You know I took the poison
From the poison stream
Then I floated out of here
Singing…ha la la la de day
Ha la la la de day
Ha la la de day
Dateline: Chicago, 1971
The acid kicked in while strolling through Old Town with a band of merry pranksters from Lamphere High in Madison Heights, Michigan. Ostensibly there for the purpose of a school field trip, we had our own definition of what a trip entailed. The specimen ingested was in the form of a small, light green pill, affectionately known to us as “Green Flats” LSD.
Bright lights burned brighter from head shop windows enticing mad-dog youth with “counter-culture” paraphernalia. Music resounding and abounding through the haze of Marijuana smoked openly on the street was a norm for the time. Far out…killer…groovy. Hallucinogenic visions took hold with counterfeit magic. Our group no longer appeared as young tourists–we were Eight Miles High above the clouds. Laughing at otherwise innocuous forms of reality through a prism of an illicit organic compound (C20H25N3O) had us rolling on the sidewalk.
Finally, near the midnight hour, we made it back to base camp. Ensconced in the YMCA next to the L-Tracks, the boys were on one floor and the girls on another, separated fiercely by a rent-a-cop with a bad-ass weapon that looked more like a mini-candelabra than a knife. While most made a night out of eluding the guard by going out windows, and scrambling up fire escapes in a quest to biblically connect with the opposite sex, Murph & I stayed sequestered in a dark room. Plans made before the trip included experimenting with my first shot of heroin. By the early morning, my mind felt like runny, scrambled eggs. A year of intense, cognitive-shifting research with a powerful hallucinogen left this young mind dissociated from reality. Every high came with a ball-busting bummer of a down and I was ready to graduate to the Hard Stuff. The transition from lysergic utopian fantasies to grimy spoons and spent needles commenced.
Connection with God ~ Not detected
Connected with self ~ Fahgeddaboudit
The cooking smack had an unmistakably unique smell that filled the hotel room. After drawing the contents of the spoon into a syringe, Murph slipped the needle in my vein and drew back enough to see a squirt of blood confirming a “hit” followed by a pushing of the plunger to nirvana. A pleasant, low-key sense of warmth filled a soul left ravaged by irresponsible choices and the depravity of sin. For the first time in a long time, things were chill & mellow. It was like taking a warm bath on the inside while going on vacation without ever leaving the room.
Authenticity ~ Not detected
That one shot led to a 43-year losing battle with the White Witch. Left swirling in the wake were many close friends and family members deeply hurt by my love affair with opiates. A subjugation of the call on my life by a loving God with a much higher purpose planned than that of a dope fiend was the worst of it. The low-lights of broken promises included; unfulfilled dreams; the deaths of three family members, deep wounds to the souls of two sons; divorce; complete estrangement from family; firings from three bluechip jobs; lies; deceit; jails; prisons; two cults; institutions & six near-death overdoses–only begins to scratch the surface of a scab covering decades of pus.
Near the beginning of this deviant living entered a man with a capacity for love like no other I’ve known. Bill took me under his wing through 31 years of incarceration, freedom, defeat, victory, relapse & recovery. Were it not for him, I’d have probably not been blessed to experience good periods of recovery in between pilgrimages to the wasteland. When doing so, he never lost hope when the mounting stack of empirical evidence would suggest otherwise. Remaining clean & sober for the last two years of his life, is something I’ll always remain grateful for. We had a non-stop blast walking down his final days on this temporal planet. This shot was taken at the last Alcoholics for Christ men’s retreat Bill attended.
Waking one day in a psychiatric ward where I’d landed after Dan’s death. the guilt and shame was so oppressive, suicide had become a viable option. Contrasting that reality against the years Danny and I were as tight as brothers could be, proved impossible. There were decades when we loved our children, music, rockin’ out, the Lord, and each other like no others. That’s the trufe.
Tight with a capital “T” doesn’t begin to define our brotherhood. We were thicker than thieves and jumped at every chance to experience live, rock n’ roll music. During most of the go-go seventies, we took up residency at various addresses in San Francisco. This spot in Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco was my favorite. Dan would probably rate our flat on Potrero Hill as his top spot. Wherever we lived, we worked hard and partied even harder. There ought to be a law against having so much fun. Actually…there was.
Renting out the top flat of a massive Victorian in the Haight, near the Golden Gate Park’s “Panhandle” In the mid-seventies seemed like a good move. The Haight was considered a rough hood by San Franny’s Wimp Standard. Being from Detroit, that didn’t faze us one bit. On a fairly regular basis, we’d back off wanna-be gangstas–laughing in their faces as no more than a nuisance. Exercising big brother prerogative, I set up camp in the top corner turret bedroom. Did you ever try to hang wooden shutters in a curved Window? That one job took more than a week, requiring four grams of cocaine to complete. Danner chose the bedroom at the end of the hall with the big square window. With six large rooms, there was plenty of space for Joe after springing him from Synanon. Collectively, we gave Keith Richards a run for his money on the party tip.
There’s a period of substance abuse where it definitely has the potential for serious fun. That’s not said to glorify it, only to state the truth. Addiction is a cunning, insidious and baffling malady. People take drugs because they work. As it progresses from use, to abuse, and then finally addiction–the user is the last one to know, long after they quit working. Taking responsibility for his death (a POV held by most family members) would be the height of alcoholic grandiosity, because that’s playing God. Moreover, to define the totality of our brotherhood based on the last night of his life would besmirch our bond of brotherhood as road dogs on the Road Most Traveled. For years, Danny and I lived by the words Springsteen sang in “No Surrender”
Well, now young faces grow sad and old
And hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
Now I’m ready to grow young again
And hear your sister’s voice calling us home
Across the open yards
Well maybe we’ll cut someplace of own
With these drums and these guitars
‘Cause we made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in the stormy night
With a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender
In the end, our respective addictions had eroded our bond to the point where we only got together to get high. No more music, no more joy, no more nothing–except drugs. On the last night of his life with Danny, he overdosed and died just three feet from me. Being too screwed up to even notice at first, it was too late to do anything about it. In the end, at the minimum, I broke the vow of promise to defend Danny, failing as his big brother, something oldest brother Tom has never done.
For reasons I may never understand, my fiance’ at the time, chose to stick it out and walk through a fire that consumed others. Dropping off a stack of support letters from friends five days into the psych ward stay, a note from my pastor had the most impact–expressing something along these lines;
“Megan & I miss you. We miss your ‘Amens’ during sermons. We miss your love for life and love for God. The kids miss your willingness to pop out your dentures when they scream; ‘Take out your teeth Mr. Tim!‘ Despite your present circumstances, God hasn’t given up on you…nor will we. Praying for your recovery brother. Love, Jim”
Setting down the letter, an awareness of a power greater than I rose from the catacomb of a soul-dead heart. For the first time in years, I could sense God’s alive, palpable presence.
Hope ~ Detected
Over the next nine months, reality would hit hope, slamming me down like a drunk on the barroom floor–followed by enough grace to get up, strap on a pair and keep moving forward. After a lifetime of episodic debauchery fueled by self-will-run-riot, this very human temple took some hellacious hits. Apparently, it didn’t discourage Amy from marrying me, but were sufficient enough to warrant concern by my primary physician, who’s the absolute bomb. Over the ensuing months, she’s engaged in a vigorous, intentional mission to put humpty-dumpty back together again. Amy, granted access to details of a prescribed health regimen, provided some motivation to press on when stuck in moments of rebellious, cantankerous silliness.
Direction ~ Detected; Simplicity ~ Detected
Dateline Berkley, MI 2014
Amongst the many referrals made by Dr. Dillon to a myriad of specialists, one of them warrants noting here. Dr. AlSabie at Beaumont is quite the character and explained my hepatitis C had a viral load of over three million. A viral load 800,000 and above generally is indicative of a need for treatment.. Probably contracted around ’89, I came to the dance 25 years late. He prescribed two drugs costing approximately $50,000.00/month for three months. He said not to worry because they worked hard on insurance companies for approval. One week later, a call came in from the Beaumont Specialty Pharmacy instructing me to come and pick up the prescriptions of Sovaldi and Olysio. My normally stingy Part D prescription plan approved the $150,000.00 treatment.
It was all systems go
Grace defies any human limitation of measurement. Grace defies the lie of Karma. What a crock of crap Karma is, because if what truly went around, came back around…I’d surely been dead many years ago. For 90 days, this was one prescription not to miss. Mixed with hope and folks willing to stand-in-the-gap for a wretch like moi’, treatment proceeded propelled by prayer. The goal is to achieve what we Heppers and Doctors refer to as SVR (sustained virological response), which means that you have no detectable hepatitis C virus in your blood. The results came in yesterday.
HCV ~ Not Detected
Sharing the good news first with Amy, we just hugged while tears of gratitude dropped. That the results hit on my oldest son’s birthday is not lost on this writer. Calling to wish him a birthday greeting via a twist on the Stooges “1969” sung into a speaker phone, Timmy cracked up. After the greeting, it seemed timely to share the good news with him.
“That’s great! Does this mean you’re cured?” Timmer asked, adding he’d been praying for a good report. “Yes it does son. There’s a follow-up confirmatory test in another 90 days. Don’t sweat it Timmy and thanks so much for the prayers. because they had an effect on the outcome”
This blog is dedicated to the loving memory of nephew Ryan and brothers Daniel J. Hurley & Joseph P. Hurley
Through the miracle of social media coupled with God’s grace, Murph called recently after hooking up on Facebook. His purpose was to make amends for introducing me to heroin. Of course, I received his heart-felt apology. Then he shared how he’s been clean & sober for 27 years “carrying the message” to other suffering alcoholics and addicts. That’s how it’s supposed to be. The therapeutic value of one addict carrying the message of recovery, hope and grace to another suffering addict is without parallel.
Pat was the AFSCME Union Steward on day shift at the City of Warren’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, often times a thankless job. The guy was humble, quiet, intelligent, and endowed with a pair of union balls most scabs secretly covet.
We became soul brothers during an attempt by an outside company of hired guns to implement “best practices” at the WWTP. Among many “recommendations”, it meant “relaxed” job descriptions and the loss of overtime required to run and maintain a facility designed to operate on a 24/7 basis. Briliant. The citizens of Warren won’t restrict the elimination of body waste to just day shift. As that penny-wise, pound-foolish notion became our reality, two shift supervisors decided they would exploit the new directive on eliminating overtime by grabbing it up for themselves. Their combined abuse of OT was nothing less than staggering. In no time, they were raking in more than their base salary. When operations & maintenance began to question the fairness of this new “best practice,” upper management ignored and chose to silver-tongue their subordinates. After a year of this bullshit, some of us met in the locker room one day, deciding our next move. Concluding the only option left was going outside the department, we wrote and distributed a petition everyone signed (except three guys bereft of a spine on the midnight shift) exposing the overtime abuse by two specific shift supervisors who were making more than the mayor.
Pat hand-delivered copies of the petition to every council person. After doing so, He made sure his last stop would be the mayor’s office. It had such an impact, a council vote on the Water Board budget was held up while they researched the merit and allegations of the petition.
The retaliatory fall-out was immediate and very direct. Because I wrote the petition and Pat delivered it, we were in the cross-hairs of the two supervisors who’d been exposed for their greed, hypocrisy and malfeasance. Neither of us had ever experienced the kind of explosive rage those two guys unleashed. Looking back, I’ll admit to using some fairly inflammatory language in the petition that was read at a meeting of the Warren City Council and broadcast via cable to residents of the City.
This statement didn’t go over real well.
“While operations & maintenance rank & file bust their asses in their part to facilitate a more efficient workplace for the benefit of taxpayers, two shift supervisors continued engorging themselves like feral swine at the trough of the rate-payers. Their unfettered abuse of overtime is so egregious, every resident should rise up and inundate the Mayor’s Office with calls of protest, demanding these two pigs be stopped in the repugnant swill they revel in”
On the basis of said petition, we were both called into Chief Engineers office the next day and chastised for lacking “loyalty” and losing the “vision.” Proper etiquette (never a strong-suit) flew out the window. My immediate response was to inform management to be grateful two of their darlings were exposed. They didn’t quite see it that way.
At any rate, it was now time to cue up Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns & Money” because the shit had hit the fan.
Dad…get me out of this indeed.
Ponch & Nick went about the business of creating a textbook “hostile work-place.“ Of the two, Ponch wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Barely functioning on a “challenged” level in an effort to extract a public retraction, he wrote up and/or suspended me a total of 14 times over the next 8 month period. Things got pretty damn intense around the plant as an unholy jihad revved up. One day, a scream above the roar of machinery could be heard. “Hurley! Get your miserable ass over here and fill in this big hole now! A cursory examination of the task at hand revealed a broken 4″ PVC Line in the deepest part of the excavation. After preparing for the arduous task at hand, I called my steward to inquiring about being been taken off of operating equipment to do a maintenance gig. At the job site. Pat smiled and observed;
“Hey Tim…does that line look repaired to you?”
Again, Pat smiled and said with a wink;
“Use your best judgment”
After filling in the hole with cement over the broken line, the plant email internet went crazy with messages flying around questioning Ponch’s sanity. He arrived back at the job site just as the last shovel full of dirt was tossed awaiting maintenance to cement it over. Bloviating about my judgement, we feared for his health. When stopping to catch his breath, my response was measured and calm while feigning ignorance, while underscoring the importance of following orders.
Stuff like that went on for quite some time. His frustration and rage only grew in his effort to retaliate. He never really made any progress as Pat, and I continued to take the brunt of his futile assaults.
Patrick was The Rock to lean on and would always would say;
“Don’t give him any bullets to shoot you with. Never be insubordinate, do what he tells you, ‘cuz I got your back brother Hurley.”
True to his word, Pat beat, reversed and over-turned all 14 of the write-ups and suspensions.
Some of you anti-union folks out there might sing a different tune if you worked for those two geniuses. Terms like Maximized Efficiency; Downsizing; Multi-Tasking and Flexibility became plant buzzwords on cultish emails emanating like sludge from management. We knew they were trite euphemisms for getting rid of employees.
Truth be told, Budgets were tight everywhere. The Plant had to adapt to changing times. The only problem with the kind of “progress” they were selling (at an exorbitant rate) was this: Over the next few years, management began replacing senior $31.00/hr state-certified professionals with $10.00 grunts. That was our reward for loyalty and trust. Guess who never went with the program? Nick & Ponch. As operations and maintenance became flexible with job descriptions (ostensibly to save jobs), those two did everything to sabotage anything they perceived to threaten their rather opulent existence.
Their attacks drew Pat and I into a very tight friendship. In fact, we became “blood brothers in a stormy night with a vow to defend…no retreat baby, no surrender.” As the hostility morphed into personal threats, conflicting work-orders, assignment of the dirtiest jobs and so forth, their deleterious effect on the operation of the plant became obvious.
For instance, one day, Ponch ordered us to abandon the operation of the plant to weed-whack a hill of grass in 98 degree heat.
After a year of this crap, I was getting pretty pissed. However, Pat always kept his cool and never would give management the pleasure of blowing his lid, er…hard-hat. The issuance of AVOs (Avoid Verbal Orders) job assignments only applied to us.
So there we stood in the blazing heat with two gas-powered, industrial weed whackers strapped on our backs like rented mules. As sweat poured down our mugs like a leaky effluent discharge line, Pat calmly adopted his inimitable, shit-eating, handsome Italian smile while reading the AVO and said;
“Hey Tim…listen up. This work assignment doesn’t specify how high or low to cut the grass, so just use your best judgement. Amen?”
In the twinkling of an eye, great joy replaced the tension & anxiety as grace replaced a desire to mace Ponch’s face. Firing up the weed-whackers, our laughing could be heard above the roar of the machines. It took all shift, but we did manage to butcher the hell out of that hill of grass. Two brother operators in a maniacal state had lots of fun decimating the big hill of grass to a state it would take a year to recover from.
The hill was the first thing visitors saw when driving onto plant grounds. Management didn’t think it was so great. Upon inspection at the end of our shift, Ponch was livid. Pat calmly informed him it would be in his best interest to act in a more professional manner, or we’d be filing a grievance against him. As he sputtered in frustration, Pat waited patiently for his wrath to wear out and with perfect timing, asked him about the wisdom of abandoning the jobs we were hired to do.
“Why sacrifice the operation of the plant? So you could get your little rocks off retaliating because of the petition? What you’re doing is illegal, but you’re too blinded by an exaggerated sense of importance to see it. O’ by the way, we had a lots of fun manicuring that hill while getting in a work-out. In fact, we’d respectfully request weed whacking every blade of grass for the rest of the summer, providing you approve the overtime.”
Pat just stood there and smiled, while Ponch looked like he might cry. In the end, there wasn’t a thing he could do.
Though quite the passionate man, Pat knew to hold back until alone without witnesses to really lay into those pricks. He taught me about grace under pressure. He also did his job without the backing the AFSCME hierarchy, including the local president who was a buddy of Ponch. That meant Pat took shots from all directions with both barrels, but NEVER flinched. The irony was he wasn’t a troublemaker and never instigated a thing. Pat had a heart for the underdog. He’d think and pray about a matter and then proceed with a response while avoiding ill-conceived reactions. He had a particular distaste for any kind of bully.
Today, ten years later, I miss my friend and brother. He was a guy who understood how a work-place should function and fought hard for everyone he represented. But it went way beyond that with Pat. He was a man who walked out the courage of his convictions with an ability to see the Big Picture. He thought ahead and played those two fools the chess-game of their lives. His Cheshire Cat smile was something that never failed to lift our spirits. He was a steward’s steward.
Guys like Pat come into our orbit, but a few times in life.
Many lives were blessed & enriched by our having crossed paths with Patrick.
Speak to me
Speak to me heart
I feel a needing
to bridge the clouds
A way I wish to know
A way I wish to know
Oh you’ll ride
In a ring
Backwards and forwards
Those who seek
feel the glow
A glow we will all know
A glow we will all know
On that day
Filled with grace
And the heart’s communion
Steps we take
Steps we trace
Into the light of reunion
Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
will cross again
Speak to me
Speak to me shadow
I spin from the wheel
nothing at all
Save the need
the need to weave
A silk of souls
that whisper whisper
A silk of souls
that whispers to me
Speak to me heart
all things renew
hearts will mend
round the bend
Paths that cross
Paths that cross
will cross again
Rise up hold the reins
We’ll meet again I don’t know when
Hold tight bye bye
Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
Will cross again
RIP brother Pat.
I’ll see you further on up the road in our Father’s house
We’ve got these two cats named Ramona & Beezus. Talk about double trouble.
Now take it easy. This isn’t gonna’ be some lame blog expecting the reader to interrupt their day and salivate over the antics of boring ass cats.
Pets are cool. However, I’m not one of the animal rights activists flooding social media in a quest for their elevation to sainthood. Animals are animals, Period. Besides, I’ve always been more of a dog guy. However, upon meeting these two felonious felines, one is struck by how approachable and tolerant Beezus is. She’s more like a little puppy. You can pick her up and rock her furry eyes to sleep. A real cozy lover she is. The only irritating thing she pulls on a regular basis is to prowl table & counter-tops in the dead of night, taking great glee at knocking stuff on the floor…just to hear it fall. Glasses, drinks, candles…you name it. Everything is fair game. She’s also somewhat of a bread junkie. Her jones for it is ravenous, necessitating the use of a metal bread box to keep her away. Other than that, she’s neat, clean, and fun to be around. In the dysfunctional family of roles, Beezus is…
“The Purrfect Child”
Ramona is a whole other story. She’s our “Special Olympics-Challenged” cat. In contrast to Beezus, she’s overweight, messy and loves to lay her fat ass right smack dab in the middle of a doorway or some other highly traveled route in the house. She’s highly proficient at getting under your feet. That’s always fun when getting up in the middle of the night to drain your vein–as she does her damnedest to trip you up. She’s got this tail with a chunk missing and a bend at the 3/4 mark. When excited, it does this twitchy meth thing as if plugged into an electrical socket. Well…you might have some of those qualities if you had her unresolved kitten-of-origin issues. As a young kitty scampering around her environs, Ramona gave new meaning to “Curiosity killed the cat”
While looking for kicks on route 66 one day, she snuck into the clothes dryer while my wife was doing laundry one day.
Ramona ended up in a hot dry cycle for more than a moment. Ames thought it sounded like a pair of kids tennis shoes banging around the drier. When those shoes started meowing on steroids, Ames freed her from certain death with slightly burnt paws and kinda’ on the warm side. But she’s one tough cat and made it through many dangers, toils and snares after being checked out by the vet. Two weeks after that, Ramona made her way into the refrigerator. Thus, a template of extremes was formed in her psyche’. At first, I was a tad slow downloading her peculiar mannerisms, and frankly, thought of her as a pain in the ass.
Add to that, she shits outside the box.
That’s right readers. In the basement are two large, aluminum trays filled with kitty litter for them to do their business. Beezus on the right, Ramona on the left. For reasons not quite known, Ramona can’t even get taking a dump right. She’s on the chub side and can’t clean her butt very well. I’ve never seen a cat with a dirtier ass. We’re talking major, dried dingle balls clinging to her anal fur. That makes sense when viewing the periphery outside her dump box. Like little claymore mines, Ramona isn’t particularly fussy about where she lays her funky IED’s. It use to piss me off to no end. Seriously. What kind of cat would defy the Natural Order Of Things to take a dump outside her box?
One day while in the bowels of the basement folding some laundry, I caught Ramona walking sideways towards her box, ostensibly to purge her system of effluent and digested cat food. You ever watch how a cat will hide their head behind a table-cloth and think you can’t see them? That’s exactly the tactic I employed to gather some Intel on her droppings. Without her knowing, I watched as she took a squat about 6″ outside the box and let it fly. What followed cracked me up. After depositing a small-cow pie on the floor, Ramona jumped into the box and began furiously scooping litter in a futile effort to mask the stench left in the wake of her damaged little mind. With great determination, she scooped left, then right, and then seemed to say; “That’s good” and moved on to other amusing tweaky behavior.
At that point, my attitude started changing regarding my Ramona-Bona. As I grabbed the plastic putty knife to scrape the residual of her basement visit off the floor, that still, small voice began speaking in my heart. When balanced on the Triple Beam of the Trinity I get a kick out of what God will do–and use, to connect with His kids.
Take a look Tim. See that pile? Pretty disgusting…isn’t it?
That’s you outside My will and plan for your life.
Messy, isn’t it?
It’s pretty stinky as well.
That’s right. See how Ramona tried to cover it up? See any parallels there?
Er…now that You mention it…Hmm, I think I know where this is going.
No matter how many times Ramona tries to mask her mess with a thin coating of her choice…
The ends are always the same?
Actually Tim, it gets progressively worse. Those who loved you the most, those who hung in the longest–were exposed, hurt, damaged, and wounded by your discharge. That was on a good day.
Yeah…been dreaming a lot about Danny & Joe lately. In the dreams, they’re alive and with me, but I always feel like a piece of shit.
Embrace dreams. There’s no condemnation for those I reside in. You need to get with this in order to make the best of whatever time is left. They are alive and with you. No one can take that from you son. I don’t define the totality of your existence based on your last day with them. Your brothers are in good hands…My hands. Right?
You can’t go back and clean up your past. The consequences of your sin aren’t anything you can handle, own, or even look at without My grace. Only then, will you surrender so I can make beautiful art out of the cacophony of dissonance and train wrecks of your life
How do you do that?
You and I need to operate on a “need-to-know” basis. Right now, you don’t need to know very much. Start with the small things
Got a suggestion?
I AM the author of every good “suggestion” that permeates your rebellious brain. Here’s one for you. The energy you waste getting upset over petty stuff is beneath you. Clean that litter as an act of worship. Embrace Ramona with a gentle spirit. Cultivate gratitude for the next leg of the journey. I AM the restorer of the breaches. Slow down…take a look. Love Amy. Embrace those boys. Play more music and for the love of Me, quit hanging out unsupervised in that Irish mind of yours
It’s a petty, vindictive, unmerciful & boring place anyway
I know. Choose to get outside. Find the Radical Middle. That’s been an elusive thing. Right?
One more thing
You’re My train-wreck and I love you with an everlasting love
I’ve gotta’ run now because Ramona just dragged her butt across the clean bed sheets, and it really…
With swirling cold winds of an autumn night blowing leaves from the trees, failing to impact the warmth in my soul one enjoys in the afterglow of genuine fellowship, a satiated sense of accomplishment engendered gratitude. Leaving the Monday Night Alcoholics for Christ meeting in Ferndale Michigan one year ago…that had been a good one. Any meeting where men and women are honest and transparent constitutes lining up with the intended spirit Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had in mind when giving birth to The Fellowship. The literature, coffee, key-tags, cookies, steps, principles and music are all important parts of the engine. God provides the gas to make it run and arrive at the intended destination.
Bill taught me that.
So…the only thing missing from that particular meeting one year ago tonight, was Bill Keaton, my sponsor of 32 years. Having just moved out of the Bloomfield Hills shithole masquerading as some form of “assisted living” quarters he’d been sent to, the Keaton Girls worked very hard to find a better place for their poppa. Successful in their mission, Bill was the very first resident in a brand new facility, north of Clarkston. The staff there lavished Billy with a tsunami of attention. He lapped it up like a big kitty at the water bowl…while connecting with each employee in his inimitable way. They adored the guy, catering to his every whim…especially multiple glasses of orange juice and specific instructions on how to make his hot chocolate. “Make sure it’s in a good mug with a saucer and napkin…whipped cream on top and then drip some Hershey’s Syrup over it as the last touch of flourish bahrutha. Praise God!'”
Warm thoughts of that ilk filled my head while warming the car up in the circular drive outside the AC Meeting. Warm is good. Another kind of warmth ensued as I lit up an anointed Marlboro that my fellow disciples approve of. Inhaling deeply for a rush of nicotine, the phone suddenly rang, rousing me to attention. Bill’s oldest daughter was on the other end. She was crying and clearly despondent as she told me Bill had just died.
The kind of; “This is bullshit God! You just opened the doors to a new place….shit, he’s only been there a few days…he was happy…eating well…smiling…at peace with a ton of joy…what the hell are you doing Dad?” …denial slammed my heart as I struggled for composure in the car. Karen asked if I could shoot north on I-75 to hook up with her sister Pam for support and whatever needed to be done. Looking back, breaking every speed limit known to man seems kinda’ silly…but that’s just what I did. Arriving at the facility, memories of my friend swirled around like the flow of the Manistee River. Seeing him lying lifeless in his room seemed surrealistic. He had such a great sense of humor, an infectious laugh, and a lust for life.
The director of the facility met me just prior to entering his room. Called in from home, she had obviously started in a bottle of wine to wind down her evening. I didn’t care. At that point in time, nothing else mattered. Bill had gone home, but the reality of that fact had not yet registered. As we talked in Billy’s room where the EMS Crew was busy doing what they do, one of his nurses came in to give a tear-soaked hug. Blurting out how she had found Bill un-responsive…
“I did everything possible to revive him Mr. Hurley!”
“Well it’s a good thing you weren’t successful”
“Because Bill was more than ready to go home. Had you been successful in reviving him, I assure you that he would not be a happy camper. You did OK. In his short time here, Bill made an impact and you fine folks took real good care of my friend and I thank you for that.”
Through a tear-streaked countenance, she seemed to get it.
The rest of the night (for that matter…the majority of this year) was a roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs. God was/is big enough to handle my petulant rant of spiritual immaturity. Back at the crib, I spent some time looking through old emails and pictures. I found one that embodies the kind of relationship we had and how we communicated. Responding to news of an impending move from Holland to Oakland County, Bill wrote this back in 2007;
Good Morning Brother!
What an exciting (and scary) time this has got to be for you. It’s almost like being pushed out of the nest. But one thing we know is that Father loves you with an everlasting love and He didn’t bring you out this far to let you go back again. Read the RED BOOK this morning if you haven’t already, It sure is a word for today . Everybody down in this neck of the woods will be praying for you and your family that this will be a time of continued healing, not only for you, but for the whole Hurley tribe.
Let me know when you get a phone because writing is your thing, but as you know it’s not mine. I love you brother, you are in my heart!
GOD BLESS YOUR HEART
Gosh…I miss him so. To not get an email or pick up the phone sucks. I’d give anything to be interrupted right now at 2:06AM with a call from Billy because he couldn’t get his remote control to work. O’ Lord, forgive the times when patience was stretched thin. Thank you for the moment shared…captured in this picture. This was the last photo of us. One of the nurses shot it at just the right time. Bill had asked me to break out the Taylor and sing a few tunes. We had segued into a Keith Green song’ “O’ Lord Your Beautiful” when this was snapped.
God bless your hearts. Be kind and gentle with each other. Our time here together is but a nanosecond in eternity.
The ensuing year since Bill died has been the best and worst of times.
Sometimes I feel like a rudderless ship without my brother and it hurts like a mofo.
at the end of this day
established a pact
made for all nations
changed the fact
how grace and salvation
made possible with pain
the Lamb’s shed blood
poured and rained
down that hill of mud
gave all He had
on Golgotha’s hill
the place of the skull
that we could soar
empty lives made full
cries & roar
just a few years back
locked in a cage
choking on rage
today a visit
a bro in a hospital bed
neither one dead
playing guitar for the King
at the Vineyard tonight
thank you Jesus
for dying on that rock
opening the lock
silencing our wail
renting the veil
all doubt diminished
gasping…”it is finished”
t. hurley 2013
t. hurley 2013
a warm greeting…our first meeting
the pearl bore witness…a man polished & stoned
sautéed & seasoned…no longer free
bereft of all reason…locked on tier three
in the jackson cage
flopping like a fish…on a dry river bank
a desperate wish…earl took pity
a place so oppressive…mayor of jack-town city
unlikely neighbors…earl “the pearl” cross
dug this sailor…the cross a rock-boss
no, more like a tailor…sewing up failures
in a small, safe ‘hood…where no one dared
to cross Cross…or mess with hurls
earl looked out…when good lookin’ was needed
down twenty-five to life…after reluctantly pleading
called out for his wife…coming home early
it was way too much…drove pearl squirrely
some punk biblically knowing…everything showing
the bride of his youth…in their wedding bed
earl whipped out a heater….shot him in his ass
he didn’t beat her…gave her a pass
rage exploding…wrong or right
snuffed out a life…leaving behind
two wounded sons…and a horny wife
the hurls could relate
we had that in common…surviving as clowns
for a life mostly down…devoid of dignity
no freedom or semblance…of any respect
a fight for survival…he knew the drill
taught by earl with style…put the “ch” in chill
i was pearl’s nigga’…his words not mines
so try to relax…with your PC crimes
that never can see…past the nose of your face
or a condescending finger…that has no place
devoid of grace…in the jackson cage
under his wing…with much love & respect
ain’t no thang…but a chicken wang
black & white no barrier…what a team we made
we banged hard…confounding the guards
earl would smile and say
”fuck those bitches today”
riffing off…my twelve steppin’ ways
earl got high…it made no sense
iron sharpening iron…cutting down a fence
that otherwise kept…two men from knowing
how precious it is…when brethren dwell together
meetings a source of force…earl had no time for
as a matter of course…would gladly trade
a carton of squares….for a tab of morphine
offering pills of nirvana
In the jackson cage
laughing so hard…gosh was he funny
earl schemed hard….playing a card
a 40 gallon rubber can…gettin’ over on the man
cooking in his cell…belching putrid smells
defiant when busted…sent to the hole
for a 90 day season…released but not trusted
for very good reason
did it again…second time’s a charm
mason jars filled with scars
souls laid bare…8 ounce drinks
for a pack of squares…to stop the thinks
and ease the pain…that living brings
while grace was present…for hurls to refrain
saving the brain…it sure was tempting
every cell screaming…for chemical salvation
saturday night dreamin’…cell-block one north
on gallery three…in the jackson cage
earl ran numbers…the hurls would type
way before learning…rejecting all hype
big-time burning…by a major ticket
had to quit it
resignation tendered…for services rendered
pearl just smiled…in a place so vile
invoking yellow bile…toxic shame and remorse
stacked in piles…against cold tiles
where all we could do…at the end of a day
finding solace in the word…on knees we prayed
tough guys calling…that’s how we rolled
God funneled grace…to the face of our souls
on cold cement bawling…we cried for a touch
from the king of kings…in that jackson cage
heard earl scream once…a letter from home
hit like a punch…a black face drenched
tears of remorse…for sons never seen
dad’s tortured soul…contenders now pretenders
on the brink of abyss…smelling like piss
“this ain’t no way to live! your boys need you! get out and stay out!”
more to give…word on that one
took up earl…a cage is no fun
a promise kept…fifteen years
then sobriety lost priority
tsunamis of addiction…building off coast
smashing the shores…the weight of sin
on those who love most…did it again
during the hit…of a second bit
earl wouldn’t be pleased…thought of him often
he once was my POTUS…found out through OTIS
life came to an end…in the jackson cage
a crushed heart in pieces…hep c releases
to life eternal…no burning infernal
he was my brother…with more faith, balls & class
than most guys I’ve known…in any church service or mass
a visual remains…a big drum of spud
like a bear with her cubs…protecting the suds
from scandalous buds…gurgling crud
to break chains and annihilate brains
with societal misdeeds…in spite of the losses
earl lived by a creed…old-school to most
with a faith so deep…it could keep
spirits revived…souls psychedelisized
pearl oft would say…as a greeting of sorts
”Youse a crazy muthafucka hurls”
well, for my two cents…earl was a saint
most wouldn’t dissent…meeting this guy
the epitome’ of sorry…on a god awful safari
earl’s pot calling
this white boy black
once prostrated on altars
of smack, jack & crack
stopped from free-falling
sprung from unholy hells
it hardly seems true
these skies of blue
but I’ll take it
over being locked up
in rooms with chipped paint
staying busy with brooms
we made it through
human auctions of flesh
redeemed from death
turning back no option
by God’s love & grace
takes every breath
to avoid anything like
the jackson cage
rip my brother
As hard as Apple i-everythings want us to believe otherwise, there’s no digital substitute for the charge that came from passing a note.
On that score, society is bored and desperate for a counterfeit.
Old school flirting & texting had a much higher heat index.
I’ll never forget Sr. Josephine busting me in 8th grade passing a rather randy for-the-time note to a girl. She’d (not Sr. Josephine) been in the cross-hairs of my virgin, libidinous, adolescent love-radar all year. So nervous as to actually do anything about it, she lived only in the guilty-pleasure recesses of an altar boy brain formed in molds of shame and guilt.
After a recess game of dodge-ball on a warm spring day in 1968, I finally took a shot.
Still learning about predicate adjectives modifying the noun subject, so please bear with me.
Where was I? O’ yeah…girls.
Catholic grrls have their own style and method. She (who shall remain unnamed) blushed and smiled demurely when handing her the note. Unceremonially busted by the evil nun in a quest to connect was no cause to abort the mission at hand. Chivalrous points were scored by not outing her as the recipient. Today, chivalry is not dead…only smothered by the oppressive Antichrist of political correctness.
It was well worth falling on the sword. Two months later, the maiden of my affections reciprocated. She stalked me in the hallway with brown squares to line up on. With perfect timing, she pounced like a female leopard, and pushed me into the open locker in the hallway. Being pinned in the locker for a kiss on the last day of school made it worth the first felonious charge of being busted for passing a desperate note of longing.
Her furtive kiss shocked my young eighth-grade sense of propriety inflicted by frustrated nuns. Holy Guacamole Batman. That kiss provided a serious charge shooting from the soles of my feet through the top of an Irish melon that’s never forgotten it.
Her sweet, not-so-innocent kiss fired every brain synapse in a fractal cacophony of impact. As she withdrew from the strike and smiled, I could only slump in that locker and drool. With knees of jello later bent in a prayer of gratitude, it was a holy event.
She went on to Bishop Foley while I went on to moral bankruptcy and debauchery in the public system of More Fun. Truth be told, those Foley Girls could party like rock stars.
But I digress…again
Today, the PC Police might call that 45-year-old memory a source of trauma. Imagine being harassed, bullied & man-handled into a dark locker for a kiss.
The horror, the horror…not. It was righteous, real and fun. Can’t do that with a smart phone.
Seeing her happily married at the last Bishop Foley reunion, nothing needed to be said. For a millisecond with eyes locked, we smiled and connected. She may have even blushed.
Either that, or Hurley is just getting delusional in his old age.
The art of kissing ought not ever diminish, fade or become boring. I was forty years old before learning how a well placed kiss and lip-lock of connection beats getting laid any day of the week.
The wisdom of that concept gets better with age.
The options some fall for aren’t worth even considering.
Porn sucks. Being a promiscuous idiot is even worse.
Flirting is fun. If it leads to a kiss or brush of the tongue, that’s cool too.
Now either go rip-off your partner or take a cold shower.
The Greek word for Grace is “charis” and is used about 150 times in the New Testament of the Bible. The word refers to favor that God gives freely without expecting something in return. God provides his grace to us not because of anything we have done to earn it and not because of anything God desires to get from us. In fact, grace is dispensed in spite of the low-life scumbags we can be. God’s grace is free of charge…but it ain’t cheap.
The apostle Paul referred to the gospel of grace as a “mystery.” The inability to wrap our puny minds around something as awesome as grace doesn’t negate its profound reality. Like Paul, I sure don’t get it, but recognize grace when it presents itself.
Here’s an example.
An old friend called me fourteen months ago. Knowing I was struggling to get back on my feet after a sabbatical with the Michigan Department of Corrections, he wanted to help. He also sensed some kind of value in my writing and encouraged it. Without having to ask, this brother provided a flight to Florida to gift me with a 1997 Honda Accord and drive it back. He paid for everything, even the gas for the return trip. No strings attached. The only caveat was a commitment he wanted to pursue writing.
That’s a pretty good deal. We’re not talking the prison kind of Ramen Noodle grace. This was Radical Grace.
The Honda has faithfully served this Irishman. I knew when receiving the car that it wasn’t just about my needs. Bill Keaton who was a brother, mentor and sponsor, spent the last year of his life rollin’ all over southeast Michigan in the Accord. It was an honor and privilege to be his chauffeur. Now at 234,894 miles, my brother Joe would have quipped, “Hey! It’s just breaking in.” Alas, the reality is El’ Hondel started running a little rough.
Hoping to get by with a tune-up and the elimination of a “small leak” coming from “somewhere” (my words), I took the trusty Accord to a shop in Berkeley, Michigan my sister had recommended. The mechanic tried to break the news gently. Discerning he was a pro, Nick called me into the service bay to watch as he performed electronic diagnostic testing. Codes began flashing and numbers started jumping like my poor car was on meth. It wasn’t good. Then hoisting the car up on the lift, he grabbed a flashlight and invited me to join in for a further inspection.
The “small leaks” turned out to be rivers of un-living waters. An Unholy Mix of coolant, oil, power steering fluid and sludge coated the under-carriage of the motor compartment. At this point, I wasn’t exactly over-flowing with the joy of Jesus. The $1,100.00 estimate for a new distributor, crankshaft sensor, timing belt, water pump, axle boot, head gasket and a few other items did nothing to warm this soul on a cold Michigan morning.
After meditating on the situation, it became clear that getting a comparable runner for the cost of repairs would have been an exercise in futility. I told Nick to pull the trigger. Living in the “D”, you gots to have wheels.
That’s not the real point of this blog. We all go through this stuff. It’s called life on life’s terms. No biggie. In twelve step programs we call these “gold-plated problems” because we could be dead. Amen?
The higher struggle was this.
How could I afford the repairs, rent, bills and tithe at the same time? Having my butt planted at the Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale, Michigan since being released from the Jackson Cage has been an awesome experience. They opened their doors and hearts to provide this prodigal with a place of restoration. Now slammed with a demonic bill, what was a disciple to do? Because my faith & trust are still in the developmental stages, a short period of vacillation ensued. After ten minutes of worthless bartering, the next right thing became clear as crystal . Tithing when everything is going great with money in the bank is one thing. To stop when things get tight is kinda’ lame. In spite of the present financial crisis, I’d feel like a punk for folding under pressure. We’re not called to give a tenth so we can barter with God or get something in return It’s not about that. Father wants to know if we’re gonna’ be faithful stewards of the stuff He’s provided. As I hit the “enter” button to tithe through PayPal, a sense of obedient joy supplanted anxious thoughts of the present moment. In fact, I started chuckling at the thought of how easily I can resort to being a dick. Then I started laughing at the thought of Jesus laughing with me. It made no sense, but it was sovereign and cool.
Within 24 hours, provision for paying for the car repair came from a couple moved by grace.
Tickets for a Chris Tomlin concert this month that came right after, serve as icing on the cake. Please hear my heart on this kids. I’m no spiritual giant. In fact, I really didn’t want to bake that cake. God knows the desires of our heart and will move heaven & earth to drive home lessons we resist.
None of this is written as any kind of boast. There have been countless financial crisis’ where I blew off tithing in lieu of trying to figure things out on my own. I’m ashamed to admit being such a petty jerk. At the end of the month, it never worked. Not once did I get ahead of the game by being a putz. When withholding from Father, I’m basically telling God with my actions;
“I don’t trust you.”
My sense is God doesn’t give one hoot about our money. He’s not bankrupt. He wants our abandoned trust. He knows how selfish I can be and only uses bucks to further His Kingdom. The choice is clear. Either we can remain bankrupt souls, enslaved to a world economy going south, or we can strap on a pair and trust God. Dad never gives up on His kids.
Just For Today, I thank God for his patient chastening, His long-suffering love & radical grace.
Mad props to Mat for the ride. Know that I’m writing up a storm my brother.
A very special thanks to Jeff & Karen. You guys are the bomb.
The Tomlin gig in Toledo is gonna’ be dope.
Check this out.
Flying down I-75 on November 29, 1986, the conversation with Kelly went something like this;
“OK…I got this! You cool?”
Tim…you don’t have to speed
“Whaddya’ mean I don’t have to speed? We’re not going to 7-11 for a Slurpee!”
I know honey…it’s OK. Ah’ wait. No it’s not…go ahead. You better hurry!
With the pedal to the floor we made the hospital in Detroit in record time
Wailing into the entrance with tires smoking, I slammed on the brakes…hopped out…flew past the guard…grabbed a wheelchair and bolted back out to Kelly before the rent-a-cop even knew what was happening. Blowing past his wide girth in the hallway, he tried to tell me to wait and sign in.
“THERE’S NO TIME FOR ANY OF THAT MY MAN! WE’RE HAVING A BABY!”
“Now Tim…calm down” Kelly purred…only to have her tone change dramatically as the next contraction hit. No time for calm. We were on a mission from God!
While Kelly was in labor for almost two days with older brother Timmy, Josh was having none of that. In the time it took for Kels to get prepped and this Dad getting changed into scrubs…Joshua was ready to rock out within 55 minutes of arriving at the hospital. Barely making it into the delivery room in time, Josh emerged ass up…balls down…hung like a little race horse and cryin’ like a banshee.
O’ yes my friends…Pure Michigan. Pure Hurley. That’s MY Boy.
He scored 10 on his initial Apgar Test
I just lied.
I don’t really remember the score. All I know is he had 10 fingers, 10 toes, had great color and was handsome as all get out. You know how most babies look like little wet shmooshed gerbils when they’re born? Not my boys. Those guys popped out lookin’ like Gerber Models and are still turning heads to this day.
That’s no brag…just fact. Given the copious amounts of hallucinogens this dad consumed during days of his misspent youth….it’s a miracle they didn’t come out with gills, fish heads, webbed feet and two dicks. Really
To God be the glory.
So yeah…there he was. Did we ever shed tears of joy that day.
One of the first words Josh came up with was “Bop”. Eating food…Bop! Filling his diaper (gosh could that kid dump a load)…Bop! Hitting his brother Timmy…Bop! I mean…it was like he had this one word vocabulary for a couple of months. It was great. I’ve been trying to meet a woman like that ever since. Jes’ kiddin’. We’d have whole conversations where I’d look at him in his crib and go “BE!” Josh would look up and smile while replying with “BOP!”
So, that’s how Josh’s first nickname became BE-BOP
What a joy it was raising you Josh. You really kept us on our toes.
After graduating High School–and like a majority of young folks away at college for the first time, Joshua found his new setting to be very liberating. At one point, Kelly and I had some parental concerns about the parameters of said liberation. We paid him a surprise visit one night at 10:00PM at his college dorm.
Josh greeted us in the hallway and asked…hahaha
“To what do I owe this surprise visit?”
O’…no biggie son…we just want to take you out for dinner.
Yeah…let’s roll Buddy.
As we settled in the car, Josh broke the awkward silence with his patented wit & humor.
“So are you guys gonna’ tell me what this is all about? Or is it classified information?”
He was all of 17 years old when coming up with that one. O’ God…we laughed so hard, then proceeded to have a REALLY great meal together.
This song in his birthday video is significant between us as father & son. He played it for me on the way back from Western Michigan. Driving from Kalamazoo to Holland, Josh played U2’s “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” …turned to me and sang this lyric; “You’re the reason why the opera is in me“. At a very young age, Joshua learned an important truth, many guys never come to understand. Knowing when to play, hold & fold is an acquired art.
That you chose to drop out of college and come live with me in Holland for six months or so took me by surprise. Our time together there remains a very rich period of time between us. Now engaged and pursuing your degree with a great job…I’m very proud, happy and grateful for you Be Bop.
From your birth to that pivotal moment in Kzoo, until today….your life has been a real blessing to many Joshua.
Your Mom & I still have your back. However, over the years we’ve learned with the wisdom that living brings…that you were never really ours. You were just on loan from God for us to parent for a season. We were far from perfect in that mission…but know this Josh, we love you with every fiber in our being. Whatever you choose in life is yours to choose. Honestly, for all our missteps, we never charted out a course for you. We only wish for this–that you fulfill whatever God’s plan is for your life and live it with a modicum of joy. Have the best year of your life.
At the end of the day, it’s still all about grace.
I love you son.
Saturday Night’s alright for jammin’…get a little action in.
I see it all before me:
the days of love and torment;
the nights of rock-and-roll.
I see it all before me.
Sometimes my spirit’s empty;
don’t have the will to go on.
I wish someone would send me
Give me something.
Give me something to give.
Oh, God, give me something:
a reason to live.
My body is aching.
Don’t want sympathy.
Come on. Come and love me.
Come on. Set me free.
Set me free.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me through the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
Patti Smith/Easter/Privilege (Set Me Free)
On that note and with lyrics that abound, resound and rebound off the ceiling of this soul, here’s a clip that might shake your money makers. Van just called Le’ Man Cave and said;
“Dig this Hurley, I need an acoustic rhythm backing track on ‘Wild Night’. Ronnie Montrose was only 17 when he laid down his opening riff. The kid did a good job, but I like the way you hammer that D string while playing the G. Put a little of that Irish Detroit on it. Check’s in the mail my brother.”
OK Van the Man…you got it. Strictly rhythm, I don’t make it cry or sing.
Technically perfect? Nope
Fun? O’ yes my friends!