Friday, November 30, 2007

Cursed Ground

The scene of two tragedies.

The other day I was in Northampton near the site of the old state mental hospital. Of course it's been closed for many years now, with the main structure having been torn down recently under circumstances that some have claimed ran roughshod over concerns about historic preservation. There are still a few buildings on the site that remain standing, but they are in rough shape and the whole site appears pretty gloomy.

That gloom has as much to do with the history of the place as it's physical condition. The Northampton hospital for the insane had a national reputation as one of the cruelest and most barbaric such institutions in the country. In fact, media revelations about what went on there are credited for launching a nationwide reform movement in mental health. No one will ever know the full story of the nightmares that were lived behind those barred windows.

For many, their journey through hell began by passing through this entranceway now choked with dead weeds.

Just beyond the hospital grounds a hulking monument stands upon a hill. If the setting looks a little eerie than it probably ought to because a terrible crime was committed here.

Two innocent men were hanged here before a jeering mob of 15,000 in one of the most infamous acts of anti-Irish prejudice in American history. The names of the victims are on a plaque bolted to the stone.

Here is a summary of the horrible injustice that occurred:

It was on November 10, 1805, that the body of a young man—his head bludgeoned and with a bullet hole in his chest—was discovered in a stream near Springfield, Massachusetts, after his horse had been found wandering in a nearby field on the afternoon of November 9. Two pistols were found near the scene of the murder. Letters in the horse's saddlebags identified the victim as Marcus Lyon, who turned out to be a young farmer from Connecticut making his way home from upstate New York.

Dominic Daley and James Halligan were two Irishmen from Boston who were tried and executed in 1806, in Northampton, Massachusetts, for a murder they did not commit. Francis Blake, one of the defense lawyers, focused on the anti-Catholic, Irish-hating atmosphere of the trial in his summation: "Pronounce then a verdict against them! Tell them that the name of an Irishman is, among us, but another name for a robber and an assassin: . . . that when a crime of unexampled atrocity is perpetrated amongst us, we look for an Irishman; . . . that the moment he is accused, he is presumed to be guilty until his innocence is proved." Northampton was not an isolated case. There were strong anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiments in all of Massachusetts during the early part of the 19th century.

As the Irish-American community became both more integrated and confident, individuals eventually succeeded in gaining a reconsideration of the case, and in March 1984 Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis proclaimed the innocence of Daley and Halligan.

If you stand on the site of the hanging and look in one direction, you can see the ruins of the hospital. Northampton is one of the most beautiful cities in New England. But even beauty casts a shadow, and this small area where the site of the cruel hospital and the site of the evil execution can both be found, must surely be considered Northampton's cursed ground.

The Boston Globe had a front page story yesterday about the controversy that has erupted over a nude portrait hanging in a famous art gallery of Massachusetts hockey deity Bobby Orr. There was a picture of the painting accompaning the article both in print and on the web, and it looked like this.

What's weird is that image is not how the painting really is. It actually looks like this:

So why did the Globe crop the picture at about where Orr's bathing trunks would have begun, had he been wearing any? It's not like they were trying to spare the readers a view of Bobby Orr's cock, as the picture was painted with Orr's hand in just the right location. So what about that painting is so offensive that the editors wanted to spare their readers from seeing it? I guess just male nudity itself, as if the very idea of a man in the nude were taboo. Sheesh, somebody tell the Victorian editors of the Globe that it's almost 2008, not 1808!

Oh well, all this fuss over Orr's nude image should not cause us to forget that he did all of what he's remembered for not in the nude, but with a Boston Bruins uniform on, as shown in this video.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sarno's Team

A few thoughts.

Yikes, a whole week has passed since Thanksgiving! Yet strolling along near Amherst College today I came upon this turkey still advocating in its own self-interest.

Did you have a happy turkey day? No matter what may have been lacking in your Thanksgiving, it was probably at least a little better than mine, which was spent in rehab where there was no visitors allowed.

For some reason all this week I've been writing about drugs and sex. Well enough about my drug addictions and sexual obsessions! Today let's really dive into the gutter and talk politics instead. Springfield politics, no less!

Long before I was addicted to drugs I was addicted to politics, beginning from about the age of twelve. Yet this year I was completely missing in action concerning the politics surrounding our Valley's municipal elections. Is that any big deal? I am not such an egomaniac that I believe any race would have turned out differently had I been on hand, but I do think that sometimes I add a little spice to the campaigns through my observations in this journal. For that reason I feel as though I sort of let people down by not being around during the homestretch of Campaign 07, disappointing people who may have hoped that I would raise some issues or swing a few votes their way. If so I apologize. Certainly I would have liked to have done what I could to keep Charlie Ryan from losing the Springfield mayoralty to City Councilor Dominic Sarno.

Six or seven years ago Councilor Sarno was marching in a Columbus Day parade in Springfield's SouthEnd and I asked to take his picture. Here's how it came out.

More recently I saw him down at a shindig at the old Chestnut Junior High School and took this snap.

Sarno's a nice guy, and photogenic too, but I would feel better about his election if I could say that I ever heard him speak on an issue like he felt it in his gut. I also wish he wasn't one of the boys who sat on their hands during the Albano years. I especially wish he understood what was to be gained for Springfield to have two more years of healing time under Charlie Ryan.

But those are all topics I'll write about another day soon. Today I want to impress upon you the most important thing to remember about mayoral transition teams:

They don't mean much.

The real decisions that shape a new administration are almost all made privately behind closed doors, oftentimes before the election is even over. No politician ever begins their term starting completely from scratch; always there are ideas, however vague, about what their administration will look like, what it will do and who will be hired to do it. The transition team at best gets to fill in some of the details or point out a few personnel and policy oversights. Any mayor who would turn over the major decisions about the make-up of their administrations to a committee wouldn't be worthy of the job.

So why have a transition team at all? There are still a number of useful roles it can play. At the very least it makes the new mayor look like he's doing something during that awkward time every newly elected office holder must fill between early November when they are elected and January when they are sworn in. A transition team helps to keep the new mayor from sinking beneath the media radar screen and thereby spoiling the momentum of their electoral victory.

A transition team is also a wonderful faux patronage tool. Every campaign has people who have played a role in the candidate's victory which should be acknowledged, but whom you don't really want to give anything of real value to after election day. A seat on the transition team can be just the trick.

Transition team members get their name in the paper and their face on TV and there are those who participate in politics as much for ego as power. The transition team members get to hang around City Hall a bit and are often given minor roles in putting on the inauguration ceremony. In this way those folks that you don't want to hire or whose advice you don't intend to follow can none the less be kept on the reservation if you just give them the ego boost of putting them on the transition team. All you have to do is listen to their advice (while thinking of something else) accept any written reports (which will end up in the trash) and then usher them out the door after the inauguration, never to really bother with them again until re-election time. Fully a third of any transition team consists of such people.

Being a Democrat, Mayor-elect Sarno must bow before the altar of biological diversity, and thus it is no surprise that the co-chairs of the transition team are a white male and a black female. The white male is a former school committee member named Nick Fyntrilakis.

In the 1990's Fyntrilakis was regarded as one of the wonder boys of Springfield politics, right alongside people like Raipher Pelligrino. However, while Pelligrino trashed his reputation and destroyed his political career by diving into the ethical swamps of the Albano Administration, Fyntrilakis had his career sidelined as the result of the actions by those around him. In particular Fyntrilakis was hurt by his mentor, the once popular conservative State Rep. Dennis Murphy. When Murphy decided to shed the inconvenient ethics requirements of public office in order to really get into the swing of things during the Albano era he resigned his seat and anointed Fyntrilakis as his heir.

But it wouldn't be that simple. Instead of Fyntrilakis, subsidized housing baron Raymond "Papa Ray" Asselin wanted the seat given to his otherwise unemployable son Christopher, and thus began one of the nastiest state rep races in local history. The campaign degenerated into a mud-slinging free for all which I described in 1999 in The Baystate Objectivist as follows:

Not since the state representative career of Valerie Barson crashed and burned in 1996 has a local politician committed political suicide in a more spectacular fashion than Dennis Murphy. Once regarded as the fastest rising star in Valley politics, today Murphy couldn't get elected dog catcher after he betrayed the voters of his district by dumping them for a lucrative consulting job. While that by itself might have been forgivable, the heavy-handed attempt he made to rig the election to replace himself in favor of his chosen heir Nick Fyntrilakis was widely denounced as dirty politics at its worst. What followed was a long-running farce that resulted in a court case, innocent voters being dragged into court and even charges that some citizens participated in the election from their graves.

In the end, not only was Murphy's political career in ruins, but his heir Fyntrilakis had been humiliated and defeated, the judge in the election fraud case, Tina Paige, had her credibility badly damaged and the citizens of the district were left totally disillusioned with the political process. The irony is that before his self-destruction Murphy had been an outstanding State Representative, but now his legacy is one of failure and disgrace, a tragedy of his own making.

That campaign became part of the array of accusations that were looked into by the Feds in order to put Papa Ray in prison, where he now resides. His son Christopher is also behind bars. Dennis Murphy has disappeared into the grey fog of the lobbying profession, while Fyntrilakis, who declined to run for re-election to the school committee, landed on his feet with a position at Mass Mutual. Interestingly (and perhaps hypocritically) in the past many now in the Sarno camp harshly criticized the Ryan Administration for being too close to Mass Mutual.

Yet despite his less than glorious departure from the political stage, Fyntrilakis could still prove a solid pick. He was a half-sensible school committee member on a body rarely known for having any sense at all, and despite the sleazy scene from which he came, Fyntrilakis' own integrity has never been questioned. The problem is he's been out of the spotlight for so long it's hard to know exactly where he's coming from these days. It will have to be seen whether Fyntrilakis will prove to be a wise choice.

More problematic is the co-chair Denise Jordan. Although her background is an undistinguished one in the fuzzy civil right/diversity field, she is not the problem. What is disturbing is the apparent political rehabilitation of her father, the once infamous scandal plagued retired State Rep. Ray Jordan. The elder Jordan is too controversial himself for an upfront role in the Sarno campaign, although many were shocked by Jordan's prominent appearance at Sarno's campaign kick-off. It was nearly as disturbing as seeing the oily dealmaker Charlie Kingston serving that night as greeter. When both myself and The Valley Advocate made a stink about their presence both Kingston and Jordan disappeared from sight for the remainder of the campaign. Whether Kingston will re-emerge from under a rock remains to be seen, but the appointment of Denise Jordan to such a prominent role is a disturbing suggestion that the connection with Ray Jordan remains troublingly close.

Will Sarno's relationship with the elder Jordan receive the close scrutiny it deserves in this media market? When Mike Albano was mayor the now imprisoned Frankie Keough used to stop by every morning at City Hall to consult with Albano, prompting speculation that Keough was actually the unofficial mayor. Even when Keough finally went down in a hail of indictments you still couldn't get the local media (aside from myself and The Valley Advocate) to report on the Keough/Albano connection. How can the public be expected to judge the politicians when the media doesn't even tell the voters anything about the relationships between the players?

There are other transition team members worthy of comment.

• Public Safety: Chairman William M. Bennett, of Longmeadow, Hampden County district attorney is an obvious and mostly meaningless choice. He's there primarily as a figurehead. Thomas F. Fitzgerald, associate professor of criminal justice at American International College and a former Springfield police chief is a good pick. He got eased out of the chief job when he proved a little too honest.

• Education: Chairwoman Teresa E. Regina, of Springfield is the former interim-assistant superintendent of Springfield public schools. She was controversial as former Superintendent Peter Negroni's number two person and chosen heir. Negroni was a slick charlatan from New York City whose salary soared as the test scores plummeted. The resurrection of his disciple Regina is not a good sign. Philip J. Mantoni a former Springfield schools principal is a good pick. Sophie Jeffries of the Early Childhood Centers of Greater Springfield is an affirmative action appointment. Elizabeth Cardona, educational specialist of the Springfield public schools is a bureaucrat while Kevin L. McCaskill, principal of Roger L. Putnam Vocational High runs a dysfuncional school and notorious patronage nest. Barbara A. Campanella, vice-president of Western New England College is the best pick of the motley bunch.

• Finance: Chairman Joseph D. LoBello, of Longmeadow, former president and chief executive officer, PeoplesBank; is an obvious choice. A city with Springfield's finanical status needs all the bankers it can get, and this committee is chock full of them.

• Economic Development: Chairman Russell F. Denver, of East Longmeadow, the president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield is a likeable guy, but what has he ever really done? Carlos Gonzalez, president of the Mass. Latino Chamber of Commerce is another affirmative action pick, while Paul D. Lessard, president of Lessard Property Management and Francis J. Cataldo Jr of C&W Realty are longtime inside players. Arlene Putnam, general manager of Eastfield Mall should be able to give useful testimony on the importance of good law enforcement while Judith Matt, president of the Spirit of Springfield should be given a retirement watch rather than this appointment. Joseph Sibilia, chief executive officer of Meadowbrook Lane Capital is a creative choice, but Richard M. Brown, president of the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO is just another union hack. Paul C. Picknelly, president of Sheraton Springfield-Monarch Place is someone, like his father before him, who cannot be left off of any committee that matters.

• Human Services: Chairman Joseph L. Roche of Longmeadow, leads a committee of predictable players from the human services field. Conspicuous in his absense however is Springfield's best known anti-poverty activist Kevin Noonan, but then Noonan is a notorious Ryan man.

In total this is not a group to cheer much over, but considering that it's only a transition team there is no need to be overly critical. The real test of Sarno's leadership will come when he starts making appointments not to voluntary committees like this but to actual paying positions with real authority. Will we see the return of the Albano hacks, or will Sarno take the city in a new direction? The success or failure of Sarno's mayoralty will depend on how he makes these choices.

Yesterday at noon at UMass there was a table set up outside the Student Union with students passing out information about the genocide in Darfur.

Nearby some students were lying on the ground as if they were dead, or at least dead while holding a poster.

Ever notice that all these third world hellholes have the same thing in common? They all have socialist governments.

Speaking of terrible governments, it would be a beautiful thing for the suffering people of Iran if someone would overthrow their evil Islamic socialist regime. But should the United States invade them to do it? Northampton is a town with a lot of peacers, so it is no surprise that many would oppose such an attack. But this household is going a little too far.

Inside the Campus Center there was a table set up for passing out condoms and sex education material. Many students appeared interested in discussing sexuality with the young lady behind the counter, and if I were straight I would too.

The condoms were free for the taking, as well some reading material and candy.

The closeness of the condoms with the candy reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon which showed a person with a condom wrapper in their hand and a frown on their face with the caption indicating they were saying, "This gum tastes terrible!"

I strongly advocate that you should practice safe sex, with emphasis on the word practice.

I advise practicing and practicing and practicing!

You can never get enough practice.

Finally, Springfield native and renowned astronaut of inner-space Dr. Timothy Leary (below) remarked near the end of his life that "LSD will become unnecessary in the age of computers."

What he meant was that computers would be able to create alternative realities with such vividness that no mind-altering substances would be required to experience different worlds.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mysteries of Memory

Every picture tells a story.

Had you asked me a few months ago whether I considered myself to have a good memory, I would have answered yes. However, when you think about it the question of whether or not you have a good memory is by it's very nature sort of foolish, since how can you be aware of what you've forgotten? A bad memory would itself cause you to forget what you've forgotten and thereby cause you to falsely reply that your memory is good. Or something like that. In any case, a few months of sobriety has taught me that my pre-sobriety recall was actually quite poor. In fact I'm amazed at all the buried memories that have come bubbling up from my unconscious in recent weeks.

For example, earlier today walking through downtown Amherst I suddenly remembered the first time I ever visited Amherst as a child. I'm not sure of the year, but it was during the 1960's and I was riding in the back seat of my Grandparent's green Chevy. We were passing through Amherst center when my grandmother expressed amazement that there were young men walking down the street with long hair. It was the 60's so of course we had heard of hippies, but that was a West coast phenomenon not to be found here in the East except maybe in New York City. Now here were long hairs in the flesh on the streets of Amherst as the first pioneers of that cultural trend in the Valley. My grandparents were shocked to see something so ridiculous as boys letting their hair grow as long as a girl. My grandpa, a blue collar guy who worked as a machinist at Springfield's Westinghouse plant and who in the 60's supported the presidential campaign of George Wallace, remarked that the long haired guys must be "fairies." That was a term they used back then for gays, and it was not said in the tone of a complement.

Of course most of the guys who had long hair in the 60's were not gay, but I wonder what my grandfather, who was a good man but a product of his times, would have thought had he known that his grandson in the backseat would grow up to be a fairy with long hair.

How odd that such a minor moment from my past should spring to mind. Was the biological code in which it was stored simply lying there in my brain, dormantly waiting until my dope induced fog should lift so that it could activate the synapses that would bring it to my recall? What inspires our minds to sometimes behave like a computer that retrieves data unbidden? That's especially strange since on the other hand sometimes the things we want to recall are impossible for our minds to retrieve.

Such was the case with the password to the old Baystate Objectivist site. Veteran readers are aware that there was an earlier version of this online journal that was sponsored by Geocities , the company that was one of the original pioneers in amateur websites for the masses. They required you to write almost all the code yourself and today Geocities is shunned as a dinosaur by nearly everyone except old fogie internet pioneers like myself. This year even I said to hell with do it yourself cyber-individualism and sold out to user friendly and I've never looked back.

But I also didn't destroy the old site. Instead I left it floating in cyberspace like an old shipwreck from the early fronteirs of the blogger revolution, leaving it out there for the internet equivalent of deep sea explorers to discover and go in search of lost treasure. You can visit there yourself by clicking here.

However, an annoying thing happened after I stopped using that site - I forgot the password to get into it! As time passed I kept coming up with ideas of things that needed to be changed or updated on the old site, but try as I might I couldn't remember the password! There are prompts I could use to get Geocities to send me the password or create a new one, but I had also forgotten the answers to the prompts!

Then this afternoon, only hours after the memory of my first visit to Amherst came to me, just as suddenly the old Baystate Objectivist password returned! And not vaguely either, but with a clarity and certainty that I couldn't doubt. I immediately put it to a test, and sure enough I was allowed entry to the lost catacombs of one of the Valley's oldest websites and as far as I know, it's first blog.

There was some stuff stored in there I had forgotten all about, and some of it I'll dust off and show you from time to time. Today I can't resist posting a handful of old pictures of myself I found in the digital photo vaults, such as this odd picture of me drinking kethup. I can't tell you why I struck that silly pose, but if you look at my glazed eyes you can tell that my road to rehab was paved with such moments.

What is also odd about that picture is that I am wearing a dress shirt and tie, something I almost never did except when I worked as a librarian for the Western New England College Law Library. That would date the picture as being taken in the late 1980's.

Here's a fancy photo, the black and white version of which was used in an ad promoting a radio special I did for WNNZ called The Wit and Wisdom of Tom Devine. I don't know how witty or wise I was, but the promo picture was pretty cool. Date unknown, but I look pretty young so I'm guessing mid 90's.

Flashing forward to about three years ago, I'm striking an opinionated pose in this photo taken in the WAIC studios.

Here's a picture of me appearing on WGGB TV-40's Dan Yorke Show. Again I look pretty young, so I'm guessing it was the early 90's.

Here I am doing a TV interview about six months ago at UMass. I don't know how I could concentrate on what I was saying with that hot stud Tom Parnell wielding that phallic microphone!

Here's a shot taken of me by Jay Libardi in the old International Headquarters of The Baystate Objectivist when it was located in Springfield. As you can see, the office dress code was very casual.

Here's a picture taken in the International Headquarters of the Baystate Objectivist when it was located on North Prospect Street in Amherst. My tastes in fashion did not change.

Now I'm living in Northampton with an old fuckbuddy, having lost everything in a crack fueled downward spiral. Yet it all feels more like an adventure than a disaster, perhaps because it has led to me finally getting clean from all the terrible addictions that have crippled me my whole life.

Ever since the Springfield School System put me on Ritalin when I was eight years old I've never tried to discover what I can do using my natural mind. When I look back on the extraordinary things I've accomplished over the years, and all the while dependent on dope and booze, I feel great anticipation toward what I can do now that for the first time in my adult life I am fully in control of my faculties. Look out world, the full, complete and undiluted version of Tom Devine is on the loose, and you can read about all my adventures as they unfold right here on this historic blog.

In the meantime one of the best videographers in the Valley is Bill Dusty of The Springfield Intruder. He recently put together a kind of sampler of his greatest video hits taken throughout the Valley, which should whet your appetite for the complete versions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Endorphins

I got them back!

Yikes, I have had some interesting experiences in the past eight weeks! Some of them, in fact, were a little too interesting. What happened is too much to tell you about all at once. However, I have always been completely honest with the readers of this blog, and therefore you can be sure the tale will be told in it's entirety in the by and by.

For the first time in my adult life, I am experiencing being completely free of any intoxicants. Wow, so this is what normality feels like? Since I smoked my first joint of marijuana at the age of thirteen with my friends down in Pine Point's Snake Woods, I've pretty much been stoned on something or other every day ever since. Oh, there was the occasional attempt at cutting back or quitting. I even succeeded in giving up one of my addictions cold turkey - my beloved Old Gold cigarettes in 2002. But even that act of abstinence was drug inspired. I had developed a bad, hacking cough and knew it was because of all the substances I smoked, and realized that I should give something up.

Quitting pot was out of the question, as at the time I regarded it as being a harmless weed that never hurt a soul. While I was never a fiend for crack cocaine until the end, I never turned it down either if it was free. Therefore that left cigarettes, which while it has some stimulating effects, doesn't really get you high like pot or crack. Therefore I quit the cigarettes, but only so that I could continue to smoke the more powerful intoxicants. Interestingly, quitting cigarettes alone was sufficient to eliminate my cough.

So now I'm straight, healthwise if not sexually, and my endorphins are returning to functioning normally. Endorphins are the chemicals in your brain that serve as a kind of natural opiate to make you feel good when good things happen to you. Get some exercise, and endorphins are released. Get a raise, your brain neurons get bathed in endorphins. If someone brings you to orgasm, it unleashes an endorphins thunderstorm in your cranium.

What drugs do, each in their own special way, is artificially stimulate endorphins production. You don't have to achieve anything to release them, you can just take a hit of the joint, the crack pipe or a swig of whiskey. It is easier to consume these substances than to actually do something, which is why addicts eventually lose interest in nearly all activities but their endorphin producing substances. Why bother with anything else when with drugs the desired result is guaranteed?Eventually your endorphin rushes can no longer be produced except by drugs. That means that even if you do something positive, then you don't get that good rush of endorphins. Now only the drug can do that.

This is one of the reasons why quitting drugs is very hard; because even if you do succeed in stopping the drugs, the lack of natural endorphins leaves you feeling dull, depressed and empty. Without your dope, all you can feel is a black pit inside where your soul should be. However, if you can stay off the drugs long enough, without going crazy or turning suicidal, then little by little your body will recall how to manufacture and distribute it's own natural endorphins. Finally there will be a direct cause and effect relationship between endorphin production and how you respond to the real world. Getting to that point requires being looked after for a bit during that nightmarish phase where the dope is gone and the natural endorphins haven't kicked in.

So that's what I've been doing during my two month absence. I've been in detox and rehab, getting my brain chemistry straightened out after decades of screwing it up with drugs and alcohol. In most ways rehab was a big success. I feel absurdly healthy, and I'm thrilled by the new clarity of my mind and the sharpness of my emotions. I'm also physically in great shape, and thereby I'm horny as hell, although that is a development with the potential for creating complications.

When I was in rehab, I didn't have any internet access at all. I couldn't so much as check my email. In rehab they like to keep you sort of cut off from the world, the better to remold your thinking without outside interference. Therefore, it wasn't until I got out that I had the chance to read all of the really nice things people were writing about me while I was gone. It was truly moving as well as humbling, not just because of the large number of comments that were posted on the website, but the even larger number of personal emails I received as well. Yet among all those wonderfully encouraging emails was one that represented an odd blast from the past.

There was an email from an old junkie friend of mine who several months ago had quit drugs. At the time he had attempted to ensure his long term success by entering into a bet that was designed to reinforce his will-power. My friend is married and both he and his wife claim to be born-again Christians who disapprove of homosexuality. He tolerates my gayness but only as what he considers an unfortunate flaw in my otherwise commendable character. He has always been upfront in telling me that he regards all gay sex acts to be disgusting. Therefore, in an attempt to avoid a drug relapse, he vowed that if he ever took drugs again, then as punishment he would voluntarily submit to a gay sex session - or as he so colorfully phrased it to his wife, "I bet my butthole to a homo that I will never use drugs again."

And the homo he bet his ass to was me.

So imagine my mixed emotions when I found, among the heartwarming emails of encouragement from readers, friends and family, one from my junkie friend. He made an unsettling confession - he had relapsed. Fortunately, my friend had quickly recovered and gotten clean again, but his wife knew of his slip. To ensure that there would not be another, she was demanding he honor his bet. More than that, she was insisting that she be allowed to sit beside the bed where she could watch her husband pay up with his buns up.

I was sorely tempted to collect on that debt. I knew from seeing my friend swimming nude at Puffers Pond that he was a big-cocked stud with an unusually muscular body for a junkie. Also the prospect of the voyeuristic wife at the bedside provided additional sexual spice. And yet in the end I sent an email releasing my friend from his debt. For one thing I had never expected my friend to relapse. Therefore I never expected to have to bring into consideration my strict rule never to have sex with a known junkie, simply because needle users almost always carry diseases whether they are aware of it or not. But it also seemed like a bad way to treat a friend. I don't think either our friendship or his marriage would be worth very much after such a sexual encounter.

However, if that email had appeared a few months ago, before I went into rehab, I may well have had a different response. Even if I still hesitated for the reasons I just described, inevitably I would have gotten too high and thrown caution to the wind. One of the gifts of my new sobriety is that once I think something through to a sensible conclusion I can make it stick. Tommy the stoner wasn't very good at that.

I'm proud of myself for turning down that unwise sexual treat despite the fact that in my new healthiness I feel more randy than I have in years, which is saying something since I've always had a high sex drive. But now at last it is me making the decisions, not my dick, and that is definitely a change for the better.

This morning an historic old house was driven through the streets of downtown Amherst to a new location just a few blocks away, as shown in this video by Mary Carey.