“They say the truth is in the wine, but only so much…The lithium is working well…I do know what the hell I’m doing…you are alcoholic.”

Interesting, Dr. Arthur DuMont–you Zionist Jew motherfucker.  My very first psychiatrist is–as one of the other patients here puts it–a sadist.  The lithium is not working well.  I am subdued under it–but inside, I’m screaming.  Because I have no bipolar disorder.  In fact, my primary disorder is obsessive-compulsive disorder.  You didn’t recognize this–that was your first mistake.  Interesting that you don’t say I am an alcoholic–but only that I am alcoholic.  That is rather vague–and it is your second mistake, anyway.  I only used alcohol to release my inhibitions enough to carry out my crash–my “nervous breakdown”.  I didn’t drink nearly enough whiskey to get truly drunk.  And you say you know what the hell you’re doing–how mistaken you are.  Finally, you say I cannot leave this facility without your approval–this is your final mistake.  Though my parents brought me here last month–November, 1985–I signed myself in.  So I can sign myself out any time.  In fact, the only reason I have stayed here this long is that my father has told me the insurance probably won’t cover my stay, if I leave A.M.A. (against medical advice).  Wrong again.  You want to keep me here–at Southland Hospital–for six months.  Yet my parents feel that six weeks is long enough–and they will spring me out of this place in time for Christmas.  I have the memory of what I’ve learned here in Rosemary’s assertiveness training class–and even the memory of my pastor Jeff Spiller’s wisdom (I told Jeff of my fear that I no longer believed Jesus was the Son of God–and he suggested I put that fear aside, and concentrate on recovery for the moment).  So now I will sign myself out–and leave this facility, of my own free will.

“How do you know I’m Jewish?  And how do you know what Zionism is?”

Or maybe I’ll just beat the hell out of you.

And I proceed to do so.

Yet he changes into Raymond Ellis–and I continue beating him against the asphalt.

Yeah, you little piece of shit.  So it’s 1979 now–and this is the bus stop to Hillsdale Middle School.  My dad gave me the words to give you–“Raymond, I have something to tell you–you called me ‘gay’ again!”  Yet the first time, I pulled my punches–and you even sicced your German shepherd on me–shame on you!  I didn’t even know how to throw a punch correctly, because I had not yet taken boxing training at the Mobile Police Athletic League.  Now I have.

And I continue beating this little piece of shit–who was taller than I, at the time–until he is completely unconscious.

“I’m a lover, not a fighter, and I’m really built for speed”–pre-war (before the Second World War) blues song I would hear, and record, on Blues Before Sunrise on NPR early in the Twenty-First Century.  The Prince song “1999” is that with which I begin this Irish-coffee set in 2016.

And I’m on the bus home from Camp Lee in 1982.  One of the guys is playing this new song on his radio (not quite a “boombox” or “ghetto-blaster” yet)–and everyone is listening, fascinated.

I sit alone.  They don’t know I come from a time when this new musician Prince–whom a famous rapper in the Twenty-First Century would accurately label “misunderstood”–has died.

Yeah, this trip to Camp Lee was a drag.  I was in love with Alison Allen–but she didn’t even notice me.  She was too hung up on some blond-haired guy who could ridiculously recite the lyrics to some ridiculous song called “Rock Lobster”.

And I’m back at Camp Lee in 1983.  Camp Lee–a church camp in an exquisitely beautiful location outside of Anniston, Alabama.  The camp director, Jim Black, is an unforgettable man.  He tells amazing ghost stories–and brilliantly impersonates Jerry Clower (“Hawwwwwwwww!”), as he leads us to and from the “slock ride” (rock slide)–a cool, natural-spring waterfall, with a splash-landing pool in which one cannot fail to safely, softly splash-land.  There is even a knotted rope by which one can climb the mossy rocks back to the top to slide down again (and fall backward laughingly, safely into the natural pool (whose water is so clean that he can safely drink it), if he happens to lose his grip).

(I used Digital-Age gender qualifiers (“or she”)–then found it too damned complicated.  And I absolutely refused to use “their” for a singular–better to use grammatically correct language than politically correct language.)

Cathy Marlow.  Interesting.  She’s my first love–after I’ve had my first lover (the Hispanic woman whose name I wish to God I could recall), earlier this summer.  (I was in love with a girl named Ginger, in the first grade, but I didn’t understand this feeling then–this time, I understand it.)  Cathy Marlow–also the only time I will ever experience love-at-first-sight.  Yes, I see her as I enter the cafeteria at Camp Lee.  Our eyes meet for an instant, as she talks to her friends–and I just know–and so does she.

She’s a brunette who could so easily be one of those classic Hollywood actresses whose likenesses I would post on my blog in the next century. Easy on the eyes, indeed.


The youth from Christ United Methodist Church and Smyrna Baptist Church meet together in the fellowship hall.  Pick a partner–Cathy and I pick each other.  And sing, “I love you in the love of the Lord, Oh I love you in the love of the Lord.  I can see in you the glory of my King, and I love you in the love of the Lord.”  Her eyes are far brighter than mine.

And we end up walking together in a nearby meadow–this Georgia peach and I.

And we meet again and again in the blinding sunlight over the next few days–and kiss and cuddle–and talk.

It’s now the day before we take the bus back to Mobile–and I’ve received underground word that some of the couples are going to be making out in that same meadow tonight.

I meet Cathy Marlow near the pool.  She’s especially hot in that black swimsuit. And I invite her to join me in the meadow tonight–in the most delicate way possible.

And here she lies–apparently.

“I’m not ready for that–my ex-boyfriend just got my best friend pregnant.”

I explain to her that I can’t stand it–that I can’t be with her at all if I can’t get more intimate with her.

“From the moment I met you,” she says, “I knew that you were special.”

And we kiss, and part.

And that night, I take the chair.

The chair–a very effective form of therapy.

One chair in the center of a circle of chairs.

Over the course of a few hours, individuals take their turns in that chair, in the dark–and get their feelings out.

No one is required to take a turn in the chair.

But this time I do.

I let it all out–how this girl honest-to-God broke my heart–and I cry my eyes out.

And an angel descends, and holds me.

Mrs. Dart.

Golden blonde with an equally golden heart.

My den mother when I was a Cub Scout–with whom I was infatuated then, and with whom I’m infatuated now.

This angel understands–and she lets my tears soak her blouse.

That night I can’t sleep.

I get a sudden feeling of terror–as if I’m going to die.

It’s my first panic attack (or anxiety attack)–brought on by a feeling of abandonment brought on by Cathy Marlow.

The other boys in the lodge wonder if I’m okay.  I assure them that I seem to be–as I play John Denver songs on my little stereo to calm myself.

The next morning, I get Cathy Marlow’s address from her, so I can write her.

And the next night, I have a good talk with my brother-in-law Tom–who assures me that eventually I will say, “Cathy who?”

And he’s right.

Yet a decade later I write Cathy Marlow–for the first time perhaps.

And the letter is forwarded to Rome, Georgia.

Cathy’s name is no longer “Marlow”–she’s married, and has two children.

She sends me a nice photograph of her and her husband.

I cut him out of the damned thing–and paste her likeness into my journal.

And I talk with her over the phone a few times.

One night, I am speaking with her from the phone in my parents’ garage.  It is storming where she is, and her husband is away.  Her husband has one of those jobs (building contractor, I think) for which he is away from home quite often. And the thunder is making Cathy nervous.  And she finds comfort confiding in me.

And I remind her of what she said to me that afternoon in the summer of 1983–that she couldn’t go to the meadow with me because her ex-boyfriend had gotten her best friend pregnant.

And Cathy says, “I never said that.”

So Cathy was lying then–or she is lying now.

I press her–but only as far as she will allow.  Then she says she can no longer talk with me over the phone–that she is starting to get tempted.

And I’ll never know when Cathy was lying–in 1983, or in 1993.

It is to this woman’s credit that she ceased communication with me, in order to remain faithful to her husband.  But it is not to her credit that she lied to me–whenever it was.

It is thundering here now–in this goddamned Digital Age.

And the remaining $120 in my wallet will be gone before Sunday.

And loneliness for a woman’s love is the least of my problems.

There is a thirty-year-old bottle of Scotch in a secured cabinet at a liquor store I know.  It is over $400.

And ever since I first saw that thirty-year-old bottle of Scotch Wednesday I’ve wondered:

Would drinking that entire bottle of Scotch literally transport me back to 1986–or earlier?

If I knew it would, I’d sell even my truck for that one-way ticket out of this goddamned Digital Age.

It’s easy to escape a place–but how does one escape a time?

“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  there is none good but one, that is, God:  but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

“He said unto him, Which?  Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother:  and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven:  and come and follow me.

“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful:  for he had great possessions.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Then wake me from this Digital-Age nightmare.

Deliver me from this Digital-Age hell.

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