A Near-Life Experience

Ascent of the Blessed, Hieronymus Bosch - source Wikipedia

Ascent of the Blessed, Hieronymus Bosch – source Wikipedia

I drank too much and stopped in 2001, but started again about nine months later. I told my doctor I stopped drinking and when he asked if I was alright I started crying and so he gave me the number of a psychiatrist and patted me on the back, and that was that.

In November they started sending letters with Anthrax to Congress members and I started thinking my mail was tainted too. I had a dream about Bin Laden and a spider on my arm and my arm actually went dead and cold when I woke up. Dawn said she was concerned about my drinking and I said OK, I’ll stop.

My grandfather had a stroke that fall and never got right again (we think, from watching the news coverage of 9/11). Dawn’s friend Kristie was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. Our neighbor got into a car accident and went into a coma, and we had a 6.8 earthquake in my office building, built in 1919 on land-fill.

The film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out and I lost myself in the characters swinging above ground, flying from tree to tree, imagined I could do that too in my state of life in-between, dreaming about falling, imagining what would happen when I hit the ground.

The Strokes made their first album and before it even came out, they sold out at The Crocodile in Seattle, August, 2001. They had to delay the record release because of the song “New York City Cops,” which made fun of the cops (‘they ain’t too smart’), and wasn’t cool, now with 9/11.

It was the first-year anniversary of September 11th, and Dawn and I drove over the Cascades to Eastern Washington, to a cabin my friend owned. It was out in the woods near a lake and he drew a map but I wasn’t sure we were at the right place until I found a rock on the beach that had his initials scratched into it, BWS.

I decided I would start drinking again at the cabin and we went to the local Safeway for some wine. It didn’t taste that good, but there you have it. I got up in the morning before the sun came out while the crickets were still frozen on the porch and sat there drinking coffee, soaking up the peace of the place, the solemn reflection of 9/11, what it all meant for me and the crickets, frozen there on the porch.

When I applied for life insurance, they asked if I ever stopped drinking for a period of time. They were probing for something different but I didn’t get it, so I said yes in fact, I had. When they asked why, I said I was training to climb a big mountain (another bad answer for a life insurance application). And so I failed the urine test and got a higher rate, based on my risk quotient.

We bought our first house in 2003, which was built in 1919 — the same year as my office building, the same year my grandfather was born. The house had a pond out front with a goldfish but the raccoons were hell-bent on getting him, and the fish became a kind of symbol of something pure we needed to protect about the house, but couldn’t.

The neighbors were from Aberdeen and went to school with Kurt Cobain which seemed kind of cool and unbelievable, until we realized the neighbors were just like Kurt Cobain with missing teeth and junkies for friends, which wasn’t really cool when we started having babies and had to think about keeping the house safe.

Years later, I started a blog as a “Look at me, world!” but had to give it up to make time for a writing project. Habits are funny, because you seem to come back around to the bad ones. And they tend to get in the way, the more they become a part of you.


Categories: death

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16 replies

  1. Some habits are good for you, and for your readers. Welcome back!


  2. I was planning to write you today (and still will) and here you are. What do you make of that, O Philosopher Pink? Great to read you this morning.


  3. Whatever kind of habit it is, Bill, glad to hear your voice in the blogosphere. As someone who is struggling with writing, blogging and life at the moment, I’ve been in pursuit of inspiration or anything to shake the torpor. This feels like an elbow nudge that says “You too, eh?”


    • Thank you Michelle – I’m glad to hear yours, too. I’m so sorry for your struggles. Soon it will be gardening time, if that’s any consolation – good for the mind. I hope it’s truly soon for you, after the winter of your discontent.

      I’m not exactly sure of your circumstances, but I think you took time off from work to work on a novel. If I put myself in your shoes, that would actually be really scary and hard, so I can empathize. I don’t put as much pressure on myself, but it also makes me wonder constantly if I’m doing the right thing, and if I’ll ever actually ‘do it.’ So good for you, for making that leap, and be gentle with yourself if you can.

      Un-elicited advice, but I went with it. Have a good day and thanks for sharing your thoughts today. – Bill


      • Nothing too dramatic, Bill. Just an anxiety that has taken hold of me in this writing business and is really causing me to choke. It’s as if that secret fear that I’ll never follow through is now manifesting itself in a way that makes it impossible to ignore.
        Prepping for a garden has begun and being outside makes me happy. I think something more than veggies will grow from that!


  4. good to see your face and words again, bill. you do have a gift for writing and while you may find it to be more of a curse at times, you have it none the less, and it is impossible to shake. some habits are good ones. best, beth


    • Hi Beth! I love your positivity and encouragement…thank you, it means a lot. I read this on my way out the door from work today and really was a nice way to end my day. Best, – Bill


  5. Hi Bill, really terrific stuff. I happened upon you by way of Ross. I promise to call first next time. I have a pay-as-you-go phone through the Psychic Network. Again, nicely done.


    • How cool is that?! So nice of you to pop in on my line Ned! Thank you for the kind words and charmed to meet you. Nice to have made your acquaintance and this will be fun to do talk about our writing protheses, soon…enjoy your night, your day, my friend! – Bill


  6. Bill,
    I am returning from a trip back to the home land (aka Alabama) and decided to check on a few blogs! Guess which one was top of my list! YOU! Now I was considering defining what is really a bad habit, but have decided against it. How about just a cheer from Bothell to “hear” your voice in words again.


    • Hi Alesia – welcome home from Alabama! So glad to be thought of by you still at the top of your blog list! That’s great…and thanks for the Bothell cheer, that rocks. Hope you’re well. – Bill


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