A dark period in the desert — both literally and figuratively

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For some reason I was thinking about a particularly dark period in my life. 2009. I had a complete nervous breakdown around December of 2009. Everything that had been working in my life stopped working all at once. My best friend died. My street vending job came to a bitter end. My latest book (which I thought was going to be the answer to all my prayers) bombed commercially. And my artistic career (so-called) grinded to a halt. My life had hit a complete dead-end in every way.

Adding to my misery, I had been homeless for 3 years at that point. And the rainy season was about to hit. And what with all my other existential woes I wasn’t up to dealing with that, too.

So — for lack of anything better to do– I decided to get the hell out of town. Maybe if I got out of Berkeley, and got some distance from my situation, I could get some kind of perspective on the wreckage that my life had become. I had $5,000 bucks saved up from my vending job, so the plan was to just hole up somewhere, lick my wounds, and see if I could come up with a Plan B. So I got on a Greyhound bus and moved to this little town in the middle of the Arizona desert, and rented out a little apartment at this one-story motel/trailer park.

My apartment had a kitchenette, a living room with a bed in it, and a bathroom. When I looked out my window I could see all the RVs parked in the courtyard. And beyond that, miles and miles of Arizona desert. It was like being in the middle of nowhere.

I got drunk by myself in my apartment almost everything night. Mostly OE malt liquor. But occasionally I’d get a pint of Jack Daniels to add some fire to my fuel.

And I binged on cable TV. I must have watched TV about 12 hours a day. Which was a weird experience. Because I hadn’t watched any TV in nearly 20 years. The last time I had a TV in 1990 there was the 3 networks, PBS, and a local channel and that was about it. And now suddenly there were hundreds of channels. The one show I really got into, oddly, was The Kardashians. I must have watched an entire season of that show. I vaguely remembered Bruce Jenner from back when he was the Wheaties All-American Boy of the ’70s, and now his skin was all tight and shiny from too much plastic surgery, and he had fake hair, and when he smiled he looked sort of like the Joker from Batman (this was well before he became a woman). And one of the Kardashian sister was married to an NBA player from the Los Angeles Lakers, so that was interesting to me as a hoops freak, getting an inside look at that stuff. And for the big season finale this guy Scott, who was the boyfriend of one of the Kardashian sisters got drunk at a swanky Las Vegas casino and when the waiter wouldn’t serve him because he was too drunk he made an ass out of himself by trying to stuff a wad a bills down the waiter’s throat (which was grotesque) and ended up getting excommunicated from the family. But then his girlfriend had a baby — they brought the cameras right into the hospital and filmed her at her hospital bed grunting out the baby while everyone looked on in awe and shit. And the boyfriend showed up and they decided to let him back in the family since he was the father (so they were stuck with him for better or worse). And that’s how the season ended on this choreographed note of so-called inspiration. I don’t know what happened after that with the Kardashians. But as a natural voyeur it was fascinating to me to see how these rich Hollywood media creatures and vampires lived and related to each other behind closed doors.

The other show I used to sometimes watch was the cable news guy with the square head Keith Olbermann. He sort of played the part of the righteous, crusading liberal. So it was interesting to get up to date as to what the liberal were outraged about at the time. . . And I liked “The Dave Chapelle Show.” He was pretty funny. And he just seemed like one of the guys you’d be hanging out with on a street corner, and then he gets up on stage and does his own TV show. . . And then late at night I would watch the “Girls Gone Wild” info-commercials. Because that was the only thing I could find that had sex and nudity in it.

Sometimes late at night, after many hours of drinking, when I was really starting to get a good buzz going, I’d come up with some great idea for how I could turn my life around. And I’d get all excited and start making all these big plans and it was great because I had finally come up with a new direction to go in. But when I woke up the next morning I’d realize my idea was stupid and hopeless. So it was back to the drawing board.

After three months living in that motel apartment in the middle of nowhere, I started to run out of money. So I decided I better pack up my bags and move back to Berkeley. So that’s what I did. And here I still am.

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Day Two of my 14-Day Sobriety Plan

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Day Two of my 14-Day-Sobriety plan. Like last night, I suddenly got COMPLETELY exhausted this evening. I guess my body is conditioned to be getting the energizing buzz of alcohol starting around 6PM. And without it it’s like I’m out of gas.

Staggered to this secluded little balcony spot on the campus where nobody is at on the weekends, unfolded my piece of cardboard and took a 2-hour nap (one of those naps where you’re dead asleep two seconds after you lay down).

Woke up 2 hours later and all the lights in the building were on and there was a big classroom full of students having some kind of Sunday night study session in the room right where I’m sleeping. As I wake up I realize they’re all looking out the window at me lying there like a typical homeless bum. I quickly pack up my stuff and get the hell out of there.

So far this sobriety thing has been nothing but trouble.

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Everybody’s good at something

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Charles Bukowski spent nearly 60 years as the consummate alcoholic. And the empty bottles and cans of alcohol would endlessly pile up at the Bukowski household.

The garbage man that worked in Bukowski’s neighborhood would marvel at the sheer number of empty bottles and cans that amassed at the garbage can outside of Bukowski’s home. One morning, while he was hauling off Bukowski’s garbage, the garbage man happened to run into Bukowski in front of his home. “Man, you are one powerful drinker!” said the garbage man.

Bukowski said he felt strangely honored by that comment. Ha ha.

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The art of falling

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I friend of mine recently fell down, fractured her hip, and had a steel pole put in her thigh. That got us thinking about some of the falls we’ve taken over the years. And i remembered one particular goofy fall.

Needless to say, I’ve had many years of experience falling down. And the secret to falling is to not fight it. If you tense up, that’s when you get hurt. You just have to accept that you’ve lost the battle with the Laws of Gravity, and just go with the flow.

Now, considering that i camp in the Berkeley hills every night, its a miracle I haven’t broken my neck. I usually get up there well after midnight, drunk out of my mind, and its nearly pitch-dark. Plus, the terrain is particularly steep and difficult to navigate — even sober during the daylight — and during the rainy season, the mud and the wet leaves can be slippery as ice (I’ve splattered head-first into the mud more than once).

This friend of mine once saw this deer — a fairly sure-foot creature — lose her footing in the Berkeley hills and fall straight down the hill. She went end-over-end, somersaulting all the way down, broke her neck, and was probably dead before she came to a halt. So those hills can be treacherous.

Anyways, one night I’m staggering up to my campsight well after midnight. And when I bent down to pick up the big piece of cardboard that I keep stashed behind this tree, all the alcohol-soaked blood rushed to my head, causing me to lose my balance. And I toppled over, face-forward and slid down the hill.

Fortunately, I was holding the cardboard up to my chest, and I actually slid smoothly down the hill like I was riding a toboggan. Until I came to the bottom of the hill and crashed into the creek. Which at least was dry at the time.

But now the problem was, I was wedged into this cramped spot in the creek, and it was a steep incline that I was trapped in, and the dirt and rocks of the creek-bed kept shifting under my feet every time I tried to pull myself out of the creek. Plus, it was pitch-dark and I was still way drunk. I made 5 or 6 heroic attempts to pull myself to an upright position, falling straight back down every time. Finally I concluded the situation was hopeless.

But then it occurred to me: I had my cardboard matting. And I was carrying my sleeping bag. So why don’t I just sleep right there in the goddamn creek?

And that’s what I did. It was actually kind of cozy, and I slept peacefully and comfortably all night. Until around 4 in the morning when I was awoken by the sound of my feral cats. They were all circling around me, and meowing loudly. Meows that no doubt translated into English as: “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING SLEEPING DOWN THERE IN THAT DITCH, YOU STUPID IDIOT WHEN YOU SHOULD BE UP AT YOUR CAMPSITE FEEDING US OUR GODDAMN SUPPER??”

They had a point By that time I was semi-sober enough, and it was light enough, that I was able to maintain an upright position and extricate myself from that goddamn ditch. And I made it back to my campsite, and fed my goddamn feral cats, and we all lived happily ever after. THE END

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The Doors of Ingestion

The following is an excerpt from the controversial new book, THE DOORS OF INGESTION, by the prominent literary figure, and well-respected highbrow intellectual, Ace Backwords, where he documents his experiments with the consciousness-altering substance known as Olde English 800 Malt Liquor:

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5:20 PM: I’ve just ingested the first 16 ounces of the Olde English 800 Malt Liquor. As of this moment I don’t notice any significant alterations to my normal state of consciousness.

5:55 PM: I’ve ingested a second 16 ounce dosage (approximately one pint) of the Olde English beverage. I’ve decided to consume the substance at 16 ounce intervals so as to accurately gauge the progressive affect. Feeling pleasantly light-headed at this measurement.

6:20 PM: I’ve completely ingested the first forty ounce bottle of the Olde English (more commonly known in the street vernacular as “40s”). For some reason I feel an over-powering urge to share my political views on my Facebook page.

8:15 PM: Having ingested a second “40” of the Olde English I am now experiencing dramatic alterations of my normal state of mind. My normal inhibitions have been lowered to the point where I’m completely free of the usual anxieties and psychological discomforts that plague my normal state of consciousness. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for psychologists and psychiatrists to study the chemical nature of the Olde English and it’s affect on the neurons of one’s brain as a possible therapeutic cure for common psychological neurosis.

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10:55 PM: Having ingested the third “40” of OE I’ve noted that my inhibitions have been reduced to the point where my underlying and repressed hostilities are now rising to the surface to the point where I would really like to kick the living shit out of that obnoxious asshole over there who keeps staring at me. Motherfucker!!

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12:40 AM: Having ingested the fourth “40” I’ve attained a transcendent state of bliss that I wonder if it might be akin to the “samadhi” and “satori” states described by the Eastern mystics of yore. I’ve almost completed transcended the physical plane, and the usual mortal feelings of pain and suffering and existential anxiety. For example, I don’t feel the least bit of discomfort, embarrassment or duress over the vomit drooling down the side of my face.   Or from the large, bloody gash on the back of my head which resulted when I temporarily lost my balance and smashed my head on the side of that goddamn table.

2:20 AM: All the liquor stores are now closed so I guess further research and/or experinnents willl have tkoo waitt untill I can vcsgbh jv ktf hfyeesfthn $-(&-(9($##$$$#R vhjk. . .

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The Doors of Ingestion

 

The following is an excerpt from the controversial new book, THE DOORS OF INGESTION, by the prominent literary figure, and well-respected highbrow intellectual, Ace Backwords, where he documents his experiments with the consciousness-altering substance known as Olde English 800 Malt Liquor:

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 16142654_1768881053129430_911546397218862667_n.jpg
5:20 PM: I’ve just ingested the first 16 ounces of the Olde English 800 Malt Liquor. As of this moment I don’t notice any significant alterations to my normal state of consciousness.

5:55 PM: I’ve ingested a second 16 ounce dosage (approximately one pint) of the Olde English beverage. I’ve decided to consume the substance at 16 ounce intervals so as to accurately gauge the progressive affect. Feeling pleasantly light-headed at this measurement.

6:20 PM: I’ve completely ingested the first forty ounce bottle of the Olde English (more commonly known in the street vernacular as “40s”). For some reason I feel an over-powering urge to share my political views on my Facebook page.

8:15 PM: Having ingested a second “40” of the Olde English I am now experiencing dramatic alterations of my normal state of mind. My normal inhibitions have been lowered to the point where I’m completely free of the usual anxieties and psychological discomforts that plague my normal state of consciousness. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for psychologists and psychiatrists to study the chemical nature of the Olde English and it’s affect on the neurons of one’s brain as a possible therapeutic cure for common psychological neurosis.

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10:55 PM: Having ingested the third “40” of OE I’ve noted that my inhibitions have been reduced to the point where my underlying and repressed hostilities are now rising to the surface to the point where I would really like to kick the living shit out of that obnoxious asshole over there who keeps staring at me. Motherfucker!!

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12:40 AM: Having ingested the fourth “40” I’ve attained a transcendent state of bliss that I wonder if it might be akin to the “samadhi” and “satori” states described by the Eastern mystics of yore. I’ve almost completed transcended the physical plane, and the usual mortal feelings of pain and suffering and existential anxiety. For example, I don’t feel the least bit of discomfort, embarrassment or duress over the vomit drooling down the side of my face.   Or from the large, bloody gash on the back of my head which resulted when I temporarily lost my balance and smashed my head on the side of that goddamn table.

2:20 AM: All the liquor stores are now closed so I guess further research and/or experinnents willl have tkoo waitt untill I can vcsgbh jv ktf hfyeesfthn $-(&-(9($##$$$#R vhjk. . .

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Another one of those nights

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I had another one of “those nights” last night

It was well after midnight so I headed to the campus to get the cans of cat food I got stashed in the bushes before I headed up to my campsite. But when I bent over to get the cat food I realized — inexplicably! — my glasses were gone!! WHERE DID THEY GO?? They’re usually sitting right there on my face attached to my nose. So it’s one of those “He’d lose his head if it wasn’t attached to his neck” levels of stupidity.

Then I remembered about 100 yards down the road I had stopped at a bench to put on my hoodie. “I bet when I took off my glasses to pull my hoodie over my head I forgot to put them back on!” Sounded plausible. So I rushed back to the bench and searched all around, but no luck.

So I spent the next hour retracing my steps in the hopes of finding them. But still no luck.

“Maybe they fell into my backpack when I opened it up to get my hoodie.” So I go to open up my backpack but the damn zipper is stuck. So I’m tugging and tugging but I tug too hard and rip the zipper off. So now all the stuff is falling out of my pack as I stagger around in the darkness and everything is just going from bad to worse.

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I figure I MUST have lost them by the bench. That’s the only logical explanation. So I go back there and I’m crawling around in the bushes on my hands and knees looking for them. But it’s pitch dark and I’m half blind without my glasses so it’s looking hopeless.

If that wasn’t bad enough a car pulls into the adjacent parking lot and blinds me with their head lights. I’m already pissed as it is and now I gotta deal with this asshole who I want to kill!! So Im glaring at him like I’ll rip his lungs out if he doesn’t get his damn lights out of my face and right now, dude!!

Unfortunately for me, it turned out the car lights were attached to a cop car. So the cop gets out of his car and walks over to me. “Could I see your ID, sir?” So now I got some ‘splaining to do. I’m still on my hands and knees crawling around in the bushes in the dark well after midnight.

“I imagine this looks a little weird from your point of view,” I said. “Some idiot crawling around in the bushes at 2 in the morning.” I figured a little self-deprecating humor couldn’t hurt. “You see I lost my glasses so I’m looking around for them. And yeah I had a little to drink.” Usually the last thing I want to do is admit to a cop that I had been drinking. But in this case I thought it would be better to convey that I was just a harmless idiot drunk, as opposed to a potentially dangerous lunatic crawling around in the bushes at 2 in the morning for no purpose.

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The cop helpfully turned on his flashlight to aid me in my search. But it was hopeless. I thanked the cop for his help and quickly headed back towards Telegraph so the cop would assume I was leaving the campus and getting out of his hair. And then I circled back and spent another hour fruitlessly retracing my steps in vain.

Finally I thought. “Fuck it I’ll just sleep right here in the bushes where I stash my cat food. It’s a fairly secluded spot and I got my sleeping bag. That way I can resume my search first thing in the morning in the light of day.”

So I crawled into my sleeping bag. And, in a seeming blink of an eye, it was suddenly morning. And as I was packing up my sleeping bag — miracle of miracles!! — there were my glasses lying there on the ground. I guess they had fallen off my face when I had bent over to get the cat food. That was the good news. The bad news was that I had slept on top of them and they were mangled and bent out of shape.

But at least I found the damn things!

 

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