Saturday, December 18, 2010

(part 224) THE ROAD AHEAD

It's not that the situation with Gary was so different from things that happen to other people, it was what it did to me personally that makes it stand out in my life.

I had already found it difficult to trust people, because each time I did, something bad usually resulted in the end.

Gary was just a guy I knew from the program. It never occurred to me that I had anything to fear from him.

But after what happened, I found myself even more wary, sizing up each person I encountered. Not in a positive way, but looking at that them as potential foes.

I moved out of the house in Culver City and once again took up the old practice of living here and there, but never anywhere for very long.

I spent God-awful amounts of time driving around in my car with no particular destination, just cruising the Southern California streets alone.

I would drop into xxx book stores and peep shows on a regular basis and sink ever lower on the scale of self worth and personal dignity.

My outlook on life had deteriorated into a self-imposed exile from the human race and any kind of normal routine.

It felt very reminiscent of my life loaded, not in the sense of what I did, but how I felt about a word, bleak.

I stayed with the tool-selling job as long as I could, for money, but eventually quit out of frustration. I was good at the job, but a lot of what I sold was crap.

Because of this, I found it hard to lie to some farmer in Indiana about the quality of what I was trying to get him to buy. I had a phone name, Cole Parker, and a lot of those guys trusted me.

One day a man in the midwest said, "Well, Cole, do you think this is a good buy?" I knew it was garbage, so I told him, "No, it's junk, don't buy it." I knew then I was through selling tools.

I made jewelry, sold jewelry, painted houses occasionally, worked for contractors when I could, bought stuff and sold it. Whatever I could do I did at one time or another to keep going.

What I couldn't do was get and keep a regular job, or have a relationship that was stable with another human being.

My past, and all that went with it, would eventually explode inside me and wreak general havoc with any normal setting I might have been attempting to engage in.

This was as painful and confusing as anything I have ever had to deal with. There was no way to know when it would happen, just the knowledge that it would happen sooner rather than later.

Various people, mostly women, tried to fix me along the way, but without success. I was fighting my own demons and locked in a desperate battle to stay alive and sober.

The rock bottom nature of my dilemma was slowly, cruelly, and clearly making itself ever more known to me. The dream of a good life with things to be grateful for dimmed to a bare flicker.

I was an outcast among outcasts. A man alone in his own desperate quest for salvation. The future loomed ahead, promising, I feared, more of the same.

The recognition of that possibility, probably saved my life as well as my sobriety, because it forced me to accept, however grudgingly, that the best I might achieve was to simply survive each new calamity.


  1. They say that "survival" is an instinct. If so, you certainly have it; however, it appears, on many occasions to compete with its counterpart, the "self-destructive impulse." Poe wrote a short story called "The Imp of the Perverse," in which he said:

    "Through its promptings we act without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not. In theory, no reason can be more unreasonable, but, in fact, there is none more strong. With certain minds, under certain conditions, it becomes absolutely irresistible. I am not more certain that I breathe, than that the assurance of the wrong or error of any action is often the one unconquerable force which impels us, and alone impels us to its prosecution."

    Although you appear to often be beset by damaging impulses, you nevertheless survive with a level of intellectual and moral integrity intact. The sales job is a good example. The cynic in me believes that most people would tell the "little" lie and chalk it up to "doing business" or just "trying to survive." The fact that you gave up the job because to continue would be dishonest may seem to some to be a "self-congratulatory rationalization," but I think it fits perfectly with the other 224 parts of the story up to now.

    Your distrust of people, your quick temper, your (early on) naivete, may have had results that might have turned out differently if you had played the game differently, but, with a couple of lapses (the golf club and the storefront come to mind), your motives have been commendable and your dealings have been straight. I am not talking about legal issues since many of your transgressions (drugs, street demonstrations) are politically illegal not morally reprehensible. In your dealings with others you appear to have generally been honest and open.

  2. I left college in the middle of my junior year to work 12 hours a day so that I could marry my high-school sweetheart (Kiddies, this is not a choice that I recommend—our marriage only lasted three years, and though we had an amicable divorce and are still distant friends, young marriage is obviously a precarious choice for most). Anyway, I saw an ad about selling vacuums, and I went to check it out. They had about twelve prospective salesmen there from about nineteen (me) to thirty years old. It was like a revival meeting and an infomercial rolled into one. The "instructor" was a gung-ho, "can you believe how great this is" pitchman. He was demonstrating the "remarkable" vacuum, but more importantly, he was touting the easy money to be made. Then he introduced the top salesman, a guy who claimed to make over a hundred thousand a year selling vacuum cleaners.

    As they demonstrated the amazing ability of the machine, I pointed out that the "magic powers," like pouring a bunch of loose dirt on a hard floor and "miraculously" picking it up, were the kinds of things that any mediocre vacuum could do. I also pointed out that the amount that they proposed to pay us would require us to sell hundreds of vacuums a month to even begin to make as much as the star salesman made. Ironically, the other guys, who were apparently more desperate than I, looked at me with disdain and "sucked up" (pun intended) the stories of fame and fortune through vacuum cleaner salesmanship. As for me, I left knowing that I could not go door to door and try to con women into buying the overpriced appliance. Therefore, your quitting the sales job rings true to me.

    Your notion that believing that "more of the same" was inevitable served as a psychological protection also makes sense. I wonder, though, if it was also self-fulfilling? Not even hindsight can answer that one because there really is no such thing as "what might have been"; there is only what was, and you have a marvelous way of giving us insight into what was....

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. This blog brings peace to me.



  4. I was good at the job Tim...too good....I became one of the top salesmen there, but could not continue to con people into buying just didn't sit right with me...and I know you get this, so thank you...

    The road ahead was what i had to prepare myself for...I had to know that no matter what went wrong...I would continue to not get loaded over it... Self fulilling...maybe so. I knew that was a definite possibility, but for me it was common sense....."just in case it stays this way for a longtime better have your mind made up about sobriety." So this to me was a common sense issue and is disagreed with by thousands...