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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good Vibes Bad Vibes Thought I Had My Share

I was talking about the past with with a friend. Back in the day we spent a lot of time together in a kitchen in a restaurant which turned the Valley on it's side. He worked for me.
I could write a book about that place, but unfortunately, I don't think my former business partner would consent to being included in the thing, at least not without a price, which I would be unwilling to pay. You see, a necessary ingredient in most good stories, anecdotes or tomes is an antagonist. A sympathetic, misunderstood character.

I had a business partner who was a real piece of work. He and my buddy had developed an adversarial relationship which ended when I fired him, releasing him from our employ and removing him from the cross hairs of my business partner, who always seemed to be on the look out for things to bitch about regarding our long time employee.

It was all about ego with this guy. The final straw for him was that he refused to pay this perfectly capable employee more money than he paid himself. I didn't have a problem with giving him a raise. He brought in business, people came in to see him, he was a local character who broadcast the weekly "4:20 report" on a local radio station, from our kitchen. The guy was a draw...a valuable commodity to keep around. But my partner could not see that. He just saw the usual...dollar signs, why pay someone more than he took home to get more recognition than himself in his own place of business. What a fool! And when partner didn't get his way or perceived that you were being insubordinate he would shoot daggers at you with his eyes, and throw a temper tantrum. I mean, nobody is perfect, I lost my cool plenty of times in that place but I never took out on the staff like he did. It was an example of holding others up to a higher standard than he had set for himself and he thought he could get away with it. If I was having a bad day, I didn't make sure everyone else was having a bad day as well.

Where am I going with this? Just laying down some exposition on how things could be in that little Oasis of Hippie Noodledom. The outward face of my partner was the happy go lucky outgoing cool hippie dude who was every body's friend. To everyone on the staff he was petty, insecure, and basically uncomfortable in his own skin. He wasn't an ogre, he had his good points, but when he was acting up, I wanted to run and hide. And whoever you were, you did not want to be singled out by him. I can't imagine how the staff must have felt. Well, I can because I was the one who would get to hear the complaints. I really wish I had said very early on, exactly what was on my mind. Perhaps we would not have continued to grow as a dysfunctional unit. I added to this part of the relationship by being high much of the time. Which probably made me more submissive than I should have been. But the fact remains, he couldn't take criticism positively. It would wound him too deeply.

SAJ and I spent much of the time in our working relationship commiserating and sharing our feelings with each other about various rants, fights, idiosyncrasies and other poor behavior directed at us and others by this guy. It was therapy. In fact it became somewhat of a joke amongst the staff. But in retrospect it was wrong. It was a disservice to him. I still look back and think that sharing my thoughts on the way things were with my partner with an employee/friend may have been wrong, but it was a survival mechanism.

We still bring up some instances to this day. Now we just laugh about it. I deserved to be called a "cunt" when I fired him. Instead of falling on my sword, I should have made my partner do the deed. But that is not what happened is it? The positive outcome of this awful situation is that SAJ and I remained friends.

I wonder why people are put into each others lives. I identified a spark, that uniqueness and flashes of brilliance SAJ had way back when. He is a phenomenal guitar player, a good writer, funny, sort of organized, at least organized enough...all the tools necessary for success in his chosen profession, Music.

But, in the past, I never quite understood how I could be standing next to SAJ, behind the scenes in a bowling alley, while the mechanic's are whirring, pins are setting and he is explaining to me how cool it would be to film a video for the band with this unique view, watching all of the bowlers approach their marks in rhythm. Then one drink later, the lucid funny guy I was talking to five minutes ago was gone and this other guy is staring me down saying, "You think I'm drunk? WELL, FUCK YOU, YA CUNT!" I mean it was scary. I didn't understand then as I do now.

We always had kept in touch, but somewhere along the line, he was becoming more and more successful with his career and I was sinking, allowing my mid-life crisis to get the better of me. Sinking into the seedy world of the street, where depressing and defeating circumstances in my life caused me to decide to allow my disease to progress. My life was beginning to become less and less manageable as my drug paraphernalia morphed from ornate and colorful glass smoking devices to cheap glass tubes containing copper chore boy screens and hypodermic needles. Fortunately I bottomed out and surrendered to the notion that I was powerless over my addiction. Powerless over the people I was hanging around with and powerless over everything in which I had submerged my self.

I caught a lot of pain, I caused a lot of pain, but fortunately I didn't expose SAJ to my lifestyle choices out of fear that he would not understand what I was doing and reject me or worse, want to join me. We had a little taste of that scenario. A situation we agreed today, I was no longer entitled to feel guilty about, It happened. As I began to recover, his life began to unravel and personal event in his life were the catalyst for his progression and descent.

Part of this 12 step recovery situation is acknowledgment of a higher power. Some call their HP God, others call their HP Jesus. For one of my friends it is Buddhist philosophy. It can be anything as long as it is loving and caring. Mine is private but works for me. Once in a detox, the group was discussing this concept of Higher Power when the counselor asked the guy in the couple who was detoxing together what he considers to be his higher power. There always seems to be one couple in every detox getting clean together. He was confrontational and didn't want to answer the question. He finally said, "My higher power is my girlfriend." I started laughing but covered it by pretending to cough. I was thinking, "your higher power is that dope sick chick next to you who is drooling on the table? You are fucked, dude!" Funny thing is the counselor basically said the same thing in a more clinical and less adversarial way. I have never used this phrase writing, EVER! But it is about to happen. Ah I can't do it I refuse. It is a phrase that is overused and annoying. But I have gone too far off the subject. I may have no choice other than to start hitting the delete button and organizing my thoughts a little better...ah fuck it, here is goes. But I DIGRESS! Oh why, oh why, did i have to do it? I said I digress. Growing pains I guess. I guess...digress. Wah!

Alright, where were we? I'm in recovery, SAJ is fucking up, I have a higher power and am forced to digress. Harrumph!

I had to go through what I did, to get to where I am today. In a position to help dearly loved friend get out of a hole he had dug for himself, just as I had. If my experience hanging around with hustlers, prostitutes, and other sick and suffering addicts, smoking crack and shooting heroin put me into a position where I can save the life of another addict who is so near and dear to me, it was all worth it. The financial instability, the sleepless nights. the morning sickness. scheming, scamming, the diseased liver, the lost trust, the strained relationships, all of it. If I had to go through all of that to help save SAJ, it was worth it. I have tools, I have fellowship, I have the kind encouraging words which can make a difference. I have the experience to tell him what he has done is not all that different than what I, or anyone else has done who is in his situation.

He is on the road to recovery. A long road we had walked together when we used together getting drunk and high. we approached that stage where we began to contemplate that maybe there was a better way to live, freely admitting to each other that we had demons and we needed to stop, but neither of us knew how. At the crucial times when being together could have been disastrous, we weren't. For whatever reason we had little face to face contact during this time period, although we did stay connected electronically. That was my higher power working in both of our lives. Now I can lend him some tools and do my part by giving him the language of recovery. And the funny thing is, he is beginning to do it for the folks who are coming in after him. Anyone can make a difference. This is a good thing, and this is how it works.

As Always...I'm running hard out of Muskrat Flats.


1 comment:

F. Alex Johnson said...

Organized enough? Organized enough?
I'm organized enough to kick your ASS.

But seriously Pablo. Very well put. Everything happens for a reason and in its own good time. I firmly believe this trite and true phrase. We are here. We are friends. In another set of circumstances this may not have been the case. I could have never predicted this present day scenario 10 years ago. And so it is. And how wonderful is that.

As for falling on your sword. If you had fallen on your sword, I know someone who would have told you that you didn't sharpen it properly. HUUH!!!!

Thanks Pablo, that gave me chills.

The good kind.