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Stepping Back

Courtesy of a friend afar, I’ve been pondering AA again.  I sucked at AA, or, at least, I sucked at being a part of the group I was in (and I freely admit that it could have been the dynamics, but much of it was me).   See, AA requires of one, in order to be successful, to reach out and depend on others, and while I can do that in some areas of my life (admittedly, too few), sobriety wasn’t, at the time, one of them.

Granted, I also relapsed.

This blog being what it is, a chronicle of diseases beautiful and occasionally manageable, I’ve been thinking through what happened to get me to the place that relapsing was possible, seeing as I’d rather like to avoid taking that particular route again.

I originally chose to get sober in March of 2007.  I quit because I was miserable, and I finally came to the conclusion (with the help of a therapist and some excellent books–I cannot recommend Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story highly enough) that I was not avoiding misery with alcohol, but creating it.  So, to the admitted surprise of said therapist, who had initially recommended trying to teach myself to drink less (it was, I came to realize, a ruse on his part– he just hadn’t expected that I would figure out the message as quickly as I did), I up and quit the day I spoke to him about drinking.

Interesting to note that “my drinking” is the phrase I first used there, and then deleted.  On the one hand, the ownership is apt– drinking was certainly “mine.”  On the other hand, it was not just mine, because the ramifications of my addiction reached far beyond self, and I’m not sure how to convey that.  “Our” drinking is inaccurate and disingenuous.

I was pleased by the results–I felt better for the choice quickly.  I built a garden wall (I was off that week), and I read and otherwise took care of myself.  I didn’t talk to anyone about my choice, save for G (and him only minimally), and I didn’t attend AA meetings because I was terrified of the whole talking in front of strangers bit.  Of course, it was only later that I realized that I was substituting a familiar fear (that of talking in front of strangers) for the real problem (having to acknowledge a need for others).  I had been sober 30 days when I went for the first time.

I think I still have my coins (my AA group used coins instead of chips), but the one I encounter most frequently is my 90 day coin, as it sits in my car–in the cup holder all the time.  Haven’t a clue why I leave it there, mind you, but it does comfort me at times…so maybe that is the only reason why and the only reason necessary.  It’s green and a bit banged up around the edges; I’ve had it for more than two years now.  I stopped attending AA meetings not terribly long after that…I think I made it to 6 months, but I no longer recall.

I began walking more, began talking more, and the first year blew by.  Suddenly, I was in March 2008.  I’d been sober a year.

I was teaching two classes that semester–World and British literature, and I was having a ball.  Seriously, it was one of the best teaching semesters I’ve ever had.  Part of that joy stemmed from my impossibly delightful World Lit class (this is not to suggest that the Brit class wasn’t wonderful–they were, but the World lit class was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before nor since).  I met a student who challenged me from the get go–I’ve encountered students like him before–ones who knock me off my stride and make me rethink approaches and conversations and basically give me license to go wildly back into the books and mine them more deeply.  This guy stopped me in my tracks repeatedly.  And, better, he got the rest of the class inclined to do so.  It. Was. Awesome.  For the first time in years (and certainly since sobriety), I felt confident.  Bright, funny, interesting, even lovely.

All of which, again, not incidentally, was interpreted as a crush on said student (he was my age.  calm down) by damn near everyone around me.  And I, even as confident and groovy as I felt, couldn’t produce the necessary verbiage to explain what was happening in my head.  Crush, though, wasn’t it.  He and that class were an incredible touchstone of possibility, and I was completely swept away by them.

During the spring of 2008, I was riding high.  In hindsight, I can see the negative side to this ride, which bordered on mania (and probably crossed the line a time or two).  I talked fast, moved fast, got caught up in intellectual whirlwinds.  I wrote, dreamed up projects, ran, played bass, listened to music, learned to knit,  wrote more (OMG the notebooks I filled, wow).  I obsessed about a number of things–talked about all of them way too much.  My obsession and energy manifested physically in an awesome blushing response.  I’m pale (very, incredibly pale), so the fact that I blush over, well, everything, is of no real surprise, but it was so bad in 2008 that I thought I was going crazy.

Which, in fact, is probably accurate.

My high lasted into summer and on July 3, 2008, I was confident enough to “try” drinking again.  It didn’t take terribly long for it to get out of hand again, though I can’t remember exactly when I realized that the wheels had fallen off again.

One of the myriad reasons I sucked at AA was the failure to give the steps their due.  I “worked” them, but like everything else in that spring, I worked things too fast.  I moved too quickly.  Looking back, I can see that I started that rapid movement from the beginning.  I spent much of that year and change–Spring 2008 for the most part notwithstanding–angry and spiteful, what the experts tend to refer to as a “dry drunk.”  I was nasty (it occurred to me from time to time that G probably preferred my drunk self, because I was likely nicer, if somewhat more given to dramatics) and turned deeply inward (hence the voluminous writing from that period).

Step One, for anyone who has managed never to run across it before, regards recognition and confession.  For someone whose freaking dissertation was on redemption, this path felt like home.  See, in traditional redemption narratives (as I have mentioned in these pages before), confession is the first step toward absolution.

Confession–>penance–>

Okay, so the next step is a little tricky, and in the literary world, whether confession and penance bring absolution or merely precede damnation is subject to the (often–I’ll grant not always) political and social whims of the author.  Nevertheless, confession felt good, normal, and the place to begin.

I confessed to G and to my therapist and, eventually, to my son and others, though, even now, not everyone.  Step one–> “admit you are powerless over your addiction” looks like confession.  It smells like confession.  Confession is good, right?

Well, yes.  Except that Step One is most assuredly NOT about confession alone, and that is the part that escaped me.  Part of the confession must be recognition–a baring of oneself to oneself.  I once made a list of those things I’d done while drunk that were dangerous (not many) and/or embarrassing (gads, awful, awful, awful).  I didn’t make that list until after I had relapsed.  The list, however, is far more valuable to me now than the fact that I can articulate the phrase “I’m an alcoholic.”

The recognition of myself and my culpability was integral to Step One, and I missed that part the first time through, because I was still so much in denial.  I recall, vividly, telling G in one of the few conversations we had about me and alcohol, that I wouldn’t feel safe to take a drink until I could imagine drinking and stopping after only one. Want to guess how many I had the first night I relapsed?  Suffice to say that while I could “imagine” only one–I certainly didn’t practice that policy.

I had much more clarity in the matter after I relapsed.  Part of why I was able to relapse was that niggling confidence, combined with the failure to recognize what powerless meant, meant I thought I could teach myself to “drink normally,” despite the fact that I’ve no clear idea what “normal” really suggests in this context.   I did realize early on (even in 2007) that Step One would have to be revisited often and carefully, though I failed to heed that recognition.

As a result, I think it is fair to categorize the last 8.5 months as “working Step One,” insofar as I experience each day through the recognition of powerlessness.  On the upside, I’ve no desire to traipse up the wine aisle or to be the “good wife” by going to pick up something at the liquor store (did I mention my failure of recognition?  Does that example illustrate what I mean clearly enough?).  But, I’ve not been working the step (or trying to move through additional steps) in concrete ways, and I think, thanks to my friend (seriously, thank you, Lady) I’ll try to do so.

Credit to NeanC’s most recent blog for getting me spinning on this.

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Half-Marathon, Half-Mad Memories

As previously announced, my marathon-induced excitement in June led me to register for the VB Half-Marathon scheduled for Sunday, September 6, two days after my 34th birthday.   I think this was a fitting ending to my sporadic attempts at “Year to Live” (started in part because 33 struck me so strange), because a marathon was certainly one of those accomplishments that I had running (HA!) around in the back of my head as something I would do before I died, and, moreover, the introspection of “Year to Live,” though I stopped posting as such sometime last winter, led me to the realization that the drinking had to go once and for all.  And it did.

So, how would I live my life with only a year?  I ran a marathon.  And then a half marathon.  I ran the second with one of my dearest friends and the person who is most responsible for marathon becoming a part of my working vocabulary.  I arrested the worst of my habits (drinking) and began work on the other (that of being quick to anger).  I spoke of my alcoholism openly with a family member for the first time (thank you, Rikki) and learned that honesty about myself and my failures is indeed a valuable and beautiful feature of this existence.  I’ve met charming, strong-willed, hilarious people who inspire me to do better and to cheer them on in their endeavors.  I met a dog and a kitten who have added themselves to my herd and charmed their way into my heart.  I met my hero (Hi, Duff!), who called my writing inspirational (?!) and called me “Fuckin’ Kris” (yeah, that rocked).

33 was not all wonderful news.  I was broken, depressed, panicked, struggling, and scared.  But, hell, I’m still here.

Let’s just say that 33 was a fuck of a year and be done with it, shall we?

I’ve clearly turned a corner of sorts, as evidenced by my birthday gifts: Body Glide (best stuff on earth), a new training log, new running socks, and a new running gear bag (as my duffel looks a bit, um, ruined, these days).   No, no marathon, but close.

Two days after surviving 33, I ran a half-marathon in the closest place I have to a hometown, Virginia Beach, VA.  While the city’s denizens showed their asses almost from the get-go (ah, so good to be welcomed home by pricks), the city is beautiful–tree-lined streets, huge beach…it really is lovely, and I tend to forget that when I am away.  When I originally mentioned the run here (was it here?) or somewhere online, my buddy Madeline said she’d run with me.  And, she did.  Fabulously, I might add.

The race course was, as advertised, flat and fast; though, really, you’d have to work your ass off to find hills in VB,* so flat isn’t that much of a stretch there.  The route begins at the Virginia Beach Convention Center,* which, so far as Madeline and I could figure, is intended to look like a rolling wave, heads out toward Croatan (the pink hats were fabulous, neighborhood!, though I’m afraid that Harbor Point’s faux-Rastafarians were a bit more fun, AND, they had hoses), through the residential part of Camp Pendleton, and then back to the Oceanfront and onto the Boardwalk (which was awesome).  Good scenery, excellent organization with the hydration stations, and a remarkably uncluttered run, given that we were running with about 22,000 15831 (that’s the number who finished the race.  I’m not sure how many started, though they said 22,000 repeatedly.  It was still a whole wad of folks, either way) people (though, as Madeline rightly observed, we probably logged an additional 13.1 miles going AROUND people).

I beat my goal time of 2:30 by about 44 seconds (2:29:16), which makes me quite happy, and, better, Madeline and I ran each split faster as the race went on, going from 11:50 by the first split at the 5K point to 11:24 as we headed into the final stretch.  I’m very pleased with the results, and I totally owe Madeline here, since her presence kept me from sliding into the Gremlin-mind that has hampered me since I fell in July.

We ran the sucker, save for the hydration stations, which we walked, in part for survival purposes and in part because, quite frankly, running while drinking isn’t such a pretty combination for me.  In fact, walking and drinking isn’t such a good idea, but it gets the job done (if somewhat messily).

I met Madeline something in the vein of 14 years ago, when we were undergraduate students at Norfolk State University.  She often accuses me of being responsible for her graduate studies (as in, it’s my fault she got into that racket), and while I probably do bear a bit of that weight, she always struck me as the one of the two of us who really belonged in grad school.  I can’t count the number of times something she said sent me off into research mode, trying to chase down whatever rabbit she’d set in front of me.  Everything I knew about Irish protest fasting came from Madeline, and, let me tell you, it was a godsend when I got to grad school and took a course in Modern Irish Literature.   If that was the most memorable of them, it was certainly not the only rabbit I chased.  She read my terrible poetry, and even did so with kindness.  She listened (and how) and dreamed and was one of the most substantial influences in my undergrad years–and then into grad school, though we followed quite different paths there.  When Madeline blogged about marathoning several years ago, I was awestruck and terribly jealous, assuming I could do no such thing.  But, her posts about running and the importance of running to her stayed with me, and when the time came for me to grab hold of something external to pull myself out of the self-induced tailspin, those posts and the marathon memories she shared provided the rope I badly needed.**  In other words, I hold her ENTIRELY responsible for the marathoning–and I owe a huge debt of gratitude as a result, so, thank you, Mad, from the bottom of my heart.

Last night, as I nursed my sore hamstrings and did my first post-race yoga workout (another  Mad inheritence for me, if memory serves correctly), I found myself far more physically strong than I still give myself credit for.  I still assumed that some of the asanas that I’ve historically struggled with would remain out of reach–and some were–, but the majority, in fact some of the ones I have struggled with most, were not.  And this was with post-race and post-drive home stiffness!

And then there were the 110 crunches:  new goal 500/day.  Working toward it.

So, onward and forward.  I’m taking a bit of a breather from training and doing more cross-training for a while, in order to strengthen and not get bored.  I’m signed up for a 5K on Halloween, and I expect to do other races here and there, but I am on the lookout for the next big one–probably not Phoenix (need to decide one was or the other) for the marathon, but maybe the half there (or Nashville) and perhaps the Shamrock Marathon in March.  Definitely VB again in September 2010!

We’ll see.

Until then, here’s to running my way through a new year.  Wonder what kind of trouble I can find in 34????


* Seriously.  It is pancake flat there–they built the only hill of any substance out of trash.  Check out Mt. Trashmore if you’ve never seen it.  Quite a cool place.  Ignore, however, the remark about trail maps on the link.  Such are really unnecessary.

**Jokes about rope and it’s ability to pull or hang are perfectly appropriate here.  I got lucky with this one.

All Will Be Well…I Hope

So, here we are.  *dusts off the furniture*

Dude, it has been a while, hasn’t it?

What do you think of the new digs?  Brought all the old pieces over, freshened up the pages a tad.  I’ve been working hard on the place as I worked on being summarily unable to compose anything new.

*Pulls up virtual chair*–do you need one?

I’m faking it right now, honestly.  I still can’t put words in a string to call them a sentence, but…well, fake it ’til you make it, right?  So, I’m going to ramble a bit today, perhaps again tomorrow, and one of these days we’ll get right again.  Soon, I hope.

If you are coming over from the old page, thanks, and, yes, this really is in part to shake myself out of a rut that has been slowly squelching me since, oh, May?  Yes, I also really did bleach my hair–sort of blonde now, though, really, my hair rejects all but red, so it’s a red-blonde, but it’s different, which is good.  I’m thinking about going lighter, but I’ll need a professional to accomplish that, I suspect.

Interesting factoid:  My kitten loves the smell of hair dye; she slept on my hair last night, sniffing it.  Weird, yes?  Or, my kitten has some issues.

Imagine that, eh?

The picture above (in the header) is from the trip to WA; it’s from Beach 4, I think, in Olympia National Park.  Beautiful place.  That’s Destruction Island way in the background.

One of the things I most liked about Olympia is, well, I’ve spent enough years playing at being a Romanticist to just go on and say it, haven’t I?…the beach is sublime.  The good sublime, as in–the natural world reminding you that you are tiny and insignificant and still utterly welcome to absorb the beauty.  Huge cliffs, currents that will quite clearly, rip you from the shoreline with narry a blink of the watery eye.  And the driftwood.

Okay, seriously, beaches in Virginia have “driftwood”–pieces of smoothed over wood–some even about the size of my thigh.  Washington, on the other hand, has drift-fucking-trees.  There is no doubt that one of these suckers–be it wet in the ocean or dry on land, could off you in a moment.  And there are piles and piles and piles of these drifttrees up and down the shoreline.

Olympic National Park, Washington.  June 2009

Olympic National Park, WA. June 2009

Some of them are escapees from the logging industry, while others are washed out from the local rain forests.  Either way….they are trees.  Big ones, at that.  The picture at right is a good example of what I mean–see, there’s some legitimate driftwood there…but there are also whole freaking trees.

This might, as much as any other, be a good metaphor for how I’m feeling.  Kind of bleak–kind of waiting for the next tree, but if I can manage to avoid them…all will be well.

So, anyway, welcome here.  I’ll fake it for a while, but I’ll get back in the groove shortly.  I hope.  Hope you’ll pull up a tree and stay awhile.  I’ll be posting more, even if it’s just random thoughts; I’ve never tried just making myself do it when it comes to writing–it works for running, so why not here?  Use one of those fine running lessons, perhaps.

I’m still training for the half-marathon in VB on Labor Day weekend–and looking forward to it.  Had a lousy-ass 12-miler on Saturday (hot, humid, read: training in the Deep South in the summer.  Really?), started off well, but the humidity damn near killed me.  On Sunday, however, I dragged myself against my will and what appeared to be better judgment out the door for five miles.  And then ran it faster by almost 2 minutes than ever before.

Shows how good my judgment is.   So, Sunday was a worthwhile run, once I committed to it.  And, well, hot damn, this post is approaching something worthwhile too.

Fabulous!

Mantra for the day:  All is well.  All will be well.  (thanks, Rev. Dean).

Anatomy of a Panic Attack

I haven’t had a panic attack in about two years, so I suppose I was due for the one that occurred last night. I won’t rehash the trigger points–they really aren’t that entertaining–but as I got the hamster wheel I loosely call my mind to slow down, I started thinking through the construction of a panic attack. Mind you, this will follow my attack, and each individual is likely to have any manner of different experiences in the umbrella of what we call panic attacks, so please take this for what it is.

In reflecting on last night and the attacks of the past, I can safely say that I don’t see them coming, though there are always signs of impending doom. Generally, I’m depressed beforehand; perhaps not significantly, but enough to notice. Since depression doesn’t always signal an impending attack, it doesn’t make for much of a harbinger. The last two times, though, I was rapid-cycling, for lack of a better phrase. I am not bipolar, though, as I have pointed out, I have experienced extensive periods of hypomania and depression, and I tend to move very quickly between them (often in as little as 72 hours). Since my mother is bipolar, this terminology is familiar to me and, as a layman’s phrase at any rate, a fairly apt description of what happens.

On Saturday, I awoke to a significant depressive mood; I could even feel it in my legs, which hurt lamf for that whole 25 miles run. Yes, I did complete the run, figuring there was nothing better to be doing than to try to short circuit the depression with an influx of endorphins. It was not precisely a good run, but the mood seemed to lift a bit. The low-mania came back on Sunday, triggered largely by my failure to eat properly, but, again, I managed it reasonably well. I went a bit pogo-stick for a while on Monday then crashed yesterday evening as the anxiety took hold.

Part of the problem is my failure to recognize my symptoms of increasing anxiety. I *thought* that I had handled several incidents of late and the above-described moods fairly well; in reality, I had mostly buried them or not dealt with them in an appropriate way, largely in an attempt handle anger in ways that are more conducive to sharing habitats with other human beings than I am often accustomed to. In other words, I was being dishonest with myself. This is not altogether unsurprising in an addict*; we are masters of dishonesty–especially when it comes to ourselves. The pattern of dishonesty and vacillating emotions should have been a clue, and are pretty clear now that I glance back upon them**; I was reeling toward a break.

The attack came on, as they often do, with little warning and with an outwardly irrational cause. My very first panic attack, when I was 16 or 17, occurred on the campus of Duke University, when I became overwhelmed by what I would never be and where I would never attend and who I would never live up to. These thoughts, which might have been merely annoying for some, became locked in an obsessive loop for me on the campus (it was the cathedral, specifically, and it’s vast space that set me off). I could not stop the hamster wheel, and, eventually, it got moving so fast that there was little more to do that break down.

Such is typical for me in a panic attack: Some event or place triggers an obsessive loop (the hamster wheel); the trigger is, outwardly, likely to be relatively innocuous. To know the path my brain takes would require having resided in my head for years (which, incidentally, I don’t recommend for the faint of heart). The obsessive loop becomes faster, particularly as I try to derail the wheel. My heart rate increases. I cry and hyperventilate. I don’t want to be touched, and will run away if someone tries to do so. Until the anxiety subsides sufficiently, the attack will continue, sometimes for more than an hour. I cannot stop the wheel or the tears once they begin until I can slow my heart rate and remove myself from the trigger. For hours afterward, though I will be emotionally and physically spent, it takes little to set me toward panic again, though I am usually able to self-calm more quickly during the aftershocks.

I’ve heard people describe their first panic attacks in terms of heart attacks–not knowing what was happening. This did not happen to me the first time, I knew I was breaking down (the benefit of familial mental illness, I guess), even if I didn’t have terminology for it, and these days, I know exactly what I am dealing with, almost from the outset (though, oddly, it often takes an hour or more after it ends for me to be able to articulate the phrase “panic attack.” No clue why that is.)

I was fortunate last night to have the care, concern, and support of far flung friends, without whom I am certain I would not have been able to settle down, think, and go for the peppermint tea and Oreos (an excellent post-panic attack remedy, incidentally). As Anne Lamott has noted about herself, one of my most common prayers is “thank you, thank you, thank you” (the other being “help me, help me, help me”—there were plenty of both last night). I sent up the flag online that I had triggered, and I want to thank, again, Hooch, Soonie, Z, and Blue, as well as Rip, Avarweth, and Silly (I love handles, don’t you?) for jumping in immediately to console and advise and commiserate. And a thank you, too, to rhyte, who saw my remark, recognized it for what it was, and sent excellent reminders to help calm the anxiety, including a favorite duffism: “Be Still and Pray.” What a fabulous group of women you are; thank you, thank you, thank you.

So, my mantra for the week (typed weeks at first, but rhyte is right (*grin*) with her other reminders to take life in small chunks) to come will simply be that duffism: Be still and pray. The aftershocks are still here, though they are faded to the point that they are noticable to no one but me. I wish you all well, whereever and whoever you all. Be still. Be calm. Reach out–>you are not alone.


*A clarification of terminology: in these pages, I tend to use alcoholic and addict somewhat interchangeably, though, in the main, the former refers to alcoholism (duh) and the latter to drug addiction. I do this as a reminder to myself–in order to be honest with myself, really. Alcohol was my primary drug of choice, but I craved depressants & opiates of any variation–I maintained a profoundly tight grip on my pill popping desires (because, you know, THAT is sign of a “real” problem <–note sarcasm) to the extent that I don't take anything–even Motrin, very often (and I never take acetaminophen, because it knocks me right the fuck out. Seriously. Give me a bottle of Jameson, and I am the life of the party. Tylenol in any amount–out for hours). I've popped depressants from time to time, stayed away from the drug of my dreams–heroin (along with most other opiates)–because I knew even without taking it I'd sell my soul for a good nod. I'm all about shutting the brain down, so cocaine and speed never interested me, nor anything else (uh, well, except Sir Caffeine) that would replicate my "up" moods.

**Saw the best explanation of Benjamin’s Angel of History (Thesis IX in On the Concept of History) recently, in Steven Johnson’s fabulous book The Ghost Map, which chronicles the events surrounding the cholera outbreak of 1854 in London and how that outbreak shaped the modern understanding of “city.” He notes at the outset, that Benjamin’s Angel can be understood in terms of such an outbreak, where we see the piles of bodies of those killed by pestilence overtime, but the “Angel of History” sees their stories and connections. Addiction works similarly; we can see the chains of catastrophes of our past, though it takes “hitting bottom” or some other traipsing into sobriety for us to assume the vision of the Angel of History, who can see us for who we are, rather than just for our series of wreckages.

Six Degrees of Duff McKagan

My students recently busted me. Perhaps I should rephrase that: they finally figured me out. And, they laughed about it.

I should preface this by noting that I used Guns N’ Roses as an example when discussing parody and satire in World Literature this semester. I provided my class with a glimpse into the psyche that is Axl by sending a link to the video for “Estranged” (Axl, Douglas Adams called; he wants his dolphins back. Never seen it? If you have 10 minutes to kill, I offer you this). I have several theories about this video, but that mental exercise is for a later date.

So, they had some insight into me after that point.

A few weeks ago, I asked my students what their favorite songs were. Now, I asked this as a freebie quiz question, but the “freebie” part didn’t really make the question any less painful for them. Like many of us, they struggled with the question. Music defines us so very much; will that song be forever associated in someone’s mind with me if I choose it? (Yes, if you are really wondering.)

Interesting revelations:

  • 6 of the 17 cited either 311 or Sublime. Not itself surprising, I suppose, except that most of my students were about 8 when Bradley died. Granted, I was weaned on Janis, Jimi, Jim and Brian and ALL of them were dead and gone by the time I made it into the world. That said, I’m having a hard time imagining that they were introduced to Sublime and/or 311 by their parents. What gives?
  • One student listed Flo Rida. Shocked my own kids haven’t brought him to my attention already; was also surprised to learn that he toured with 2 Live Crew back in the day.
  • One student mentioned Jim O’Rourke’s “Get A Room.” Not surprising, but his rationale for why it was his favorite was intriguing: it’s the song his iPod says is most often played.

After the quiz, R. asked what my favorite song was. Now, I was prepared for the question. I had thought about what I would say if anyone asked (most classes don’t for whatever reason). I gave two, because, quite frankly, I can’t just name one. They should consider themselves lucky that I didn’t offer a dissertation on the subject. So, I offered my current favorites: “Mezz” by 10 Minute Warning and “Then & Now” by Loaded.

(**R is the same student who defined “favorite” by iPod, by the way. If I use his definition, my account of my favorite above is incorrect. According to my iPod, my favorite song is GnR’s “Mr. Brownstone.” I would have said “Nightrain” or “It’s So Easy” myself, but iPods never lie. Yes, they are all Guns N’ Roses songs. Did you notice the title of this post yet?)

Anyway, they looked at me quite blankly (itself an interesting experience as it happened collectively). I gave them a bit of information on each band, and suggested they take the chance to seek them out.

Hence, I was busted when they actually did. I wandered into class one fine day to find them laughing at me (please use Bill Cosby’s voice for that statement). “So,” R. asks, “exactly how deep does your fascination with Guns N’ Roses go? They all have Duff, right?”

I was forced to confess that my obsession runs deep; when I was a teen, I wanted to be Duff when I grew up. Badass punk. Inveterate partier. Instead, I became an English Professor. Not quite sure what happened there. I did manage to follow in his tracks in one noteably awful way, but we’ll leave that one be.

For those who aren’t following, allow me to help you out:

Duff McKagan was in Guns N’ Roses. He is currently in Loaded (and Velvet Revolver). He was in 10 Minute Warning. And, if you want to get right down to it, he influences much of my music collection, which includes:

  • GNR: Live Like a Suicide, Appetite for Destruction, Lies, Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, The Spaghetti Incident, Live Era
  • Duff/Duff McKagan: Believe in Me, Beautiful Disease
  • Neurotic Outsiders
  • Mad for the Racket
  • Betty Blowtorch (he co-produced the Get Off EP)
  • Velvet Revolver: Contraband, Libertad
  • 10 Minute Warning
  • Loaded: Episode 1999: Live, Dark Days

Duff is/was in all of those bands, save Betty Blowtorch. The Duff-connectivity gets worse, by the way:

  • One member of 10 Minute Warning was a gentleman by the name of Greg Gilmore, who was also the drummer of Mother Love Bone, who have a long standing and storied role in my life, even if Andy OD’d 18 years ago.
  • 10 Minute Warning was cited by Stone Gossard (Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam) as the reason he started playing guitar in the first place. Check. Check.
  • The Betty Blowtorch connection really surprised me. I didn’t know he’d produced “Get Off” until I bothered to read liner notes. But, at least at that point I knew he was alive. Then came the video for “Slither.” Definitely alive.

The list, sadly, isn’t comprehensive.

All of this probably suggests that I am hopeless, doesn’t it? In my defense, much of this was accidental. I’m thinking, though, that one could play a pretty successful game of “Six Degrees of Duff McKagan” because he’s played in so many bands over the years. Anyone up for the challenge?