Monday, December 5, 2022

Why we check-in with others and what the F*** does it matter?



During heat waves, cold snaps or such emergencies your local News station will advise you to check in with your elderly neighbors.  It’s important because they may be struggling (or dying) and unable to reach out for help. It’s a reminder that probably shouldn't exist. 

In my 12-Step Program, these check-ins are almost automatic. You are told to call someone else in the program every day. If you have a sponsor, you may receive a suggestion to do so with them. It helps because even if you have nothing to say. you get into the habit of doing so when there is something important that needs to come out.

I sponsored a man in 2019 I’ll call Waylon, and during that year he became an important person, and friend in my life. We would meet and have dinners, shoot b-ball, or throw around a baseball. He was full of energy, humor and just a one-of-a-kind type of guy. He showed a lot of support to me as well. We would talk every day, until the calls stopped and I would learn that it usually meant a relapse. Then. I would receive a call 6-months later and he was ready to meet up, hit a few meetings and work on his recovery.

Things got weird in 2020 for all of us, but somehow, after some time passed, we would meet up and sit outside, safely, a good 15 feet from one another. During this time, he was in-and-out of recovery, and as they say, once you go out, it’s hard to get back in. We still stayed in touch until May of this year, and then, once again the contact stopped. Often Waylon was on my mind, but I didn’t reach out, until about a month ago, but the texts weren’t returned and the calls went straight to voicemail.

This past weekend was a pretty difficult one for many personal reasons, but I’ve been told to reach out to others who may need help. Once more, I texted Waylon, and tried to call---right to voicemail again. Then I decided to just get in my car and drive to his house, thinking worst case scenario might be that he was having a hell of a relapse.  I kept having the strange feeling that it was worse, that Waylon was dead.

His girlfriend Jane answered the door, and when I asked if Waylon was there, her face dropped. “He’s not here, and oh…you haven’t heard…,” and were then, suddenly in that space. I think we all know that space where you don’t want to talk, but it’s important, painful, and awkward that you do. So, Jane and I spoke on the front steps of a house I’d been to many, many times for about twenty minutes. She told me that he didn’t die from drugs, or alcohol but from a head injury, causing a brain bleed from a fall at around 6 AM on October 23, nearly six weeks ago. The details are few, but apparently after the fall, he called the police in a very disoriented state, not knowing where he was at all. He needed their help to tell him, as he couldn’t tell them where he was, and they could not figure it out either. By the time they found him, he was unconscious and needed a MedEvac to get him into Boston. Where he was found was an area that was known to be a very rough place. He never came to. He was 42.

Would a check-in have helped? Perhaps, but only if the assumption was that the rough location was an intended place to score drugs. Even then, a check-in may not have stopped him. Still, given those low parameters, 10% of a defense, is better than zero, but I believed Jane when she said he had been doing well and was clean. I want to believe that life hadn’t taken him back to that dark place, that we all in the program know all about.

Something though didn’t feel right. The Walpole Police still have his phone and other belongings as part of an ongoing investigation. Why would that be. Perhaps Waylon was mugged and the blow to the head was not from a fall? I don’t know---and I don’t really want to know. It doesn’t matter.

When I got back home, I searched the internet to see if there had been a service or not. I found the obituary and also watched the 15-minute video of his life that was on the site. After holding it together with Jane earlier, I completely lost it and sobbed for a long time. These are the times when I usually say, "I'm broken." After, I drove to my 12-Step meeting, because that helps me not drink or use, still crying while driving. Some people at the meeting knew Waylon, but most of them asked me if it was drugs or alcohol that killed him. I found myself responding, “What the fuck does it matter?” the bluntness catching me by surprise. Honestly, it shouldn’t matter, but those in recovery want to somehow reinforce their ability to live by associating the worst of those who don’t make it. I didn’t want to talk about that specifically as I said earlier, what the fuck does it matter?

So, back to check-ins, and their importance, even if this example may not support the need for them directly. They are important! Very often we have no idea that people are struggling. Whether it be family issues, or depression—or just about anything, nothing is as important as someone reaching to see how you are doing. I know about this first hand, when I’m walking through difficult terrain, the difference in people reaching out vs. not. Nothing is worse than sitting with things by yourself, alone with them those destructive thoughts and feelings. Life is short, so mend bridges, and reach out to those you care about.

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Today I appear on Chris Joseph's Podcast: Life is a Ride---Overcoming Huge Challenges in Unconventional Ways

 Here's the Podcast on Apple 

or

Spotify so you all can listen!

I speak about Addiction, Writing, Joe the Salamander and the book due in 2023, The Best Of Timothy Gager.


The host, Chris Joseph is a very inspirational dude, who has dodged death, with his "illogical" non-wester medicine cancer treatment. I've had the pleasure to have been published by Chris in the Epiphanies Project  and interviewed him myself for the Dire Literary Series.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Surprise for 2023: Pleased to announce a new book, a "best of," (but not "essential" the way sperm is).

 I am thrilled! Big Table Publishing requested to put out a "Best of" anthology of my work, and they would select it! I said..."wow, and thanks, and can I put in some new work which would add the length of a completed new book of mostlyt unpublished poems and flash ficiton?" I also asked, "Can I changed the proposed title, and the order of the selections?" I'm a dick that way. 

They had just produced an anthology, of Doug Holder’s  greatest works, titled The Essential Doug Holder. Right after that I was asked by Big Table, my publisher of many years if I would be interested in releasing The Essential Timothy Gager, of which they would select.  To be so honored, do you think I would just go with whatever they want?  Well, it is words and the meaning of words are important, so this is where my head goes.

As defined by the Oxford Dictionay:

Essential-absolutely necessary, extremely important.

 I don’t feel essential, I never have. Food, Water, Oxygen, and Human Contact. Essential. Essential. Essential. Essential. My poems, my fiction, my excerpts. Non-essential. Non-essential. Non-essential. Important to me? Yes. Important to others? I’ve discovered there are a few people I’ve made some sort of mark on, but I’ve never been essential. I am even classified in my job as a non-essential employee, but I have essential enough to draw a paycheck for the past twenty-plus years.  My sperm may fit that description as it was essential in producing my children. That fits the definition pretty well, but, also not as a title. Also, this by no means a dig on Doug Holder, or his title because I have nothing but 100% respect for Doug.


Here is a draft of the Table of Contents - which should be close to the end product. 

 

GROUNDED, New poems, 2022

Runway

Purple Robe

Although I Never Called You Beautiful

Beach Rose

Defining Unnatural, Non-Scientific Thunder Bolts

Reversing the Rain

Window at the Oceanic Hotel

Shared Bathroom at the Oceanic Hotel

The Holy Orchestrated

365,000 Poems Written About You

A Sonnet First Seen at Walnut Street Café February 2019

The People of Star Island

Walk Until The Legs Go Numb

Denouement

Addictions

At the Farm in Elkton, Maryland In Memory of Jones Purcell

Dog On Zoom

COVID Fears

Deductions and Ends

The Suicidiversary: Years and A Day Late

Opposite Magnetic Poles

Dinner Party

Streaming While Napping

Global Conditions

Seasonal Fire Effect thoughts on The Bootleg Fire

Thoughts over the Deluge


Science

Political Climate

Occupy Forever for Blaine Hebbel

What Dante Learned

Introduction to a Séance at Turning Tables: Delphine de Girardin for Victor Hugo

The Great Appearing Act

Not Perfect Does Not Make Practice

Mutualism 

In The Obituary of Paul Felopulos

The Haunted Mile

Vaccination Extravaganza

It Happens in Spring

The Attenuation of Wide Ranges of Thoughts

Somnambulism

Nighthawks

There Once Was a Harvest

Ode to a Tree Cut Down

Can I Fly You a Drink? a found poem from an internet article with internet comments

How to Be a Werewolf

Family Silence for Sixty-Two Years

Frosting On a Barren Field

Inlet Sunset

We Are the Ones Left on the Beach For Natalie

God and You

Tuumaq

Christmas 2019

Never Heard at Home


patents held by charles h. gager and charles fowler

Father’s Day/Funeral

Sleep, My Dear Poets

Jones’ Song

Living with Rabbits

I am Alone  (Watching Bad Movies during the Pandemic)

after the movie Fathers and Daughters (Warning Spoiler Alert)

Things I May Say


How to Revise a Poem


SECRETS AND COMPARTMENTS, New flash fictions, 2019-2023

Nor’easter

The Kicker Loses the Game

Late Night TV Ad, Summer 2020


Rabbit Care

She Does (Doesn’t) Exist.

The Training of Staff

It’s a New Year

After Getting High

Can Anybody Do Anything?

Encasements, Compartments, Boxes

The Resigned Life of a Condo Trustee

The Drowning Girl

Beautiful Prayers

The New Coach

The Tinkerer

The Strength of a Single Lion (A Political Jaunt)


Airport 20/20

Annual Cookout-(sung to a nursery rhythm)


The First Four Steps Walking up a Cliff


Kill the Baby Makers

The Pillows of Society

Times Square During Lunch Hour

Predators and Prey

Perfect Crimes from an Imperfect Man

Ambien Beatle

The Cost of Love

How to Stop Birds from Flying Into Windows

Hey, Benni

I Saw Hell

The Off-Season

How You Met Your Husband

Up and Atom

Iconic Folks Talking by a Fire

Working on a Marriage

Why I am Not a Penguin

Her Hotel

Beloved Do Us Part

Poke

Becoming Ice

The Retired Poet Bought a Falafel Truck

Suggestions for My Ashes

 

from THE SAME CORNER OF THE BAR


Sitting drunk on a cooler in my backyard

Arlington Catholic

A Do-Dah-Day

The same corner of the Bar

What were you doing when the Towers Fell?

Insect

 

 

from WE NEEDED A NIGHT OUT 

My Heart the Car

Liquid

Thoughts While Driving

Rorschach while looking at the Clouds

I Need Enemies

SEVEN (for my boy)

Giving Myself a Haircut

 

from THIS IS WHERE YOU GO WHEN YOU ARE GONE

 

Rabbit Maranville

I've Drunk The Holidays

My Uncle Coming Back from Vietnam with a Stump

Disowned by most of The Family

Waking up around noon

reply to someone who said my poems are all sad

your personal ground zero for Franz Wright’s writer’s block


 

from THESE POEMS ARE NOT PINK CLOUDS

Hit the road now Jack

Once Upon an Ocean Town

On the way home from Maine, 1970

Summer Job, Concord, Ma.

Somewhere South

my dear god, we are all so small

Night in New York City

The Things I’d Say

 

 

from TREATING A SICK ANIMAL

 

Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare

Hidden Hoboken

Your Vasectomy Journal

Punchless Jimmy Collins

The Top of Grace’s Upper Lip

Just Dessert

The Short Marriage of a Bride and Groom

 

ESSAY

Experience, Strength, and Hope


 

from ANTI-SOCIAL NETWORK

Mid-Life Diner


Like the Moths in the Night


The Enabler


April Ends


Recipe for a Great Poem for the poet Kenneth Clark


Ode to the Wormwood


When It is Still Winter


at eleven-fifty-nine

 


ESSAY

A Bit On The Bombing

 

from THE SHUTTING DOOR


Walking Out of the Woods

I have mostly Nightmares

The Shutting Door 

Missteps

You Knew Me Before

The poems at my House

Meeting with Father Vincent

When you live by Yourself


from CHIEF JAY STRONGBOW IS REAL


Throw Certainty Out in the Air like a Lasso Reflections on Alton Sterling

Didn’t see it Before I Stepped in it

Prayer By a Stream

Sobriety

How We Exist

This is where I Am (when here)

A Poem For Forever

Unfit Father

Cross Country Family Vacation

When I Think of my Childhood

Hot Biscuits, Country Ham at The Loveless Motel

There’s A Fly in My Soup

 

 

NOVEL EXCERT  from THE THURSDAY APPOINTMENTS OF BILL SLOAN


Inside the Mind of Brad’s Therapist

 

 

NOVEL EXCERPT from GRAND SLAMS: A COMING OF EGGS STORY

 

Kayak Kenny

 

 

from EVERYDAY THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT ELEPHANTS

Jack

How Penguins Break

What Are The Reasons They Hang On?

How Do You Love a Capitalist?

I Look At You Through Glass and Water

Full Moon

If We Don’t Think, We Will Sleep

Everyday There is so Much About Elephants

  

from SPREADING LIKE WILDFLOWERS

Bromley’s Funeral Home

The Miracles of Recovery

Still There Are Boxes

Faith

At a Cookout for Poets

How to Unring a Bell


 

from 2020 POEMS

 

21 Lines / 2020 / Covid 19

Guesses From a Stable Genius

Kleptoparasitic

Unformed Relief

reply to someone who said you should write a poem about her

When You Have This Connection

Long Distance Thinking

Ballet of Surrender

ESSAY

It Sucks Getting Old

  

NOVEL EXCERPT from JOE THE SALAMANDER

 

Adrian’s Prologue



Friday, November 4, 2022

12 Years Sober on Sunday, and no longer out in the cold.

These are my actual chips. They can be yours
      
This one not mine, but it's pretty fancy
      
Like Pokemon, you gotta catch them all, right?  I save every chip--going back to the 24-hour one. the monthly colored ones, and the yearly medallions. 
It's a good reminder  to suit up, show up and to re-enlist daily.
For me, this means every day, but that's my choice 

       

     

     The early chips I have kept, light in weight, big in color, are a reminder that I had to go back to keeping it all in the day many, many times this year (this week even). Bottom line is 2022 was kind of a dick. Many days felt really dark. My dad died in March, a relationship which was important to me had a change in status, and  my pet also passed.  All pretty devastating. Nearly everything that helped get me through the pandemic disappeared in some form or another---so now that the pandemic is "gone," I'm a little bit lost on life's baseline. Nothing is the same. 

      I  also had some medical shit, so there are changes around that too.  I'm tired both physically and mentally --- I'm fucking lonely a lot of the time. 

     Would I like these things to be different?  Of course, as they all cycled up and had an effect, but even though it was a challenging year for my sobriety, I made it. Yes, 2022 was an asshole! Relief was hard to find, especially after years of finding it in unhealthy ways. 

         So, woe is me?

         I didn't take a drink or a drug over any of it, nor do I want to because I now have a good life--something I didn't have on November 6, 2010. I have a roof over my head, I have food, I wrote a book in the last year, Joe the Salamander, which I'm proud of--and may have another life in another streaming form. My kids are healthy, my son got engaged, and I took a few trips too. I have a therapist. I have a sponsor. blah-dy-blah-dy-blah

      I have a lot of gratitude for my life.  I hope the next year is better, but if it's not, I have 365 days until I post about 13 years, because there is no guarantee that I can go even one day if I decide that my solution to stress, anxiety, a dick of a year can be found in some Johnny Walker Black. 

Here is my progression (in metaphor) of my drinking:

It all used to work--even when I was still using the way I did in college years later. (Sign Post: If you are 10-15 years out of college and are still drinking the same way or worse, it might indicate something).

1) It's still workingI go out wearing a coat, bringing my keys and letting myself back in. 

2) I think it's still workingI go out sometimes wearing a coat, sometimes losing my keys, and have to bother people to open the door at the end of the night. 

3)  It's not working and I don't give a fuck about anyone elseI go out never wearing a coat, and now it's freezing,  always losing my keys and banging on the door, sometimes for a long time and people are tired of letting me in. 

4) It's not working and I cannot stop doing it while not giving a fuck about anything: I go out, no coat and it's below freezing, no keys and people are no longer there at the house to let me in. I find it to be ok sleeping outside on the porch, after all, I deserve it. 

     Twelve years ago, on November 6,  I decided against the next number. Number 5

 5.) Hospitalization from frostbite or death by hypothermia.  No coat, no keys, no people, and this strange feeling of warmth...all I have to do is close my eyes.

     Finally, I had Hope.  There is some hope for anyone who could use some There are people out there, many needing help. Some of them I care about, and I've been saving a seat right next to me.  Besides saving seats, my people all are willing to help. I heard a story from a friend who knew someone struggling and they couldn't believe I would be willing to point them in the right direction. But it's not only me.  There are thousands of us out there willing to help, so if things are getting out of control, please find someone you know who knows what to do---and if you don't know what to do, reach out to me, I'm available unconditionally. 

\This one is not me, but note the faint resemblance 




Saturday, October 29, 2022

Joy-Avoidance. Spirtuality, Social Media, and Salem Massachusetts on Halloween

Recently a woman in my writing group said, “You guys are the absolute joy in my life,” which got me thinking. Certainly, she has had other greatest joys in her life, and I understand the hyperbole, but it made me consider the joy, in general, found in life.

                 Through personal experience joy is often found avoidance. It is the avoidance of the day-to-day redundancy, where we must seek endorphins to get through it.  Not that all avoidances are bad, but some are. Alcoholics and drug addicts come into the destructive aspects of this avoidance, while non-problem drinkers, thrill seekers, meditators and nature lovers do not. There is joy found in books, streaming shows, relationships, growth/self-improvement and in travel. Sometimes joy is captured in just being a part of, or making yourself a part of a larger group.

 
 Social media encourages this part, only showing people smack in the middle of everything joyful in life, or so it seems---make sure you, "take a picture it will last longer," but ‘only showing’ would be the key word in this paragraph.

We have to be a part of. Endorphins thrive on it. There is an interesting phenomenon here in Massachusetts every October. It  is people traveling to Salem for Halloween season from all over the state, and country. The town even has a clever moniker, “Witch City,” and hell if that doesn’t sound like a theme park.  Actually, it is kind of a theme park because people flock there in October as if it’s Disney World. An estimated 100,000 people travel daily to this small town to mingle around, wear costumes, or witch’s hats, to take in everything spooky or surreal. The town embraces this, because as we know, tourism equals money. We also know the true meaning behind Halloween has nothing to do with candy, just as the true meaning of events and witches in Salem has nothing to do with black hats, getting drunk and dressing up like Beetle Juice. Salem, though, certainly embraces this heritage with witchcraft shops, live mascots, which cross over to the High School and even the Police Department.  


                        The reality of it is that Salem is famous for the Witch Trials which took place in the 17th Century which took the lives of over twenty innocent women. Most likely they were not witches, and more likely the victims may have had untreated seizure disorders, mental illnesses, and panic attacks—all things we understand today. For these medical issues, they were put to death, and this is something celebrated today. Imagine some sort of theme park three hundred years from now which might celebrate people who were put to death in Waco, Texas, at David Koresh’s compound, or the mass suicide hosted by Jim Jones from the People’s Church in the 1970s. Would we be angry at the thought of hundreds of thousands of members of not just the al Quada flocking to New York for a month-long celebration? I don’t think we are far off from anything this ghastly at any point in our future, but don't underestimate the sewer of which we call society now and where it may head to. 

           Today, off Charter Street, in Salem, there is a modest, yet dramatic memorial to the victims of the Witch Trials, but on social-media we see people posing next to the statue of Samantha from Bewitched. People get joy from this pop-recognition, not just from forming alliance with a television icon, but more so to be a part of the “It”.  

***

         So back to endorphins and Joy-Avoidance.  Romantic relationships fit the bill of avoiding boring day-to-day life as well. Seems like many of us can’t sit on our own for one damn second without being having to be in one—as they complete us, right?  We are either a part of or not a part of, good, or bad, when society measures us based on this one choice. Make the choice to be in a relationship and then only showing the joy of it in social media, then others can see what a good choice you’ve made. ‘Showing’ being the key word in that sentence.. 

            Now back to the Joy, the one with the capital “J”.

Like the phrase, "Find Your Joy," JOY is in the eye of the beholder. Life offers choices and outcomes.  It certainly relates to how people find joy in spirituality and organized religion. I’ve heard people say they speak to God, personify Him and speak of Him being their best friend. I’ve heard others talk about leaving their bodies during Transcendental Meditation, while in other sects, it is the care for the living Earth as central to the lives of all people.

You have the right to choose who you want to be and what to belong to, and also who are the ones that make you feel a part of. Spirituality often indicates growth and inner-peace but it is also a wonderful, often fulfilling avoidance, again from the boring and even troubling aspects of our society. We reach for all of these Joy-Avoidances because both Joy and Avoidance are holding one another’s hand. Without Joy-Avoidance it’s difficult to deal with what are we are actually left with, which is this thing we call life.