Rocks from the Moon – 20 Years’ Worth



This is one of those “gotta use words” moments.

Today marks a 20 year anniversary of not drinking. It’s a big milestone for  me (and I don’t know if I’ll get another quite so significant).

I’ve not been the best member of the group that helped me so much initially (A.A.) , but they’ve never left my consciousness. Every day, there is a chance to use what I heard and learned there.
I was fastidious about going to meetings the first five years. 3 a week, a weekly meeting with my sponsor every Saturday morning for breakfast.
Aside from taking a daily job out of town which all but prohibited attendance (excuses, excuses), I found myself drawn to another path, another life line. That was Tibetan Buddhism.

 Dzogchen tantra
I was surprised to find out how much A.A. and the basic, beginning, practices of Buddhism had in common.
There was a common surrendering or “taking refuge” decision that had to be made. And maintained.
When I asked my teacher at the Buddhist temple about what to do about a “higher power” (a necessity in A.A. which often takes the form of your version of God, Supreme Being, or just something bigger than yourself), he said “pray to your intuition”.
You have to keep in mind that teachings and guidance from a Buddhist teacher are very specific to the student and for someone else might have been quite different (maybe more concrete!?)

Over the last two decades, many aspects of my life rose and fell, went to hell and came back. I managed to stay off the drink, but found that was no guarantee everything was going to be smooth sailing.

I’m reminded of a documentary I saw about Ron Sexsmith  (“Love Shines”) in which Steve Earle says (snipped a bit):

“I think melancholy and despair are both components of the blues. You know, at the opposite, dark, deep end of the blues is despair. And, you know, you can’t stay there. Its just, we’re not constructed to stay there. Melancholy can be befriended and be tamed and can be harnessed. For artists, the advantage that we have is that beauty comes out of our melancholy and even our despair. But you have to be able to bring the rocks back from the moon… or nobody knows that you were there.”

The Loneliest Place on Earth

I think that if there was anything big to learn from 20 years of sobriety, it would be a sense of obligation to report honestly on the dark places you can get into – and then let others in the same boat know that there is a coming back. For those lucky enough to never have gone there, one can make an attempt to describe and explain what it’s like. In my experience, this is never completely achievable.

At this point, there’s not much in this world that really gets me going. This world has its laws and rules and mechanisms for “success.” There are only so many combinations of sinking balls on a pool table.

Success can be measured, reasoned out, and measured again. Your life’s report card may be money, status, power, love life, artistic acclaim. To me, they all seem like a distraction or a way to get high.
Which doesn’t mean to imply I that I don’t need a bit of those things to get by. Render unto Caesar and all that.
It’s just that I don’t put a lot of value on them. They’re impermanent and there is no solid ground, really.

I’ve got 20 years worth of moon rocks. Not all are fit for public consumption. It’s been a roller coaster ride. Neither the ups or the downs are to be taken too seriously.

So, I’ve been asked “how do I feel, 20 years on?” The answer: better.
Mostly, so very grateful to those who have always been around to support me. Thank you.


It’s the only game you win by giving up.

Today’s Listening:

1. On the Cool Side by Ben Sidran fr: “On the Cool Side”
2. Cotton by The Mountain Goats fr: “We Shall All Be Healed”
3. Wind by Circus Maximus fr: “Circus Maximus”
4. Ghost Town / Poem for Eva by Bill Frisell fr: “Ghost Town”

FIFA Flags – Watch THIS, Spot.


I had a chance to see the Argentina/Netherlands Word Cup football/soccer game last Wednesday. It was the first one I’d ever seen.

And what a great way for a non-sports fan like me to watch it. I was visiting a friend in the country, far away from the choked streets teeming with FIFA Galactic Cruisers and their horns and flags. Nightmare stuff for me.

 Fifa car traffic st clair

There were large glass doors beside the television where I could look out and take in a bucolic view of trees and fields and chickens and hummingbirds. Lovely evening.

The game itself didn’t hook me but I found it kind of useful.

It let me slip into some day-dreaming about the FIFA fans and their unabashed promotion of their favourite teams. All those whipping flags on all those little cars a-wavin’ in their exhaust. The horns honking as if their Honda Civics all had Tourrette’s Syndrome.

 Fifa car flag st clair

Let me tell you, I have no interest in football/soccer.
I do have an interest in other people being interested.

Fifa streetcar 

And here is the crux of the business: I was experiencing what Kenneth Burke called “Perspective by Incongruity”.

In brief: You put together two things that don’t normally belong together and you get an enriched perspective of the two elements

The Mona Lisa framed in potato peelings. Foreground and background.

So while the TV was blasting out the game, my attention was drifting out the window, just openly aware of nature on a summer afternoon. (Sky Meditation is possible during a televised football game, after all.)

I thought that, as much as I cannot tolerate sports, I have a love of books. When an author like Dennis Lehane writes a book such as “The Given Day“, I don’t even mind if a large part of the subject matter is sports.

I’ve come to think of book awards as sporting events. You’ve got your draft picks, your regular season, your play-offs, and your trophy. The only difference is that with, real sports, the players get to duke it out themselves. With book awards, you get the panels. Poor devils who don’t have the time to read all the entries anyways.

And there are the literary blog sites which could not exist without the word “award” on their pages. (Even if they are called “Shadow Awards”)
You may have gathered by now that I don’t give a damn about book awards. In fact, I think they have a backwards effect of making writers write for awards. Besides, the books that win are never books I admire are almost always awful. Where do they get those panelists from?

Not to be ruled out as a total crank, however, I would like to join in with the spirit of the World Cup fans and suggest the following:

Authors’ Flags!

Why don’t literature aficionados do what their ball-kicking brethren do and stick authors’ faces on flags?

We’d have pictures of poets and novelists attached to people’s cars and bundle buggies. Heck, stick them on dog coats as they drive, walk and shop around the Annex and Riverdale. Not just on the occasional postage stamp.

Why aren’t books as good as soccer? Why don’t people tip over cars and fight in the streets and bars over the Giller Awards?

FIFA fans vote with their Hondas.  And I will give sports one break – they may be the only unscripted media events going.
Sure, there are rules and uniforms but how the teams get to the ending is always uncertain. That’s why we have bookies.
In the meantime … 

richard w on dog coat 2 murakami on dog coat margaret and alice on chickens

Get the picture?

Today’s Listening:

1. Dear Diary by The Moody Blues fr: On the “Threshold of a Dream”
2. Mr. Apollo by The Bonzo Dog Band fr: “Tadpoles” (and various anthology albums)
3. Mad Men’s Season 7 Episode 6 “The Strategy” closing credits music originally composed by Jean Constantin for the Francois Truffault film: The 400 Blows. This version was arranged by David Carbonara (Mad Men’s incidental music composer).