Archive for the ‘Alcoholism’ Category

Gavin Newsom continues to reveal his lack of judgment and absolute insensitivity to the feelings of those he has harmed.

His newest revelation about his affair with the wife of his campaign manager appeared in Details Magazine in response to a question about his lowest point. Here’s the money transaction:

Details: Was your lowest moment in 2007—after news of your affair broke?

Newsom:  No—not even close. There was clarity then. Honestly, the things that have hit me the most—I’ve been at some homicide scenes that were much more devastating.

Let me see if I understand this. His betrayal of his best friend and campaign manager and the destruction of his family don’t even come close to being the lowest moment in his life. He places more value on a deceased person he doesn’t know than on living humans. By his own words, he characterizes his betrayal as virtually nonexistent in the scheme of life’s low points.

One wonders, if the revelation of his affair was “not even close” to his life’s lowest point, how many other low points rank ahead of it. Two, five, ten? What were those higher ranking happenings: snubbed in the 4th grade by the plainest girl in class? Petulant because Alex and Ruby aren’t still campaigning for him?  The beat goes on.

Contrast Newson’s trivialization of his betrayal (not even close to being his lowest moment) to recent statements by Patti Solomon in The San Francisco Weekly. Solomon, a former receptionist for Newsom’s campaign organization and a close friend of Ruby, said Ruby has struggled immensely. “She lost her husband. Her job. Her identity…She’s working on getting that back…She did get the shaft really bad.”

Her words verify the devastating aftermath of the affair and its effects on Ruby and her family. Moreover, it is clear from Solomon’s statement that Ruby, unlike Newsom, feels an almost overwhelming sense of guilt and remorse.

On the other hand, Newsom suffered no repercussions from the betrayal of his former best friend.  In fact, his fortunes have sailed to new heights. He was reelected Mayor of San Francisco with 73 percent of the votes cast. And recently, he received the endorsement of Bill Clinton, a major money raiser for Democratic politicians.

Still, the cruelest aspect of the entire matter is Newsom’s failure to acknowledge the harm he has caused to others. He continues to trivialize his betrayal and its devastating effects on innocent people.


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A slew of those 25 things clones is making the rounds. The latest is a series of 25 questions we’re supposed to answer Yes or No to without additional comment. The questions are kind of personal, and I have a hunch a sedate housewife or a CEO might be reluctant to answer some of them. Here’s an example followed by my response:

Have you ever held a snake?

Me: That kind of depends on the whether we’re talking reptilian snakes or the human variety, although the similarities are often striking.

The Snake thing is included in a set making the rounds on Facebook. With certain deletions and additions to spice up the list, here’s my version of the game, along with my answers.

Have you ever?

Kissed any one of your Facebook friends? Depends on the kind of kiss we’re talking about. I have relatives who are my Facebook Friends.

Been arrested? YES and spent two hours in the coldest jail in Asia before I was released in the middle of nowhere on a night with the lowest temperature ever recorded in the history of temperatures.

Kissed someone you didn’t like? Well, I liked them before the kiss…..

Slept in until 5 PM? Only when I was too drunk to move.

Fallen asleep at work/school? This is no problem for me. I’ve learned to sleep sitting up with my eyes open.

Done it in the men’s restroom while your friends were dining in the main dining room? At a Jack in the Box in Okaland.

Ran a red light? On Van Ness near City Hall, right in front of a San Francisco motorcycle officer. The son of a bitch followed me into a parking garage and gave me a ticket.

Been suspended from school? YES, for slapping my hand on my desk and accusing the kid next to me of making me hold my nose.

Totaled your car/motorbike? YES, twice, but only one was my fault.

Sang karaoke? Is it spelled right? There’s a Latin melody called Carioca.

Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t? Every day of my conscious life.

Did it standing up while watching a baseball game in Giants stadium? Isn’t that what the 7th inning stretch is all about?

Caught a snowflake on your private parts? Only when caught in a sudden blizzard.

Kissed in the rain? YES. We were riding across the desert when a thunderstorm blew over and forced our lips together. My horse didn’t like that at all.

Sang in the shower? No, but I tuned my electric guitar once. Once.

Sat on a rooftop? YES, but they hauled me away, Santa Claus costume and all.

Been pushed off of a thousand foot cliff while nude? Yes

Broken a bone? A few wishbones, but my wishes never came true.

Shaved your head? NO. The barber in basic training handled my sartorial needs.

Blacked out? Only when my alcoholic consumption rendered me unconscious.

Played a prank on someone? Once signed up a friend for a correspondence course.

Felt like killing someone? No, just waterboarding them for an eternity.

Made your girlfriend/boyfriend cry? A couple of times when I couldn’t pay for dinner and she had to ante up $115.49.

Had Mexican jumping beans for pets? With tortillas a few times.

Been in a band? I was drummed out of my first grade rhythm band on the first day of practice.

Shot a gun? Many times. I shot my best friend in his right leg one day. My mistake devastated me until I learned he had shot himself in the hand with a German Luger.

Tripped on mushrooms? Not sure. Are you talking about those big round mushrooms vegans use as a meat substitute?

Donated Blood? They never explained why I wasn’t qualified.

Eaten alligator meat? This is another “not sure questions.” A cousin worked in a sausage factory, and he told me they throw everything in the grinder, including alligators.

Eaten cheesecake? Oh, God, YES! With blueberry jam.

Still love someone you shouldn’t? My pet pig, Rosie.

Think about the future? Only when someone asks me this damned question.

Believe in love? Occasionally, when under the influence of something.

Sleep on a certain side of the bed? No. It’s all mine.

Now it’s your turn. Be honest now. That’s the whole point of the game. Relationships are built on honesty. Unless dishonesty is called for.

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Today is the first day of another year in our system of calculating the passage of time from the death of Jesus Christ until, well, now. By that reckoning, humans have been actively engaged in counting days, weeks, months, and years for 2008 years. And at the stroke of midnight last night, they began counting again. Humans are, if nothing else, prone to redundancies.

When I say “from the death of Jesus Christ,” I guess that’s what A.D. signifies. I don’t really know for sure since I wasn’t born then and, like all humans, I rely on the selective memories of those who preceded me. I often wonder if the memories of the ancients were as sharp as ours today.

One thing we have today that they lacked in the Stone Age is statistics. Modern humans like to count and index everything under the sun. But more, modern humans like to manipulate their statistics from here to breakfast and back, they like to interpret statistics, they like to explain statistics to other people just in case someone is too dumb to figure things out for themselves.

To what end? Hasn’t mankind progressed through the manipulation of statistics to a higher stage? Apparently not. Statistics paint rosy pictures at the expense of reality. And modern humans love to avoid, ignore, or deny reality. Stats make it possible for leaders, elected officials, apparatchiks, and academics to ramble on forever, making seven hour MySpace presentations and figuring out ways to squeeze another Missouri Mill out of the sale of a tomato.

Sure, some statistics can unearth the other side of life. But you have to dig for them. You have to really dig to find out the number of humans killed in wars in the “modern” era (over a billion at last count since the year of our Lord 1700), or for the number of murders per year in America (20,000 give or take a few), or the extent of suicides (another 29 to 30,000), the ungodly numbers of child abuse cases annually in America (3,000,000 plus and growing), and God know how many deaths in alcohol related driving accidents.

We might surmise that the collection of information such as this is a positive thing leading to solutions. But, no, these data are merely used to justify additional manpower and budget monies. The numbers never recede because our attention is focused on numbers rather than on solutions.

I am not saying that everyone on Earth is determined to ignore reality. Many care about the lives of children, about lives wasted in a state of inebriation, about the survivors of murder and suicide, about many things. But the number of these people is few compared to many among us who simply do not care, who blame misery on the victims and hail the rich and powerful for “making it” in our hardball world, which roughly translates into “screw those suckers.”

Of course, many care but are helpless to effect real change. Only the movers and shakers have the power to change attitudes. Sadly, for 2008 years, they have spent their time collecting and using statistics to justify the “every human for him/herself” approach to the process of governing, which we have raised to its highest art form in America.

Will things change with the flip of a calendar page? Maybe. Who knows? Maybe not. Who knows? Every year, I begin the New Year with a strong belief that we can change attitudes. We can save the world one attitude at a time.

Our first step ought to be the abolition of our slavery to numbers. Let’s see people as people instead of as case numbers, as social security digits, and as an increasingly long series of telephone numbers in various combinations.

People are, after all, people, real people. People are not a number in an obscure collection of data maintained by the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Commerce and filed in a National Archive and Records Service repository in San Bruno or in one of several other repositories nationwide.

Let’s call Joe Joe instead of Joe4769.

“Hello, my name is Robert.”

“Enter your number now, please.”

Happy New Year!!!!!

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…and it’s time for a Jiffy Brain Lube…

I’m okay on the physical side. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d probably come in with an 8. I’m 167 fully clothed, don’t drink or smoke, and I watch my calories.

On the downside, every calorie in my mouth is a fat calorie times 2 because I sit around all day thinking up justifications for sitting around. My killer abs are losing definition and that is depressing, man.

The old golf game is showing signs of wear as well. I’m on the brink of miscounting my strokes but I’ll hold off and see what happens. As long as the suckers I play with are worse than me, happy talk reigns.

Upstairs, I’m not so certain. I’d probably come in at a 5 on the old 10 point scale. My brain has definitely shriveled, with the invertible results, forgetfulness, lying to cover the forgetfulness, and excuses for calling my wife Hillary.

But these are minor inconveniences. Many people suffer from deep-seated mental health problems, depression, manic-depressive episodes, panic attacks, anxieties, and stress. Many are on medications which alleviate the symptoms but leave them lethargic.

Mental health professionals know that depression and many other ailments are easily treatable, and the best approach is often a combination of medication, therapy, and a strong circle of family and friends. In fact, some professionals believe that the single most effective treatment component is the latter.

That’s why Mental Health America (MHA), previously the National Mental Health Association, is emphasizing a program it calls Get Connected. The three elements of the program are:

  • Get Connected to Family and Friends
  • Get Connected to Your Community, and
  • Get Connected to Professional Help

Humans are imperfect at best, but my experience tells me all of us know our internal mechanisms, mental and physical. We feel that pain in the back, that little muscle twinge. We also feel that fleeting moment of sadness and we know well the prolonged effects of our sadness.

On the other hand, we are quite imperfect when it comes to admitting our feelings even when we know admission is critical to recovery.

Sometimes a simple phone call or a mouse click can get the process started. Here are a few sources of help, for yourself, a friend, or a family member. Just do it.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Mental Health Information Hotline

San Francisco Mental Health Services

Bay Area Mental Health Advocates



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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

About 3,000,000 cases of child abuse are reported annually in America. Between 97 and 100 thousand of those cases involve children under the age of two.

The types of child abuse are many.
• Physical abuse of all kinds
• Sexual abuse
• Abandonment
• Constant criticisms
• Absentee parent or parents
• Exposure to drug or alcohol use
• Failure to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, or schooling

A majority of children who suffer abuse grow up to be abusive parents. Abuse is a vicious cycle.

A large number of abuse victims also end up as alcoholics, drug addicts, and prison inmates. I once taught night classes at a prison. Almost every inmate in my classes had been sentenced for a drug or alcohol-related crime and most had been the victims of abuse as children.

Educating adults seems to be an effective method of reducing the incidences of child abuse if a child abuser can be reached, but oddly those who most need education and counseling do not respond to advertising campaigns for the simple reason that most don’t read newspapers or watch educational programs. Public service announcements are also largely ineffective in attracting potential counseling clients.

Moreover, almost all child abusers will deny that their actions rise to the level of abuse, and without observing someone actually attack a child, counselors operate at a disadvantage in investigating child abuse cases.

Even those who understand the impact of their actions are often too ashamed to seek help.

How can an ordinary citizen do his or her part in reducing child abuse? Very little, it seems. In our litigious society, we run the risk of contending with a lawsuit, or worse, a physical attack if the abuser learns our identity or even suspects it.

Perhaps the best we can do is serve as an example within our communities by treating our own children, and all children with whom we come into contact, gently and with the respect they deserve as human beings.

Children are like tiny mimes. They emulate our behaviors, our facial expressions, our reactions to them. If we lose our temper and strike our child or constantly demean it, the child will emulate those behaviors for most of its life. We can save them from a life of unhappiness by acting appropriately.

Or maybe we can make a difference if we volunteer with a child abuse agency. Here is a starting point if you wish to help a child.

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When I was a paid apparatchik instead of a volunteer alien spacecraft spotter, we used to sit around and dream up funny names for this, that, or the other things. We once created names for the days of the week we believed described those days better than the traditional names.

My favorite name was Fried Day. This was the day we scurried around cleaning up work we had left undone over the past week. Mostly, we would pass our unfinished work along under the tag “For your review and comment,” or some other equally inane label, knowing full well that the damned thing would fall on our desks again on Moans Day, the day we suffered the residues of Fried Day, Sad day, and Some Day.

As mid-afternoon of Fried day rolled around, we’d begin to get antsy, glancing at the clock every few seconds, checking another clock to make sure the other one was right, asking the secretary for the time of day, and in general making a nuisance of ourselves.

Finally, when the clock hit five p.m., we’d bail out and head for our favorite dive where we’d proceed to get fried. We’d endure our hangovers on Sad Day, but head for “our” dive later in the afternoon. The following day, we’d assemble at “our” place again and promise ourselves that Some Day we’d grow up as we downed a few and joined in a Karate version of “Tequila Sunrise.”

Some Day was always a day away.

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That means “Merry Christmas” doesn’t it? Whatever. It’s one of my favorite songs. Some others—Jingle Bell Rock, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and the one about Santa being up on the rooftops or something like that.

But my all time favorite is the First Noel because I was forced against my will in the 6th grade to recite the song while a Christmas pageant unfolded behind me. The pressure was too great. I forgot most of the lines. But the song stuck and today, my early humiliation has become a treasured memory.

These days, Christmas is a time to celebrate shopping malls and internet catalogues. And, of course, the corner liquor store, as pints, fifths, and quarts of booze rapidly disappear from the shelves. Every day of the year is perilous, but we can expect a surge in drinking during the holiday frenzy with a concomitant increase in booze-related mishaps. We no longer worship Jesus but a double shot of VO.

To give you an idea of booze-induced insanity, I once consumed enough rum balls at a booze-free on-premises office party to feel a buzz. And then, fully primed, headed out for happy hour, which lasted until the bar closed.

If you want to read some startling statistics, check MADD’s website. Here’s a very brief summary:

  • Last year, almost 18,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes.
  • Three in every ten Americans will be in a drunken driving accident some time in their lives.
  • In 2003, there were an estimated 159 million alcohol-impaired trips.
  • In 2001, about one person per minute was injured in an alcohol-related crash.

Given the prevalence of alcohol-impaired people on the roads at any given moment, the miracle may be that more people aren’t killed.

And given that several American icons are constantly in the news over their own drunken driving and subsequent escape from the consequences, it’s no wonder young Americans drink and drive. As much as we celebrate the myth of our individuality, we are merely followers in real life. And that can be dangerous.

A recent highly-publicized drunken-driving death was front page news in Hawaii this morning. The Honolulu Advertiser reported that a well-known playwright had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit when she drove the wrong way on a freeway at 3 a.m. and rammed a car head on, killing herself and seriously injuring the driver of the other car.

One wonders about the motivation of this woman until it dawns on us that she was simply too drunk to have a motive. Booze robs the brain of reason.

How do I know these things? I’ve driven drunk more times than I can count and been involved in several accidents when I was so drunk I didn’t even realize what had happened until a passenger informed me that we had just been involved in a head on collision. The other driver left the scene. He or she was obviously drunker than me. The accident didn’t teach me anything.

With boozing so prevalent, somewhere, someday, someone reading this will be killed in a drunken driving accident. You’re safer in Iraq than you are on the roads in America, especially during the season of merriment.

As I write, there are seven more days until Christmas. Some of you may prefer another name, Hanukah, perhaps, or the generic Holiday Season. It’s each person’s call. The meaning of the season can be summed up in many ways. I prefer “sobriety on Earth and good will toward men and women.”

You might think about trying my own approach to a sober lifestyle. For more than twenty years, my preferred drink has been a double Diet Coke on the rocks. I’ll take a caffeine habit over a booze habit any day.

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