boxing, again

gennady-golovkin-ggg-boxing_3433155

Gennady shellacked Wade on 4/23.  Canelo turned off Khan two weeks later.

With both of those tune up fights–each specifically crafted to build anticipation for the Golovkin-Alvarez showdown–out of the way, we should already be talking about the September 17th megafight between the world’s two best middleweights.

But, this is boxing.  And boxing hates you.  These guys can explain:

Dan Rafael

Steve Janoski

In summation, fuck you Oscar De La Hoya for making my sport even worse than it already was.

920x920

Or maybe Canelo’s the pussy here, and I shouldn’t be throwing shade at DLH for this goatfuck.  If that’s the case… *shrug*  Who could blame him?

golovkin rosado

-KHN

boxing

Forget about the hype.

Forget about the sleazy, self-serving promoters. Forget about the manufactured pre-fight drama, forget about HBO’s 24-7, forget the press conferences. Forget about the 120 second long ring entrances, the matching flashy robes, the trunks plastered with sponsors’ logos.

Please forget about Floyd “Money” Mayweather.

Take those things, and for now–just for a little while–put them aside. Put them in a box and shut it. We will come back to them later.

What’s left?  Two men, wearing remarkably little, standing in a ring, engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The ring in which they fight is small: a raised platform around 20 foot square, with an inch of canvas-wrapped padding under their feet. In the ring with the fighters is one referee, watching closely to ensure the immediate safety of the combatants, as well as their adherence to the rules of the fight. Three judges sit on three different sides of the ring, as close to the fight as is possible, without physically entering the ring. The judges are tasked with scoring the fight on a round-by-round basis, and at the end of the scheduled number of rounds–should human physiology not first intercede–those scores are collected, tallied, and read aloud to announce a victor. One referee, two fighters, three judges.  Everything else is noise.

I love boxing.  I detest the bullshit that surrounds the sport, but in the protective, publicly defiant way one detests a ne’er-do-well family member who gets hammered every Thanksgiving and hits on your wife. Yeah, he’s a scumbag, but he’s my scumbag, so watch your mouth when you talk about him, pal. And don’t let my enthusiasm for the sport fool you; there is a lot of bullshit that comes with being a professional boxing fan.  A lot.  Allow me to enumerate.

Sanctioning bodies suck. Most major professional sports have a single organization acting as a governing body.  Think MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR. These organizations are responsible for things like: dictating the rules of play, scheduling, negotiating broadcast arrangements, maintaining a farm system in which young pros can develop their skills. Broadly speaking, they ensure all of the moving parts are working together to achieve a common goal: delivering a high-quality fan experience, where supremely talented athletes/teams face off against each other in competitive, compelling matchups, typically over a given period of time. Following the regular season, the top athletes/teams advance through some kind of playoff system, culminating in one being crowned WORLD CHAMPION. Pretty straightforward stuff. Sports 101.

In contrast to the organizations above, modern professional boxing is a convoluted nightmare of a thing, embarrassingly disorganized and chaotic.

I’ll explain.

Imagine for a second that you want to start a professional kickball league. You decide that the best way to do this is by picking four 10 year olds from different parts of the world, and telling them to come up with the rules and regulations. Separately. Then, once those four different kids have created four different leagues, you tell each one they are now the boss of professional kickball, good luck kid.

That is boxing. Instead of one professional umbrella organization, there are approximately nine-thousand “sanctioning bodies” with their own rules, rankings, and title holders. Most of them are worthless, existing only to give second- and third-tier fighters a belt, which the fighter could–if he’s lucky–parlay into a chance to get destroyed by a top 10 guy who’s looking for a tuneup between PPV bouts. So, out of those nine-thousand sanctioning bodies, only four really matter: the WBC, WBO, WBA, and IBF. As mentioned, each one has its own ranking system, title belt, governing rules for who-must-fight-whom-and-when. Explaining it completely and cogently would take hours, if I could even do it.  Shit, I’ve been a boxing fan for 15-plus years now, and I understand shockingly little about how the whole system works. The upshot of all this is that, at any given time, there can exist four different recognized world champions in one weight class. Or, we could get lucky and have a “lineal” title holder, or a “unified” champion, or an “undisputed” champion, all of which mean different things than the “consensus #1” or “universally recognized champ”.  Huh?   Yes.   All true.   Pro boxing is so fucked that we rely on a loose collection of sportswriters and a bullshit magazine no one reads to tell us who the “real” champs are.  As a fan, it’s fucking infuriating; can you imagine if the AL East was decided on a vote cast by a writer for the Kansas City Star?  Can you?  Some guy with a name like Milt Stevens (lifelong Royals fan no doubt) gives the nod to the Sox despite having a worse record than the Yankees, because the Sox scored more runs overall or some shit?  New York and Boston would burn to the fucking ground. Immediately. The federal government would take over MLB, and the Kansas City Star. Poor Milt would need plastic surgery and a new identity.

In boxing?  Happens every goddamn day.  No one gives a shit. In any situation, “normal” is an interpretive concept, often defined by those least qualified to do so; the ones on the inside, the ones who lost all objectivity long ago. No sport exemplifies this phenomenon better than boxing. It sounds absurd, right? “But it’s norm–” NO IT FUCKING ISN’T NORMAL YOU IDIOT, IT IS INSANE.

But, for a moment, I’m going to concede the existence of IBF/WBC/WBO/WBA as separate, sovereign entities endowed with the mystical ability to crown champions. Not because it makes any sort of sense, but because I’m veering into “angry, delusional rant” territory and we’ve gotta keep shit moving over here.

Promoters are parasites, fighters are hosts. Bob Arum. The Klitschko brothers. Oscar de la Hoya. The DiBellas.  The promoter’s primary function, their raison d’etre if you will, is to–stay with me here–promote fighters.  On the surface, it’s simple: fighter X signs a promotional contract with Y Promotions. Y tries to get X the most favorable matchup currently available to them, with terms, conditions and stipulations most beneficial to X. The promoter is similar to a Hollywood agent, using relationships, power, and industry knowledge to advance the career of their fighter.

“But Kirk”, you ask, “Is this really a bad thing? Don’t fighters need an advocate looking out for them, helping them get quality, career-making fights?” I’M FINNA BREAK IT DOWN FOR YOU RIGHT NOW HOMIE, SO JUST CHILL THE FUCK OUT WITH THE QUESTIONS. I’ll address each in order.  1) Yes, it’s a bad thing.   2) Yes, they do. Obviously.  Now, why is the current promoter-fighter dynamic bad for boxing: if you read the example sentence detailing what Y does for X, it seems pretty generic. Like, yes, duh, that’s what a promoter does, just like a film agent. Nothing revelatory there. EXCEPT BOXING IS NOT FUCKING HOLLYWOOD.

Acting is an “art” (or a “craft” if you want to be a pretentious cunt about it), and there is no way objectively assess an actor’s level of artistic talent and/or attractiveness, common attributes associated with successful screen actors. There just isn’t. George Clooney’s been A-list for the past two decades, and he’s as good looking as they come, but near as I can tell all he does is smirk and occasionally look down at his feet while crinkling the corners of his eyes. He delivers dialogue like he’s reading a nutrition label aloud; completely neutral inflection, zero emotional range. So yes, Clooney needs (probably not anymore, but just go with it) an agent to hype him up to the studios and get him that fat paycheck for the cinematic masterpiece that was Disney’s Tomorrowland.  As a boxing promoter, you do the same thing. The thing no one ever mentions is that, strictly speaking, there should be no reason this role even exists. At all. Boxing, unlike acting, encourages (demands?) objective assessment of the boxer’s performance. Two men of equal weight fight. One is the winner, one is the loser. Two other men fight at that same weight. Again, we have a winner and a loser. Losers, go fight each other. Winners, fight each other. We now have a group of fighters who are ranked 1-4, based solely on their ability to punch each other in the head. But, with four different sanctioning bodies in play, and no hard-and-fast rules about mandatory title defenses and challengers, fighters, and by extension, their promoters, are left to their own devices when it comes to whom they fight, when, where, etc.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. The promoter isn’t promoting quality boxing. He’s promoting a boxer.  They want money first, wins second, and quality scalps third. As a fan, my priorities are exactly opposite: I want to see the best matches above all. My favorite fighter’s record is a secondary consideration, and I only care about money if it works as an incentive to quality fights. Look at Mayweather-Pacquiao. There was conservatively, a bajillion dollars on the table for that fight. The hype machine was ROLLING. That shit cost $125 on pay-per-view!!!  And what did we see?  Two fighters with mismatched styles and skill levels, each well past their prime, dancing around in a 12-round tickle fest. It was horrible, and horribly predictable to even the most casual boxing fan.

In 2005, when Pacquiao was tearing through the best fighters in what seemed like 8 different divisions, and the whispers about Mayweather’s opponent selection were becoming louder, I would’ve paid $300 to watch that fight on PPV. Without hesitation. Are you kidding me? Maniacally aggressive, up and coming power puncher who throws like 700 punches a round versus the strategically brilliant, gifted counter puncher with freakishly fast hands and an unbeaten, if thin, record. YES PLEASE SIGN ME UP THANKS. But it didn’t happen. Because Floyd and his promoters didn’t want it to. And there was nobody around to make him. So he mired things down with ridiculous demands, used contract negotiation as a stall tactic for a decade, all so he could avoid fighting Manny in his prime without losing face publicly. Bob Arum wasn’t much better. Floyd spent that decade gathering straps by cherry picking opponents, alternating between guys no one’s ever heard of, and once-premier fighters juuuuuust past their sell-by date. (Probably does the same thing at the supermarket, scanning the shelves till he sees yesterday’s date, then hauling ass up to the front desk. Sweet, free avocados.) And while that 10 year pregnancy may have resulted in a $125 stillborn baby, we are now, mercifully, free from the presence of Floyd Mayweather.

What’s to stop it from happening again though? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, it’s happening again right now. Same goddamn thing, this time with Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.

Canelo is 25 years old, undefeated, and Mexican, with heavy hands and good head movement. He likes to mix it up. Good looking kid too, kinda looks like a ginger Tom Cruise. Currently fights at Jr. Middleweight (154), although he’s more of a true middleweight. Usually walks into the ring well north of 170 (which may explain his eagerness to mix it up when the guy in front of him only rehydrates to 165, but I digress). He’s the current golden child of the Golden Boy stable, and DLH is managing this situation very carefully, considering the potential young Canelo has to become a successful, top-level revenue stream/ boxer, for many years to come.  If you watch his fights, the impression you’ll walk away with is something like “wow”, or “holy fuck, that kid can crack”, or “there’s nobody within 10 lbs of middleweight that can fuck with him”.

But you’d be wrong. Yes, he dispatched James Kirkland in spectacular fashion. Showed some boxing chops going the distance against (an aging) Miguel Cotto.  I don’t anticipate him having much difficulty on May 7th with Amir Kahn’s wine-glass chin, either. The only problem with those guys–all good fighters, too–is that none of them are Gennady Genyadovich Golovkin.

GGG is a 34 year old Kazakh middleweight who hasn’t had an opponent go the distance against him in eight years. He doesn’t just knock guys out; he breaks their spirit, destroys their will to fight. Professional boxers, men who eat heavy leather for a living, quit on their stools after three rounds. Months of brutal training camp and preparation, and after nine minutes of GGG they’re done. Golovkin’s devastation of his opponents doesn’t just come from his power (hellacious) or his footwork (impressive), it comes from his relentless pursuit of the guy in the ring with him. He’s not leaping across the ring, à la Pacquiao or young Ricky Hatton; he’s actually quite subdued, to tell the truth.  When you see him pre-fight, or in interviews, he doesn’t look like much. Kinda goofy. Big ears. Guileless smile. Plays the confused immigrant/nice guy/just happy to be here role well.

Then the bell rings. And his face goes blank. Not angry, not intense, not intimidating just … blank. He comes forward methodically, feet always working together to make sure he’s in perfect position to both take and throw punches. Chin tucked, he comes forward.

And comes forward.

And comes forward.

Instead of beginning with the dance, feeling out one’s opponent from a safe distance–customary for boxers–Golovkin applies pressure from the start.

Step-step. Jab. Step. Jab-straight right. Step. Pause. Step. Step. The opponent flicks his eyes, sees an escape to his  right, start moving, and by the time his eyes flick back, GGG has occupied that escape route and rewarded his efforts with a left hook to the body. And so on.

Gennady Golovkin is the best middleweight in the world right now, and Canelo Alvarez should be doing everything in his power to get him in the ring. In the post fight interview this past Saturday night, following Golovkin’s complete deconstruction of Dominic Wade (after 5 minutes and 30 seconds’ total fight time), GGG was literally begging Canelo to fight him. “Give me my belt, let’s make good fight”.  But Canelo’s not doing it. He won’t. Or his promoter won’t. I don’t know, or care, which. All I know is that the one fight everyone wants to see happen right now isn’t.  And that’s why this sport sucks.

Boxing, minus the bullshit, minus the noise, is athletic competition in its purest form. No metaphors, no teammates, no excuses for failure or success. It’s not overrun by Nike, Gatorade, or Buick. You can’t watch it whenever you want on network television. The best boxers in the world still come from gritty, run down boxing gyms in neighborhoods that no one would describe as “up and coming”; the selection process, as it were, is still remarkably democratic. The skilled are rewarded, the weak are punished, and the best go on to do great things. I get frustrated with the colossal, seemingly insurmountable list of what’s wrong with boxing, because I see it as a complete and willful degradation of the sport’s purity, the very thing that I hold most sacred about boxing.

But I will never stop loving it.

    hello

    Hello Internet people.  Hello real people.  Long time no talk.

    How have you been?  Anything exciting to report?  I’ve been well, thank you for asking.  Busy with the mundane and the not-so-mundane … but, if I’m being honest, mostly the mundane.  Tending to my flock of mini-humans.  Observing the steady stream of contractors coming and going as we slowly renovate Holland Manor.  Sales managering.  Fishing.  Not writing.

    I know, I know.  That last one has been upsetting for you.  I’ve seen your countless emails (0), blog comments (0), whitehouse.gov petitions (1) clamoring for my return and demanding an explanation for my disappearance.  Messaged received, my adoring public, message received.  “WHY,” you scream, shaking an angry fist at your screen after checking kirkholland.wordpress.com for the 382nd consecutive day, only to be disappointed yet again by the lack of new content.  “WHY HATH THEE FORSAKEN ME IN MY TIME OF NEED???

    First of all, chill the fuck out.  Second of all, I made all that shit up.  The only person demanding such an explanation is me, and thus, I am simply inventing a pretend fan base to use as a proxy, because it makes me feel less crazy.  Because writing however the fuck many words (984) to explain to yourself why you’ve not put pen to paper (despite the existence of five or so half-written stories in your draft locker) is pretty fucking crazy.  Still, here we are.  The reasons, in no particular order, I haven’t been writing: work has changed, we added another mini-human, writing is hard and I’m fucking lazy, I fish too much, maybe some other things that I can’t think of right now.

    Writing is hard for me.  It’s always been so, and my part-time commitment to it will keep it so, since writing is very much a skill that improves with practice.  I struggle with word choices, tone, writing style, finding my voice, and pacing.  And everything else.  Nothing I write comes quickly, and I subject my words to endless edits and rewrites before saying “fuck it …” *publish*  At which point I close my eyes, hold my breath … and simultaneously hope nobody reads it, and everybody reads it.  I care deeply about the finished product–more specifically, how you feel about the finished product–be it a quick post or a 10,000 word story.  It’s a laborious and mentally challenging effort, and in order to produce, I must be in The Zone.

    To get in The Zone, I first have to locate it.  Pretend The Zone is a car–no, better yet, a pickup truck–and you’re standing on a highway overpass, watching six lanes of traffic whoosh by in both directions.  All you know is that you’re looking for a specific truck, but you don’t know anything about it; not what color it is, make, model, or even whether or not it will be on this particular highway at this particular hour.  Nada.  You’re hoping it will be there, and you’re hoping you’ll know it when you see it, but … no guarantees.  And if somehow, miraculously, the truck does appear on the highway, and you do recognize it for what it is, you then have to summon the courage to leap off that overpass at the exact right moment to land your ass in the bed, Captain America-style.  And you’d better hold the fuck on, because getting in The Zone is easy part.  Staying in The Zone, as it careens wildly down that road, hitting every pothole and swerving to avoid texting drivers, is the real trick.  If you can hold on, it will take you to some pretty amazing places, both real and imagined.  You’ll discover new things about yourself, learn new ways to connect with strangers, and find that memories you’d written off as long-forgotten can be called back, sometimes in startlingly vivid detail.

    That was a metaphor.  Maybe not dead on, but it’ll do.  The cars whooshing by, the sheer overwhelmingness (not a word) of picking out a single car in six lanes of highway, accurately captures my regular brain vs. the headspace needed for me to write.  There are variables.  The two biggest?  My physical environment, and my innate level of focus at a given moment.  The worse those two are, the more vehicles there are on that imaginary highway, the faster those vehicles move, and the higher the ratio of pickup trucks becomes.  I typically write at work (don’t tell my boss), because A) I’m there a lot, and B) when I’m not there, I usually have at least one child in my arms.  When I first built this ol’ bloggerator machine, I was in a position that allowed me to get in The Zone with some regularity, without sacrificing (too much) productivity.  Now I do not.  Not even fucking close.  Since making this change, I have not gone 60 consecutive seconds without a phone call, email, or employee coming to my desk.  I’m not being hyperbolic.  It is all but impossible now for me to get in The Zone at the office, leaving me early mornings, nights, or weekends in which to write.

    Could I write early mornings, nights, or weekends?  Probably some, yes.  Do I?  Clearly not.  Not very often, anyways.  Because I do things.  Things I want to, and things I have to.  I play with my kids, and I demolish my kitchen.  I pick up dog poop in the backyard, and put up a new ceiling fan.  I coach little league.  I fish.  I watch New Girl with my wife, Liv & Maddie with my daughter.  I read books.  Officiate weddings.  Walk around in the woods.  The list continues.  These things make me who I am, and without them, I’d have no reason to write.  Nor anything to write about.

    I am a father and a husband, an employee, and a doer of stuff.  And sometimes, if I can manage to find that pickup truck, I am also a writer.

     

    -KHN 03/25/16

    no title 2

    NOTE:  I started writing this in November, which is why some of the dates don’t match up.  I didn’t change it because I didn’t want to.

    Pete died a few days ago.

    You know him from the last story; he’s the one at the end welcoming me back from the black hole I had slipped into.  Likely also the one offering me the blow I needed to try and bring myself back to the living.  Few who knew Pete would be surprised at this.  Pete was the one you called when a spring Tuesday was just a little more than you could bear sober, the one who would happily blow off school to split a couple grams of coke and share a few beers with you in his living room.  We would watch Pokemon, or play Final Fantasy X, as the sun traced its daily arc through the sky and the world outside passed us by.  Moments of hysterical laughter broke up hour-long, slack-jawed silences.  Nobody was more fun to get high with.  Nobody understood me like Pete.  Tucked into that high, that zone, with the razor’s edge of the cocaine dulled by weed and alcohol, nothing mattered.  Nothing.  Everything was fine.  We had no future, we had no present, we had nothing except the shared belief that the only thing in life we needed was more.  As long as we kept getting more, it would all be okay.

    yeah fuck retro anything, fuck your tattoos
    fuck all you junkies and fuck your short memories

    We had a complex relationship, Pete and I.  Or maybe not.  Maybe its simplicity was so enormous that it only seems complex in retrospect, through the lens of age and experience.  Growing up, we were not best friends.  We’d wrestled together in middle school, and our social circles overlapped somewhat, but through high school we were barely acquaintances.  The two of us came together after graduation, before I’d left for the Marine Corps, almost forced into friendship by virtue of being two of the few kids left in our town who hadn’t gone on to bigger and better things at colleges far, far away.  We hit it off.  Pete had a wide, open face and a throttle to match it.  A wicked gleam shone eternally in his eyes, promising good times and trouble right around the corner.  When something struck him funny, his face would dissolve into laughter, eyes scrunching into tiny slits, a high-pitched cackle tumbling out of his teeth-together smile.  He was the kind of person you really wanted to make laugh.  The first night we hung out together I got so annihilated, I threw up from one end of my parents’ house to the other.  I blacked out.  Blurry pictures survive from that night, taken on a disposable camera, capturing our descent into intoxication.  It looks like a fun night.  But I don’t really remember.

    Our friendship didn’t last much more than a year.  A year of parties, a year of video games, a year of atavistic fun that amounted to nothing, save some exaggerated stories of how fucked up we got and the wreckage we caused.  Most people looking at it from the outside would naturally assume that Pete was the driving force behind this.  Indeed, to many others he was the catalyst; starting a chain reaction of destruction that could reach years into the future.  But when it came to us, that person was me.  I need to make sure that the historical record is accurate on this point.  I was the one calling him, getting him to ditch class or bang out of work.  I was the one saying “let’s get that yayo..” while we were playing Vice City.  I was the one dragging him down.  Not the other way around.  He was no more or no less of an addict than I am.

    (swim learn to swim learn to swim learn to swim)

    And then, I got out.  I was done.  My last night spent high was spent in his house, gobbling up vicodin, snorting coke, drinking, smoking pot.  I was twitchy and edgy.  My teeth were grinding against each other and I was clenching my jaw compulsively.  I think my nose started to bleed at one point.  When I left his house to stagger home, I might not have even said goodbye.  I’m sure he was as fucked up as I was.

    I walked in the front door of my parents’ house.  It was May 21st, 2002.  It was quiet, everyone was asleep.  I woke my dad up and told him everything.  I told him I was done.

    I got better.  Pete did not.  I’d hear stories of him, secondhand through mutual friends.  “He’s still Pete” they’d say.  Or, “Pete’s into some bad shit now”.  I’d nod, sad for my friend.  Grateful for myself.  There’s no lesson here.  No moral.  It’s not a happy ending.  I’m alive.  Pete is not.  He died of a heroin overdose, October 21st, 2014.  He was 32 years old.

    I’m sorry Pete.

    cause I’m praying for rain
    I’m praying for tidal waves
    I want to see the ground give way
    I want to watch it all go down
    mom, please flush it all away

    -KHN

    Image

    moments

    Luke Mike Murphy

    My son Lucas paying his respects to Congressional Medal of Honor Winner Lt. Michael P. Murphy, US Navy SEAL.

    no title

    but do not ask the price I pay, I must live with my quiet rage; tame the ghosts in my head that run wild and wish me dead.  Should you shake my ash to the wind, Lord forget all of my sins.  Or let me die where I lie, beneath the curse of my lover’s eyes.

    It was a Tuesday afternoon when I thought I was going to die.  Winter I think–it was winter at the end there.  I was lying on a couch in a friend’s garage on Brook Street, just a few houses up the block from where I’d grown up.  From where my parents still lived.  I remember feeling stupid, and sad and sorry.

    I don’t want to die here not like this why is it a fucking Tuesday I’m so cold and oh no I took too much this time it’s really coming now I’m sorry mom fuck I love you I didn’t mean to

    Cause of death: narcotics overdose

    Age: 19 years

    The toxicology report would have listed hydrocodone, alprazolam, tetrahydrocannabinol, alcohol, cocaine.  A fairly standard assortment of suburban teen substances.  Former classmates would’ve been shocked.  Family would’ve been destroyed. I would’ve been dead.  12 years dead actually, by now just bones and dust in the ground.  I did not want to die; I truly mean that.  But as I stacked up poisons in my body that afternoon it didn’t matter.  I wasn’t dying I was living.  Until that moment when realization hit me like a wave crashing on the shore oh fuck  . . .  no.  I wanted to fight it then, at that moment.  Once I realized I took too much and the drugs were overwhelming my body’s  systems, I wanted to throw everything I had into staying alive… but the capacity was gone, that voice screaming “LIVE MOTHERFUCKER YOU HAVE TO LIVE” was very far away indeed.

    My friends had dragged me into the backseat of a truck, a memory that exists only vaguely in my head now–the ghost of a memory really.  The blackness had nearly consumed me; the thrum of the blood coursing through my veins marked time for my march towards death.  I felt my heartbeat slowing as it pounded distantly in my ears.  Closing my eyes felt sublime.  I was buzzing so hard.  I just needed to sleep

    (live motherfucker you have to li-)

    and I surrendered to that with the final wisp of a thought

    (mom)

    After that, nothing.

    I won’t let this build up inside of me

    It’s hard to say how I got there, precisely.  It felt like one minute I was a normal human being, the next I was a complete savage.  I needed to get fucked up, all the time.

    When I got home from boot camp I was a failure.  I had nothing to my name except a busted shoulder and six tons of shame.  Drinking was easy and normal, and it relegated the demons to the far back corners of my mind.  I consumed alcohol with speed and with abandon, sprinting towards total annihilation with the very first sip.  The only thing social about my drinking was the fact that there were other people around me.  I drank because I needed the pain to go away, not because I wanted to fit in.  My drug use increased rapidly as the crowd of people around me deteriorated.  I didn’t say no. To anything.

    Look, addicts and alcoholics are weak. We’re born defectives in some ways. Sensitive, easily bruised by the world, quick to retreat inside ourselves where the only thing that can hurt is the devil that lives in our souls. We are wired this way genetically I believe, and a lifetime spent feeling acutely every failure–minor or major–sets the stage for an awakening the first time we find ourselves intoxicated. It did for me. Death by a thousand cuts over the first 16 years of my life suddenly became resurrection found in the crisp crack of the tab on a new can of Budweiser.

    Fuck you, school. Fuck you, sports failures. Fuck you, girls who laughed at me. Fuck you, mom and dad. Fuck you, insecurities. Fuck you, Marine Corps, FUCK YOU MARINE CORPS FUCK YOU. Why yes, I think I will have one more. Thank you.

    So it begins.  And for those who are like me, the descent into madness is underway. Whether we realize it or not. The journey into hell can be long or it can be short. Most of the time it’s long, and it ends fucking ugly. You die with a needle in your arm, or your body burnt beyond recognition in a car accident, or with your brains splattered against the wall of your shitty apartment because the pain was just more than you could bear and the gun was quick, easy. If you don’t go out that way, you can live long enough to be an embarrassment to your family, to your job, to the tiny shred of dignity and humanity that just won’t die inside of you. Life is grand.

    I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. You don’t need to know that I used to piss my bed or sleep in my own puke to know me better. Do you like me more now that you know I stole money my parents collected for a church charity and used it to buy an eight ball of cocaine? That I’d be so fucked up and paranoid that I stayed up all night staring out my window watching the shadows move, dead convinced the demons were real and they wanted my soul? Ha. What soul? I’d already mortgaged my soul for another gram of blow.

    My story ends with redemption. It’s there, at the end. Smiles, feeling almost whole inside, family love, pride. It did not take me much longer to get to the end of the blackness, but I did not find the light on that day in the back of my friend’s car.  On that day, I had surrendered to the demons. They’d won. Those bad boys, moving slowly around the periphery of my vision, with their menacing smiles had closed in around me. I was too fucked up to be scared. They closed their circle around me, hands wrapped around my throat, squeezing almost tenderly the life from my body.

    (I’m sorry mom I’m sorry I love you I love dad I love colin it was an accident)

    (fuck)

    And when I woke up, hours later, the sun had gone down. I was in the backseat of that truck and we were parked down at the beach somewhere. I was groggy, fucked up. My mouth was sticky–no, my mouth was practically glued shut–and I couldn’t form words. I sat up and looked around at my buddies, snorting cocaine off a Pearl Jam CD case.

    “Hey, he’s awake! Welcome back to the living, motherfucker. Thought you were a goner there for a second.”

    I smiled, a little cautiously. “Me too actually.” I barked a laugh, trying it on for size. It felt okay. Felt almost real.

    “Fuck me,” I said, “fuck.”  I squinched my eyes shut and then bugged them out again theatrically wide in a pantomime I hoped would coax me back to full consciousness.  Shook my head a little as I reached for the CD case someone’s disembodied hand held out to me.

    don’t

    It wasn’t even a question.

    -KHN

    clean livin’ (pictures)

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs promised (I know you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seats), here are the pictures from my White Mountains trip last month.  A whole bunch of ’em, after the jump.  Words can be found here: clean livin’.  Thanks ppl.

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