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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Orangeburg et. seq. thoughts

Once, as a very young boy, I spent as much of my time as my mother could make me spend outside in the yard.  I remember doing this in Orangeburg on Ellis Avenue Extension and, later, in Aiken, at 1912 George Street, in Crosland Park.  The rest here will (mostly) be about my experiences in Orangeburg.

While in Orangeburg, Mama and Daddy (that’s what I called ‘em) had two houses (first one, then the other.)  The first one, a small white house with a lot of glass in the front, was on a busy city street (the main down town street, I think) right next to a railroad track.  I’m not sure how long we were at that first house.  I remember a couple of things about that stay, though.  Right across the tracks was a small old wooden house with maybe two or three rooms.  Two ladies lived there—the younger was named Mary Sally and the elder was her mother.  They may or may not have had electricity. I definitely remember a kerosene lantern on top of a table in the middle of the main room.   I can’t say if there were any other houses around or not.  The two houses on either side of the tracks was all there was in my world at that time. While I didn’t go to her house often, Mary Sally came to our house a good bit, mainly to be my babysitter.  I’m sure we were there when I was five years old since that was when my brother Jimmy was born and Mary Sally spent a good bit of time with me while Daddy was at the hospital.  I think she even taught me how to scramble eggs. 

I still make them the way she did, and when I do, I call them “Eggs à la Mary Sally,” scrambled in the pan with bacon drippings, heavy on the pepper, salted to taste. 

Mary Sally was mid-range in the melanin department, something that wasn’t something that made any difference to me or my parents.  New Albany, Indiana, where both my parents grew up, apparently did not have many blacks and I was never taught any customs requiring that they be treated any differently than anybody else.  This wasn’t the case in Orangeburg in the 1950’s, though, and I suspect my dad got a quick course by his boss, Mr. Strange, at the meat-packing plant.  None of that filtered down to me, though, and Mary Sally was just Mary Sally with no thoughts of race (or even a knowledge of what race was or that it should make any difference) ever occurring.  She was sweet, and I loved her. 

We left that house before my kindergarten year and went to an all-white neighborhood.  I think it was before I started kindergarten.  I’m really not sure.  Also, there was the time we were in an old home, or an attached cottage, near the downtown area, on the same street, I think, as that first white house by the railroad tracks, where we stayed for a short time when we first arrived in Orangeburg.  I think the owners’ were named “Cable.”  They had a yard man named “Lawrence” who liked to fish.  One day shortly after we arrived, Lawrence brought some live fish (could be they were eels) to the house and put them in a large tin coated wash tub under one of the trees in the yard.  I remember him trying to teach me how to fish using a cane pole.  By “how to fish,” I mean how to catch some small pine branchlets using the string on the end of my pole to wrap around the branches, “catching” them.   I don’t remember if I was any good at it, but I did enjoy trying.  At the time I was having a hard time walking.  Everyone was afraid it was polio.  Turns out, it was probably just me sitting on my legs in our not so old Chevy as we drove from wherever, maybe New Albany, Indiana to Orangeburg to start dad’s job.  After a few days’ pampering, I was up and running.  Close call—luckily not a horse shoe thing, though.

But enough early Orangeburg thoughts:  Moving on to Ellis Avenue Extension (how I remember that I really can’t say,) we were really moving up in the world.  Our house was an old farm house, I think, two storied, sitting in the middle of a one-time pecan grove.  It was owned by the Metts.  Mr. Metts, a jeweler, and his wife lived in a new brick house behind the house we rented from them.  They had two children, Hugo and his sister Annis (both much older than I.)  Annis was old enough to babysit, which she did on occasion. 

My best friend, Frankie, lived one fence climb away to the side of our house.  That fence got climbed a lot.  Frankie was a native born Orangeburger, and he spoke the language well.  One day he taught me a new word—“nigger,” as in “my nigger maid said…” something or other.  I, of course, took the word with me and used it in front of my parents as if it were nothing special (which was exactly what it was—until I used it.)  For some reason my parents took offense at the word.  Which was unfortunate for me since Daddy’s taking offense meant Stevie got a spanking.  I also got the explanation that I was not to use that word, period.  The spanking was just for emphasis, a point well taken, at that. 

Interestingly enough, I had one race-relations experience while living in Orangeburg.  There was a big pecan orchard between our houses and the houses in the next subdivision, which was, apparently, a black subdivision.  One day, while playing in that orchard, another kid came walking up.  We got to know each other and had a good play time (I don’t remember what we were doing, but we both had fun and agreed to meet the next day.)    

A woman who lived in one of the houses next to the Metts’ house noticed us and called my mom.  Seems little black boys and little white boys did not play together in Orangeburg in the early 1950’s.  I was counseled that night.  Still, I went to meet my new friend the next day.  I told him we couldn’t play together.  He told me his parents had told him the same thing.  Getting to know people of another color was something I did not have the opportunity to do until I became an “Airman.”  What a shame.  Sometimes heritage sucks. 

Frankie had his good points and his not so good points.  His speech patterns (of yore) were definitely, for me, one of his not so good points.  One thing I liked about Frankie was the fact that he had a BB gun.  He showed me how to use it, and I killed my first bird.  Seems I had a bit of a bloodthirsty streak in me at that time of my life. (I suspect this is normal for we “hunter/gatherers.”)  I didn’t get to use his gun much after that.  Don’t know why.  Maybe Mama and Daddy had a talk with Mr. and Mrs. Farnum.

I had a couple of other friends who lived next to Frankie and next to the Metts.  Phillip was one of these boys’ names.  They had a bicycle that they taught me how to use.  After riding that bicycle around their back yard for an hour or so, I got pretty good at it.  I did find out running a bicycle headlong into a pecan tree was not a good idea, though. 

There were two houses in front of ours, between our house and the road, one on each side of our driveway (the extension?)  Wicky Staib was an older boy who lived in one of the houses.  Wicky took a shine to me and showed me his BB pistol.  Actually, it was not quite a BB pistol.  It shot small lead shot smaller than a BB.  Wicky had a trap with spinning things in it that he used for practice.  It was fun.

**Warning to parents—the next paragraph should, perhaps, be X-rated.

The Clarks lived in the house on the other side of the driveway.  Patty was a year or two older than I was.  Patty got some cowboy boots one year and liked wearing them.  One day I made her mad, apparently (I don’t remember too much about the “why” here, just the “what.”)  Patty kicked me with one of her cowboy boots.  I wish I hadn’t had to learn just what is meant by the term “kick him in the balls,” but I did.  Guess I learned that lesson well, though, since that was definitely the one and only time for me.  Guess, since then, I’ve always been a bit protective of that area of my physique, especially around gals wearing cowboy boots. 

On the other side of Wicky’s (away from the Clarks) was a house with a couple of nice people (no children, though.)  They knew my dad; I think the man, a veterinarian, knew him from work.  She was a pretty lady who, I guess, had a day job.  Their name was Eberhard, I think.  

But enough about the neighbors.  I remember once playing in a sandbox we had.  I was “driving” a little plastic jeep, kind of a precursor to today’s’ SUVs.  I had a sand road and a sand hill built.  So much for that memory—guess it says I was OK with playing alone. 

Halloween was big in those days.  I remember going around the neighborhood.  I don’t know if I had adult escorts (suspect I should have had.)  I knew about soaping screens, and once saw a house with darkened windows with soaped screens.  Can’t say I ever laid my hand on a piece of soap on Halloween, though.

There was a creek that ran down a property line a couple of houses down on Ellis Avenue.  We explored the creek and learned we could find “mud puppies” by turning over a few rocks.  I took a couple home once.  I think they stayed a few days in a bowl and then were returned to the creek. 

We kids liked playing in empty lots.  We played baseball in one lot (and we played a lot!)  One summer part of the lot had a lot of broom straw.  We got together and built a mound of the stuff and the guy who had found some matches lit it.  The fire spread quickly (something we had not anticipated.)  We all ran home.  The local fire department came quickly and took care of the problem.  The kid who had found some of his parents’ matches found out one reason to not take those matches again.  I think it was one of my most memorable spankings.  By the way—the “sand lot baseball” we played served me well when we moved to Aiken.  My first year in “little league” saw me hit eight homers.  I could slap the fool out of that ball, and the field did not have a little-league fence.  If the ball went between two outfielders, it was a race—mine for home plate, theirs for the ball. 

The next year we played in a newly constructed little league ballpark.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t loft the ball out of it. Towards the end of the season, I’d just about given up.  The pitcher threw a fast ball, and I took a gentle swing, meeting the ball perfectly.  That was my one and only homer that year.  I still have the ball.

Oh, well—so much for Orangeburg, almost.  Memories of the first three grades boil down to painting--tempra painting, that is.  Lillith (or Lilly?) was the best artist in my class.  She did a painting that filled up her sheet with color.  I liked it so much, my next painting was a good copy of hers, style-wise, that is.  She may not have appreciated my compliment, if that was what it was, but I liked it. 

One other thing I should mention was my experience with electricity.  My parents and I went to the Metts’ house one night for dinner.  I guess I should describe the fare, and I would if it weren’t for the electricity part (actually, I have no idea what they were serving.)  That electricity part had to do with a lamp cord and a razor blade.  Seems if a lamp cord is caressed by a razor blade in just the right way, a “pop” may be heard and the room lights would go out.  This was my first overt experience involving electricity.  I wonder if that may have been one reason I decided to learn something more about it when I enlisted in the Air Force.  Guess it was a valuable experience, having served 26 years as an electronics technician in the Air Force and Air National Guard—most of which was free of the “pop” I had heard that night at the Metts’ house.

That’s about it for this topic.  Funny how things come back to you when you take the time to try to remember.

SVG  05 August, 2015-08-05

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Politics--ours and our Iranian friends'

Morningbrain, sometimes, comes late.  Today it happened while watching George Stephanopoulos interview Rick Perry about his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  Governor Perry, in addition to providing a great example of the “uh count,” also continued to astound with his mastery of the essentials of speech.  Now, here in South Carolina, we do have a Norway and a Denmark, and can speak of them proudly.  Gov. Perry, in discussing some point, the details of which escape my mind, blown away, perhaps, by his subsequent blunder, began his explanation (of something) by stating, “In Texas, from the Alamo to Afghanistan….”  Really, Gov?  Is there really an Afghanistan, Texas, or are you simply expanding your borders, perhaps to try to unseat Alaska as the largest state in the union?   While neither of these explanations rings true, what is obvious is Gov. Perry, following Donald Trump’s lead, is demonstrating how the Republican field will be winnowed away to a reasonable number by the demonstration of their lack of one definitive political skill.  That is, the current plethora of politicians will reduce themselves via the oral route.  (Two down, Chris Christy, and quite a few more, to go.) 

Another topic George aired was the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.  Our public needs to understand one thing (and we need to point out our understanding to our Representatives and our President and his team.)  Iran is a country run by a small group of politicized, religious despots.  These despots replaced a secular despot that the U. S. Government supported.  Hence, using “the friend of my enemy is my enemy” doctrine, the current despots despise “the great Satan,” America.  Iranians have one choice.  If they want the benefits of the great society they could have, they have to get rid of the despots.  The current ones, like the former one, will only leave under a great threat or actuality of force.  The heads of Iran are the very definition of the word despot, and their religious status should not give them cover.  

The Ayatollahs’ funneling public funds into warships, missiles, a non-peaceful nuclear program, and foreign surrogates, while giving no heed to the needs of their people, must be corrected.  The people of Iran need to take care of their problem if they wish to regain their status as a leader of their part of the world.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

To sleep, perchance to dream

I awoke this morning remembering a few details of a dream I had just been involved in.  Basically, I was considering the similarities between alcoholics and homosexuals.  Both groups are disparaged in the Bible.  Both have had widespread misconceptions by the public in general about their condition or illness.  Both homosexuality and alcoholism are conditions that may be “lived with” so long as basic considerations are adhered to. 

While alcoholism is a genetic condition, defined as a “disease” by the AMA, homosexuality has not received a similar blessing.  Possibly the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930’s in addition to bringing the possibility of a control, if not a cure, to this condition gave it the impetus needed to gain sufficient study to achieve a determination of its basic cause.  With homosexuality, I will use the term “condition” in deference to the homosexual’s understanding that their condition is normal, at least for themselves.  The alcoholic, if he is knowledgeable about his situation, understands his condition to be a disease.  Science has found it has its roots in the genetic makeup of the afflicted individual.  Maybe, given the strength of the LGBT community today, a similar determination of cause for homosexuality may be found in (hopefully) the near future.  One thing is sure concerning alcoholism:  It is a disease that may be lived with so long as one simple thing is maintained:  Sobriety.  Homosexuality is similar in having its musts:  One must confine one’s sexuality strictly to the like-minded. 

So long as these two directives are observed, alcoholics and homosexuals are more than welcome in the greater sphere of society.  Virtually nothing is denied to either group so long as the prime directives are maintained and their conditions are not advertised.  If there is a group like Alcoholics Anonymous that applies to homosexuality, I am not aware of it (although Google does provide a number of possibilities.)  A similar group would seem to make sense, in any case.  AA allows alcoholics to know each other and discuss problems of (and solutions to) alcoholism in an understanding environment.  The misconceptions of the general public are not found in AA meetings. 

And what are some of these misconceptions?  Well, the main one with both conditions is that the condition is a matter of the will of the individual.  If they would just stop drinking, or moderate their drinking is the thought of the “normal” individual when it comes to alcoholics.  To many, if not most “normal” people, the alcoholic is just a weak-willed person with a lack of self control.  As for weak-willed, just try to tell an alcoholic he has a problem with alcohol and needs to quit drinking.  All of a sudden you will find a person with a mission.  That mission is to tell you he has no problem whatsoever.  He can quit whenever he wants to and, if his drinking (which is nobody’s business but his own) is hurting anyone but himself, that’s not his fault.  Weak-willed?  Hardly!

I can only guess at what a “normal” person might think of homosexuality.  It would seem to be a simple matter of rethinking the whole sex/procreation requirement to realize how absurd homosexuality really is.  If there is a genetic component to this condition, surely it would self-eradicate in a matter of a couple of generations.  It hasn’t, so genetics can’t be the only answer.  Surely a psychiatrist could get through to them.  Isn’t there something called “reprogramming?”  If the “normals” are religious, they might find that place in the Bible where homosexuality is called an “abomination.”  Sodom and Gomorrah are prime examples of God’s will concerning this condition.  Of course, in the Bible, the only homosexuality mentioned is that of the male variety.  Seems females were not considered when it came to this condition.  Do you suppose this is more an example of man’s inclusion of his own biases in what is supposed to be divinely inspired writing than an example of the attitude of God towards some of his creatures?  He created all of us, did he not?  He made each and every gene found in we human creatures, including those which undergird the alcoholic and, potentially, the homosexual.    

Ten years ago, or so, I was working in a local hotel.  The lady who relieved me spent much of her free time on the internet researching questions of homosexuality.  She was a bit younger than me.  Still, she had a daughter who was about twenty years old from an early marriage.  I found all this curious and asked her about it.  She explained she had married young and was happy to be out of that union.  Her homosexuality was something she realized about herself later in life.  One comment she made that has stuck with me was, “it’s not something I would have chosen for myself, it’s just the way it is.”

When I was in high school, I had several friends who later determined they were “gay.”  They were fine folks when I knew them.  I had a friend whose parents were from Indiana, as were mine, and he was, seemingly, “as gay as they come.”  Still, he was a friend.  In college he studied art and design.  Afterwards he opened an interior design studio in Aiken.  He spoke with a certain accent that many would find common, though not ubiquitous, in the gay community.  Still, as far as I can discern, he fought it all his life; he even married, late in life, and maintained that union with his lady until he died. 

My friend’s sister married an uncle of mine.  They had three terrific children.  One son is gay.  He has lived in Europe most of his life.  He is a very successful artistic director.  My personal experience, you see, is that homosexuality may well be a genetically determined condition.  My personal experience with alcoholism is the same (there is alcoholism in my family tree) with me being one prime example of an alcoholic.  I tell you this to assure you my assertion of these two conditions as being genetic--the disease of alcoholism and the condition of homosexuality--is bolstered by personal anecdotal knowledge if not by scientific evidence.  Hopefully, one day science will obtain sufficient funding to come up with a reason for homosexuality as it has for alcoholism.  Since no specific substance is involved, it is quite possible the reason(s) behind this phenomenon will be a bit harder to come by than was the case with alcoholism.  One thing’s for sure, though—there is a reason for everything under the sun.  Finding those reasons is what keeps scientists busy.

In the mean time, those of us who are blessed to live in societies where free expression of thoughts is an option should learn to live and let live to the best of our abilities.  The best way to do this is to teach the children what love is really all about and what the word “inclusiveness” stands for.  

Given love, inclusiveness can follow.

SVG  14 June 2015


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sonnety Piece

God gives us all a rhythm of the heart.
Di dah, di dah, di dah, di dah, di dah.

Iambic pentameter we call it, if we follow the example Shakespeare and others left us.  String together fourteen lines of this, grouped four at a time, times three, with an end “doublet;” rhyme the lines a bit; and you end up with an art form called a “sonnet.”  Shakespeare wrote hundreds of them.  The rhyme appeals to those of us who like to tie the lines together.  Lacking the rhyme, we call the work “blank verse.” 

Take away the pentameter, and you get what?  A sonnety piece?

A recent operation on son Stash yielded time for the following:

Here we sit in the waiting room,
Seeking ways to cut the gloom.
Chatter rises glib from some,
Others sit, arms crossed and glum.

Christy’s outside to make a call,
(Outside’s better than in the hall.)
Doc’s heading out to the tennis court;
Patient’s fine was his report.

Recovery room is where our guy,
Now sleeps away anesthetic high.
When he gets back we’ll give him smiles,
And quench all thoughts of recent trials.

Going home’s what we want best,
Before that, though, comes a bit more rest.

And, don’t forget to water those damn daisies.

SVG, ARMC, Fourth of June, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My AA Story

In Alcoholics Anonymous, anonymity is important.  Still, sometime it can't be maintained completely while using various opportunities to pass on the message.  That's what is happening here.  Dear readers:  Please accept this thinly veiled attempt to formally maintain an anonymous position, while passing on to my posterity an address that an AA member, Steve G, presented at an open speaker meeting in Aiken, S.C. early in 2015.  Be assured, that being an AA member does not convey to any individual the right to speak for the organization.  All any of us can do is to speak about our own "experience, strength, and hope."

February 16, 2015
First Christian Church
Aiken Central Group
Aiken SC
6:30 PM

My AA Story

The formula for an any AA's story is to tell 'em how it was, then tell 'em what happened, and, finally, tell 'em what it's like now--which is the formula for the following. 

First, though, I'd like to thank Golfer John for inviting me here tonight.  And I'd like to thank you, my first ever AA group, the Linden Streeters, the Aiken Central Group now known far and wide as the Honeybaked Hammers, or so I'm told.  Thank you for giving me this opportunity. 

And, oh yes, if anyone forgot to check their hammer at the door, please do so now.  (Rotten tomatos are bad enough.)

While I wasn't exactly an alcoholic at the time (although I did have the requisite genetic makeup,) I began my life journey in July of 1944 in Talladega, Alabama.  My parents were there with my dad working for DuPont making smokeless powder for the war effort, and they brought me with them, so to speak.  I'm not sure how long we stayed, but with the surrender of Japan in September 1945, the need for smokeless powder became much more limited than it had been during the war and, sometime after that, I suspect, we moved to southern Indiana, mom and dad bought (or rented) a house in Clarksville, Indiana, a town a short drive away from New Albany, the town where they both grew up.  For the record, although my memory fails me on this, I suspect I was not Alcoholic at the time.  Milk was my main nutrient and personal growth was the name of the game--by personal growth, I mean progressing from an initial seven plus pounds to whatever I could gain during that first year or so of life. 

Somewhere along the line my mom and dad had a party.  New Albany and Clarksville are both just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, which once a year becomes the horse racing capital of the world with the running of the Kentucky Derby.  My dad was always something of an organizer, and a socialite, so the occasion of a Kentucky Derby was always to be a family occasion for a Kentucky Derby party. 

The highlight of the party was the race itself, and when it was happening, all the adults converged around the radio in one of the rooms to listen.  Unbeknownst to them, "little Stevie" at two or three years of age, took the opportunity to help his mother clean up by drinking whatever he wanted of the various libations that had been left around in one of the other rooms.  Needless to say, my memory of this incident isn't exactly precise.  I do think I can report I probably did not drink alcoholically on that, my first opportunity to imbibe, and the opportunity to do so again did not recur for a good many years (my parents were fast learners.)  Which is to say, my drinking days came to a swift halt.  "Little Stevie" was now a "teetotaler."

We moved.  Our address went from Clarksville to somewhere in the mid-west, I can't say where, but it was some place where there was a meat-packing plant.  Dad got a promotion and we moved again, I think to Richmond, Virginia.  To get that next promotion, dad had to change companies.  The company he went to work for, still a meat-packing plant, was in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  We stayed in Orangeburg while I grew as I became a kindergartner, then a first-grader, then a second-grader, then a third-grader.   My best friend, Frankie Farnum, lived a fence climb away to the Southeast.  That fence was climbed every day.  I learned to ride a bike, shoot a bb gun, catch "mud puppies" and build straw fires.  I probably shouldn't have learned that last skill since what I didn't learn first was how to keep the fire where I wanted it.  We burned up a quarter acre of broom sage straw one day, and since I was the one who struck the match, I was the one who caught hell.  (Catching hell wasn't exactly how I expressed it at that time, though--I was a good Methodist, you see, and the only one who was allowed to use that word, Hell, was the preacher.)  Also, as a good Methodist, my teetotaler needs were protected by my church since its official position at that time was a good Methodist did not drink. 

Times were different, then.  There was a large pecan orchard a street away from the house and we kids used it as a playground.  One day a black kid from the other side of the orchard was playing there too.  We got to know each other and met several times.  A lady from one of the adjoining houses noticed this and found out where I lived.  She contacted my mother, and I was told I was not to play with him.  I told him this the next day.  He said his mother had told him the same thing. 

The next time I had a chance to learn any race-relation skills was when I went into the Air Force in 1965.  Segregation in the South was total in those days, you see, and I was protected by the community.  Had this not been the case, who knows, maybe my friend could have turned me on to some shine. 

Towards the end of my third grade, dad moved again.  Seems they were building a new plant near Aiken, SC, and dad's DuPont experience was just the ticket.  He rented a house in Crosland Park and boy was that great.  There were kids everywhere!  The City was building a new elementary school just up the road, and Crosland Park kids were almost numerous enough to fill it up.  Somehow I was able to maintain my abstinence during this time, and still get along with the other kids.  For some reason, I never seemed to have problems with interpersonal relations despite the absence of alcohol during the rest (or almost the rest) of my public school days.  Why was that, I wonder?  The only problem I had in interpersonal relations was a lack of dating skills. 

As a matter of fact, even though I had that lack, I did my share of dating.  I just did not relate as well as many of the guys did, if you know what I mean.  (The girls' nickname for me was "the fog."  I never asked why.)  My loss, I guess, but, again, maybe not.  Drink, though, was able to punch a hole in my abstinence during my senior year.  A girl friend (two words) had parents who, apparently never had the problem my parents had with "little Stevie" and a rather substantial liquor cabinet was left unguarded during a couple of parties my girl friend and her girl friends threw towards the end of the school year.  Interestingly enough, my capacity for alcohol was considerable, giving me the drive home duties for my group.  One alcoholic genetic omen, I'd say. 

Also, luckily, or so I thought, for me, my church had changed its stand, now saying drinking was a matter of individual determination (so I determined.)  And, perhaps unluckily enough, was the fact that my other 12 step program did not discuss the problem.  Few scouts, at that time, were in need of alcohol abuse counseling.  I've since wondered, though, if I had stuck with that 12 step program (A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent--count 'em) would I have had the need for my current 12 step program.  Who knows? 

High school ended, and I headed to Atlanta to take a few engineering classes.  I didn't drink, though, it just wasn't convenient.  I also didn't work very well in an academic setting, and after a few years my school's group of Deans decided they could do without my questionable contributions.  It was 1965, Vietnam and the draft were in full force, and my student deferment was more than in danger.  I checked out all the services and the Air Force seemed to give me the best deal.  At that point in time, the Air Force was a good place to go to get a drink.  Honest!

After basic training, I was sent to Biloxi to take electronics training.  In addition to our studies, my group excelled in after hours beer drinking.  I definitely did my share.  How I managed to graduate with honors is anybody's guess.  I guess that alcoholic capacity began to shift into high.  In any case, after a little less than a year I was sent packing to Istanbul to provide communications for a diplomatic consulate that we had there in Turkey's largest and most cosmopolitan city.  Drinking in this Moslem country was nevertheless an option.  Our "NCO club" was a short elevator ride away from my room.  I drank daily, but not excessively.  I could go to the bar and drink two beers and leave.  Which is what I generally did.  The only time I remember getting drunk while there was when I was taking a sociology class.  I wondered how I might do on my tests after having had "a few."  One drink--no problem.  Next test, two drinks--still no problem--if anything, I did fairly well on the various discussion problems.  Three drinks didn't seem to help, but I was still passing.  Four shots on the forth test got me a visit to the professor.  Seems I started off all right but towards the end of the test he had difficulty reading my answers.  I passed, anyway.  I never repeated the experiment.  This wasn't alcoholic drinking, but it was a long way from my teetotaler days.

From Istanbul I traveled to Saigon.  The atmosphere was a good bit different from my previous assignment, to say the least.  I was shot at twice, once with rockets that missed the aircraft "charley" was trying to hit and killed a guy two barracks over from me, and once during "Tet" of '68 when "Uncle Ho" decided to show the world he could hit us anywhere and anytime he wanted.  We were "showed."  He could!  Drinking was a major pass time, and I definitely did my share.  Still, although I was drunk my share of the time, and in any other place one might have given alcoholism a thought or two, when I returned stateside I did not continue with the drink.  I still had no need for AA, and I still was able to drink like "normal" people.

Out of the service, and back from Vietnam, after begging my way back into Ga. Tech., I turned into a pretty good student.  I made the Dean's list a couple of times and graduated with a degree in chemistry.  Whoop-te-doo!  I drank moderately the whole time (three more years) with a couple of major exceptions.  One time I went to sleep in the hallway of an apartment building I managed, only waking up when one of Atlanta's finest asked me what the problem was (a resident had called him.)  Being the manager got me off that time.
The next time was when I was helping a drunk I had met at the "Stein Club" on Peachtree get to his home near Tenth Street close to what was called the "hippie district."   This time I got to see the inside of one of the City's "drunk tanks."  No real biggie, I'd say, my roommate bailed me out the next morning.  Still not an alcoholic, I'd say; still the progression was there.  

After graduation, I looked for a job in South Carolina.  I went to whatever Job Service was called at the time and the counselor there said they only had one thing that I might be suited for, a "chemist-bacteriologist" for the City of Columbia.  I told them I guess I should check it out (did I tell you while at Tech I took virtually all of my non-requisite course work at the "applied biology" department?)  I worked for Columbia at their newly constructed wastewater treatment plant off of Bluff Road.  I married during the first year and my wife Jennie and I began putting a family together, starting with twins (all my good planning, of course.) 

After three years I obtained a job with the City of Sumter as their wastewater treatment superintendent.  Jennie and I had another child while there.  Heavy drinking really was not an option, but I drank carefully.  After three years there, a job came open with the Oconee County Sewer Commission and we again moved.  I should have stayed there.  Instead, we made one more move.  Having been in Oconee (beautiful country up there) we went to south Mississippi to head a three-county sewage commission.  We managed four years down there and while I did my part to get the required facilities constructed, I began to drink less moderately and more often.  Of course I wasn't an alcoholic (I read everything the local library had on the subject.)  How could I be an alcoholic and be able to take off from drinking every lenten season?  Of course I had a beer in hand every Easter morning. 

Consequently, I got myself fired.  We moved back to my hometown, Aiken, and both of us went to work.  The one good thing that came from this was bringing our kids to a school district that would give them the training they needed to succeed at life.  Southern Mississippi was, after all Southern Mississippi.  If South Carolina was 49th in some parameter, Mississippi was 50th.  Unfortunately my drinking was becoming alcoholic, and that made work difficult, at best. 

We worked to support ourselves and our children.  Pell grants helped a lot with their educational needs.  The children, now young adults, all did well.  I drank more.  Why?  Well, let me quote a fellow Linden Streeter:  "I'm an alcoholic, that's what we do."  (Thanks, Mike.)

Jennie and I separated (her choice.)  Drinking was the reason.  Luckily, I had a place to go.  You've heard of 40 something men living with their mothers?  Well, I tried it.  After a while my mother figured out what the problem was with me.  She had a man from the church come by and talk with me.  I stumbled up the stairs at 123 Linden Street

They told me to read the first 164 pages of the Big Book.  I did.  They told me to come to 90 meetings in 90 days.  I did, and then some.  They told me to get a sponsor.  I asked a guy I knew would make a good sponsor and he agreed.  He said, give me a call.  I never did.  Guess I thought I knew everything I needed to know.  I read more literature.  I kept coming to meetings and picking up chips.  They gave me a blue chip.

I drank.

Actually, what I did was to pronounce myself cured.  And, being cured, I knew it would be OK to drink.  After all, I had been sober for 365 days, had I not?   Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, and Jack Daniels could no longer have their way with me!  I was cured!   Riiiiiiiiiiiiight............

It took me a year to get back to AA.  This time I would do things a bit differently.  The main thing was the problem with having a sponsor but not using the services of a sponsor.  I tried again.  It worked.  My sponsor and I attended the same meeting daily.  Paul M. and I talked, at length, at least once a week.  He filled in the blanks and answered questions I didn't even know I had.  He heard my fifth step.  I joined the group. 

And that was it, right?  Well, not exactly.  You see, that term "hard headed alcoholic" does not just apply to that guy who always used to use it to describe himself.  It applies to many, many, many of us.  I don't remember if I stayed sober three or four years after that second start, all I know is I stopped going to meetings and went back out. 

Some time later, I came back in again.  That has happened at least five times since I first walked up those stairs at 123 Linden Street, and every time I went back out something else happened to drive me back in that was worse than anything that had ever happened before. 

My last "bottom" happened six years and several months ago.  You may remember seeing my mug shot on the front page of the "AikenStandard."  It seems I drank, blacked out, and ended the evening by pointing a .380 at my long suffering wife.  She did the right thing and summoned help.  The combination of the act and a publisher of a paper that did not particularly appreciate the suggestions I used to make from time to time, concerning deficiencies of his paper and its reporting, resulted in his taking the opportunity to criticize my actions on his paper's front page.  What could be worse? 

Every time I went back out I had one thought:  "It will be different this time."  If I ever have this thought again, I will call any or all of a dozen AAs I know and drop in on the first of them who will have me.  I will go to a meeting, and then to another meeting.  I will go to a church, or possibly many churches.  I will check into a detox facility.  My thought "It will be different this time" was true every time I had it:  It was always different:  It was always worse.  And, what can be worse than my last?  Well, I could have pulled the trigger. 

It took me 30 days, or more precisely, it took my brother 30 days to convince my wife I did not belong in the Aiken County Detention Center--that it would be all right to put our house up as collateral for my bond.  When I got out I spent a week in Hotel Aiken while I looked for a place to stay.  Christmas came and I had my Christmas turkey out of a 6 ounce can.  Was I going to meetings?  You bet!  As often as I could, I went to those meetings.  I found a place to stay (a long-time friend, Dick S. was instrumental in this.)  I got a vehicle from a grandfather-in-law.  I invested in a local lawyer (he would call it a "retainer") and began the work of making a defense of my actions.  

I found out not only the alcohol but also a prescribed medication, simvastatin, could have caused the blackout and behavior I was charged with.  A double chemical whammy, I'd say.  I've taken neither since my arrest (the alcohol) or a couple of months after the arrest (the statin.)  I talked with my children.  I talked with my wife.  I still have no memory of what happened that night.  I hope I never remember it.   

Eventually, my wife decided to give me one more chance.  I'd have to say one last chance would be a better statement of fact.  We are back together, somewhat comfortably retired with social security and a small military retirement (20 plus years with the South Carolina Air National Guard.)  Had we divorced we would be like some I know, uncomfortably retired with insufficient funds to maintain the two residences we would require. 

Like my wife, the court system also decided to give me one last chance.  While my actions could have resulted in five years' interment in the state prison system, the lack of a witness willing to testify along with my personal admission of guilt, in spite of having no memory to back up that admission, and a judge's realization that my "record" was virtually nonexistent resulted in time served plus five years' probation, which time is or shortly will be up.  

My wife and I have a dog she found at Molly's Militia.  He weighed two pounds when we got him. He's more like thirty today.  We call him our menopause dog.  We also have a sweet old puddy tat we call K-2 that walked up one day as a kitten and stayed.  We have several goldfish that we protect from the neighborhood raccoons with an electric wire around their pool.  A 'possum calls our front porch walkup home, and a feral cat drops by twice a day for handouts as do numerous seed or suet eating birds and a troop of the prettiest squirrels anyone would ever need.  Our kids are all prosperous, our grandchildren are well, and life is good.  Of course, I know how to change all that, and I pray God will help me remember what I have to remember and do what I have to do to not bring to bear any such change.

My personal program for sobriety today goes something like this:  First, I begin each day with a reading from the “Daily Reflections.”  This reminds me of my alcoholism and my need to maintain my contact with the program.  Next, I continue to work the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Using a second AA book, the "Twelve and Twelve," and many hours of my one-time sponsor's time, I have worked through all the steps and continue to actively utilize steps 10, 11, and 12 for maintenance.  I go to two meetings a week with the New Ellenton group.  I like to think we are a small but distinguished family.  I talk with other AAs and emailingly correspond with them daily. 

12th step work, too, is important to me.  You can find me at Aurora Pavilion twice a week, something I have been blessed to do ever since Frank G. invited me to drop in when he was leading those meetings.  I have seen people pass through Aurora and join our various AA groups to begin to grow as only an AA member can.  The several of us who go to Aurora today know those we are serving will not all find success for themselves, but they will provide those of us who use them as an opportunity to give back to the program one vehicle we need for our success. 

Do I experience cravings?  No.  I once did, but that, thankfully, was many 24 hours ago.  Do I want to drink?  No way.  The only thing I miss about drinking is the taste of the various elixirs I used to use.  I can do without those tastes, though.  That's a small price to pay for serenity.  Do I give much thought to my sobriety?  Other than when someone does something like ask me to be somewhere and do something like Golfer John asked me the other day, no.  And why do I say that? 

Well, I've thought myself out of my sobriety at least five times in the last twenty-one years and I'm not willing to risk doing it one more time.  There are a lot of reasons out there to drink.  Take resveratrol for example.  Some scientists say that would be good for my heart.  It would take just a little cabernet sauvignon with my evening meal for me to get all the resveratrol I might need, I suspect.  Big deal. 

If I really need resveratrol, I can get it in purified form in pills.  Why should I bother giving any consideration to this or any other so called reason to do what I have already, too many times, proven is something that is critically bad for me?  Spending time on any so-called "reason to drink" is, for me, a waste of time, and a dangerous one, at that.  If and when I want to think about something useful, though, I start with the serenity prayer.

I use the serenity prayer along with our paragraph on acceptance as my own personal mantras and repeat them whenever I feel the need.  Acceptance really is the answer to all my problems today.  It is my vehicle to serenity in my day-to-day life and it provides me with the answer to questions that have no answers. 

I watch my thoughts for that phrase "it will be different this time" and pass this knowledge on whenever and wherever I can, yes, it will be different--and if you're thinking about returning to drink, just know it will always get worse. 

And I remember daily to reaffirm my commitment to sobriety, a commitment that makes me say I am again a teetotaler, just as I was when I began life.  It's funny:  While "teetotaler” was once a dirty word in my lexicon, it's now something I'm proud of.  In becoming a teetotaler, again, and in making that commitment, I first must remember that I once made a commitment to drinking, a strong, enduring commitment that made me a stalwart defender of my disease and almost placed me in line with many of my cohorts to assure for myself a permanent place in a mental institution, or jail, or death.  I personally know people who have chosen each of these for themselves. 

Death, of course, comes to virtually all of God's creatures and must be accepted, sometimes with joy, when God brings it to us.  The other two ends, though, I, personally, have already had more than enough of.  Two weeks at “Focus by the Sea” is something I enjoyed, but would not wish to have to repeat, especially at 700 year 2006 dollars a day, and to spend another 30 days in Aiken County’s Wire Road Detention Center would be a total waste of time for anyone who wasn’t totally hooked on turkey baloney sandwiches. 

My commitment today to sobriety is a commitment that, God willing, this "hard headed alcoholic" will maintain above all others till, hopefully, I join my humble friend (one of many) Tom C. who, during my early days in AA, reminded me daily and without fail to just "keep coming back."

Humility, acceptance, serenity, and service--these are keys that must be learned, used and always remembered and observed.  When I add to this a personal absolute commitment to sobriety and the knowledge that I can, and must "keep coming back," I believe I will be able to own the assurance that this time, it will indeed, be different.

And thanks to all of you for your service, your AA service, of course.  Every meeting you attend is your opportunity to 12th step someone, and sometimes you will do it without even realizing what you are doing.  Thanks.  Today you have helped me.