We had the quietest of Christmases this year. Our plans to travel to Durango had to be shelved. Turns out that we had been overly optimistic about how quickly Robin’s recovery from surgery would go. So we stayed put in Montrose. It’s not the first Christmas Eve that we spent completely on our own.

In 2015 we had traveled to Yankton to spend the holiday with Robin’s mother and family but were marooned by a blizzard that shut the town solidly down and made even local travel too hazardous to contemplate. We did what we could to maintain a holiday frame of mind while trapped in a small motel room looking out this window at a snowstorm in a parking lot.

We were able to find a few small bags of travel food at a convenience store that was within walkable distance which we brought back to our safe space to nibble on. It was a case of either poor nutrition or no nutrition at all that night. Christmas Eve dinner consisted of a pretzel entrée and a Diet Coke. By the next morning the weather had cleared, the plows were out, and we went on with our original plans.


On one other Christmas past the weather played a significant role. I would have been perhaps five years old. Dad and Mom loaded my brother and I into our 1937 Chevrolet and struck out for my grandfather’s farm on a snowy night we really should have stayed at home. The trip to the farm was an hour’s drive on a summer day, but much longer in bad weather and when we reached a country church Dad pulled the car into the parking lot and there we sat. The next segment of the trip was two miles on a small gravel road, and that road had not been plowed and was impassable by car.

Dad trudged over to the parsonage and was able to call ahead and tell folks that we were stranded. My uncle Buddy must have said something like “No problem, Joe,” because the next thing I knew he showed up in a sleigh pulled by the two draft horses that were still doing regular work on the farm.

Now this was a working sleigh, like the one in the “borrowed” photograph at right, not one of those beautiful and artistic things with the curvy runners.

This one hauled hay and feed and equipment and whatever needed to be toted on the farm on snowy winter days. But he had brought along some warm robes ( I remember a bearskin model) to snuggle under and that’s what we all did as he hauled us the rest of the way to the Jacobson farm.


From The New Yorker


Looking back on my years as an imbiber of fermented and distilled beverages it is some of the New Year’s Eve get-togethers that stand out the clearest. As examples of what not to do with one’s body, that is. The poor defenseless thing had to cope in whatever way it could with what my stomach was sending down the pipe. This would go on until the stomach itself finally revolted, and I would have one of those intensely religious experiences that come with praying to the porcelain god while prostrate on the bathroom floor.

The video below is one of the best personal stories about drinking and sobriety that I have come across so far in my brief life, and I am grateful to Craig Ferguson for this twelve minutes of bare-bones honesty as he tells his tale on national television. It has helped to give me the courage to share my own in snippets here and there. Unlike Ferguson, I have to do short snippets because I can only go so far in emulating him, he is just so damned entertaining about it all.

In the middle of the monologue there is a line … where he wakes up hung over in a strange place, is overcome with confusion and hopelessness and decides to commit suicide. On the way to jumping from the Tower Bridge in London he is offered a drink, and “one thing led to another and I forgot to kill myself that day.”

There are many people in AA who have anecdotes like this, and who realize that while drinking, for them, was ultimately self-defeating, at one particular moment being intoxicated saved their life and bought them the time it took to make it to recovery.


A Dick Guindon cartoon


So here we are at the end of another year, where we try to tot up what the past twelve months have meant to us. At present, we are all singing the same tune here in Paradise:

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Omicron is coming to town.

Who would think that being in a pandemic would be so boring? (At least for those of us who don’t work in hospitals, where it is a nightmare. Or for those who have had loved ones die of the disease, where it is a terrible grief to bear.) It’s all the seemingly endless waiting. Yesterday I read the latest update on the sort of mask I should be wearing and I could hardly get through it. I’ve already read so many updates in the past couple of years. Sooo many updates.

Now the Black Death of the middle ages was much worse, I grant you. No comparison. But at least they didn’t have to read about it every day or hear about it constantly on CNN. And they were spared the spectacle of half the country telling them that the idea of killing off the rats being the way out of the plague was nonsense, and what we should be doing is swallowing the potion they are concocting in the next village. Which is largely made of boiled horse urine and pigweed.

Ah, me, what to do? I’m not crazy about the life we are leading, but it is our life and I suppose that I’d better make the best of it that I can. I think I’ll cook something. It makes the whole house smell good while I’m doing it, and then I get to eat what I’ve made.

(Unless I’m cooking cabbage, that is. In that case it makes the whole house smell like I’m serving compost for dinner.)


One thought on “Debriefing

  • Hope Robin feels better and better very soon!

    Loved, loved the sleigh story and deeply appreciated the Craig Fergusen clip. I saw the original broadcast of that show and it has really stuck with me. His autobiography is a great read.

    Keep up the great work!




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