scheduled shortly thereafter and I hatched a plan to get the orders filled while we were at the training base. In my head it was unacceptable that these orders not get filled before we left. So I put them all in at training and got in trouble with the comptroller sergeant because we had not allocated the money to pay for all of that supply. I didn’t give a fuck. To me, it wasn’t about the money-the unit needed to be prepared for Iraq and once training was finished we would only have about three weeks to get our shit together before we packed up. I worked hard to get the remaining needed supplies at home and the unit eventually left without me.
That was the end of the Army portion of my logistics experience. I always thought I was on the side of the angels because I consistently got results that customers needed. My experience in the civilian world was the polar opposite. I guess I can tell that story next. Hopefully I feel like it.
That’s exactly how many days are left before we either elect a man of integrity or re-elect an insane homicidal clown.
This fucking country primarily needs to get a handle on this virus, tout suite. Trump’s already decided that herd immunity will happen, and that approach of course requires no special effort on Trump’s part and that’s the way he likes it. However, herd immunity usually only comes about after a vaccine has made its way through the population. Epidemiologists are agreed that the policy to infect as many people as possible is as harebrained as it comes. Should Biden be elected, I hope it is not too late for contact tracing and mass testing- and if we must quarantine again, let it be for the sake of ending the pandemic for good.
Let’s crack that nut soon, Joe, mmmkay? I want to eat out again and go to a damn movie.
Next, let’s redevelop a vigorous federal government to tackle social problems that states and locales cannot. That’s a broad request; but I merely want the government to be able to do what it needs to uplift and protect the country and its people. This whole insanity about “regulations” drives me nuts. Regulations are there so that there are limits to negative behavior. I know these days it’s like some kind of curse word, but it became one on purpose so some incurious people could reflexively just hate anything that the government puts into effect.
Let’s see. Is there anything else on my Christmas list?
I want us to rejoin Paris and lead the way to a greener future. There’s no point in surviving a pandemic if the earth is on fire and people are drowning. We have to have the appetite for massive social projects on the scale of the TVA and the Interstate Highway System; it means jobs for anyone who wants them.
I want dope to be legal and I want the jails emptied of drug offenders. If there’s anything America needs, it’s a good bong rip so they can mellow the fuck out, especially in light of the nerve workout that Trump has subjected all of us to the last four years. We are so uptight and high-strung by all our daily stress. I want pot shops on every corner from San Diego to Ocean City. Our day to day would be so much easier to endure. I like my beer, but a little green don’t hurt no one. The time for its taboo has come to an end.
While I am on the subject of jail, I would like to see Reality Winner pardoned.
I want an end to the filibuster and an end to the electoral college. All the roadblocks to democracy must go.
I want to pack the SCOTUS with liberal justices. I don’t care if I’m not supposed to say it aloud. That seat stolen from Obama deserves hard fucking payback. In general, I want Republicans to pay for all the hardball they played with us with impunity instead of negotiating and compromising in good faith. It is time to scorch the earth Republicans stand on and plow their soil with salt. Let them not forget easily that we fuck back if fucked with.
I’m amassing quite the list here.
I’m sure I could go on, but I won’t. I just felt like doing some writing today for fun. I am almost done with my med change and am getting better by the day.
Most people find the vice presidential debates unnecessary, dry, and boring. Last night’s was anything but.
Because there will probably no debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump that won’t be a five alarm conflagration, it devolved upon the vice presidential hopefuls to perhaps actually talk about the issues.
Some of us were worried that the oleaginous Pence would dispense of Harris in the same manner that he coolly handled Tim Kaine. But Biden purposely picked someone with more pluck than he, and she completely made Pence her bitch the whole ninety minutes.
I would tell you if she sucked. Scout’s honor.
I daresay Harris had fun flaying Pence. There was a light in her eyes. She was nearly bouncing in her chair, ready to fight. She had command of all of the issues. She made it very clear early on that she would not be interrupted, and that was important since Trump and Pence are using interruptions to throw their adversary off track. Harris was having none of it. She answered all of the questions and left Pence wasting his time trying to rebut her attacks. While Pence droned on about how great things are and how wonderful Donald Trump is, Harris swatted down all of Pence’s arglebargle, indicted him and his running mate, and laid out a hopeful blueprint for the future.
What we now know is that Pence and Trump’s vision of America is stale. Everyone is tired of all of it, how it sounds, how it looks. We’ve mostly realized we have made a treacherous detour by electing a failed businessman/internet troll who sucks his own dick all day long and his smarmy god-bothering sidekick. Last night, not only did Kamala Harris make that clear, but she showed she is worthy to represent today and tomorrow’s Democratic party, and the world may just get brighter with her at the helm come 2024.
Not the fun ones.
I’m talking crazymeds again.
Last night I began my withdrawal from Clozapine and began transitioning to a milder, somewhat analogous anti-psychotic, Zyprexa.
It was a hard night, marked by chest pressure and dreadful squirming anxiety. I have nine more nights of that to go. I am hoping it works itself out along the way. However, the good news is that I did wake up as myself this morning (I left open the possibility I would be delusional and hospitalized) and almost felt good about it. I put my Olly Stress Gummies, a Klonopin and my Koi CBD tincture on board, which if you are looking for an efficacious way to deal with stress the product works like a motherfucking charm. Lots of folks don’t seem to get anything from CBD, but I believe in the compound 100%. Caveat emptor though-you get what you pay for when looking for effective CBD. But anyway, today feels normal-not completely so as I will not be free of Clozapine for another sixteen days, but as I said, better than expected.
I’ve been on Zyprexa before, and if I recall I didn’t have the side effects that were common at all. That’s a stark contrast to my experience with Clozapine, where I suffered from several of the known side effects. Zyprexa has a lighter touch overall, which is weird because its side effect sheet is a mile long. It doesn’t carry a black box warning for me, and that’s a bit of a relief. It’s formulated to control bipolar with mania, and that’s exactly what turned my life upside down in that grim summer of 2008. Since then I’ve been on a lot of shit trying to figure what works best. If I recall right, Zyprexa didn’t do a whole lot to calm my ass so we’re going to have to work on that once I am truly free from Clozapine. That is the main thing I need to concentrate on. I am not going to tell my provider at this point that I regard Zyprexa as a bridge drug.
What I don’t like about this switch is that it’s going to do nothing to help some emergent liver issues I’m having. As antipsychotics go, Clozapine is the reigning king for necrotizing the liver, and Zyprexa follows close behind. So I’m gonna keep pestering my providers to find something that doesn’t put so much of a hurt on it. There’s things like Abilify that control bipolar with mania and is not metabolized at all by the liver.
One thing at a time, though. Eventually I will find a balance for mind and body, being mindful that in the end no drug regimen will be perfect.
Despite an anxiety condition, I decided to put the debate on.
That was the wrong move. I was up all night with palpitations.
I expressed the thought that Trump was going to turn it into a circus to a friend, but I never thought it would get as out of hand as it did.
Ever hear of the Gish Gallop?
That’s what Trump did for the 50 minutes of the debate that I could stand. He launched fusillades of filibustering untruths and they came so fast and so furious that it would take Joe Biden days to refute all of it.
Chirs Wallace lost control of the debate completely. Each candidate could have two minutes to respond to an issue he brought up. But Donald Trump steamrolled right over that rule. He wouldn’t give anyone, including Wallace, a chance to speak.
I don’t know what’s worse; a terrible moderator or a terrible debater. But both of those were on display last night.
Regarding Joe; he was a little nervous at the start, offering a shaky answer as to why Coney-Barrett was the wrong choice for the Court. He could have elucidated the hypocrisy of the Republicans for creating the rule that no president should seat a nominee in an election year. Instead, he offered two reasons: Obamacare and Roe. OK.
And that was the end of the sanity.
It devolved rather quickly into a crosstalking, grating miasma. And Wallace let it all happen. Biden couldn’t get a word in edgewise; at one point he asked the president to shut up because of his incessant babbling.
I hear there were other moments but I called time of death of the debate at 9:50pm. Forty more minutes of that shit was a bridge too far for me.
I imagine there will be calls for moderators to mute microphones to obviate whatever it was that happened last night. I also think Joe Biden has standing to decline debating Trump again. There’s clearly nothing we can learn when these two men get in a room together. Frankly, I am surprised Joe didn’t swear, leave the stage or pop Trump for denigrating the lives of his boys.
Trumpers will be thrilled at the outcome of the debate; to them, he must have “dominated” since he threw everything but the kitchen sink. The more reasonable among us will disagree because he showed a serious lack of self control unbound by rules and custom. It’s alright for a debate to get a little contentious, that’s expected. But one was reminded here of the proverbial pigeon who walks around shitting on the chessboard claiming victory. We’re reminded of what a piss poor president he truly is; a man not confident at all to state his positions calmly. A man with no command of facts or depth. Insults instead of insight.
In 2016, we deserved Donald Trump for one reason or another. This is 21st century America and it turns out that it’s a suckier place to live than one might have thought. But I would like to think some of us have learned a little over the course of these godforsaken years since then.
One thing is clear: the fact that this election is going to be anything less than a runaway for Joe Biden is cause for lots of fucking worry.
That’s a long time to go without writing on a blog. I’ve seriously thought about quitting, but it’s not necessarily because I want to. There are a couple of factors limiting my output.
#1: I’m getting off Clozapine. I intimated in some recent blog posts that the heady atypical antipsychotic was actually helping me gain perspective on some “stuck” memories, events and situations I involuntarily flash to that torture me in ways large and small mostly when I try to sleep. They turned out to be OK stories, some of my longest work. So why am I getting off this drug? The side effects became too much to bear. I was fine over the summer at my highest dose of 250mg. When school time for the kids rolled around, finding it incompatible with that schedule was a mild understatement. Every fucking night I had a fit an hour into sleep that would sit me bolt upright, heart pounding, mouth dry, clutching for breath. I would often fall asleep sitting upright to stop it from happening. An then there was the mornings. It took my wife twenty minutes to a half hour to get me out of bed, yelling my name loudly at least 40 times. And when I did fall out of bed, I went straight to the couch downstairs and fell asleep again. I was no use to my learn from home children whatsoever. And when I tried to help them or let the dogs out when I woke up, I was unsteady on my feet. Orthostatic hypotension became my new horrible symptom. I nearly passed out standing up too quickly. I could not make the 8 foot trek to the bathroom at night without seriously screwing up some courage. I decided this was not going to work anymore. I am crazy, but I might switch a little crazy with some of these symptoms, I thought.
So I stepped down 50 mg without consulting the pharmacologist, who really, really wants me to stay on this shit, even going so far as to say I needed 100mg more and I’d be better. I can’t imagine what that would feel like. It feels like a trip to the psychiatric ward is what. The thing is, I am not schizophrenic, and I imagine this drug is handy for shutting some voices up. That is what Clozapine was developed for. However, I am just bipolar. I did have a wild journey into schizoaffective disorder about a decade ago that ended in a locked ward trip for three weeks, where I experienced all kinds of delusions and hallucinations that still boggle my mind. The important thing is that I came back somehow. But anyway, down 50 was the only way I was going to get out of bed without being yelled at. Instead of going straight to the couch, I stayed upright until the wife left for work and then I would doze until 11 on the couch. Again, not much use to my learners. So I couldn’t seem to win.
Along with the drop in clozapine came serious symptoms. Neurons hungry for the homeostatic neurotransmitters they needed were being cut off from the drug that helped them along their way. The physical symptoms from that brought huge amounts of panic, and I became unable to get across a room without wanting to go back where I came from because I was going to fall down otherwise. I couldn’t do the shower for more than two minutes. My only safe spot was downstairs at the computer chair. And even there anxiety threatened constantly. I couldn’t get up to get the mail because I didn’t think I was going to make it back and no one would be around to notice that I was knocked out in my driveway. I became very concerned for my wife because everything had come undone so quickly. She’s been a champ putting up with me.
I decided enough was enough. I was out, and told my shrink I was done. He listened and is going to put me back on Zyprexa, which I had some success with in the past. It didn’t always put a damper on my daily bipolar struggles, but I didn’t feel like shit when I took it. Again, I think I’d rather that than be in some quasi-vegetative state.
In order to get through the gauntlet of getting off Clozapine, I am employing several natural remedies. I started off using Charlotte’s Web CBD gummies and that’s been a game changer, real good for calming down. I am also using L-theanine, an amino acid with proven results to tamp down stress levels. Also, lemon balm seems to be somewhat helpful. But the hero so far has been my old Klonopin prescription, which I abandoned over the summer because it can be dangerous with Clozapine. But I kept the bottle. I was desperate and wanted to try anything and everything to not feel bad, so I popped one.
Wow. I’m almost alive again!
I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for that discarded prescription. I haven’t informed the doctor yet but I will soon. It’s good news because now I can step down further and have plenty of backstops to combat the withdrawal. I have enough Klonopin to get me through a month.
Bottom line, things have been looking up after being so nightmarish.
Oooh. I forgot I was doing a list! Let’s see, what else has got my shit fucked up?
#2: Donald Motherfucking Trump. I’m having trouble finding non-four letter words for some of his antics. I’m struck dumb. At this point I am just trying to keep my head screwed on straight until it is time for me to vote. I can’t keep up with the outrages, which may be by design.
#3: Twitter. Once upon a time, not long ago I moved to Twitter because I was hooked on Facebook. Hah! Turns out that’s like going from fentanyl to heroin. I’m now a full blown social media junkie again and I don’t know how to turn that around. I miss the blog days where I could get my news from them, but so many of my favorite bloggers now eschew the medium and have Twitter accounts instead. Is there any way out from using social media to get my news fix?
I’d love to hear about your struggles with any of the three phenomena above. We, so often atomized by the cult of individualism, need each other more than ever.
The whackadoodles from both sides of the political spectrum have knives out for Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris for Vice President Of The United States.
Was this avoidable with a different choice?
You know Trump and the right are going to vilify anyone chosen. They never miss an opportunity to smear someone. I fully expect that behavior from them.
But I expect a little more from the left, who is on balance much smarter or at least better educated than those of the conservative bent. Often missing however, from their political approach is the ability to be pragmatic. Making the perfect the enemy of the good and cutting off noses seems to be the order of the day.
I’m hearing talk from them that this is a “cynical” choice. I’m afraid I don’t follow.
Let’s talk for a second about identity politics.
Where did this phrase come from anyway?
It used to be a positive thing or a harmless observation. Now it’s nothing but a negative buzzphrase which left and right routinely abuse.
The fact is that there couldn’t not be politics based on one’s cultural affiliation in America. Disenfranchised voters have similar experiences in the culture and that is the reason why people tend to gather politically according to their status in said culture. Black voters know from their own history how hard whites worked to make sure they had no voice at the ballot box, and the same went for women. We (white males) created these divisions by treating them as less than equal. It’s a bell that we can’t un-ring.
Harris, as it happens, checks both of those boxes. Yet we are still hearing that it’s a “political” calculation.
Of course the fuck it is! And by gum, it’s a force multiplier. Not only did Joe pick someone with class, tenacity and dangerous smarts, he’s poised to win the ironclad support of several demographics which cannot be ignored if we want to win big. She’s also relatively young and that’s important if we don’t want another doddering fool like Trump or Reagan in the White House for 2024, 2028, or 2032. Or ever again.
I would love it if someone could tell me why Harris is a bad choice. God forbid she did her job as AG. As for me, I haven’t been this psyched about a VP nom in my sweet short life. I mean, look back at recent history and consider the embarrassing, tone deaf choices members of both parties have put forth:
Al Gore, Dan Quayle, Tim Kaine, John Edwards, Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, Joe Lieberman, Bob Dole to name but a few. I almost fell asleep typing their names. I’m half tempted to put Biden in this pool because I do recall being rather underwhelmed by Obama’s pick.
The rest of them were utterly charmless and vanilla who added squat to the ticket’s chances. Parties aren’t always known for their ability to take chances when it comes to a veep choice and I’m unsure why. It is undeniable, however that it is about time that a presidential candidate chose someone potentially more consequential and dare I say more popular than themselves. We can now look forward to more of Biden’s decision making- because we sure could use a president right now who will get the fuck out of his own way, someone 180 degrees from the insane bloated bastard billeted in the White House right now.
I guess it is time to write a little about Joel.
When I was about twenty-three or so, I made a jump from New Jersey to Florida. I wanted to escape Morristown partly because the town has a way of keeping you where you are, and I found that unacceptable. My malformed brain told me I was better than my too-familiar hometown scenes and coteries. I certainly wasn’t getting anywhere fast in Morristown; I had a raging drinking problem and was living above a golf club kitchen. I probably decided to flee after, as fate would have it, the golf club’s boss came up the hill from the clubhouse to the pool where I slung hot dogs and sodas to thirsty rich mothers and their children to see how were doing one day. Elliott and I were not sober for a minute of our poolside gig that summer. The head chef was irritated by my perennial hungover act in his kitchen during the off seasons and had probably given the administrator a hot tip that I was stealing and drinking on the job. It was only a matter of time before I got caught breathing cheap beer into someone’s face, ending my tenure. David was kind enough to wait to torpedo me at the end of the season.
It was time to reinvent. I lost everything, and I didn’t have much. I had to take evasive action. Morristown simply didn’t fit me anymore. I had no more moves to make. I had done a shit job at every hustle I ever did there and there were few places to turn. I pretended to myself and others that I had simply outgrown it when in actuality it was done with me.
My father had done an evacuation to Florida under similar terms. He felt that after the divorce my mother had poisoned all of his relations with people around town. I don’t know how true that was-he was also suffering from untreated bipolar disorder. But he fled to Largo, where he could be closer to his mother who would proceed to do the things he could not get another woman to do.
So I went there to be with him. Dad wasn’t thrilled about my arrival, but he did clear the way for me to live in his apartment complex because he sure didn’t want my constant company for long. I found a couple of part time jobs, one at a grocery store stocking the frozen section, and an overnight shift at Target stuffing a few of the household goods aisles. With my first checks I secured the apartment and bought a little furniture, a bike, and a radio with which I would play CDs. That radio would eventually undo me, because the occupant of the apartment to my left had bat hearing and complained about me constantly. Either that or the walls were paper thin.
Our development, lucky for alcoholic me, had a bar a few blocks away. And I became a regular quickly. All the fruit loops from my dad’s community parked their carcasses on a barstool there. I remember Eric, a nerdy guy good with his hands who I enjoyed shooting stick with, and some white dude Jim with a ruddy tan who claimed to be an Indian of some sort. When he drank too much he would become irascible and unpredictable. He told me once that he hated the bartender because she was a “Blackfoot”, and that they were traitors to the Indian cause. You definitely didn’t mess around with him.
It was there that I bumped into Joel for the first time. I don’t remember why anymore, but we hit it off. I think we were talking about books and music and our tastes matched up. He and I began hanging out at my apartment in earnest. We’d stay up all night recording ourselves talking and drinking and playing CDs on that damned box. To make a long story short, the noise got me evicted. I couldn’t win. But Joel said he had a place, a small bungalow behind a house proper not far away. We loaded what little belongings I had out of my apartment into his tiny abode.
Joel told me he was from the West Coast and that he had played as a “hired gun” guitarist in a couple of grunge bands, the names of whom he kept concealed. He had written a few songs which I was not impressed by. He would come to dismiss my writing as “twaddle” (and it was). I think me mocking his art set the course as to how he was going to start treating me. I wasn’t talented, who the fuck was I to run down his stuff? He told me he had a heroin problem too. Yeah, I should have red flagged that, but I didn’t have anywhere to go.
We had one more occupant in the house, a cat he named Zooey-like the Salinger novel. It came and went as it pleased. But I liked to pick Zoe up and pet her, and eventually she developed this habit of licking one spot on my shirt. Zooey was probably not weaned properly.
Joel was disgusted. He said that I “ruined” his cat, and that she was practicing some sort of perversion upon me and that I was loathsome for letting her do that. We began to dislike being in the same room with each other, which was hard since there was only one room partitioned by sheets. The only time we were having a good time was when we were stinking drunk. And even that did not deter Joel from deriding me every chance he got. I eventually lost both of my jobs and we began living on my credit card. It was an amazing card, one that I never had to make payments on and they would just steady keep increasing my credit limit. Joel refused to bring in an income so it was up to me to keep us in food, shelter and booze. He thought work was above him and that is was better for him to drink and read Richard Brautigan all day. Our diet mostly consisted of pressed Cuban sandwiches, Natural Ice and rye whiskey.
Our drinking rituals and run-ins became more bizarre as time went by, because after a time Joel became bored with people and he needed more to amuse himself. We’d get hammered on Cisco and I would yell Tom Waits songs outdoors while he poured alcohol all over me. We’d call up Tennessee and repeat the crooning for her. One night were wasted and we took broom handles to the ceiling of the house. We once got stoned and drunk with some dude who Joel maybe wanted to play guitar with but instead he decided to make fun of the guy. He gave Joel a count of three to vacate the premises then leapt out of his chair like a feral animal and proceeded to kick the shit out of Joel.
Ours was an abusive relationship. When I could no longer stand Joel’s verbal attacks on me, I would break down emotionally and he would change into a penitent creature who didn’t want to hurt me because I was his friend. Maybe he was so myopic that he didn’t realize what an asshole he could be. It’s more likely that succoring his enabler was what he was up to.
After several months of this behavior the cruelty came to a head. He locked me in the bathroom and told me that he had some heroin and he was going to use it because I made him unhappy. I got out somehow to find him on the nod. I used this time to call my father who immediately picked me up while Joel slept. I think I took my tennis racket and that was it, I was out of there. It was at this point that Dad told me to join the Army, a solution he had proffered before but I couldn’t ever see myself doing that kind of shit for a living. I fancied myself as a rebel and wouldn’t conform. But as in Morristown, I had failed to obey the rules in Largo and I had no choice but to take the armed services to the ball. But before that, I had to go to a two week rehab for alcohol, a halfway house where roaches freely crawled on my dinner plates, lose another apartment, and finally share a house with three drama free folks until it was time for me to ship out to basic.
I’ll get to the service someday. There’s lots of stories there.
Weeks later I was out on the town with Dad after I left Joel and spotted him lurking at some bar, so we quickly split the scene. I’m sure he was looking for someone else he could leech onto. Make no mistake, Joel could put on the charm and get you to do things. But at bottom he was a miserable piece of trash. Fuck that fucking guy.