Archive for paul

Speed Dial

Posted in Memoir with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2014 by sethdellinger

Just a few minutes ago, I went into my basement searching for a specific book which I had not heretofore been keeping upstairs.  I had no idea where it was.  While searching for it, I opened a bunch of boxes that I probably hadn’t properly explored in years…stuff I just keep lugging with me from move to move.  In one, I came across an old cigar box that I had entirely forgotten about.  This is it:



This box is the earliest version of boxes I have today, in which I keep just about everything…tickets, programs, invitations, etc.  Well there were things in this cigar box that just blew me away!  Things I have ZERO memory of keeping, and I have no idea what made me think of keeping them at the time, but now they are incredible to see…old paychecks, school class schedules, appointment cards, etc. (And, paul, I found the ticket stubs to the two Seven Mary Three shows we saw together!)  Anyway, most of it will be only interesting to me, but I might post some of it here from time to time, as it suits me.  But this one thing seemed worth posting now.  Here is the little card that was on the phone in my bedroom in high school that showed what I had set as speed dials…I couldn’t help but post this and then tag the people who appear on it (those who I am in contact with on Facebook)…what an interesting snapshot of an era for me.  And how interesting that I had the movies on speed dial even then (it’s hard to read, but #8 says “Movies”) And my grandma? (number “zero” says “Gram A.”)


Hoffman Film Fest, Day Four

Posted in Hoffman Film Fest with tags , , , , on February 7, 2014 by sethdellinger

During my college years, there were a few movies that we just watched over and over and over.  Some we watched hundreds of times. When I say “we” I refer to a changing cast of characters, different roommates and friends and acquaintances who maybe only crossed paths with me for a few months, or maybe, like Paul, were there for most of the college years.  With Paul, we had two or three movies we photowatched endlessly: “Friday” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, and to a lesser extent, “The Borrowers”.  With other groups or roommates, the movies were different.  I spent countless hours getting wasted while watching “A River Runs Through It” with one set of roommates (things don’t always make sense in college), and a different roommate and I watched the Star Wars trilogy on a virtual repeat for an entire semester.  Another film I watched at least 50 times sometime in my sophomore years was “Scent of a Woman”, which was probably my first exposure to Philip Seymour Hoffman, although I didn’t know it at the time.

It’s not a huge role for him.  He plays the asshole friend.  I didn’t even know he was in it until a few years after I became a big fan of his, and I went back to watch it again and there he was.  It was a very formative time for me, as far as my movie tastes went.  Who watches “A River Runs Through It” and “Scent of a Woman” while getting wasted?  We did.  I think we were getting used to the fact that we might like serious stuff, that we might be into grown-up movies.  But we were college boys.  We liked to party.  The endings of these movies were like rumors to me, barely-remembered dreams.  I was always blackout drunk by the ends, so it wasn’t until I finally stopped drinking that I can rightly say I enjoyed them all the way through.

There isn’t a great clip of Phil in this movie that I can embed on my blog, but you can see probably his best moment in the movie by clicking here.

My Second Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , on April 8, 2013 by sethdellinger

I worry about life passing me by.  I worry about not noticing the little things, or not knowing enough about the people I care about, or not seizing opportunity, or enjoying a beautiful spring day, or telling a pretty woman how pretty she is. (not that I am always great at these things, but I think about them, see?) I haven’t always worried about these things, but I think regular readers of my blog might understand where this impulse and concern of mine comes from.  I know that I am far from the only person who thinks this way, but this tendency, I think, might be a bit heightened in me.

Like, I think, most people, my younger years were spent in a kind of frivolity.  I’ve always been an introspective type, prone to pondering the meaning of life (if you’ll allow me to be so cliché), but my late teens and early twenties were spent pondering the meaning of my life, often on an extremely localized scale.  I didn’t care about much else.  And while I have grown up into anything but a “selfless” man, I’d like to think, at least, that the roses I stop to smell are now in public gardens, and not my own backyard.

The first time I ever heard the band Hey Rosetta! (the exclamation point is theirs, not mine) I was listening to the XM Radio station The Verge, and their song “I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time” came on.  At first I was caught by the repetitive, rocky riff, and then I saw the song title on my car’s display, and I was hooked by the title alone.

“I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time” talks about a man who spent his whole life not paying attention to the world around him, and by the time he “wakes up”, it’s just too damn late for anything.  Lyricist Tim Baker gives us some very straight-forward material here, as well as some more complicated stuff if you are the pondering type.  He starts us off pretty plainly: “I’ve been asleep for a long, long time. Blonde hair to brown, and brown to white.  My mom is buried beside my dad, but I was asleep for all of that.”

And it’s that line that gets me, still, more than anything: My mom is buried beside my dad, but I was asleep for all of that.

More than anything, this song has made me want to know my parents.  Really know them, like human beings, with histories and quirks and human qualities and not just dismiss them as “my parents”.  Because I’ve been made aware that life is not forever, and someday I won’t have these parents around, and I do not want to be asleep for all of that.

Another line that frazzles me: “The schools that we went to have all been closed, and all of my teachers are dead, I suppose.”  Gives me chills.  The passage of time and all that jazz.

Later, in a fantastic musical breakdown before a stunning crescendo, Tim hits us with some more ponderous material: he makes an analogy comparing “sleeping” people to reeds caught in a rising river tide: “The river’s up, the reeds are caught halfway across what never was.  The river rose, and swept in slow. When the reeds awoke, they were half below.”

Don’t wait until you’re half below to wake up.

I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time
by Hey Rosetta!

I’ve been asleep for a long, long time.
Blond hair to brown and brown to white.
My mom is buried beside my dad,
but I was asleep for all of that.

I shut my eyes for a moment’s rest,
cause I get so tired.
What thing transpired while my body slept
to beset my mind?

The schools that we went to have all been closed,
and all of my teachers are dead, I suppose.
The songs that we sung have all gone quiet.
What happens below as we sleep at night?

The river’s up, the reeds are caught
halfway across what never was.
The water rose and swept in slow.
When the reeds awoke they were half below.


I was lucky enough, shortly after falling head-over-heels for this band, to bring my friend Paul along for the ride, and he is now as big (if not maybe even slightly bigger) fan of the band than I am.  In late 2011, Paul and I (and our friend Chris, as well) trekked to Ithaca, New York, to see our first Hey Rosetta! show (the first of 7 for me, now).  It was in a little shit-shack of a bar.  As we approached to enter, hours before the show, the first thing I heard was the band soundchecking a slow, acoustic version of “I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time”.  It was a moment of amazement for me.  As the three of us entered the bar, we were practically alone inside, and on a tiny stage, there was the band, playing this song that had transformed my life to an empty room.  There are very few moments in life like this one.  Later, when they played it during the show, I taped it, but the video quality is HORRIBLE and my battery ran out halfway through, but here it is anyway:

Me with Tim Baker, lyricist and singer of Hey Rosetta!, at the Ithaca, New York show

Me with Tim Baker, lyricist and singer of Hey Rosetta!, at the Ithaca, New York show



If you’ve got this far in the entry and are actually interested in/ like this song, please watch this, a video of them playing the song live for real for real.  I swear, it can change your life:



Open When I Get There (Tenth Sobriety Anniversary Entry, part one)

Posted in Memoir with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by sethdellinger

On Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013,  I will have been sober for ten years.  And what is strange about that, it has only recently started to seem like ten years.  For the longest time, I have divided my life into two distinct periods: the part of my life before I got sober, and the part afterward.  For most of these past ten years, anything that happened “post-sobriety” seemed recent, even if it wasn’t, exactly.  I got sober in

The only picture I am in possesion of of me drinking. Very near the beginning, before real addiction.

The only picture I am in possesion of of me drinking. Very near the beginning, before real addiction.

2003 (for those mathematically challenged), and I would often read about something that happened in, say, 2005, and even if it had been seven years ago, I would say to myself, Well, I was sober, so it can’t have been that long ago!  It has only been recently, as I was looking forward to my tenth anniversary, that the events surrounding my addiction and recovery have begun to seem like they have some age on them.

I’ve done a lot of writing over the years about my addiction and recovery, but most of it focused on the drinking part, and the craziness of that part of my life, or my early “pink cloud” of recovery.  I’ve never recorded the events surrounding the actual date of the beginning of my new life—April 3rd, 2003—and even though such a recording may seem a tad self-important, the years are fading my memory, and if I don’t do it now, I fear I never will.

At my cousin Josh's wedding, about a year before sobriety.  I don't look too bad, but note the alky's nose and rosy cheeks.

At my cousin Josh’s wedding, about a year before sobriety. I don’t look too bad, but note the alky’s nose and rosy cheeks.

I only drank alcoholically for five years, from about the age of 20 until 25.   In the grand scheme of life, this seems a pittance, but what I lacked in longevity I made up for in severity.  I was as physically addicted to alcohol as a person could be by the time I stopped (which is to say, considerably), and had graduated to having pretty severe withdrawals anytime I went an hour or more without alcohol in my system.  Not to brag on my addiction, but the rehab folks were quite astonished to see a 25 year old as far along the continuum as I was.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me back up.

By late summer of 2002, at the age of 24, it had become apparent to even my most casual friends that something had to change.  I couldn’t do anything sober.  Couldn’t drive, couldn’t shower, couldn’t work, couldn’t have sex sober, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t be awake sober.  I had large plastic cups with liquor in them in the console of my car—my “driving drinks”.  I made sure I fell asleep with liquor beside me so I could start drinking literally the moment I woke up.  I drank at every moment of every day.  I had car accidents—some that people knew about, but plenty that nobody knew about.  I am one of the luckiest people alive.  Even now, I know that.

People started saying things here and there, dropping hints that they were uncomfortable, that my version of partying wasn’t really partying.  I knew something was going to come to a head soon, but I was in denial as long as possible.  Listen, when you get right down to it, it is just plain weird and terrifying not being able to stop drinking.  It happens slowly and silently and by the time you realize what’s going on, you have no idea how to get out.  You didn’t plan for this, but it’s so confusing, you just ignore it as long as you can.  Turns out, my addiction was so quick and severe, I actually couldn’t ignore it for as long as I would have liked.  My

body was doing too many weird things (constantly having alcohol in your system for a few years will affect just about every system you’ve got), so that when, one late summer afternoon when my friend Shelley (the girlfriend, at that time, of my good buddy Paul) suggested, as we sat in their sweltering second-story apartment, that I should just call a rehab and see what they say, I said, OK, I will.  She said, why not now?  And she got a phone book, and we looked up rehabs, and I called one called Roxbury just outside Shippensburg, and they gave me a date a few weeks from then when a bed would be available, and I gave them my information, and they reserved my bed.  Just like that.  It was quite surprising.  I hadn’t begun that day thinking, in the least, about going to rehab.  I remember immediately calling one or both of my parents with the news as though I had just gotten engaged or had a baby.  Mom, Dad, I’ve decided to go to rehab!  I don’t remember their reactions, but I’m sure they were happy but reserved.  I imagine the only thing more terrifying than being an addict is having a child going through an addiction.  How scary!

There is something very surreal about arriving to rehab.  Nobody grows up thinking they’re going to go to rehab, and you’re never really prepared for what it’s going to look like, smell like, feel like.  All of a sudden, you’re there, and in that instant, no matter what came before, you are the type of person who winds up in rehab.

A typical room at Roxbury.  (pic taken off the internet, not taken by me, but it is definitely Roxbury)

A typical room at Roxbury. (pic taken off the internet, not taken by me, but it is definitely Roxbury)

A lot of the details around my first arrival to Roxbury rehab are kind of fuzzy.  I know that my dad drove me there.  I remember I got really, really drunk before I got there.  I remember arriving at this squat, modern building, almost like a Frank Gehry building with glass bubbles and counter-inuitive overhangs.  I remember it being night, but I’m not sure if that’s true.  I remember going into the lobby with my dad, carrying a big suitcase, and it felt, still, like a hospital, or a hotel, or something other than what it was.  Something less desperate, something more normal.  I think now of what it must have been like for him, to arrive with his son and to leave without him.  And why?  Did he feel like he had failed?  Like he had failed me?  Was he ashamed?  Even now these are thoughts I can barely confront.  Now matter how you exorcise it, the guilt of these things won’t leave you, ever.  And rightfully so.

I remember saying goodbye to my father then, after having filled out some paperwork, and being led into the guts of the building, up and around narrow steps, into various nurses offices, answering lots of questions, filling out more forms.  There was a loneliness to these moments beyond any experience I’ve had before or since.  Not in the depths or degree of loneliness, but in that it was a very strange loneliness.  It is a very specific variety.  You are surrounded by people, yet everyone you know and love, is back out there living a “normal” life.  And yet here you are, among strangers and paid professionals, unable to live on your own.  Unable to. 

So, I won’t tell you the whole tale of my rehab.  It is a very long and interesting story (unless you’ve been to rehab, in which case it’s probably pretty boring).  Maybe I’ll tell you that story for year eleven.

But I was in there for, I think, 32 days.  When I came out, I stayed sober for somewhere around 2 weeks.  I have a very blank memory of the time between my first and second rehabs.  It is easy for me to figure out that I was out of rehab about 3 months before entering it for the second, and final, time.

When I started drinking again after my first rehab, it was amazing how quickly the addiction took hold again.  It wasn’t just like I had never stopped, it was actually worse.  One sip, one little drink, and I was in its clutches like never before.  For those of you who’ve never been addicts, try to remember, this isn’t in the least bit fun.  However it happens, it is a fact that I was drinking because I had no choice.  Or at the very least, the part of me that was capable of making a choice was hidden from me.  It is absolutely crippling. It is an insidious, ridiculous affliction.  I couldn’t hide it for long; I knew all my friends and family could see I was drinking again.

In these three months between rehabs, I lived the absolute most horrid version of my life.  Everything hurt, my skin always crawled, I was mean and miserable and sad all the time, any vestige of a moral compass I had left was gone completely and there was no act I wouldn’t commit, no person I wouldn’t do anything to or with, nothing I wouldn’t steal, no drug I wouldn’t take to try and ease the ache, no building I wouldn’t go into, no surface I wouldn’t sleep on, no family member or friend I wouldn’t injure, irrevocably, smearing guilt onto my psyche for eternity.

As far as I know, the last picture taken of me before sobriety (with a friend who shall remain unnamed).  I don't look too nad, but it was a horrid time.

As far as I know, the last picture taken of me before sobriety (with a friend who shall remain unnamed). I don’t look too bad, but it was a horrid time.

I ended up, finally, not going to work, and living for about a week in a squalid motel with a few friends, which I have recounted here. (Really, read this.)  After ten years of reflection, the time at the hotel was clearly my “bottom”, the lowest of the low.  Even now, just thinking about it brings me very close to vomiting.

But from the ashes, we did rise.  From the hotel room, I finally managed to call Roxbury again and got accepted into their program a second time.

The second time at rehab, I did not have a good time.  I was as much of a physical and emotional wreck as I can imagine ever being.  I was only there nine days this time (because of quirks in Pennsylvania’s public funding for rehab, as I did not have health insurance at the time), and by the time I left, my body was still feeling the after-effects of intense physical withdrawal, and I was still a complete basketcase.  My emotional development, having been halted at the age of 20 by being constantly drunk, was now in complete disarray; my life had become unmoored, all directional signals erased, which only added to my mind’s already baffled sense of self.

As it became clear that I would not be able to stay long in rehab this time, I became terrified, because I didn’t know where to go or what to do once I got out, and I had no faith that I would stay sober for even a day.  I requested Roxbury to help me locate a “recovery house”, which is basically a halfway house specifically designed for people in addiction recovery.  Placing patients in Recovery Houses is a service Roxbury provides.  Unfortunately, because my time was so short, it was difficult for them to find me a space in one of the better, more reputable recovery houses in central Pennsylvania.  Just two days before I was to be kicked out on my kiester, I was called into an office (who can remember the offices of places?) and told they had found me a place: there was a bed available at a place called the Bethesda Mission, in Harrisburg.

I’d never heard of the Bethesda Mission before, but Bob (my counselor at Roxbury, I do remember his name) informed me that, yes, it was primarily a homeless shelter, there was a second half to the place that was a recovery house, headed up by one of the most respected recovery experts in the state.  He assuaged my fears that even though it had “mission” in the title, I would in fact be going to a very respected recovery house.

My day to leave rolled around and I had decided not to involve any of my family or friends with this phase.  I took Roxbury up on a service they offer, whereby they have a big Roxbury van that will drive you from the rehab to wherever you are going to end up.  I said my goodbyes (much less emotional this time than the first time, as I had been too fucked up this time to make any friends) and walked outside into the beautiful spring air of April 2nd, 2003, and got into a big white van that was to take me from Roxbury (right outside of Shippensburg, where I and my whole family had gone to college) to Harrisburg, to a recovery house.

And my high school Driver’s Ed teacher was driving the van.

He recognized me, and I recognized him, even though we hadn’t had any kind of close relationship in high school. (Mr. Troutman, I think?)  But we struck up an immediate and cordial conversation.  He’d retired from teaching a few years before, and had happened onto this job as a little part-time gig for extra cash.  He didn’t seem for a moment to judge me, although I’m sure I must have blubbered quite a bit in trying to explain myself.

I talked him into stopping in Carlisle (which is about halfway between Shippensburg and Harrisburg) at the restaurant I worked at, where I had a paycheck waiting for me.  I had an inkling that paycheck was going to come in handy, as without it, I had literally zero money.  Not even a penny.

Finally, he pulled up in front of this large stone structure in downtown Harrisburg, and helped me take my two suitcases out of the van.  And then, before I even walked into the building, he drove away.

The Bethesda Mission

The Bethesda Mission

There I stood, on the wide Harrisburg sidewalk, and looked around.  I was a man with free will.  I could walk any direction I wanted, talk to whoever I wanted, do whatever I wanted.  It was exhilarating and terrifying.  Exhilarating because, between rehab and the prison of addiciton, I hadn’t felt free like this in…well, forever.  At this point in my life, being alone in a city even the size of Harrisburg was a new thing for me.  But terrifying because I had no faith in myself to not squander this freedom on drinking.

I turned toward the building, smothered my fear, hiked up my luggage, and walked up the stairs toward the Bethesda Mission.

The plump, bespectacled man behind the desk in the lobby had never heard of me.  They did not have a spot reserved for me in the Recovery House, and in fact, a bed wouldn’t probably be open there for months.  What could they do for me?  Well, I could always sleep on a mattress in the chapel.

What does that mean? I asked him.  He says he’ll show me.  He led me down a short hallway and into a large, open space that had obviously once been used for worship.  It had a high, vaulted cieling, stained glass windows, and an unmistakable altar at the other end.  But now, dozens of filthy-looking, paper-thin mattresses lined each wall, and tinkling, calming recovery music was piped in from unseen speakers.  About a dozen haggard and hungry looking men shuffled about the open space, looking at me, sizing me up.

At night, we put the mattresses on the floor.  You’re welcome to one, once you pass the piss test.

Suddenly, I wondered just how much free will I really had.

Entry to be continued on Thursday, April 4th.

Philly Journal, 9/7

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2012 by sethdellinger

Philly Phacts

1.  Philadelphia is the fifth most populous city in the United States.  It’s kind of a big deal.

2.  The city of Philadelphia is its own county—the only instance of a city-county in Pennsylvania.

3.  The Greek translation of “Philadelphia” is literally “brotherly love”.

4.  It is one of the twelve “four sport cities”.

5.  As of December 31st, 2009, there were 829,873 registered Democrats living in the city, and 134,216 Republicans.

How I’m Doing!

I am really having a grand old time.  Living around people I know again, as well as working at a job whose main training tool is basically telling you to be really really nice to people, has started to make me come back around to caring about my fellow human again.  I love my new job.  I have really, really fallen in love with my mother’s cats, and I dare say they’ve started falling for me, too. Living with my mother is not only easy and tolerable, but downright great (and I don’t care how that sounds coming from a 34 year old; you can stuff your societal norms where the sun, it does not care to shine.  I am talking about your bunghole).  I have way too many fun and interesting things to do, all the time.  This new setup is redefining what I am interested in, and how I spend my time and money; where I’ll end up on that spectrum remains to be seen.  I will say that without a doubt, there will not be a year-end “Top Ten Movies” list of 2012.  I just cannot seem to muster the interest for movies right now (although there most definitely will still be a music list).  I finally got back to Central PA to visit friends and Dad.  It was a transcendant time.  Dad and I’s developing interests in local history are making for lovely, lively, emotional visits.  I only got to see a few friends on that visit but plenty more will be coming soon.  Paul is coming here to see the Phillies vs. Marlins with me next Wednesday, so that should rule.  I’m drinking a lot, a lot, a lot of coffee, and not just at work.  I got a new, finally very nice record player.  I’m kind of obsessed with it.  I’ve decided I like owls now and my sister keeps finding rad owl statues/ figures for me.  I cautioned her not to overdo it but with finds like these, I’m not sure overdoing it is possible.

Here’s a picture of my sister and I at the Franklin Institute

My 60th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , on May 19, 2012 by sethdellinger

Click here to see all previous entries.

…and my 60th favorite song of all-time is:

“Cumbersome” by Seven Mary Three

Slightly prior to my life-changing introduction to Pearl Jam, I was introduced to 7m3 my freshman year in college.  And their signature song, “Cumbersome”, while far from their best, is undeniably powerful, and no conversation about the band can ignore the song’s influence.  Below you’ll find a link to the original, official video, and then an embedded live version that is an example of how they play the song nowadays.

Watch the original video on YouTube by clicking here.



My Friend Paul

Posted in Memoir, Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2012 by sethdellinger

My homeslice Paul and I just had a public tiff on my blog.  Which sucks, because there aren’t many people in this life more important to me than Paul is, so I thought maybe I’d write a blog about our friendship.  Although it should be noted that we do have a nice history of being little bitches to each other and arguing about stupid shit, but that was mostly over a decade ago, while we were cooking together at the same restaurant, probably sleep-deprived and hung-over, but still.  We fight.

I’m sure I knew who Paul was before he knew who I was.  Why?  Because he played football for my high school.  He was a year ahead of me, and we weren’t within light years of each other’s social groups.  I wasn’t extremely aware of him, but I was aware of him.  Years later, I’d frequently have dreams that I’d been transported back to high school (with all of my intervening memories and experiences intact) and I’d seek out Paul, who, when I found him, had also been transported with his memory intact.  And so there we were, in high school, finally knowing each other.  They were weird dreams.

In the months following high school, I became a regular at the restaurant Paul worked at.  I frequented it late at night with my friend Jeremy and his girlfriend Cory (who I would later coup d-etat away from him); Jeremy had known Paul in high school, so Paul would come visit our table.  I remember being suspicious, because Jeremy had been the star of the soccer team, and here was this Paul guy, also an athlete.  And Cory, although she didn’t attend our high school, was the captain of her cheerleading squad.  I suspected I might soon find myself on the outside.  I know you’ve all seen pictures of me in wrestling or baseball uniforms, but I assure you, I was no athlete.

Fate is a fickle broad.  Before I knew what was happening, suddenly, I worked at that restaurant, too, and before long, I was a cook there, too, and before long, I was working overnights in the kitchen with Paul, too.  And (long story short here) we ended up going to the same college and being roommates and having the same group of college friends.  Paul and I had quite rapidly become insperable, the kind of friends that when you show up somewhere alone, people always ask you where the other one is;  although how that sort of thing happens is beyond me.  All these years later, it just seems natural that Paul and I are hetero-lifemates, but back then, it didn’t seem so simple.  Paul and I are quite different men (as good friends often are).  We share some simliar interests, but actually have more differences than similarities.  And not just the surface items like, he’s into sports and I’m not, or I’m into poetry and he’s not, as these differences are what can make a friendship keep ticking over the years (the male friends I do have whose interests most align with mine, I mostly don’t care for all that much, and I just keep them around because I might need them some day…for what, I have no idea).  But Paul and I’s differences seemed a bit deeper than that to me.  Mostly, he was a good soul and I was a bad one.

Now, he’ll probably want to argue with that, and he certainly could make a case for it.  After all, we were damn young, and drunk and tired pretty much ceaselessly, and in college, and—dare I say it—completely captivating to the opposite gender.  Neither of us were perfect young men.  But in Paul, one could see the seed of a quality adult, and a man who could discern right from wrong (even if he still sometimes chose to ignore that distinction), and how to be honest, and forthright, and helpful.

I, on the other hand, was a total shit.  It was probably obvious fairly early on that, while a whole bunch of us were partying constantly, I was the only one who couldn’t have stopped if I tried.  And no matter what you believe about how much I am to blame for that addiction, the fact is that being a drunk is not often accompanied by positive personality traits.  All those positive traits I listed above for Paul, think of their opposites, and apply them to the me of back then.

But somehow, we fit together.  We picked up some company on the way (“Nature Boy” Chris Davey, Burke “Testudo” Bowen, Heidi “Heidi” Dagen, “Mello” Cory Kelso, “Sultry” Joel Holtry, and quite a few others) and within a year of meeting Paul, I suddenly had a brand new group of friends and a new lifestyle, the old high school chums all-but forgotten.  And this was just in time, of course, for my descent into serious alcoholic oblivion.

There are lots of people to thank for how they handled my alcoholism and for what they did to help me, but as far as my friends go, nobody can really get more credit than Paul, a fact I’ve never really told him (fuck!  I’m crying now!).  Paul never made me feel like I was a bad person because I was unable to stop drinking.  He always seemed to understand that it was like any other addiction; for instance, his own reliance on cigarettes.  Now, he never said that to me, but his actions and the way he treated me suggest he thought that way.  He never told me I needed to stop, or slow down (that might sound reckless to you, but it’s my philosophy that “intevention” methodologies are counteractive.  Making somebody feel like shit never chased an addiction out of their skin, a philosophy my parents also seemed to share, which is another big reason I think I’m alive today);  when I would, on rare occasions, talk to him about my addiction and my fear relating to it (being in the grip of an addiction to a mind-altering substance is absolutely terrifying), he was understanding and helpful, never demeaning or judgmental, but forthright and honest in ways that showed a maturity and understanding that I’m not sure I could master even now, at age 34.

I still remember the day I decided—firmly, absolutely—that I could get sober, and that I would go to rehab and attempt to live the rest of my life and not die ASAP. I was at the apartment of Paul and his girlfriend at the time, Shelley.  I was drinking, but I wasn’t sad, I was just talking to them about being addicted, and how much it sucked.  I’ll never be sure which one of them said it first, but someone said, “Why don’t you just go to rehab?”, and they said it so…normally.  Like it was just something you could do, if you wanted.  Now, obviously the time was right, and there were plenty of other factors and people that contributed to that moment in time, but I said, “OK.  I’m going to!”  And I got the phone book and called a rehab and reserved a bed, that very afternoon, and then called my mom and dad (by then, that was two seperate phone calls) and told them “I’m going to rehab“.  It would be close to a year by the time I celebrated my final sobriety date of April 3rd, but that afternoon in Paul’s apartment stands out as the beginning of the beginning.  And he’s been so beautifully understanding and intuitive in regards to my sobriety.  He was my first friend to order an alcoholic beverage when out to dinner with me;  it was time, I was OK with it, and he just knew.  He knew that at that point I’d prefer him to do what he’d normally do.  It was more important to me that I not feel like the freak.  He was the first friend of mine who seemed to understand that I hadn’t really changed; sure, I had always been known as the guy who drinks all the time, but the core me was the same and now more me than before; the diseased filter had simply been removed.  Many friends felt the need to treat me, for a few years, like a kid who had just barely recovered from Leukemia.  Paul seemed to know that was unnecessary, and just kept treating me like the same guy from before, only without a drink in my hand.

I would love (really, I would) to just keep writing and writing and tell tons of little stories from our lives together.  Paul and I have lots of great stories.  But maybe I’ll just hit some highlights (and maybe there will be more blogs like this in the future…I feel as though I could write a book.  Tonight.  In two hours.  But anyway, the highlights):

—Paul and I share an intense love for two bands: Seven Mary Three and Hey Rosetta!  And these loves mark two distinct eras in our lives: college (7m3) and now (HR).  In an intereting twist, the first TWO times I saw both these bands, it was Paul and I together (along with others).  And these were amazing experiences that have shaped my idea of how concert-going should feel: like you are touching the hand of god.  It rarely is that good, but it is an ideal to strive for.  In many other ways, Paul and I’s musical tastes diverge, but they align where it counts. (hey Paul…the trip to see 7m3 in York…remember D’Marco Farr?  And please always remember, I called the opener in DC (“Peel”), and also, remember that fancy restaurant you picked for us to eat at in Ithaca, NY, the night we saw Hey Rosetta!?  That night was the beginning of my ongoing love affair with the Americano.  But I now drink them iced.)

–The Chair of Good and Evil.  Paul and I found a horrid, ratty, falling-apart recliner by a dumpster when we lived in college.  For reasons unbeknownst to us, we took it into our dorm room.  It really was a horrible chair.  It’s existence to us was more of a joke than anything else.  We wrote all over it in magic marker.  Quotes from movies, things we said all the time, lines from 7m3 songs (“A little motivation goes a long way down, down, down.”)  I somehow got the chair to my dad’s house for a year or two after college, but I’m sure it’s long gone by now.

–Remember that dorm room I mentioned? Yeah, we got kicked out of it.

–“Circus Midgets Ate My Balls”.  That’s all I’m saying about that.

–Movies we watched dozens or even hundreds of times together, even if they weren’t that good:  “Friday”, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, “The Borrowers“, “Mallrats”.

–The first time I visted Paul after I got sober and moved to New Jersey, we played golf and I beat him.  Which is the only time I can remember beating him at anything other than MarioKart.  So I bring it up here again, even 8 years later.  The gloating continues.

–I had the disctinct pleasure of giving the toast at Paul’s wedding to his fantastic wife, Liz.  I have never felt more honored in my life, and that honor continues to this day.

–Paul is a big Baltimore Orioles fan, so for his “bachelor party”, fellow Paul bud “Mello” Cory Kelso and I took him to an Orioles game, making the odd fact true: the last major league baseball game I attended was a Baltimore Orioles game.

–Mr. Turnpike, Nature Boy, and the Wise Guy (Man) in the Back Seat

–Ham on Both Ends

–Aint got me on tape.

I love you, Paul.  You continue to be the model for the type of man I want to be.  Thank you for being part of my life (and helping to save it).

L-R, Paul, Me, Davey (code names: Mr. Turnpike, Wise Guy in the Back Seat, Nature Boy)

Davey, me, and Paul, the first time we ever saw Hey Rosetta!, in Ithaca, NY.

Picture of Paul on the day I beat him at golf. He sucked that day.

%d bloggers like this: