Bart's Dad's Journal



February 1st, 1997

DISCRIMINATION !

Not wishing to wait until Jan. 1, I have been drug free (with the agreed to exception of coffee) since last Christmas Eve. So far it has been a simple but strangely exhilarating experience (somehow it feels good to say I'm "drug free"), not much to talk about actually except for one totally unexpected experience. In the last few days, I became aware of a new line on some applications and resumes:

drug of choice_____________
How does one of my avowed predisposition answer this question? If I put down none or coffee, I may be perceived as a prude/nerd or someone with whom communication might be difficult. If I lie and put down cocaine (in order to fit in), I might be expected to snort a line at a new member or new employee welcome party. Or worse my application might be denied because drug use is frowned upon. Why is this question being asked ? And for some, why is the line so short. I think I preferred the old
religious
preference_____________
or
race_____________
Whatever happened to those lines anyway ? Is this discrimination or what.


February 5th, 1997

The red wine delusion

Back in my drinking days, I bought off on the idea that a glass of red wine with dinner would prolong the life of the male drinker. I loved this notion so much that I sometimes reasoned that two or three glasses would prolong life even more. Now that I'm off the sauce I can admit to myself that what I really liked was the buzz...all drinkers know what this means. Science now tells me that red grapes and some kinds of grape juice does the same job (for longevity) as red wine but without the buzz.


February 13th, 1997

A loaf of bread,
a jug of WHAT ?,
and thou...

Romantic candlelight dinners have taken on a new look at our house. For years I thought this concept had to include wine. But my wife and I have found that well-chilled grape juice (from red grapes of course) or apple juice served in traditional tulip shaped wine glasses does the job just as well, if not better. Now, we have a romantic dinner just about every night. It often includes beautiful music, soft candlelight, from scented candles, fine food, and great conversation. We have found that the romantic nature of our dinners has not diminshed, and may in fact be better than ever, without wine.


February 18th, 1997

Dark Eyes and Budweiser

Yesterday on my way to Bloomington for counseling with Bart, I stopped at the intersection of two highways, at the left turn light. There, on the ground, just outside my window were two curious objects amidst the litter. One was an empty bottle of Budweiser inside a partly torn paper sack, the other was an exhausted pint bottle of Dark Eyes Vodka. What stories could these objects tell? My mind, sensitized by recent discussions, ran to the possibilities of tormented alcoholics, people driving and drinking, persons wanting to hide their drinking habits by ditching the evidence, or underage people doing the same thing. I know that these are gloomy thoughts and I had to wonder why I was viewing things in this negative way. Was I becoming a modern day Carry Nation or what?

Does everyone know about Carry Nation...the lady, always pictured with an ax in her hand and who was famous for charging into taverns and smashing all the booze bottles. She is given some credit for starting prohibition. A tortured person if ever there was one.

I was thinking about Carry Nation as recently as last Sunday when I said to my wife, "I bet Carry's husband or father or somebody close to her had to be an alcoholic otherwise how could she do what she did." Just moments ago I got around to looking this up in my World Book encyclopedia and sure enough, there it was: Carry (not Carrie) Nation "was born on Nov. 25,1846 in Garrard County Kentucky. In 1867 she was married to Dr. Charles Gloyd, a drunkard who died soon after their marriage." This suggests to me that a person has to be hurt by alcohol to truly hate it. It also reminds me that the victims of alcohol are often not the ones who drink but are the ones who love the drinker. My heart goes out to this much maligned woman who was striking out, with her ax, at the perceived enemy. Not many people would have the courage to do that. Me included.

Readers comment on Carry Nation.


February 20th, 1997

Smoking Gun

On the Good Morning America show this morning Joan London had an interview with a young struggling singer/songwriter from New York. She had this story to tell:

A short while back, Jill (I didn't catch her real name) got a call from an agent who announced that Jill had been selected by his client as the most promising singer/songwriter in America and would be given a big money long term contract as part of a pact to give away Jill's CDs when people bought the clients product.

Jill was as excited as she had ever been in her life. This seemed to be the big break she had hoped for, promising fame and fortune. As she stepped down from cloud nine and prepared to sign a contract, she learned that the client was Virginia Slim cigarettes and that the targeted market was the young women of America. They would receive one of Jill's CDs whenever they bought two packs of smokes. Bummer!

Jill couldn't do it. She had long held a conviction that her talents had to be used to improve the world, not to tear it down. She simply couldn't allow her music to be used to encourage young people to get started on the tobacco habit. Devastated, disillusioned, angry, she tore up the contract and walked out.

My thoughts leaped to a personal continuing fear that my son might use his literary, editorial, and possible future teaching talents to influence young people to look upon drug use as something favorable, desirable, and, yes, even glamorous. Perhaps Jill's example will help Bart understand how I feel.

Readers comment on this fear.
Bart comments on his father's journal so far.


The World's Ugliest Plant

February 26th, 1997

Very soon, the first plant of spring will make its appearance. It's an ugly plant with broad smelly leaves, named the skunk cabbage. Later the pigweed and stinkweed will show up. All of these are candidates for the world's ugliest plants.

But there is one native Indiana plant which I believe is a clear cut winner and I have written an ode...my first, last and only, to its existence. This is an original poem with only part of the first line borrowed from another, more famous writer.

Here it is:

The World's Ugliest Plant

by Bart's father

I think that I shall never see and, really, I don't wanna
A plant so ugly and despised as plain old marijuana
Though used in making clothes and rope
Its claim to fame is its use as dope
For in the main
It's what it does to the brain
That makes it seem attractive
Attractive to others, but not to me
For what is there for all to see?
A spindly plant so skinny and hairy
With spider like leaves and not one berry
It stinks, it bristles, it's used to make hash
But all things considered, it's nothing but trash

Readers comment on this plant.


The Universal Symbol of Self Destruction

March 6, 1997

I heard of this for the first time today on the radio. Almost everyone knows about the Universal symbol of contempt, but self destruction? I was listening to a reporter interviewing a native american medicine woman who observed that Indians used tobacco mainly in rituals and never inhaled, until they learned to do so from the white man (probably not President Clinton). During the interview, the reporter, speaking of the inhalation of tobacco, marijuana, and other substances into the lungs, disclosed the idea that the world has accepted SMOKE as the universal symbol of self destruction.

It makes sense to me.


Wisdom in a Bottle

April 12, 1997

A long time ago, Bart and I watched a bad movie named Rhinoceros. Until now, it was the worst movie I ever saw. To me, the popular movie, Independence Day, rivals Rhinoceros as the all time worst. Sure, it had really good special effects but the acting was really terrible and the plot was far beyond imagination.

The goofiest part of the film came about halfway through, the hero, Jeff Goldblum, had some sort of problem in deciding how he should go about saving the human race from extinction, so what did he do? Alone in a room, in a totally disconnected scene, he suddenly had a bottle of whisky in one hand and a cheap 10 ounce tumbler in the other. He quickly consumed about half the bottle, then, he staggered around and somehow came up with the answer. He recovered his composure (presumably after a short nap) and went on to tell the President and other leaders how to save the world. What a guy!

It confounded my imagination to understand what the whisky had to do with the story. I've long heard that the liquor industry pays producers to plug products in movies thus brainwashing the viewers. This could have been an example. The message seemed to be that if you have a problem, no matter how great, alcohol will help you solve it.


A KILLER ISSUE

April 17, 1997

Tobacco Industry executives have been very much in the news lately and it is becoming more and more apparent that they have known for a long time about the addictive and deadly nature of the product that they continue to market here and around the world. Now they are putting this question before the public. "Will you let us continue to sell you our death dealing drug if we promise to pay Billions of dollars to our victims and their survivors. Since the money will come from future sales, you have to agree to let us continue to process, package and market our product which we will do in a very nice way by no longer targeting youngsters, we'll just concentrate on killing older people. Oh, and by the way, you have to promise not to sue us anymore. That is so impolite!"

I've read that millions of people die every year from tobacco induced lung and mouth (for those who chew, or don't inhale) cancers. The people who have made the most money off tobacco sales are the Industry executives who knew what they were doing in their marketing of tobacco so it is they who should be held responsible. Should they go to jail, or should they be punished in some other way?

The facts seem to be that they have killed millions of people, so they should be held accountable, not given a new license to continue killing. Are they somehow more innocent than Jack the Ripper or Adolph Hitler? Is there anyone left anywhere who doesn't believe that tobacco kills?

Science has learned that marijuana is five times more harmful to the lungs than tobacco, yet there are those who would legalize marijuana and sell it on street corners for 10 cents a pound. Would these advocates be less guilty of killing than the Tobacco Company Executives? Would they be less guilty if they agreed to not target children, or put warnings on packages or agree to a massive tax to help pay ultimate health costs or burial expenses? Of course not!

I don't want my son to be responsible, even in an indirect way, for the illness and/or death of others. I don't want anyone to call my son a killer. For those reasons, I don't want Bart to favor marijuana legalization.


Green Light for Caffeine

May 31, 1997

Life with caffeine is better than life without caffiene.

For many years, practically all of my adult life, I have used caffeine (coffee) without harmful effects. I know about the negative possibilities, but most or all of those have to do with excessive use. I limit my intake to 3 cups a day (none after 3:00) and at that level have had no side effects, no sleeplessness and no diuretic effects. I have quit about a dozen times over the years for up to 8 months and aside from a headache the first day quitting was, unlike tobacco, easy.

While I plan to continue using coffee, I will remain alert to medical reports concerning usage. So far, science has not proven any serious or life-threatening results from moderate coffee consumption, but if they do I would quit.


The power of addiction

June 9, 1997

People do a lot of really strange things for love...but giving up drugs, particularly tobacco, is not one of them.

Studies have shown that when a spouse is put in a position of having to choose between divorce and a tobacco habit, tobacco will often be the choice.

The power of tobacco addiction has been illustrated by an English study that shows that a teen who smokes more than 1 cigarette a day has only a 15% chance of remaining a nonsmoker.


Lucky Strikes

June 22, 1997

The year was 1948, the place: Chicago's near north side. In those days the really cool teen age boys smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes, carried their smokes in a fold in their tee shirt sleeve, wore loose fitting "pegged" pants (tight at the ankle), square toed shoes with one fuchsia lace and one chartreuse lace, and of course, the traditional black leather jacket. I attended Lane Technical High School, then the second largest high school in America, all boys, where it was not unusual for students to throw large objects at substitute teachers. While I personally did not throw things at teachers and never really cared for the square toed shoes, I did pick up on smoking for to not do so would have been about as uncool as one could be. My brand of choice was Luckies.

By the time I was sixteen, I was into a pack a day habit that would be part of my life for the next twenty years. Oddly, I never, ever thought of myself as being addicted. Tobacco was something that was enjoyable and socially acceptable. It was something nearly everyone did with every cup of coffee, after every meal and at numerous times in between. I was disturbed by the warnings about tars and nicotine but when the tobacco industry offered filtered cigarettes, I switched to the Larks brand which had a charcoal filter and a newfound peace of mind for the damage I was doing to my lungs. The reason I switched brands was because I found that through the years no matter how hard I tried, I could not quit smoking tobacco. I could make it for one day or even two, three days was rare and four days without a smoke was next to impossible. I think once in that twenty year period I went two weeks without smoking. Even so I deluded myself by never believing that I was addicted.

The ultimate break with tobacco came almost thirty years ago, when I finally started believing all the warnings from the scientific community, and decided that my life was, truly, at stake. So I began a determined vigil of quitting every day. For almost a year, I would try to quit every day, and every day by about noon I would be overcome by a need to light up so I would bum one or, more usually, buy a pack. Then by mid afternoon, I would crumple the pack and throw it in a trash can, only to return to that trash can to retrieve the pack (or pick up a butt from the street or an ashtray) and fulfill my unrelenting appetite for nicotine. In those days I was teaching an accounting class at the U. Of Indpls., where I was once observed by my students as I almost fell into a large trash container to retrieve a crumpled pack of Larks and light up a badly bent but still smokable cigarette. Embarrassments like this helped me to finally break away but it still took another two years to lose the daily urge to smoke and another two years to lose the occasional urge.

This is not a success story for I have learned that the lung damage that tobacco users incur can assert itself in later life even after many years of abstinence. When I do a lot of heavy exercise, I start wheezing and begin to wonder how much damage cigarettes have done to my lungs and how much of a penalty I may have yet to pay. I think the only thing lucky about Lucky Strikes was the profits made by the producers, who are still, to this very day, plotting with the federal government to keep their products on the market for decades to come while at the same time trying to limit the extent of their liability for physical harm.


An Undeniable Truth

June 25, 1997

Anyone who sells anything to anyone has a responsibility to the buyer. If it is an addictive, deadly product and the seller knows it is addictive and deadly and the buyer ultimately becomes addicted and dies, then, the seller should be held responsible. In the case of tobacco, the seller should be made to pay whatever sum the courts rule, without limit (how does one value a human life?). In the case of alcohol, only 15% or so of users will become alcoholics and only a portion of the alcoholics will die. The alcohol purveyers owe a debt to the affected users and they should provide free treatment centers to the alcoholics and they should be held liable to the families of those who die, also with no limit except those set by the courts. ALL producers and sellers of death dealing, addictive drugs should be dealt with in similar ways.

There is only one reason for any human being to sell another human being an addictive death dealing drug and that is the profit motive. Take that (the profit motive) away and society will see the whole problem disappear. This is an undeniable truth. It is also a reason why our government should not make a deal with the tobacco companies to limit their liabilities and keep on selling smokes to a populace already infected with every possible stage of lung cancer.


Tobacco Conclusion

June 26, 1997

Life without tobacco is better than life with tobacco. We all know what it does to the lungs. It smells bad and tastes terrible. Even before its addictive properties were widely known, about 50 years ago, someone came up with the following poem. It proved to be remarkably accurate, particularly the last line (thinking about radiation treatments for cancer).

Tobacco is a filthy weed
It satisfies no moral need
It makes you thin
It makes you lean
It takes the hair right off your bean


Marijuana

July 12, 1997

Life without marijuana is better than life with marijuana.

Because of the damage it does to the lungs (five times more harmful than tobacco), it is clear to me that this is a drug to be avoided. I, and many others, have observed that using pot slows down speech and thinking. It makes people forget things (like their shoes and socks) and lose track of time. It has been known to cost people their jobs (for missing appointments).

Besides smoking the stuff, I understand that pot can be eaten with many of the same mind altering effects as smoking but without the lung damage. So, my advice to the world is that if you must use pot then eat the cookies or brownies made from marijuana but for the sake of your health and possibly your life don't smoke pot.


Marijuana Legalization

July 13, 1997

A year ago I was convinced that Bart was wrong in favoring pot legalization but now I'm not so sure. If I understand Bart correctly, the English have legalized some drugs, including heroin. By selling it (heroin) very cheaply to bonafide addicts, the English government has driven out the profit motive for heroin pushers and lessened overall usage.

Perhaps government control and low prices for pot would work to lessen marijuana use in America. If that is the motive for legalization here, I may change sides, but more details would be needed to convince me. Motive is key in this issue and I could not support legalization if the proponents were only out to legalize so that they themselves could get cheap pot.


It Makes a Feller Wonder

August 9, 1997

Having experienced total alcohol abstinence for over 7 months, I admit to many occasions when I would have liked a glass of wine or an icy cold beer (or two). Most of these alcohol urges came at times of relaxation or at dinner time...usually toward the end of a day. When on vacation at a far overseas location, I faced some particularly strong temptations. But true to my pledge I fought off the urges with some curious reactions and reflections which I'll try to explain.

In my daily athletic workouts and in competition, I never once experienced the feelings of thirst and mild dehydration I sometimes experienced in the past from alcohol use.

At dinner parties and other social functions I did not experience the shyness I expected to have if I didn't have a cocktail or something else alcoholic. I was every bit as social without alcohol as with.

I felt that I was in continuous and total control of my mind and body, never once losing my temper or laughing too much at a joke. I found myself being more sympathetic and attentive toward people I conversed with. I seemed to be a better listener and basically a more interesting person to be around. I spoke of the other person more and of myself less.

When I went to bed each night after another stone-cold, sober day, I never had any regrets about what I said or did during the day. I went to sleep easily and slept soundly, waking up sharp and refreshed.

As the weeks and months went by I found myself thinking about alcoholic beverages less and less...even to the point of looking forward to the crisp cool taste of the grape or cranberry juice enjoyed each evening.

At times I have puzzled over why I ever bothered with alcohol at all. Oh, I know all about "the buzz" it gives a person. But the buzz doesn't last long and really isn't that great. Too much of a buzz can lead to all kinds of drastic problems. Every day I hear of some new bloody auto accident or heinous crime that would never have happened if it weren't for alcohol use.

To borrow a phrase from Bart, "it kind of makes a feller wonder".


Toma Tells It Straight

August 17, 1997

A short time ago, Bart gave me a book by David Toma (TV's Baretta) that he picked up at a library sale. I had the impression that Bart only skimmed the book and dismissed it as fanatical in nature and content. But the book makes some important points which seem to be both logical and factual. They show some pluses for alcohol and minuses for marijuana. Here are a couple of direct quotes.

"Alcohol is water soluble. THC is fat soluble. That's a big difference. When you drink a beer or a whiskey or any booze, your body gets rid of the alcohol in a matter of hours. You get rid of it in your urine and perspiration. But not THC. It doesn't dissolve in water, it dissolves in fat. As soon as it gets into the body it heads for the fatty tissue - and enters the fat cells. THC gets locked into the cells of your brain, your liver, your kidneys, your glands, and in your reproductive system. Unlike alcohol, it isn't flushed out of your system in six hours. Not this poison. The THC from one joint stays in your body from three weeks to four months! And if you think it's lying there benignly, think again. That poison is playing hell with your brain, your organs, your glands, your reproductive system."

"I am not telling you that every pot smoker in America is going to end up in a mental hospital or become parents of deformed children or will commit suicide. But plenty will. The odds against you are frighteningly high. I am telling you that every pot smoker is going to pay. Listen to this: if you smoke marijuana, you'll never reach the level of achievement that you are capable of if you don't smoke marijuana. Do you understand that? Marijuana slows down mental, intellectual, and emotional growth. It interferes with your ability to solve problems, have insights, understand relationships."

David Toma may not be a genius but he has spent a lifetime dealing with drugs and particularly marijuana and alcohol at the grass roots level. I have to believe there is more than a grain of truth and wisdom in what he says.

Readers comment on Toma's wisdom.
Bart comments on THC "poison."


Who needs alcohol?

August 19, 1997

Our home in western Indiana has a patio enclosed on three sides but open overhead and toward the east. In fair weather, my wife and I have our breakfast on the patio where we enjoy the warming sun as it rises over the trees bordering a small lake. Disdaining TV, I like to select a mix of golden oldies and classical to play on our outdoor sound system. There are two humming bird feeders on the patio and our morning music is augmented by the whirr of tiny wings as several of these tiny ruby-throated phenoms come for their sugar water. From the lake come sounds of frogs, geese, and ducks. At another feeder we see goldfinches, cardinals, and woodpeckers. Squirrels come up to the patio edge and on rare occasions we have seen deer and foxes. The patio is surrounded by plants and flowers and there is a tiny pond and fountain on the edge.

Its an idyllic setting and one I am reluctant to leave each morning. As the warm rising sun sparkles across the lake and the incredible sounds sweep over me, I get a high feeling that must be ten times better than anything I ever experienced from alcohol (or tobacco, or any chemical).

It's the natural high referred to in some of John Denver's songs. For me it's the best high there is. I know it's habit forming but its hard to imagine undesirable side effects.


Red Light For Alcohol

August 31, 1997

A life without alcohol is better than a life with alcohol.

I've heard many people say they enjoy alcoholic beverages for the taste. But do they really? The evidence seems to indicate something else. Alcohol by itself is pretty tasteless. The things alcohol is mixed with, like fruit and berry juices, can be very tasty indeed. Some people say that they have acquired a taste for beer and several companies sell nonalcoholic beer. Yet, I've often observed that the Budweiser beer tents at athletic events I go to might have a hundred people or more imbibing while the nonalcoholic tent has only six or eight at a time. Also, the Budweiser drinkers tend to stay for hours while those in the other tent have one drink and leave. Why is that?

Here is a statement I believe in: "Drinking alcohol is not smart. Although pleasurable, the rewards of drinking are overshadowed by the risks. Drinking alcohol is like playing Russian roulette with your mind, your body, your life, and the lives of others. Really smart people do not need alcohol to have a rich and joyful life."


Unto Thine own self...

Year's End

As the vast legions of readers of this journal know, Bart, Bart's mother, and I entered into a pact for 1997 to be stone cold sober. The year is over and all three of us were loyal to the pledge. The only incidents were a thimbleful of wine my wife took and a drink of plum wine that Bart did not swallow.

I am now in my fourteenth month of sobriety and have yet to experience any serious desires to imbibe.

The past year has been one of introspection. I wanted Bart to consider the idea that a life without drugs was a superior life, but because of his challenges, I had to ask myself the same question. During 1997 Bart and I learned a lot about drugs of all kinds. Everything from Chocolate to Morphine was examined by us both. Among many issues, I have come to realize is that there is something seriously wrong with a society that puts people in jail for using and selling marijuana, but does nothing to those who are killing themselves and others with tobacco and alcohol.

So, did I convince Bart of the advantages of a life without drugs? Well, no, probably not, but you would have to ask him to be sure. However, I did convince myself, not quite totally but nearly so. Some of you may recall that we allowed ourselves to use coffee in 1997, and I still do. Most likely, in 1998, I will give up regular use of coffee and other kinds of caffeine as well. In a future trip to Portugal, I may, if the mood strikes us, share a bottle of fine wine with my sweet and wonderful wife. And if I get a splitting headache, I may take an aspirin or two. If I need an antibiotic, or if I want an occasional cup of tea or coffee, that will be fine; clearly acceptable to my mind and body. But drug use, any kind of drug use, will be looked upon with suspicion and used with caution.

Christians in particular, and people everywhere, know the powerful relationship that exists between a father and his son. I'm relying on that power as I ask Bart to continue to examine his association with drugs of every kind, not only now but after I'm gone. It may be the most significant legacy I can give him. I'll never again ask if he uses or does not use certain drugs, or how much, or how often. If he wants to tell me, I'll listen carefully, with dignity and respect, after all it's a subject we both understand pretty well. If not, well, it's his life and I'm determined not to interfere. I've done enough of that already.

In closing my part of this journal, I wish to recall, and give appreciation to, a phrase from Shakespeare that Bart brought up during counseling: "Unto thine own self be true". This quote has had a lot of significance to me in recent weeks and the ideas it inspires are no doubt going to influence me in a significant way as I walk briskly through my last few good years on the planet.