Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dirty Water Blues

by Daddy X

Oh my, the mistakes I’ve made. Please take this confessional only as an indicator of the fullness of my life. Not who I am. These are real mistakes (whether mine or witnessed) in the most precise interpretation of the concept.

There was the time a friend and I were wading in a beaver swamp in the middle of a Pennsylvania winter, noodling in hip boots, feeling around for hibernating snapping turtles. A fancy restaurant downtown paid plenty for big ones. Living in households without much extra cash, eight dollars per kid per turtle provided a good split. If lucky, we’d find two or three a year. We must have been all of thirteen years old. He was both taller and heavier than I.

We peered into the clear water and Hank pointed to a light-colored patch in the mud. We both knew the three-foot round area indicated a spring. He said, “I’ll bet this is real deep here,” and stepped into the middle of the circle. Down he went, his high rubber boots filling immediately with water, making him even heavier than he was. In seconds, he was chest-deep, looking panicked and going fast.

Luckily there was a long branch nearby which I threw to him and little by little flopped his sinking ass back to more solid muck. We were both soaked to the skin. By the time we’d walked home, our socks and gloves had gathered ice crystals and frostbite was setting in.

Yes, that was his deliberate, stupid mistake, but a learning opportunity indeed for both of us. Tread cautiously; life is always ready to spring a surprise.

Like the time in my early twenties when I shot the hash. No, not the corned-beef variety, thank God. But almost as bad—oily hashish. The fact that I was home alone at the time compounded the situation.

Among those who inject drugs, there is a common phenomenon called the “dirty water blues”, alternatively “cotton fever”. The malady occurs when someone puts something into the bloodstream that doesn’t belong. You get the drift. Anything that could be contracted from drug-depleted cottons (used as filtering mechanisms) to introducing more serious infections, can and will make the user unwell. It feels as though every bone in one’s body is being subjected to a harsh flu. You’ll sweat, you’ll ache, shiver and writhe, but if you can eventually manage a bit of sleep, it seems to cure whatever took you down. We must learn by these mistakes or perish.

Then another, perhaps even more embarrassing mistake was again related to intoxicants:

I was at a downtown San Francisco saloon, sitting at a table with some fellow inebriates when I noticed a particularly attractive woman at the bar. So attractive, in fact, that I, in my compromised state, thought it would be best if she were sitting with us. She faced away from our table, sitting in a high-backed stool … and if my calculations were correct, all that needed doing was for some cool dude to lift her chair from behind and simply swing her around to our table. Brilliant! I would be that impressive guy! A trick like that would surely make her night.

You’ve probably guessed that my calculations were far from correct. Poor thing flew off the chair and crashed into another table. NOT ours. Not that that would have been any better. 

In the confusion I heard someone say, “Her husband’s in the men’s room. Get him—he’s a cop.”

Luckily my friends had me out of the place and sprinting down the street before I had the dubious pleasure of running into her husband. Some days later, when I worked up the gumption to go back to the place, the bartender told me that no real damage had been done.

I learned something there too.

But as I mentioned, those were serious errors in judgment. They don’t represent my life as anything other than incidental anecdotes to be shared.

One decision in my life, which many relatives had originally thought was a big mistake, was my marriage to Momma X at twenty and eighteen respectively. Our friends however, all knew our scene pretty well and had encouraged the both of us. They knew a good thing when they saw it. Turned out to be the best so-called mistake in my life. Two days ago, Momma and I celebrated our 51st anniversary.

The drug use did have its consequences, though, resulting in the contraction of Hep C, leading to both cancer and the liver transplant and chemo treatments that followed as a cure. Live and learn. Kinda Buddhist in nature. To experience all ways of being.

Such as it is.



  1. "One decision in my life, which many relatives had originally thought was a big mistake, was my marriage to Momma X at twenty and eighteen respectively. Our friends however, all knew our scene pretty well and had encouraged the both of us. They knew a good thing when they saw it. Turned out to be the best so-called mistake in my life."

    That's beautiful writing, Daddy. It gets at the heart of what I feel about mistakes, which is to question how we can really know when something is or isn't a "mistake" ahead of time. Congratulations to you and Momma. I'm glad you found each other. :)

  2. If one looks at life as research for more life (and for writing!) you've amassed an amazing wealth of knowledge, Daddy X! I'm not saying that looking at life that way is valid, even assuming that any particular way of looking at life is valid, but it's not necessarily a mistake, either.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Annabeth and Sacchi. I guess nobody else wanted to comment on such an asshole. :>)

    I look at this go round as an artist's palette. If you don't use all the colors, the painting could have been more encompassing.

    That metaphor reads as what may sound incomplete, considering artists create all sorts of evocative things in black and white. But often, the very black and whiteness of the work is, in its limitations, what makes the work special. When employing life as a full palette, our place in the scheme of things can be determined through the varied scope of our canvas. If we are granted a full palette, why not use it?

  4. Your fantastic post for some reason reminds me of that song:

    "Glad we didn't listen.
    Think how much we would be missing."

    Congratulations on your anniversary, and on your hard-earned, mistake-fueled wisdom.

    1. Wisdom! Is that what it's called? Very kind, Lisabet.

      Most people have another word for someone exhibiting such behavior. Starts with 'A'. I'll bet that lovely girl from the bar still has a few choice terms for my sorry ass.

  5. I love when you share your anecdotes. I would buy a book of just your anecdotes, if arranged in a short-story kind of format. You could even group them by theme, ie, substance-abuse-related, and, childhood innocence lost, etc.

    Most of my funnier anecdotes are sexually-related, which is why I've craftily inserted (ahem) them into my books...especially the one that's about a heroine quite like my unmarried self. But your anecdotes are more general, and much more interesting.

    And yes, your stories illustrate the acquisition of wisdom. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Or at least teaches you what you're capable of dealing how.

    1. What a sweet trying to say, Fiona! Thanks for commenting. Haven't heard from you for a while-- was wondering wassup.


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