Where Ya Been, Mr. B.?

It is still August, and I have resumed work after a summer hiatus during which I lounged on the deck of my condo in Maui, jetted to an island off Malta, where I keep my Mediterranean ketch, in order to inspect the progress of work I commissioned on its keel and hull. I found it satisfactory and returned to my home in Rancho Santa Fe, ready once again to get to work on some hard-knuckle, knock-around journalism.

Those who have been studying the obituaries for my name must once again grapple with disappointment. Your day will come, however, and it shouldn’t be terribly long now. But, meanwhile, I am intent on setting words on paper or the screen and intend to go out that way, hunched over a keyboard, most likely in the middle of a sentence.

You may disbelieve this, but I swear I am tired of publishing bits about my personal life; if it now bores me, it surely must have that effect on readers looking for something more interesting. Still, I have heard from a surprising number of people that say they enjoy such entries. My theory is that it instills in them a sense of gratitude for their own share of unhappiness. So this — the truth, pretty much — is for those readers, with best wishes for their vicissitudes, whatever they may be.

It started with bronchitis. On top of congestive heart failure and COPD, this constitutes a problem. Being hospitalized again, the MDs thought it might be a matter of pneumonia. I was discharged nonetheless (no insurance) with an inhaler of albuterol and wheezed away the nights sitting upright in bed in the god-awful place I was living in downtown.

With this troika of pulmonary problems, I began to think of two words, Jack and Daniels. This is the kind of insanity, the unsoundness of mind that accompanies the affliction of alcoholism. Knowing full well that I would be much safer playing Russian roulette with an automatic pistol, it was not terribly long, after three or four breathless nights riddled with panic attacks, that I was at — what is it? — Super Junior’s market on Seventh, forking over dwindling funds for the aforementioned Tennessee brew. The immediate effect was one of relief and even a pleasant glow of artificial health and optimism. This may have lasted all of 45 minutes. The initial hail-fellow-well-met exuberance was followed by an indeterminate amount of time feeling numb — nothing at all, really. This was also fine with me.

Had that been all there was to it, it would easily have been a matter of “no worries” (the Australianism that is so popular with everyone now) and a day or two of hangover, illness, remorse, all of which I am so used to, I have come to mistake it for the human condition. But I apparently had squirreled enough into my checking account to continue to purchase the sour mash like an automaton at the end of each bottle. It was not long before I was asked to leave the building I was living in and not return. This was reasonable, as I had paid them nothing for weeks and had created a negligent mess of the room.

I moved to another hotel, one in North Park. After paying for a week, the first night I went for a walk (probably to a liquor store, though I have no clear recollection) and tripped on a pothole on Arizona Street, I believe, as I tried unsuccessfully, awkwardly, like a palsied dervish, to avoid a slow-moving car making a left-hand turn. I had bashed and concussed my head and fractured several vertebrae in my back. I had also broken a cheek bone and damaged the nerve in there (it is playing hell with me even now) and broken my nose. Back in the hospital, this time with a neck brace in the trauma ward for, I was told, some plastic surgery on my face. That was the plan until some conscientious doctor examined my records and asked attending nurses and anyone else in the room, “Has anyone looked at this guy’s history? Get him out of here and into cardiology before you think about surgery.”

Whoever that doctor is, I am grateful. I think I spent about eight days at UCSD.

If you find yourself moved to disgust at my moral lapses, my seeming disdain for social mores, as well as what may appear to be a bid for sympathy, you’re not alone. One male nurse told me he knew I came to the hospital so often only to get high. After his announcement I tried to walk out with an IV fixture still in my arm. I was physically restrained by that nurse and a security guard.

I am recovering and waiting to move into an apartment with my son.

Pretty much the truth.

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I'm sorry to hear all of this, John.

I have never bought into this "love yourself" narcissistic twaddle. I do remember this, from Tennessee Williams: "Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person."

There are many people who care for you, myself included. I hope your path winds upward soon.

John, You need to call me ASAP. I will leave my number at the Reader Thursday morning.

I was delayed by 24 hours. It's there now.

Geez, John! Take care of yourself and that wonderful talent and sense of humor. We missed you when you were gone.

Julie in Poway

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