Friday, January 27, 2006

Old People Like a Little Heat

Headache today. Need to write some other things. But I can’t pass up the following story, heard at an AA meeting last night and certainly one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard anywhere.

I’m not sure it will translate (humor is a delicate thing and heavily dependent on context) but I’ll put it down anyway. Suffice it to day that my friend GI and I were laughing until we cried. I can’t help it. I’m an easy touch for the subversive, for the guy who disrupts and undermines the conventions. I love the clown, I love the buffoon. I love the Fyodor Karamazovs of the world.

The meeting was on the 11th step and of course people were busy saying all the right things about their meditation and their prayer and the long, unavailing searches of the world’s religious traditions, which ended happily in their discovery of the rooms of AA, so on and so on. I don’t deny the truth of these statements, and I also recognize that it is useful and even necessary to identify with these ideas on some level. Still…it can start feeling a awful lot like church when meetings like that get cranked up to a fever pitch and one alcoholic after another (we are so much like children) takes a shot at really “topping” the meeting off with a more sincere and gripping account of their search for the Higher Power.

Enter a man whom I will identify only as CH (I can tell you that the “C” stands for “crazy”, and justifiably so. Rumor has it that he takes, under the care of a doctor, six or seven different medications to keep him balanced).

Our very sincere and well-meaning leader for the evening actually called on CH to share. My recollection is that the leader was completely in harmony with the feeling of gentle self-righteousness which seemed to dominate the room, and that he had no idea what he was doing when he called on CH:

“Ya know, what makes me laugh is how everyone tries to say the right thing, and the popular thing. It’s like we come into these meetings and we test everything out, and we build up something to share that’s goanna get a big reaction. In that case, it don’t even matter what we’re saying. We might as well shut up. Listen, I been in and out of these rooms, for the first ten years I was in and out of these rooms more often than a young couple on their wedding night. In and out and in and out and in and out. I was sore, if you know what I’m saying. Bone sore!

"But hey, you know, I got it, finally, but I was going to so many meetings that it almost made me sick. Now I go ballroom dancing. I like to do that a couple nights a week and give everyone a rest from my face. We can hardly stand each other sometimes. That ain't popular, but it's the truth.

“Man, what amazes me is that all them years I was drinking I managed to keep a roof over my head. Because let me tell you, I started drinking first thing when I got up and the last thing I did before I went to sleep was have a drink. But I was crafty. I’d get some roommates and have them pay the rent so I could use all of my money on booze. For a while, I was thinking about this the other day when it was kinda cold, for a while I was living in this old Army barracks.

“I had this old lady for a roommate, her name was Gladys P. Wildeson. The 'P' stands for 'Pearl'. I had her in a room out the back of the barracks. I thought I was pretty slick because between her and another guy they were paying all the rent, which was like a 109 bucks a month, so I could use all of my money on liquor. You see why I was into saving money. In order to keep costs down I didn't run the heat, and it got pretty cold there in the winters, like I said. I would leave the stove on during the day, and that heated up the kitchen just fine, but the heat didn’t go down the hallways very good and the bedrooms were pretty cold, I guess.

"Gladys got pretty cold. She got so cold that she used to take my old liquor bottles and fill 'em up with hot water, and put 'em all around her in the bed so she could sleep at night. I was pretty confused at the time, I guess. It wasn't until later that I realized, old people like a little heat to help 'em sleep nights."

CH was finally silenced by a chorus of people thanking him for sharing. My friend and I, who were sitting in the back, were both hunched over, our shoulders shaking, helpless with laughter.

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