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Entry date: 1-7-2024 – Reflections on the Week – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


A week ago today, I was determined to drink a lot of beer. I had a few Yuengling ambers left over from the most recent road trip and some Green States, as well. I also had a big bottle of Horus that Cousin Will had given me a few years ago that had been burning a hole in my liver for a while. I was on a mission.


I knew I would be starting my dry January the next day and while I didn’t cut off the booze at midnight, I haven’t had a drop since before I went to bed on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another drop again at this point because I am a “functioning” alcoholic.


The last time I said or wrote this publicly was back in the early 90s. I stayed sober from April of 1992 until some time in 1997. I don’t remember exactly when I started drinking again. I do remember that the first beer I had after a long time was a Newcastle Brown Ale. There have been several thousand beers since then.


I like beer a lot. I like scotch. I like a good old fashioned, especially the ones from Valley Bar. I like to think about beer and buy beer in an unhealthy way, though. Yesterday I took a stroll down the booze aisle at Costco and thought about how I could buy a couple of yummy looking things and stash them until I was ready to drink again.


The truth, though, is that every time I do this and take a break from booze, it gets a little harder to put the beers down.


I am afraid, though, that if I start again, it will be even harder to stop. Alcohol should not take up as much space in my brain as it does. I’ve been doing a lot of reading this week about alcoholism and the writing is on the wall (and on my computer screen) that I have an unhealthy relationship with it.


There have been moments where I have wanted to say no to a drink, but I haven’t. There have been moments where I have thought about drinking before going to work or thought about how many drinks I could have before getting in the car. There have been moments where I have wanted to say to people I love that I have a problem and it is tearing me up inside, but I haven’t been able to find the words.


I guess this morning is when the words became available to me.


When I first started this blog, I wrote about my “tenuous” relationship with alcohol. I have written about that relationship a fair amount here at ErgMis. (It is okay, right, to come up with your own abbreviations?) I have often wanted to write things like, “But I can control it” or “I know when to listen to that little voice in my head.”


I was blessed with a governor, I guess. The one that said, “Hey, going over to C’s house and taking a bunch of morphine is a bad idea” back in 1992. Over the years, it has served me well. What I am realizing, though, is that the voice is getting weaker. Maybe it is tired of putting up the fight. My subconscious might be exhausted from running background scenarios and measuring my behavior against my thoughts and innermost desires.


There is an argument I have with myself a lot about denying myself things. Do I do it to punish myself for the wrongs I have done? Do I feel like somewhere, deep down, I need to suffer in some way? I tell myself “No” a lot. I don’t know if it is willpower or self-denial or some point of pride. I just know the argument is there.


As I stare down the barrel of entering the later stages of my life, one side of the argument says, “Why are you denying yourself things you like? You could die tomorrow. Will anyone care that you could say no to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for much of your life?” The other side says, “If you don’t treat your body well, the later stages of life will not be as long as you want. Would you rather have a Reese’s or drink expensive beer, or would you rather be here to see as much of your kids’ and grandkids’ lives as you can?”


I want to see those last things more than anything. I want to do and make things that will last after I am gone. If that means really learning moderation (Finally) and figuring out how to quiet the thoughts I don’t like in my head, then so be it.


I’d love to be a guy who could occasionally have one beer or a wee dram of scotch and not want to have five more. I play that guy on TV pretty well, but in my head, he’s a fake. It’s that old imposter syndrome thing.


Funny. I put the word “Functioning” in the second paragraph of this post after initially just writing “alcoholic.” I agonized over writing the word “alcoholic” because I feel like it means so many things to so many people and I still don’t know exactly what it means to me. I just know that I am one. I’ve been pretending that I am not one for the last thirty years.


I am an alcoholic who acts like he can handle booze, but if you have known me for a long time, you also know that sometimes, I don’t do a very good job of it. That’s the truth. You also don’t have to be someone who lives on the street or beats their wife or can’t hold a job to be a person who doesn’t have a healthy relationship with alcohol.


For those of you who care about me, what I need from you is understanding. I don’t need you to not invite me to parties or talk about alcohol with me. You don’t have to hide your fun or feel weird at all. I’m just choosing not to drink because I have this thing inside me that doesn’t jive with booze the way you might. The only thing changing here is that I’m just not going to drink anymore.


If I start again, it’s okay to ask me if I’m okay, too. It’s okay to worry about me. You can do that if you like and I appreciate the concern, but right now, this is the best decision for me, and I feel good about it. Thank you for caring about me.




I was at Zia Records on a Friday in 1991 or 1992. I got paid on Fridays and they were having a big sale on Sub Pop material. I bought a bunch of stuff and one of the things I bought was Smoke’em if You Got’em by Reverend Horton Heat.


I can’t remember if I heard them before buying the CD or if I just had heard of them. I think I had heard them, but who cares. The thing is, I bought Smoke’em if You Got’em and I fucking loved it. It was during that year that Terry Ciarlino and I first met and started the music project that would eventually become Hillbilly Devilspeak.


Terry was from Dallas and knew the guys in Reverend Horton Heat through the scene there. He had some good stories about seeing early versions of the band and what kind of dudes they were (and probably still are). Those talks only cemented my love for the band.


“Bullet” is such a great first track. I was a bit taken aback, at first, by the record starting off with an instrumental, but as I think about it now, it is perfect. These dudes just attack that song and when “I’m Mad” kicks in, you’re ready for the assault on your senses that the Reverend provides in heaps.


There is also a great sense of humor about this record. Smoke’em if You Got’em has some hilarious moments. The first of which is “Big Dwarf Rodeo.”  I couldn’t get the song out of my head one day about a decade or so ago when I was at Walmart on 15th Ave and Bethany. There was a bunch of tiny cowboys in the store that day and I learned that there is a big (I use the term loosely) dwarf contingent in the rodeo world.


The mixture of punk rock, the Bakersfield sound, and swing on this record is also pretty damn sublime. “Bad Reputation” starts off with the niftiest little Don Rich-style riff. If you’re not familiar with Don Rich’s work as a member of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, then you should check it out. As good as Buck Owens could be on the guitar, Don Rich was better. I’m guessing there are a few Buck and the Buckaroos records in the Rev’s collection.


“Psychobilly Freakout” is probably my favorite track on the record, though. It was one of those songs that just hit all the right buttons back in the early 90s. I couldn’t wait to see the band play live and I got my wish not too long after I got the record. They played a place on 20th Street and Highland called The Palladium and just tore the roof off the place. I was in my early 20s and for a few years had thought that my days in the “pit” were probably over, but they inspired me to get in the fray for the first time in a while that night.


This won’t be the only one of Reverend Horton Heat’s records I will discuss this year.




See you tomorrow.

See you later, buddy.

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