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I was once told by the editor who enlisted me into these pages to “write everything as if it is the last chance ­you’ll have to write anything at all.” This ­isn’t always possible, of course, especially if ­you’re writing for money/survival — but ­it’s a good thing to keep in ­mind.

Without going for the melodramatic, I have been given point-blank and professional information that whatever I might scribble in the next 3 to 24 months will fall into this category.

The obvious question is: what is it that I need to write? My traditional answer to this question has been, “Whatever I can sell and some stuff I ­won’t be able to.” The following will be a gesture of respect — or at least a respectful response to that late ­editor’s suggestion; one of many that proved wise. I, however, promise no wisdom ­here.

Having lived (at the moment) just short of six decades by six months — that is, ­I’m 59 and one half — the above-mentioned 24 months is likely a pipe dream. With aortic stenosis on top of congestive heart failure and cardiomyopothy, I have seen multiple cardiologists shake their heads or raise their eyebrows or (more telling) look at me deadpan as if I were some medical anomaly...more precisely, a zombie: I should not be walking ­around.

So, as I prepare to exit stage left (always leaned that way) allow me to leave ­this: I have spent much time in hospitals recently — Mercy, mostly, and I need to plug Dr. Han and especially Dr. Dahm for their help and patience with an uninsured sicko. I was given an opportunity there not only to recover (as much as ­I’m going to) but find an appropriate residence after discharge. Hospitals are frightening and induce nightmares, but the nursing staff became like long-loved aunts, sisters, or very close friends. One might say this is the manner in which the dying should always be treated, but my bet is that for them, this was business as usual: their ­nature.

Kindness is what ­I’m getting at. Sound sappy? Stop reading. It is a value ­I’ve come to reflect upon in recent years as if in prescience of the end. I was immortal for years and it seemed irrelevant, a nice trait in others but beside the point in an energetic, young writer/musician like me. Now I see it as evidence of God — and ­I’m hardly a religious maniac. I attend no services, observe no rituals, really, just constantly feel a spiritual tugging I ­can’t deny. Being kind to others or someone being kind to you is an extraordinary gift that robs me of similes, metaphors, any ­comparison.

The wasting of time — and I am a master — is its own punishment. One feels it like the metaphorical (here we go) albatross around the neck. It will not go ­away.

As to what this may have to do with Fridays or “offbeat observations on the weekends,” it was a Friday night years ago that I entered Mercy with chest pains and was operated on early the next morning. I was in ICU over the weekend. As it happened, it was also on two Fridays — months apart — that I was diagnosed with CHF (congestive heart failure) and aortic stenosis a few months later. The combination is deadly. The clock is ­ticking.

And I hope that satisfies the criteria of the column. I have attempted recently to make the column less about myself and more about others and leisure/entertainment activities around town, but ­I’m afraid the latter is beyond my ken these days, and I have received more feedback than expected to the effect that my whining is more interesting on the page than the fun exploits of others. So, am I indulging myself? Very well, I am indulging ­myself.

You may, and should, marvel at the ­body’s wonderful and miraculous will to live despite what you do with it...but know there is a limit. I have reached ­mine.

Creativity, productivity, to build or make something, to bring into the world something useful, inspiring, or even of just temporary help to others is of genuine value. I have been told ­I’ve done a little of this, and I shrug it off but secretly hope it is real because it is in the cast-off light of salvation.

That last word above is an elusive one, but it is what we all seek in one way or another. The street gangster to the CEO wants absolution, benediction for what they have done. It is available. A belief of mine — no doubt influenced by the nuns and priests, but ­I’ve seen ­it.

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SDaniels June 16, 2010 @ 2:47 p.m.

What can one say to a familiar announcement of this kind?

"...or even of just temporary help to others is of genuine value. I have been told ­I’ve done a little of this..."

…as a byproduct of …what, then? For we tend to know when we have created something of genuine value for others, if we set out to do it in the first place.

Whatever the belief system, and whether you think it's going to be the keys to the kingdom or a soul-quenching relief from a life's store of fear and shame, it’s commonly accepted that we can’t expect any kind of 'absolution' if we keep score, and measure what we have done for others against what they have done for us, which leads to more resentment and spite than it does any kind of release.

On the other hand, it seems to me that our ability to care for and truly "see" other human beings through those persistent clouds of self-interest is just naturally meant to deepen and mature along with other aspects of our personalities that require flexibility, and commitment, and...love. Love for one's offspring, for example, which leads us to put our children above ourselves, and which seems to teach some people a lesson about relating to humanity that serves them well into the rest of their lives, as those children grow and go off to do what they must do. I don’t have any children, but do remember and feel the lessons of my mother, who tried as she could to instill in me a loving sense of obligation toward others, beyond the basic recognition of the right to live of anyone and anything alive.

It isn't always easy, but it can bring a sense of profound relief to have helped another human being, perhaps to then watch him carry on that good work. This is the kind of work it would be great to see more of in organized religion, though it is still out there to be found.

"Absolution" can be defined as "release from consequences, obligations, or penalties."

You have chosen to release yourself from obligations in the sense of responsibilities to oneself and others, as you have mistreated yourself, and not treated your friends as such in decades—though they have all along continued to support and encourage you—even if forced to give up on receiving anything from you in kind. Perhaps what you call a 'little' has somehow sustained a few enough to support you financially all of these years, or perhaps at some point they simply feel that loving obligation to a fellow human with whom they have laughed and played awhile, and who reminds them of what they enjoyed in their youth. Perhaps you are, in the final analysis, the one who serves to invite and invoke in others that sense of the duty of caring that still eludes you.


SDaniels June 16, 2010 @ 2:48 p.m.

Consequences and penalties? Surely you suffer them as a result of the choices you've made, but perhaps they haven't felt bad enough for you to make different choices? Cocooned in a hospital bed, surrounded by the certain care of nurses and comfortably floating on a cloud of morphine or Dilaudid? Not as bad as one imagines, if one is not in physical pain, …and I imagine you like it quite a lot, as you've chosen it over all of the hands attempting to help pull you up, and over your own reaching towards health and life, again and again. A cruel irony of that choice of self-interest over a life of love shared and finished with others.

If this truly is “it,” as Michael Jackson proclaimed (forgive me that, as you’ve—amazingly—alluded to Whitman’s multitudes) and there honestly, truly isn't any choice anymore, then I hope that your alcohol-ravaged body and mind will be soothed by those clouds of morphine, and your soul by the caring hands and hearts of Mercy's nurses--they do exist, as you appear to have found. I hope that the better memories of life “before” alcohol took you, comfort you, too.

And if this really isn’t “it,” then I look forward to your next column.


David Dodd June 16, 2010 @ 2:59 p.m.

Dearest SD: In defense of Brizz (if there is, indeed, a defense), we write what we know. I was angry, too, when I read this. But, I understand. We find ourselves both inside of our demons and surviving in spite of them. And, in the end (not so much THE end, but more a finality based on conclusion and acceptance of our fates), our demons find us, in spite of our struggles against them. Cyrano, after all, deserved a duel rather than a wooden beam. Perhaps John deserves his own duel. I don't know about you, but I would certainly grant him that.


SDaniels June 16, 2010 @ 3:13 p.m.

I suppose, refried. If only there weren't so many casualties, eh?


David Dodd June 16, 2010 @ 3:17 p.m.

Yeah. If only. I want for that part to be different, too.


SDaniels June 16, 2010 @ 5:09 p.m.

And thanks for understanding my words. It is not only anger, but sorrow, for we are witnessing the longest ending ever for a talented voice...

Hey, missin' ya. Learning curve at the job, but will write soon, if not sooner. ;)


David Dodd June 16, 2010 @ 5:13 p.m.

I know, SD. Believe me, I know. I miss you too. You're a damned smart broad ;) The Reader misses your voice.


antigeekess June 17, 2010 @ 8:09 a.m.

"I have received more feedback than expected to the effect that my whining is more interesting on the page than the fun exploits of others."

Well, really should do one should do what one does best. :)

"So, am I indulging myself? Very well, I am indulging ­myself."

This rang the same bell for me too, Daniels. But I'd say it's just structure rather than the content. If anything, I'd say Brizz is consistent. He doesn't exactly "contradict" himself much as far as his writing is concerned, right? (We could speculate on what he contains "multitudes" of.) :)

Now, as far as his actual behavior when juxtaposed with the values extolled therein -- THAT might represent a contradiction, based on your experience.

Aren't alcoholics supposed to run around apologizing to everybody, at some point?


David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 2:02 p.m.

You're an excellent voice of reason, AG. If you ever told me to go to hell, I'd probably just go without an argument ;)

I think you're right, he's going to be Brizz for however long he writes. It isn't inconsistent. I'd likely be more disappointed if he begged our pardon and praised Jesus and recovered. And I would love for the man to recover, but I would hate to see his writing suffer for that. Selfish of me, I know.


Bookwarren June 17, 2010 @ 7:23 p.m.

Hi John, Sorry for all you health problems but I'm glad to see that you are still kicking after being kicked so much. — Sam Warren


antigeekess June 17, 2010 @ 11:59 p.m.

Re #11: "If you ever told me to go to hell, I'd probably just go without an argument ;)"

Ah, a man who can follow instructions! You're indeed a rare specimen, gringo, and obviously one who's been married a long time. There's nothing more delightful to a tired woman than the hassle-free, pragmatic resignation of a man who




It's good to see you've learned something. :)

"And I would love for the man to recover, but I would hate to see his writing suffer for that. Selfish of me, I know."

Uh-huh. The best rock bands are always doing heavy drugs. Nothing worse than a critical band member going to rehab.

Bumper sticker: "Find Jesus. Lose Your Edge."


David Dodd June 18, 2010 @ 12:32 a.m.

"Bumper sticker: Find Jesus. Lose Your Edge."

Indeed. My best friend in high school, I have come to learn, drank his liver into need for a transplant. Then he found Jesus. It's the most depressing thing I've ever seen. While the shell remains, the man is gone. Makes me grateful for men like Hunter S. Thompson. Makes me search for ways to bronze my own balls in some way.

Last thing I want is for my kids to see me like I saw my old man, tied down to a hospital bed. I'm willing to die early to keep their memory of me intact. God is great, God is good, but she can't salvage the memories my children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I've told my wife on several occasions to simply crush my skull at the first signs of insanity. Hope she's up to the task.


SDaniels June 19, 2010 @ 1:36 p.m.

12-steppers going around apologizing is annoying--AG, you and I have past agreed about people who do this--our issue is further with the even bigger "ID-GO" (patent pending) they end up with after acquiring Christ consciousness, with now the added assumption that everyone they apologize to has the duty to listen and learn.

But this is worse than that, because there is the expectation that people should support this foolishness, while he lies about taking the opportunity to step up and use that footing to take care of himself.

I can't go as far as Gringo, who appears to overrate Brizz's talents as a writer, because he would forgive him ANYTHING because he writes. This is apparently how JB got into such a mess, and I'm going to drop the politesse about it.

JB often s***s out these columns; understandable--he's often out of his gourd. When I am admiring, it is because he really put something into them. Memories of childhood and the past are often gritty and lovely, though he is quickly achieving hackdom.

Getting away with no apologies? Fine.

Continuing the behaviors? Expected. Suckers might always be willing to foot his bills, so why not take advantage?

Memories of recent past? Problem, because it is quite evident that these columns are full of self-serving, manufactured crap.

Writing as though he is NOT a complete whining tool, and grandly, as though behaviors are somehow allowed him, because don't we know, he follows in the footsteps of many a great, whose ranks he shall join soon enough (as we are reminded every other month or so)?

Sucks mightily, unwarranted, --and that's what I'm flailing at, but...also expected.

I've just argued myself out of a position. Damn that existentialism...;)


SDaniels June 19, 2010 @ 2:10 p.m.

Oh, PS:

refried wrote:

"Last thing I want is for my kids to see me like I saw my old man, tied down to a hospital bed. I'm willing to die early to keep their memory of me intact."

That's a good goal in some respects (meaning the first part), gringo, but since your kids do not suffer from severe mental disease, I'm sure they have been able to take the good and reject the bad when it comes to father/son and father/daughter relations. You have likely given them a fair amount of good, no doubt, and should not have to die young in order to preserve it.

Can't you just eventually fade away as the happily, slightly demented, and much-loved pater, still clacking away in his office or discoursing forth from the dinner table or couch (or one of those Art Linkletter chairs)? :)


David Dodd June 19, 2010 @ 2:37 p.m.

Ah, SD, people on both sides of my family do nothing half-assed. It won't be a case of "slightly demented". While both grandfathers died relatively young, one grandmother went nuts at about 50. The other held out into her seventies, but in the end, she was playing with dolls. I remain hopeful that this malady will skip a generation, especially since I've previously given away my GI-Joes to Goodwill.

But you have to understand, one grandmother didn't even know who I was for the last twenty years of her life. So, some of it is selfish; I don't want to know what that feels like, not knowing my grandchildren.

So far as John, I reckon you're right, I'm willing to put up with some hack in hopes of something brilliant. I'm hopelessly flawed that way, probably from my own writing. I offer no excuses for that, nor apologies, but I'm grateful that you understand it. It's a case of faulty wiring, and at almost 50, undoing this mess in my head isn't a realistic notion ;)


SDaniels June 19, 2010 @ 4:35 p.m.

Dear, I completely understand. There are people in my family who are anxious about whether or not some strain of (usually undiagnosed but all too real) dementia seen in a grandparent and an uncle or an aunt, and then there are tales told of great grands, etc. There is the dementia, and there is the depression, and on my family blueprint, it looks like a game of hopscotch.

I cared for my grandmother through my early years of college, and it was hard not being able to guess whether or not she would know me when I came home from class each day, or what the reigning mood would be.

But if we are playing with dolls, dear gringo, let us. That hopefully means someone who cares is still around to make us feel comfortable and happy. For those of us who chose not to have children, perhaps our worst fear is being broke and vulnerable, left at the mercy of others' children, or to the state.

Something tells me that this will not happen to you. You'll get that property fixed up and you'll loll on your hammock, watching grandchildren play in the surf, while some lovely sunkissed little senor or senorita of your loins once removed brings Papa his next Tecate. And so the years will pass...

But for now? For chrissake, gringo, you are younger than my husband!

And for what it's worth, I will cherish the moments of lucidity my grandmother gave us at the end of a long battle with dementia, and when she passed on, she was holding a doll, soothing it, cradling it, stroking and welcoming life, taking it with her as she crossed over.


SDaniels June 19, 2010 @ 4:38 p.m.

And now this is AG's cue, to come in and break the spell with some salty observation...


David Dodd June 19, 2010 @ 11:12 p.m.

I will confess that my son bought my a twelve pack of Tecate for my birthday. I loved it. I don't know what's to become of me when it's my time to punch the clock. It has never escaped my view that the possibility exists I could get hit by a bus tomorrow morning. Anything could happen. I could live to be eighty. Who knows?

One thing that John has going for him, is that apparently he still has his mind. My only unsolicited advice for him would be two-fold: Go see your son, often, constantly, leave him that memory of you that he can take with him wherever he goes. And write. Just because you still can. In all of this, take nothing from no one, and leave them something they will always remember you by. It is the most human of things you can possibly do.


NotQuiteADiva June 20, 2010 @ 4:07 p.m.

I’m liking Refried more and more as time goes by, but apparently SD thinks you can critique death... Dang-it! SD gave me a C- on my Final-Days essay; I won’t be able to get into an Ivy League afterlife now!

Legacy – that’s what this whole sad thing has me thinking about… It is a very human thing to want to leave a legacy, it seems. Why this is I’m not sure; something to do with the quest for immortality I guess. Some few want to make their mark on the word by either becoming famous/infamous or erecting some lasting monument in some way. Most people, however; consider their children to be their legacy, even though they will most likely be forgotten after only one generation. Yet, for many creative people, children are secondary to leaving an artistic legacy, a masterpiece, a magnum opus that will influence people and be talked about for decades, even centuries to come. I bet you can all name a half-dozen masterpieces right off the top of your head that were created centuries ago, but still remain pertinent and whose creators are iconic names.

It is my belief that inside every creative person there is a masterpiece yearning to see daylight, yet they seldom do. Why? Simply because giving birth to a great work is an extraordinarily difficult thing. But you can feel it in there, can’t you? Scratching and tickling, aching to be born… We put it off, don’t we? We can always create that masterpiece later when we’re ready, yes? Well, that’s fine when you’re young, but when you find yourself passing that mark when there’s more life behind you than in front of you, you begin to feel that tickling more and more. Yet we still manage to put it off, the end is always a nebulous thing. There is always more time…

However, our hero (protagonist) finds his days literally numbered. No longer is his end a fuzzy vague “something” on the horizon, now it is a black line, a precipice. He hurtles toward it now, down the river of life on his makeshift raft, he can see the misting spray, he can hear the roar of falling water…

If you cannot sympathize with that, then show some respect for the final days of a fellow artist, and if you cannot find that in yourself, then I ask you to summon up a few shreds of forbearance for those of us who appreciate our hero’s work.


MsGrant June 20, 2010 @ 9:47 p.m.

Puhleeezze. "He hurtles toward it now, down the river of life on his makeshift raft, he can see the misting spray, he can hear the roar of falling water… "

Schlock. You cannot be serious.


MsGrant June 22, 2010 @ 6:42 p.m.

"Yet, for many creative people, children are secondary to leaving an artistic legacy"

Oh, god, how did I miss this one? Sylvia Plath with her head in an oven while her children were sequestered in another room with a towel shoved under the door? At least she was mad and not just a selfish alcoholic. And she did not stretch it out over a length of time that allowed dilusional people to continually come to her defense while she only threatened to die.


EricBlair June 22, 2010 @ 11:25 p.m.

Since I have no way to contact John, and he might read this, please forgive this message...

I checked to see if JB wrote another essay as the weeks passed. Nothing. Neil Young's lyrics came to mind.

I went to two conferences in San Diego, and worried that I would see John, destitute, in the Gaslamp. Magical thinking, given the size of and sprawl of San Diego. There were certainly men and women lost in madness on the streets, as I used to see in the Gaslamp when I lived in San Diego. I saw Forgotten Men and Forgotten Women walking around, in and out of reality, but no John.

Back home, I finally stopped checking for John's essays, thinking the worst, and hearing from those who had tried to host and help him---and concluded that John's demons had long overpowered him, and finished their task.

Yes, there is ownership involved, but that doesn't erase the demons.

Imagine my happiness to find (even a few days late), that John posted a new essay on my very birthday, like a present of sorts to me, since I have long worried about John and have not heard from him directly in almost two years. Yes, there is some self pity. And some sea-scent of T.S. Eliot's rolled up trousers to match Walt Whitman's bickering satellites of contradiction. But it was John's voice on the page.

Still, it was a welcome echo of the man who had been my friend for a couple of decades, and stood by me (quite a different kind of person than JB) resolutely before the alcohol dissolved most of his persona.


EricBlair June 22, 2010 @ 11:26 p.m.

And Part II---apologies again...

John, we used to talk about my depressing favorite philosopher, Marcus Aurelius. And the Stoic-Emperor had a quotation made for you:

"Execute every act of thy life as though it were thy last."

Marcus Aurelius wrote that to himself, in the grip of tuberculosis on some German marsh---Death's cold hand trying to find purchase on his shoulder. And despite the Roman Hallmark Card nature of the quote, it is very true.

Every day is a gift, a fresh start. And every day might the last for any of us, not just those with dire medical conditions.

I want you to know, John (if you are reading this), that I have always valued your friendship, and always believed in your potential to be a good man, no matter how far short you felt (or others felt) you were of that goal. And you remain such a fine writer. I know you are no longer interested in trying to crawl up out of the dark, and I accept that. So let me remind you again---no matter the past few years---of the laughter and comradeship your brought to my life. It mattered, and it is valued, no matter what.

Most of all, John, thank you for the birthday present of at least this one column. I will sing the "Doiley" song you wrote to laugh, and remember your kind and helpful words for the piece of fiction I ever wrote, to feel serious.

And I will have my sons say a prayer for you tomorrow, and it doesn't matter if there is no God. I will join them in prayer on your behalf, if you don't mind. There is always redemption. Jung's words come to mind: "Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit."

Thinking of you, John, and wishing you any happiness you care to accept. You were, and are, like an older brother to me.


cocoinclairemont June 23, 2010 @ 7:29 a.m.

You never cease to bring me to tears John Brizzolara.

As I was reading the comments written by the readers of your piece, I was saddened by some of the words.

Yes, you may have f'd up much in your life. Who the heck hasn't?

Your writing has caused me to pause and think and confront and question and cry and laugh......Your writing has been real. Your writing has been honest.

You made an impact, at least on my life. You have mattered. Thank you John Brizzolara.


MsGrant June 23, 2010 @ 11:15 a.m.

Lest you all think I am some horrible monster, I do NOT want John B to die. I have been reading his writing for as long as I have been in San Diego. I want him to stop drinking. I know it may be too late, but there is always hope. I hate alcoholism. Some who know me better know that I have a sister who has ruined her life because of it. She is having surgery today for breast cancer. We do not know how invasive it is. She let it go because she was too drunk to take care of herself. She has two daughters. We are all scared to death. This is what happens. Alcohol steals, robs and betrays everyone who has the misfortune of stepping in its awful path, even if you are not the one doing the drinking. I am sorry about John's health. I am sad that so many lives are destroyed from the one decision that every alcoholic makes every day when they get up. Today - do I drink or do I not? Many may argue that they have no choice. I have to strongly disagree with that. Life is hard, and sometimes it sucks, but strength and personal responsibility prevent the rest of us from careening off the tracks whenever things get a little too tough. My sister, like John, had many, many people help her and she still chose to drink. I am sorry if I sounded like a horrible person. This hit too close to home.


EricBlair June 23, 2010 @ 11:45 a.m.

Most people posting here, MsGrant, do not give John a "pass" on his drinking. In many ways, neither does John. It's just that he gave up. Any addict will tell you staying clean is difficult, and it is easier to give in...and that is what happened.

None of that takes away from John's skill as a writer, nor from his value to his friends. Yes, he damaged many friendships.

But I will remember a different John, and I hope that others can, too. Your comment about what alcoholism steals is apt.

My thoughts are with you and your family as they face their ongoing crisis.


CuddleFish June 23, 2010 @ 11:48 a.m.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and family, MsG.


nan shartel June 23, 2010 @ 12:18 p.m.

i came here to late to get to know John or his writing..i know i was asked to e-mail him a get "well soon card" early on from a couple of people who thought highly of his talent and like him as a human being (apparently even tho he was an alcoholic)

John is just one of many talented writers who fueled their talent with alcohol including Ernest Hemingway,William Faulkner, F Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London, Jack Kerouac, and many many others

that John is writhing in the agony of his impending doom cause by his alcohol use isn't unusual

anyone facing a finite end might be...regardless of the cause...self inflicted or otherwise

from what John tells us here he is now more or less a cardiac cripple cause by alcoholism...it could have been cirrhosis of the liver or alcohol induced dementia

that John didn't care enough about anything or anyone including himself when it came to NOT taking that next drink is a shame

any and all of else could say "THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I"

so altho i don't know u John i'd like to say


it would be easy to say u created it for urself...because of course u did...but I've never walked in ur shoes...never felt the things u felt that made drinking urself to death OK

apparently u have beauty...if u hadn't so many here wouldn't be so angry u've done this to urself

may the tomorrows u have left be pleasant and redemptive ones...may those who really love wish u a fond farewell and let u know how much u'll be missed...drunk or sober


nan shartel June 23, 2010 @ 12:22 p.m.

Grantie..i understand sweetheart...my middle son was an alcoholic for 20 years..he's now 6 years sober...but my daughter died drunk...in an accident that probably wouldn't have happened if she'd been sober

i 2 hold ur family up to the Universe 2...blessings...nan


MsGrant June 23, 2010 @ 1:26 p.m.

I guess what I am getting at is how many of John's friends glamorize his drinking, as if that is part of his persona and his appeal. Writers drink - but what came first? The alcohol or the writing? A writer's life can be lonely and isolated. Drinking and great writing have always been linked. I understand the link to creativity and substance abuse, but not all creative people are alcoholics. I wonder - if John were not a writer, would his friends be so quick to champion him?

You know, Eric, when you say that it's easier to give in and staying clean is difficult and that none of that takes away from his skill as a writer nor his value as a friend but then go on to say that he damaged many friendships, I have to say that you are defending some pretty bad behavior. It is a slap in the face to all the men and women who everyday fight the cravings for alcohol and manage their lives (and the ones who died trying) and don't leave sons without fathers and mothers without daughters. And friends without friends. I'll even go so far as to say that there are probably plenty of writers out there that manage to do their jobs without succumbing to what has traditionally been expected, and even encouraged, of them.

As much as I like John and admire his talent, never do you ever hear him so much as say he is sorry for how his actions affected others. Don't you think that many lives may have been made easier if he had not taken the "easier" route of addiction rather than the more difficult choice of sobriety? When people say, well, he is only hurting himself, they could not be more wrong. I know how hard it is to quit things that are destroying your life. Most people come to that decision when theirs is not the only life being negatively affected. Only the truly selfish refuse. Selfish in the manner that rather than endure the discomfort that sobriety brings to the alcoholic, they instead chose to make themselves more comfortable at the cost of the lives around them and the complete devastation their choice brings. Again, I know that it is almost impossible for certain people to stop drinking. My sister was offered an extensive rehab. She refused and instead chose drinking. I do not defend this choice. I am not insensitive. When I look at her kids and see the fright in their eyes, I cannot condone anymore or feel the usual sympathy I had for the actions of alcoholics and addicts. Asking others to remember a different John is difficult at best when you are exposed to the horrors of this disease up close and personal. You may be a friend, but I seriously doubt your life has been negatively impacted on a daily basis over his choices. Otherwise I would not think you, and he, would be so cavalier with regard to his inability to at least, at this point, take some responsibility for his actions. It is the decent thing to do, especially when you profess to die by your own hand.


EricBlair June 23, 2010 @ 2:23 p.m.

Um. MsGrant, I and several people who post regularly about John have certainly had some direct experience with his shortcomings, as well as his positive aspects.

And I have never defended anyone's alcoholic behavior, nor glamorized such behavior. And in particular, I have long pointed out that John's actions damage far more than himself. I think you do me a disservice by claiming otherwise, with all due respect.

I watched someone I thought of as a brother self-destruct in slow motion, with that destruction spreading outward, like ricochets. And I never have given John a "pass," as you appear to presume. I just don't see the point in continually reminding him that he should act differently. Criticizing children continually seldom works; why would it for a man sixty years old? Should John "own" his actions? Of course. Should he apologize to people he has hurt? Yes. But whether he does or does not is something I have no control over. Only he does.

I don't think alcoholism is glamorous, or associated with creativity. I knew John before he dissolved in the liquor. I wish you had, in fact.

And for what it is worth, my mother's father and brother died of the stuff. Her brother lay dead in a flophouse for a week before anyone found him. I saw the effects of all this on my grandmother and my mother at the time, and to this day.

I have never given alcoholics a pass on their behavior, any more than you have.

Again, my best wishes on your own family challenges. All anyone can do is their best. And as you say, to own what they do---bad and good. And everyone's road has its own set of painful potholes.


MsGrant June 23, 2010 @ 2:55 p.m.

I'm sorry, Eric, I did not mean to presume. No disservice intended, although implied. I suppose my current situation with my sister has me oversensitive to this issue, because I do not normally find myself so outspoken about this particular subject, in particular, I have been known to speak of alcohol fondly in previous blogs and posts. But don't you find yourself angry at John, ever? I am furious with my sister for not getting treatment when she first discovered her tumor and putting her family through this. I have a hard time with the senselessness of a life shortened by one's own deeds. Maybe this is what I am trying to reconcile. Turning that anger into an emotion more useful. I know it serves no useful purpose. I don't know John well, but his columns always speak to me and I look forward to them. It is always the first page I go to. I remember when he changed his focus to actually Friday events and I thought "what the hell is the Reader making him do?" His attempts were pretty funny. You could read between the lines. I don't know. I am probably not mature enough to come to grips with the finite nature of this blog. I was glad to see a new one today.


SDaniels June 23, 2010 @ 3:28 p.m.

re: #20:

"but apparently SD thinks you can critique death..."


NQAD, I am not responsible for whether you love or hate me this week, or whether refried's N[as]DAQ has gone down while mine has up; I am also not responsible for whether or not you understood a word of what I wrote.

And as it seems pretty well clear that what really interests you, aside from Wordsworth impressions,is masturbation and hero-worship, I'm not going to bother to put it in other words for ya.


MsGrant June 23, 2010 @ 3:48 p.m.

Oh, and thanks nan and cf. Nan, I'm sorry about your daughter. I am happy to hear your son is doing well.


EricBlair June 23, 2010 @ 3:59 p.m.

"But don't you find yourself angry at John, ever?" writes MsGrant.

Oh, my yes. But I also love him like a brother.

I am reminded a little of the five stages of death meme. The order runs: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Just because I am moving from depression to acceptance over John's choices does not mean that I haven't been angry.


NotQuiteADiva June 23, 2010 @ 6:49 p.m.

I owe an apology to SD and MSG. My comment to SD was a very poor attempt at humor. To MSG, well I feel bad that she hated my shlocky writing so much she went back and read it twice… Anyway, I also wanted to thank you both as you gave me a harsh reminder of why I need to stop posting comments on the internet. Hopefully this time I will stay away for good. And there was much rejoicing!

By the way, I think you are both excellent writers and I hope you keep it up.

(Feel free to B-slap me if I ever show my face in here again.)


MsGrant June 23, 2010 @ 8:15 p.m.

"If a man could wail his own dirge before he dies, he'd never finish."


Antigone (442 BC), by Sophocles


David Dodd June 24, 2010 @ 12:15 a.m.

NQAD: I think you reacted spontaneously, it happens to everyone. I don't think you should stop commenting based on this one emotional and heartfelt defense of a writer you obviously adore. I almost commented on it several times, and stopped myself, I'm quick to defend people, especially writers. Probably foolishly at times. I figured that SD could come say what's on her own mind.

The thing is, SD hosted John when he was on his ass, gave him shelter, food, clothing, and a bed. John could've been a better guest. I'm certain John was every bit as eloquent as is his writing, but there were a few issues involved beyond the scope of merely waiting out an opportunity to get himself some help. And in John's defense, I am far worse; I would certainly have refused the charity and denied my illnesses. I do this constantly, in many ways. I will do it again, too.

I reckon my point is that often, love for another human being comes in words that are harsh, honest, and sometimes about as easy to swallow as a big spoon of castor oil. SD and Grant love the man more than I do. I am more selfish; I love his words. He isn't Hemingway, but he is John Brizzolara. And John Brizzolara is San Diego. And you can go to any story and blog in the Reader and take note that no one wants to watch San Diego destroy itself. Bauder, Lickona, Potter, Grimm, Gropen, Hargrove; really that is a central theme here.

As much as I've insisted that these last few columns by Brizzolara are quite true to his current nature, I would also venture that even the harshest of comments are also true to theirs. It isn't that people feel differently about Brizz, it's that people react differently about what he could become, and perhaps, what he has become. In other words, from what he was when I discovered his writing, to what it has become now, to what it could be given the nature of these events, people are bound to comment in different ways. In fact, I hope that everyone who comments about John recognizes this. In all likelihood, it's what attracted him to writing in the first place, in that no two people read a story in quite the same way.


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