Apocalypse Fresno (NOW)


A Short Story

“Just for today; a bit of the future”  

Sci-fi reframing over on Fresno!

Apocalypse Fresno (NOW)

You may ask yourself how I got caught up in a shit storm of this magnitude 5148 miles from home? Good question!
Better question – Which Bozo gave the order to break every Meth Lab in Fresno on the same night?
More importantly – Why in the name of insanity am I stepping out into the street??

It all started a long time ago when God created the Heavens and the Earth, and Hell followed! 

Fresno CA – 2040 AD

Less than 24 hours have passed since my flight from Louis Armstrong Airport. Its funny how quickly things escalate when the right amount of excrement hits the fan. Yesterday I sat on the banks of the Mississippi, today I march face forward into the Apocalypse. If you really want to know why I chose to trudge through this Hell state then maybe you should ask “What the actual fuck is going on”? 

By the way; this all happened…

In a slightly different way, somewhere in another time!!

Rising tension continued during our short trip. “Those fuckas” he screams, responding to the radio update. I sense his keenness to get the taxi off shift. I feel it too. It was the same leaving New Orleans. Passengers preparing to board flights stopped to stare at wall screens as they projected news channel footage into the departure lounge. The broadcast showed unrest. Reports claimed large scale police operations involving Federal Agents and Drug Enforcement Teams. Announcements alleged resistance, many shots fired, and casualties. But this was beginning to look like a whole different ball game. 

Im vaguely aware of my grip on the coin as it indents the palm of my hand. We’re above the main drag heading downtown from the airport. Dead streets – no traffic in sight! Gunfire brakes the City’s silence. With time that becomes familiar and so will many other things before this tale is told.

The driver half turns to me and bellows “What the fuck you doing here man? I mean we are nowhere”.

“It seems to me like you’re everywhere tonight my friend” I reply. “Now here” Flashes through my mind.

A sense of unease and discomfort worms its way towards a dark crevice deep in my soul. Im guessing the driver feels it too. If not, maybe he should. The noise of a Hoverbike rises from behind. It lifts up and quickly moves alongside. The bike cruises a moment and the rider locks horns. The passenger flashes a firearm, more a canon than a gun. “Motha Fucka” shouts my man at the wheel. Instinctively throwing the cab down and to the left knocking the bike sideways out of the sky. Theres no mistaking things now… this town is chaos. Law and order is on vacation.

While sat at the far end of Bourbon Street, alongside the Mississippi River, I began noticing strange vibes creeping in. My mind had projected bad luck at being one of the last ever passengers on a commercial flight. I sensed something. It disturbed me! Thoughts turned to Fresno. The town with a bad reputation. A populous of half a million citizens in the Meth Amphetamine Capital of the Planet. I’d been told its a tough place, but compared to what? I grew up on a diet of football violence and brutality during the miners strike, not to mention lunatics for friends. Whats that place got to show that I haven’t already seen? Another town another girl. Same old story! Nevertheless I felt a disturbance in the force before leaving New Orleans. Sat in this Hovertaxi playing Grand Theft Auto for real I begin to get a sense why. 

“I need to park this heap of junk bro; shit got real”.

“Yeah man, how far to go? Remember Im a stranger in this town and the locals don’t seem too friendly”.

“Almost there” he replies. “You still haven’t answered my question! What brings you to a dump like Fresno”?

Laughing I say “Heard it was an exciting party town on the rise”. 

Fear shoots across his face “Theres a fucking uprising going down tonight white boy! You made it just in time to party”.

As the sun dips to the horizon I see the shape of an electronic advertising board. Its lights are out. Hanging below, I recognise the silhouette of a human body.  

Stood paused in the doorway I survey the apartment. It looks spacious and uncluttered. The last trace of natural light filters through open curtains. All quiet, nobody around, just as expected! Turning to close the door I see a shadow flash across the lawn and movement in my side vision. With the door shut I bolt the deadlock and apply the chain. I step into the living room, drop my bag and collapse on the couch. Staring at the ceiling my eyes slowly acclimatise as darkness creeps into the room. Laying there lost in the breath, feeling my lungs expand and contract until finally grounded I decide to look around. I find my a light switch. Up and down it flicks. Nothing! My vision rests at the staircase and I decide to check out the upper floor. Viewing outside becomes priority. The bedroom looking out over the lawn is the obvious choice. I pull the drapes within a couple of inches, almost to the point of closing. Hunched down at the window ledge I can see the street and the road crossing the junction. Its empty, silent and dark. The street lights are out. A sense of doom washes over me. Quickly it retreats to a shudder. I experience an undercurrent only described as awareness. 

Suddenly an explosion lights up the sky. I make a guess it wasn’t the neighbourhood barbecue gone wrong. The disturbance is huge. Small arms fire sounding close by is quickly met with a loud thump. A terrific bang echoes throughout the darkness. The blast feels close. It has a deliberate edge to it. The tremor flowing through my arm becomes noticeable and the curtain shakes in my hand. I let go and step backwards. Moving into the centre of the room, a thought flashes across my mind- “What the hell is going on”? And then it starts; the voice, my voice but not my words! The Beast wakes! Half of me expected him. This is fucked up. Of all the Godforsaken times and places why now? Never once have I consciously made that fucker welcome. Ive learned the hard way that resistance means persistence. Now was a very fucking bad time indeed. I need to find my way around this house and see whats what. Just then, appearing out of nowhere, a Sky Cruiser hovers outside the window. A voice hails from its tannoy. “Put down your weapons or we will open fire”. The words have barely registered when the vehicle blows apart mid air. Flying debris shatters the bedroom window – flames burst into the room! The blast knocks me sideways into the wall. My face reflects red heat. I hear the Beast laugh and feel consciousness slipping away. Passing out as I recall the taxi driver shrieking “Good luck Motha Fucka”.

In the dream I see a coin. Silver and… 

With my back against the wall, collar pulled high and hat down low, I sit trembling. The room is full. The meeting started moments ago.

“Anybody want to announce any length of sobriety”?

Im thinking ‘not really’ but thats not How It Works. They know anyways so I’m thinking what the hell.

“I got 24 hours… again!” 

The room bursts into applause but I don’t see the need to make a big deal of it. I fucked up, but guess I’m lucky to have made it back. It feels torturous. I almost convulse. Nervous energy pulsates through my bones.

A friend comes forward and shakes my hand. He plants a silver coin in my open palm.

Struggling to stay still I remain seated for the hour. Eventually the meeting ends.

As I start to leave I’m approached by somebody who knows me well enough…

“What happened Man”?

“I don’t know, looks like I took my eye of the ball, something like that”.

He frowns “Bullshit and you know it! Relapse starts weeks before the drink. Even the planning and preparation stage kicks in with days to spare”.

I feel on the spot “Hard to say, things got difficult. I knew it was coming for a while but felt powerless to stop it. You know how it goes”.

He pushes a cigarette my way “Yeah it sucks but you can come back from this. Stick around buddy you’re one of the good guys”.

We shake hands and I head back to the cruiser. Everything he said makes perfect sense. But my mind is heading in a different direction and trying to pull me with it. How can ya be honest when you’re still surveying the damage? I know one thing for sure, it was an experience I don’t want to repeat again. 

It all started with a minor confrontation. Some people seem to have a natural talent for pissing me off. My aptitude for polishing resentment outgrows the other guys efforts very quickly. Increasing a dislike to the level of blind hatred is my super power. I took it to another level within a week. Fear always shows up for the fun and games. That subtle little pest rapidly turned into a snarling monster. My mind projected impossible outcomes into a dead cert in record time. All of this I kept to myself. Lets face it I’m good at hiding shit. 

Then the Beast began to whisper. I tried the old fashioned Jedi mind trick hoping this Clusterfuck would disappear. As for prayer and meditation, who cares to enlist the help of a Higher Power when you’re in the middle of some self serving battle zone. Only somebody with a decent grip on sanity, thats who! Thinking I know better! Well how did that work out…

Leaving the apartment early that morning my eyes focused on an empty beer can. Just sitting there in the gutter, cast side, it meant no harm. But the Beast did. That intrusive voice, impersonating my own, whispering sweet nothings of self harm and personal destruction. That fuck face certainly meant plenty harm and brought a shit load. I was quickly tuned in at full volume listening with intent. Gripped in a vice like dream state I found myself re-entering the flat fully charged up with enough juice to guarantee oblivion. All varieties of my choosing from hard liquor to dry cider plus enough cigarettes to bring about an embolism.

The days turned into weeks. Vaguely I recall phoning in sick at work. Sordid bars and  street fights flashed through my memory. A fleeting recollection of been in a house with some woman and no idea how I ended up there. As for how long I stuck around? It beats me!
I came out of a blackout screaming, hoping it was a nightmare, unsure if I’d lived it or dreamt it. I was sitting in my own piss so that put paid to that query. The cruiser was laying on its side in the alleyway. Local kids had covered it in graffiti. I was a mess!

 I got 24 hours… again! I feel the coin in my pocket. Im holding on to this one, nothing to add or take away. Anything and everything, no matter how difficult it gets, this one stays! 24 hours to thine own self be true. Just for today. Every fucking day!


Sat aboard the Mayflower Torpedo as it hurtles across the Atlantic just above the sea bed and Im thinking “What an incredible feet of shipbuilding and engineering”. I feel privileged to be on board so soon after her maiden voyage and aim to explore from Steerage to Captains table. Nuclear powered engines firing her across the pond in under two hours and the feeling of motionlessness is sublime. Never since the Titanic’s fateful journey had a launch attracted so much attention. I guess they were expecting a similar outcome. You never can tell with these things. However, that never stopped the rich and shameless spending a small countries deficit on a first crossing boarding pass. This is her third trip today. I almost taste the Florida sunshine as I strut my stuff through the Casino and Bar, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of high society. All expenses paid. My Job is to visit with political and non profit community leaders working on solutions to the smog. International air travel, banned now for almost 2 years, internal flights wrapping up, except for the police and military, sky flight will soon belong to the past. Big money has been invested in Nuclear Monorail to catapult large numbers coast to coast. Cruisers have replaced the good old automobile. Their magnetic downdraft finally waved goodbye to stinking diesel along with oil’s lust for war. Still the smog increases.

This is definitely the way forward. Welcome to the future and God bless all who sail in her. A smile broad and… Boom!!! The Subs rear end overturns as Im thrown at speed over the backgammon tables. My last thoughts before certain death are “collision, disaster – Im fucked!”  Shrieking sirens cut through the darkness and a voice from a loud hailer repeats over and over… “This is the voice of the City of Fresno Police Department. Armed Police are patrolling the streets. Rioters and looters will be shot on sight. The City is under curfew please remain indoors till further notice. This is the City of Fresno…”

Woke by the voice of a drone issuing its stark warning as it heads off into the night. I recon dawn prepares to break. Lying there stunned and disorientated I wait for the Sun to put his hat on and smile down on this madness.

In the daylight I search the house. Electricity is still cut and the TV is dead. I rummage through my bag and check my tablet. It suggests no internet connections are available. It seems the web is also under curfew. Theres food in the fridge left by the host. I see a note on the kitchen table “Welcome to Fresno make yourself at home we hope you have pleasant stay. Call if any problems”. I fucking would if the phones worked. Finding a door to the basement I shake the lock loose and head down the stairs.

Its a Jumble Sale; mountains of shit! I spend the next few hours rummaging through it. I mean what else is there to do – take a walk in the park on a day like this? Its almost 100 degrees and a battle zone outside. I find a sandalwood box. A handgun inside almost antique, looks like something from a turn of the century action movie. What was that dude called? Schwarzenegger I think! A box of ammo, enough to fill the clip, without guarantee to fire, sits alongside the piece. A baseball bat and skateboard pads are amongst the bounty. It turns out to be more like a treasure trove than a trash dump. 

Then the voice. It sounds like me but uses phrases I wouldn’t choose to think. It chatters negatively away… “Imagine if we found whiskey here? A psychotic party for one while this goon show burns itself out. What could be better”? I feel sick. “If not, then we could always branch out to the liquor store. Maybe a little break & enter, how difficult could that be? Like who’s gonna notice? Common it’ll be fun”.
I now know I’m in a much worse situation than whatever the fuck is going on in this desert oasis! I need help and its not available here at the Fresno Funshack. I hear a scream from above. It sounds like outside. I reach into my pocket and take out the coin. Ive got to get out.


The sun burns my eyes as I step out through the door. Blinking hard I raise a hand to shade my sight. I notice the shake. Still holding the coin, I immediately pocket it, feeling the stock of the pistol buried in my waistband. Automatically I scan the street, theres no sign of the screamer. One foot goes in front of the other without a plan. I have to find someone or something. A city war zone lies ahead, but to what level? Anybody’s guess! One thing for sure is I need help. It wont just show up with a knock at the door. I need to take action.

Experience has taught me some painful lessons. Its not all about the drinking. Initially I thought so. Eventually it dawned on me its about the Beast. That other side of me, the one that wants to fuck me up! The snake and the apple. Obsession. An obsession so subtle and so powerful, it sneaks up, usually at five to midnight at 3000 leagues below with nowhere to go. Left to its own devices, a crescendo of barbaric torture leaves me powerless to resist. Just one drink! When the fuck did I ever have just one drink? Once fish takes the bait, trap is sprung, the mayhem merry-go round spins faster and faster. Only one destination. I must stay ahead of it and acknowledge the primed timer ready to blow. This Beast of obsession awake inside scares the shit out of me!

TurnLeftAt the junction I decide to take a left. No other reason than to the right stretches out to the distance an endless road. Thoughtless steps lead me down a street lined with wire fenced houses. I hear a blast echo nearby. I find cover behind a parked cruiser. Between two houses runs a woman. Her blouse is torn. She looks stricken with panic. Some guy wearing jeans, t-shirt and a red baseball cap appears in slow pursuit. He carries a bottle in one hand and a laser blaster in the other! Hunched down behind the vehicle I can see the pistol charger flash its low battery warning. I hear myself think “Tackle the bastard now before its charged. Get that whiskey”. Quickly I shake my head searching for some sanity but I know thats temporary. Somethings got to give! 

I had took my eye off the girl long enough to watch the whiskey. Big mistake. It didn’t take more than a second or two for her to spot me. She makes a dash in my direction. Fuck! Think quick! Whatever’s pissing him off is none of my business. 

The blast strikes the cruiser melting its front wing. A miss but close enough. He had saw what she saw and took the shot. Watching him stumbling in my direction I can’t help but think that this fella may, on a different day, be quite handy with that thing. He’s obviously steaming, still that shot was way too close for comfort. I’m involved whether I like it or not. One of us must yield. This won’t be painless! 

He takes a moment to steady himself. Our eyes lock and he takes aim. My heart pounds and my feet are frozen in time. He squeezes the trigger. Nothing! Checking the charge display he is rooted to the spot. I get my chance. Forgetting the old fashioned blunder buster in my waistband I burst out of the blocks full speed straight at him. He’s too drunk to step aside as I launch a tackle. We crash down together landing hard on the tarmac. Wrestling for a better hold this piece of shit is stronger than I estimated. The palm of his hand is up under my chin and digs into my throat. With a gust of force I send him spinning. He manages to clamp his legs around my lower back. I hear the bottle bounce on the ground and the Beast whispers again. Frenzied as I rain blows into his face I feel hands grip my collar. Unexpectedly I’m propelled up and over, somersaulting, landing heavily on my back. Momentarily I’m dazed and he’s up staring down at me over the barrel. He smiles. Tiny veins, crimson in colour, streak the whites of his eyes. The battery gives up a high pitched noise… ready to fire! Laughter cut short as the sabreblade burns through his chest. First surprise then horror shoots across his face. He slips forward and lands face down. 

Releasing the igniter button the flame evaporates and she pockets the knife. We face each other and look down at the body. “Say hi to Earl.” Her voice trails off to a nervous laugh. 

“Im Hennessy Griffith, friends call me Griff”. She reaches out a hand. I shake it.

“Deano, pleased to meet you”.

She looks pretty, even with the psycho stare. The torn blouse reveals a packed tight cleavage barely hidden under a vest. Adidas sneakers standing her up in tight faded jeans. They sit well on her. Shoulder length blonde hair, mild complexion, I’m guessing mid 30’s.

“You not from these parts then”?

“Clues in the accent” I reply.

“Howe come”?

“Long story. What happens next is what I want to know”  

“Where you heading?” She takes a quick look side to side.

“Dunno”. I replay her scan of the area. “I thought it best to take a chance on the street. I need to find someone”.

“Who”? A puzzled look crosses her face.

“Again its hard to say”.

“You’re taking a big risk mister! You don’t know where your going and not sure who you’re looking for. Appears you don’t know shit! You got any idea what the fucks going on here”?

“I’m a little sketchy why don’t you fill in the gaps”? She picks up on the sarcasm and I notice a shift in her expression.

“Ok Dorothy or whatever the fuck your name is you’re a long way from Kansas so I will bring you up to speed on the state of play. You’re standing in a minefield and I just saved your ass from certain death. My ex husband had you licked good and proper”. She looks down at Earl.

“Listen lady” I interrupt. “It didn’t look like you were doing too well either till you blew my cover. If thats how you guys treat each other then I’m not surprised the marriage didn’t last”.

“Yeah well hell, sorry about that! He always was a rattlesnake. I knew it was a mistake showing up at his place. It wasn’t my first choice but his place was nearest after running into that sniper”. 

“Sniper, what sniper”? 

“I couldn’t say. A blast shot through the air and some lone wolf took the hit. I didn’t wait around for an introduction”. She gives the scenery another quick glance. “Guess it was the police, taking the other guy out first, since he was armed and all. It sure felt like I was next. Made a break and took off, hurtled over a fence then realised I was just a block from the house we had shared. So I headed on over to his place, should have known he’d be drunk. And now here we are, all three of us”.

“So how come you’re wandering alone through all this”? I study her face.

“My place got swamped. I was holed up just waiting for some normality to return to this town. Then it started to resemble an invasion. Police sky cruisers attacked. Search and destroy squads on the street moving house to house. The dealers fought back. Turns out there was a hive of them and they were packing some military style hardware. I had a close call. Felt the blast almost part my locks. I made it onto the street just before the house took a direct hit. Something heavy duty by all intents and purpose, it went up with a bang, only recently lost sight of the smoke. You not hear any of this”?

“I was sleeping” The sarcasm returned.

“Listen wise guy I aint got time for your shit! You have any useful qualities or shall we just part company here and now”?

“I’ve got a place nearby but I need something in return”.

 A smirk passes over her face as she looks me up and down. “We only just met sugar, but shit, if you’re the last man on the block”. 

“Not that! I need your help to find something. A meeting”.

“What kinda meeting”?

“12 Step”.

“What!” Her voice takes on a high tone. “Why didn’t you just say so instead of standing here cutting the shit? I’m heading to my brothers place. Under different circumstances it wouldn’t take long even on foot. It could be risky right now incase you hadn’t noticed. Hows about we hide out at this place of yours? We can move on after the light fades”.

“What good will that do”? I start to feel impatient.

“He’s friends with one of them 12 Step fellas. Dude often drops by after one of those meetings you so keen to get to. I believe its in the neighbourhood”. She waits for a response. None comes. “Why the big deal anyway? sounds a fucked up priority to me”.

“Another long story”. I look at the whiskey bottle, just sitting there, not meaning any harm to anyone.

“We got about 7 hours till sundown. I hope its interesting”. She walks away from Earl, heading back the way I’d came . “Wheres this place you been telling me about”?


Sat at the kitchen table she fires off questions I don’t mind answering. That and talking about Earl, how they met and the way it started off like most relationships do. There’d been some happiness. Earl been the considerate lover, before the farm had to let him go. Laid off he turned to drink. She let that slide for a while hoping things would turn a corner. But with every dead end job came more bitterness. HennessyCoffeeShe took the beatings and hid the bruises. Finding him with the neighbours daughter was the final straw. Little more than a child, sweet sixteen, she looked every inch the woman as Griff walked in on them. I listened intently joining in only where it seamed appropriate. I caught her looking at me in a way I recognised; curious about what was going through my mind as I tripped out listening to the Beast. Obsession chattered away reminding me of the whiskey bottle sat next to Earl. Patiently awaiting my return. Could I just leave it there? I might share it with her at this table. Then who knows? Maybe spark up some passion. Or I could end up like Earl! Sobering thought.

I interrupt as she starts on about her sister “Exactly how far is it to your brothers place”?

“Maybe three miles give or take a yard”.

“So what we looking at – an hour on foot”?

For a moment she just stares “We cant just ramble over there like a Sunday stroll. Its a war zone out there! You forgot about the heavily armed meth heads? What about that sniper”? She pauses expecting a response. I cant think of one. 

The Beast starts to whistle and I find myself saying “So apart from slaying ex husbands and dodging snipers, what does a nice girl like you do in a place like this”?

“School teacher, nursery kids, 4-6 year olds. They call me Miss Griff”. 

“Ok miss Griff, Im going to need you to teach me a lesson. Geography! What we looking at between here and your good brothers humble abode”?

“Oh it gets interesting”. I see a flash of dread cross her face.

“After we cut through a few rows of suburbs things thin out a bit”.
 Picking up the drama in her tone. “What does that mean”?

“You’ll see soon enough! The lights beginning to fade. Maybe we should make a move”.

The Beast shows me the whiskey bottle. Shaken by the flashback I walk over to the  baseball bat. I pick it up and look back at her. “Im ready lets go”. 

Any Lengths 

Griff was right. No description would do it justice. I imagined better. A sign said Jefferson! I suppose the place was named after a long dead President. Its in desperate need of some TLC. Either that or a bulldozer. Rundown is an understatement. This neighbourhood could pass for a war zone in peacetime. Total fucking shambles!

A howl cries out in the night! Sounds like a wolf, probably the local lunatic. I hope its a one man show! We crouch down low taking turns to dash between burnt out cruisers. I sense we’re been watched and feel unease creep over my skin. Quickly my eyes scan upfront. An old school block sits in the foreground its walls awash with graffiti. Darkness oozes through broken windows. UnderFenceBehind the school lies an underpass lit with burning oil drums. A scene from a not too distant past looking slightly out of place. A drum beat breaks the silence! That howl again and this time close behind. I see shadows! The tunnel is alive with marching silhouettes. At first I see only human form but quickly notice something more. Dogs straining at the leash! I can see the outline of their snarling teeth. 

“Griff we need to move and quick”. I see fear in her eyes as she looks back at me.

Bolting forward towards the school fence she swiftly crawls under loose footing. Hot on her tail I roll underneath the wire as a blast hits the fence pole to my right. It ruptures a slot two foot wide and I feel the heat as metal catches fire. I’m up and off the mark instantaneously! Seeing Hennessy dash through an open doorway I make up the ground quick time.

Hunched down waiting, a look of alarm on her face! 

“What the fuck was that”? I scream at her.

 I almost feel the drool on the back of my neck as she leaps up and at me. 

“Dog!” She screams plunging the sabre between its monstrous eyes. Heat from the blade scrapes my cheek. What looks half dog half wolf snarls. It writhes on the floor as Griff leans heavily over the knife.
“Action… take it fucker!”

I put everything into the swing as the bat comes down hard on the animals neck. Twice for luck! Lying still and silent the dogs tongue flops alongside massive teeth. We glance at each other. That howl again. Getting closer. We head down a corridor marching as fast as the darkness will allow, growing more confident every step, underfoot seaming clear as we pick up the pace. Straight ahead I can see light finding its way in.

It looks like somebody made a half arsed attempt to board up a gaping hole in the wall. A couple of planks lie on the floor. Griff starts to yank one from the window. Gunmetal prods my temple. I freeze to the spot!

A scruffy looking man charges past me and grabs my companion by the scalp! He pulls her backwards onto her knees.
“Wurdup”. Off to the side – a latino, six foot, heavily tattooed face.Laphroag2

 

“Allow me to introduce you to my brethren. The gentlemen with the Pistola at your skull. “Names Jonny Walker” Whisper in my ear. 

“And this here brother with your lady friend is Tequila.” The latino points at a short, fat looking Mexican. Fatso waves with one hand, gripping Hennessy’s hair with the other. 

“Let me guess, you guys are responsible for cleaning the windows in this institution.” I reply before feeling a sudden blow to the kidneys. The baseball bat clatters on the bottom, the ground sounds like rock! All fight leaves me!! 

Tattooed face reaches his arm back pointing to the gang gathered behind “As for these beauties here, they are the Demons”.

His fist swings forward – “And my name is Laphroaig”. 

I feel my jaw shatter as the lights go out.

I’m dreaming, I think! 

Somehow it feels real enough! 

I’m walking along an isle in the liquor store. In front on the counter sits a bottle of Hennessy Brandy. Alongside it a pint of Jonny Walker and a fifth of an Irish Single Malt by the name of Laphroaig. LiquorStore

Griff smiles “Not today Deano… you have an important appointment that must be met”.

“Who let the school teacher in? Its no place for kids” I sulk!

She turns to walk away and I follow her out the back of the store. The dull overhead lights are replaced by a flash as she pushes a bar and the exit door swings open.

“Where we going”? I ask.

“You’ll see”. 

The underpass looms straight ahead. The old oil drums still burn. More faintly now giving off a gentle glow. The dogs sit. From behind I can see their tails wag. They appear alert and interested. But in what? As we get closer I see an old man. Heavily tanned face with deep wrinkles, he looks aged. Decked out in double denim and a baseball cap he sits on the floor. He’s talking to the dogs. They appear fascinated and totally unaware of our approach. 

“Griff, Deano, come on over, we just chilling”.

How does he now our names? 

And at the same time Im sure I’ve seen this old fella somewhere before.

“Do I know you”?

“Sure do! And how you keeping Miss Hennessy”?

“Im good” she purrs. I never realised how beautiful she is till now.

“Deeeenoe! How come you showed up here my man? In this time, this Now”.

“I don’t get the question. And who are you, how come you know my name, we met before”?

“Many times son” he reaches out to pat the dog closest then sharply claps his hands. Flames burst high from the barrels. The dogs are up and begin to chase their tales. 

The old man rises to his feet.

“What the fuck is going on here”? I feel panic in my voice!

“Take a look son, you’re a long way from home”.

“Go ahead Deano”. She gazes at the fire.
Walking towards the flame I get the feeling I’m been guided in… 

A horse. It rears up. The rider slumps forward, its a policeman. His bloodied face buried into the animals mane. The brick lands inches from my feet as Im carried along with the rush. Punching out and kicking anything that falls. I give not two fucks for sides in this skirmish. Its early 80’s and hot as hate! Theres nothing but violence in my veins. A television screen flickers. Its shows Goals on Sunday as I come out of blackout. 3 days lost. Whiskey and Guinness. A dark room and the thoughts are intrusive. I scream in my head, the Beast laughs just that bit louder. My mind poised to snap! Shaking and crying in the shower. Broken promises and strongbow cider. Dallas and Bloody Marys with a twenty dollar cleavage. Canadian girl by the stroke of midnight, New Years Eve sex in a Manhattan nightclub toilet. Puerto Ricans pushing and shoving, coiled and ready to ram a glass. Leprechaun hats IRA bar. Blood streaked elevator wall. One leg over the side while surfing the Bay of Bisque through the night, bouncing across the sea on a flat bottomed landing ship with half cans of Heineken! Little Ian with the ball. Running. Laughing. Not so little Ian. Bald. Dying. Bouncer and a broken ashtray. Bouncer with a broken face. Cigarette burned hands and pass the parcel. Sniffing glue and sick relationships. Broken homes and tornadoes. Liver damage and Neuropathy.  Smoking Heroin and breathing Temgezic. Prison walls. Magaluf dance floors. Ecstasy in a teaspoon. Fear, Resentment… Forgiveness! 

“Whats this about Old Man”? Speaking to myself. “This all happened years ago. In another place another time”.

“The time is Now. It is always Now”. The Old Man’s voice appears deep down inside myself.“Lots of personalities mixed up in there” – merely a whisper.

“Really fucking mixed up if you ask me”. I bite.

“What about the role I assign”?

“I work this programme. Growing in understanding and effectiveness” – I snap out!

“What is the point”? – Questioning!

“The point is we are…” – Cut short.

“The ego, it can even use spirituality against you! Manifesting self into Bigshotism! Cunning, baffling powerful” His face appears in the flames.

“But there is One who has All Power and its not me!” I start to laugh. 

He smiles.

“I can never be humble enough, forgiving enough, courageous enough. But that resentment, fear, self-centred shit, I can do that to full volume”.

“Progress not perfection” His turn to laugh. “Step into the flame. It will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not”.

StepFlames

I look back at Griff. She’s gone. So have the dogs. The tunnel is darkness!

“Take the first Step” I hear Him say.

Eyes closed one foot slowly moves forward then the other one. I expect to touch something, hit something… nothing! 

I open my eyes and see a door. A sign hangs from the handle. I walk in. Somebody is reading aloud. Stops. They all turn to look at me. Somebody points to an empty seat and I sit down. The reader carries on… “If you want what we have and are ready to go to any lengths to get it then you are ready to take certain Steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier softer way but we could not. With all the earnestness at our command we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start”.


“You Only loose what you cling to” – Buddhist Proverb.

“Wherever you are, be there totally” – Eckhart Tolle.

“Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations” – Chapter 5.

D&O in Fresno

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The 4th Step Flamenco

“Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple programme, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of been honest with themselves”.

 

The first thing apparent was something wasn’t quite right. I had no idea what and even less of an idea how I knew. But I knew. Of that I was certain. Simply put – my insides didn’t match others’ outsides! But no way was I going to say that out loud. Who would? Even though I had the love of some beautiful people, I knew from the word go I was dancing this one alone!
Looking back there was a few who could see and one or two who tried to raise the issue but that door was firmly closed. Besides all this I quickly found a solution and it was to accompany me every step of the way across four different decades. The journey with the illusion had begun 

Flamenco;
Noun- a style of dancing (solo) that is strongly rhythmic and involves vigorous action (including clapping of the hands).

 

Humans in general have nothing more than a nodding acquaintance with self-honesty. Everybody is quick to point out the other mans faults and almost blind to recognise them in themselves. The funny thing is, we don’t need to see them to be aware, we just need to listen. My problem is no different to anybody else’s. Its not that I chose to look the other way it was more a case of “soak in the praise and reject the appraisal”. Basically I surrounded myself with people, good or bad, who through no fault of their own, co-signed my bullshit. The delusion was in full swing and the masks fitted comfortably… for a while. Drink, drugs, violence, disastrous relationships, all from an early age had me believing I was some Romeo in a porno show. But whatever it was that was apparent first thing just kept clapping louder and louder until enough of the self imposed crisis routine embarked me on a journey into honesty…  

Education and information are wonderful things. Personally I love them and happily endorse them but on their own they are a fucking horror show. Since the invent of Google and social media everybody is an expert and a world leader in their chosen field of the day. Just so happens that since the internet made an appearance the insanity level powered up a few notches. Our planet is now the mental institution of the Universe and all sides think the other side is to blame. Infants in charge of an ego – dangerous game!
Thats where my issue with others has to end. Quickly I recall it all started long before any digital mindfuck and even if the Matrix really is a public information film instead of an action movie what good is that going to do me. The Flamenco is a solo dance but never danced alone, it requires vigorous action. There is action and more action… 

Throughout all the chaos, peppered with high octane excitements and soul crushing lows, the dice landed favourably enough often enough to warp my perspective. Education, information and greater efforts all mean jack shit without an awareness. What is awareness other than honesty in action. Am I honest enough to see my resentments are not the responsibility of somebody else’s efforts or can I see that Im a resentful fucker regardless. It matters not who’s name is on the list, it could be Micky Mouse, when it asks ‘Who is resentful?’ Its always my name in that column. Its the same with fears. It looks like the world and his wife have all got some form of anxiety disorder they are popping pills for. But honestly when I ask myself why I have them isn’t it because self reliance reminds me Im applying for Gods job but Im not qualified to sit in the interview. What about conduct? Does selfish self-centredness explain it with any justice? All I know is when it came to sex, money, prestige, there was never enough for me.

Whats the common denominator in all this? Me? You? Us?

“The first thing apparent was this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves”.

The first thing apparent was something wasn’t quite right. What was wrong? I thought I could and would dance this one alone. But we are never alone. There is no me, there is no you, there is only us. Talking of honesty, there are some people that I will never like, some that I tolerate through gritted teeth. But it doesn’t matter. They are as much a part of the ‘Us  equation as anybody else. None of us qualify for the interview. The same life force, the rhythm, that flows freely through me flows through you flows through us. Separation is the illusion.

We don’t mature through age, we mature in awareness~ Byron Katie

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there” ~ Yasutani Roshi

“Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me” ~ The Carpenter 

D&O in Fresno

Bloody Mary and the Trinity Square Sermon

Pennsylvania 2014, Poconos Mountains – somewhere about half way… 

 

We had drove for about an hour. Climbing all the way up a twisting narrow road that cut through thick forrest. The trees were so high as to block out most of the fading natural light and cast a darkness over the road. A shadow deep enough to make driving at that speed a little challenging. The tarmac snaked up and up till we reached a flat clearing and on it stood a building. We had travelled a long way to be there. I certainly didn’t have a personal invite and at that point didn’t realise exactly what I was walking into. My good friend and travel companion had spoke many times about the man who was celebrating there that night. As it turned out we weren’t the only ones who had travelled… both in miles and experience! 

The men in that room were of various ages and it turns out some of them were bordering ancient. The top man himself was in his 80’s and a few, one in particular, was quite a bit older. Some of these guys go back almost to the first 100. They had came from many parts of the United States just to be there that night. The experience itself was incredible. There was an energy in that room I’ve never felt before or since. One I will never be able to forget. One thing more than any other sticks with me and I knew it meant something as soon as I heard it. I had no idea what. Three men spoke from a podium for no more than fifteen minutes each. They had been hand picked by the Gentleman in question and what they shared was inspirational beyond words. But the last one, a real big fella who was in his 90’s barely looking a day over 60, stole the show with a poem that ended… “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon”. There was electricity in the air and I felt plugged into it! I knew right away I would never forget those words. Speaking with the old boy later I felt like I was around somebody who knew something I didn’t. Confirmed by the warmth of his laugh and the knowing look in his eyes as he listened to me, it was a silent “Good luck kid”.

Fort Worth Texas, Dallas Airport – around 2 years later… 

 

I had a 4 hour wait till my flight to Heathrow and was propping up a bar stool chasing that sense of ease and comfort. Half a dozen Bloody Marys, the beers I had sank in Fresno, and a short skin full on the plane into Dallas were starting to take effect. I was busy hitting it hard and amusing myself with the waitress for over an hour. Her cleavage was costing me 20 dollars every round and it was now starting to feel surreal. I was surrounded by Stetson hats, cowboy boots and bootlace neckties. The psychotic party for one was in full swing as ZZ Top blasted out of the sound system. I was reminded of the ‘Titty Twister’, like been stuck in a Tarantino movie. I knew I was heading into blackout and decided to make the call before it was too late. On the other end of the line would be a friend. He had known I was struggling, that I was in over my head and that soon I would probably crash. He didn’t at this point know I was heading home or that I was drunk. It works both ways! In the build up to this train crash I had become totally self absorbed. Self-centredness reigned supreme. He picked up the phone. He had been drinking! Turns out he had had a whole load of shit of his own going on. Shit I had been incapable of seeing due to been a Grade A selfish fucker totally absorbed in me. He had been sober a good while and his crash equaled mine and some. 

Ive Came to Believe that the God of my understanding doesn’t create problems. Humans have always done a grand job of that without needing assistance. Rather he develops solutions by using whatever is at hand. Me and my friend where heading in a parallel direction and it was about to get worse before it got better. 

We met up in a coffee shop in a place called Trinity Square. My evaluation of the situation at that point was… “Deep shit fucked up beyond repair”. I had never in my life felt that bad. He looked worse! As we parted company that day he turned and said “One day we will look back and laugh at this”. I seriously doubted it.

In the weeks that followed we stayed close. A couple of hours together most days. Taking turns to talk and periods of silence and staring into space. We cracked jokes while always on the edge of cracking up without a hope of return. There was times when his sickness would aggravate mine and vice versa. I would make a few days sober then fall back into the bottle and repeat. He went on his own mission to make things worse causing personal chaos that he can describe much better than I can. In short he worked himself chronic with most people. Eventually he was carted off to a rehab in some seaside town promising to get in touch as soon as he was allowed to make contact. I settled down to the thought of a marathon period of rebuilding. One I had no idea how to run. It was very hard work and I had the same conviction as listening to that parting comment in Trinity Square. Even though many people who matter commented on the fact I was doing better than I thought it still felt like the circus was in town and the monkey on my back was here to stay.

Weeks passed and with the help of others I managed to stay sober. Then the phone rang. It was him. He had walked out of the rehab and was at a train station heading home. I worried for him. I remembered us been on a platform not that long ago and I was convinced he would throw himself under the next train. But something had changed. There was an enthusiasm in his voice when he told me he knew what he was doing and what was going to happen next. 

Back home he took to the task. He stayed close to those who could help. We met up regularly and talked about what happened, where to go next, and what was it that was deeply wrong with us. No darkness remained hidden! Impressively he went about cleaning up the shit he had made and managed to gain a foothold when some wanted to cast him off. He got put on shift in the Bentnick Hotel and spread some peace to those going through personal nightmares of their own.

Moving around jobs to better his own situation has always been accompanied by a never ending commitment to help those who ask him. Myself included. His crash was public and massive. His comeback has been monumental. Ive learned so much and am incredibly proud of him. Throughout all the rigorous honesty he has always pointed and never lectured. A few years have passed and we got to “look back and laugh”. The growth has been amazing and the journey though rarely easy has at times been very exciting. I wouldn’t change a second of it. But above everything… I got to see a sermon.

“The Steps are not the work, they remove the blocks that stop you from performing the work” – Don P

“Nothing is important life is just a comedy ~ Aye a fucking black one” – In conversation

“… tried to carry this message…” – 12

 D&O in Fresno

Darkness and the Ragamuffin

“Fear – it was an evil and corroding thread, the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It brought about trains of circumstances we felt we didn’t deserve but did not we ourselves set the ball rolling…“

Recently I was invited to give a talk on anxiety. I had been asked to do so by a group of people who had identified themselves as suffering from it and were becoming aware of the negative and destructive impact it was having on their lives. Speaking on topics of that type will always fall on deaf ears unless you can share some experience of your own. It helps the listener tune in rather than mugging you off as just another bozo on the bus. Gaining some identification from the small crowd wasn’t what started this prose. That bit went well. Short and sweet that it was it was still a fucking horror story. People gripped by fear love horror, it alerts them to the fact they’re not quite as bad as they first thought… not yet!

It was more my identification with them as the conversation moved to a solution. Thats what got me scripting this. That look of trepidation, the doubt and disbelief that normally precedes the search for an easier softer way. In an instant I could almost taste the warm nighttime air of the desert as it gripped me, lost in that surreal Californian city as I headed off in search of an easier softer way looking very disheveled – like the Ragamuffin Man. 

Fear has a hundred forms. Anxiety is one of them. Its at the bottom of the list just above worry and sitting precariously below panic and its big brother terror. All fears are born out of the overpowering desire to control imaginary outcomes. Sweeping away the wreckage of the future. An interesting proposition until you give it some thought. Like a drug it would be thrilling and empowering for a short time and then life would become mechanical and boring. Most fun is in the hunt with its surprise twists and turns. A sense of power arises from overcoming challenges when the odds were against us.

No amount of worry or anxiety can alter whatever is going to happen. I had to learn to alter my attitude regarding the need to control. I know this to be true as experience has taught me this. But some things slip through. Some things are just too damn important. Thats the way it had been for months leading up to Fresno. I had felt the darkness begin to rise up in me with a whisper that got louder and louder. Until with nowhere to go but to face myself it began to scream. I had to change my attitude, alter the sails, learn to trust if I was going to recover from the wreckage. Trust means nothing without faith. Trust is a belief that tomorrow will be ok. Faith shows thats possible because so was all our yesterdays. Ok is a very long way from perfect. Some yesterdays were pretty shitty, but we survived them. I have survived everyday of my life so far even the good ones. Faith tells me that will remain the same for everyday but one. Im not planning on caring too much when that day shows up.

Since I got sober many things have happened that I’m unable to explain. The situation leading up to that, and many other experiences I can’t find the words for. Whatever it is I continue to seek the experience. The hunt with its surprise twists and turns that make life really interesting is always accompanied every Step of the way by that old darkness. Its whispers get louder and louder, little by slowly, trying to grip me and send me off looking for an easier softer way. Until theres nowhere to go but face myself. I follow the process to that regularly and something new always comes up. When I say new I mean new angles. Its the same shit with all of us. Just different people, places and things.

In the midst of all this the story of Job (Jobe) sort of showed up without an explanation. I knew nothing of it and don’t suppose most people do. Its an interesting one. Briefly, he had been a righteous and good man all his life and the devil didn’t care too much for that (I guess I’m safe there). Ole Nick decided to see if he could break him and reigned down all sorts of naughty shit in Jobs direction. Cut a long story short Job held firm. But it was with his attitude to his friends’s negativity that ties in with what I’m getting at. They turned up at his wilderness apartment wanting to analyse, deconstruct, blame and find the faults that had lead to his recent misfortune. Job been as seriously pissed off as he so rightly was still had enough about him to realise he was still in the game and no amount of fear created by overthinking the future was going to change anything. Sounds like it was touch and go for a while but he made it in the end. Trust is nothing without faith. Faith without works is dead, there is action and more action. The things that bother me and sneak in to steal peace of mind won’t magically fix themselves. I’ve still got to show up for life, but keeping things right sized as they are in the here and now makes sense. Whats the alternative? Arrive in a different time zone with a brush and shovel making sure everything is neat and tidy for when I eventually land there for real? Insanity! Yet the world over people are attempting to do just that. Along with searching for some easier softer way to escape the intense psychotic pain they experience through doing so. Good luck with that.

“When life takes the wind out of your sails, it is to test you at the oars.” – Robert Brault

“I am open to the guidance of synchronicity and do not let expectations hinder my path.” – Dalai Lama X1V

“Life is like improvised jazz. We cannot regulate the variables. We must play it with panache and flair the best we can.” – Haemin Sunim

D&O in Fresno

Bordering the Clusterfuck

“I’ve come to expect challenges. In fact Ive Came to Believe that at the exact moment I realise sanity has returned I’ve already started the process of restoring myself to insanity.”

Its a recurring patten. Each time I peel another layer from the onion the next one smarts my eyes. Its kind of fun in a sick way like playing heads or tails with a coin that declares ‘Outright Serenity’ & ‘Manic Serenity’ on opposing sides. I get to play and it appears thats my game of choice on this journey called life. Eventually the coin lands ‘Serenity’ side up and during the cooling down period Im allowed the opportunity to reflect. View the progress and collateral damage equally, formulate a plan for the next layer, take a deep breath and relax. Who knows, next time I might just say “Fuck this I’m off to the pub to get loaded” but where would the fun be in that. 

The layer of recent experience has been original to say the least. Ive been guilty of just about every defect in the book at one point or another. Me and the ‘Seven Deadly’ were in the same class at school, ‘Snow White’ joined us later. But when it comes to judgement I only ever had a nodding acquaintance. Hardly strangers, just never quite close buddies. The way I always saw it was we all have opinions and if yours didn’t match mine then you were history. Dropped like a hot stone. Not saying I disliked you or even thought about you. Rather where was the value in bumping heads over different perspectives when there was more interesting topics to wash drink and drugs down with.

Almost 48 years in and my acquaintance of the nodding variety decided it was time for a full introduction. Much more of an interesting chap than I originally thought. A fucking mirror and a teacher. We would of made good drinking partners back in the day. So where am I going with all this…

Lately Ive been fed up with humans. Nothing out of the ordinary there, ‘Those Fuckas’ always find a way in. But normally I can separate (keep this in mind for later) them into groups – those that piss me off and those that charge my battery, keep me going so to speak. Then out of nowhere it seamed as if God appeared with an Oxyacetylene bottle and a blow torch and welded those fuckers together. One big clusterfuck of opposing opinions. Making noise, lots of it! 

Now lets be honest, I don’t give a fart in a shitstorm about who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t believe there is such a thing. Opinions. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I don’t go around telling others whats for supper. But it appears everybody all of a sudden wants to be king or queen of the pissing and moaning party. Worse still a lot of them claim to have an understanding of the 3rd Step. They have spoken many times of the disaster zone their life became when they tried to run the show. Now they demand how things should be done according to them. Everything from running the planet to picking the England team’s starting eleven in the World Cup. Its not exclusively them (remember the Big Fella with the blowtorch), everybody’s at it (and I mean everybody. If you think I don’t mean you then take another spin, in fact take as many as you like). The way I see it is if they were in charge of the team sheet the highlight of the season in a few short years would be a derby agains the Bullfarters Arms in some Sunday league over 40’s competition in front of a record crown numbering the grand total of 42. As for taking charge in an office of power then the whole planet would probably implode within 5 working days.

All of a sudden the sting from the onion starts to ease and I get to ask – “Who is the madman here?” What was it the Carpenter said about ‘Forgive them they haven’t got a Scooby what they are doing’ – infants in charge of an ego and here I am judging them like I’m any better. I get to look in a mirror held up by a teacher. Painful like an onion sting to the eyes. Another layer pealed, another layer removed from the core, getting closer, growing through pain. Entered and returned from the illusion of separation. Even though it feels good for brief moments, self-righteousness is still the pathway to self-destruct. I need ‘Those Fuckas’ even though they make noise that robs me of serenity from time to time. Who else would hold the mirror up? I made a decision to face and be rid of the things that feed my demons and block me from whatever has my highest good in its interests (Whatever It looks like, whatever It calls Itself). I got to face and be rid of some more thanks to Judgement and I’m grateful for the lesson so bring on the next one and make it equally as interesting or who knows I might just say “Fuck this I’m off to the pub to get loaded” – Not today JFT.

Step into the fire of self discovery, this fire will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not” – Mooji

“It is easy to criticise and break down the spirits of others, but to know yourself takes a lifetime” – Bruce Lee

“For (because of)  judgement I came into the world, That those who do not see (own faults) may see and those who see (defects of others) may become blind” – JC.

D&O in Fresno

Utopia dipped in Barbwire grappling Demons

Utopia dipped in Barbwire grappling Demons – The hunt for Happiness!

Happiness what is it? I mean really what the fuck is it? I have my opinion on that. Always have, but its changed massively over the last few years. How common is it to hear people say they just want to be happy. If they don’t know what it is then how do they know they’re not. They certainly don’t appear happy. Right bunch of miserable looking fuckers most of them. Its like a scene from the Walking Dead. Then theres those who are always trying to show how good it is to anybody crazy enough to hold an interest. Constant FaceBook and Instagram etc posts and updates orchestrated to prove what an amazing life experience they are having. You can guarantee most of this revolves around “Stuff”. You know – that latest gadget or whatever that really shows the world how much they’ve got it all together and are ahead of the race. Photos of all the latest shit they have acquired accompanied with the wearing of some hideous smile normally associated with a constipated camel. Nights out on the town photographed in some contortionist version of a drunken yoga pose whilst wrapped around some unfortunate slob who instantly portrays a look of gangster hip hop thinking his/her ship just docked. Nut jobs playing at grown ups and thinking they getting away with it. Those Fuckers! If this sounds a little holier than thou – its not! I’ve been all of them and countless other examples. Like I said, my opinions of happiness have changed many times and if Im honest Im still open to ideas. But one thing I know is all the bullshit didn’t fill what was always a massive hole in the soul. I tried to fill it with drink & drugs, enough of that shit to fill the Black Hole of Calcutta. But not the hole in the soul. That gaping nightmare just grew bigger. Extreme adrenaline, unnatural sex acts, contact sports, marriage and many other disturbing activities. None of it brought more than temporary relief.

But there was times when I felt it. Not just happiness but pure unadulterated joy. Even in the midst of the chaos. In my worst days of self destruction, pure insanity, harms done others and periods of it all seaming so mundane I wouldn’t breathe a sober breath for what seamed like eternity. Times my life at best resembled a triple header train crash on the inside but on the out I could wear the mask of some City Gent hoping nobody could view through the fucked up facade. Still it would make appearances, let itself be known to me. How does that happen? No job or amount of money could force the issue. Awesome parents, loving partner and kids just seemed to push it further away at times. Nothing brought about by my efforts added up to anything other than short term excitement followed by a huge crash and disappointment. But still it was there. A quiet undercurrent unaffected by circumstances.

Everybody wants to be happy. I get that. Its not complicated or too much to wish for. But the searching and wrestling trying to force the issue is counterproductive. As are peoples views on what happiness actually is. More so their right to have it delivered to them by somebody equally clueless about all this. Example been, when I first met my ex wife in a bar she jokingly said ‘Do you come here often?’ To which I replied seriously ‘Everyday’. Moons later in the middle of the thousandth manic ugly argument about my drinking she tearfully said ‘But I never guessed you would be this bad’. Some part of the “Everyday” answer had bypassed her understanding. Either that or she carefully chose to ignore due to the pursuit of her idea of what happiness looks like.

I listened intently to a friend last night give a talk on what happiness is to him. It was very psychology orientated and however much that shit bores me he managed to nail it with enough points of interest that I probably hadn’t thought too much about. Until he started to reaffirm his totalitarian believe that happiness is all in the mind. A state of mind he says. That might be his mind state but very rarely mine. Mines normally in a right state. Then again some of us are sicker than others. Could that be down to the fact I grew up with a very negative and destructive peer group where violence (even against each other if there was nobody suitable at hand) and booze were an everyday occurrence. Along with all the shit that accompanies this behaviour Im bound to feel some underlying trauma. Then if so then how come I still love these guys, well most of them? Long after they became ‘Respectable Citizens’ I chose to leave them to it except for occasional visits and text messages. Purely born out of the need to stay sober and nothing else. Hows that for positive thinking? Still happiness comes and goes on its own terms.

Those who have found themselves in situations such as Rehab, Therapy or Nut Houses will be familiar with positive affirmations were we try to trick the mind into positive thinking. They go something like this…

I am a wonderful flower pot of the Universe and I’m supported on all side by compassion and forgiveness” – Really!!

How I understand it…

“I am a fucked up lunatic that has spent 47 years bumbling through this life with a vague sense that if it wasn’t for some Higher Power (whatever that looks like/calls itself) I would have been dead ages ago… and yes there was plenty fun along the way”.

I’ve got news for you… the mind is a cunning sniper that jerks off in hysterics at childish attempts to play hide and seek with it!

I’ve Came to Believe that happiness is a gift. It happens to be a lot easier to foolishly throw it away than receive it in the first place. That usually happens through doubling my efforts to bring more and turning it into a drug to crave. Its then that I forget its an inside job. That its already there. How else could I have felt it in the middle of those mental train crashes. Those times when I’m falling about almost pissing myself laughing in the middle of some crushing life experience. Its always there. I still get those experiences of it today.

Life can at times be overwhelming! Financially and materially I’ve never had it so good but theres still times the world and its people force me to withdraw. I can feel the disassociation starting up in me days sometimes weeks before and I know a period of isolation is on the cards. Everything can get double serious and heavy. But never the less even in those dark moments/days when I feel Im been dragged by demons through the cuckoos nest chained at the ankles with spiritual barb wire, its there! Endless feeling periods wrestling some fucked up multiple personality disorder where one of us is more than happy to drown in the quicksand of self-pity while the other wants to don some suit and burst out into the sky and rearrange the Universe to more of my liking. Throughout all of that, every now and again a brief interval of happiness for no apparent reason will give me just enough. A taste of what it is we are all searching for. A smile, a chuckle (mostly at myself) and I know all is well. Even though it feels anything but.

Whether I’m a fucked up lunatic or a wonderful flower pot of the Universe is irrelevant. Happiness comes and it goes and comes back again. My part in it is to just get out of its fucking way. Everything else is just stuff.

Relax and chill out, none of us are getting out of this life alive” – Some Wise Guy.

The purpose of a mans life is not happiness but worthiness” – Felix Adler.

Don’t worry be happy” – Bob Marley.

D&O in Fresno

The Land of the Dead

Its been two months since I updated the blog. Thats the longest since it started back in August 2016. Now 42 posts ago. Theres a good reason for that… Ive had nothing I wanted to write about. Maybe Ive had plenty things to say, but theres a difference. We only speak when we want to be heard. When it comes to writing I don’t give two fucks. It matters not whether this is my all time top post or if not one other soul reads it. I write for me. For that I need to want to write. There has to be something in it for me. Normally that is to allow me to get my head around, make sense of, something thats been going on in my world.

There has been plenty going on. In fact millions of things have happened this last couple of months. Whilst at the same time… absolutely nothing!!

Its been quiet upstairs. Peaceful. Like I said there has to be something in it for me and these past weeks that just hasn’t mattered. Somehow along the way I gently and unnoticeably detached from any clinging to and struggling with things I desired to control. Even if thats just, and it normally is, mentally like some fucked up Jedi mind trick, wish to make this world and its inhabitants confirm to my expectations. Its been a beautiful experience and I never once thought about powering up the keyboard.

I felt all that start to change after a string of ‘Coincidences’ starting around the beginning of last week and culminating at 2am this morning. When after drifting in and out of light consciousness I got up to take a piss and thought about phoning in sick and spending the day getting fucked up drunk! Hyde was awake. The assassin in my head was drawing a bead and I could feel myself bumbling through the killing zone again. I could feel the need to write starting up a few days back but I knew this morning that I would be sitting down at some point to script this…

Joy or Attachment – I get to choose!

Ive done so much work these last five years on letting go. Letting go of drink and drugs was just a starting point. Born out of necessity. A matter of survival but nothing more than a  beginning. Letting go of the need to control the progressive cluster fuck that they were the solution to proves more challenging. I get to see. Even when for all intents and purpose the rest of the world is asleep dreaming they are awake. Clinging to and totally attached to something, somebody or some situation. Be that a job, a relationship, family, soap opera, desire to reach a utopian state through working their way into some fat bank account or huge pay off. Anything they can cling to that produces an illusion that tomorrow has the chance of delivering happiness. Or maybe anxiously counter punching their way into a position of safety that prevents something they see vital to happiness been removed or lost tomorrow, next week etc etc.

That is where I found myself last week. Likewise I was asleep dreaming I was awake. It wasn’t until I felt the need to get wasted at 2am that I realised I was attached. Not reattached to the bottle… but to that peace of the last couple of months! That need to cling to it as I felt it slipping away. Fuck it, it wasn’t mine anyways! But knowing that didn’t stop the fear. Didn’t stop me diligently searching inside, plotting and scheming on how to grip tighter. Resenting those who slept soundly and oblivious to the fact I blamed them for taking it away… What a fucking cluster fuck! Totally Insane!!

Then… Boom – Awake!

The memory of every painful event or perceived negative experience and the huge amount of personal growth that was hidden in them resurfaces. How many times the blessing was disguised in the lesson. My total inability to at times differentiate what really is good or bad for me based on how it feels at that moment. How many times I promised myself that next time I will see it quicker and let go before the habitual driving myself nuts rather than accept the gift. That showed up and I woke up.

The day was an unlearning experience. Old programming fought hard to grab my attention. But the new intuition gradually becomes more and more a working part of the mind. I was surrounded at every turn by remarkable people. People struggling with all sorts of shit. I could see myself in all of them at various stages and cant help but overlook the “Coincidences”. Every week I sit down for a spot of lunch with a good friend who understands all of this a bit better than me. ‘Coincidence’ put that on hold since just before Christmas and started it back up again today. He got to hear me describe the three events of the last week that had twisted my Mellon. I got to hear him again say his trademark catchphrase – “Life’s tough, get a fucking Helmet”.

The day draws to a close with no attachments. Im back at that place where I can see that nothing outside of me can bring lasting peace, joy and happiness. All of it, everything is nothing more than a stinking pile of garbage that brings temporary thrills and excitement followed by panic then boredom. The real deal is in the fact I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin and in that there is a joy and happiness infinitely indescribable. Another 24 hour pass out of the “Land of the Dead”.

“Dare to look at everything around you without fear or formula and it wont be long before you see” – Anthony De Mello.

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” – Matt 5:40

“Your misfortune has become your good fortune” – Bill W

 

D&O in Fresno

Spiritual Warfare

“On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent…”

For a short while… After 4 years of a living hell that with all the best of intentions we are unable to fully comprehend… the guns fell silent! Just a few weeks ago I was looking at some recent photos of the battle fields of France. Even after 99 years the landscape has only partially recovered. The mud is long gone, trees have obviously grown back but the visible signs of the trenches are still there. A fitting tribute to a destruction and suffering of the highest order. The guns fell silent in France and brought an end to an episode and nothing more!

The thoughts and feelings of those guys on both sides when the reality of the ceasefire kicked in is again something we who weren’t there are unable to fully absorb. Regardless of who claimed victory it must have been a huge relief. That silence. That peace.

Unique in its own right because without that extreme human riot the absolute beauty of one second of pure silence can be vacant in a whole lifetime.

Whole lives have been lived without ever experiencing the total wonderment of a moments peace. The world and its people have constantly been at war. We are at war with ourselves.

Somebody with a greater understanding than me once said “All wars are fought due to mans inability to be in a room by himself and sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” – Spiritual Warfare!

The ego will constantly try to force the idea of separation into the human consciousness… Im right and you are wrong! Like there is such a thing. Right and wrong! Never has there been and never will there be a situation where everybody concerned is satisfied. Somehow it just doesn’t work that way.

Five years ago I found myself at a point in life I just couldn’t go on with. I could sit in a room by myself, in fact thats what the majority of my days consisted of. I could sit down, again most of the time thats what I did. But shut the fuck up… not for one second. Even in my sleeping moments my head was screaming! A Passchendaele and Flanders in my own personal living room. I prayed for a ceasefire and eventually one came. A surrender in a war I had been fighting for over 40 years. A war with myself. Drink drugs violence ego and insecurity had been the machinery of war that I had bombarded myself with in a continuously progressive way. Like France the guns fell silent to an episode. The world and its people are constantly at war. It appears we are made that way. The constant illusion of separation fed by the ego.

We have the option to opt out but that feeling of separation (the ego rebuilds and reconstructs) makes it difficult to “Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” but I felt it for the first time way back and looked for it ever since…

A few weeks ago I was waiting with my mate outside a locked up yoga studio at 6:55am five minutes before the session was due to start when the instructor turns up in a taxi. I made the comment to him that me and my friend had decided to give him a few more moments then go find a bar. We laughed and hugged then went inside and hit the mat. It wasn’t the first time a drink had crossed my mind since getting out of bed that morning. In fact theres very few days when its not my first thought. Theres hundreds of times Ive found a bar at 7 in the morning if not a shop that serves booze well before that. Theres something about morning drinking that really stroked my nuts from the very first time. Something non drinkers will never understand. That opt out feeling of surrendering to what is…

I remember been around 14 years old coming down stairs first thing and going out into the back garden. My old man was sitting there in his work clothes but obviously not going to work. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass and went back out and joined him. I cant remember much about what was said that day, it was sometime ago, but I remember that total feeling of been at peace. That middle finger, go fuck yourself to the rest of the world. That pure silence response to the bullshit that humans in general seem completely unable to take a break from. Most if not all of them appear incapable of stopping themselves from adding to the noise of that circus ground cluster fuck. They are absolutely unaware of it. Its not their fault, the world is full of sick people – Im one of them!

“Selfisness, Self-Centredness that we think is the root of our troubles” Right or wrong!

So opting out without taking a drink takes a lot of hard work and practice. The ego screams separation. All that right and wrong bullshit! “Selfishness Self-Centredness…”

The guns fell silent just to mark an end to an episode. One I am doomed to repeat if I “fall victim to the delusion that happiness and satisfaction can be wrestled from this world…”

There is a lot about this world I don’t like. People, Places and Things that just don’t sit easy with me. But Im no better qualified to judge whats right or wrong anymore than they are.

The real peace that those guys must have temporarily felt as news of the ceasefire spread round the trenches can be experienced by one thing only. Surrendering to the fact that the war was always internal “This world and its people are often quite wrong and that is as far as most of us ever got…

“Above everything we must be rid of This selfishness, we must or it kills us” – Big Book p62.

“I should be content to look at a mountain for what it is and not as a comment on my life” -David Ignatow.

“I leave you with a new commandment, Love each other as I have Loved you” – The Carpenter.

D&O in Fresno.

Raging Bullshit and…

a brief acquaintance with Samadhi

A reintroduction;

Thirteen months have passed since the blog first burst out onto the Net. This is currently the 40th post and there have been over 1600 views so far. Averaging 123 views per month from all corners of the globe. Hardly New York Times Best Seller List material but still its done ok across various platforms. August 25th 2016 (first post) still holds the record number of hits in 24 hours (118).

So I thought now was as good a time as any to redo an introduction. Plus with the blogs theme of my daily practice of staying present and real to the moment along with been true to myself, coupled with the passing of the late great Jake La Motta it just seemed too good an opportunity for a great title.

I thought I would update on how Im doing with all this alongside a quick recap of previous posts and a list of my top 5 to date. I need to remind myself sometimes…

The world pulls at all of us, or the ego, whichever way you choose to look at it. People, their bullshit, false drama and constant mild or strong projected irritation can drive the sane totally crazy. Along with things such as debt, overworking, the economy, world war, world peace or any other fucking nonsense have got the majority of the population in the grip of a complete state of anxious depression.

Fuck that! The worlds problems are caused by one thing only – the human mind and its refusal to allow the sufferer to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. What has been seen can never be unseen. Knowing this is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it feels like Im walking through the set of The Walking Dead but along the way I’ve met some incredible people who remind me that’s all I’m doing… just walking through! Simple but rarely easy.

“In samādhi the mind becomes still. It is a state of being totally aware of the present moment; a one-pointedness of mind. It is a growing extension of the gap between thoughts and the conscious realisation of this without actually thinking about it.”

The world is full of sick people, I’m one of them. I can love them or hate them. The spiritual path tells me its better to love them and experience confirms this. Its a daily practice! I have a much deeper understanding now why I remained completely intoxicated with drink and drugs for decades. Along with why its so necessary to practice diligently what Ive learned since sobering up. If I don’t then I start buying into all the bullshit and then the dark side of me starts hinting that the crack pipe might not really be such a bad idea. The purpose of this blog has been to document all this.

Let’s take a look back…

Starting with NYC (15/9/16). Coolspring, Terrorists, Pancakes& Grits (21/9/16). Some time staying present in the big city, meeting up with mutual friends, a terrorist attack and enjoying some incredible food!

Familiar Ground (27/9/16). Connection (11/10/16). All that been back home entails after a trip to the greatest city on earth.

Onion Skin, Rehab and Parliament (11/12/16). Digging close to reality, working in a rehab and a trip to London after an invite to the House of Lords.

(5/2/17 – 9/3/17) Taking time to reflect in the posts…

Learning to let go.

Observing the illusion.

Easy does it.

Awake.

(15/3 – 14/4/17) The WordPress Challenge brought 16 posts.

My favourites been –

Taking tea with Tesla (a cuppa with anybody you choose).

On Location (write what you can see).

Just Meditation (a critique).

Zenphoric Recall was posted 18/4

Journey of a Single Step (27/4) & Process of Subtraction (25/5) were both published on the U.S Recovery Website DrunklessLife.com

Frontier (31/5) – looks at a close call and some Dejavu.

Night Watchman at the Crease (11/6) – exploring the wilderness of discomfort.

Roland (21/6) – a book review.

Seeker of Experience (29/6) – saying goodbye with a touch of Faith.

You can hear it in my accent when I talk (12/8) – back in NYC.

No Mas (25/8) – Roberto Duran with a 12 Step perspective.

Spiritual Hooligan (9/11) – the latest to date.

My Top 5

5 Thinking and Drinking with Mick & Mel (14/4/17).

4 Just for Today 24 Little Hours (6/4/17).

3 Fear (4/4/17).

2 Letter to Santa Claus (23/3/17 – its a Gratitude List).

1 Zenphoric Recall (18/4/17). Looking at even though the scars are real their influence on today in reality is nothing more than a dvd playing in the head.

As for Fresno she still out there just where I left her. Surrounded by the scorched California desert, her heart pulsing in tune with a flaming nuclear sun. Yosemite to the east and the Pacific to the west. Occupied by a massive Homeless population, some of them surviving daily battles of insane complexities. Some don’t. Alongside all this chaos half the United States’ Methamphetamine is produced and consumed. Block after block of Suburbs gives the City an eerie plastic twilight zone feeling as each resident participates in their own fresh fillet of hell. Somewhere amongst all this are certain groups and individuals who know there is a better way and battle to stay in touch with reality on a 24 hour basis – maybe down but certainly not out…in Fresno!

As for me… well I’ve had a blast.

A Zen Buddhist Poem…

“If you prefer smoke over fire

then get up now and leave.

For I do not intend to perfume

your mind’s clothing

with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.

Today I hold a flame in my left hand

and a sword in my right.

There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood

to plunder your riches and

fling you nakedly

into such breathtaking poverty

that all that will be left of you

will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame

choking on your mind.

For this is no campfire song

to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space

between thoughts

and exit this dream

before I burn the damn place down.”

“Its not a daily increase but a daily decrease, hack away the inessentials” – Bruce Lee.

“You punch like you take it up the ass” – Jake La Motta.

“Life’s tough… get a helmet” – Aiden.

D&O in Fresno.

Spiritual Hooligan

The world is insane. That’s reality! Every generation, century, millennia find their own way to both make their stamp on that and deny any responsibility. Its always the other side or somebody else’s fault. Nobody escapes this fact… nobody! Especially those who can always prove its somebody else’s fault, always have an answer why! If we spend so much time researching facts to win an argument that doesnt leave too much time to look in the mirror. Its the way it is for all of us. Escaping from reality is just another way of trying to escape from ourselves. That’s insanity!

Finding myself at a turning point five years ago I somehow sensed the root of my troubles was me. That was my first encounter with reality. Been forced to look at myself required me to deepen this sense of reality and in that I found my troubles were a lot bigger than I initialy thought. That was a real slap in the face that woke me up to the fact that shit was about to get real! I didn’t know who I was! I knew where I’d been and what I’d done. I knew I felt like a train crash and I was deeply fucked up. I had a brief understanding of who other people thought I was. But in reality I was a fucking stranger walking about in somebody else’s skin. So I had to take some time with the mirror and ask the question “Who is this fucking lunatic staring back at me through my eyes?”

What I found was, with the help of great teachers (other fuck ups who had been forced to look inside rather than keep blaming outside events), is its Ok! Let’s face it, this life doesnt come with an instruction manual. Yes we have parents. Mine are amazing people who did the best they could with what they had at the time while dealing with their own shit. I turned up looking like Christmas ticking like a time bomb! A fucking booby prize who would drag them through four decades of chaos. Stepping things up little by little as time passed.

I can blame a lot of outside events… there was a lot, a fucking hell of a lot! The peer group I grew up with were compleatly mad and dangerous. Some later proved to be a lot more than others.  School was an experience. I fought my way through it and they just kept coming and I just kept getting better at it as they did. Put in a school for delinquents where it was all about behaviour correction, and education was non existent (Wonderful opportunity has recently presented itself where I have been offered the chance to go into a similar place and talk with the kids). Fighting at the Football while been filmed getting arrested, Police getting knocked unconscious, likewise at the miners strike. Detention centres. Psychologists. Getting in trouble serving in the Forces. Sick toxic relationships. Prison. Deep periods of self imposed isolation etc etc. This list is by no means comprehensive. The abnormal became the normal. Though there was many good times and the old me still cherishes some of the fantastic friendships I made along the way the truth is this… I knew something was wrong right from the off. My earliest memory of a conscious thought was “What is it with me?” I’m talking pre school and that on its own is a very fucking strange thing for a child to think. I had no benchmark to judge this on and its not like I was going to ask somebody else. But whatever it was/is I could feel it and still can at times when I slip off the beam I’ve been walking for quite a few 24 hour periods now.  I know this as reality – not long after asking myself that question I was to encounter alcohol and something happened right there on the spot! A very small amount of alcohol for what was at that time the smallest this problem has ever been. It worked and the game began. A hooligan woke up inside me and I spent a long time trying to escape from him, escape from myself. Escape from reality. That’s insanity!

So – Fast forward to 41 and I had spent just about all my life trying to drown this mother fucker. He just keeps getting stronger and I just kept soakining him. Until I can go no further. That in itself had just about finished me off and many of the situations it took me to could have ended a lot worse than they did. Check but not quite checkmate! Back to the mirror, who am I? Am I a product of my experiences? If I am then who’s this hooligan I’ve been carrying around? I stop trying to drown him and does he go away? No! He keeps getting stronger!! I’ve had to learn to love him, that kinda confuses him. After all this time he finaly gets my attention and I accept him – me. Because of that life can be wonderful. Not constantly but a lot of the time. In a way that I thought I would find in a bottle but it wasn’t there. I was looking in the wrong place. It was always in the last place I would look. Deep inside is were I found the Great Reality. With it comes a sense of Joy.

The Ego is so powerful it can sicken the Spirit –  It can tear through our being like a tornado battening our very life force! So badly we grab for answers, always looking to cast the blame. Always looking to separate from those who we hold responsible. While the answer to the problem, for this hooligan anyways, is to look within and realise its Ok to be fucked up. We all are! I have to feed the Spirit and get it in awesome shape just to have a chance. I’ve needed a lot of help with that from those who have been put in my path to teach me cos I just didn’t know. I had accumulated a lot of messed up shit and it needed unlearning. It hasn’t been easy. At times its been by far the hardest thing ever but worth every moment.  Life is a wonderful journey of self discovery. So many people are starving to death because they are eating the menu. They don’t want to experience anything that sits outside the comfort zone. They want to run from it, like I did right from the word Go. But the Hooligan that lives in my Spirit just wouldnt let me escape… He got my attention and I know he will again if I let things slide.

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to loose” ~ Yoda.

“Im the rainbow in your jail cell every memory of everything you’ve ever smelt” ~ Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Don’t Forget Me).

“EGO – Edging God Out” ~ Annonymous.