Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 525 - The Fisher King and The Moral Minority

Just revisited The Fisher King for the first time in, what must be, nearly two decades. It's such a monumental victory across the board. Bridges (who, at this point, must be considered my favorite actor. Alongside Oldman), Williams, Ruhl, and Michael Jeter (also forgot that Tom Waits makes a bad ass cameo) are simply wonderful. The writing is so aware, so real, and so wise without being pretentious. The cinematography and direction are a dreary pitch perfect. It's one of the most loving things ever captured on film. It should be shown during the studies of empathy in Psych classes. It's depth, mid-Atlantic.

Of course, it stirs very deep pools for me. There are substantial parts of who I am that can relate to numerous elements of every character. And a portrait of my own growth (at least that's how I perceive it). There's the derision of mental illness, the subtle monster of the illness itself, the suicidal inclinations, the unbridled fantasy world, the deep hatred of humanity, the addictive solution, love forsaken and pursued, hilarious antidotes, the calm knowing voice of altruistic reason, and the seemingly endless pursuit of peace. And that's only a small selection of notions captured. It's a film that resonates at a higher frequency.

So, I find myself still reflecting on Robin Williams. It hasn't really ended, just taken on a different shape. Because his life, and death, were far too complicated for a twitter worthy world of here today, gone in an hour (anyone remember the 200 Kenyan women? Yeah, exactly). I've had some really great discussions about the man himself, and the subjects that he continues to raise (like any great figure) from beyond the grave. Many in depth, articulate, and even punchy moments. None finer than this. Sent from someone incredibly important to me. I print it here anonymously, as I feel it applies to everyone on a organically profound level. I hope you allow yourself to read this openly. And most importantly, with empathy.

"The problem is pretty simple, IMHO. The society views the artists and creative types as weak, and rolls their eyes when they hear we're depressed, tell us to buck up and get a job.

Meanwhile, the truly mentally ill- the soulless, value-less, the sociopaths march happily through business school and unleash their shit world-view on everyone. Those lucky enough to be too dumb or unobservant, just nod their little bobble-heads and chant, "Well, that's the way it is so we gotta do it, derpy derpy doo!"

Meanwhile it grinds on the more astute, who eventually grow weary, and, being decent folk realize they kind of can't go sticking steak knives in the aforementioned sociopath's temples. Bad form and all that. So they say, "Fuck it. Give me the pills" or whatever.

We're encouraging mental illness. We're curing sanity."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 513 - My Gentle Companion.

I cried for hours when Miles Davis died. And for a good ten minutes when Elliott Smith left us. But that's about it for those that I never knew. I do remember feeling morose when people like Philip Seymour Hoffman passed. And Hank Gathers. Len Bias. Walter Matthau. Burgess Meredith. But never tears. Just Miles and Elliott.

When I was young, going to the movie theater was a magical romp. I loved absolutely everything about it. The butter wafting, the gathering of milk duds and popcorn in military lines throughout the burgundy carpets (having parachuted unwilling out of overstuffed containers), the over sized door into the theater from the lobby, the Christmas lights laid in rows on the floor (leading you to whatever magical two hours were ahead of you), that first sip of soda, the speakers erupting to life, the fading of the ceiling lights, my Mom, and Dad, and brother, and I all in a row.

We didn't go often. Making it all that much more when we did. Star Wars was the anomaly. I believe we saw the first one three or so times. The others that stood out from the period (late 70's through the early 80's) were Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Time Bandits, Six Pack, and Popeye.

Popeye starred the guy from Happy Days. The guy that played the Alien. He ended up having his own show. Mork And Mindy. And holy cow did he look Just. Like. Popeye!! I was 8 years old that year.

In 1989 and 1990, I was wrapping up high school. I was questioning everything about the machine. I listened to hardcore, dressed up oddly on purpose, instigated the people I thought were cogs, and reveled in guitar playing and general mayhem. All while maintaining that child-like wonder about the movie theater. That never changed. I loved reading, and I loved going to the movies. And now I can watch them at home on VHS tapes too. During this era I was absolutely floored by many films. When you're 17 or 18 everything is electric and swirling. Everything much larger than it will be at any other time in your life.

Silence Of The Lambs. The Fisher King. Awakenings. Goodfellas. Dead Poet's Society.

Dark, serious, foreboding, melodramatic, and triumphant. This was my young adulthood developing before my eyes.

In 1998 Good Will Hunting hit the screen. I was 26 years old. I had lost my first girlfriend to a bipolar drummer who moved them to Portland OR via Austin TX. My first real band parted ways (rather violently), and I had met someone new. I moved into my first real apartment with that someone new just the year before. In a brand new town to me. I was about to connect with some of the most important people in my life (it was the first year I went to The Brass Cat). I was watching the Red Sox, playing in a then 2 year old band (hospital). I rented GWH one night in early '98. I watched it three times that night. And then again in the morning before I had to return it to the video store (next to where I worked) in Westfield.

Drunk, wiser, calmer, hopeful, and reflective. This was the development of my adulthood.

That's when Robin Williams became an ancillary character in my life. I no longer ran across his fireballing stand up routines. But I did get caught up in his plunge into bravely silly depravity. The early 2000's brought wonderful, cryptic characters in One Hour Photo, and Insomnia. And every time I ran across him I would be reminded of the movies that I saw, and had a special (almost secret) relationship with. Jack. Hook. Mrs Doubtfire. And on and on and on. And I would think about all of the times he made me chortle with laughter. His riff on the creation of golf, for example. And that was as recent as 2010. The more I thought about it, every time I even saw a picture of him I think I smiled. I'm not sure I was even aware of it. But there was always something that made me feel like the 8 year old in 1980. Skipping around the meddled, sugarbutter military, and the cheap Christmas lights.

I read countless stories today, in private rooms of online AA that I subscribe to, from San Francisco AA'ers. These stories are all true. I believe every word. Because if there's one thing that they want you to do in recovery, it's tell the fucking truth. For the first time in your life. I can't tell you how unbelievably relieving and rewarding it is. Anyway, here's some of the things I read.

Robin Sponsored 5 or 6 guys during his 20 years of sobriety. He constantly left movie sets to pick up distressed AA newcomers who feared relapse. He gave his phone number to every new kid in the room. Every week. He even got burned twice when his number leaked. When asked about what he was going to do, Robin got wide eyed, and stared for a pause. Only to answer "Change my fucking number!". He then grinned that famous squinty grin. And winked. And he did change his number. The following week? He stood as a greeter for the meeting and handed out his number to roughly eight newcomers. He often arrived early, made coffee, and set up chairs. He continued all of this activity (including the handing out of his phone number) for nearly two decades.

So there he is again. At the present day of my life. And at the end of his. Running side by side, in some freakishly relative nature, with me. Turns out the fucking beast caught him though. He fought. Off and on. But that, and other illnesses, finally won. He finally got out of the fire for good. Leaving a trail.

It took me an hour today to figure out why, at 11:30 this morning, I had to pull the car over for the 3rd time, and openly weep for a man I never met. For only the third time in my entire life. And I was baffled at why it wouldn't stop.

And then it hit me. Robin Williams has been with me since I was 8. That's 33 years. And he was never a front runner, or one who stole any attention away from my life. Never a distraction. Never a boost. But always a welcome smile. Brought on by a squinty little wink.

Robin Williams was a gentle companion in my life. Whispering a joke, or a heartfelt sentiment, from the corner. Never wanting to intrude. For nearly my entire fucking life.

And from the outpouring of stories, soliloquies, and remembrances, it is painfully obvious that I am not alone. Not by a long shot.

Hey man. Thanks. Thanks for absolutely everything you did. For me, and the other millions. Absolutely everything.

Your move, chief.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 427 - Lijden (new song unmastered preview) and official album cover art, album title, and official press release photo

Click this link to hear a pre-release song off of my forthcoming record (officially entitled "White Flood" - official album cover art above. 2014 press release eponymous photo above, as well).

The song is "Lijden". It's a story of fear and fate.

This song is in NO way indicative of the sound of the record as an entirety. The full record is as dynamically varied as anything I've done.

I wrote the music and melody for this song back in early 2009. On July 6th 2013 I went to Sonelab and tracked this all in one day with the help of the indomitable Mark Alan Miller. I played everything on here (throat, guitars, bass, drums, piano). The drums were made of wood, as were the guitars and piano. And the amps were loud. And I hit the drums hard. The guitars, harder (how's that for a gear review?). I believe this is all 1st or 2nd take. I don't like multiple takes. Never have. I need to hear the human element of slips and nuances. Glossy, shiny, edited post-production just doesn't allow me to enjoy my music. It's that simple, really.

Rob Connelly played secondary piano. And his presence instantly shaped the sounds of certain points in this song. He is, without question, the one peer whose musical artistry overwhelms me. And I've been lucky enough to work with some of the most incredible artisans we know.

This song is a dumptruck with the pedal pinned to the floor. I wanted it that way. I wanted it to be violent and incessant. Like a foot on a throat (lyrically, that's essentially what it is). Even in its tender lyrical coda, and pretty modality, there was always a steady stream of ferocity in this song, to me.

This isn't the version that will appear on the record, as it is unmastered. But I wanted to share this with you all. And to those amazing people that funded my kickstarter campaign, please PM me your email if you want a copy of this for yourself. I'd be happy to email it.

Hope you enjoy is. Feedback always welcome. Lyrics below.




Feed the heathen breathing in me. Burn the bread and shoot the bitter wine. Poison racing in and through me. Cancel every moment in my mind. And I suffer, but I am not alone. Watch the shell of what you once knew. Watch as only I can sympathize. Melting into sheets, no honor. You, the final victim in my mind. And you suffer, but you are not alone. How can I express the things that I don't know? There's safety in this mess. A chaos playing dead, while killing every ghost. And we suffer. I am one of you. I am one with you.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 378

Three days into the SCD program, I stopped. Cold.

The depressive state I dove into was alarming, deep, immediate, and visceral. Granted, I suffer from depression (something that I am on western meds for), so I suppose that my already completely out of wack dopamine levels are impressionable, to be diplomatic. I felt hospitalized. Cornered by sadness, a complete lack of energy, and a lack of even wanting to find any. If I were further along in my recovery I would've fought through it. But the dangers are still too present. And I couldn't risk heading down roads that lead to places that only end with dire consequences. I will say that my stomach felt great for those two full days. Better, in fact, than it ever has. Driven by that, I've decided to go unprocessed in all of my food choices for now. This coming from a guy that lived out of boxes of foods for years. Pasta, breads, sweets, etc. So far, I feel pretty good. I don't have the stomach relief that I had for those brief days, but I most certainly see a very noticeable improvement, and I also immediately leapt from the depression within moments of making the decision to stop. Food is a motherfucking powerful beast.

The SCD program, however, has done wonders for my fiancee. She is, it should be noted, someone that does not suffer from addiction or clinical depression. So I suppose my generic statement is if you wish to try this program, and you're a victim of any sort of mental illness, check with your doc before starting.

Sorry. I just got distracted. Sammy Hagar has a song that contains the line "I'm alive when I breathe the air..." Give me a second. I have to clean some water off my computer.

OK. Back. Shit, that was too good.

In other news, I received my one year coin last night. I had a dear friend in the audience that made the special trip to be there. My fiancee was also there. For many, many reasons it was one of the most moving days of the year for me. Some things (most, if you can believe that) remain private however.

Earlier in the day the present my fiancee ordered for me arrived. It's one of my favorite pictures of us. We have a nearly all black & white artwork delegation in our hallway, and I just love it in all of it's canvas glory.

We also might have met someone. I say might. We'll see. I am a dog person. She is a cat person. Neither of us dislikes the other, we're just more drawn to one than the other. My only rules are don't bite me, don't scratch me, don't destroy every piece of furniture in the house, shit in your disgusting box, and don't attack our future dog.

There will also be rules for the cat.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 371 - SCD

Day two of the SCD program.

I've suffered from chronic stomach issues since childhood. I won't go into details, but you'll just have to trust me. All I am allowed to eat (granted, as much of it as I want, and only for 5 days) is homemade chicken soup (nothing in it but chicken, it's own broth, and emulsified carrots), gelatin, steamed carrots, grape juice, eggs, honey, and beef patties. Essentially, I am eating like a sick dog.

My better half suggested this program (and has gone WAY out of her way to cook and prepare essentially everything for me) knowing that I have never been able to find an answer to my stomach issues. And believe me, I have tried. I've cut out various foods, in various combinations, too many hundreds of times to even begin to count. To no avail.

I'll spare you the descriptive element of how this works, but just say that it's basically not allowing the bad bacteria in my stomach to survive on junk sugars and junk carbs.

I've learned two things thusfar

1) My withdrawals were immediate. I don't think I got through the afternoon of day one without already craving salts and sugars. It opened my eyes even wider to the addictive element of me. And has proven just how out of wack my dopamine is. I am a creature of habit. And when you take away my ability to mindlessly snack on something throughout the course of the day? I want to fold like a cheap suit. This has truly been as difficult as the attempt to quit smoking (I'm still smoking, but have quit in the past).

2) I was told that the reaction to the death of these bacteria might be immediate and pervasive. Well, it is. I feel flu-ish. Have on and off headaches. I'm exhausted and cranky. I want to eat a plate full of nachos and chase it with some ice cream like you wouldn't fucking believe. To end the agony.

But I can't do that. I need to heal my stomach in order to heal my mind. And 41 years of this is enough.

If you're going to try this, and you're predisposed to an addictive element of yourself like I am, be prepared. This is not fun. But from what I've read, it turns a bit of a corner by the third day.

I'll try and let you know if that's true. If you don't hear from me, I'll be headfirst in a vat of nacho cheese.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 365

Dear friends,

I am 1 year sober today.

1 year ago, on this day, I was in 4 WEST (the psych ward, to most of you) at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Only 2 days removed from the bottle. A bottle that had landed me in the hospital 3 times within the course of the month. A bottle that had me checked in at 145 pounds. Had me shaking like a leaf (this continued for another 2 weeks). Had me crying. Had me admitting that I was trying to kill myself. Had me ready to die. As the woman I loved, and loved me equally, held my hand. Lost.

That's what this disease did to me. See, I didn't want to kill myself. But I had gone so far down the well, there seemed to be no turning back. I knew what the withdrawals were like. This wasn't my first rodeo. The searing chest pain, the sweats, the chills, the shakes that disallowed shaving or opening a can of beans, the nausea, the aches, the dizziness, the inability to sleep, the screaming tinnitus, the blasts of violent dots (stars in the dark), evil hallucinations out of a Timothy Leary study gone awry, the restless legs. Essentially, the pure and incessant horror.

It lead me to accept the fact that I was going to die. Because at that point, dying would've been such a huge relief. A relief not only to my own anguish, but a relief to those that I had dragged into the cellar with me (that's how I saw it). My soul mate, my parents and brother, my extended family and my friends (too numerous to name). I had lied, cheated, bullshited, and pillaged their compassion to its bitter end point. All so I could continue to pour Vodka in my mouth by the gallon. Alone. In bed. In and out of consciousness.

I knew I finally had to face myself. Purely. And unadulterated by the interests of anyone other than myself. I had to meditate on who I was. I also had to get combative, and angry, in order to dig to the bottom of me. Why I suffered. And how I could survive. Because the core truth was, I did not want to die. But this disease sure as fuck wanted me to. I broke my soul in half. Unsure of whether or not I could sew the seems back together. Regardless, there was no other way. I had to go all the way in. I had to.

My story is very long. With many turns and tides and shifts. I don't feel like it would be right of me to share it all right here, right now. 2 reasons for that. 1? I am in the process of writing a book about it. 2? I share the entire story these days to the rooms of AA that I frequent, and the detoxes, hospitals, and other similar facilities where I am asked to speak. And for now, I feel that full story is best served for those that I have direct contact with.

When I am asked to speak (and when I am speaking, and after I am finished and immersed in the people that are in the audience) I feel a fire in my soul, regarding what my path will be, that I only felt 1 other time in my life. Back when I was 17 or so and my band was asked to play a show. I feel that same desire, fire, passion, and joy. I NEVER thought that feeling would happen anywhere else in my life.

I no longer feel those things with music. I still love it. And it will always be a huge part of me. And I hope it is forever a major character in my life. But it never defined me. I never achieved any peace with it. And most days, I got just the opposite. Now I have found, after all these years, my true calling. To share my story of survival and hope with those afflicted with the same beast that I bear. If not to save, then to simply extend a hand with the message of “You never have to feel alone”.

Here's a short glimpse of the book I am trying to work through. It shares but a minimal fraction :

-------------From 2007 through 2011 I was married. Owned my own 2,200 square foot home. Had a beautiful dog. Had just wrapped up a very successful record store that I co-owned. Had a steady, and reliable job, as a public assistant (bartender). Toured the world as a guitar player. As far away as the southern most reaches of New Zealand to a 10 minute drive from the Arctic Circle in Sweden. And nearly everything in between. 19 countries. Hundreds of States/Cities/Provinces. Performed in theaters built for royalty that held an average of 1,000 people. Each night was sold out. I had people tugging at my shirtsleeves to get my autograph. A photo. Anything. People jumped with joy when I gave them a guitar pic.

I also drank, on and off (mostly on), after 7 years of abstinence.

In the March of 2012, I laid in the back of an ambulance.

I couldn't feel or move my arms and legs due to the onset of severe atrophy. I had been pissing in bottles. When I could reach the bottles. When I couldn't, the floor of my parent's house. Or in my pants. The only reason I wasn't shitting myself was I hadn't eaten anything in over 2 weeks. I was barely able to lift my arms to dial 911. I told the operator in a whisper (I had lost my voice due to complete dehydration, I hadn't drank any liquid other than vodka, rum, wine, mouthwash, vanilla extract, and cologne (yup, cologne) for over 2 weeks) that I couldn't get to the door. They would need to break it down. Miraculously, I was able to fall out of bed and drag my paralytic body to the front door when they arrived.

“Been on a bender, Schwabe?”

One of the EMTs knew me from High School. I tried to say “That's an understatement” but couldn't get the words out. As they wheeled me out, the EMT that didn't know me asked if I had my ID for registration purposes. I was barely able to tell them that it was in the ransacked, filthy, empty-bottle ridden bedroom. He went to retrieve it. Moments later he returned. Slightly more gray-faced than when he left.

He looked me dead in the eyes. I think they were the only words he could find.

“Holy. Shit.”

A short time later, in the ICU, I was shown my blood work. The doctor spoke evenly.

“Sir, when did you take your last drink?”

I believed that it was roughly 6 or so hours before this moment. So that's what I whispered.

“6 hours ago? Are you sure?”

“Give or take a half hour or so” I muttered.

“Sir. Your blood alcohol level is a .48”

He then asked me to sign the paperwork. I barely got my hand around the pen.

I was divorced. My dog had terminal cancer. I lost my house. My music job had come to an end and my regular work of nearly a decade followed suit. My whole family was about to live in Arizona. I spent every dime I made playing music. I spent my last 100 dollars on 10 gallons of Vodka. That I drank over the course of the previous 9 days. I weighed 140 pounds. I was living at my parents house. Scratch that. I was nearly dead at my parents house. And now I was covered in my own urine. And my beard caked with vomit. Hooked up to every tube in the book.

But this doctor just asked me for my autograph.

Much like those crazed fans did in Portugal a mere 9 months earlier.

And then?

Then, it got bad.-------------------------------------

There are too many people to thank for me being alive today. I would, however, be remiss without mentioning a key few.

The people of The Hope Center in Springfield, MA. They opened doors for me that I never knew existed in myself. Rob and Eric. Two of my favorite things on earth. We've been through the wars. If not for them, I am not entirely sure I'd be here today. My Aunt Allison. If there are angels, she is undeniably one of them. My parents and brother. They've stood by me through this nightmare, and now this dream, with the same vigor and peace throughout. AJ, Terry, and Lindsay. For lending their ears when I needed to speak, and their words when they knew I needed to listen. Chris Herren. His story inspired me through film. It continues to inspire me. Only now as a teammate, and friend.

Ada Langford. My soul mate. My everything. A pillar. You inspire me every single day. I love every single thing about you. Your compassion, strength, and love are unparalleled. A moment without you is a moment wasted.

To all of you that dropped by, or sent a message, or called, or even took a small moment to take another look at how serious this disease is, I thank you all. Boundlessly. Not a single thing went unnoticed or unappreciated.

Sure. There are still horrible days. Days that take strength. Life doesn't stop being miserable here and there. My dear Uncle passed away last month. I don't have a car, or much money at all. And I could continue this list, like any of us could. But I choose to take away its power. I refuse to focus on it. I acknowledge it and move on. For this world is, by and large, too beautiful of a place to relinquish to the demon dormant within me.

Today, I am engaged to the love of my life (we plan to marry this Fall, if we can hold out that long). I have a job, and a beautiful home. I weigh 185 pounds (a healthy weight for my height) and I don't shake. At my last check up my health was spot on, which is nothing short of miraculous. I am in the middle of writing the aforementioned book, and recording my 3rd solo record. I am making amazing connections in the sober world (they help me more than I can ever help them, and therein lies the endless pursuit), and aim to council my fellow addicts as a career. And for the first time, in 41 years, there is a permanent smile in my soul.

I am the first to admit that I have done shameful things. But in no way am I ashamed of who I am. This is my story, and I survived. I love myself today. And every single day, I am thankful for that. And every single day, I work to stay here. In this, the truest version of myself.

If you're out there, and you're lost, send me a private message and I will send you my phone number. No judgments, ever. I can't promise you but 1 thing. I promise you that I will listen to you for as long as you need.

All love and gratitude, always.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 314 - A Telegraph to the Chamber of the Wicked

24/1/14 00:27AM

A telegraph to the chamber of the wicked.

If only.

If only there were a way to convict them. Their desolate patterns. Collectively. A way to keep their glaring eyes at bay. Their structured void. So convincing. Scientific, even. Their theories proven. Time, and listless time, again. These beasts without form. Impossible to nail down. Shadow cancers. These empty cars crashes. Steel and rubber. Careening and crucified. Their desolate patterns. Shadow snowflakes. No one else can see them. Nor you, theirs. They are governed by chaos. Egalitarian schisms. They can pillage and fuck and cower. And leave us none the wiser.

Just lay low and await their next transmission. We can't win the battle. Nor the war. But we can allow the lamb its day with the lion.

Yours in attempted valor, and candid dignity.