One Week in Phoenix

I arrived in Phoenix a week ago today and all seems to be going well. The weather has been really nice mid 70s – 90s and all of it comfortable heat – everyone keeps telling me I’ll wish I had never moved her in the summer.

My one bedroom apartment is really all that I need and moving in means I had to do some shopping. I’d go buy all the important things like the shower curtain and liner and not realize until I arrived home that I forgot the shower curtain rings and i’d run out again to get those and remember a slew of other things too. At this moment I think I have almost everything I need – maybe I could use a frying pan and a spatula… but I’ll be ok for a good while. For the first few days I didn’t do a lot outside of shopping, eating and driving around – oh, and I tanned by the pool every day, which is really a nice thing to be able to do.

Everything is cheaper here – except gas. It’s an amazing concept, but when people make less money they have to sell things for less i guess.

I didn’t have my Passport, which I need to get an AZ license, until yesterday (I shipped it UPS instead of taking it with me like a doofus) so I don’t have that yet. I do have a nice car that is quiet and gets me from A – Z very well. The amount of emails I’m getting now from Allstate and  VW makes me wish I had stayed carless. I’m sure I’ll figure out the settings for that soon.

I tried out two meetings so far, one on Thursday night and one on Sunday. Each had things that I liked about it and each had things I didn’t – the Thursday night step study was the winner so far, I plan to keep looking but that one is close and the people friendly.

Monday was the first day of work so of course I didn’t sleep well. I was at work at 7:00 – a 15 minute car ride and my day starts at 7:30 there. The boss and the other new person were there to meet me and they showed us the ropes of how to open up (making coffee, drawing drapes, turning on the printer) and before you knew it we were taking notes in the board meeting. To be honest I didn’t take many notes I was really interested in what they were talking about. For lunch the boss got us tacos and burritos. The day went by really fast and before I knew it it was quitting time – 4:00 p.m. It had been a really great day and then I checked my voicemail (See this story).  So it was an up and down day mostly up.

My Desk at Work

My Desk at Work

Tuesday I spent good quality time with my boss going over how I’m going to help her – she’s never had an assistant before and she’s excited and wary about it. I put some of those cares to rest right away by giving here items that she had been expecting but didn’t ask me for and then pointed out three errors on the website and in email signatures that should be addressed ASAP. They said the appreciated it I hope so I was only trying to help and get used to everything.

Wednesday, today I started to discover how unorganized the office is – there are all kinds of documents in the “Forms” folder that don’t resemble forms at all and the “Inventory” folder has mostly letters about events. *sigh* Well at least I wont be bored.

My protector at work

My protector at work

As it stands today I’m pretty happy here in AZ. I know the weather will change and the job will get incredibly busy in the summer – but i’m ready.

Donnell and Superman

From 2000 – 2005 I worked at Children’s National Medical Center in a few departments that focused on HIV/AIDS. I don’t do hospitals well, I’m squeamish (see this story) but working behind a computer is easy regardless of where the computer is so it wasn’t an issue as long as I didn’t have to look at tubes and blood and stuff… ewww.

One of the nurses I worked with, Christy, had been working with one particular kid since he was born. His name was Donnell and he was born with HIV. Donnell was around 7 years old the first time I met him. He had come up to our floor with the purpose of seeing Christy and peeked his head around the corner of my cubicle shyly and then ran away, he was soon back and played with the Superman toys I had on my desk, but he was very shy. At that time I still had some hair – I know hard to believe – and I was wearing thick framed glasses in a Clark Kent style. Donnell convinced himself that I was really Superman. I think back then he honestly believed it and who was I to deny a kid a dream.

Every time Donnell came to the hospital he would ask his nurse, Ms Campbell, if he could see Superman and I would drop whatever I was doing and spend hours with that little boy. We’d run up and down the hallways and visit strange areas and he’s always ask me when I would take him flying. I… sorry it’s hard to think about. He was always so happy to see me and he became a bright spot in my every day life.

Donnell called me Superman and other people started to call me Superman and that’s why I decided on the Superman tattoo I had done when I turned 10 years sober in 2004. Donnell thought it was pretty cool when I showed it too him and it still is today when I look at it.

He invited me a few years later to his graduation from elementary school (I think) and I was a little wary about going to Anacostia but I did anyway. He ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug that day and it was so cool to see him all dressed up and progressing. I was always asking him about school and trying to encourage him to study and try harder – emphasizing the importance of a good education, even if it was boring.

I usually go to Ft Lauderdale for my birthday in December but the year I didn’t I was in the hospital when Donnell came to the emergency room. I went to spend the day with him while they tried to figure out what was wrong. Turns out he had a brain tumor the size of a small orange in his head and they had to operate. I was with him and his family up until they took him into surgery. It was so scary, I remember being a big teary mess that day too. In spite of my squeamishness I visited him in his room every day until he was released, I even came in on a Saturday.

When I left Childrens I lost touch with Donnell, I would hear once in a while from friends that they had seen him at the hospital, but I myself hadn’t seen him since then. I often wondered how he was doing and if he had gotten into college yet.

Today he suffered a stroke, his mom found him and they resuscitated him twice before letting him go. I hear he had been doing really well on his medications and the future looked bright.

I’ve cried a few times tonight about this, a lot about time lost because I was too busy to stay in touch. A lot because he was such a good kid and he loved so many people with such a big heart.

Mostly today I wish I had been able to fly and give him that one thing – maybe now he can fly. Maybe now he has wings – if you believe that type of thing, and I”m not sure I do – if there is one man who deserves to fly it’s him… I’ll miss you Donnell, thank you for loving me .

Fahrman Flyer

Several years ago I used to write a weekly newsletter for residents in an inpatient treatment center. I’m packing so I scanned them and can toss em and still have them – I really love technology.

 

Here’s a sample:

 

Fahrman Flyer

 

It’s not Pulitzer worthy but hey, I enjoyed writing it back in the day.

My Experiences with DC AA

Lets be honest: I come from a different place filled with hard nosed, tradition preaching, big book thumping recovery. I recall an old friend in the program, Buck C. (who passed a few years back) who had come to the Eau Claire area from the south and struggled mightily with AA up there.  Each group is autonomous everywhere you go, you don’t realize how autonomous until you get out of your comfort zone.

One of the first meetings I attended in DC was at the Dupont Circle Club, I think on a Saturday back in 1998. Typical AA clubhouse with smokers out front blocking the entrance, old friends chatting away about what’s going on and a few solo folks like myself trying to figure out where to sit. The most shocking part of the meeting was during the reading of “How It Works” when everyone in the room started to chant along to the steps being read, I started laughing (I still chuckle every time I hear this). Then the meeting was filled with mostly bad day stuff – it was a topic meeting after all. But a few people talked recovery and I came back a few days later and had the same experience and those same people were talking solution. I asked one of them to be my sponsor here and he agreed and told me I had to call him every day. “Every day?” I asked, “yes, he said, that’s the deal”. This seemed like a pretty stupid thing to do for someone who was three years sober, but I did honestly try to do this for a few days. Eventually I gave up on that and just didn’t call him again.

I had never been to a Gay AA meeting up to this point and decided to try one out and this time I thought I should find a Step or Big Book meeting. I found a Wednesday night gay 12×12 meeting and gave it a try. One thing about Gay AA is all the eye candy, but at that time i was pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing. I sat in the back and thought the meeting was just ok. I was planning to sneak out when the guy next to me said “you’re new here”.

That was Michael K and he was the only person to talk to me at that meeting – that’s why I asked him to be my sponsor. He never did ask me to call him every day or I don’t think once a week. He ended up being just what i needed at the time to acclimate to gay culture and stay in AA. (He’s also a StarTrek fan so that helped a lot). He suggested I do thing reluctantly and I did them, usually “fun” social activities with peers – eeeewww. Michael is my friend today and we still talk a lot about everything, though not as often as we used to.

I attended that Wednesday night meeting and a Sunday morning meeting both gay meetings pretty regularly and made some friends in there. Some of those friends are still friends today, most are just acquaintances – hard to maintain friendships if I don’t see them and I don’t go to those meetings regularly at all. I was at the Wednesday night meeting after I found out my Ma had breast cancer and I shared in that meeting that I “felt like such a pussy” and you should have seen the hackles that were raised on the lesbians… wow. This was also a time when, mostly the lesbians, would try to make all the readings gender neutral and replace “Him” “He” “His” “Men” and anything else with “Him/Her” or some gender neutral term – I found it annoying.

I really missed having a good Big Book meeting to attend and all the ones I would try to attend were reading the stories in the back or really just bad day meetings with a Big Book name. So a few months before 9/11 I attempted to start a new meeting based on the format of a group I attended in WI on Monday nights. I had a lot of people interested in it and about 10 people were at the first few meetings. It was a rather strict format and people were asked to stay on the subject of what was read – what happened was people got upset who came because they wanted to talk about what happened to them that day and the group felt they should be allowed to. That ended my experiment with creating a Big Book meeting here (or so I thought).

Many years ago in WI someone told me I have no tact. That seems pretty accurate.

In meetings I would frequently speak out against things I considered to be inaccurate or complete bullshit – like “Pills are just dry alcohol so feel free to talk about whatever you need to, it’s all the same.” and I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut and it would show that I would be visibly upset about it. At a business meeting for the Wednesday night meeting I suggested we read the Traditions more frequently (they read three at one meeting at the end of the 12 Step cycle) it was not taken as a good suggestion, this is what they’ve done for years why change now. Open minds I could not find, or so it seemed.

I also tend to think a lot of the talk in Gay AA is “I drank the way I did because I was gay”. But I believe that alcoholics drink they way they do because they are alcoholics – gay, straight, bi whatever.

I started to branch out and look for other meetings. A meeting close to home was labeled a “big book” meeting but when I went there were no books in sight – there were lots of  women and the goal apparently was to have a more horrible story than the woman before you and get lots of “Amen”s. I found my way to the West Side Club, a “Big Book” meeting there was discovered to not actually be anymore, but it was suggested I try out the Sunday morning meeting there and I did. I discovered that I rather liked it – still not a lot of book or tradition talk or practice that I could make out, but the folks were friendly and once in a while you could hear someone talk about their experience with the steps and/or how their sponsor took them through the book and how important it was.

That’s a recurring thing here – I can go to a meeting every day and hear days and days of crap, but once in a while someone comes through and shines with a real message of hope and expressing the promise that the program of recovery offers. My problem is I don’t think we should have to wade through all that shit to see hope – and newcomers especially need to have a clear path with directions.

Eventually I gave up on the gay meetings altogether. I did go to the Florida Round Up one year despite myself, I had told myself that contempt of it … well contempt prior to investigation is a bad thing – There main speaker had several decades of time, but her talk consisted almost entirely of her relationship with her lover and very little program of action.

I subscribed to a few Speaker of the Month CDs and those helped to sustain me when I’d get discouraged about the whole scene here. I have had social workers and psychiatrists friends tell me that some of their clients find the same lack of real recovery here compared to where they were from.

After a low time in my spiritual life (see story here) I asked a man from gay AA to sponsor me. He had what I wanted, but I couldn’t describe it then… I think it’s serenity. He’s a calming that I needed. I also found my way back to some gay AA meetings, but it hadn’t changed either. The people were a help – comforting to be around some friendly faces.

I had been tattooed by my artist a few times, including the circle and triangle symbol of AA on my leg, and he never mentioned that he was in AA until the fall of 2011 (to be honest one of the guys in the shop outed him a few months earlier but it was none of my business). I whine a lot about AA, when you’re getting tattooed you have a lot of time to talk and need topics… AA is a big part of my life (I want to say “AA is my life” but I think I could do more than I’m doing so I’m not going to say that). He suggested I attend a meeting on Saturday that he found tolerable and there were others that were talking real recovery there too… I’ve told this story recently here but will share a bit here too.

I found a group of folks that also got sober outside of DC, struggling with the same things I’d been struggling with for so long. Those people became my friends, I’m very lucky to have those handful of people in my life – they are shining beacons of hope for people suffering from alcoholism here in DC. We became a group, then we formed a meeting, now we’re paving a road of happy destiny together (well I’m moving and abandoning them all, but I wish i could take them with me).

I’ve said it a few times before, there is a serious lack of the practice of the Traditions here – I think that’s part of the problem. There is also this need in the city to be politically correct and not hurt anyones feelings – which is scary. Time after time after time the chronic relapsers struggle on, but don’t change a thing about their journey – they get the same sponsor they go to the same meetings, they come and they share about how terrible life is or that their cat died or, my favorite, what they told their therapist today.

“The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Chapter 2, “There is a Solution”, Page 17

Nowhere in our text book (the first 164 pages in the Big Book) does it suggest “just come talk about whatever” or “take what you want and leave the rest”. It says we have a common solution, a way out. I worry about the health of AA, we were given the Traditions – ok, maybe Bill forced them on us, but they’re very good tools to keep us whole and let this program be here for several generations to come.

My current home group, the Tuesday Night 7:15 Big Book Study is the best meeting in the city. If I thought otherwise I’d have a different home group. I hope, if you read this, you think about your group and ask yourself if you’re having to wade through shit to find the gems of recovery at each meeting or if its a gleaming diamond with a few flaws now and then.

When I get to Phoenix and try out the AA there chances are it wont be like Eau Claire WI nor like DC nor anywhere else that I’ve been, but I’m going to go and spread the message that was so freely given to me by others. And I’m going to ruffle some feather, mostly cause I have no tact.

One last thing: When’s the last time your group did a group inventory? Ask your old-timers.

Here’s a link to it: http://www.thejaywalker.com/images/Group_Inventory-8_2005.pdf

I’m happy that I got to meet some great people in the AA here, but I would have been happier to see some with programs that I’d admire or desire.

My Time and Work in DC

I came to Washington, DC from Eau Claire, Wisconsin back in 1998 at the suggestion of a friend – my goal back then was California and warmth and I was assured DC was warmer than WI (part of the reason I believe in global warming as this hasn’t really been the case most of the winters I’ve been here). I helped a friends fiancé load up the moving truck with her stuff and my stuff and he and I drove out to DC (MD suburbs really) with one stop in OH on the way.  I’d been to Los Angeles before but DC traffic seemed overwhelming to me just that day.

The internet was rather new back then and I found gay chat rooms fascinating here and met my roommate on one. He convinced me to come into the city and I had to take the metro – I was so scared about taking the metro by myself – which side of the tracks is the train I want? (Shady Grove it doesn’t matter, but I didn’t know that then). It shocked me to see people sleeping on the train, wasn’t that dangerous – everyone looked scary [please note, I’m from very white, very Lutheran WI].

My first job was a temp job with Atlantic States Fisheries Commission on H downtown, it was so cool to be in a city with all the cars and tall building and people everywhere. Sadly they were paying me around $8 an hour and that wasn’t enough back then for here – would have been great in WI really. I took a position at BET with a temp agency but didn’t even last the whole day – I was unprepared for the attitude and awkwardness being almost the only white guy there.

It was culture shock seeing people of different races not just everywhere but holding hands with other races and, gasp, in the open too. The most I’d been exposed to other races was the Cosby show and that didn’t do a good job getting me ready for the real world.

A different temp agency got me a job at ARVO (the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) which at the time was located near NIH. That job stuck and I worked there for a little over two years and liked it. I was at their convention working on my 4th AA birthday and oh so tired from being on my feet all day.  I met some nice people there and learned a lot about databases and membership issues.  But I really wanted to work in the city. I brought my cat Q home on the subway after work one day from out there.

An AA member gave me the heads up on his job, he was vacating and suggested I should apply. So that’s how I became the data manager for a grant at Children’s National Medical Center – not really what I would consider “in the city” but it was nice. I remember that I was so convinced I wouldn’t get the job because I had forgotten to wear my belt during the interview – it’s that a weird thought to have? I did get the job and before I knew it my supervisor was replaced by Julie Ziegler – who I wasn’t too sure of, but she became one of my best friends (unless she’s pregnant then I really cant recommend staying away from her enough 🙂 ). I worked with a great team of nurses: Kristy, Jean and Zelda and a became a part of a huge team of people that worked on those same type of grants. I was with those folks on 9/11 and our offices were on the top floor of CNMC and we could see the pillars of smoke from the Pentagon where the plane hit. Zelda, Waldo and I were out smoking on the room talking about things and heard jets fly close. We watched that terror unfold on the internet and bonded those people to me if they weren’t already bonded. There are things that happened with them that matter so very much to me – Mrs. Doubtfire comes to mind. Eventually Julie left and I think the grant changed a bit and I took a job within the same department and got to know even more wonderful people – Michelle, Ann, Debra, Donna, Sonia, Kim, Chen (I miss you Chen), Denise, Phyllis, Maryanne, Mary Lou (good bye heart), Dr. D., Angela… so many people that are so very warm-hearted.

In the year 2005 a lot of things happened, Donna M introduced me to World of Warcraft (some day I might sue), I quit smoking, Ann retired and I decided to go back to school to prove to myself that I wasn’t stupid. I moved to Virginia Beach near my best friend Suzanne and went back to school for a year at Tidewater Community College. I did really well and loved learning. I loved writing for people that graded me and advised me what to do. I had two stories published in the Annual Journal for the school and managed to get a 3.8 – who knew?  Sadly, there is no money in school so I was quickly out of funds and paying out of state tuition. So I came back to DC.

My roommate Gary was unsuccessful finding a new roommate so I moved right back in with the cats. I worked a temp job for a few months at National Association of Home Builders as an admin type and really liked it. I was only there a brief time but they liked the way I did something’s and implemented them into their regular routine. While I was there I interviewed with Ann’s husband for an Office Manager job in Takoma Park – Ann’s husband liked the way I helped Ann and she talked well of me. The interview didn’t go well, one of the owners asked me why he got so many Viagra ads in his email and I answered simply “it’s the sites you visit” which outraged him.. but it’s true, if you go to a site and enter an advanced age and that your male and that site sells the info to others then yes, you’ll be spammed with Viagra ads. I was disappointed I didn’t get the job but was happy to still be at NAHB – then I received a call from them and while I didn’t get the OM job they did want me to come be an Admin for the OM.

I was a really good Admin there and the OM they hired spent most of her time on the phone or taking long lunches – it was noticed and before I knew it they offered me the OM job and let her go. That was a fun job and I made friendships with some good people and made very good money. I was asked to be part of the management team to help make decisions for the good of the firm and that was fun until one of the partners seemed to lose his shit and started doing insane things. I was planning my exit when my friend Jim was terminated – I advised against it and tried to talk the other owner out of it so many times and on so many levels but he couldn’t see his way to not.

I gave 30 days notice at the beginning of 2008 and was fired a few days later J. Jim and I then started our firm Access-Ability Consultants, Inc. with a commitment to give it five years and see what happened.  (I wrote about all that recently you can read it here)

I’ve wanted to be somewhere warmer for quite a while now and this job in Phoenix appears to be my ticket out of here. I’ve learned a lot here that I probably wouldn’t have learned in WI on how to be a good worker and what’s expected of me and usually think there is a different mindset to workers here than there in in WI or maybe it’s a factory vs office mentality. I’m not sure. Every position I’ve had here has been good to me, even my one day at BET was a lesson to be learned about who I am and not taking things too seriously.

I’ll miss the Metro, the celebrities, the politicians and the very openly gay city and a few select people (the list does seem to grow more every day) that I consider friends.

Leaving Pussy Behind

In thinking about moving to the other side of the country the thought of my cat Mouse came up frequently. On a previous move just a few hours away she was traumatized and never felt safe in the new apartment. I wasn’t sure how she’d do on a plane or a car across the country.

So I asked the roommate how he felt about keeping the kitty and he has agreed – she loves him and he her so it works out. He spoils her with salmon and shrimp from his own plate on occasions.

So I decided to leave her here and I’m sad about that. IMG_2107