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Community & Killer Cats

(Before we get rolling here, I’m going to ask that you imagine, before reading the first line of this little time-waster, it coming from the mouth of Dr. Nick Riviera. If you don’t know who that is, YouTube the name and you will find montages of the man saying the line over and over. If you are resistant to technological informational shortcuts or just don’t feel that newspaper articles should require multimedia confunction to effectuate their tone, then envision a voice of infectious, unalloyed cheer, a cheer that could only come from being an insanely optimistic doctor with a degree from the Hollywood Upstairs Medical College and a degree of confidence that could and does only come from a liberally applied regimen of self-prescribed pharmaceuticals when I say…) 

Hi, everybody!

However, I am channeling the good doctor not through the application of goofballs but the opposite, the clarity of freedom derived from unshackling myself from the insidious claws of my own intoxicant of choice, methamphetamine. 

After eight days of not shoveling a witch's brew of corrosive chemicals into my aging and protesting corpus, I feel a relief not unlike that of waking up from a nightmare in which something terrible and terminal has happened in one's life and realizing it was only a dream. It's the longest I've been clean for quite some time; my sober days of late have been largely of the sleep-for-three-days-so-I-can-piss-clean variety, without any appreciable healing time. 

Living like this, the damage appreciates like a boomtime mutual fund until I'm creaking and groaning like a rusty old boiler, senses and sensations numbed, operating at (maybe) half capacity and using what little wiles remain to figure out how to keep my use hidden from the various people charged with helping me to stay clean, And not, I hardly need mention, doing much of a job of it.

And so, as you might suspect, knowing me and my parole officer, I am yet again haunting the halls of yet another facility staffed with professionals in the Sisyphean field of trying to transform knuckleheads like me into taxpaying citizens, i.e., rehab. I'm in a new city and county, Eureka and Humboldt respectively, and while I don't want to slag Mendocino or Ukiah, the best you could say about that latter city in an aesthetic sense is that it is — no offense — drab. Eureka is beautiful, and while this might just be a case of being too far removed from any kind of metropolitan sophistication, I am stunned and enchanted by the architecture and public art. Although the Victorians are what Eureka is (justly) known for, there are also many gorgeous examples of midcentury modern houses, my favorite style. I've only ever lived in two and one I destroyed, but there's something about these houses and the images of shimmering rayon and the sweating martini pitchers they conjure that comforts and satisfies. 

I mentioned when last you heard from me about wiping my butt with my last job and the efforts of some very caring and helpful people to keep me on the straight and narrow. But what I didn't reveal was my decision — skirted the issue entirely, if memory serves — to return to my former position of full-time tweaker. 

The hours are (really) long and the pay nonexistent, but at least you get to watch porn all day. To boot, somewhere in my subconscious there arose the following thought: Flynn, old sock, you've got this terribly scary and damaging addictive impulse to destroy your life, and while that's all well and good, what you need is another ancillary and complementary addiction to speed up the process. Purely in the interest of efficiency and productivity, you understand. And so I discovered the insanely satisfying practice of, with a snootful of meth, shoving all my money into a beeping, clanging, glittering machine as it reluctantly returned progressively smaller amounts of it until I couldn't afford a handful of beans. Over the last couple of years I have managed, despite drugging it up like there was no tomorrow and trying hard to effectuate that potential reality, to hold on to my possessions, but this habit put paid to that minor accomplishment. When the dust settled I had no car, guitars, or a lot of other treasured and expensive stuff I'd managed to accumulate. 

So I'm sitting at home one fine day, minding my own business, puffing on the pipe, when there came a knock on the door. Not the sort of knock that politely inquires "Hello? Anyone home?," but rather the variety that loudly and insistently shouts, "I'M ONLY DOING THIS FOR FORM'S SAKE AND AM COMING IN WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, DAMN WHATEVER MEASURES YOU MAY HAVE EMPLOYED TO PREVENT THAT SORT OF THING." You know, like cops do. 

Sure enough, before the pounding had even ceased reverberating, my solitary pursuit was immediately and decisively curtailed by the presence of my parole officer and the repositioning of my hands behind my back, securely fixed in said position by the application of handcuffs. Not a new experience, but as always a decidedly deflating and depressing one. 

After a bit of remonstration on his part and pleading on mine, the decision was arrived at, despite some serious opposition from the minority party, to update my status to Locked Up, and it was off again to the lovely Low Gap Hilton for a period of forced R and R. I stayed a week and was directed, upon release, to report post-haste to Clearlake Oaks and the Hilltop Recovery Center, and I meant to — really I did — do that very thing, but somehow managed, en route, to find myself, first, at the home of my preferred procurer of illicit pharma, and next, at Running Creek Casino in Nice. I stayed there for three full days to make absolutely certain my downfall would be utter and complete before returning to Ukiah and the not-so-tender mercies of parole and its embodiment vis-a-vis me, who mystifyingly told me not to face the wall and put my hands behind my back but to return home and wait while a decision was reached regarding my fate. 

I did so and was given a week to get clean after which I would be transported to this little jewel of a city on Humboldt Bay and the Humboldt Recovery Center, from which I now address you. 

As noted earlier, I am feeling remarkably upbeat and positive, hopeful for the future and fizzing with optimistic and effervescent joie de vivre, but this is by no means my first barbecue and I know it's a temporary condition engineered by my brain and body in a sort of thank-you note for curtailing the barrage of poison I've been subjecting them to. Once the condition of sobriety has accumulated enough hours to become status quo I'll no doubt return to my surly, argumentative, eremitic self, piling on layers of nacreous crust until I'm as salty as an old sea dog and no use to anyone at all, only deigning to participate in the social compact insofar as it might benefit me sexually or financially. 

Or will I? 

Many — and by many, I mean anyone who has spent more than a few hours in my company — people have suggested that this may just be part of the problem. Some have vociferously insisted that it definitely is and if I don't get my shit together and rejoin the human race I'll wind up living only for the moments when I can shout at children to get the hell off of my lawn. Much as I hate to admit to anyone ever being right about anything in opposition to my own views, I'm considering giving the idea some thought and admitting that other people do, in fact, have the right to exist and voice their opinions. 

Years ago, I had a cat named Calliope, a smallish, unremarkable black female, who was a fairly typical example of the species when in the house either alone or with me. She did the normal cat things like lolling in sunbeams, tipping over drinks, interrupting my reading or computing, and sticking her butt in my face, as you'd expect a cat to do. Once any other being entered her purview, however, she turned into a blinding ball of spitting, hissing teeth and claws as she employed the entire feline defensive/aggressive arsenal in eradicating whomever might have the gall to draw breath in her presence. 

It wasn't enough that she keep our home clear of interlopers, either — she went outside on daily patrols of the perimeter, attacking with extreme prejudice anyone she happened upon, be they canine, feline, avian, or primate. Calliope had simply come into the world, established a relationship with me and decided that was quite sufficient, thank you. If there was going to be any other business going on in the world it had better be done an undetectable distance from us or there'd be hell to pay. She was my personal spirit animal and I believe that our bond established the template for my current condition of isolationist distaste for the human race. 

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the work of Malcolm Gladwell, specifically the book ‘Outliers,’ in which the introduction outlines the tale of a group of Italian immigrants who recreated their old-country community in the hills of Pennsylvania. Somehow these people managed, over the years while becoming Americans, to avoid falling victim to the usual American complaints of obesity, cancer, and heart disease. They were long-lived, happy, and productive, and they did it without spin classes, yoga, macrobiotic cooking, self-help books, or any of the tools Americans currently use to "improve" themselves. Observers were mystified as to the cause of this anomaly and scientists of varying disciplines collected data and puzzled over the situation until it was determined that it was "community," in the sense that everyone in town knew one another, looked out for one another, and shared in one another's problems, successes, and lives, that kept them healthy and happy. I doubt I could convince Calliope of the validity of this worldview, but it gives me something to think about. 

If nothing else, I'd like to discard the discussion of drugs entirely for the time being and allow my mind to free-range muse on the sort of topics that used to color my submissions, back when I was in prison. I realize the self-indulgent navel-gazing is becoming tiresome — if it is to me, it surely is to the readership — and I do henceforth commit to the immediate improvement of my space herein. 

Goodbye, everybody!

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