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Monday, January 30, 2012


After the hards rains a-fell last weekend (the night before the 49ers' humiliating defeat), I was in the basement, working out on the elliptical.  Ever since I bought the machine, I've noticed a considerable improvement in my arthritic hip.  Of course the secret with any sort of exercise routine is actually doing it, something the revolutionaries at the local gym should have stopped doing  I don't have to worry about that.  Thank God for OCD.

I've been using the elliptical twice daily, which has made a huge difference, since it harnesses a full range of motion, like running, but without the hard pounding. Anyway, this second run at night before I go to bed has made sleeping and walking easier, less pain, less waking up.  Except for the six times I get up to take a piss because my prostate's probably the size of a pomelo.  Love getting old.

Last weekend, the storm was brutal.  We got these big ass trees up here on the hill and I was waiting for one of them to come crashing down on the house.  The wind and rain relentless, I wouldn't have been surprised if the foundation uprooted and we went spinning into the sky...

So I'm grinding away on the elliptical, flipping through the stations, bouncing back between ESPN and NFL Network, listening to the pundits talk about how Alex Smith has finally arrived and predicting the big game he's gonna have the next day, when I notice one of the basement walls looks like it's sweating.  Not gushing water, or even trickling, but you can clearly see where it's wet, spreading down the concrete. This is not good.  I call my wife to show her, and she's freaking out that it's going to cost a fortune, which gets me all worked up.  Which is not hard to do.  I was actually calm for once, thinking this sort of thing must happen all the time. Concrete is porous; it's gonna crack.  The house was built in 1961.  We spackle some shit on it or whatever and we'll be fine.  By the time she's done with me, she has me half convinced I'm going back to living under the freeway, eating roasted black swan stew.

On Monday, I call our fix-it guy, Mario, to see what we can do about it.  He comes over on his lunch break.  Won't be cheap, he says.  We're looking at close to 10K. Just fucking terrific.

I'm thinking, What the fuck?  I just bought this house and now there might be major structural damage?  Insurance isn't going to cover this.  A full-on gusher, maybe. But not this.  So I'm just going to have to wait until my walls start crumbling? Or shell out ten grand?  Why's this shit always have to happen to me?

Mario says he wants to check under the house, see if the wall is leaking elsewhere (he's guessing it is, hence the steep price tag). We have a crawl space where the hot water heater is, some old paint, a ladder.  I'm cursing under my breath as he crawls up in there.  And sure enough, more water. All along the edges.  We're going to have to reinforce the entire western front.

"You smell that?" Mario asks.

"Smell what?"

"Smells like...gas."

All the drugs I snorted years ago robbed me of (most of) my sense of smell.  I can't smell jack.  Fucking deviated septum.  I spend hours in that basement, never smelled a damn thing.

He asks me to get some Windex, and then he starts spraying around the hot water heater, which was newly installed when we moved in.  He hits one of the valves and it starts bubbling like crazy.  Gas leak.  Even if I hadn't abused cocaine, I never would've thought to spray Windex to find a gas leak.  I'm just not wired that way.

"This is really bad," Mario says, grabbing his wrench.  "Whoever installed this didn't tighten the valve.  If these things are tightened properly, they are designed to never loosen."  He smiles.  "No worries.  I fix."

Mario hopped down.  "That was as bad a gas leak as I've ever seen.  I'm surprised there wasn't an explosion or a fire."

That heater was installed almost a year ago.  Who knows how long it'd been leaking, or the next time I'd have a buddy over who still smokes.  All it would've taken would've been one little spark.

And if it hadn't stormed so hard last weekend, if the concrete hadn't cracked and my walls weren't leaking, I might never have known until it was too late.


I don't believe in coincidences.  That Pink Floyd tune synching to the Wizard of Oz scene is some freaky shit, man.  If you've never tried it, you should check it out. Trippy.  Like the track "Money" kicks in right when the movie switches over to color and the streets turn gold.  I don't think Gilmour and Co. sat down and watched WoZ when they were recording Dark Side, but the cohesion is downright eerie.  And I watched that shit stone cold.  I can't explain it.  It's sorta like the opening to Magnolia.  (You can skip to the 2 minute mark.)  A series of events on a string. Like Schrodinger's cat.

So many years have gone by since my old drug life.  I don't feel it any more.  I can remember some of it, a choice detail here or there, but the bone-ache, gut scrap that once haunted my nightmares, I don't feel.  They are nothing but snapshots, a clipped scene culled from an old movie or book I came across a long time ago. Still, I often ask why.  Especially when I start getting misty over all the years I missed. This hurts a lot when I look at my boy and think of my mom.  She would've loved nothing more than to meet Holden.  But she died before I could get my shit together.  I kick myself, wondering why I couldn't have sobered up faster, at least given her a few years with him.  I knew she was dying, and I tried (oh, dear God, how I tried).  But I was too late.  Why did it have to happen the way it did?

I don't know the answer.  And it's OK that I don't.  It's one of the things that tripped me up in the first place, this pressing need for an answer.  It's why I denied God (or whatever you want to call it).  I used logic and the sum of my vast experience and knowledge and tried to force a picture.  And that might've worked if I had 99 out of 100 pieces. But what if I only had 3 of a thousand?  Six hundred and forty seven million? Pretty distorted view.  It's one of the nice parts of getting sober.  There is no burning need to figure it all out, the whys and hows.  Better yet, you learn not to force your will on the world.  Lord knows, I am not an AAer, but I like their bumper stickers. At first I laughed at "Let Go, Let God."  OK.  I still laugh at it.  But it doesn't make it any less true.  God.  The Universe.  Mother Fucking Nature.  The Collective Unconscious.  Whatever It is.  It's like the old joke.  I've learned two things.  1.) There is a God.  And 2.) I ain't Him.

Really, I'm not getting Holy Roller on you, promise.  But there is a relief, especially when you are an obsessively compulsive mutherfucker, when you accept you don't have all the answers.

Or to quote the old MTV ad.  "What do you do when you are 26 (or 41) and realize you're not meant to save the world?"

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At January 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A) I'm glad your house didn't blow up, and take you with it;

B) If there were a God, children wouldn't currently be being used as slave laborers in Bangladesh, &tc;

C) Maybe there aren't any answers?

At January 30, 2012 at 4:16 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...


A. Tru dat

B. Can't argue

C. I wish some had told me this earlier. Would've saved me a lot of trouble...

At January 30, 2012 at 4:51 PM , Blogger supersoupy said...

nine out of ten Cliff. Right there with ya. P.S. I would've fixed that shit for a buck twenty.


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