Searching for clues at the scene of the crime


Like a lot of alcoholics I often don’t have the sharpest recollections of what I did the night before. So often, the next morning, it’s like I piece it together by returning to the scene of the crime and searching for clues. For instance:

As I was walking down the hill from my campsite I spotted my discarded beer cup lying on the ground. “Oh right. That’s where I was sitting and drinking my last beer of the evening around 1AM and talking about how my beer gut makes it tough to button the top button of my trousers.”

And then farther down the road: “Oh there’s my 6-pack of beer over there, stashed in the bushes, I hid it there because I didn’t want to carry it all the way up to my campsite.”

And then further down the road: “There’s my jacket draped against that park bench and my headphones lying on the ground. I remember getting rousted by that cop around midnight and I had to pack up in a hurry and accidentally left them there.”

And so on. As I piece together what I did the night before.

And of course my trail of late-might drunken Facebook posts are often awaiting me like an unhappy surprise to be faced in the cold harsh light of morning sobriety.


The art of falling



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


Alcoholism – 101. Thinking about drinking


My drinking has gone from “recreational” to “self-destructive” over the last couple years.  I could easily quit drinking if I really wanted to.  And now and again I’ll quit for a month, just to make sure I can still do it.  But the thing is:  I enjoy drinking more than I want those last 10 years at the tail-end of my life.

Yesterday I was drinking with this tragic, young guy, Denny.  Now some people think alcoholics are all alike.  But me and Denny are prime examples of two of the basic alcoholic types.  Denny is what I call an “oblivion alcoholic.”  He drinks non-stop.  And he drinks the cheapest, strongest booze he can find.  And no matter how drunk he is, he always wants to get even more drunk.  Until he finally knocks himself out.  He craves oblivion.  He’s tormented by something in his psyche.  So he wants to short-circuit his brain so he stops thinking.  He’s also extremely sensitive, so he uses the alcohol to de-sensitize himself.  Feeling less means feeling less pain.

Whereas I’m what I call a “measured alcoholic.”  My drinking is measured.  I usually start drinking at the same time every night (around 6 o’clock).  And I drink the same thing (Olde English or Racer 5) at the same pace (about 80 to 100 ounces of booze over the course of the evening) every night. I’m more out for a buzz than oblivion.

Last night, Denny was lying on his back in People’s Park, smoking a cigarette and pounding cans of Four Loco — the drink of choice for the hardcore street alkies these days.  When he suddenly rolled over onto his side and started puking into the dirt, as well as all over his hand and shirt sleeve.  But in true alkie style, he kept his cigarette going.  “That’s like the alkie who falls down a flight of stairs but doesn’t spill a drop of his drink,” I said.

I gave Denny a paper towel to wipe the drool off his face.  And then he staggered off down the street to the liquor store in search of yet another can of Four Loco.

In a seemingly endless series of Four Locos.


The Rain

(March 29, 2012)

Decided to stop smoking pot for awhile, smoked up my last roach.  “That’s that,” I said.  Then this guy Lenny gives me a big dime bag of buds as a gift.   I can’t win even when I’m winning.

It rained non-stop all day yesterday.  I sat for hours last night at my old spot, my old corner at Cody’s Books under the awning.  Trapped by the relentless rain.  At first I was digging it.  The rain was  a great excuse to hang out at my old spot and drink several cans of Olde English malt liquor.  Plus, for once, nobody would be coming at me, bothering me, everybody else was running for cover to get out of the rain so the rain provided this real cozy coccoon.  I started having flashback memories of all the past scenes I ‘d had here from 1982 to 2009.  All the great and weird moments.  But after awhile the movies in my head ended and I returned to the present moment.  Sitting in a doorway, a homeless bum in the rain.  Periodically I would scream at the top of my lungs: “FUCK!!”  To blow off some steam.  That was an enjoyable release.  Plus, the sound was mostly drowned out by the battering pitter-patter sound of the relentless rain.  And plus, nobody was going to brave the rain to come over and tell me to shut the fuck up and stop screaming “Fuck.”  So I had a free pass.

Thats probably why Lenny — this aging homeless hippy potdealer —  on his own accord offered me a bunch of buds as I passed.  He was in the adjacent doorway and he probably heard me shouting “Fuck” and wanted to mellow me out.  I remember telling the blonde steet kid he was hanging with “I’m having a nervous breakdown,” and he gave me a nice hippy hug.  Its weird to get suddenly hugged by a stranger. But ya gotta take your kicks where you find them.  I gave Lenny $7 for the weed — he was being generous to me so I’m being generous to him, that bit.

“Get yourself something to drink,” I said.

“I don’t drink,” said Lenny.

“No, I mean get yourself a cup of coffee or something,” I said.

(See, Lenny the pothead was turning it into an anti-alcohol thing.  There’s this whole controversy on the streets, the drunks versus the stoners debate.)  (Don’t even get me started on the speedfreaks versus the crackheads debate.)  (Let alone the Grateful Dead versus Metallic debate.)

Then I staggered down the street with my sleeping bag and blanket in a garbage bag slung over my shoulder.  Staggered to my secret doorway on the campus which I’ve been using as my “rain crashspot” the last two winters.  Its an ingenious spot, right in the middle of the campus but perfectely hidden at a cul de sac. So bicycle cops never ride through and spot you.  Its the back entrance to the basement of this building.  So in the last two years there’s never been a person around when I’m crashing there.  I was congratulating myself last night on how clever I was to have found such a great crash spot.   Then this morning as I’m packing up to get out of there at 7 in the morning before anyone else shows up (always one step ahead of the fucks, me, Ace Backwords) a cop car goes cruising by just as I emerge from my spot. Did he see me? Fuck.  So much for that spot.  That’s life on  the streets.