Friday, July 29, 2011


This past Spring, the only thing I could think about was getting out of work so I could go to the package store and get a twelve pack of Guinness for the night.  Lately, I only want to get out of work so I can go home and practice the tin whistle, or the mandolin, or the harmonica.  Or play with the cat.  Or spend time with my daughter.  Or Jess.  Or all of those things at once.  I look forward to better things these days.

Yesterday was day 60 without a drink.  I went to a meeting, got my two month chip, and sat and listened to some pretty good talks from some folks that it turns out live right near me.  One of them really struck a chord with me when he talked about the Higher Power aspect of the program.   My own view of religion was formed by my years growing up almost literally in a Catholic church.  My family and I were heavily involved in the Church, and I went to Catholic high school.  After years and years of nearly complete immersion, as well as a few noteworthy incidents (some well known scandals, others of a more personal nature), I began to pull away from it.  I also started thinking about my own views of "God" and spirituality.

I'm not going to go into a big diatribe on what I believe versus what everyone else does, suffice it to say that I'm not a regular church attendee.  I'm not an atheist, I just don't think any one version has it totally right, and when you put people in positions of authority in any faith, there's bound to be a little warping.  I certainly don't begrudge anyone their faith if it gives them comfort and guides them to do good works.  I do have a problem with those who use their religion as a way of elevating themselves above the rest of us.  No one has all the answers, and if you think you do then you're doing it wrong.

Anyway, what he said to me resonated, and made me feel even more comfortable with the decision I'd made to seek help with my sobriety.  I still don't have a sponsor (although I think that may now happen sooner rather than later), but I'm also still getting plenty of support from loved ones.

So after a few weeks of looking at my sketch pad and pencils, I've finally started my meager attempt to design my own tattoo in earnest.  I'll post a picture of the finished product (on paper and on my skin) as soon as I'm able.  Friday Music Blog to follow later today.  Have a good weekend, try the PB&J...

Monday, July 25, 2011

As Best I Can

I don't really know whether or not I'm a good friend.  That's not a request for reassurance, I'm just showing you how my mind goes through its' process of self-doubt and angst, and comes to a conclusion.  I sometimes worry about it, but I've always had trouble understanding how others see me.  Is that  poor self-image, or simply the absence of one?  The conclusion is, I still don't know.  I'm not saying I don't try, or that I couldn't care less.  I'm saying that it's really not up to me to decide.  If you consider me a friend, it's really up to you to decide whether I perform the duties and responsibilities of a friend to your satisfaction.  Because, as I've learned over the years (and even more so recently), everyone has a different idea of what that means.

I've become sort of a reference point lately for people who have, or think they might have, a drinking problem.  Obviously, this is a byproduct of my talking about my own illness here.  More than one person has called, texted, emailed, or in some other way gotten in touch with me to tell me they think they might have crossed the line from social drinker to alcoholic.  Now, I'm in no way an expert on this.  I'm still learning about and dealing with my own situation.  One thing I usually tell people is, if you think you have a problem, you're probably right.  Does that mean you need to stop?  I have no idea, because I'm not you.  I can only tell you that it wouldn't kill you to go to a meeting, and it's not like they're going to make you stand up and confess all of your sins in front of the whole community.  You can go, sit in the back, and then leave.  Easy peasy.  You can even head straight to a bar or liquor store afterward.

Thing is, I don't know if what I tell people is taken seriously, or goes in one ear and out the other.  In other words, did they want me to give them something more?  All I can do is tell you what I know, which isn't much.  I'm not here to tell you you should follow my lead, or that you should use me as an example (you most certainly should NOT do that).  If you want help, I'll do whatever I can.  If you don't, I can't, nor would I presume to try, to make you want it.  That's pretty much how it is.  Does that seem callous?  I really don't mean it to be.  I'm fiercely loyal to people I consider my friends, even sometimes people who don't deserve it.  Co-dependency has awful side effects sometimes.

At any rate, like I said, I don't know if I'm a good friend or not.  Only the people who interact with me know that.  I'm more or less happy with who I am, and hopefully I transfer or share some of that with those around me.

On other fronts, I've learned even more songs on the mandolin, I have the intro to Dirty Old Town pretty much down pat, and I finally got a second AC unit, so I can start enjoying more than just one room in my apartment again.  Gobshites have a couple of shows this weekend.  On Saturday, we're at Mick Morgan's on Route 1 South in Sharon (I believe we're playing the outside deck), and on Sunday, we're opening for Diego's Umbrella at TT the Bear's Place in Cambridge.  You WILL see me bust out the harmonica on at least one of these nights.

UPDATE: I think this post came off a bit harsh.  Certainly harsher than I intended it to be.  So to make up for it, here's this.  Sort of a goofy sorbet to cleanse the palate...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Music Blog: Folk Punk Edition

Scythian, from Washington, D.C., are kind of an obsession for me right now.  And this song is so damn catchy and cool I just had to share it.  Plus it features the mandolin pretty heavily, so it's right up my alley these days.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Regret for the Past is A Waste of Spirit"

After five days, I can now declare unequivocally that I am a mandolin virtuoso!

Okay, well actually I learned the three chords that apply to nearly every song ever written.  Or at least the ones I'm interested in playing.  Another week and I might qualify for a busking license (cha-CHING!).  Plus, I think I finally figured out the harmonica intro to "Dirty Old Town."  Wow.  And I'm going to take a class to learn how to use Garage Band to record.  Expect a solo album sometime in 2013.  It's going to be a punk/Irish/folk/zydeco/country masterpiece.  I'm calling it "Wait, Hold On...I Screwed That Up, Let Me Start Over."  You read it here first.

Seriously though, I am having SO much fun with this new mandolin.  And now that I have a computer that can actually play video without constantly stuttering and rebuffering, I can look up tutorials and lessons online and actually use them.  Used to be, I had to surf ten miles in the snow, uphill both ways (barefoot!) in order to watch a decent YouTube video.  It's like I finally had to get into the 21st century, just so I can play a 19th century instrument.  How did people live before this?

My musical progress seems to be coming in leaps and bounds.  I can only attribute this to the fact that I finally have at least some of the focus and desire that I've been lacking in recent years (like, say, the last 41).  I am, of course, overjoyed by this, as music is a very important part of who I am.  I have to admit, though, that I'm also a little frustrated.  Obviously, I've had it in me to be able to do this all along.  Yet just like with other passions of mine, I've let it whither and atrophy, and only now, later in life, am I finally applying myself to it.

But I have to keep reminding myself that at least I'm doing it now.  One of my favorite old saws is "It's never too late to have a happy childhood," and I am determined to do just that.  Rather than continue to sit and curse the darkness, I've decided to fire up a klieg light and go for broke.  Musically, intellectually, artistically, verbally, comically, and all the other -ally's, I'm just going to dive in and see what happens.

Excuse me, my kazoo's out of tune...

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Making People Laugh is the Lowest Form of Comedy" - Michael O'Donoghue

The accumulation of musical instruments continues.  Jess gave me an acoustic mandolin for my birthday, which I've already managed to tune (thanks to a free iPhone app), and a beginners book and CD, along with a book of mandolin chords, AND a beginning harmonica method book.  Also season one of Doctor Who, which I used to have, but went missing somewhere along the line (In a four room apartment, no less.  Ugh).  My daughter found a ceramic TARDIS mug at Newbury Comics (and continues her tradition of very funny cards), and my folks surprised (nay, SHOCKED) me with a MacBook Pro.  Add to that all of the folks who sent their well wishes, privately as well as on Facebook, and a four-show weekend for the Gobshites (including an afternoon show/birthday party yesterday in Plymouth), and it all added up to a pretty great birthday weekend.  Thanks to all who helped make it possible, especially Jess and my family, who really went all out for me.

Someone mentioned to me at the show yesterday that they've been reading this blog, and it inspired them to make some decisions about facing their own issues in life.  I've been told this more than once, and it's extremely gratifying to hear, although slightly daunting.  Obviously, this is a public web page, and so I expect that people are going to read it.  Some I know personally, some of whom I've never met or heard of.  When I first started this a few years ago, it was really more a forum for me to expand on some of the things that I talked about in my standup act without having come up with a punchline every 12.6 seconds.  It was also for me to tell stories about what it was like to be a working, touring comic, warts and all.  I let it wither on the vine for awhile, unfortunately, but I always intended to come back and keep it going.  As with everything else, my mental health issues had other plans, and only when I was ready to start dealing with them did I decide to use this forum.

I'm not really sure why I decided to be quite so open about things, as I'm usually very private and I don't tend to let people in on what's going on in my head.  Certain people have had access to that over the years, including significant others and some family members, although even then I had a tendency to hold back.  But I generally have trouble letting folks in on what I'm thinking or feeling.  They can usually gauge that by my body language or the look on my face, but going in depth is a rarity.  Until now.  Even still, I'm a lot more open in this space than I am face-to-face.  I think maybe that's a big reason why I eventually stopped doing standup.  Now that I look back on my old material, I realize that I would talk about personal things, but only to an extent.  I could never get to that completely honest and open place where, I believe, the best comedy is born (SEE: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt).

Now that I'm starting to strip away that veil, I'm starting to get the notion that it might be time to give it another shot.  This is hardly a revelation, I've mentioned my affinity and lingering yearn to get back on stage several times here.  But this time, I think I'm really ready to do what I feel I need to in order to actually craft an act, and not just write a string of jokes.  Mind you, I don't expect a brilliant, insightful, daring act to just pour out of my head and turn me into some kind of comedy icon.  I don't even plan to try and make a living at it anymore.  I just want to know, for my own sake, that what I always envisioned myself doing on stage can actually be reality.

And I want to learn the mandolin.  And the banjo.  And the harmonica.  And if someone could find a full size set of Dr. Who sheets for my bed, that would be awesome.  kthxbye...

P.S. - If you don't know who Michael O'Donoghue is, click the title of this post.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Off-Centered and Out of Sorts...But Happy

First, an update:  The missing harmonica has been found.  Thanks to all who lit a candle or put in a good word with Saint Anthony.  I can now annoy my new downstairs neighbors in at least seven different keys.

I'm turning 42 this Sunday, and celebrating with a noontime Gobshites show at T-Bones on Main Street in Plymouth, Mass.  Family and friends will be there, and I'm really looking forward to it, although I'm not entirely sure why.  It's not like it's a big milestone birthday, so what's the big deal?  I think it's because I'm happier and more at ease this year than I have been in the past.  It will be 49 days since I stopped drinking, and I'm looking forward to things and setting personal goals.  Still in financial purgatory, but I'm actively trying to rectify that situation, and getting help, love, and support from some pretty amazing folks.

So earlier this week I was without one of my medications.  I had called in a refill last week, however my doctor says she never got a request from the pharmacy, and so it was that I ran out over the weekend.  Things seemed to be okay for a couple of days, and then on Tuesday everything started to go sideways.  I was very anxious and agitated the entire day, and I just could not wait to get out of work and be anywhere else.  Of course "anywhere else" was just as bleak an option, so I just stayed at work and got edgier and edgier.  When I finally did get out of there, I called to see if my scrip had been filled, and then when I found out it hadn't, left a message with my doctor to please get back to them and make sure it gets done.

I don't know if it was the lack of the meds in my system, or the anxiety about it, or a little bit of both that made me such a wreck, but I decided the next morning when I woke up that I did not want to go through that again, and so I took what was literally a "Mental Health Day."  Luckily, the prescription was refilled on Wednesday, and everything seems to be getting back into balance.

The one thing, though, that fascinated me when I thought about it later was that at no time do I remember thinking "I need a drink" that day.  It may have been a fleeting notion once or twice, but I honestly don't recall having an actual craving for a drink.  And while it was hard to see it that way at the time, I consider this a real accomplishment.  I haven't had a problem with resisting alcohol in social situations, but a day like Tuesday would have sent me right to the package store previously, and then all the good work I've done would have been for naught.  I didn't, and it wasn't.  I can honestly say I'm proud of myself, maybe for the first time in years.

Happy Birthday to me.

Friday Music Blog: Unsung Heroes Edition

The Radicts were one of those bands that should have been a lot bigger.  Todd Radict is still around, plugging away, booking shows at the Brickhouse in Dover, NH.  Just felt like some "1-2-3-4" today.  Incidentally, the Gobshites are at the Lazy Dog in Marlboro, Mass. tonight with Lenny Lashley's Gang of One, Ska-Prest, and The Old Edison.  We don't do enough of these multi-band punk shows for my liking, so come out and pogo your brains out.  $5 cover, 8PM show.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Can You Help Me Title This Post?

Had to watch the "Code Monkey" video a few times today before I started writing.  I've been singing it all weekend.  I think this song may be the ultimate earworm.  Incidentally, Jonathan Coulter is touring with They Might Be Giants this fall, and that's a bill worth seeing.  Check out their events page for shows in your area.  Also, I lost my D harmonica last week at some point.  I was hoping it was in my car or somewhere in my apartment, but no such luck.  I've only had it for a couple of weeks, and now there's an empty space in my harmonica bag, and in my life...alas.

So anyway, today is day 43.  Nothing much more to be said about that, really.  I'm going to meetings, reading up, getting help from both friends and professionals, and generally learning to know when I really do need help and, more importantly, asking for it.  These are things that have never been all that easy for me to do, or even recognize in myself.  And not just with my self-destructive tendencies.  I seem to have had a knack for suffering in silence when I need assistance with anything, which of course only makes it worse when things come crashing down.

That's something I've been working on with my various therapists and counselors: asking for what I need.  I'm not good at it.  I feel embarrassed doing it, so I often just do without and let things get worse.  Basically, even though I'm recognizing it for what it is, I still get embarrassed to admit that I need help.  I don't know why.  Rationally, I realize that it's not necessarily a failure on my part (although I do own up to the fact that some of my struggles are the result of my own actions, or non-actions, as the case may be), but it feels like it is.

Or sometimes, I'm just not ready to admit that there even is a problem (See RE: The most recent year of my life).  Like a four year old, I often operate under the premise that, if I can't see it (or if I just ignore it), it's not there.  If nothing else, Memorial Day weekend taught me that that strategy is a losing proposition pretty much every time it's tried.

Where does all this come from?  Is it a byproduct of any, or all, of the issues I've been dealing with?  They all seem to feed off of each other, in a way.  The EFD is a symptom of the greater issue of ADHD, which leads to depression, and sometimes alcoholism (if you're so inclined, I suppose), which is also related to co-dependency.  I guess this falls under the co-dependency umbrella.  The good news is, I've started the CB therapy (although it's not strictly CBT, he uses other methods and techniques with it) and I already have some understanding and ability to recognize when I'm falling back on bad habits or tendencies.  I'm learning to recognize what stress level, or lack thereof, I'm at at any given moment, and I think I'm getting better at asking for help from people when I need it.  I guess that can only really be observed from without at this point.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Music Blog - New Earworm Edition

I can't stop singing this tune to myself, it's so damn catchy.  Doesn't hurt that the hero is a geek, either.  The writer and performer is Jonathan Coulter.  You can probably guess what the title is.

Oh, and Happy Day 40 to me.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fireworks, Sobriety, and Pirate Tattoos

Not a bad Fourth of July weekend, if I do say so.  Got a new tattoo (check my Facebook page for pictures), a haircut, saw my daughter, saw my friend perform on Saturday, spent some quality time with the girlfriend and the cat, and went to a couple of really good meetings.  Also, I conquered a major hurdle in my harmonica learning curve, courtesy of the aforementioned girlfriend.  She doesn't play harmonica, she just figured it out before I did.

Also, I brought her to the meeting I went to yesterday.  I hadn't been to this meeting yet, but I'd heard good things.  They basically split it up into two meetings; one for beginners (those with 90 days or less of sobriety), and then a short break, and then the open meeting for everyone.  The beginner meeting was sort of a combination of lecture and open discussion.  It was small, aside from me, my girlfriend, and two other beginners, there were a couple folks there who had at least a year under their belts, plus the chairman and the speaker.

I've only been to one discussion meeting, and I didn't speak at that one (or "share," as they call it) because I was kind of taking it all in.  This time, there were only a few of us, so I felt I needed to contribute.  I think it went well.  At least I came up with what I think would be a good line for my new act (inching closer and closer to hitting an open mic...).  the problem I'm running into now is, I'm finding a lot of good meetings near me that I can't go to on a regular basis because of my work schedule.  Hopefully, my employer can meet me partway so I can follow up with some of them.  I did join a group that meets down the road from me on Sunday nights, though.  Next stop, sponsor.

One other thing I did yesterday was buy a sketch pad.  I've mentioned before that I once wanted to be a comic book artist, and every once in a while I'll still doodle something out of random inspiration, or boredom or whatever.  I'm thinking I'm going to try working on designing a tattoo for myself.  Not sure what it's going to be, but the word "Pirate" keeps running through my head.  Celtic pirate?  Pirate radio?  Pittsburgh Pirate (okay that last one was just to satisfy the rule of threes)?  Or something completely different?  Which makes me think that maybe Terry Gilliam's (Monty Python) art might be a good inspiration for a tattoo.  This is all rather stream of consciousness, I know.  I've also thought of something along the lines of Van Gough's "Starry Night."  Decisions, decisions.

Well anyway, it was a good weekend, and some hopeful things came out of it.  And I'm starting to get ambitious, which is good but strange, for me anyway.  I'm looking forward to getting used to it.  I will NOT, however, go bungee jumping with you.

Don't forget to tip your wait staff, and try the veal...