* Chapter One -- Sudden Change *
It's been said many times and in many ways, but the message has always been true, be careful of what you wish for because you just might get it. I wished for change.
Hell, it seems as though my life was always 8lbs of shit in a 10lb bag; by which I mean that I could always find some little bit of hope to hang on to and the shit wasn't actually pouring all over me. When I say hope I mean that there was always a pretty girl, a good book or a new challenge to distract me from those 8lbs of shit I was toting around in my 10lb bag of a young life. I feel pretty lucky in that I only had 8lbs to carry, I quickly learned as I matured and travelled that many had much more shit to carry in a much smaller bag. So yes, I count myself as lucky, blessed or even "smiled upon". However, once in a while I did manage to scoop another few pounds of my own shit into that bag and get it all over myself.
The way my past future played out really shouldn't have come as a surprise to me. It's complicated but please hang with me while I try to weave a story from what I remember. Much of what I have to say doesn't reflect glamorously on me but without being truthful the story lacks true meaning and seems just to be a fantastical dream where wishes come true without the balancing price. That is simply not true, there is always a price to be paid.
There was no moment of glory to start me on my strange journey, there was simply a string of bad decisions followed by the appropriate bad results and bad luck.
Let me set you on the story's path of sudden change before I relate all of the history; the background will all become clear as the story unfolds however I fear that were I to try to relate it all in one telling I would tend to deflect the responsibility for all that happened away from myself. Call it the wisdom of age or what you like however I feel it's best if you hear the raw truth.
It was a sad and pathetic time for me, I had just lost a true and treasured love and I lost her because of my own behavior. She left me on a wet and windy Southern California day in the depressing March weather. Rather I should say she was leaving on that day and packing up whatever could fit in her car for her and her three sons. I actually had a shining moment at that point; I grabbed my travel kit, stuffed what I could in a suitcase and left her and the house behind. It was my fault after all and her or her children shouldn't have to pay the price. She was caught by surprise when I stopped her and dropped the envelope and my keys to the house into her hand and as she opened the envelope I slipped into the driver's seat and slank away.
That envelope, well it contained about $1800 dollars cash which was roughly half of what I had available to me and a short note apologizing for my actions. I knew that by the time she processed all of that I would be gone.
So suddenly I was homeless. With no place to go I headed to my favorite Pub down at the beach, Max's Pub had a room -- basically a fancy apartment -- which they rented out and I thought I'd try my luck there first. I got lucky and I secured the room for a week. It cost me most of my available cash, but payday was just around the corner and I was sure to find a permanent place within a week. I locked up my truck, took a few bags up to my room and settled in for the week. The first order of business was to send a few emails including a short but difficult one to my new-ex containing some instructions and a few simple requests. All of this being accomplished I went downstairs to the pub, ordered a plate of finger food and promptly climbed inside of a bottle.
I stayed inside of that bottle for almost a full month.
* Chapter Two -- Life in a Bottle *
How you see things from the inside of a bottle is altered by the curve of the glass and the potency of the inebriant, I've had a lifelong love of good bourbon so my memory of that time is hazy to say the least, that potent elixir is a joy and a curse. What I can tell you is that the extent of my achievements that first weekend was to burn through most of my remaining cash down at the pub while offending some ladies and bedding a couple of others. Monday morning was a hung-over but busy blur. I managed to politely evict my latest barroom conquest after a quick shower and a perfunctory shared cup of morning coffee, and then off to work I went.
I managed to make it to my desk before the start of the trading day, 6:30am on the west coast, the early morning proceeding as expected when hungover from a 48hour bottle binge.
The 9am meeting with my team leaders and managers was tense to say the least, several of them were close friends with my now-ex Trish and they and Trish loved social media. Escaping with my skin intact from that meeting was nothing short of miraculous. My next order of business was to drop in on one of my real friends in the office, David, who was our firms Chief Legal Officer. Again, he had already heard the score from social media via his wife however he was a bit more forgiving as he was my buddy and that I was owning up to my role in what had happened. I managed to secure rental of his guest/pool house for a month so my accommodations problem was temporarily solved. David was tense during our brief discussion but I wrote it off to my current situation, I couldn't have been more wrong.
My hangover was really coming on full force by that point and I really wanted to get out of there quickly sadly I still had a standing 10am meeting with my actual boss, the new acting-COO, so off I went. I had hoped to make this a quick brief and explain that I was taking a few days off for personal reasons, instead my descent into my own private maelstrom continued as I was handed a package containing my separation agreement. Hell I should have seen that coming and perhaps I had, maybe my realization that my tenure here was finished after a decade of service and the retirement of two of my senior bosses had precipitated my actions over the past month. One hundred days after the new guy took charge he found an "old friend" to replace me and I was bidden farewell. I left politely but I honestly didn't take it well.
Barely ninety minutes later I was once again in my favorite seat at Max's Pub and eliminating my hangover by jumping back into the bottle again.
Let me take a moment here to tell you about Max's Pub or rather "Maximillian's Public House at the Shore" as it was formally titled. Max, bless his crusty old soul loved to run a European style pub and beer garden, it was truly his calling in life. He also loved to brew beer, smoke meat and most importantly he made his own fine bourbon whiskey. I was addicted to the rich smoked meat and vegetables and the fine aged bourbon he distilled and sold by the shot, the bottle or even the cask. If you were wondering why I choose this as my residence for escape, well the food and the bourbon pretty much explains it all. When I stayed at Max's Pub I was staying in my own personal private playground. It was a social hot spot with amazing amenities, everything I wanted was easily at hand.
Lucid moments were few and far between for the next few weeks, my "golden parachute" check hit my bank account relieving any immediate financial concerns so I indulged myself and my few favorite bar patrons in a multi-week display of wanton abandon. The women were mostly MILF's who would show up looking for fun on the nights the kids were at their ex's house, we offered each other something we both desired and the only expectations were emotional anonymity and condoms. They had needs and a night or two free every week and I had the ability to fill their wine glass and any other emptiness they may have wanted filled for a night. It was a wild and memorable time.
During those few lucid moments of that period I did manage to accomplish a few things of note, I used a portion of my separation funds to pay a full year's lease on the house I had just abandoned. I also stopped by the house to pick up the few boxes of my personal belongings I had asked Trish to leave in the garage for me. In their place I left the garage door opener and an envelope with a cashier's check made out in her name. I tried to organize my thoughts, but I couldn't actually pull them together through the alcohol and emotional induced haze. Mostly I simply wallowed in a pit of despair of my own creation.
* Chapter Three -- A wakeup call named Matilda *
Normally wild times end in sorrow and regret, mine simply petered out in exhaustion and confusion. Exhaustion because I'd drank too much for far to long, confusion because I woke up naked wrapped in the arms of a woman called Matilda.
My bladder brought me out of my exhausted alcohol impaired slumber, confusion and shock because Matilda of all people was lying naked in bed with me. Panic ensued and I made my escape to the bathroom to relieve the call of nature and try to figure out exactly how this had happened. I passed my water and then turned and splashed cold water on my face several times in hopes that I had been dreaming. Grabbing a housecoat I exited the bathroom to see an empty bed and an empty room, perhaps it was all a dream after all and perhaps it was also time to cut back on the drinking a little bit. Shock and relief were the overwhelming feelings.
I sat down at the desk and lit a cigarette bringing on the first set of morning coughs, for once I welcomed them hoping it would help clear my head. I fired up my laptop and began to blurrily read the morning news all the while wondering if it had all been just a dream. I was halfway through my second cigarette when a polite knock came at the door and Matilda let herself in as usual to deliver my normal morning breakfast tray and coffee. I formed the question but Matilda as usual never looked directly at me she merely laid out my breakfast on the table, rounded up any dirty dishes she could find, grabbed my bag of dirty laundry and disappeared out the door. I was simply astounded and confused; it must have been a dream.
On a whim I decided to check my condom count, I kept close track of how many I had to keep myself honest and avoid dreaded diseases. I didn't even have to count, there in the waste can on my side of the bed were two used condoms, I had had sex with someone last night and my internal rumor mill told me that it was Matilda.
Matilda worked for the Pub I was staying at, she cleaned, she bussed tables, did dishes and she also reportedly made their beans -- the best damn beans I have ever tasted. On the other hand Matilda didn't look you in the eye and she didn't speak, I wasn't sure if I had heard five words out of her in the three years I'd known her. She could talk and she wasn't dumb, just watching her work around the place you could tell she moved with intelligence and purpose. Talking just wasn't something she did, some people are like that -- don't judge them based on their lack of words.
The problem was Matilda worked for the Pub, Matilda was obviously in the country illegally and Matilda had been in my bed when I woke up. Employees of the Pub were strictly forbidden from sleeping with the customers, which was standard practice as no bar or pub wants to be accused of prostitution. I'm not sure how she ended up in my bed but I decided then and there it was time to check out and move into David's guest house. So it came to pass that I packed my crap, checked out of the Pub after a three and a half week stay and moved in with my old work buddy David.
* Chapter Four -- Interlude *
I recall my first morning, laying in that strange bed alone and realizing I didn't immediately know where I was. It was my first sober night's sleep in almost a month. It was a tormented sleep with dreams to curl your hair at the beginning and thankfully slowly fading into pleasant, peaceful dreams of meadows, brooks and breezes before the dawn came. Lying about in bed and getting my head straight didn't last long as my awakening was once again ruled by my bladder leading me to a quick hot shower and a very thorough scrubbing of my teeth.
Clean and dressed I decided I needed to take stock of my situation starting with coffee and food. A quick inventory of the cupboard and the small fridge convinced me that David's wife Lisa had taken good care of me but she had definitely chosen sides in this relationship breakup that didn't have sides. Everything was in stock and every item was an item she positively knew I didn't like. It reached the point of absurdity including "Turkey Bacon", "Soy Cheese" and even "Bamboo Toilet Paper"; Lisa knew I abhorred these things but they were all brand new and fresh so I got the message. I don't even want to mention the absurd coffee substitute she bought me. I wasn't really welcome there and she was only putting up with me for David's sake -- it was apparent I needed to get out of there fast.
The first order of business was getting some food into me, I didn't want to cause any havoc with David so I made coffee and cooked up some of the strange stuff Lisa had left me. Half of the pot of the pretend coffee went down the sink and the bacon, milk and strange cheese went out the door with me in a plastic bag. When I reached the nearest diner the weird food went straight into their dumpster. Grabbing a booth inside I ordered up my favorite breakfast and savored a fine cup of strong actual coffee.
After sating my base desires with coffee and good food I sat back to consider my situation. Thoughts flooded my head and I knew I need to put them into some sort of order. I decided to try to make a list of priorities, oddly enough I decided to do that because that is what Trish would have told me to do. I remember that clearly only because I still have that list with me to this day, it's faded and hard to read now but just looking at that delicate and worn piece of paper reminds me of how things have changed.
The list I wrote went something like this, it's not complete but some of it was personal and there is really no benefit to this story or to you for me to rehash a personal detail which turned out to be pointless before the summer started. First priority I decided was to inventory my finances, I knew I wasn't broke but I wasn't flush either. Second was to inventory my possessions and make the appropriate decisions regarding those, I suspected there would be some serious discard after my three and a half-week splurge. Thirdly I need to plan some real next steps, obviously I would need new living quarters and a new job and I would need those soon.
Now there were a lot of sub-bullet points on that list but they aren't really pertinent to this story and there were some very personal items that just don't need to be re-hashed in the future. The basic point was I needed to get my waterfowl aligned and start moving forward again. I ordered a large coffee to go and settled up my tab.
I went back to David's Guest House and fired up my computer, sadly it didn't take too long for me to realize that I'd had too much fun on my binge of excessiveness and that I only had a short window before I need a steady income again. I had reserves I could plunder but that was an expensive move to make and it would only provide a short period of relief. A year at most if I intended to stay in SoCal. After the depression of dealing with the finances (aren't they always depressing) I decided to distract myself by taking inventory of the detritus of my binge life. I had two large tote bags of what I assumed was drunken purchased crap and I was correct. I had Beanie Babies (really?) and coffee mugs mixed in with spice packets and absurd cooking tools. Apparently I had a very good time splurging with my female companions in my drunken splendor on those spring evenings during my binge life. Apparently in my drunken splurges that I usually went out without a jacket that the springtime weather usually called for so I had almost a dozen new sweatshirts, hoodies and fleece jackets bearing the trademarks of various establishments in the area. At the end of my sort through the trash of my weeks in an alcoholic haze I had some clothing, some coffee mugs, a strange automatic corkscrew and a pile of trash.
However in that pile of trash I noticed that there were several lottery tickets and I picked them back out on a "just because" basis. The Lottery was only a tool I used to amuse myself on my long daily commutes, something to daydream about while I sat in traffic. I would buy one on occasion simply to keep that daydream valid. On a whim I decided to check the numbers versus the lottery website and suddenly my world spun into change again.
* Chapter Five -- The Big Reveal *
Three half crumpled slips of paper. Two were perfectly worthless as usual and one single unassuming slip that was literally worth a mountain of gold, I was suddenly one of the richest people that I knew.
It took me a good forty-five minutes to process what had just happened to me. This had been one hell of a spring by any person's accounting, I had just gone from sudden personal and professional disaster to vast wealth. So I just sat there drinking my coffee, smoking cigarettes and staring at that simple little piece of paper.
Then it was time to put all those fanciful plans made while daydreaming to work. David's guest house was also his "work from home" office and he had a multi-function printer on the desk. I made three copies of the lottery ticket and printed out the numbers page from the lottery website. I put a quick call in to David and asked him to meet me for lunch and no it couldn't be delayed as it was of vital importance. I secured the actual ticket in my belongings and off I went to meet up with David.
Understandable David was irritated and being called out for a sudden meeting but his attitude took a sudden turn for the better when I slid a copy of the ticket and the website printout across the table to him. Well now this was where things started to get fun for a while. David looked up from the printouts and asked me two questions: "Is this for real?" followed by "What are you going to do?". I was ready for that, like I said, I was having fun. "David," I told him "I intend to sign a couple of pieces of paper very soon making me the first client and a silent partner in that wealth management firm you've always talked about starting one day."
It was a joy to watch the realization slowly dawn in my buddy's eyes, not only was he happy for me but he was happy for himself; basically we had hit the lottery together. Let's face it, I suddenly needed those services anyway and I could trust David a lot more than some firm I could hire off the street.
I went to the deli counter to order our lunch and give David some time to recover from the shock, hell I was still in shock myself but I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do. I ordered and paid for our usual lunch sandwiches and returned to table joking that David really ought to be buying lunch for his client not vice versa which brought a smile to David's face. While I was away David had gathered himself enough to call up Traci, his assistant at work and cancel the rest of his day. He had then apparently invited Traci to join us for lunch. Now Traci and I didn't always get along, she didn't seem to approve of my freewheeling ways -- but she'd also seen how dreadfully serious I became when the chips were down. At the same time I was very aware and respectful of Traci's efficiency and professionalism; I was also aware that she was a single parent with a dead-beat dad of an ex-husband. Trish and I had even babysat her daughter on occasion so that Traci could have some sort of personal life; not that adding another kid to a house full of them for an afternoon or evening was ever even noticed.