Thursday, November 6, 2008

The First One's Free

For the longest time I thought I was supposed to buy my father neckties. Socks. I thought fathers wanted to watch football, King of the Hill. I thought fathers loved to barbecue. But my dad has worn just one tie since his wedding day and I have never seen him with spatula in hand. My father is not like those in commercials unless of course the commercial is for Nicorette or the next Indiana Jones movie. My father is different, he is mine. He taught me to love joy and melancholy in equal measure, to love travel, knowledge, curiosity and quiet. He taught me to love words and throughout my life I have always known that above all he loves me most (you know, along with my brother and mother). So without further ado, here is my father:



My name is Edgar. I am an alcoholic and addict. Take my word for it. I don’t lie. Well, …. I only lie when I have to …. and that’s almost the truth.
I have dropped acid on the ice flows of the Artic while Polar bears cruised the cracks looking for lunch. I hopped, slipped and skipped from one creaking, groaning electric green slab of ice to the next. Some the size of The Taj Mahal, fierce frozen blue …. In fact, one of them WAS The Taj Mahal … I think it was, maybe, not totally certain.
With my little brother, a cocaine shooter, I have gobbled gobs of peyote buttons in The Painted Desert of the Navajo. And years later, clean and sober for one sad day, I scattered my little brother’s ashes from a cliff in that desert.
Pills? …. Hardly ever met a pill I didn’t like, ‘though I am more partial to the speedy pop over the soporific. I smoked marijuana every day for 30 years. Enough to support one Jamaican growing season, a purely spiritual inquiry into the void of nowhere and inertia.
Of course, I snuffled white powders, contents unknown. Not my thing really. I preferred yellowish powders of contents more certain. Speeeeeed! M-E-T-H-A-N-P-H-E-T-A-M-I-N-E!!! I could type, type, type, all night rushing past dawn into A Legend in my own mind as synaptic connections snapped and neurons popped like kernels of corn on a hot skillet and IQ points fluttered to the ground like confetti at a wedding that never should have happened.
My alcoholic pedigree is impeccable. Mother, father, brother, two uncles and one step father died of the “disease” or related causes. At about the age of 12, I nicked into a drop or two of demon rum and never looked back …. or ahead …. into full tilt, wild-in-the-streets and gutters drinking from the age of 16 through college and beyond.
Later, in the early years with a young family to support, my drinking and drugging slowed to steady-on cruise with occasional spikes of aberrant gluttony, a major contribution to the wreckage of my 25 year marriage. The damage to my children, I can only imagine. I was there for them …. That is, I wanted to be but wasn’t. That they have grown into wonderful, seemingly happy human beings of astounding grace and accomplishment is nothing short of a modern day miracle.
Three years ago, clean and sober for 13 years, I crossed the Turkish border into Northern Iraq with a small film crew. We were greeted by our mysterious fixer, four hundred Germanic pounds of sweating Big Ziggy sporting a gray goatee and two Gloch pistols tucked in his belt surrounded by a Kurdish covey of machinegun-toting Pesh Merga militia.
Before we could even offer up the customary “Salaama Aleukum,” we stood, jaws dropping and watched as Big Ziggy yanked a cranked-out Ratso Rizzo cabbie and small-time smuggler from his cab. With another hard yank, Big Zig bounced Ratso off his chest. A puppet without strings, Ratso settled down after that.
I rode with Rafik, a rock-tough Kurd, husband to two wives and take-a-bullet-for-you body guard in a black Mercedes sedan leading our high speed caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers across spring green waves of wheat fields down an empty black road, 300 hundred miles to Sulamanya. The Syrian border of guard towers and concertina wire flicked by off my right shoulder as I slumped in the passenger’s seat nodding off with sleep deprivation.
Over a rise, Rafik slowed. Something on the road up ahead. Two cars blocking the road. A breakdown? Traffic accident? Or, ….? At fifty yards, Rafik was leaning on the horn and yelling out the window …. Nothing. …. No response …. No action from the stalled vehicles …. Twenty five yards away, Rafik stopped. Grabbing the slick black machinegun at my feet, he leapt from the Mercedes. Walking quickly toward the roadblock, he shouldered the weapon, tensed ready and set to spray a whole bunch of bullets per second at the offending vehicles …. Very quickly, the offending vehicles parted and rolled off the road into a ditch.
No-big-deal-cool Rafik climbed back into the Mercedes as if he had just stopped off at a 7-11 for a pack of cigarettes. Matter of fact, back on the road, he pulled out a pack of Parliaments and offered me one. I hadn’t smoked in years. I had been a runner for years. …. I smoked the Parliament.
Six weeks later, I boarded my flight from Istanbul to San Francisco wearing a nicotine patch. The strongest patch sold in the States is 21 mg. I wore a Turkish model delivering 52mg. of sweet nicotine. In spite of three Excedrin PM, one valium and a solid shot of Nightime Nyquil for blessed sleep, I rode the long hours to San Francisco behind my sleep mask, eyes as wide open as Zoey on a happy day, pressed against my seat pulling 10 Gs, stiff as an astronaut on take-off.
Today and once again, I sport dueling nicotine patches, two # 2s, a 14 mg. infusion of sweet nicotine on each upper arm. I want to kick this son of a bitch addiction and breath again. I do not want to die just yet. For awhile longer, I want to be there, really there, for my grown children. For awhile longer, I want to be there, here and now for my granddaughter, Zoey, our Petunia Faced Girl.

26 comments:

zakary said...

Edgar, you have mad writing skills.
~Z

EmElle said...

Whew! That was awesome.

Aartee said...

Seriously very brave of you type that for all of the internet to read...Thank you for sharing

caroline said...

seriously, edgar. awesome stuff.

Jen said...

Dang, I shed a tear at that last paragraph. Nicely done. Thanks for sharing with us.

bmommy said...

Really wonderful. Thank you for your honesty and I`m sure a lot of people can identify with your struggles.

BonjourBruxelles said...

I have few words after reading this (and the pun is definitely not intended), but I'm blown away.

Many thanks for the read.

Misplaced Country Girl said...

Wow! I don't know what else to say but, Wow.

Meril said...

Good lord, man. i thought you were a CPA. That post was incredible.

Anonymous said...

God loves you o matter. Have you ever thought of asking Him for help? Couldn't hurt.

Martha

Anonymous said...

We see where she gets her talents.

twelvekindsofcrazy said...

This was brilliant. My dad is also an addict, which I really am ok with. But I wish he had your honesty.
You are a good dad.

Megan said...

loved it, thanks. Can see where Susannah and her bro get their talent from!

Anonymous said...

That was amazing to read. I have tried to quit smoking on and off for, well, too long. I have even figured out how to smoke and not od while wearing the patch. Now I know I can wear two at a time. Thanks for the info. Maybe it will help me.

Sarah Danielle said...

This was a great read. Edgar should totally blog.

Petunia Face said...

See? I told you he's awesome. And there are more posts from him coming throughout the month!

Live from San Diego,
Susannah

Erin said...

Awesome post, Ed! I've always known it was a creative family!

Miss Lady Finger said...

That is a beautifully written and deply profound piece Edgar. Your intruiging life experiences need to be written as a novel! I have no doubt that you'll help so many others, as well as yourself, by doing this. Keep us posted..... I really do hope you continue to share your beautiful writing with the world. x

Robin said...

Fan-freakin-tastic story and writing, Zoey is blessed to be in such a talented family with such good humor about the frailties of the human condition.

Anonymous said...

..um..in a totally non-creepy way (I hope) I need to say how much I love you and wish you were my friend. Things would be way better. :)

Ana said...

...what we really need is a four book compilation of the Jenkins' Chronicles. Maybe one for each member...now that would be exciting!

Richie Designs said...

rock on dad!

The Lil Bee said...

Holy shit. Guess the talent runs in the family. You rock, papa Petunia. DAYUM!

Judy said...

Picture James Dean c. "Rebel Without a Cause"....there I was Summer, 1964, Chapel Hill, N.C. hanging with the cocky, cool Frat guy I'd just gotten "pinned to". Friends were there, beer was being consumed.I was a pretty clueless, pretty nursing student recently escaped from a small town located in a County that didn't even sell beer; from a family that attended one or another Presbyterian church function about 7 times a week.I was floating along, about as "conscious" as an end table...and yet somehow I knew something very important was missing.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but...a definite James Dean-esque person-the most exciting, exotic, amazing man I've ever known-the infamous "Jenks", a man of local legend who blew back into town on a Norton 950 (or 900?) motorcycle. He gave me the most heart-racing, exhilirating ride of my life and blew my mind wide open to the world. Suddenly that void in me I barely recognized and couldn't have named was gone. There's more to this story-it became even more dramatic-a story for another rainy day-but he had me at, "Have you ever been on a motorcycle?" Exit Frat boy.

And that, children, is how the "Jenkins Family" started.

Despite, because and so very much more... my ex-husband, the Father of the two most incredibly gifted, kind, beautiful children ever born...and the man who will forever be my best friend, the man I will always love like no other...Edgar, Ed, Eggie, Eddie Boy chimes in on PF (an almost Salinger-like appearance) and, wow, can he spin a tale!.

Edgar, this post was beautiful and brave and honest. And it really tells nothing of the guts, sweat and tears it took to "get here"...much less to stay. And, damn it,if you don't make it look effortless when neither the living it or the telling it is anything but.

Here you are still blowing my mind and proving that, at the very least back in the days of my youthful blissful ignorance and naivete, I recognized both love and brilliance and knew that wherever you were headed was where I wanted to go. And what an amazing trip it was and continues to be!

It's such a treat to read this and know that more is coming. I've never doubted your talent but always yearned to read more...and here you are spilling it on PF!

One of the best things in my life is knowing that, while everything changes, you, Ed, are still a constant in my life, in our lives and always will be and, strangely, we're closer as a family than perhaps ever before(and maybe we can thank PF for this). I can hardly wait for your next post!This is way better than those Saturday movie matinees of our youth-the full-on organ music adventure cliff-hangers!And I am most definitely waiting for the novel.

Judy

crabapple said...

Thanks for sharing yourself in this way...your courage in writing and in life moved me and I have been thinking about your post for a couple days now....

You and Judy musta been a very fierce couple!

benson said...

geez---can this family write?! maybe a family novel would be a unique and marketable piece for you all. Each person of the family gives a chapter on a subject/topic/something that is a common denominator.