It was not originally my intention to steal the title of my blog from Jimmy Buffett.  As crazy as it sounds, I was standing watch and the title popped into my head and I thought it was original.  It wasn’t until I was ready to write this blog that I remembered the Buffett song.  I decided to keep it as a play on his song.  And although Buffett was not going to be blog music I will give him his due and make his song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” the song for the first section of this blog.

As a matter of fact it has inspired me to have a different song for each section of this blog.  On top of that, I will get fancy and insert links that you can click on and hear each of the songs.  Open them in a separate window and listen while you read.  It will make the blog more fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df1E4NJu7ng

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First, I promised my friend Brook a public apology.  He responded to my plea for contact information quickly and humorously.  He took exception to being lumped in with the non-responders I blasted in my last blog.  Brook, let me take this opportunity to…..

Wait a minute.  Last July I lost my phone and he didn’t give me his info then.  And isn’t this the same Brook that failed to lead a helicopter raid into Maracaibo and rescue me from Hugo Chavez?

Apology?  I got your apology right here, Brook “The Cat.” (You remember that?)

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I was born on January 15, 1973.  I never gave much thought to any particular age.  What are the big ones?  Well, in Louisiana you could drink at 18.  However, I started drinking a little earlier than that and had already graduated from my first rehab just before my 18th birthday.  I was actually driving a U-Haul truck to Chattanooga where my family was moving on the day I turned 18.

21 is big I suppose.  My 21st birthday was spent alone in my parent’s basement drinking a six-pack of St. Pauli Girl.  The only notable thing about this birthday was that it ended 3 years and 2 months of sobriety.  That may still be a record.  I don’t really know.  It is one of only two times in my life I have counted days.

Is 25 an important birthday?  Your car insurance rates are supposed to go down.  Mine didn’t, mostly because I didn’t have a car.  I had lost it because I pawned the title to pay for dope.  The twenties were bad for me.

30?  I have no idea where I was when I turned 30 or what I was doing.  I can’t for the life of me remember.  I think I used to know.  This is really going to bother me.

Oh well.  The point is that age and birthdays have just not meant that much to me.  I have been in rehab on birthdays, dumped just before birthdays, arrested on birthdays…you name it.  I just don’t give them much thought.  That is why it shocked me when I was in the shower at noon on January 14, 2013, some 39 years 365 days (last year was a leap year) after being born, and the crushing realization of turning forty hit me.

One second I was scrubbing my body with my poofy sponge.  The next I was crying.

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The next blog song is No Reason to Cry by Tom Petty.  How many great songs has this guy written?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80MUFBP8Y94

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I have written before about crying over stupid movies, crying when I eat good chicken wings and crying because people don’t email me enough but the truth is I don’t cry.  I do get choked up at some movies, and some songs but that just makes me human.  I don’t, however, sit around and cry.  I’m not a girl.

But I broke down in the shower.  Out of nowhere.  And you know what?  It’s not an age thing.  I don’t even feel 40.  I have lots of friends who say, “I don’t feel 40!”  Guess what?  You’re 40.  You have kids, mortgages, relationships, PTA meetings, real jobs and all that crap.  That is what people over 40 have.

I have nothing.  I float around the world getting into trouble because I have no reason to be responsible.  I don’t have kids, a wife or even a hamster.  Sometimes I have a small pile of money in the bank and spend it like I’m rich and then I go back to work when I’m broke.  I don’t have any idea what a gallon of milk cost, although I would guess it is between $2 and $5.  I can think of at least 15 Winnie the Pooh items in my bedroom right off the top of my head.  Hell, my room is painted Pooh Bear yellow.

I talk to my momma every day that I am not at sea.  If momma would let me get tattoos, I would have “momma’s boy” tattooed on me.  That and I would have Pooh Bear wearing pirate clothes tattooed on my bulging bicep.  But momma doesn’t let me have tattoos.

Before you make fun of me because I still have to follow momma’s rules, let me tell you that I am a big boy and can do whatever I want.  The only rules I have are no tattoos and I have to be home before midnight.  Momma says nothing good happens after midnight.

Other than that I can do whatever I want.  Leave me alone.

So, I don’t feel old.  What hit me that moment in the shower was what I had just wasted.  If you aren’t one of those people who are just skinny no matter what (and if you are, know that I hate you) you have probably been on a diet before.  If you have been on a diet you will know what I mean when you cheat and then tell yourself you will just start over tomorrow, or Monday and it will all be fine.

That is what I have done with my life.  I kept advancing my start-over point.  Now I’m 40.

40 years down the toilet.  In 40 years I have never had a successful, functional relationship.  I have never had an extended period of financial stability.  I have made so many mistakes in my life, some that I may never be able to accept.  At 40 I am where I should have been at 20.  I am a heartbroken, lonely sailor just trying to figure out where he belongs in this world.

It is true that I have made strides the last 5 years of my life.  I am not trying to deny the things I should be grateful for.  I am just saying that at that moment in time in the shower I was overwhelmed by the totality of the failures of in my life.

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Ready for some new blog music?  Let’s go with Cocaine by Eric Clapton.  We’re going to talk about drugs for a bit.  Don’t worry – this blog isn’t go to be a long pouty poor me blog.  We’ll touch on drugs, mention women and then look forward.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRCkWsoJzZo

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I’m not going to tell a bunch of war stories here, but I can’t think about my twenties and early thirties without thinking about drugs.  They are what defined me.  I spent all my money on them.  I did things I can’t forgive myself for because of them.  I am convinced I have done damage to my brain.  You know how smart I am but I truly believe I have lost about 10% of my brain power.  If it wasn’t for drugs I would have invented a floating car by now.  Plus, my hair wouldn’t be falling out.

Of all the stuff I have put in my body it is cocaine that really got a hold of me.  For one simple reason – I liked it.  I liked it a lot.

I’m not in the mood to write funny stories and sad stories about drug use.  I’ll write about those some other time.  I will touch on addiction for a second.  Addiction is a truly horrible thing.  Let me tell you a rehab story.

I was in a hospital in Huntsville, AL.  Some of the stuff in rehab is stupid, some is ok and some of the stuff you do has some merit.  I am not sure where the meeting I am about to describe to you falls, you can judge for yourself.  A group of about 10 of us were in a meeting and the idea was to share something that you were deeply ashamed of.  Because you were surrounded by other addicts who would presumably understand how you could do such a thing, this was a golden opportunity to get it off your chest, have people tell you it was ok and move on with your life.

Well, some things are harder to move on from than others.

A young lady, whose drug-of-choice was crack, told a story on how she stole Christmas from her children.  Basically, all the Christmas presents for her two children had already been purchased and it was just a day or two before Christmas.  She went on a crack binge and spent all her money.  Out of desperation she returned all the presents.  What makes this story disturbing is the explanation she gave her children for the lack of presents.  She told them that they were bad and Santa crossed them off the list of good boys and girls.  Therefore, no presents for them.

Take a minute to digest that, especially those of you that have children.  The easy initial reaction to have is disgust at the woman.  I concur.  Anybody would.  She was disgusted with herself.  What she did was unforgivable.  I have told that story more than a few times and have never heard much sympathy for the woman.  I would like to submit that if you understood a little about addiction, while you might and should still think that the woman committed a horrible deed, you might see that it was not because she is an evil person but she was a person with an addiction problem.

When I met the lady she was clean from drugs.  She was cute, charming and funny.  When she told the story she couldn’t hardly get through it.  She was suicidal at times because she couldn’t forgive herself for what she had done.  And you know what the worst thing was?  When asked why she did it, she couldn’t answer.

Addiction makes you do things and leaves you without answers.  You are responsible for your actions.  Bottom line – you did it, you own it.  However, I would not have done the things I did and she would not have done what she did had we been clean.  The easy solution to that is not to use, right?  Well, of course.  And that is what makes addiction so evil.  You can’t just stop, even when you want to.

The most popular theory is that addiction is a disease.  It is just something that people like me have and if we choose (and it is a choice) to give in and use then the disease will make us powerless to stop.  Some people will say it is all just a matter of willpower.  I don’t know.  I really don’t much care.  I do know that it’s real.

The only reason I am mentioning addiction is that is has ruled about a third of my life.  If I look back at that time of my life I have to quickly look away as if I just seen a horrible car wreck.  Thoughts of what I did will pop in my head when I am staring at the ocean and I will have to make sure that nobody is watching me because I will have tears of rage leak from my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is not all bad horrible stuff that I did.  I did a couple of bad things in my life and I have done why I can to atone for them.  It is the thoughts of the way I acted, the dishonesty, the lack of self-confidence, the way I let people take advantage of me and the lost opportunities that haunt me.  And while I have some issues that I deal with, most of it was because of drugs.

I heard somebody say in an NA meeting once that addiction is the hardest job in the world.  I kind of liked that.  You have no idea how hard it is to live like that.  Nobody would voluntarily live like that.  It is a fulltime job.  And the strength it takes to break out of it is something that a lot of people don’t possess.

So when I was in the shower the day before my birthday and thought about how I had given 13 years away and how those decisions still affected where I am today, well, it hurt.

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The fourth blog song of the day will be Little Black Submarines by The Black Keys.  Let’s chat about women for a minute.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wklgehHnDE

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I didn’t date until my senior year in high school when I became not the first – nor the last – guy to fall in love with the first woman I went out with.  I was young, naïve and stupid.  Add whatever adjectives you want.  I was blind to what was going on with her the summer leading up to college and ended up asking her to marry me the next year after having been cheated on more times than I can remember.

Not to say I was a prince.  I was fresh out of rehab and I was a young judgmental guy who had just been given all the answers and was ready to tell her how she should live her life.  I was really a pain in the ass in some ways.  But I was also very loving, loyal to a fault, doting and stupid enough to believe we would be together forever.

I believed it until she disappeared at Christmas and just didn’t come back.  How do you do that to somebody?  You spend two years cheating on me and then when you decide to leave me you can’t even tell me to my face?  I still don’t understand.

I don’t think about her much.  I don’t have any hard feelings.  It has been too long.  But when I do think about her, say at a time like this when I am purposely writing about it, I still don’t get it.  I might have deserved to get dumped, but I don’t think anybody deserves how it happened to me.

There were three women of consequence in my life during the time I lived in Chattanooga after that gal dumped me.  Two of them were never more than friends but we were as close as a man and woman can be without being a couple.  Not to say that there wasn’t attraction on both sides, but my life was a mess and I think they were too smart to get involved in that.  I know it made at least one of them sad that the opportunity was lost because of how dysfunctional I was.  I loved both of them very much.  Again, I don’t think about them much but when I do it makes me sad that I lost the possibility of something good because I was screwed up.

The third gal chose drugs over me.  I cleaned up for a year.  She decided to start using again.  We actually talked it out and remained friends.  It tore me up.  I really liked her.  She really liked me.  She loved cocaine.  What are you gonna do?

I moved back to Florida, took an ill-fated job and started messing around with a lady at work.  Somehow we ended up getting married.  I was talking to my momma the other day about this.  I have no idea why I got married.  I am a loving guy.  I love people more than they want me to love them.  My wife?  I don’t really remember being all that much in love.  Maybe because we were so drunk all the time.  I don’t know.  I am not saying anything bad about her.  I just don’t know why we got married, or how we made it for 18 months.  And to be totally honest I was 100% messed up at that point in my life.

I have had one “relationship”, and I hate to use that word, since I started sailing.  She lied to me, defrauded me and stole from me.  I acted like a pathetic spineless asshole.  It was a hard lesson to learn.  I hope she’s doing well.  That’s all I have to say about that.

To recap, I have never had a successful relationship in my life.  My choices of women have been poor, to say the least.  The women I have dated that I didn’t mention above left me with less than glowing opinions of the opposite sex.  And the good ones, and there are some really good ones, that I have liked have not liked me in the same way.

That was the second thing that kind of hit me pretty hard in the shower that day – failed or lack of relationships.  Usually, thinking about women in the shower is more pleasurable.

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Final song of the blog is Rewrite by Paul Simon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UygiBWXTO0

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Well, that’s one side of 40.  40 years defined by addiction, poor decisions and bad relationships.  I had a nice childhood, but take that out of the equation and you have a wasted 40 years.  It hurts.  It hurts a lot.

I get mad at God sometimes.  I get mad at Life at a lot.  Life has smacked me around.  Life has bloodied my nose and beat me up pretty good.  If my first 40 years was a twelve round fight between me and Life, I am pretty sure that the judge’s scorecards show Life winning every round.  The fight should be over.

I have been knocked to the matt more than once.  There have been a few standing 8 counts.  As much as my family and friends love me, there has probably been a time when the people in my corner were ready to throw in the towel.  I have failed in every way it is possible to fail.  To put it simply, life has kicked my ass.

I started over about five years ago.  You know what starting over means?  That doesn’t mean you have a clean slate and start everything from ground zero.  Starting over means you are at the bottom of a pit and are given the opportunity to claw your way out.  Well, I did.  With Life kicking me in the face at times and shoveling dirt on me at others, I made my way out.  I built a solid foundation.  I am on solid ground and ready to go.

You know where you fucked up, Life?  You taught me I could take a punch.  You taught me I was strong.  You taught me I can fight back.  And guess what?  It’s not just one 12 round fight.  I have at least 12 more rounds in me, and I’m ready to go.

I may not have much, but I have parents who love me more than anything in the world.  Maybe I was knocked down on the matt but their love gives me strength to start to pull myself up.  I have a sister who understands me.  I have my Auntie who supports me no matter what and is always there for me.  I have cousins who love me.  I may not be a dad, but I’m a pretty good Uncle.

I don’t have a wife but I am blessed to have the most amazing women in my life.  When I need the strength to stand up I remember my friend Michelle who for some reason thinks I am a really special guy.  Or my friend Scottie who may be the most compassionate person I have ever met.  I think about my friend Jennifer who can write a one sentence email that makes me laugh three different times and it changes my mood from sad to happy just by seeing her name in my inbox.

God has blessed me with all of those people who have given me the strength to stand up again.  I am shaking off the past.  I’m ready for you, Life.  You won the first fight, that’s true.  But it’s time for a rematch and I know all your tricks.  This time is mine.  Of that, I have no doubt.

Live on pay-per-view, Life vs. Russell Yale.  $99.95.  Call your satellite or cable provider.  No holds barred cage match.   And I’m gonna kick some ass.

When I am stooped over in the shower at 80 I will break down and cry once again.  It will be tears of joy at the amazing 40 years I have just lived.  You can’t stop that from happening, Life.  You have already thrown your best punches and I have proved myself too strong for you.

“I’m working on the rewrite, that’s right.  Gonna change the ending.  Gonna throw away the title, and toss it in the trash.”

I’m changing the story.  Get ready for something exciting.  I’ve got my gloves on and I’m ready to fight.  Somebody ring the bell.  Life and I have twelve rounds to go.

I’m working on the rewrite.

Let’s get ready to rumble.

Russell Yale

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