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Albatross Stew (February 4, 2004)

I was out of luck this time. I was one of the special residents chosen for the Albatross Stew. We were a select group of old timers given this wonderful opportunity. Luckily they didn’t tell us until about 10pm so I had only two hours to ponder my fate. The concept was this: Women did not support their husbands. The Old Man had groomed all these men to be big shots but the wives were always negative pulling them down. We were dead weight, dinosaurs, unable to allow our husbands to make the leap into the 21st century. 

This was after the blood bath stew so I should have known. But the difference was I escaped the Blood Bath Stew (I was never called) so it still was like it happened to them but it will never happen to me. But then it happened to me. 

We were lined up in the hall like cattle waiting for our throats to be cut at midnight. I had been hoping for a good night’s sleep, but no such luck. But that was the luck of the draw in Synanon, and Synanon was my choice as a lifestyle so I was willing to go through whatever I had to. I knew I would go to bed one day, all I had to do was endure a whole lot of shit until that happened. I was a dope fiend. Fuck the social movement. I just loved Synanon. I wanted to be there forever. 

All that was about to change.

They called my number and I went into the stew. I felt like jumping off a high board into a pool. Pretty scary. There was a bench. I was not even in Synanon anymore. I was on the bench. There on the bench were four other Synanon wives. Barbara Stowe was there. She worked with me in accounting. She was black, extremely bright, totally skinny and beautiful. She had a noble head with clipped hair and a long neck like Nerfertiti. She was eight months pregnant. She was married to an average Joe named Steve who worked in automotive. He was white and was lucky to have half her brain cells.

Jack Hurst was there. Reid Kimball. I was reassured. Jack was my main man, my idol, and my protector. No harm could come to me if Jack was there. Reid was my teddy bear. Tough dope fiend, street hard, cold as ice with a heart as big as Texas. I had no problem. I got this program aced.

Wrong.

My old man Jim Morris sat miserably in a chair. I didn’t like the look on his face — like he knew he had to stab me in the back and ball-less wonder that he was he would do it. But he could not look at me. They all loved Jim, all the real old timers. So Jack told him to invite me into the group and ask me why I didn’t respect him. So Jim did that. He hoped someday to return to Monday Night Football so he was willing to do whatever he had to do too. By then I was pissed. The whole thing pissed me off. I wasn’t mad at Jim. I already knew he had no balls. If I were he I would have said, “Fuck You! Put me on the bench with the girls!” But he and I were cut from different cloth. I am often described as thin skinned. He was described as just a really nice guy. 

So he invited me in and asked me why I had no respect for him? He was forced and miserable but I didn’t care it just proved to me what a weak loser he was.

I said, “Well if you ever did anything I could respect you for, I would.” 

That caused a massive explosion of all the males in the room. Except Jim. His head was on his chest. They noticed. Now I was the wicked witch of the west. I had cut my husband’s balls off. That was something we were often accused of. And that was the whole issue here. We had all de-balled our men according to Chuck and he had wanted to do that himself so he wanted us to give their balls back! So he could have them. I already knew that he had Jim’s balls 100% so why make me stay up forever over it? I don’t care. I just want to go on with my life.

They threw me back on the bench. I never did get in the game. I must have sat there for three days. I got called in every once in awhile, but I never varied my answer. I felt guilty for hurting Jim so much. He would have been so happy if I had just bowed down to them. I am sure he would have been so happy if I had crawled across the floor and kissed his feet. How hard is that?, he must have wondered. But I was not willing to do that. If I did that it would only end in throwing up on his feet. In my mind it was not about Jim and his male ego — it was about the truth. There were so many issues in Synanon that I felt were not important enough to make a big issue out of, but on this one I wasn’t willing to bend. I was my own person. I was offended by the whole notion of the Albatross Stew, so there was no way I intended to play this game. I thought Jim was pathetic for buying in to it. I felt sorry for all the pain I caused him by not kowtowing but I just couldn’t do it.

All I wanted was to ride it out. I rode so many things out in Synanon. I figured I could do it. 

Then it all fell apart. 

First Ray and Ruth Swedelson. Ruth was a Ute Indian from the Reno project who killed her babies because of post-natal depression. She never shot dope. Ray was a dope fiend from New York. They had a good marriage. Ruth was a quiet person, a good person. It was impossible to demonize her. She was a good wife. They invited her into the stew. They accused her of the current dogma (disrespecting her husband). She was a Ute. I was from Utah so I knew her way of conceiving things was not the Synanon way. Ruth did not understand what was expected of her so she said the wrong things. The men asked Ray if he wanted to throw her out of Synanon. Now I was awake. He said yes. I never forgave him for that anymore than I forgave Jim Morris. She was sent downstairs to the bench. He was asked several times over a period of 24 hours what to do with Ruth. She was bounced back up. She was unresponsive by then by still unbending. She would not beg forgiveness for something she never did. He went back and forth. His final decision was exile. I never saw Ruth again or heard anything about her. 

I knew this was serious business. They were out to kill me in here. Holy skrit said if you got kicked out you died. Ruth got kicked out for absolutely no reason. Now I had to decide if I wanted to kiss my husband’s cowardly ass or die. 

I started paying attention. I had a big problem with the orange juice. It was bad. I had a glass and threw up. About eight hours later I forgot it was bad. I had a glass and I threw up. My hope had been not to draw attention to myself but I kept having to leave the bench for throwing up or diarrhea so they kept noticing me.

Finally Barbara Stowe caved in. She was a proud woman but in reality she was eight months pregnant and she needed sleep. The baby needed her not to be stressed out. Stress will trigger abortion. The body can only deal with only so much. Pregnancy is extreme stress. A stew is an extreme stress the body does not anticipate. The body will abort a fetus if it feels the mother is compromised. A wise mother will avoid stress. Barbara was forced into stress. In the end she chose her baby over her pride. I will never be able to erase that vision from my mind. I have forgotten so many things I want to remember, but the memory of Barbara with a huge wrench tied around her neck and her maternity smock dragging the floor crawling across the room to kiss the feet of her husband — that I will never forget.

Everything changed for me right there. I thought the stew was out of control. Jack was out of the room at the moment. I looked to Reid to stop this. I saw the glee in his eyes. He was not seeing what I was seeing. He hated women too. Of course he did. He was an old time dope fiend. 

So there was no one to stop this madness. 

I no longer cared after that. I knew I was not one of these people anymore. I took Jim with me. He would have gone on, but I forced him to choose between Chuck and me. He chose me. So Chuck was right. I was the negative force that took Jim out of Synanon. But if I had left without him we all know he would have eventually done it himself. He wanted to go but he just scared that was all. He did okay. The marriage was over even in Synanon, but I tried for ten years more. He ended up in Miami. He got a degree in social work and died of cancer about ten years ago. He was good man. I will never stop loving him. 

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