Playing With House Money In A Room Full Of Ghosts

John Clark feeling a mix of relief and frustration on a chilly Thursday night. On the Sunday before the election, a large poplar toppled over onto our back lawn. I really didn’t want it lying there all winter, but my chainsaw became an ethanol victim several years ago when that lovely additive ate through the plastic fuel line. I haven’t had any pressing need to get it fixed, so there I was with 70 feet of tree staring me in the face.

calendulas for John

Still a flower child at heart

I asked my friend Gary if I could borrow his saw, but he went one better. He came down and we bucked that sucker up in about an hour. Poplar may be softwood, but it’s still heavy as hell when green and the firewood sized chunks near the base were twenty inches in diameter. I helped him load as much as we could get on his plow truck so he could use it as weight when plowing. Somewhere in that process, I re-injured my left knee. The next day, I was close to useless. Walking hurt like the devil, so I parked myself in a rocking chair after calling the doctor. For three weeks, I scared cats, dogs and small kids every time I tried moving. Clearing the driveway when it snowed was an unpleasant adventure and trying to find a position after going to bed, where shooting pains weren’t threatening to rip my kneecap off, became my holy grail. Looking back, it was a blessing I wasn’t elected because I was in no shape to be around civilized folks.

I’ve learned when life gives you lemons, grab the sugar, some water and start squeezing. I couldn’t do much with the sorting project in the storage building, so I began a new one in my computer room. I looked over all the paper accumulated since Elvis hit puberty and the result was four bags of shredded stuff headed to the transfer station. Next, and surprisingly less painful than anticipated, was triaging all the books I thought I’d get around to reading. Any I found available in MaineCat automatically went in the giveaway pile. So did any I’d started reading and had lost interest in. I did the same for nearly 100 unabridged audio books. Everything was listed in two text files that went out yesterday to some 20 school and public libraries interested in claiming some. Several of them said it was like Christmas because their materials budgets had been cut this year.



These aren’t my giveaways, but I could easily fill this table with them.

Next came collectibles. If something has been gathering dust for twenty years, it’s time to turn it into cash and make someone happy who wants it more than I do. Once all the material stuff was sorted, it was time to reflect. I’ve been feeling rather antsy since I stopped campaigning and realized I wanted/needed to take some of what I learned and formed opinions about during that experience and keep going. There are many areas where Maine needs people with energy and ideas. For example, we had four overdoses here in Hartland on Thanksgiving Day, with seven more in other parts of Somerset County. While the state is wrestling with how to deal with this problem, local citizen involvement will be needed to make whatever plan comes out of Augusta work. Another realization is that in a time of worker shortages, we need to encourage businesses to re-examine their policies toward younger folks with a criminal record. A friend’s daughter, who has busted her tail to stay clean and sober for tha past two years, can’t find work because she did stupid things before getting into recovery.

Another thing I’m exploring is a volunteering opportunity through the Maine State Library. They have a new wireless technology they want to roll out in all public libraries, but don’t have the manpower to do so. I told one of my friends who’s in charge of the project, that I’d like to be part of it if I wasn’t elected, so now is the time to do so.


I could be here instead of writing this blog.

You’re probably wondering what the title of this blog entry has to do with what I’ve written. The connection is there, fueled by the topic at tonight’s AA meeting I attended. We were talking about gratitude and I realized that not only was I playing with house money in terms of living far longer than I should have, given my early years of abuse, but every time I go to a meeting, I hear voices of old friends who died sober and left me words of wisdom that are still with me.

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6 Responses to Playing With House Money In A Room Full Of Ghosts

  1. Kate Flora says:

    Great column, Bro. Hope the knee gets fixed soon

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Maine is so lucky to have you, John. Hope you heal quickly.

  3. Gram says:

    Baby steps to healing, in more ways than one.

  4. Richard Cass says:

    John–Thanks for the great attitude behind this post. I concur that most of the important work getting done these days belongs to us at the local levels. Cheers . . .

  5. Amber Foxx says:

    Great post. I applaud your involvement in your community. That’s how we change the world, each of us caring for his or her small corner of it

  6. crys101497 says:

    John, Sorry to hear about the knee. I have been sober since 2005. My sister went to jail for forgery committed when she was using. She has been clean and sober for 2 years and she also experienced the problem of finding a job when she got out of jail. I got her the current job she has because I was working there at the time she was hired. Thanks for sharing your information about sobriety. I love hearing from other recovering addicts and alcoholics. I have been to a few AA meetings but am not a regular “goer” because I work the nights they have the meetings near me. I have, through the Grace of God been sober for a number of years. Thanks again for this great blog post.

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