I wrote a letter to an old friend on my blog. It was basically a ‘Dear John’ letter to my friend Jack. Jack Daniels to be specific. I originally wrote that letter when I was in Rehab. Since then I’ve bid adieu to a few other friends. There was my friend Luke. He died with a needle in his arm. There was my friend Bob, and just a few days ago my friend Bill. Yes, Bob and Bill were real people, so was Luke. They all had big hearts. They had nicknames. That was a sign that people loved them. Bob, depending on if you liked him or not was Gym Bob, or some called him Spiritual Bob, some called him Angry Bob. He died sober god bless him. He was in enough pain to go the way my friend Luke did, but he hung in their for years fighting and died a month ago of a massive seizure.
Then there was Bill. Everyone called him Little Bill, but he was far from little. He was a towering man. I don’t know how tall he was, but when I gave him a hug I could barely reach around his chest. A big Irishman. If there’s going to be a drinking contest, I want the Irish on my side. Bill died on Thursday night. I was in shock. Little Bill? Gone? Well, yes. God is a funny guy. I’ve said this before, I’ll keep repeating it: not funny haha, funny strange. Bill was in a lot of pain from an old back injury. They were going to fix him. He went in for surgery on his back, got an infection which turned to sepsis and in two days he was gone. Poof, just like that. WTF, Over? God? I repeat, What. The. Fuck? Over? So I asked God to take care of him, Bill had been taking care of others all his life, it was the least God could do for him. That was all I had, a plea for my friend. That and a rather empty hole in my middle.
So what brings me to ‘Dear Jane’? Well, I’m writing a ‘Dear Jane’ instead of ‘Dear John’ letter. What’s a ‘Dear John’ letter? It’s a letter (well, OK, it’s a blog post because no one writes real letters any more) that is used by a woman to break up with their boyfriend from a distance. Usually used by girls who have boyfriends or husbands in the military who’ve been deployed for extended periods of time. It was a popular thing I remember during the VietNam war. So, the ‘Dear John’ letter becomes the ‘Dear Jane’ letter, and a blog post.
Good Bye Mrs. Bentzen number two,
It sucks. I really tried this time. But then as Yoda says; “There is no such thing as try”. We either succeed or we don’t. And as I’ve quoted here before; the BIG question: “What did you get when you didn’t get what you wanted?” Wait for it: Experience! It’s something my brother says.
What did she want, Deborah Schaub? Well Deborah Parsons really. I used to call her that, it was her father’s name. Schaub didn’t fit her, it was someone else’s name. So I called her Parsons. When I met her, I saw a sad, fearful, pretty, determined woman. She wanted a LOT. She wanted to be rich! She wanted to own property. She wanted to travel the world. But most of all, she wanted to become a good skier. Now THERE’s a first world problem if I ever saw one.
And silly me, my goal was to never be married to someone again who didn’t ski. I met her skiing in Montana. Big Sky to be precise. I picked her up on the way to the airport for the trip. It was a local ski club trip, she sent out an email request for a ride. I used to go skiing a lot with my friend Terry. I thought; “She’s perfect for Terry!” He probably thought so too. Anyway, I tossed her the ball on the way to Montana, but she put it in her pocket.
I dated another woman I met on that trip for a very short time, and then went to visit Deborah Parsons. I thought it was a match made in heaven, a SKIER. Well, until I fucked up a bunch of things. The relationship came and went, came and went, off again, on again. Silly man that I was, I dated a lot of women at the time, and the relationship was rocky from the get go. I will admit, I like women. And in 2000, when I met Deb, I had been flirting with LOTS of women. It was the beginning of Match.com of course, online dating. I called Match “A Fish, A Barrel and A Smoking Gun.” Yes, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Hey, maybe I should do a blog post with that title!
You might call me misogynistic if you didn’t know me. I’m not a misogynist, as a matter of fact, I love women. Well, I used to anyway. Oh, all right, I still do. And at the time, silly me, I dated other women besides Deb and got her to believe I was being faithful to her. I’ve learned a lot since then. You’ll read elsewhere that while I was a drinking man I was a liar and a cheat. I don’t do that any more. So I’ll just leave this Dear Jane letter here:
Dear Jane, er, um Deb,
You are still that sad, fearful, pretty, determined woman I met eighteen years ago. But you still want a LOT. I like to think you’re rich (um, lots of money) but you don’t believe that. Even though you’ve become a slum lord and own a bevy of single family properties. How did that happen? Well, you partnered with a friend of mine in the real estate business. I told him you wanted to own property, he found the deals, you put up some capital, and bingo, you’re now the proud owner of a bunch of homes. They’re not places you might want to live in, but hell, you’re a landlord. And I’d say that you’re a rich slumlord, AND it was one of your life goals. It hasn’t made you happy.
You now have the ability to ski any double black diamond run at any ski resort in the world. You’re an expert. Your dream come true. I like to think I taught you how to do that, but really, you just followed me. I didn’t do it, you were just determined. I remember one blustery winter day at the top of Mammoth on the cornice. It was cold, it was windy (it always is in Mammoth, it was howling at about 50MPH) and it was blizzarding. To top it off, that precipice hadn’t been groomed, it had a ten foot lip, and there were giant traverse ruts everywhere. When faced with that situation, my motto is always: “Get me off this ridge!” So I looked at you, and I looked at one of the other guys with us and I said “Get me off this ridge” and jumped off the lip and down 30 feet out of the wind. And I waited. And waited. It didn’t take too long, except that in a 50mph blizzard, it seemed an eternity. You struggled down with our snowboarding friend, and had gotten stuck for a minute. I looked at you and said “Where the hell are your goggles??” You said: “I don’t have any”. So I gave you mine. And then I couldn’t see, but somehow we made it back to McCoy station and pretty much were done for the day. I’ll say you can can ski, but it hasn’t made you happy.
Shortly after I met you, a group of friends made the decision to go on a trip to Tuscany. Your dream come true. Travel the world. Well, I’d been around the world; Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South America, and I said get yourself a passport, this will be great, we’ll start collecting stamps in YOUR passport. I said I love Rome, I love to travel. But something happened. We were scheduled to go to a beautiful villa in Tuscany, and two weeks before we were to leave, the twin towers came down in New York. You were afraid. Everyone else decided not to go. You didn’t want to go. I told you it would be PERFECT. The planes came back in service and we left. Swissair to Geneva, Geneva to Rome, then a rental car to Pitigliano in Tuscany. We traveled for over 24 hours to our destination. The first time you had ever left America, and you were like a child, everywhere we went your mouth would drop open. As we arrived, we came up a little two lane highway, rounded a corner and there was the hilltown, glowing in the sunset. We stopped, had a bottle of wine, I took some pictures. That photo has been on your computer desktop ever since. The sad, fearful, pretty, determined woman had the time of her life. Since then we’ve been to Paris, on our honeymoon and to Italy again. I’d say you’re a world traveler, you were even pickpocketed in Rome by the Colosseum, that’s a world traveler. But it hasn’t made you happy.
What I found out is it’s not my job to make you happy. It can’t be done. I would tell you that money doesn’t mean much to me, and it would make you so angry. How could I even say such a thing. Well, money has not made you happy. You always wanted more and more. I would ask “If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, do you think MORE will make you happy?” Sigh… It just makes ME sad. Sad to think you had it all, and it wasn’t enough. Poor little you. It’s all so sad.
My brother used to ask me just what I was getting out of the relationship, and I couldn’t answer him. Little by little I became frustrated. Really all I wanted was a little appreciation, and I got none. Just an attaboy once in a while. And I understand now, it wasn’t in you. I chose poorly, it really is my own fault, hoping you’d change, which is a bad premise. But then you were hoping I’d change. That too was a bad premise. When I changed, I had to leave you behind.
Well, so things got very bad with my son. He’s very sick, and you were really brave about it. One of the times I moved out I lived in Simi and Moorpark with him. First with my friend Chuck, then on my own with him in Moorpark. Things were very bad for me, I was doing my best to take care of him. I remember one night I had found a bag of trash in his room, it was filled with fruit and vegetable detritus and had maggots in it. He wouldn’t let me throw it away. You helped, you distracted him while I disposed of the bag. It spilled on the side of your truck and was a stinking mess. You were quite helpful, even when he moved in with us back in Calabasas. Until one night we came home and he had broken a bottle of olive oil. He had become angry, as he often does, and broke the oil bottle on the granite. When we got home, he had cut his hand and there was blood all over the floor in the kitchen. We later discovered he had set fire to some paper on the stove, it was some message between you and I about him. That was the final straw, I took him to Ojai and left him there, homeless again. I had to draw the line at violence.
Our life went on. I wanted so badly for you to be happy, to have some joy. I was working and making pretty good money as a consultant, I found us a relationship counselor when my therapist retired, thinking we could work through some of the bad feelings between us over other women. You used to call it a ‘vacation’ when I would leave. While working for the consulting company, I became connected to several companies in the area. I had a bit of trouble with the consulting company and sued them for back pay. I quit there and began work for a couple of the companies I had worked for through them. But it never seemed enough for you, you said I had quit working without even telling you. Well, that’s true. I was embarrassed at it all, but was still making ends meet, but thinking back I believe that was the beginning of the end.
My son was living in Ojai and I would visit him there. He found a place to live that his mother was paying for and he was collecting wooden palettes to build above ground planters with. The landlord wanted them removed, which I did. Bret didn’t like it. He became extremely angry, making death threats. Again, I drew the line. A boundary, imagine that. I had him arrested and put in jail, a felony arrest. I worked all that summer to try to get him into a treatment plan of some sort; I had the judge, the District Attorney AND the public defender all working on it. There was a plan for one of the county facilities to take him into their custody for treatment; he would submit a plea bargain and be released. But the plan fell apart, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, and there was no place for him. All the beds were ‘taken’. The ‘system’ failed me. I used it as an excuse drink even more than I had been. It was anesthesia. I had already had a couple bouts with alcohol, I would drink, and it made me feel better. John Barleycorn. It started with Scotch, just one or two, then moved on to my evil friend, who killed the pain and brought me ease and comfort, Jack Daniels.
I wanted to make up for all the bad I had done, so with that in mind and a few years of counseling between us, I asked you to marry me. Again, thinking that I had committed to a relationship, having totally ‘forsaken all others’ and that it would make you SO happy. We spent the winters skiing, the summers hiking and I thought everything was beautiful. You’d be happy NOW! But it didn’t make you happy.
It wasn’t to be. We had a beautiful wedding in Mammoth, it was the party to end all parties. All our friends came. Everyone was happy. Except you. The night before the wedding, you made a big show of me signing a pre-nup. It was not so happy. But I had my friend Jack Daniels to help me through. After the wedding, and then the honeymoon in Paris, and another trip to Italy with a big group of friends, things got worse and worse for me. In fact, they became horrible.
It was so bad, I was drinking all the time. I found some friends and started to go to AA meetings. One night, you know about this, I woke up behind the wheel of my truck, I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. I realized I was in the parking lot of a meeting. Black out drunk.
I raised my hand, plead guilty, and checked myself in to get sober, and you helped get me there. I spent 30 days in treatment, separated from the addiction. And you were so gracious as to help me. I was released in May. I thought I had it licked. BUT, I was released and you wouldn’t come to pick me up. I was pretty heartbroken; my friend Jerry came and got me. I didn’t understand, but I think I do now. You were afraid. Still that sad, fearful, pretty woman I had met years earlier. You hadn’t changed, and I’d hoped you would. Silly me, I thought I could make you happy.
When I got home, I asked you to not drink around me. I asked that if there was liquor in the house, it be kept locked up. I stayed for a couple months, but nothing was better, there was always a case of wine at the bottom of the stairs and one afternoon near the end of September, thinking I was cured, I went and got myself a bottle. Hmm… How’d that work out? Well, it didn’t. Fortunately, I had found friends. I knew I couldn’t stay in that house. I had a friend I met in rehab, a staff member, who owned a sober living house so I moved to the beach and worked there. I asked all my friends what I should do. They said move.
I made it six months there, no alcohol. I moved in with another sober friend I met in AA and rented a room from him in Moorpark. You still had your wine in the fridge and at the bottom of the stairs, and I knew I needed to make my case clear. I began to realize you loved your wine more than me. I made it very clear, but then so did you. You had said you weren’t going to change your lifestyle for me, and I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. I met you on the beach one afternoon and put up a boundary. Imagine that. Me with another boundary.
I was learning. My son taught me, and it worked. I couldn’t help him, I couldn’t help you, I had to help myself. I don’t think you got the idea that it was life or death for me. You were not going to change your lifestyle, and I wasn’t going to ask you to change any more. I couldn’t make you happy.
You’re not a happy person, it’s not my job to change you. So I lived away from you for three years. Last year I had a pretty bad year. I had surgery on my knee, I had skin cancer on my arm, I got kicked out of my residence by a drunk friend who threatened me with a gun, and I moved to another friend’s house. My sponsor jokingly tells me: “That’d make ME drink!” I had this thought that maybe we could move away from LA, to the mountains, to Mammoth. I always hated leaving Mammoth, we would go there and I would wonder why I kept leaving. I asked you to come with me, to leave all the bad karma behind. But no, you asked what you would DO in Mammoth. I guess you meant work, but what would you do in mammoth? Oh, only ski and hike and come with me to take pictures. You’re a human doing, not a human being, it wouldn’t have made you happy.
Then in the fall I got an invitation to go to Utah. Hmm… You wouldn’t come along. I told you I was going to leave. Your response: “Well, we better get divorced!” Well, OK. Maybe that would make you happy? I don’t think so. I don’t know what to do to make you happy; I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s not MY job, it’s an inside job. But that divorce thing, the D word was complete in April. It made me sad. I tried to deny it for a while, denial works. But not long term. I’ve turned a corner. I will be sad, but that won’t be for very long, winter is now on it’s way. The days are getting shorter.
All I know is now, out my back window I see Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, Solitude, Deer Valley, Park City and The Canyons, they’re 30 minutes to an hour away. I drive 20 minutes to Sundance; I have my own local mountain. And in two hours I’m at Powder Mountain, and in three hours I’m in Brian Head, and in 5 hours, Vail or Jackson Hole. That’s the same drive as Mammoth from LA. I’m sorry you’ll be missing it. It’s so weird to go skiing early in the morning, have the entire mountain to myself, and come HOME when I’m done. I’ve been a skier since about 1970, and I’ve never done that before. I’m in the middle of paradise, and there is now joy in my life. But it wouldn’t make you happy.
I only have fond memories of the past twenty years. In spite of the pain and the struggles and the alcohol. But that’s how my mind works. And guess what? I’m conflicted. I’ve used the word happy twenty times in this letter. But I’ve decided that is not the correct word. It’s not happiness, it is joy. There is no joy in your life, only sadness, fear and a determination that has become stubbornness, maybe even desperation, I don’t know. You are joyless, and it’s not my job to change that, nor could I even if it were my job. I have joy now, but then I think I always did. I have found a gratitude that comes through for me every time the sun comes up. When I turn the knob on the wall and hot water comes out, gratitude is so simple! I definitely lost all joy and gratitude for a while, wandering around, out in the cold, anesthetized to the point of unconsciousness. I see how people lose joy. For reasons only you can know, I could never quite share the joy with you, no matter how I tried. I saw glimpses, I would see it when you ski, I saw it in Italy, it gave me hope, but joy is scary for you, I don’t think you believe you deserve it. I’m sorry for your loss, your joylessness.
Because of your loss, I must bid you adieu, and say goodbye.
With fond regards,
– The Conspiracy Theorist