Wednesday, June 30, 2004


After Cris sent his memories I got to wondering about the other members of our team and tracked down this was easy, thank you, smart pages.
I woke him and his wife up in my zeal, but he was good enough to send me this email that I got today.
This part of my life has been difficult to reconstruct, and not because of memory issues.
They were heady times, and to have other members of the team available to share memories was just, well, the shizznit.
So, here it is...the CSO according to Stephen.


Hope things are going well for you. My XXX time lead me to law school and eventually to working as in-house counsel for a large physician practice management company. I focus mainly on employment law (hiring, firing, contracts, etc). Whenever I handle a particularly difficult situation with an angry or hostile employee, I remind myself that it is a hell of a lot easier than tackling enraged 17 year olds for $9.50 an hour.

There are a lot of things I remember about CSO. In fact, I still have a picture of us in our grey jean jackets, wearing badges and holding a gun. I think we took that the night you were officially moved from the float pool to CSO. My wife gets a kick out of that picture. Anyway, the first memory that came to me was "capturing" that kid (Matt, I think) at the apartment complex. He and another kid (Joey, I think) had run away a couple days before. They had already landed a job with some derelict maintenance guy who had befriended them. It turned out that he worked at an apartment complex were one of the MHWs lived. We got the report at CSO, rounded up our usual collection of "thugs", got in the van and went out to retrieve the young lads. We show up at the complex, and there they are, in the process of moving some steeping stones near the pool. The maintenance guy is giving them instructions, when out of nowhere come six guys who proceed to chase after and eventually apprehend these two. As we are dragging them back to the van, the good Samaritan begins threatening us. He sends his girlfriend back to the apartment to call the police and get his gun. We have our hands full dealing with two mental patients, now this bozo is threatening to punch someone and may have a gun on the way. Ultimately we talk sense into him (you and I were at full BS capacity). We agree to let him visit the kids the next day and directed him to speak to Charlene. Needless to say he never got to see the boys. We laughed about that one for a week.

There was also a memorable retrieval involving some Twin Oaks kid named Chris. It was the holidays and he was on a home visit with his dad. I don't know if you remember this guy, but he looked like Johnny Paycheck. Chris was apparently not listening or behaving at home, so dad called us to pick him up. We show up in the van in some north Austin suburb. Chris is laying on the couch watching Danger Mouse at about 100 decibels. His dad is yelling at him. We do our normal first rate intervention, then walk the boy to the van. Chris and dad are exchanging pleasantries as we are walking out. About the time Chris gets in the van, dad has decided he's had enough. He reaches across me and grabs Chris by the hair. He is cussing a threatening to "kill the little son of a bitch". I push dad away. You yell "close the door" and pull away. Everybody in the van is pretty freaked out at this point. You and I are doing our best not to bust out laughing. I remember saying "nice work, man" to you shortly after we pulled away. One of the MHWs looked at me in disbelief like "what do you mean 'nice work'?" That's why it paid to have a regular crew. This scene wasn't over anyway. Dad calls the Oaks a few hours later and announces that he is coming to pick Chris up. We decide that it might be time to bring Arnie in the loop on this one. So Arnie shows up shortly before dad. We have moved Chris to ICU for safe keeping. He had been talking about his dad having a gun, so we were expecting pretty much anything. Dad shows up drunker than Cooter Brown. Arnie tries to reason with him unsuccessfully. Arnie's "I'll lose my job if I release him doesn't carry much weight". Dad responds, "I don't give a good goddamn about your job, or your job, or your job" looking at the three of us. "I just want the little son of a bitch to have a good holiday." Eventually he took the kid home.

There was some kid named Joe, who used to eat his feces. There was also some kid on Great Oaks whose feet stunk so bad that it was almost unbearable when he was in a security room. I convinced his staff into keeping him on the unit once because I didn't want to smell his feet all evening. We used to watch that Vietnam TV show (I don't remember the name)("Tour of Duty"-R) when we worked together, and you used to retell some story about a soldier holding up a dead gook from a hole a talking through it. You told that story about twenty times to anyone that walked in. I finally snapped and told you the story was driving me nuts. We also had a communication book. We did top ten lists and photo captions that were absolutely hilarious. I used to come by your house after work several times a week to "process". We laughed and partied pretty hard. I remember watching "Buster and Billie", some old Jan Michael Vincent movie. I still use a line out of that movie. "Could be another one of them hook murders." You had a memorable comment when Buster gave Billie Jean a Pepsi while they were making out. "Just clearing the deck for you, Buster".

I'm sure a lot more things will come up. I'll shoot you another email when they do. That was a great time in my life. I wasn't going in any particular direction, but I had a lot of good friends. I was usual playing softball or golf and partying. I was at the XXX for six years, but the two at CSO were the most memorable. The amount of power they gave us from 3-11pm was ridiculous. We did a lot of crazy things and resolved a lot of bizarre circumstances. You and I were a good team. I never had to worry whether you had my back, and I hope you felt the same way.

Take care.


And there you have it...and yes I did.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


"I'm in loveeeeee, no wait...I'm avoiding my wait...I'm in loveeeeee"
Me and "Jill"...back in the day...I found this picture buried in a closet during the demo on our remodel...that's not a hindi love dot on her forehead, it's red paint.
Jump in the wayback machine with me please...
I met my girlfriend when she applied for a job at the center in 1985. It was a group interview where any unit coordinator needing to hire would hold a roundtable interview with a pool of applicants. On this particular day of interviews I was looking to fill two positions. I was looking for strong women to round out my team of mostly men.
The first one was this kind of joan jett lookalike in converse hi-tops and spikey hair.She was cute, she was feisty and had a lot of experience in the state run facilities in Illinois. None of the other UC's were interested, so I snatched her up. I had a feeling about her and I was right. she was awesome. She was gay. I couldn't have cared less.
Next up was this girl from Ohio,I'll call her Jill, she had minimal experience but fended well for herself in this group interview and answered questions in a way that made me believe she would be a good "big sister" addition to my team. Plus, she was very attractive. Her ass would be a constant point of comment amongst us guys everytime we had the good fortune of her walking past. I snagged her too.There was some heated discussion about who needed her more, me or the UC of a girls unit, but I had been down staff longer, so I won the vote.
It was a victory I would live to regret.
I had my dream team and things were going well on twin oaks, I hadn't crashed and burned yet, and to avoid my troubles at home, I threw myself into my job as manager. Part of this job was supervision. I spent lot's of time in supervision with Jill. Mostly at first because she needed a lot of training, she was new to this sort of treatment.She learned fast and quickly became a competent mental health worker. There was obviously a mutual attraction from the get go. She was unhappy in her relationship ( she had moved here to be with her fiance, who had moved here to escape the unemployment in Ohio ) and so was I.
One thing led to another and one night at a party we ended up rolling around in the back seat of her car.That night turned into every chance we got. She broke up with her fiance and I left my wife...we were in "love".
In between all of this "love" there was a lot of speed and weed and booze...oh yeah...we were in love alright. In love with the idea of getting as far away from our separate realities that were making us miserable.
We pulled this off...and lived the lie for 8 years. I used to think that I would give anything to get those years back, to do it differently.
Had I done that, I would have never hooked up with Ann and we wouldn't be celebrating our tenth anniversary next month. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.
I know this is hard to believe, but I lived in a house decorated with geese in gingham dresses and wall shelves with carved hearts filled with all manner of homey shit.Like I said she was from Ohio...there's something in the ground water there, and it isn't good for you.
Let's just say that punk rock and stuffed geese in gingham don't mix well.
She did, however, fuck like a snake.
I found out later on that I wasn't the only recipient of her snakelike abilities.
She was doing more on her visits home than spending time with her dad.
There I go...jumping around again.

Monday, June 28, 2004


Here's that story my buddy promised...i x-ed out the kids name, but that's it.
read it and...?

----- Original Message -----
From: Cris
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 7:45 PM
Subject: tour of duty

Here it is bro. The kid's name was XXX, I remembered it as I was writing.

Some things you remember for the rest of your life. The days and the people on my “tour of duty” still help me learn, continue to influence me, and still haunt me to this day. Before we go into this tale, I have to say that the folks that were on this team during this time are some of the best people I’ve ever known. We placed our lives in each other’s hands, sometime more than once a day. I’ve never felt closer or safer with another team since then.

On this particular day, I was working the day shift, 7-11 during the week. Usually this is not particularly a difficult shift. Mainly it goes pretty smooth. There might be a few problems with kids while they are in school but for the most part the teachers and the dorm staff handled most of the crisis and CSO was only called when needed. Not on this particular day. There were three locked units. By locked, I mean that you had to have a key to get in and out of the unit and they had the capability to lock kids in their own security rooms. They also have your standard burglar bars on the outside plexi-glass windows. This unit permanently housed a particularly nasty group of kids but the staff was very adept at handling this nastiness. The staff on this unit tended to be quite large and had large muscles, especially useful for restraining these nasty kids.

A little background on this young man. We got some preliminary information before he arrived. He had evidently beat the snot out of a night staff with the butt end of a pool cue that fractured the staff’s skull and put them in the hospital. There was definite pre-meditation to this episode and that made this kid even more dangerous. In the course of his stay at our friendly establishment he also broke the nose of one of my team members. Remember, I said they were nasty. Anyway, on the day he was admitted, he was flown in by air ambulance strapped to stretcher and doped up on enough drugs to make Keith Richards wish he was in his place instead. So, anyway, on this day our young man decides to barricade himself in his room. After several failed attempts to negotiate him out of his room, he begins to threaten to kill himself. He did not have, at this point, any access to something to carry out his threat but these kids were often very resourceful. He was able to break out the plexi-glass thus giving him the means to carry out his plan and so negotiation resumed via the window where he also broke the frame to the window. He held us at bay with this metal rod from the window frame and continue to pump himself up into a frenzy. The term in the biz is get ”kronked”. Well, he continued to escalate and finally took the metal rod and cut himself on the crease where his arm bends. You know the place where they take blood to get at a vein? As soon as he did this two things happened. First, he spewed blood like the fountains at the Bellagio, second the staff and I tore the burglar bars off the hinges so we could jump through the window. He went in first with me behind him. He got a hold of the kid so he wouldn’t do any more damage and I applied direct pressure to his arm. At this point there is blood spray from the floor all the way to the ceiling and on me and the staff. 911 is called and the ambulance hauls the kid off to the ER. We had thought at the time the kid had hit a vein, come to find out, his BP was cranked up so high at the time he cut himself it was like slicing open a tick the size of a quarter. Meanwhile, I begin the documentation process to protect myself and the agency’s ass. Later that day I did get to laugh about the ordeal when I showed up to teach a bunch of newbies the class on how to de-escalate these types of situations and how to safely restrain a kid. I walked through the door still with blood splatter covering my jeans and shirt. Most of the class had second thoughts about me and working there at least until class was over...but that’s another story.

Thanks for letting me share a bit of my “tour”.

No Cris...Thank you for sharing.


In the winter of 1988-89, I went to Colorado to visit my friends. The morning I boarded my plane, the word came down that they were disbanding our team, it seemed they were moving to a purer medical model to continue soaking insurance providers...I mean to provide a higher quality of patient care. No, wait...I meant that first thing I said.
I was going to Colorado to visit my friends, but the truth was, I needed to get away from the woman I was living with and everything that went along with our cohabitation.
Her paternal grandparents had come for a visit, and on the day they left they informed her that her father had prostate fact, he'd had it for over a year, had opted out of conventional chemotherapy and the alternatives he'd chosen didn't work. He was dying.
Talk about door knobbing! Grandma suggested my girlfriend "take a nap" and she would feel better...thanks Grams!
She didn't feel better. I tried to be supportive, but for some odd reason I depersonalized his cancer and distanced myself. I didn't want to...I couldn't help myself. I got angry instead ( there's that anger thing again ). A month or so later, my mom called me. She had news...bad news. She had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.
I cried and wailed to the gods. I started to drink heavily. I started smoking weed again with renewed vim and vigor. This was a lose-lose I opted for the failsafe plan: I just got angry and stayed that way.
I decided a trip to Colorado was in order, to get back to a place where I was sure the people I was with loved me.
It was a smart move for me but not for my relationship.It triggered the distancing that would be the end of us.But not before a bunch of other bad shit happened.
I returned from my trip and got the news about the team disbanding. I was crushed but not surprised. A few days later I got a call from a therapist at TTC, a transitional treatment center- a halfway house where our patients would go to transition to living in the real world. she had heard about our impending demise and wanted me to apply for the milieu coordinator position there. I did and I was chosen to fill the position.This would be a good thing.
In November of 1990, my mom would call me at work with more bad news, my dad had a massive stroke and wasn't expected to live.My girlfriend's father died in January 1991.
My mom died from complications of cancer in september 1992.My dad woke up from his coma in february 1991...he thought he was at sheppard air force base and it was 1974...he didn't know who I was.He had that Marilyn Manson one pupil's bigger than the other thing happening, only it wasn't a contact was really fucking creepy...and a heartbreaking visual reminder that my dad, as I had known him, was a memory looking up at me from his hospital bed with fucked up eyes wondering who the hell I was.
Things were not going well. It was the beginning of another end.

So...we survived the summer of blood, we survived it all...from the beginning to the end.
But how did we do it?
More times than not, when a shift was over, we would grab beers and go to my place and watch war movies...the same one's, over and over. full metal jacket was a fave, so was hamburger hill.Not to mention a little psycho-drama gem called 84 Charlie MoPic.
Everybody had a hobby, some went hunting or fishing, some went camping, some of us got into music, learned an instrument. But we all had one thing in common to some degree or another.
No fear. I was never concerned about any threat that I may encounter out in the world, CSO duty instilled a confidence in you in this regard, we would go over interventions like football teams review game films, picking them apart, planning strategies so we could do it better the next time.
I carry that confidence with me to this day, I know that if the heavy shit goes down, unless you have a gun, I will prevail.
My experiences gave me a survival instinct, and it gave me PTSD or something very much like it.
It was my rule out diagnosis when I finally went to see a therapist and we never really ruled it out.
I never went looking for trouble, it just found me, but rarely was it the throw down variety, in fact, I never threw down outside of work. I came close a few times, but I think I freaked them out and nothing ever happened beyond words.
I'm really good with words in situations like this...I learned the power of them in CSO.
After a while you get tired of kids thinking that your presence on the unit was an invitation to a fight, so you work on your verbal skills and your affect.
The right words with the right affect can diffuse a situation to the point of the patient walking with you to the security room. Knowing a patient's diagnosis = knowing what to say in a way that appeals to that brand of crazy.
For example, That kid that sent me to the ER with a concussion was a paranoid schizophrenic. He was transferred to an open unit two months after almost KO'ing me and one night he was losing it on his new unit. His delusions evolved around power and control and I knew this ( He had a blue gingham teddy bear that he had drawn hitler features and a nazi uniform on with a sharpie pen! ).
Anyhow, we get the call and it was my turn to respond.Knowing that this kid had kicked my ass, my team mates offered to go in my place. I said thanks but no thanks, I gotta deal with this kid successfully sometime,now seems like a good time. I headed to the unit while my team mates called back up in the event it got ugly. There was a high probability it would.
I was soon joined by 9 other staff on the unit and we came up with a plan. I would attempt to verbally de-escalate him and get him to walk to the security room, if that failed, we would rush him and restrain him on my cue of "come on, XXX, it's tellin' time".( That was, and is, one of my favorite cues, my other fav was "OK, I'm going to count to three..." and we would go on two :P ).
So, I initiate the intervention and at first, I'm getting nowhere, he's standing on his bed and reminding me of the ass kicking he gave me, he's refusing to leave the unit. I knew that if we had to restrain him, I would have point and the shit would be on. I didn't want to get hit again.
He suddenly noticed my back up behind me in the hall and the doorway. He started to get nervous and was balling up his fists ( when you're trying to read someone, don't focus on the face...focus on the hands and feet ).
I jumped on the thought that he really didn't want to fight 10 of us and I had the POWER to send them all back to their units...if he agreed to walk to the security room of his CHOICE. If he didn't I was very concerned that someone, ( here's where the affect comes in) someone, would get hurt.
He said "Can you really do that"? I said yes, in an instant. He agreed to walk, I took a moment out in the hall to "dismiss" my back up. ( I sent them on an alternate route to the unit he chose just in case ).
He walked without further incident and even said he was sorry for hitting me.
I locked him anyway...he didn't mind, it was further proof of how dangerous and powerful he was.
I was sold on the verbal intervention! It would be 4 months before my next restraint, 2 weeks before I transferred out.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


I was talking to one of my old team mates from CSO about the summer of 1988. I had initially called to confirm the year and we ended up reminiscing a bit about the whole experience. He likened it to a tour of duty. He's right,it was frequently like war.A shift in CSO was 8 hours of relative calm interrupted by moments of unbridled craziness and violence.
During the summer of 1998 there wasn't a night that we didn't go home without either torn or bloody clothing.
There had been a shift in the patient population that I'm sure continues to this day. They were an angrier, more violent kind of crazy, and for better or worse, we got to deal with it.
Another team member left a note in our communication book that summer that said simply "frozen on the inside,burnt and crispy on the outside". He didn't have to say anything else.We all knew what he meant.
I wish I had the ability to convey how incredibly intense it was...but I'll try with a couple of incidents:
We got an emergency call from the latency aged boys unit one night around 9:30, this kid we had dealt with alot was completely out of control following a family therapy and visit with his mom earlier in the day. He wanted a fight and he set it up so he got one. This was on the tail end of the summer, fall actually, it was right before thanksgiving.
The guy I called about this post and I responded to the unit, which was at the far end of the campus. The only security room available was on one of the locked units, at the opposite end.About 300 yards away I'm guessing.
He of course refused to walk to the security room, so we put him in a two person escort restraint and headed out the door. We made it about 100 feet and he started fighting us so we dropped him. We got him up and made it about 200 feet before we had to drop him again. This happened over and over again and it took us about 45 minutes to get him to the security room. By the time we got there I had lost it. It had been a summer full of this kind of shit and I had had enough. I left my unconditional regard at the door and basically went into bouncer mode. We manhandled the kid into the security room, folded him up like a pretzel and shoved his face into the far corner from the door, my team mate left the room and I was preparing to do the jump off when I realized he had a gold necklace on...he couldn't have that in a security room. He wouldn't give it up so I in a rage, ripped it off of his neck. It's a miracle I didn't garrot him in the process.
I did the jump off, locked him in and stormed off the unit. My team mate said something about paperwork and I responded with something along the lines of "fuck it, you do the fucking paperwork".
I returned to the office where our other team mate asked what took us so long, I went off on a tirade about this kid that would curl your hair, my team mate admonished me to be quiet, as there were other kids from his unit sitting on the processing bench not 10 feet away...I said something brilliant like "fuck them,let them learn a lesson" at which point she (god bless her) suggested that maybe I should leave. I said "fine-I'm fucking out of here" , Threw my keys across the desk at her and stormed out. Like I said, I had completely lost my mind.
This little incident would result in 5 days off with pay with the stipulation that I return to work as my normal self or leave the team. After much soul searching and nightmares, I resolved to return to the front and finish my tour. I also processed with the kid and mended the therapeutic fence with him.
There was this kid from ICU that was crazier than a shit house rat and we had him in one of our security rooms. He was yelling and screaming and punching the walls. We couldn't allow him to hurt himself, so we had to ruck up and go in and restrain him. There were 5 of us on the team going in...I had point and the other 4 had been assigned limbs to grab.
( I think I've told this story here before, but what the hell ).The guy at the observation window said "go" and we went, I came through the door and was met by a pummeling to my face by this kid, he knocked the fuck out of me and stopped my forward progress, causing the other 4 guys to jam up and into me, stomping my foot. It was chaos.
I put my head down and ran this kid into the wall and threw him to the floor. I ended up on my back with him under me with a death grip on my shirt,chest hair and beard. I grabbed his ring and pinky fingers and bent back as far as I could...he finally let go, but I'm surprised I didn't break them because I was trying to break them.We gained control of the situation, and the next thing I know I'm on his legs raving like a mad man. My original unit coordinator pulled me off and sent me packing. I sat on a picnic table in the quad sobbing uncontrollably for a while and then I saw the nurse.
I headed home but ended up at my parents house...when my mom opened the door I fell into her arms crying like a baby.
I went to the ER the next morning and they told me I had a concussion and my left foot was severely bruised and possibly fractured. And all because the guy at the observation was preoccupied about personal shit so his timing was off.
I could go on and on...but my buddy Cris is writing his recollection of a really harrowing experience he had and when I get it I will share it with you.
Then, at his suggestion, I'll write a bit about the fun times we had as a team.

Let me explain a little bit about the CSO team.All direct care staff checked in through their office. They were the administrative arm of the center after hours and on weekends and holidays. They conducted safety related inspections campus wide (this facility had over 120 beds). They provided training for new hires and ongoing training for continuing education.Each member of the team was assigned as liaison to one of the units.
But, mostly, they did intervention - crisis intervention. When a patient ( or patients ) escalated beyond the point of the unit staff's ability to control them, they were called in to regain control and remove the patient from the unit, physically if they had to. The office had 4 security rooms, 2 that connected to security rooms in the intensive care unit and a door at the end of the hall that was connected to the dayroom of ICU. It was a very busy office. For over flow, there were 4 more security rooms up the hill at the locked units.
They were the cream of the crop, some of the most talented and dedicated people you would ever meet.
And then there was me. I had the potential to do this job and do it well. i just had to prove myself to the rest of the team, and really, the rest of the facility. That meant I had to be 100% all the time. I was.
I had many conversations with all the team members over the first month or 2 about their reservations about me. They were honest all and some cut me some slack, there were a few that predicted failure for me and seemed to hope that was the outcome, to them I was a blight on the team.
But one conversation stuck with me. My original unit coordinator and friend took me to lunch one day and...well, I couldn't really recall it clearly, beyond the fact that he wasn't sure he wanted to be my friend anymore, so I called him and asked about his recollection.
He remembered the friendship part, but recalled his primary frustration was that I was mad at Abstract for fucking me around and wasn't really accepting responsibility for being a speed freak and ruining it myself. I should be thankful that a mistake was made and I even had a job.
I was, but it took awhile to own up to that know the personal responsibility thing. I was hurt by his words, but instead of focusing on that end of it, I focused on redeeming myself. He said he often regretted being so harsh.But it was the best thing for me to hear really, in the long run.
As time went by, and the interventions began racking up, I had a pretty impressive track record. People began to recognize that I was returning to that person they had come to know before I went off the track.
After about a year and a half and a couple of passover's, a position opened up on the team and I was chosen to fill it. My hard work was paying off, I was a full fledged member of an elite team.
The next couple of years were the most amazing of my professional life.
I was free of the devil speed, but my personal life still needed some work.
The girl I had hooked up with and I were living together and would stay together for 8 years. The first 4 were great, the final 4 were agonizing.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


The company I worked for had developed a training program for unit coordinators which was really quite good. The presenters were all expert in their area ( clinical to human resources) and, you actually came out of it a better manager. I excelled at it.
That's the cruel joke that is speed, when you're on it you can conquer the world while it slowly burns you up from the inside out. There were a lot of us messing around with this shit, but for me it was gaining the upper hand.
I preferred my left nostril. During a break in training, I slipped off to a distant bathroom to do a bump. At the sink, I looked up to the mirror and saw a dark ring around the edge of said left was dried blood.
How long had it been there?
Had anyone noticed?
Better switch sides for awhile.
And wash it off.
Good thinking brain! Now back to class, you genius!
And so I barreled along like this for a few more weeks, along the way I hooked up with one of my employees, left my wife, lived out of my truck and couch surfed until I found a place and generally ran headlong into that brick wall.

One night, at a poker game I wasn't at, a fellow unit coordinator and friend confided in his team leader that he was concerned about me and my habit. Turns out this team leader had had a horrible experience with, I think, an ex-wife who crashed and burned on crank airlines. I had also been selling this guy weed for about a year and a half.Although it would be over a year before I found out it was him that had ratted me out.
There was a big swing toward treating substance abuse at our center, and while some people embraced the twelve steps, most just stopped what they were doing or went underground about it. I didn't fit in any of these catergories and stuck out like a sore thumb.
It was obvious there was something wrong with me, but we had a code of "honor" and nobody with any real knowledge came forward.
I reported for supervision to Prof. Abstract's office on monday morning and had no sooner sat down when there was a knock at the door. It was that team leader from the poker game.
Prof. Abstract say's: " I've asked xxx to act as a witness, you can no longer be unit coordinator because you are addicted to speed". BANG!!!The other team leader was silent throughout this meeting.
I was shocked. I was busted. I was looking at a guy that I had been selling weed to and he was narcking me out.
Abstract continued: " You have these options: Resign or agree to go into treatment and save your job".
No no no no no!!! I'm looking at this other team leader thinking "I should sling your sorry ass".No,not cool. What to do?
I did what any speed freak would do, I lied my ass off and rationalized my erratic behavior like a motherfucker.
And then a third option occurred to me, there was no prior documentation of any negative behavior on my part, in fact, it was all positive. This had come out of the blue as far as documentation was concerned. I had a chance to beat them at this. I would file a grievance! It was my right to do so. I announced my denial of the charge and my intention to file. I got up and marched defiantly to the human resources directors office and made my case. I would make that training program pay off, by god.
Meanwhile,Prof. Abstract, against the advice of many, marched down to my unit and held a group with my team and my patients where he announced he had fired me because I was addicted to speed.
A few days later I got a call from human resources summoning me to a meeting with the director and some other key personnel. I had steered clear of any and all drugs during this time and was thinking more clearly.
It turned out I wouldn't need to plead my case. They were sorry, they said, Abstract had made a mistake, jumped the gun with his group announcement. They would pay me for time lost. Abstract ( who was not at this meeting ) had conveyed that he could "live with" me returning to my unit. But the damage there was done, I couldn't go back if I wanted and besides I said, I wasn't interested in working for someone who was merely tolerating me.
They asked me where I wanted to go. I suggested the relief team. There were some comments made about my abilities as a manager and my years of experience. The program supervisor
suggested the center supervisors office, as a relief member of the team. The CSO! Damn! I had aspired to join that team and here it was being handed to me as a peace offering.
Looking back, I probably had a winnable law suit, but I was just focused on keeping my job and winning the fight.
I won.
I had some vacation time, so I used a week of it to prepare for my new job. I spent that time cleaning up. I was so excited to have been given a second chance at my job that I loved so much, and really, in a much bigger sense, my life.
The CSO team, on the other hand, resented me coming on board and didn't keep it a secret from me or anyone else willing to listen.
This was my penance...people who had respected me would no longer make eye contact when we passed on the sidewalk. I was officially in some sort of purgatory. It was a long hard climb back to credibility and respect. It would take a year and a half.
I didn't feel sorry for myself, I owned up to it. Shit, I deserved it.
(The purgatory, not the job).

Friday, June 25, 2004


Mr.Tractor Pull was replaced by this man who had almost the whole alphabet following his name.He had a master's,he had a PhD.,he was a diplomat, plus some other shit. This man was so full of academia and theory that he had lost the ability to think like the people he was dealing with...patients and staff.
My original unit coordinator had moved on to bigger and better things at this time, and Kat had been installed as his replacement a few months before Mr. Tractor Pull got his walking papers...she, in a snit and a pathetic show of solidarity resigned.
I applied for the position, as did Becca. After a protracted decision making process, I got the job. Becca promptly put in her notice and left the team, but not before scolding me on selling out.
The original team was a memory at this point, and I had some very strong ideas about the kind of people I wanted to rebuild a new team (MY team), and how I wanted that team to run the unit.
Enter Professor Abstract.
He was new to this kind of setting, so the first few months were spent showing him the ropes. Our supervisions were hilarious. I took a very simple, common sense approach to milieu management.If you controlled the environment, you controlled the people living in it and then you introduced the therapeutic mumbo jumbo.Once you gained the patients trust and they felt safe,the mumbo jumbo would stick to the walls,so to speak,more than it didn't.
Prof. Abstract had a hard time with this and was full of dense theoretically based word salads that made little to no sense to me whatsoever. In hindsight, we were most likely saying the same things, just in two different languages.
He was also useless in a crisis situation, and because of his inability to read people as PEOPLE, he frequently incited a crisis by pushing way too hard or being too honest too soon about individual patient issues in a group setting.
He was the fire starter, I was the fireman. It was a difficult fence to straddle...I had to support this man and somehow help my patients without splitting myself off from him.
I wish I could of just said " He's a smartypantsed dumbass from some big school up in New's gonna take me some time to turn him around", but I couldn't.
Now, as far as my personal life was concerned, it was rapidly going to shit. Kyle had been born ( and while that is still the most joyous moment of my life...and I'm not just sayin' that Kyle.) and his mom had fallen into post partum, but she super sized it.
I have always believed that she depressed from the get go and while our use of speed was a great way to self medicate, it's withdrawl effects undoubtedly made her underlying condition worse. For myself, I hated the crash, which explained why I avoided it like the plague. For the record, she used no drugs and quit smoking prior to conception and maintained that to term. Our pregnancy was a magical time, we looked forward to having a child, to being parents.
After about 6 months, I began trying to approach her condition and suggested she (we) do something about it.She flatly refused, saying she wanted no part of my "junior psychology". drifted apart.When we weren't taking care of Kyle, I was in the garage with my guitar and she was in her office working. We were doing more and more speed, which accelerated the process. For me, the weekend binge became the thursday through monday run which grew to the daily use that would destroy us as a couple first and then finally as a family.
Cracks were beginning to show on the job as well.
My "cover" was a constant cup of coffee in my hand or on my desk. Cedar allergies explained away the afrin I had to use to clear the way for more lines to snort.
Here's an example of how truly pathetic I had become:
The unit was heading up to the cafe for dinner, I sent them ahead saying I needed to use the bathroom and would "be right there". As soon as they cleared our patio, I locked the door and went into the bathroom to snort. I had no kit with me, so I tore the cover off a book of matches and started to tap some out of the vial, a big chunk rolled out and I had easily 3 lines of this really nasty shit in the matchbook cover. For some reason, the group came back to the unit. I heard the door being unlocked and opened...I panicked.
Did I dump it in the commode and flush? No.
I snorted it and flushed.
As it turned out, the cafe was running behind and we had been bumped for 15 minutes.
By the time we got to the cafe, I thought I was gonna come out of my skin.
I was a mess...full of poison and anger and denial.
The end was near and I pretended that it wasn't.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


As I move through my timeline I'm finding that I remember clearly traumatic or disturbing or otherwise significant moments after about I approach the present it becomes fuzzy... though I can look ahead and recall the past from '92 to now with a clarity that would cook an ant under bunnypant's childhood magnifying glass lens faster than you can say "bring 'em on"!
What this means really, is you get highlights...the (apparently) selective memories of almost a decade dedicated to learning the trade and methamphetimine.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, again.
What I really want to write about here is the chalkboard.
There was a chalkboard mounted at about eye level on the door that led from the staff office to the electrical room.
It was meant for pertinent messages from shift to shift, like:"XXX had dessert @ lunch today even though I told him no...NO dessert @ dinner or he a get's a 24...Got it? ( 24= 24 hour room restriction).
After the unit coordinator and I had gotten to know each other this chalkboard became kind of a cryptic punk rock lyrics sounding board where we would leave each other messages in lyrics that described our shift, or more often than not, our general mood.
Sometimes, I would post crazy lyrics by fringe bands like the Subhumans and Flux of Pink Indians and Crass, just to stir things up.Black Flag became a favorite.
The Unit Coordinator wasn't much beyond Gang of Four in terms of hardcore, and I liked to fuck with him.
It became a kind of psychic jeopardy...we would meet away from work and discuss these chalkboard cryptograms and lot's of other things. We became fast friends, and he is my friend today.We took in the punk scene in Austin like was our escape. I would get my first tattoo during this time, then another, and another. And then there was speed, the up your nose know...bandito bathtub biker speed. the kind of speed that burns a hole in your head...Like I said, I had promised myself earlier that there were things I would never let happen again. I had not met the devil yet, and when I met the devil called crank, I was in fucking love. I was back on the forbidden path, but somehow, Mr. Devil crank showed me the way of the massive rationalization plan and I was on it...big time.
There was this moment in time where I was so strung out that it would ruin my marriage, and almost cost me my job.
This post doesn't really do the Unit Coordinator justice...multiply me by 8 or 9 in terms of meltdown, add in Mr.Tractor pull he had to deal with A LOT of craziness, and did.
Well, I might add.
Next: Rob finally learns his lesson(s)( kind of ) and get's his life a trial of fire.

"I'm too much with myself...I want to be someone else"
Lemonheads, "buddy" from It's a shame about Ray -1992
If I had still been on the chalkboard frequency in '92.
"We have to laugh, to look at each other"...ditto.
I'm all talked out
This has been a week of non-stop phone work, answering and returning customer calls at work. Every time I'm on the phone talking with one customer, three more messages are being left on voice mail. And while I'm checking those messages, six more messages are getting left. Meanwhile, the emails are rolling in too. Now if I were smart, I'd put aside another hour tonight to tackle a particular list (no, I'm not blogging from work right now, I'm at home.) But I'm all talked out. I think I'm just going to drink some beer, do a bit of blog reading and pretend the laundry fairy is stopping by and I won't have to scrounge for something to wear tomorrow. Of course, the laundry fairy won't actually stop by and I WILL have to scrounge in the morning, but hey, that's tomorrow... Part of me really wants to get back on the clock and knock some work out since there's plenty of stuff that needs to be done that doesn't even involve phone calls, but the saner part of me is screaming "YOU'RE WORKING AN 11 HOUR DAY TOMORROW, DRINK BEER!" I think I'll give in to the shouting; time to pop another top off a Shiner...

Our team leader was a master's level psychologist who was built like a Mr.Universe contender and he had pictures of tractor pulling on the wall of his office, and pictures of monster trucks. and in the middle was his degree from the school of tractor pulling, monster truck racing psychologists.
This guy was a fucking piece of work. I never liked him. Part of the weekly team meeting was dealing with patient requests for unsupervised on grounds walks and 15 minute off campus privs. This guy would ask our opinion and then arbitrarily give or deny requested privs based solely on the progress in individual therapy with him. I used to imagine what an individual session must be like with this guy, and images of the darkest nature would fill my head, and I would shut them out.He was one controlling motherfucker.
Our weekly team meetings mostly focused on team we, the team, were interacting. No matter how many times I would try to point out that the patients were more important than the team dynamics, I would be shut down. This pissed me off, then the focus would shift ( by Mr. Tractor Pull ) to my anger related issues.Then everyone in the room would be grilling me about my anger and I would end up in that corner my mom always said was my enough is fucking enough spot and I should turn to the offensive, pointing out other people's shit.
He made a mistake fucking with me like this...not only was I learning the craft in a clinical way, I had been doing this for several years relying on my gut and common sense. And my gut and common sense told me on some deep, disturbing level this guy was way fucked up. And my clinical training confirmed my gut.
Unfortunately, the team as a whole was so weak that he rolled his monster truck ideology over us all the time.
he encouraged us to disclose personal things about ourselves in these meetings.
Which I didn't do...I focused on my perceived anger and let him focus on that...truth was, I was angry and it was an emotion that was easy to keep one dimensional.And focused.

There were a couple of women on the team who weren't so lucky, and, I found out as time past that he was seeing them in individual "supervision", away from work. They had disclosed personal things, and he exploited them to his advantage...the details of which would come out in the rumor mill and be blurted out by me in one particularly tense meeting.
The team was pressuring one of these women (Becca,my lab partner) to disclose her reasons for being so withdrawn and "not being part of the team".She was stonewalling and we were running out of time. In my mind, we were wasting our time dealing with team dynamics that weren't even really team I said "What's the matter Becca?Kat got your tongue"? And there was a shit storm. Kat (the other woman in this equation), almost came off her seat in a rage that I would insinuate they were having sex. Becca started cursing me and my "anger"...Mr.tractor Pull jumped on this and tried to shift the focus to me and my anger. I never said anything about sex (:P) but my point had been made.
Sometime later, it would come out that not only were these two lapping it up, but Becca was fucking an 18 year old patient on our unit...he was beaten down psychologically by Mr. Tractor Pull and transferred to the ICU unit, where he remained for the duration of his treatment. His relationship with Becca was explained away as a fantasy and Mr. tractor Pull continued to exploit Becca and Kat into a lesbian relationship that cost Kat her marriage and both of them their jobs before the administration realized Mr. Tractor Pull was a liability and got rid of him on a paperwork issue.
His leaving was a rebirth for our team...of course, all the bullshit was explained away in that corporate/therapeutic not really explained sort of way and we moved on.
I would run into the above mentioned 18 year old patient at a Husker Du concert 3 or 4 years after all of this, and guess who he was living with???
That's right...
Further proof that A: Love is blind. or B: It really is a sick fucking world...
You decide.
Wow...this has worn me out...I'll deal with our unit coordinator tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


I mounted some switchboxes on a wall. Eight of them, actually. They will eventually house switches for eight air filtration units in the prop shop of the performing arts center at UT. This place is amazing. The ceilings are 30 feet high, it's a sprawling complex, and I learned just how sprawling this morning when I went to have a pee.
The bathroom was maybe 25 yards and 2 doors away from where I was working. When I was done with my pee I was headed back to the work area and the door I had come through wouldn't open. There were 4 other doors, and a stairwell and a stencil on the wall by the forth door that read exit. I tried the 3 other doors and found the greenroom, the stagehands office and a dark empty room. I took the door that was marked exit and walked out into the daylight the fuck am I???
I located memorial stadium and worked out my bearings from there. It was probably a 1/4 mile back to the back stage entrance where we were parked.
Like I said, this building is fucking huge.
Back to those switchboxes...4 for the front 4 units, 4 for the back. Before I could mount these boxes, we had to run pipe from the breaker panels up and across the wall, mount junction boxes to split off to the different circuits, pipe straps to hold all this shit in place, which involves measuring, leveling and hammer drilling into cinder blocks and concrete pillars and beams.
I learned how to bend get around corners, to jump over other pipe in the way...saddles, kicks, offsets, and suddenly, shit I've looked at for years and never given a second thought to was art.
Art, damn it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


I started working on Twin Oaks in '83...this place had it's shit together. There was structure, there was training! There was a career ladder! I was in heaven. There was also the same kind of staff culture. The staff here were more professional and focused on the job, but the same kind of lifestyle was prevalent during the off hours.
Let me just say that, back in '83, there were probably 3 occupations that had the highest levels of substance abuse than any other, and they are: Law enforcement, Nursing and Psych Techs.
Over the years I have learned that this kind of shit is much more wide spread, but back then it was us, the nurses and the cops I was around most.
It was also the hey day of the punk explosion in Austin, a scene I immersed myself in. There were bands everywhere...The Big Boys, The Dicks, The Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid.
It was a non stop stream of musical mayhem.
I had always been a subscriber to the punk aesthetic, even when I was a hair farming, pot smoking hippy freak. I have the attitude even now, a bit distilled however.
It used to be "fuck the system" period.Now it's "fuck the system in ways that don't fuck with me" may call this selling out, I call it growing up and getting smart.
Anyway, back to the point of this ( if there is one ).
I had cleaned up my act and was rapidly moving up in the ranks as someone who was a "natural" for this kind of work. I attended all the training I could and was actually learning the tools of the trade. Things I had been doing intuitively suddenly made sense in a focused, academic way.
I got better at what I was doing and the impact was obvious.
I got better shifts, I ended up with the full time "house daddy" slot ( 7a-3p M-F ) in short order. I would end up being the unit coordinator on this unit, supervising a team and having the direct accountability for a unit of 12 patients and their successful progression through treatment.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
The best way I can describe staff dynamics and it's impact on the team and patient care is to take you through the team, member by member, discipline by discipline. the team leader...source of all things dysfunctional. And the unit coordinator who tried to keep it all in check...who is still one of my dearest friends, despite my efforts to the opposite ( more on that later ).
I'm not just an employee, I'm also a client
Fortuantly I don't work at "Hair Club for Men", but for a dog trainer. I started private lessons with Sullivan today with one of our trainers. Sully is typical of many of the dogs we see where I work, extremely insecure and aggressive towards strangers, both human and dog. Before I started this job, we figured we would always have to work around these issues and that we'd never have a "normal" dog. Turns out we were wrong and I've witnessed some amazing tranformations in dogs over the time I've been working at the center. I've taken Sullivan up to the center a couple of times and we got in a few mini lessons here and there, but I wanted to go through the whole series, just like any other customer so I could better explain our services when people call or come by the place. Now I, just like our clients, have two weeks worth of "homework" to do with my dog before the next lesson. And, like any other client, all the instructions are a bit fuzzy in my brain so I will have to refer to the handouts. However, I have different handouts - new and improved, not yet published handouts. I guess that makes me a beta tester of sorts :)

I was working the saturday 7-3 on the girls unit for overtime. We had been out for morning activity, which, coincidentally, was near where I was living. I had plans for after work that involved weed, which I had forgotten at my house that morning.
Did I wait until after work to go get my weed? No.
Did I go to my house with a van full of emotionally disturbed teenaged girls and run inside to "get my backpack"? Yes.
Was I stupid enough to think that said girls wouldn't wonder what was so important about that back pack that I had to make us late for lunch to retrieve it? Yes again.
Was I stricken with terror when we returned from lunch to find my back pack in the day room instead of the office, rifled through and the weed missing? Damn right I was.
And what did I do?
I gathered all the girls in the day room and explained that something had been taken from my back pack and they had 15 minutes to return it to said back pack, no questions asked.
Did they? Fuck no.
Did I really believe they would give back a fat bag of primo weed? I was hoping against hope they would. ( remember the boundary thing I mentioned yesterday?)
I had inadvertently provided drugs to the entire population of the girls unit in a treatment center, did I just keep my mouth shut? The cat was out of the bag.
I may have been incredibly stupid, but I was honest.
I called the director and told him what was up, I informed the senior staff on duty what was up. I got in my car and drove away. I quit. I was embarrassed, humiliated...I kept thinking about the opening credits to an old TV western "Branded" starring Chuck Connors where they drum him out of the calvary and rub it in by breaking his sword in half and throw it over the walls of the fort as a final insult before they kick him out the gates.
I promised myself that something like this would NEVER EVER happen again. In fact, there were lots of things that happened there that I promised I would never let happen again, and for the most part, I've kept that promise.
I was also midway through my first semester of nursing school, my lab partner in anatomy and physiology worked at another, larger, for profit treatment center and they had an opening on her unit. She hooked me up with her boss, he hired me.
And that was the start of the most amazing adventure I had ever been on. I would be there for 14 years when it was all said and done.

I'm working until about 6 pm and your cell phone was found (check your email for details.)

Monday, June 21, 2004


I got a job right away at a residential treatment center right around the corner from the house...working the swing shift again, but it was a job.
Soon I had worked my way into full time 7a-3p and life was good.
Back in Colorado, the staff were kinda crazy, here in Austin they were more dysfunctional than the kids they worked with.
If you look at team dynamics as familial, this crew was the most incestuous group of people I had ever come across, in both a sexual and psychological way. Everybody was fucking with everybody else, physically and spiritually.
I tried to rekindle my relationship with Nicee, but it was a waste of time, and soon I found myself single again.
The team here partied...alot. One of the regular events was a full moon party everytime it was full (duh) out at the lake. There was one girl in particular that took an interest in me and persued me. I took advantage, and while I had no intention of anything serious, she kept trying. I kept saying I wasn't interested in anything serious, and she kept saying it was ok with her to just be bedroom buddies. This would have been all well and good, but she was not being honest. It was a constant struggle...she kept giving me things. Books, jewelery etc. that led me to believe she wanted more. To me she was a "Booty Call" even though the phrase hadn't been coined yet.
She lived near my parents and I would frequently show up at her door at the end of a night of drinking and pool shooting and take advantage of her favors on my way home. This went on for awhile, and I was never comfortable with it. Except when I was on my way home,drunk and horny.
I finally put an end to it...I could never give her what she wanted and I couldn't deal with "using" her anymore. Amazingly, we remained friends, I loved her, but not in "that way". She eventually moved away and I lost track of her. I think about her sometimes and hope she is happy.
One day, I was taking the kids on my dorm for a walk to a local park when a teacher from the center chased us down and gave me a checkbook stub with her phone number on it and invited to call her for coffee or something. She was a petite little ball of fire. I had dealt with my kids in her classroom on many occaisions and was impressed with her ability to deal with the craziness that was our business, plus, she was hot.
My kids ooohed and awwwed.
I called her and we hooked up.
She would end up being the mother of my son, the thorn in my side, and through it all from those days to now, a pretty amazing woman.
Boundaries were always an issue for me at this job, or more to the point, the lack of boundaries. As much as I fought it, I would fall victim to this and the carelessness that results. It would cost me my job, but that would be a good thing.
For awhile.
I should call this "for awhile", huh?
More tomorrow.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Nick Berg, Paul Johnson jr. and now some South Korean guy is waiting for the inevitable.
What the fuck?
If they chop this poor guys head off, I say the gloves are off.

We need to bomb these motherfuckers into oblivion...yesterday, preferably.
...I'm sorry, but I've had enough of this shit.
It's time to get fucking ugly.

(Tasteless beer-addled nasty generalized comments deleted)

Needless to say, being in a blown up truck on the side of I-87 with everything you own is not exactly a walk in the park. It's a walk down the most desolate stretch of highway in all of Texas.
Traffic is sporadic during the day and most of the night traffic was semis traveling at the speed of light.
I figured I'd hitchhike into Big Springs and call a wrecker and...well, I wasn't sure after that.
So, Buddy and I are about 5 miles into our walk and 8 or so carcasses of mostly deer and the occasional coyote or 3 hanging pike like from ranchers fenceposts as a warning to the other coyotes I guess.
Because of my sleep deprived speeded out condition, it was all very surreal. Like I was in a movie or something.
I was snapped back to reality when a state trooper drove by me heading north and turned around, heading back in my direction.
He pulled to a stop and got out of his cruiser and approached me and Buddy.
This could have been a problem because, A: Buddy did not like people in uniforms ( I didn't teach him this, I swear:) ) and B: I had brought some of my coke stash with me.
I told Buddy to heel and he did. The trooper asked "Are you Robert Clattenburg"?
I answered with a puzzled yes.
He explained that my mom had called them concerned that they had not heard from me. The group home I had applied for a job at called the day after I left and my friends had called my parents to let me know that I had a job if I wanted one.
Then he asked me where my truck was, I told him about 5 miles back that way. He drove me to my dead truck, radioed for a wrecker and we waited.He did some hoo-doo with his radio and I was able to talk to my mom, who explained she had remembered seeing my atlas with the route highlighted and made her best guess where I might be because she knew I was in trouble.
That's my mom.
I was towed to I-87 salvage where they bought my truck for $200.00...Hell, the tires were worth 300 and the stereo (blaupunkt) was worth even more. How was I gonna get my truck home to Austin which was about 300 miles away? As much as it sucked, I took the $200.00.
They loaded all my stuff on the wrecker and drove me and Buddy to the motel 6 in Big Spring. I checked into a room and called home. My Dad would borrow my sisters truck and come get me.
Great. I took a shower and tried to go...I smoked some go...I walked over to the truck stop and had a chicken fried steak with fries and a salad. I went back to the hotel and tried to go...I busted out the coke and turned on the TV and waited for my dad.
Buddy was stretched out on the bed sleeping like there was no tomorrow.
I called nicee, she was less than glad to hear I was coming back. There was something in her it would turn out, it was another guy...and he wasn't in her voice.
I went back to my room...Buddy looked up from the bed and wagged his tail.
I had never felt so beaten down and broken in my life...Here I was in a motel 6 in Big spring, truck,no job,no plan beyond going home and listening to my mom recite the top 100 things that make me a fuck up.
I looked at Buddy sleeping peacefully on the bed and had the simultaneous thoughts "you're my only true friend" and "I wish I was you".
I did some more coke and waited for my Dad.
In the years to come, this experience would temper other crises in my life and prove to be a character building chapter in my life.
My Dad showed up around sundown and we loaded up and headed home.
Seven hours later I was back here.
Then things got really strange.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


As I mentioned earlier in the comments box over at Special K's place
I hooked up with some folks I worked with at my old job today and, while it was good to see them, I had a conversation with my closet friend about work.
I have been doing this electrician thing for about a month now, and I have grown. I am no longer afraid of the almighty terrifying ladder and I take great comfort in the rule about never working on something that is "hot"...something that could electrocute your ass...something that could kill you.
I am pleased that the mechanical part of my brain has woken up. I am full time common sense angles and figgerin' out the problem with good results...I can still utilize the mechanical part of my brain and it makes sense.
I liked what I was doing at Hine's...working with the customers in person and on the phone, helping them figure out what they really was human services work without the's your impeller dude, see you the next time your poorly maintained equipment pad blows up.
I like the interaction. I also like the process of what I'm doing now...I route wires to specific locations to turn things on and off, to afford man control of a resource.
According to my friend, If I went to the distributor that supplies the company I used to work for, they would hire me in a minute.
I cursed the god of options and resolved to think it through.
Then I made turkey burgers and had a screwdriver...

So, I drive back toward Texas with my tail between my legs... a failure. But a failure with a 1/4 pound of weed and (yes, another) 8 ball of coke. The coke in Colorado was so much better than the stepped on shit we could get in Texas...I was sure to be a hit when I got home, deflecting the utter failure with quality blow was a sure fire way to make myself feel better.
It was beginning to dawn on me that I needed a new plan, one that didn't involve so much substance abuse. You could get away with being a part time drug dealing pot smoking slacker in the seventies. The eighties required a new plan. I needed to change it up a bit.
I had lots of windshield time to ponder this on my way home, and Buddy was unconditionally on my side. After all, I fed him and let him out when nature called.
My truck started misfiring and finally died somewhere in southern Colorado, it finally died and with my limited mechanical knowledge I determined it was the coil.
I locked Buddy in the cab and walked back to the last town we had rolled through and bought a new coil...the store employee that gave me a ride back to my truck hung out long enough for me to realize it wasn't the coil. He looked into my distributor and found the wire that had come loose and fixed it. No charge, but I was stuck with the $40.00 coil because there's no return on electrical parts. You never know when you're gonna need a coil, but you KNOW when you're gonna need that 40 bucks that fucking coil cost you.
So, I'm out of money...I pawn my TV and some other shit in the next town just to have the money for gas to get home.
I had some robin's eggs (speed pills) that I took so I could be like a long haul trucker and get home in record time and grind my teeth down to the nub. I remember pulling into a gas station in Dumas Texas and when my truck stopped moving, I did not. I was forced forward into the steering wheel. I filled up, got coffee and ate another robins egg. I didn't know it then, but I was psychotic.
I mean, come on, it's the middle of the night in the wasteland that is west texas...I was in a fucking David Lynch movie for all I knew.
So, I'm cruising along at about 80mph in the wee hours down I-87, listening to that god-awful Loverboy cassette and I hear a tap-tap-a-tapping that is not part of the music.
Truck.throws.a.fucking.ROD....AUGGGGGHHHH! I am dead in the water.
When the sun comes up there is a sign about a 1/4 mile down the road that says Big Springs, 14 miles.
I remember the dash lights going to an amber strobe mode, I remember the semi's going by
shaking my now dead truck to the left and the right...I remember thinking "what the fuck am I gonna do now"?

Friday, June 18, 2004


Buddy and I made it to Colorado springs. We would be staying with friends I knew from the hospital days until I found a job and got a place. Let me tell you a bit about these folks.
They were (and are) my friends. I have had friends before them and after that I would and do consider close, but these two are special. He helped me when the "wife" and I split and I didn't even really ask (he had a truck, well, it was an El Camino or a ranchero, I forget which...but it was sporty dammit!) for help that I remember. If I did it was one of those "hey man could you....." "Yeah, no problem" sort of exchanges you have with friends. We hung out a lot, a group of 5 and sometimes 6 or more. She would listen to me rattle on about "deep" stuff and share some "deep stuff" of her own with me.
Jeez! I'm doing them no justice here...words escape me. These two have been friends for going on 25 years no matter what and I love them and their family dearly.
They let me stay with them despite the fact that they got married that same January and were planning for that and the fact that her family was coming from out of state and was gonna stay with them as well.
Buddy and I were an imposition, but still, they helped me out.

There was a morning ritual. It was lined up on the counter every morning when I woke up.
There was the coffee, the cups, the cream and sugar, the spoon and the mirror lined out with the coke. My friend would be sitting at the breakfast table in his robe with the local daily paper and he would greet me with the familiar sarcastic greeting. I would fix my coffee and do my lines, hang out for awhile and then go look for a job.
This went on for three weeks.
I had no luck finding a job. Despite the party atmosphere I really applied myself. I wanted to stay there, amongst my new friends and make a life for myself in the Springs.
It was not to be. During the time I was there, Buddy presented a series of adventures. All involving my friends dog "Duke,the wonder dog". Duke was a Black Lab mix and old and set in his ways. He did not appreciate his home being invaded by the teenaged Buddy. Both were male and intact (they had their balls).
One night we all went out and left Buddy in the bathroom to prevent a fight. When we got home, the bathroom looked as if a squad of laxative addicted bulemics had gathered in the bathroom and had a shit spraying party. It was disgusting, it ruined the carpet, I had to clean it up. ugh...
Another time, Duke walked through the living room and casually grabbed Buddy on his forehead just below his eyes and proceeded to kick his ass in front of god and the three of us. Duke was not cool with Buddy, this was apparent.This altercation led to a trip to the vet and a further depletion of my funds already depleted by my purchashing of coke. I had my priorities, but they were hump-backed and crooked. I was crapping out on the job search as well. The last place I applied was a residential treatment center in the mountains outside of Manitou Springs, the interview went well, but they didn't call.
Then the inevitable came. About a week before the wedding, at our morning ritual, my friend asked me what was I gonna do? I needed to be out in a week and I had no job and no prospects.
As much as I wanted to stay, I was out of options. I packed up the truck and headed home.
My return to the mountains I loved so much had lasted all of three weeks.
The trip home would be a harbinger of things to come...Had I been paying attention that is.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

It's been a few days. I should post something. Got lots of ideas, plenty of thoughts, just not enough energy to type coherent sentences. Oh yeah, I was going to do ala Rob stream of consciousness sutff. So let's see, what did I do today? I took down the blackboard at work. This is something that was nailed by what seemed like hundreds of nails to the door in the kitchen. One of the crazy dogs we had for daycare one time pulled the bottom part away from the door and chewed it up a bit which caused it to mess with my toes everytime I opened the door. This morning I decided enough was enough and I had time to pull the thing down between office lessons - no boss, no clients, just peace and quiet in between phone calls. Unfortunately the blackboard was behind the trim that held this little peep window in place on the door. The peep window comes in handy since we put our hard core aggression cases in this room so I didn't want to mess with that window. I didn't know exactly what the backing of this blackboard stuff was made of, but I discovered I could cut it with a carpet knife provided I put enough effort into the endeavor. Many, many cuts around the peep window and a few sore bicep muscles later, it was detached from the door and I folded it up into a nice bundle in the middle of the floor. That's when I discovered it weighed a ton. I knew it was heavy when I was taking it down, but once it was in a neat folded up bundle on the floor, there was no way I could pick it up off the floor and cart it out to the trash can. Apparently the backing was lead. Fortunately, a co-worker happened by in the afternoon and helped me get it outside and I can only hope that the garbage truck that comes by tomorrow morning is one of those with the mechanical arms that picks up the can rather than humans. Speaking of sore biceps, after I took the blackboard down I went to Kinkos to pick up some printing we had done - a big full box of stuff and did anyone offer to help me out to the car with it? Hell no. At least the stop at Bark-N-Purr for the 30 pound bag of dog food garnered an offer of assistance, but at this point 30 pounds was nothing to cart out to the car. Still, I appreciate the offer. One reason my business has shifted from the Tomlinson's on Ben White to the Bark-N-Purr on Burnet. I don't know what happened at the Ben White Tomlinson's but the last two times I was there the customer service absolutely sucked; a big switch from my previous experiences. I'm funny about customer service; I'll happily pay more for an item if you smile at me when I check out, offer to help me out with a heavy load and extra kudos is you bother to remember my name or that I come in three times a week. And when it come to chain stores, if I had an alternative to Target for some of the things that I buy, you can bet I'd be THERE and gladly paying a higher price than dealing with surly check out clerks. Sigh.

Buddy and I left in the morning and drove, and drove and drove and drove some more.Mom had bought me a little igloo ice chest and filled it with sandwiches and stuff for the road.
There are a couple of ways to get to Colorado from Austin, the short route, which takes you through the panhandle of Oklahomo (very bleak, but especially so in the dead of winter) or the more scenic route through New Mexico and over the beautiful Raton Pass.
Since I was in a perpetual hurry back then, I chose the former.
We spent the night in Amarillo and the next morning it was freezing cold. It was then I remembered there was no heater in my truck, to complicate matters, the holes where all the heater lines and vents once went through the firewall were open.
I made it about 20 miles outside of Amarillo before I could no longer feel my feet. I pulled off to the side of the highway and began stuffing these holes with toilet paper.
I had the drivers side door open, laying across the floorboard when this semi went by at a very high rate of speed.The windshear pulled my door forward until it was slammed into the front quarter panel, by the time I got out of the truck to jump up and down and hurl curses the semi was a tiny dot on the horizon. I jumped up and down and hurled curses anyway.
There I was in the middle of nowhere alone save for Buddy, jumping up and down and screaming "fuck youuuuuuu"!!!!! to nothing, with Buddy looking at me like I was crazy.
After pulling my door free from my front fender, I was back on the road. It was still cold, but it wasn't blasting arcticly from my floorboard anymore.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I listened to and sang along to Neil Young's Decade the whole way there with the exception of occasional breaks of Loverboy and Foreigner.(Yeah...I know, but who could resist workin' for the weekend?)
I smoked a lot of weed and discovered the munchie love that is the truck stop diner.
I didn't have a plan really, beyond I figured I would find a job quickly and it would all be jake.
I was wrong.

We're done with the reno except for the punch list stuff, most of which happened this afternoon.My sub came by this after and, after the punch list stuff was done...put the bottom trim down, re-attach the sliding burglar bar thing in front of the sliding glass door...put the corner trim an Ann's metal magnet wall, he gave me an update that curled my hair.
The following events have occurred over the past week.
One of my subs main guys...the king of sheetrock and an all around likeable kid who was here from the demo to the first round of inspections is dead. From a drug overdose. Seems he died in some hotel somewhere after he shot up too much speed. I had no idea he did that shit, my experience with him was he was a nice kid and a hard worker who knew his shit. And now he's dead.
Another guy that worked here (bear with me) had two houses, one where he lived and one where he apparently had quite the drug operation going. Yesterday, he rolled up to his drug operation house with a friend. Friend's truck caught on fire for some unknown reason in the driveway. A neighbor called the fire department when he observed them unsuccessfully trying to put the truck out and then came out to let them know that he had done this great deed.
They bailed in another car before the FD arrived. When the FD arrived the truck was still burning and threatening the carport roof.In securing the scene the FD broke out a window,revealing a large amount of weed drying out on the front room floor.Further investigation exposed the rest of the operation. That guy is a fugitive now.
And finally, the electrician who did our new drop and service heard today that a longtime friend and coworker was diagnosed with brain cancer and has six weeks to live.
This messed with my mind.Beyond the fact that they were all somehow connected to me and Ann,it got me to thinking about how lucky I have been in my life.
Sure, I've had my share of tradgedies and fuck arounds. But when it all washes out at the end of the day, I have had what can be best described as a charmed life, swinging out of the grasp of the jaws of doom and defeat on more than one occasion and living to tell about it, often in close proximity of those very blood thirsty jaws.
I have been writing here about my life, a lot of it involves drug and alcohol use and the ensuing adventures. You could even say that this use has nuanced almost every moment of my life since I was 12 years old.
I'm not trying to romanticize the lifestyle here, I'm just telling my story ( I'm still not sure why I'm even doing it,but I am).The point is that news like this reminds me of how charmed I am.And fills me with a sadness for those who did'nt have "pretty boy's luck"** .
**Find and watch 84Charlie MoPic. If you've already seen it, you know what I'm talking about.
I'm up late and by all means shouldn't be. I built a fence today and I should be exhausted, but my head is swimming as I try to wrap it around this horrible news.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


All together, we spent a little over a year together. Initially it was awesome, but over time strange things started happening. Especially when we moved in together. I think we broke up a half a dozen times, only to have her call me in a few days missing me. I would allow myself to get sucked back in. We lived together with another girl for a few months and things got really weird.
One night around halloween, we had done some acid and we were at this party. Things were going well until an old boyfriend of our housemate showed up. Things went downhill fast.
Before I knew it our housemate had stormed out to her car and stormed back in with a paperback copy of "No one gets out of here alive". What was weird was she was flipping through pages and spitting on them! She threw the spittle laden book at this thoroughly confused looking guy and began railing about how she was going to hire someone to break his fingers so he could never play guitar again and blah blah blah. It was time to go home.I knew the tail end of tripping could make one cranky, but this was a bit much.
Prior to this outburst (she was 18 by the way) the three of us had been discussing the merits of menage a trois and open relationships in general. One of them suggested we try it out when we got home. "WOO HOO"! I said to myself.
So we get home and there's nothing to drink. I go up to the corner store to score some wine, this was normally a 10-15 minute trip, but since I was still tripping, it took about 45. When I got home, I couldn't find Nicee. I looked high and low, she was nowhere to be found. The housemate was passed out in her bed. Turns out they had grown impatient and had gone on without me, Nicee was passed out under the covers laying across the width of the foot of the bed.
I spent the rest of the night up in the loft wondering where the hell Nicee was, occasionally climbing down and going out in the backyard to check under the canoe...again.
When she emerged the next morning from the housemates room naked and climbed up into the loft she was cavalier about the whole thing, announcing to me that it wasn't her first time with a girl and wouldn't be her last with a "so there" kind of bravado that pissed me off. I don't know if I was angry that I had missed out on the fun, that she had cheated on me and didn't appear to give a shit, or a combination of the two.
How did I deal with this? I ate some more acid and disappeared with a friend of mine for two days.
When I returned it was all "oh I'm so sorry, let me fuck your brains out".
( I write this I am so glad I'm not 22 anymore!)
And then I got the itch. I missed the insulating comfort of the mountains, they were calling to me. I left for Colorado in January '82 with everything I owned packed into my truck. I had tried to get Nicee to come with me, but luckily for both of us, she declined.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


I was able to get back on at the state school. This time at the Evaluation rehabilitation Center's Wood shop. We made cedar furniture to be sold at the twice annual "garage sales"
held at Auditorium Shores on town lake, a city owned chunk of parkland on the banks of the Colorado river, called Town lake on this stretch, and home to many events like ours and other more festive events with live music and all that.
Anyhow, we had this building full of industrial strength equipment...Bandsaws, rip saws, table saws, drill presses and this enormous planer that scared the shit out of me.
We oversaw the clients (RETARDED may I remind you) as they operated this equipment equipped with various jigs to guide them in their cuts. An assembly line of tasks that we would assemble into some of the most beautiful raw cedar furniture you have ever seen in your life.
It was an awesome experience, instilling in a me a stronger belief that you could do anything, for anyone, provided you had the ability to create a framework for that success.
We had that ability in the woman who ran the woodshop. That's right...a woman.
She was from hard scrabble stock, a single mother of two who, in addition to owning and maintaining a farm and a family, was smart enough to organize and run a furniture shop manned almost to a man by retarded men. The staff did the detail stuff mostly, when we said the clients made this stuff we meant it.
She had known me since I was 12. She had worked closely with my dad and they remained close friends when he moved on to staff development.
She knew everything about me.
On the one hand, because we were close, she cut me slack. On the other hand, she was constantly trying to be my stepmom or something. I also had been picking up on a sexual vibe from her since I was about sixteen. This was especially evident in her constant flow of advice regarding my girlfriends.
She once invited out for a weekend at the farm riding horses etc., and, oh by the way, older son is out of town and younger son is at the grandparents...we'd have the place to ourselves.
I was a bit freaked and more than a little intrigued, I mean, here was a woman I'd known since I was 12 practically saying " come to my farm and let me seduce you" when I was 16.
She was attractive in that rough but pretty "I will rock you and hurt you"
and you'll love every minute of it sort of way.
I often wonder what would have happened if I had spent the weekend with her, part of me is glad I didn't and part of me still thinks about what could have been if I had.
That whole older woman fantasy and all.

Home life was an adjustment. Here I was, living with my parents at 21, making decent money and no bills to pay except for kicking in on food. I had no bank account beyond cashing my check and putting the proceeds into my sock drawer. I saved up money and bought a 1965 1/2 ton stepside chevy pick up with a police interceptor 350 motor. It was a fast ride in disguise.
I spent most nights at a local pool hall/music venue, drinking and playing pool. When I wasn't working, I was out with Buddy. The park, the lake, the drag. I was in the park one afternoon and walked past the canoe rental with buddy.
The girl working there called out to me "what kind of dog IS that"? Buddy was about 115 pounds with the bone size of a great dane but the appearance of a husky, complete with curved coffee table clearing tail. He had the coat of a husky, but was brindle red, like a dane. he was also the smartest most obedient dog on the planet...and a chick magnet:).
Turns out, I knew her from high school. She invited me to come canoeing after hours the next day with buddy. She would bring her dog, who had many names but I remember him as "Hounders". The four of us would hook up. It was good for a while, then it went south, but not in a hurry. Slowly, painfully south.
The era of "Nisee" had arrived.

I found one of my eastern box turtles dead this afternoon. It's as if I've lost a child. This group of easterns came to me from a dear friend who had rescued more than she could handle and needed some help. I took 11 and it was non stop daily hydrating ( you shoot them full of sterile solution with a syringe) and tube feeding this mush of baby formula and cat food. You had to be sure you put thew tube down the right hole or youd drown them. Stick the needle in too far and puncture an organ, bye bye turtle.
Turtles, box turtles anyway, have no diaphragm seperating the organs. They just float around in a bag of fluid, so giving injections is very sketchy. You must be very careful.
This group was so sick, it was a couple of months before I got them to eat on thier own. I tried everything in the all the turtle food groups, crickets, pinky mice, a large variety of fruits and vegetables...they weren't interested. Finally they went for nightcrawlers. I was in heaven.
Norton was very ill, and relapsed several times over the next couple of years. But I always managed to bring him around. we had a nice run of 4 or 5 years where he was healthy and happy. Until today.
I found him in the water dish. I don't know if the heat got him or if he was sick and I just didn't notice, or it was just his time and he got into the water he loved so much and just went to sleep. He was very old, so old in fact, that his growth rings had blurred and smoothed out to the point that it was impossible to count exactly how old he was. At the very least 45 or 50.
Norton was a beautiful turtle, bright yellow markings and an awesomely camoflaged shell.
He was very friendly and responsive. I will miss him.

Monday, June 14, 2004


We drove to Amarillo and checked into the hotel I've checked into on almost every trip to Colorado. I ran to the liquor store and picked up some booze... I'm not certain but I think it was Canadian mist and ginger ale for my dad and beers for me ( I had about 2 ounces of white haired sensimilla pot and an 8 ball of coke ) We were set.
My dad got really drunk and in between teaching me the song "Ol' Shep" which was about a dog, which reminded him (tearfully) of his favorite childhood dog that drown in the hudson river when he was 14, he told me some about his experiences in the war...the big one...WWII.
Mostly that he had killed people, and even though it was for god and country, these experiences had scarred him and he would never get over the sight of bodies and parts of bodies floating on the surface. Bodies and parts of bodies that he was responsible for killing in his mind. He was glad I had missed the draft and Viet Nam and we both had mom to thank for that, her and her erratic biological clock and the 4 siblings that were stillborn before I managed to hang on in that womb and pop out. (albeit breech and with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck)
Some of this history I had heard before, but not the war part. I had seen my dad cry before, but it was always situational...not like this.
I tried to share with him my experiences at the psych hospital...He got it, but it could never rate with killing people during wartime. He appreciated the emotional toll though.
He finally passed out and I was wide awake, partly because of the revelations of the evening, but mostly because every time I went to take a piss I would snort a line.
I remember watching my dad as he slept and marveling at his humanity. I had always loved my dad and respected him...He was an amazing person prior to this night, but after this he was so much more to me.
We left in the morning and never said a word about any of it after that.
But we looked at each other in a different way...a kind of unspoken reverence and appreciation for who we were in that moment.
We got home and mom was glad to see me ( I think she was more excited about meeting Buddy, but that's just me ) and then it was time to look for a job.
I didn't have to look long.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Are too hot to handle.
I wish I could of come up with a better title for this part, but it really sums it up. Working in the human services field really takes a toll. The work itself, and the things you do to cope with it.
I have tried many times to chronicle my experiences during the years I worked in hospitals without success. There are just so many memories and people and places in my head that it's impossible to get it out.
Let me just say that it was at once exhilarating, damaging, unbelievably funny, unbelievably sad, eye opening, educational, humbling, dangerous...jeez! I can't even sum it up in descriptives.
Let's just continue to take it in blocks and see if it makes any sense when it's done.
I continued to work at the hospital after the "wife" and I split. Divorce in Colorado was hella easy back then. You could do it yourself. We did. Buy some forms at a local copy shop,fill them out, have them notarized, pay $32.50 at the courthouse, raise your right hand and swear you hate each other. If you can come back in 90 days and still swear you hate each other, it's done. It was.
I was still working a split shift, but it was only days and evenings. We'd get off shift and go to Jinx's and drink until close. We would talk about the shift and the patients and strategies for dealing with them. In the biz it's called "processing" and process we did.
The drink dulled the pain and the coke made us freudian fucking giants (what a coincidence). We came up with amazing strategies, and surprisingly, most of them worked.
Our partying helped us ignore the damage we were doing to ourselves applying the craft.
There was an end to this road. The end was inevitable, but it took longer for some than others.
I, unfortunately was one of the somes.
Homesickness eventually got the better of me and I called home. My dad flew up and me and buddy met him at the airport in Denver. ( I told security there that buddy was training to be a service dog and they bought it! What are the odds of that happening in this day and age?)
We drove back to Manitou, loaded up my subaru DL and drove back to Austin.
We stayed the night in Amarillo.
That's another story.
Tune in tomorrow when dad gets drunk in a Amarillo hotel room and (sort of) bares his soul.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

I'm not Rob's "Right Hand Man"
Nope, I'm his Left Hand Man as evidenced by the seating arrangement we automatically took after setting up our new living room chairs and end table. Well, I suppose "Living Room" is a misnomer since it's actually one big open space so "Entertainment Area" might be a better term. Either way, we skipped the traditional couch and loveseat (not enough room) and opted for two chairs and ottomans with an end table between them. Facing the TV, of course. I took the chair on the left and Rob took the chair on the right to determine if the spacing was comfortable between the chairs and the TV. We decided it was good and went about our other business which didn't involve sitting in the chairs. Our dog Irene discovered the new chairs and decided to jump up in my chair. She would sleep in it off and on over the course of several hours, but always in my chair, never Rob's. I made several laughing comments to Rob about it and then I wondered why we had automatically decided that the chair on the left was "my" chair and the chair on the right was "Rob's" chair. It was this weird unspoken agreement between the two of us, a seating arrangement taken on autopilot and I thought that a bit odd. Odd that is until Rob figured out the obvious reason. He is left-handed and I am right-handed. He wants the end table on his left and I want the end table on my right. Duh.
The Joy of Bread
The bakery next door to where I work sells loaves of challah on Fridays. It's not out for sale when I go to get my morning coffee and it's usually sold out when I wander over for my afternoon tea. Yesterday I happened to go over and get some of their fabulous cheese soup for lunch and I was able to snag a loaf. I had a little bit with my soup and it was probably the best bakery version of a challah that I've run across. Not as good as my own, but that's only because I tailored a recipe over the years to fit my exact tastes and preferences. Unfortunately, it's been a very long time since I baked a loaf of bread. I used to bake bread several times a week before I moved in with Rob and I tried it a few times after I moved in here, but there was no decent counter space to knead the bread. My mom offered to get me a bread machine for Christmas, but I reminded her that I had no counter space for such a thing and if I DID have the counter space, then I wouldn't have any use for a bread machine in the first place.

Now that the kitchen remodel is almost done, there's a worktable and I could actually start baking bread again. It's been ten years and I no longer remember my recipes so I suppose I will spend the next five years perfecting new ones. Besides, even if I did still have my old recipes, I'd still have to adjust due to differences in room temperature, humidity, the brand of flour, the yeast, the consistency of the honey, the type of eggs and all the other variation that comes from seasonal ingredients. That's part of the fun. No loaf is ever exactly the same and even my worst loaf is far better tasting than anything store bought. Or bakery bought for that matter if the bakery next door to work is any indication. I'm not saying they are a bad bakery. They have tons of business and most people rave about the place. It's just that having baked my own bread, pastries, pies, cakes and cheesecakes for years I find their bread to be mediocre and everything else has way too much sugar. And my challah had a big lump of flour in the middle of it. Meh.

Driving into Manitou springs was like going through a time warp. It was the late 60's early 70's all over again. hippies everywhere. Hippy shops everywhere. There was a dulcimer shop...A DULCIMER SHOP. Hand crafted dulcimers. The place was crawling with grateful dead posters and reeked of patchouli.
I was now living there! It was so cool. My little cabin, buddy, a good job and good friends. It was so exciting. I was also very homesick. As I said, I was alone for the first time, I mean truly alone.
I was ok at work and ok while hanging out after work, but at the end of the day it was just me and buddy.
I got him when he was less than six weeks old and he went everywhere with me with the exception of work from day one. I put a pillow on the passenger seat of my car for him to sleep on when we were out late.
We walked a lot, around Manitou mostly. Manitou is in the first folds of the front range, it looked to me to be surrounded by mountains. Mountain ranges at sunset are a sight to behold, let me tell you. As I battled the homesickness, the mountains insulated me and made me feel safe.
Homesickness would win out in the end, but it was an amazing year or so.