A Day in The Recovery Life

The Ghost of Christmas Present Scrooges me.

Now is the Winter of our discontent,     Made glorious Christmas by this son of Santa,                                                                            as all the clouds that low’rd up my merry, Deep in the bosom of snow drifts lay buried.     

Parody: Richard The III Act 1, Scene 1, 1-4

Mormon Tabernacle Choir: The Carole of the Bells

As it doth break most everyday, I awoke to that dawn’s groggy chore.

“It’s only a dream Arthur — send in the sweeper.”

In practiced habit, my soft-spoken self-counselor  stated the obvious, “Just forget it.”  So, onto the next step then: breathe,……. be aware,…….and grateful you’ve awoken again. The usual stretch, it echoed its explanation to me in firmly speaking over my voice that was not so gracious or thankful, which for no apparent reason other than its pattern of the years continued to plague my post dream-scape’s land. As it ever was the case when leaving my awakening I worked to eradicate that voice’s existence, knowing full well it would be silent only after commanded – reluctantly whimpering.  Still, it was bringing me down as my alter-self clawed upwards, swimming for the surface of consciousness. There, I was sure that a deep, fresh breath of air and a grateful attitude at the  surface would spare me once again from the heavy mourning of my all too usual morning self-pity. After all, it was only 31 days until Christmas and five until Thanksgiving. Time to disconnect the cynic and ignite the joy generator.

“I have to work on my mood,” I thought.

Maybe you do this too. It’s like,… I can tell when I ought to make an effort in being thankful for life’s simple gifts. It’s Apparent as I start to find fault with everything and everyone, pulling me into that vortex, a swirling toilet bowl of emotional self-pity, my old nemesis of the darkness.

“Hit the lights and the road. It’s showtime folks.”  Now its almost 13 years ago, when I didn’t know what to do where to go or why I even lived while I rebooted my life in the initial post-treatment center recovery mode. I wandered the grocery stores aisles aimlessly between support group meetings, eating-up the clock like a Republican waiting on an election, floating the aisles like Jacob Marley’s ghost. Passing time any way I could was the objective, winding-up the clean and sober odometer.

Time takes time and I needed some. It was all I knew; wandering the grocery store lanes with no money and my empty shopping cart. During that aimless adventure I got to know every store in town and all their prices, killing time.

That morning found me stopping-by my favorite bargain grocery-gas station run by immigrated owners from India. I called it “the used food store” because they bought pull-date goods and repackaged them for a quick-sale. No luck that day though, as the yogurt bin was filled with icky picked over flavors and down to the plain and pomegranate. ‘Yargh,….seeds.” I passed, but bit on the ham steaks. They were cured and safer. My vegetarian friends gagged as I bought three at checkout. “Please to be having a nicer day Sir,” my clerk said with a smile. But three blocks away at the Greek Grocers used food outlet — my totally favorite “Bargain Giant” — I scored on Black Cherry Yogurt.

The Baltics and Russians like this store, speaking their native language which I try NOT to allow to piss me off. “This is America God Dammit, speak English” I mumbled. The mood of intolerance I spoke of earlier was gaining a foothold on my spirit and when I came to a basket sitting on the floor in front of me in line, like an abandoned car in the middle of the street, I stepped around it. It’s owner, obviously new to America, walked up and asked if she couldn’t have her place in line back, thinking her basket on the floor would hold her place while she shopped further.  No way. I went full “cranky old man” on her broken English, explaining that you can’t secure your place in line with a basket like a blockade on the floor while you “re-shop,”  glaringly daring her to say ANYTHING. This was not Les Miserables and the wall. She muttered apologetically and I realized,…..”Gawd, I….was definitely getting the Holiday Shitties”. This usually sets a precedent for bad karma and my dharma drama got busy working on it,…. as you’ll see.

Okay,….to save gas I make a planned route around the north side of the city and my next stop was 5 miles out at a Fred Meyer. The low tire light blipped on as I slid into the parking lot.  I checked it when I got out. “Yup, low driver’s left rear — but off to shop I went reassuring myself that I could limp into airing-up after I got finished,…and finished I was.

Dead flat on exit. About 100 yds away was an oil change shop and I rolled, inch by inch while people knocked on the window and pointed at my flatter than flat tire. “F**k-it”, I thought. I drove on it anyway. They aired me up at the lube station and I made a dash for the tire shop across the street only to abort as I contemplated them giving me the $25.00 fix when I appeared, like a hungry tire-junkie in need of a fix from their “only game in town” monopoly.

An insane risk taker (that’s me folks!) I hit the highway hissing while begging the universe for a stay of execution, in futility of course.  Suddenly, an outlet of my regular Les Schwab Tire Store showed-up highway right, right as I’m thinking, “I gotta pull over.” They took me in and fixed my flat but first, the qualifications interview merits relating.

I was sure that I had bought the tires at a cheap used shop called Poor Boys and not from them — but I lied to see if I couldn’t get a free fix. ‘Stuff that rigorous honesty crap” I thought. The adjustor lit-up his clacking keyboard in an authenticating search and couldn’t find me. “Uh-oh, I may be busted it occurred to me”. I lucked out. Plugging in my nick-name from a previous tire fix, they identified the rear tires as theirs and logged me in for the free fix. “Hoo-rah”! I thought. Somebody else who owned these used treads before me had covered my ass.

Then the 40 minute wait.  Go figure,….. patience is my short suit. We’ve already talked about my virtuous level of holiday increasing intolerance and while I was congratulating myself on sticking their corporate monstrosity, I waited reading the daily newspaper.

It’s time for inserting a thematic addition of an old Beatles song: “A Day in The Life” watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=P-Q9D4dcYng

A little girl with a super sniffle and cough hummed around while her mother tried to monitor the rest of her out of control brood. Feeling annoyed, I got-up and moved. I’d just finished a nasty 5 day Upper Respiratory, ( my first in a few years) and I didn’t want to sit in the middle of the petrie dish again. “Where’s the Purell,” I thought, thinking of just painting her with a glaze of it. I “Luv” kids,….especially deep fried.

But then, like a scene from Dickens  it occurred to me: the “Holiday Shitties” were yowling at me….“uhhhh-gain”. At least I knew, instead of just staying annoyed and getting worse for the mood. “Years of Step and Principle rehearsal show, right”? I thought to myself. “Uhm,… that’s progress not perfection” and the cliche use stung me with an irritating redundancy.

Then they were finished and I was off, on the road, feeling smug about having overcome the whole dilemma,….I made my acknowledgements to fate’s fortuitous favor of me. Shit, maybe prayer does work, lolol. Certainly,…. ipso facto, (after the fact).

There has to be a point here. I live my recovery, 24-7,  One Day at a Time. I try to do so in the spirit of the moment, as Eckhart Tole would say: “In The NOW.” This requires a continuing effort on my part and as I reflect on my writing today, it appears that my 12Step principles and the pot-pourri of other guidelines, reminders and sayings (NO CLICHES PLEASE!) have replaced my pessimistic, cynical and often bitter perspective on the world and life that permeated the darkness of my addiction and alcoholism, now in remission for nearly 13 years.

You’ll remember that I earlier said I was being infected mentally and emotional by the “Holiday Shitties”. I appreciate these brief moments with you to account for my course correction and perhaps bring you to reflect upon your own, as often I’m now finding that things are NOT as they appear. The reason I am upset needs to be reflected on, after a regathering through breath meditation. “What is REALLY wrong with me here” — the all important question.

Of all those acquired skills, the reflection that there is no room for a Fear, Anger and Resentment attitude plagued by remorse in the realm of a grateful heart sticks here in this moment with you.

Thus we come to the Thanksgiving Seasonal Message and as we do so often in this blog, it is expressed musically: Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.





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Tales from the Center of the Herd”

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An Old Recovery Veteran Remembers



Let’s start-off with the Viet-Nam War Anthem


Lyrics to I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag

I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag
Come on all of you big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again
He’s got himself in a terrible jam, way down yonder in Viet Nam
So put down your books and pick up a gun, we’re gonna have a whole lotta fun
And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die Well come on generals, let’s move fast, your big chance has come at last
Gotta go out and get those reds, the only good commie is the one that’s dead
And you know that peace can only be won, when we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come(CHORUS)
And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die

Come on Wall Street don’t be slow, why man this war is a go-go
There’s plenty good money to be made, by supplying the army with the tools of its trade
Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb, they drop it on the Viet Cong

And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die

Well come on mothers throughout the land, pack your boys off to Viet Nam
Come on fathers don’t hesitate, send your sons off before it’s too late
Be the first ones on your block, to have your boy come home in a box

And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die

Country Joe McDonald, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag”, words and music by Joe McDonald (c) 1965; renewed 1993 by Alkatraz Corner music Co, BMI.

The folk singer Country Joe McDonald’s satirical song spoke as an anthem for a generation of many Americans who opposed the war in Vietnam and reflected McDonald’s firsthand experience. McDonald wrote the song in 1965 after he returned from military service in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy. The song appealed to American youth, particularly those of draft age, and encouraged them to question U.S. involvement in the war. The song went further still by criticizing Wall Street’s efforts to make profit from the war.



James Brown doing “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag” 1966


Pfc. Piper Loses Life in Viet Nam Pfc. Walter Piper Jr., 19, son of Mrs. Annie L. Dotson, was killed Sunday in Viet Nam the Department of Army announced Friday. He enlisted in the Army paratroops last 19 Apr (1965), having attended Libby Junior High School and Ferris High School in Spokane. He was assigned to Company B, 2-502nd, First Brigade, 101st Airborne and was flown to the combat area the day after Christmas. He died of a bullet wound in his chest. The body will be flown to Spokane where burial is scheduled at the Veterans’ section at Fairmount Memorial Park. (Spokesman Review, Spokane WA, 12 Feb 1966)

I am a USAF Veteran, having served during the Viet-Nam Era Conflict from 1967-1971. I did NOT do a tour of duty “in country” – all of my service was stateside in the area of what they then called combat support. Obviously, that time-frame makes me in my mid-sixties.

I came up through the enlisted ranks making the NCO grade of Sargent  a year before I was released from active duty for an Early Out For School. So why did I open this post with the death report of PFC Walter Piper, an Army Paratrooper? He was my friend and it’s a story worth telling,……

I was “living the musical dream” in 1964. As a Sophomore in a Jesuit High School ( Quasimodo’s Reincarnate) I was a singer, sax and keyboards player in a renegade rock n’ roll band called “The Dukesmen”. We heard that an unknown singer, “Walt Piperwas lookin’ for a band,.. only one hitch: he was black. To us that meant NOTHING.

All of us were enthralled with Motown, Soul Music and constantly glued to our Black and White TV’s to watch “James Brown and his band of “Famous Flames” at the Tammi-Show. It changed music forever. Good news for us, Walt had a killer throat and could “moon-walk” like the Godfather of Soul. We became an integrated band, which was pretty much unheard of then and our sound made us Battle of the Bands “Kings” for a season. Though we lived in a Northwest Pacific Coast city there were still some looks and prejudicial issues we had to deal with, but we all railed in open defiance of ANY of it when it came to Walt. Then one day, in what seemed to be such a short run, he announced that he was going to join the Army.

The story goes that he got off a helicopter somewhere in Da Nang Province  and was shot in the chest only yards from the jump by a VC with a 12 gauge shotgun. End of “Hoo-rah” military glory – musical career,….. and his life. I think of him every Veteran’s Day, and each-time I hear James Brown.

Walt had dissolved into oblivion, just like the band has. Another one of the guys is dead, one is retired, old and alone like myself, one slipped away on the nebulous road of life and then there’s me. I did a military tour myself,…… Ya see it wasn’t what the DOD now calls an all volunteer force then, we all graduated from High School with the Draft Lottery Jitters. Not me,….I was going to college at a State University to become a Music Major and a writer sure of status as a pledge for a nationally recognized fraternity. All I needed was some scholarship money.

It didn’t happen. My parents had sent me away to a Catholic boarding school in a small town because I washed at the Jesuit High. It was likely the Smoking Fines, truancy personified, getting caught cheating on a mid-term History Test and besides,  I was sure that I didn’t need school. I mean,.. I was writing songs, playing with the bigger regional bands that had recording names when their own people got too drunk and high to show for the gig. They nicknamed me: “Howdy Doody” because I was tall, lanky thin and freckled with reddish hair. I had adolescent “Onset Dillusion” and as it’s nature implies, was totally unaware of it.

In my Senior year, my best friend and I decided we would become Helicopter Pilots and war heroes ( a sure thing, huh)? The town was heavily influenced with a good dose of John Bircher Communist Paranoia, so right after graduation and my “summer of small town true love”  I went to Fort Ord and tried out for the Army Band.

The Bad News? Yes, I passed audition but the mission was primarily combat infantry and they were looking for soldiers. I declined, in spite of the enlistment promises and pressure because my sisters boy friend had joined the Air Force and sung high praises. No-one sucks into a sales pitch like a salesman. I bought it like a Carp on a doughball.

They had a band that played at the White House and — THAT —- sounded just like the patriotic stint I wanted for sitting out my service obligation and the war. I enlisted, but fate had a completely different set of orders in mind for me. Coming up to my October enlistment date I got handed a super-bad case of the flu. With no escape, I had to go or miss the band appointment try-outs in San Antonio so my Dad, a doctor, loaded me up with antibiotics. I remember having sinus pressure so bad on the plane that I couldn’t clear my ears. Naturally, a drink would’ve been my own prescription for serious temporary relief of the pain……but I was eighteen (:

Then there we were, getting off the buss at Boot Camp. The illness won the first skirmish right on the Tarmac. In formation at the clothing issue, I passed out on the pavement. Naturally, in a moment of typical “Boot Camp” compassion our flight’s D.I. came over and kicked me. Then on second take, seeing how pale I was, he sent me on the buss over to Walter Reed Memorial hospital where my fever ran to 105. They gave me an ice bath to pull me out of it. I had double lobe pneumonia.

I was there for 30 days and they did cut-down arterial practice on me as a guinea pig for the med-techs going to the war zone. I still have the scars on my left arm. After a month, I returned to Boot Camp and was shit-outta-luck for the long since expired band trials. BUT — that didn’t by ANY MEANS cancel my enlistment and 3 choices lay ahead of me: 1) Air Police 2) Cook 3) Data Processing. Off into the primitive world of computers I went to Amarillo AFB, Texas.In retrospect, I might’ve gone for cook.

In the meantime I became popular singing cadence in marching formation. I used Walt’s “scat” style to everyone’s amusement, including the Drill Sargent. In Amarillo, we hiked to Tech School in marching formations at 5:30a.m. in blinding snow and 10 below temps. There was no singing, just shivering and muddled bitching with occasional frost-bite.

I had a tryst with a Monterrey California Blonde in the WAF, hooking-up with her most weekends where we met for drinking and intimate affections at a local hotel. The manager made an attempt to befriend me. I was completely “un-street wise” and it wasn’t until he invited me in his effeminate Texas drawl to change into the clothes I had bought – in his office – while he drooled – that I realized he was a GAY Texas Predator.  We had other names back then but this is a family blog,….of sorts :).

It was amazing that Bonnie (named changed to protect the innocent) didn’t get pregnant; we used “the great northern pulls out on time technique” and the rhythm method. One weekend, when liberty was cancelled surprisingly, we made our way late at night to the parade grounds guard house and got into it there, only to be caught by an empathetic AP with a dog who let us off with a warning.

Tech School tour lasted about 4 months. The Air Farce was so anally retentive that they had us waxing and buffing the floors in the showers for their f**king inspections. This was to give a new 2nd Lt. a military bearing erection and a chance for quicker promotion. It was ALWAYS about promotions and ass-kissing,…always.

One of the soldiers was electrocuted when the buffer he was running shorted out, so all of the machines were quickly hauled to the base maintenance shops and fitted with stupid “Zero Defects” tags….”as if”. When they came back, we saw that many still had the ground prong cut-off the plug. That was so they would adapt to the old 2 prong outlets, completely negating any safety measure. I was to learn that such practice was all too common of an example for the way the “Air Farce” did things.

“Whew”! It had turned out to be a lot different than the glorious White House Band Tour that I had planned — and there were nearly four years left ahead! I buried myself in alcohol every chance that I got, along with most everyone else. Cigarettes were 25 cents a pack and almost everyone smoked. To avoid the pain of the reality and of  our circumstances, we drank at nights and habitually took smoke breaks during the day, driving off the base and getting high at lunch.

The adventures and the nightmares continued for the entire year tour; never a dull moment, but this is a blog and not a novel.

I was assigned to the last Port of Call before the Pacific Ocean: Castle AFB in California where the majority of my military career slowly passed like a penitentiary sentence. Keeping myself busy going to school at night, working Night Shift at a Service Station a chance came to grade-up and I  began at the Base Officer’s Club, where I became the Head Waiter. I started out washing dishes.

It gave me every excuse I needed to get away from the Regular Duty Office. I’d also wrangled a day job as the Personnel Liaison for a Medical Svc. Flight – a bunch of “mash-style Goof-offs” who avoided the war with Reserve Duty – mostly guys from the L.A. Area. They came in on week-ends, showed confiscated stag films swiped from the LAPD Vice Department as their training films and had a lush party every night at their hotel making what they called Rocky Mountain Coolers. I know, you want to hear about the recipe.

Fill bath-tub in hotel room 1/2 way with ice. Gently add with rowboat paddle – 3 gallons Red Mountain Burgundy Wine, 3 fifths each of Vodka and Gin, 3 cans of root beer and 7Up stir and gorge upon same like a College Toga Party while smoking pot and jumping in the pool, terrorizing any women at the motel. Show-up hung-over to the gills the next day in your Golf Clothes for Reserve Formation, (“Don’t worry”, Sargent Arthur will take care of all military details). And so I did, for which they recommended me for the AF Commendation Medal.

We should break for a minute in remembrance of Woodstock, the greatest Musical Celebration of the Century.

Canned Heat: On The Road Again


Back at the base and the Active Duty element, the natives were broken into two schools of thought, much as today. Some of us hated the war, the military and others were totally indoctrinated and loved it, ready to send anyone who didn’t see things there way to a firing squad or Leavenworth. You were either “with us er agin us” as President G.W. “Dog Painter” would say, and in my element we named them “Flys” – because Flys were attracted to shit and that’s what the Military Industrial Propaganda Indoctrination machine was – SHIT! 

Properly telling you this “Airman’s” Tale, spinning its events, personalities, the laughable miracles of escape from court marshal and close-call hellish atrocities is a long short story – to long – so I am going to throttle-up before I lose you.

I don’t want to be another reticent, redundant old VET who should save it for the wheel chair crowd at the nursing home, that lovely fate that awaits all of us from the 65 on crowd,… our destiny at the assisted “living”  sarcophagus, smelling of urine, prune juice and Soup of the Day. “Ahhhhh,” the American Dream of happy retirement in its nightmarish reality :), little more than a feedlot for the geriatric medical exploiters, the cremation ovens and the cemeteries. Then, if you’re really lucky, ending-up staring at the TV or the window at the Veteran’s Home waiting for the death buss.

Okay,….. that was morbid, but often enough,. isn’t reality ? Clearly the reason why so many VETS, young and old, salute the dawn with a shot and a “shot” – the final round in their at least honorable conclusion to the paradise we call American Life, before the dishonor and humiliation. That idillic life often spun in it’s inverse on a 30 second info-mercial about preparing for the bright post-term future of an enlistment in the USAF or other military branch. 

But let’s not get too “delayed stressed” or depression obsessed. The USAF brought me through some adventures and taught me to drink like a Shriner. I was able to slither in my booze and hold as much liquor as any chronic late stage alcoholic on the base. Maybe I cut myself short – “I coulda’ been a contender.

After I became an NCO intoxication was my avocation at “The NCO Club”, where we tuned-up while watching the latest video reports of Lt. Danny Calley at the My-Lai Massacre – our own version of Abhu Graib without the torture and pictures, both stunning achievements of the “Oh so F**king noble” U.S. Military. 

Abhu Graib U.S. Military Prison Guard shows America’s Respect for dignity and Geneva Convention. And so many wonder why they continue to try to blow us off the map!


The My-Lai Massacre during the Viet-Nam War. Over 100 innocent Vietnamese Villagers were executed by Lt. Dan Calley and his U.S. Soldiers.

You were nothing if you couldn’t hold you liquor and “By God,” they taught me how to do that.  As you can see from the pictures, there’s plenty of reason to drink away the truth.

“Oh wait”! I’m getting all turned around here. This is Veteran’s Day and its a disservice to “The Troops” (cue the music whenever you need a little shot of indoctrination):     

The USAF Theme Song complete with chorus

Showing the realities of war and the propaganda indoctrination of the U.S. Military who represents the enforcement arm of the Military-Financial-Industrial-Intelligence Complex isn’t that “VET-Like”. So I better get into the wind-up phase here before I talk about NEOCON Baptist Religiosity and the Fascist madness it has induced in Southern States consciousness. “Really,”before I push myself into a bad mood, let me say that my USAF Service put me through college and covered-my-six in buying a house. They have made Medical Care and a potential Retirement Pension available for my service ( or at least they say they are going to after 7 months so far of “processing) probably averting financial collapse and eventual self-annihilation. I get help surviving the hell I’ve come to know as American Retirement Life through my local County Veteran’s Service Board with food, gas and support. 

Let me finish by saying that many men and women have died in the service of their country, many have lost their limbs, their organs and their minds. We all owe them this one day of the year to show our love for them and respect for the sacrifice they made. Compared to theirs, mine seems insignificant, except that none of us will ever be the same for it.  I want you to know that while I drank-up 40 years, embellished with a potpourris of drug abuse running from my own PTSD, that I am clean and sober now for nearly 13 years, which has brought me to a practice of recovery that has helped me sort out my memory addled mind, reconciling the past, mitigating the present, with hopes of coming to some peace in the future. 

Parade Today in NYC

May God Bless and Forever Rest all of  the men and women who’s service we honor today, because America will never really know their sacrifice as it was nor the quiet suffering born by them and their families.

I’m signing out.