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The Tale of the Sacrificial Ford

There is nothing quite like a good nap, especially when one is getting on in years and the normal nighttime sleep cycle starts getting interrupted by certain hydrological imperatives, the accumulated stressors of middle age, existential despair, and streaming video. A nap, though — a nap can put things as near to right as possible, judiciously applied and responsibly administered. Thirty post-prandial minutes stretched out with the sun buttering your eyelids can restore and rejuvenate the crankiest coot, who awakens stretching and smiling preparatory to sallying forth to conquer what remains of the day. 

Then, of course, there is the Bad Nap. Bad Naps happen when one has taxed one's constitution to the utmost and perforce collapses in inappropriate and ill-timed moments and places, resulting in embarrassment, indignity, and even, in extreme cases, injury - the classic and extreme example being, of course, falling asleep at the wheel of a moving car. 

I would like to attempt to describe to you the feeling of thinking for a millisecond you're arising from a brief, restorative power nap before the shocking realization that you have abandoned your proscribed northbound lane for the less crowded but decidedly bumpier median strip, heading disastrously toward the southbound side of things and nearly certain head-on collision, but I haven't the words. Suffice to say that my higher functions took one look and decided to leave the resolution of this particular problem to my lizard brain and certain raw nerve impulses. "Nitey-nite," they said. "Good luck. Let us know how it all turns out."

I wrenched the wheel hard to the right, which had the immediate effect of obviating the death-vector but took me directly into the path of a large Caltrans sign supported by stout 4X4s, which I took out cleanly on my way back to the northbound side. Arriving there, I was not oriented strictly northward but had more of a NNE vector, and anyway had no more control over the vehicle than I do over this damnable addiction of mine. Another sign, this one helpfully pointing out the distances to Petaluma, Cloverdale, and Ukiah, went the way of the buffalo and spun me first so that the car was pointed south and then, as I headed down the right-side embankment, into a roll along the vehicle's long axis. One full revolution, two, and it was here that I had my first coherent thought, something like I certainly hope this is over soon. 

After what felt like forever but was surely only a few seconds, I bounced to a stop — luckily, right-side up — and began taking stock. Blood was dripping from my hand but appeared to originate from somewhere below the wrist so I dismissed that. I wiggled my toes and fingers, turned my head from side to side, pronounced myself fine and started to unbuckle my seat belt when a well-intentioned passerby came bounding up screaming, "Don't move! Don't move!"

"Relax, I'm okay," I said, but he insisted and persisted and I acceded, sitting back to wait for the emergency crew to arrive. My thoughts, as one's will during times like those, turned to my nearest and dearest and I looked around the cab panickedly. "My phone! WHERE'S MY FUCKING PHONE?"

"Relax, brother, we'll find your phone," said my Samaritan. "Just sit still and wait for the EMTs."

I sat, but I wasn't real still, spinning and fidgeting as much as the harness would allow to try and spy my phone, pipe, and dopesack, but nothing was where it ought to have been. The roof, for example, was about ten yards away from the car proper, and there was a trail of other parts and possessions leading from the highway to my current off-road position, This was not good, not by any definition of the word, and try as I might, I couldn't come up with a single 12-step slogan, positive affirmation, Buddhist koan, or pithy Taoist directive to ameliorate the sitch. Because I do like to look at the bright side of things, but on polling the committee, the vote was unanimous: you, sir, are Fucked. 

How did I arrive at that terrifying and definitive juncture? Well, when last we spoke, I was freshly embarked on a new relapse, sitting in a room at the Economy Inn, coming down and unsure of what direction to take. Bruce McEwen had just stopped by with a plate of bacon-wrapped shrimp and a liberal dose of his outsized personality, cheering me significantly. It's probably unnecessary to say, but I elected to continue on the path to perdition, refilling my sack and setting my cap for what would prove to be a parlous and precarious adventure.

I began keeping company with a notorious local thug and his junkie moll, who shall remain nameless in that simply being aware of his existence is probably a violation of my parole, never mind all the accessory-before-and-after-the-fact-ing I ended up embroiled in. I never participated, but was certainly complicit by virtue of knowledge, in a staggering number of crimes. 

In my own criminal past I was always a lone operator and never associated with the criminal underworld at large except post-bust in the stripey hole, where I agonized over the damage I'd inflicted on the fabric of society, but if this particular miscreant was any indicator of the amount of monkey business being perpetrated on the good people and merchants of Ukiah, then my piddling efforts amounted to less than a drop in the bucket — a molecule in a drop in the bucket. This guy took more from Wal-Mart, Penney's, and Kohl's every single day than I got from my bank job, and that's just the beginning of it. Assaults, burglaries, and all manner of mischief unspooled throughout every single day. To my credit, I was horrified and wanted to distribute his picture throughout the commercial sector with specific instructions to never, under any circumstances, allow this man entre into your establishment, but I did nothing. I may yet, if this character is still free-ranging it when I get back to Ukiah, arrange for his arrest and detention. I'm sure some of my criminal chums inside are even now reading this and screaming, "Washburne's a SNITCH!", but fuck it. Stealing is wrong and so was I for sitting idly by as this joker raped our local businesses. 

I concede that a revolutionary-style case can be made for the moral rightness of stealing from Wal-Mart in retaliation for their crimes against small business, the working poor, and the economy at large, but not by me. Moral imperatives are best writ large and depicted in clear, vivid, black and white. Don't take things that don't belong to you, period.

My daily meth intake, never restricted by anything more than scarcity, became prodigious in the extreme as I was finally able to answer the question: what would I do, given an unlimited supply of my chosen poison? Answer: smoke myself to death. Literally, and the inevitability of that sad outcome became more apparent each day. The muscle tone I'd worked so hard to build and define melted away and left me a feeble, skin-wrapped skeleton. Effort or exertion in even the mildest degree caused joints to dislodge and connective tissue to strain, making the simplest physical action an exercise in pain and difficulty. I restricted my energy expenditure to lifting nothing heavier than a pipe and a torch and walking no further than the bathroom. 

I did maintain contact with my remarkably patient and accommodating parole officer, who was working to place me in another rehabilitative situation. Peripherally aware of but not overly concerned with that possibility, I figured I'd burn that bridge when I came to it. 

The prospect of imminent rehabilitation can, to the actively abusing addict, be comforting while still in the abstract, much like that golden period between being hired and actually starting work. When the moment arrives and it's time to get clean, though, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish and an altogether terrifying prospect. 

When the call came from my parole agent to report to the Volunteers of America program in Oakland post-haste, I was deep into a bag, getting deeper, and I panicked. "I need some time to detox," I said. 

"How much time?"

"I don't know, two weeks?" I inquired hopefully. 

"You've got 12 hours. Be there or I'll issue a warrant for your arrest." Click. He's a decent enough guy, but definitively abrupt once he's had his fill of nonsense.

Well, nothin' to it but to do it. I loaded up the Explorer with all of my worldly possessions, loaded up my pipe, secreted a couple grams in the prison pocket, and headed south. 

West Oakland was foreign and scary. I couldn't find a place to park and people kept yelling at me for blocking their way. Knots of brightly attired, rambunctious youths patrolled the streets, and the vibrant urban scene I would normally find intriguing and invigorating seemed ominous and anti-Flynn. The facility itself looked, once inside, like a combination of prison and boot camp, with the clients uniformed and hierarchied, not the nurturing sort of environment I've come to expect from my treatment centers. I may have been paranoid from the drugs, but I was also pretty perceptive, and my speedfreak-sense told me there was to be absolutely no coddling in this environment. No coddling? Pffft, that's a wrap. I'm dust. I plotted a course for the intersection of Turk and Leavenworth and hit the road again. 

San Francisco's Tenderloin District is the Disneyland of drug ghettos, a 24-hour street festival of procurement, enjoyment, bizarre behavior, and unbelievable bargains in consumer goods and (albeit risky) sex. I found a choice parking spot on Eddy, befriended a garrulous and helpful Fentanyl addict who gave me an informative walking tour, updating me on which corners to get what and which to stay away from, acquired some very reasonable and effortless sexual release, and took a nap. 

Awakening with the sun, or what passes for it in a Bay Area winter, I took nineteen or twenty restorative hits from the pipe and aimed ol' Betsy northward and home. I made it to northern Marin before cruise control, the rhythm of the road, and the cumulative effects of weeks of physical deficit-spending lulled me into a deadly slumber, and this is where we came in. 

The condition of my whip, I noticed as the EMTs wheeled me back up to the highway, was such that passers-by no doubt cringed and clucked imagining the carnage within; I was extremely lucky in suffering no more than some minor hand lacerations and a sore shoulder. Most folks would attribute the intercession of God or angels for such a fortunate outcome, but I prefer to believe it was the vehicle itself who save me in gratitude for my careful and loving treatment of her during our short association. When danger loomed, she ensconced me in her rigid steel framework, kept the harness tight, and with her last living act, gave her own life to save mine. Rest in peace, noble steed. You sha'n't be forgotten and the Ford marque will be forever revered. 

At the hospital I fell asleep during the MRI and remained so for six hours. When I awoke, they fed me a sandwich and sent me on my way. I spent the night in Petaluma's relatively plush and accommodating homeless shelter and in the morning caught a bus for Santa Rosa and points north. 

I'd barely inserted myself back into Ukiah's welcoming bosom when a routine roust at Jack In The Box proved that my PO had instructed the local constabulary to remove me from the mix without delay, and I was once again a guest of the Low Gap Hilton. 

The next three days were a hellish fog of puking, freezing, and hallucination in the holding cell, and I'd no sooner been shifted to the dorm and given a bed when the call came to "roll it up." As I'd been suffering through the nightmarish withdrawal, machinations were afoot and apparently the intercession of three — count 'em, three — parole agents with the funding agency, who'd earlier announced no more funding for me or anyone else for treatment, achieved for me with their testimonials an override and a 90-day spot at Hilltop in Lake County. What the fuck? It's almost as if these guys gave a shit and believed me capable of redemption. Wonders will indeed never cease. 

Never let it be said that I failed to extract lessons from my travails and shenanigans, and herein are a few of them.

  1. I want to be clean. I really want to be clean. I scared the crap out of myself during this last episode and found I do not want to perish in drug-addled ignominy.
  2. It is possible to survive for up to six weeks on nothing but potato chips, ice cream, meth, and Yoo-Hoo, but I wouldn't push it much beyond that. 
  3. No association in my life has lasted as long or been as meaningful and fulfilling than that I've enjoyed with the AVA. Bruce and Mark have been friends, benefactors, and champions of my better self, and I owe them a debt I'll do my best to repay the only way I can. I am, for better or worse, the prodigal problem child of this august rag and I'll stay with it until the wheels fall off. 
  4. The words of encouragement and financial support I received from those who contributed to my begging campaign moved me tremendously and I thank you all from my very cockles. It should be also noted that I did spend (most of) the money responsibly. Thank you. 

And that, ladles and jellyspoons, is that. I am safely secured in what I believe will be a helpful and successful program, not quite firing on all cylinders but approaching homeostasis and oddly optimistic. Onward and upward!

3 Comments

  1. Pat Kittle March 1, 2019

    Flynn,

    Your fond recounting of your tragically brief journey “Into the Woods” brought tears to my eyes:

    “I had literally never heard of Montgomery Woods before about a month ago, and I’m not sure why you guys are keeping it such a secret. That there should be a place so close that is capable of distancing you so thoroughly from Ukiah was amazing to me, and this one borders on interdimensional-portal effectiveness for doing that. It is an oasis, a concentration of life and stately beauty, and well-adorned with some of Nature’s finer flourishes.

    “The qualities of light, air and sound in a redwood forest observe different rules than we’re used to. The sheer mass of those trees, the deep, spongy layers of humus, moisture-laden air, and canopy filter the light, clip the sound, and give weight and density to the air, You have a feeling of being enclosed and safe, outdoors though you may be, protected and nurtured by these enormous sentinels and the magic they’ve been able to conjure by aggregating in this one spot and creating this isle of old-growth majesty. I went by myself, but the people I saw there in pairs or groups didn’t say much, because human speech seems trivial and unnecessary in there, no matter how sparkling. If you’re quiet and listen to the silence, or to the water both dripping from boughs and chuckling over rocks in the stream, you understand the existing soundtrack cannot be improved upon.

    “At one point in my visit the sun broke briefly through the pervading aura of mist and gloom and sent several dappled beams lancing through the trees, upon which rode, I am pretty certain, fairies, pixies, and other species I’d previously thought fictional. Somehow I’d abandoned my boring-ass earthly existence and crossed over into Middle-Earth or some such fantasyland. Who knew?”
    — [ http://www.theava.com/archives/91636 ]

    Wow! I suspect you were channeling John Muir or Andrew P. Hill.

    Amazing grace. May you return one day.

    Regards,
    — Pat Kittle

  2. Hector Lazarus March 1, 2019

    I disagree that Mr Washburn needs to adjust his drug choices. Rate of intake? Route of administration? Maybe. It would be a far better world if methamphetamine were completely legal (which it is, by the way, prescribed to children as detailed in this web page: https://www.rxlist.com/desoxyn-drug.htm), and Flynn Washburn could simply live his life like any other interesting writer and leave the fucking stupid cops, lawyers, prisons etc out of his life and choice of drug use.

    What I’d really like to lobby for here is a desoxyn prescription for my favorite writer. Let him pick up his doses in a nice pharmaceutical setting, very legally, without giving support or needing association with criminal dealings now needed to “score” doses of methamphetamine. I would suggest an “open” prescription, meaning Mr. Washburn could pick up as much or as little methamphetamine as needed and would also suggest for the rest of us to shut the fuck up about which drugs he might use that may or may not meet with our approval.

    To belabor the point a bit, I think it quite presumptuous of a third-party observer to suggest that another bathe his nervous system in drugs that may or may not do anything positive for said nervous system. Mr. Washburn writes expressively on many a level and I sure wish the stupid-ass fucked-up loserhood “war on drugs” welfare recipients (cops, lawyers and judges) would be sent packing back to their true talents which are probably cleaning garage floors or sorting pieces of cardboard for recycling and leave the true talents of the world like Mr. Washburn to enlighten the rest of us.

    Flynn, fuck “being clean”. You were never dirty in the first place. Posing your drug use as “dirty” or “clean” is playing right into the cop-tard system.

    Cannabis the most boring drug in the world? Guess it depends what you’ve been using way too much of, eh Mr. Koepf? Interesting that Mr. Koepf’s name is an anglicization of the word Kopf, meaning “head” in German. You should know better, Mr. Koepf.

  3. Michael Koepf February 21, 2019

    Mr. Washburne,
    What a wonderful description of a car wreck. Your continuing tale of personal and vehicle self-destruction is compelling. Some of the best crash stories I’ve ever read. You have the gift of intellect and words. However, you state: “I want to be clean.” Mr. Washburne, let’s face it, the chances of your ever being “clean” are not realistic. One in ten? Thus, have you considered a different drug? Meth is at the bottom my list for drugs a writer might use. Bad teeth, paranoid intellect, death at an earlier age, perhaps from itching yourself to death. You know all of this better than I. Phillip Dick used amphetamines, but he was a science fiction writer, a genre I’m not interested in. Currently, my favorite writer is German (was) Hans Fallada: Wolf Among Wolves; Alone in Berlin; etc. Morphine was his choice. Charles Dickens was into opium; Coleridge was into laudanum; Sherlock Holmes, cocaine; Kesey, acid; Hemingway was a boozer, but not with pen in hand. Stephen King was or is into marijuana, which is, as you know, the most boring drug on the planet. Have you read any of Stephen King’s books, or endured the tedium of a Stephen King fan? Mr. Washburne, perhaps opium would be best for you. You could write straight all day and dream away your nights. But where to get it? Chinatown? Start a garden? I’d skip heroin and fentanyl. Strolling across our imperceptible border, the Mexican cartels have cornered that. It could be cut Ajax it could be cut with what? And, you’ve already enriched these dangerous hombres with your current drug of choice. Yes, I’d say opium is a good choice. Or mushrooms. Aldous Huxley was into mushrooms. I can’t advise you on which ones you should pick, but they grow abundant and free in our woods. Jim Crumley, and old writer pal of mine, was into cocaine. He spent a fortune on that snow. However, he once was quoted (I forget where) that “Writing was the best drug of all.” You might exclusively fall back on that. Forgo your tedious and boring quest for meth (your readers are beginning to yawn) and switch to a better drug.

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