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Here We Go Again

Three and one-half short weeks ago, I was benching my weight and doing 15 pull-ups at a go. Granted, I don’t weigh much more than a jockey holding a lapdog, but still. My steps were so surfeited with pep my feet barely grazed the ground, even when traveling somewhere undesirable, because when you’re in the condition of mind and body I was in, everyplace seems to be creaking at the seams with opportunity and possibility. 

I greeted the morning with spontaneous terpsichorean exuberance and admired in the mirror the well-developed gent with the age-defying moves cuttin’ rugs and buggin’ jitters (jittering bugs?), not feeling a bit silly. I had a job which, while not particularly rewarding financially, I enjoyed going to and performed with verve and conscientious exactitude, impressing the boss daily with my powers of recall by rolling out names and room numbers old-school and learning the various rote tasks more or less immediately (I was once clapped on the back and told Good job! [without irony] after mastering, the first time,  the extremely demanding technical challenge of setting a wake-up call for a guest, which involved mashing three or four buttons on the phone in the proper sequence. I felt, literally, like one of the special kids being given a certificate of accomplishment for not shitting on the floor), and was certain that even though I was in the very maw of the beast that is Ukiah’s Drug Problem, I was loaded up with defensive weapons and barriers enough to withstand any onslaught that great slavering needle-furred rapacious monstrosity could muster against his old cohort. 

Such an outlook flies directly into the face of the historical record as my stats indicate a relapse rate of 100%, usually the moment anyone asks me to, but I believed in myself and for a moment it seemed that confidence might not have been pure folly, that fateful day when Jimmy the Dentist came into the office with a thank-you gift  for alerting him to the managerial machinations afoot to eject him from his room for turning it into a scrap-yard. Said gift was a 1/4 oz. rock of quite the finest meth in the region. Dentists, even disgraced and desmocked ones, do not fiddle about with the heavily adulterated slapdash chemical potpourri we plebes must tolerate. They deal in weight and they go to the source. This shit, I knew long before applying torch to tool, was the bombeezy for sheezy and that’s why the fact that I took it and did not immediately hie to the bathroom filled me with so much pride and confidence. 

I called a friend who moonlights in recreational pharma and asked him to sell it for me, which he did, but oddly enough, even though that boulder was gone it was somehow still there, lodged firmly in my weakening gray matter atop an ornate pedestal, taking on epic proportions and dramatically backlit, bearing the prophetic title DOWNFALL.

Quick cut to some weeks later— truthfully, I couldn't get near an exact figure without some dogged investigation of the sort practiced but neurotic British TV detectives and I have neither the ability nor desire to do so— and the lively pre-senior has aged in a manner commensurate with progeria victims or sunlight-exposed vampires, barely able to lift his own limbs and existing in a strangulating web of pain so severe, so thoroughgoing, and so debilitating that the very act of breathing arouses six or seven impinged nerve clusters into shrieking, stabbing life, never mind walking or simple motor tasks. I cannot unscrew the top from a beverage bottle. I cannot operate a manual toothbrush. I cannot don outerwear without hanging it from a certain height, backing into it, and canting my body sidewise to slide my arms through. Every letter typed necessitates uncurling a finger from the natural claw-shape my hands have degenerated into and my speed has gone from 60 wpm to about 8, and I hope you appreciate the sacrifice. I could, of course, utilize a speech-to-text program, but that would be giving up, which I’m not going to do. 

And my brain? Well, that formerly nimble and robust organ is hobbling along at about the same rate as my ravaged physiology, and I’d say that right now I’m about as smart as a moderately gifted rhesus monkey. Don’t let the fact that I can still put together complete sentences fool you. Apparently that particular ability originates elsewhere in my body, or maybe outside of it, as Plato suggested, because when I put my hand on a doorknob I have to think for awhile about what the next step is and when I do finally arrive at whatever place is on the other side of the door I have no idea what I’m doing there. 

I think we can all agree that this is no way to live, and the fact that I—in a condition of complete sobriety, thinking clearly and rationally, voluntarily chose this path—is indicative of something amiss. I have stopped, and having gaffled up the last of my stash last night I will, after what remains in my system stops singing through my veins, commence a period of depression, inactivity, immobility, even worse pain, insatiable hunger, constipation, and worst of all, an endlessly looping litany of recrimination as I mercilessly flagellate myself for the sin of becoming the absolute worst version of me possible. 

I will be unable to take pleasure in anything at all besides sleeping, and only the fact that I know somewhere on the other side lies recuperation and redemption will keep me from dashing myself onto the rocks. Despite all this, I am going to get up every day and write a few sentences about what I’m feeling, sort of put together a real-time diary of post-binge torture, and when I have (hopefully) snapped back in a couple weeks I’ll report it all to you, lucky reader, and maybe next time I get the urge I can pull it out and reread it as a prophylactic measure. 

Whenever I write about this particular flaw in my character, which is altogether too often these days, several people always respond with words of advice and support and I would like to invite as much of that as possible, and this time I’ll try and actually use it. Apologies for more of the same old same old but the AVA is something of a shrink’s couch for me. Onward and upward.


  1. Michael koepf October 25, 2019

    Sometimes I feel sorry for this guy, sometimes I don’t, but what concerns me most is that the drug he imbibes comes from south of our border from chemicals imported from China that are turned into the poison that has screwed up his life. Concerned about the Kurds and a border in Syria? Forget about it. Bring our troops home and take care of our own.

    • H.H.Heller October 25, 2019

      Why do we not use the same reasoning with the craft brewer and the distillery for the carnage in society and on the road?

      STOP the scapegoat!

  2. Michael koepf October 25, 2019

    Interesting. But, could you please flesh out your thoughts somewhat? I’m a slow thinker.

    • H.H.Heller October 25, 2019

      Appreciate the opportunity, Michael.

      Ultimately, Flynn is responsible, and accountable for himself.

      If we make excuses for Flynn, we are enabling his addiction.

  3. Michael koepf October 25, 2019

    Yes, of course he is. Point well taken. I just wish these drugs weren’t so readily available. However, considering your point of view, if they weren’t, he would undoubtedly be a semi-articulate drunk. Frankly, I’ve come to care little for people on drugs, for they care nothing for us. Self pleasure’s their deal and nothing else.

    • H.H.Heller October 25, 2019

      Ditto for alcohol, which is also a drug.

  4. Flynn Washburne November 3, 2019

    I feel a little like a problem child being discussed in earshot, downgraded from personhood into Thing Requiring Attention, but at least we’re talking. I’d much rather the dialogue take the tone of “Hey, I hear
    Washburne’s doing great, and have you noticed the absence of self-absorbed navel-gazing in his work of late?”, but yon weighty damsel is but warming up in the wings and that thing with feathers still capable of flight. In short, don’t count me out yet.

  5. Jimbeam November 3, 2019

    Let’s call a spade a spade. It starts in kindergarten when the teacher naturally calls on and dotes on the cute as a button one in class. All the other kids have to actually pay attention and do their math problems for praise, but little gold stars come down in absolute showers for the fair hair children with toothy smiles. Flynn does have a certain way with prose. More thesaurus then thoughtful and more comic then comprehensive… But we have all seen the potential. Too many have tried to help the Flynn flam man, while ignoring the countless less verbally intoxicating intoxicated ones strewn among us in Mendo and Humboldt. He has squandered countless chances. Let’s take our open hearts and thoughtful suggestions for someone in need. Someone with less of a gift for glamorizing waste, and more of the grit it takes to overcome addiction and become a contributing member of society. Sorry Flynn, but you know, fair is fair.

  6. Flynn Washburne November 3, 2019

    Let’s us do call a spade a spade, Mr, … Beam? I can only presume from your handle and your pointless comparison that you’re one of the wet-brains stinking up my library. I get that marination in ethanol renders the gray matter a little sludgy and unfocused, leading to errant, juvenile suppositions like the above, but I put it to you, would a matador employ a hunting rifle to subdue El Toro? Would Jordan Spieth install a laser on his putter to guide the ball into the cup? Would Rick Clunn, the world’s foremost bass angler, forgo his topwater jig for a stick of dynamite? I spit on your thesaurus, Peter Roget and his entire line of descendants and antecedents, and any fool who thinks he can acquire a vocabulary using one. Mine is entirely experiential and the happy result of a lifetime reading real books by real writers. Stick to your James Patterson and stop trying to punch past your weight, little fellow.
    As to thought, one thing I did think was that I was probably about 4 when I learned to differentiate between the adverb “then”, relating to temporal distinction, and the conjunction “than”, which many people find useful in making comparisons that actually make sense, unlike yours comparing “comic” and “comprehensive”. That’s like saying “The apple was more red than square”. There must be a logical relationship linking the things compared, and anyway “comic” is kind of the idea, genius. I doubt anyone not completely out of touch with reality ever suggested that comprehensiveness should be a necessary component of a newspaper column, though I suspect you’ve conflated the definitions of comprehensive and comprehension, the latter term being your lack of whenever you peruse anything more challenging than the back of your Froot Loops box. I don’t think you would recognize an original thought if it dressed up like your mother and powdered your bottom and the sooner you leave their origination and understanding to those equipped to do so the better off we’ll all be. You are dismissed.

  7. Volt Voort November 11, 2019

    Crikey, I’ve never before beheld the irascible side of F.W., it’s rather invigorating. I’m surprised that an appeal for support has been issued, but I’ll venture into that minefield. The Stoics, Flynn. Seneca. They are superb on the subject of mastering one’s appetites. I have been reading your work for years and find myself wondering whether some part of your slip slidin’ might have to do with a belief that your prose is more scintillating when it gloriously illuminates the squalid. Frankly, those few entries about the Chipotle career and your dedication to the straight and narrow were flat and unpersuasive. The Luftwaffe vitamin, the go-go rock, that’s your beat. Do you fear that nothing else will inspire your literary genius (as a topic, I mean, not as a chemical goad)? It’s a distinct possibility, I suppose, though you’ve written eloquently about other matters. I recall, for instance, your meditations on gratitude and its expression, after you bought ice cream for those moppets.
    Anent the above comments, dishing out dollops of praise for a remarkable writer does not ‘enable’ his addiction. An intelligent and witty child is as likely to be scorned by a teacher as to become the pet. A ‘scapegoat’ is not the goat upon whom the blame is placed, the scapegoat is the one that is allowed to escape, to run free. It is the escapegoat. Best wishes, Flynn.

  8. Dee Tatched November 25, 2019

    Behold FW, the bard of go-fast
    The poet of wire
    The cantor of crank

    I wonder about the theory that the meth is coming from southern regions.

    Some of the purest crank I ever tried was made in an American university laboratory. They made pounds. It was quite the operation.

    • Lotsa Poppa June 3, 2021

      Yes. Rick Graul and his buddy Chris made lotsa crank at SF State and sold same.

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