so far, we’ve come so far.

Day 49 | Survived the Visit to the Bar| Throw the Shrimp Cocktail to the Cats

I lost interest in playing Observer.

It was watching a middle-aged guy drink a cosmo that ended my little game.

No male, in my book, should drink anything that’s pink.

Red-faced pseudo-identify jeered in my ear. He was having a ball, dangling and doing acrobats around my hoop earring. Jabbing me with his prongs. “Hear that ice in the shaker, next one’s for you, baby.”

No, it’ fucking not, Chooch.

Ya know what else helped?

Service was terribly slow and the lights over the bar were burning way too bright. If I had been drinking, I would have been elbowing patrons, pounding my fist against the bar, demanding another.

Hey! ‘Nother drink! And turn down these goddamn lights!

Is it a coincidence that I’m reading Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam?

‘Cause I see it clearly.

The bar is a bright shining lie.


tamed by the pressure.

Day 31 | Dry as the Heart of a Haystack | Down 14 Pounds, 52 to Go

She crawled on her hands and knees across my ass.

No, really.

The massage is a treat for my 30-day milestone [the cost equals a bottle and a half of 1.75L bottles of Ketel One, a 3-week supply].

I say to the therapist, “my gluts and lower back are tight from hiking ‘the Pipe’ at Callahan.”

She cocks her head.

I provide more detail. “It’s so steep, it’s nearly an inverted climb.”

A question mark appears in a call-out balloon above her head.

I rub my back side with both hands. “My ass muscles feel like open wounds.”

I reached her this time. She chuckles. Then she tells me to take all my clothes off and the smile runs away from her face.

Big and naked I lie.

Her tiny fingers are razor blades. Honing and kneading into my connective tissue.

I breathe through my nose the entire hour.

Send out flairs and pop red smoke for a break, some gesture of comfort.

Take short inhales, long exhales.

Whistle the air out of my mouth.

It helps mitigate the pain.

This morning, my ass doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s a bit sore, but it’s not bleeding. My shoulders are so loose, they feel as if they may rotate out of their sockets and fall to the floor. The back of my neck feels as if it’s not even attached to my head.

A body rototilled has its benefits.

It’s my reward, right?

[Yes, Ginny, it is your reward. 30 days without a fucking drop of booze. You’re on fire.]

Hell, yea.

Kudos to you, Mark Garrison. I finished Guts ‘N Gunships and loved every second of it—learning a combat helicopter pilot’s perspective [and terror] in fighting the VC—and rescuing Americans so they could get home.


I wanna fly all night.

Day 28 | So Dry I’m Spitting Cotton | Down 13 Pounds, 53 to Go

“How ’bout doing the wild thing,” I say, as he slips into the bathroom. My nose is sunk deep into Garrison’s Guts ‘n Gunships.

“After I shower.”

Hot diggity.

I toss the book aside, snag our implements from the bedside drawer, strip off my shirt and hit the light.

Hell, it’s been a month.

It’s been since….I stopped drinking.

Husband arrives “flesh and fluffy” and goes to town.

Tongue to hoo-hoo.

[pause for perspective]

Twenty-nine days ago and beyond, I’d be frisky at bedtime. Waggle my eyebrows at hoo-hoo guy, begin disrobing [in the confines of our teeny room at Ted and Sue’s]. Miraculous—considering the amount of alcohol in my system—typically a 6-ounce vodka martini, 3 or 4 glasses of 14 Hands Hot to Trot, a shot of two of ginger cognac. All consumed in about 3-4 hours.

[Food in the stomach gives consciousness longevity.]

To the bedroom we’d go where Husband would immediately fall asleep [pass out] and I’d employ my Pocket Rocket [“a girl’s best friend”] for up to an hour hoping, praying and straining for rapture.

I’d be lucky to experience a pang the size of a wavelet.

[fast forward]

Husband. Tongue. Hoo-hoo.


Still high on the fading reverberations, Husband mounts me. The shot of Jamison’s hasn’t effected him in the least. He does his thing, dismounts.

Hell, I’m still feeling tingly.

Apply Pocket Rocket to hoo-hoo.

My forearm encounters Husband’s abundant pool of ick.


He tissues it off.

Not really off, just sort of spreads it around my hip. And forearm.

I go at it.

It happens again.

And again.

Husband gets out of bed, returns with a handful of pretzels. He’s doing the assist and crunching in my ear. It’s distracting, but I don’t want to be a jerk and say “get out of here, will ya?”

I’m going for FOUR times. It’s a record.

An all-time one.

I subtly push the pretzel-muncher from my flesh; he begins tossing the pretzels in his mouth from his cupped hand.

Sex and pretzel-munching?

At 52 and 65?

I concentrate on the job at hand.

I’m getting a headache, straining.

The rise, the flare, the pang.

It’s number four.

Husband falls asleep with his head and arm wrapped around me in the same way my mother gripped my niece to her bosom after her father hanged himself on Thanksgiving Morning.

I get a crick in my neck.

But he’s happy and I’m happy he’s happy and I’m happy I’m happy.

He’ll eventually turn over, anyway.

Sun is overhead, target’s down below.

Day 17 | Dry as Elbow Macaroni | I’m THIRSTY | STARVING | Jesus, Give Me a Beer and a Slice of Pepperoni

Did people actually think that a man could go through this fucking insanity and be unaffected? Did they really expect him to be the same man he was when he left the States? Or, did they think about us at all? Did they even care?

I cracked open a new book in bed last night, Mark Garrison’s “Guts and Gunships.” I read an account out loud of an acutely wounded soldier and Husband closed his eyes [oh, Ginny], cupped his hands to his ears, and rolled over.

[Garrison manning a Huey chopper in ’69] “In my dazed and confused state, I somehow managed to dial in a radio frequency to tell we were coming in with wounded. Just then, something softly touched the left side of my neck… I had flight gloves on and I reached up to feel it and when I brought my hand back, it was covered with blood…. I thought I may have been shot… I glanced over my left shoulder and saw a wounded soldier lying in the middle of the cargo bay. His booted left foot was up around his head, because his left leg had been virtually blown off, mid-thigh, and was only held on by a few strands of twisted muscle, tendon and skin. His femoral artery was severed and it jerked back and forth with each heartbeat and squirted streams of blood, sometimes hitting me in the neck and shoulder. He appeared to be no more than 18 years old. I was 21….

With the whine of the jet and the beating of the rotor blades, you couldn’t hear what he was saying. But the expression on his face was easy to read. The poor kid was terrified. As I screamed at a crew member to tourniquet the leg, I read the kid’s lips as he stared blankly forward, with vacant eyes and a bluish cast to his face.

He was saying, “Mom, Mom…Mom.”

[Ginny] I have often wondered, well before reading Garrison’s account, wasn’t anyone thinking about the indelible psychological impact on these boys? 

And what if ‘Mom’ had been there? Sensory overload doesn’t even begin to touch the extent of horror, the panic and chaos, the utter grief.

Mom would have spent the rest of her life drinking herself silly.

When I could no longer keep my eyes open deep into the tenth chapter, I closed the book and turned off the light. I woke this morning to Charlie giving me kisses on the chin and Sabrina’s head tucked into my armpit. I am fortunate I’ve never been expected to serve my country in a capacity that is so extreme to the human condition and I’m incurably sympathetic to those that have.

[Footage provided by Garrison]

it’s a war I’m waging with the enemy [day 1]

DAY ONE | Not One Drop of Booze | Starting HMR Program, Diet for Very Fat People

I’m lying in bed and wrestling with pain and ache that could tame a wild boar.

From going without the booze?


From eating an entree the size of a matchbook?


It’s because I’m painting our kitchen. If anyone witnessed the method in which I employed to roll the first coat of paint on the ceiling at 52 and a perfect size 3X at 5 feet 5 inches, the improvisational act would air on America’s Funniest Videos.

I didn’t partake in the drinkeepoo, which would have saved me, anesthetized me. The bottle ran dry two nights before and I’ve pledged, once again, to end the consumption [pledged to who?] and started reading Tim O’Brien’s July July, figuring some good futile carnage would put my discomfort in perspective.

[Turns out, there’s little carnage and depiction of Nam as the enormously doomed enterprise in this book; it’s about a group of friends molded and defined by the 1960s.]

When the words begin to blur as if I’ve knocked back the last pinch of the 6-ounce tranquilizer, the novel falls out of my grasp. I envision a young soldier, dirty and bloody-faced, bandage in the form of a shirtsleeve wrapped tight and knotted around his head to keep his brains from falling out, refusing the medic’s Syrette of morphine.

An exchange between the two ensues.

Soldier: Don’t want it.

Medic: What the fuck is wrong with you.

Soldier: I decided it’s time to quit.

Medic: There’s a goddamn war on.

Soldier: Mama will find out.

Medic: I saw you smoking a big fat doobie just this morning.

Soldier: No mo’.

Medic: You’re fuck-all crazy.

[This is Ginny’s narrative] Once upon a time I lay on a gurney, my mind, the faculty of my consciousness and thoughts, remaining numb to stimuli. There’s no perception, no transmission; it’s void, dark, deadly quiet. My brain is busy sustaining that void, deploying an arsenal of chemicals to compensate for the split in time, suppressing the sensory receptors from the blunt trauma—my broken bones, the hit taken to my abdomen that’s pulverized tissue and organs, and punctured veins and arteries. My heart, the renegade, the betrayer, as always, is not listening to my brain—its pumping blood out at a spastic rate through the holes. An external disturbance registers. A voice. It’s relentless, miraculously breaking through that mechanism of my brain’s fortification, bringing me into the present.

Breathe, Virginia, breathe, it commands.

There is only one person who calls me Virginia. My mother. The person who heard the forecast and eyeballed the elements herself and tried to protect me so my brain wouldn’t have to.

I am granted a fleeting window of awareness. But not through my eyes. My lids are heavy, steel traps. A depiction of involuntary desperateness is felt in my body. Each gasp caused by my choking, thrusts a knife’s blade deep into my gut. Choke. Stab. Choke. Stab.

“Airway’s bloody.”

Something foreign is tickling the back of my throat. I listen to my mother, it’s a precedent. I stop resisting. A tube slips down my windpipe. I can breathe. The stabbing doesn’t abate, giving rise to the melodramatic statement, it only hurts when I breathe. And not breathe. My brain is wrestling, calling me back to unconsciousness; the pain galaxies beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, flirts with my semi-consciousness, invites me to become fully awake. It’s a struggle. A shot of morphine provides no contest. My brain, working in concert with my mind, fires the artillery it has left. A barrage of fireworks ignites behind the closed lids of my eyes. I fall into that quiet dark place again.

You see, in this instance, I could not refuse the sedative.

Now, I can.

This is my first day off the booze and the food.

My only success this year, going without the booze, has been 5 odd days in January.

This is gonna be harder than surviving the car wreck [’85], but not nearly as hard as going without Michael, whom my mother will banish from my existence when my cognitive function returns ten days following my stint in the CCU.