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Old 01-27-2012, 07:23 PM   #1
SamIam
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Drunks

It was a slow day at the Bates today, so I wrote out the following which I have been thinking about for a while. Its pretty long, but for what its worth, here it is:

The Bates Motel is conveniently located on Main Street, kitty corner to the City Park and only a few blocks from downtown. In addition, there is a liquor store right across the street from the motel, plus another liquor store about one block west on Main. This makes the Bates the first stop on many a drunkard’s progress through Cortez - especially on cold nights.

The town of Cortez and, thus the Bates Motel, is located within only a few miles from two major Native American reservations - that of the Ute and that of the Navajo. The Ute reservation is perhaps 20 miles from Cortez, making this town the closest place for Utes to come to get liquored up (no alcohol is sold on the rez). The Navajo Reservation (which the Navajo firmly call the “Navajo Nation”) is vast and encompasses land in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Navajos have the choice of going to several near-by towns for their peach brandy fix, but Cortez is always a favorite destination.

It saddens me deeply that such once proud people have been so ravaged by alcohol. In my mind, alcohol is one of the worst things that the Europeans have spread among the Native Americans. Alcohol comes in a close second to small pox contaminated blankets in my book. And alcohol takes a far worse toll on Indians than it does on white people. Native Americans seem to become addicted more quickly, the alcohol impacts them more deeply, and few ever seem to recover. They are often doomed to die an alcoholic death at a comparatively early age.

Therefore, our drunks are not just any old partiers - to the drunks who show up here, alcoholism is a profession, and they work hard at perfecting their skills for the job. This means that we often get would-be guests stumbling into the office so drunk that they can barely stand or even speak. It may take some repeating, but once the word “no” finally makes it through the ethanol barrier in their brains, they will generally lurch back out into the night without too much protest - they have many motels left to try, after all. If everything else fails, they can always pass out under a park bench and die of exposure. It happens often here.

The worst drunks that we end up dealing with are the ones who show up at the desk sober. Or they have a friend who is sober at the moment come in and sign for a room for the two of them. After signing in - as meek as lambs and as charming as they can be (sober Navajos can be extremely charming and I fall for their act every time) - it takes them approximately 5 minutes to go across the street and procure several bottle of apricot brandy. They sneak their stash into their room and drink the first bottle in a single gulp. After about two minutes, the first wave of alcohol hits them. They then spend maybe 6 to 7 minutes passing the second bottle back and forth among each other until they finish that. It takes precisely 14 minutes from checking in to achieve a state of total snockerdom.

At this point our now very drunk guest(s) realize that they out of alcohol and its still only 5:15 pm. In a state of panic, they stumble out of their room for another trip to the liquor store or else a stint of panhandling if they’ve run low on cash. Invariably, they leave their room key laying under the bed in the room. The door locks automatically, and they can’t get back in. Some have enough brain cells left to do the obvious and ask at the desk for a spare key upon their return.

Then you have the ones who go berserk when they discover they can’t get back into their room. They try to break down the door. They get crafty and try to crawl in through the bathroom windows which are located on the wall in the back of the motel where we can’t see them. Invariably they break the window plus the screen in the process. One guy tried to break in through a very small window in the laundry with his bare hands(the laundry was 12 doors down from this individual’s room). He was mean and crazy and strong. I now carry mace after my encounter with him.

Traditionally, the Ute and the Navajo were implacable enemies and some things never change. Therefore, if a Ute who has lost his room key spies a Navajo in the parking lot, this is an excuse for a brawl which only ends when the police finally arrive and one or both combatants are hauled off to the county jail to sober up and meditate upon their sins.

Some drunks actually remember their keys, go back to their room for the night, strip off all their clothing, and pass out. They are still passed out when housekeeping knocks on the door in the morning. Getting no response, housekeeping thinks the room is empty and unlocks the door. Surprise! Many drunks are still so inebriated that they can’t even walk. When this happens, we are forced to give them a free room for half a day or so before rolling them out into the street and watching them stagger off.

I have never had to deal with so many drunks in my life as I have this past year. Its depressing beyond belief. Its like watching untreated cancer patients wander around suffering the symptoms of their disease with no treatment available.

I respect the Native Americans - especially the Navajo. It breaks my heart to deal with the carnage I encounter with almost daily. I loathe my job for more reasons than one.
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Old 01-27-2012, 07:32 PM   #2
infinite monkey
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What a great piece of prose, Sam.

Absolutely some people are pre-disposed to certain things and I don't know or want to comment on those genetics but alcoholism is so prevalant among Native Americans. I don't know if this is biology or dealing with the subjugation of a people who were once so strong.

A night for you...ugh, I can't imagine.

Working where I work, I see the gamut of some messed up in one way or another people. But they're not drunk, usually. Well, I have had students who reeked of weed, and the occasional drunkish one, but this isn't the norm.

However, we did have a student sit right there talking to a representative, and said student peed in the chair and then just left like nothing happened. This happened this week. I said if she comes back and asks a question (like, have I turned in all my paperwork?) whoever is helping her should simply reply "Depends."

Thanks for this post. Sheesh, you deal with some crazy stuff. And I understand the sadness.

Hang in there!

Last edited by infinite monkey; 01-27-2012 at 07:38 PM. Reason: clarifying who peed
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:03 PM   #3
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What a horrible situation.

Alcoholism has affected my family relatively little, thank goodness. I had an aunt by marriage who became an alcoholic and died from it, but no one else has gone down that wretched path as far as I know. She was living in a community that has become notorious for heavy drinking and drug use over the past few decades. I hadn't heard anything about her for years, and then out of the blue, my mother told me she had died of cirrhosis.

I think the hardest hit communities are the more isolated reservations--the ones with the highest poverty rates, unemployment (30% in the Navajo Nation?), lack of good education, economy, etc.

There was a documentary on recently about conditions and alcoholism in Pine Ridge...incredibly sad.
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SamIam View Post
Its like watching untreated cancer patients wander around suffering the symptoms of their disease with no treatment available.
I am living proof that there is a treatment available.
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:24 PM   #5
SamIam
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Originally Posted by regular.joe View Post
I am living proof that there is a treatment available.
Good for you! Alcoholism can be extremely hard to overcome. I have been staying sober with the help of AA, but I feel AA is not so effective in different cultures. Like Bill W., the founder, was a stock broker. The co-founder was a physician. Native Americans really aren't going to relate to people like that, and there are very few who attend local AA meetings.

How did you quit, Joe? If you don't mind my asking.

@ Blue: Unemployment among the Navajo stands at 42% and 43% live below the poverty level. Visiting the Navajo Nation can feel like visiting a 3rd world country.

Last edited by SamIam; 01-27-2012 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:26 PM   #6
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@ Blue: Unemployment among the Navajo stands at 42% and 43% live below the poverty level. Visiting the Navajo Nation can feel like visiting a 3rd world country.
Yeah, I have heard that it feels like that. Never have visited myself; the closest reservation to the Navajo Nation that I've been is Dulce in the Jicarilla Nation...which was quite nice, actually.

Some time back, I'd visited the Macy reservation (sort of, but not really, in the general vicinity of Pine Ridge), and it certainly did make me feel like I was in a 3rd world country. I don't know what their alcoholism rates are like, but the poverty was bad.
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Old 01-28-2012, 07:34 AM   #7
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I watched a very enlightening programme about alcoholism on the Aboriginal settlements in Australia recently.

Again, these people had a proud culture and lived in harmony with the land as protectors with a complex social history. Now sitting in out of the way places built for them like open air prisons, cut off from their heritage and dependant on welfare. They are aimless, bored and even though the towns are officially dry, they simply walk outside the boundary and share grog in drinking paddocks.

(Note I am only talking about the alcoholic Aboriginals)

Last edited by Sundae; 01-28-2012 at 08:14 AM.
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Old 01-28-2012, 08:12 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by SamIam View Post

It saddens me deeply that such once proud people have been so ravaged by alcohol. In my mind, alcohol is one of the worst things that the Europeans have spread among the Native Americans. Alcohol comes in a close second to small pox contaminated blankets in my book. And alcohol takes a far worse toll on Indians than it does on white people. Native Americans seem to become addicted more quickly, the alcohol impacts them more deeply, and few ever seem to recover. They are often doomed to die an alcoholic death at a comparatively early age.
The people that sold booze to them knew exactly what they were doing. It was another tool of opportunism and subjugation. As another sober person, I think the change needs to come from inside the culture. I've been thinking about my own issue with booze and a lot of it had to do with adhering to beliefs that were not my own and didn't jibe with reality. My Irish Catholic baggage seems pretty damn light compared to what happened to Native Americans, they still live where they were once free, I can't imagine the pain in that.
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Old 01-28-2012, 12:18 PM   #9
SamIam
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Originally Posted by Griff View Post
The people that sold booze to them knew exactly what they were doing. It was another tool of opportunism and subjugation. As another sober person, I think the change needs to come from inside the culture. I've been thinking about my own issue with booze and a lot of it had to do with adhering to beliefs that were not my own and didn't jibe with reality. My Irish Catholic baggage seems pretty damn light compared to what happened to Native Americans, they still live where they were once free, I can't imagine the pain in that.
Alcoholism has been a continual thread through out the generations in my family. Most of my family has been unaffected, but we have had some two fisted drinkers to give the rest of the family something to gossip about. I'm alcoholic as was my father and uncle before me. Before that I had a great aunt who was alcoholic. I'm sure there are more, but my family is big on cover ups.

Interesting enough, my father (and others in our clan) blame the alcoholic streak back to my great grandmother who just so happened to be Cherokee.

On the flip side of things, Navajo culture is complex and very fascinating. I love the members of the Navajo mystic pantheon - the Twin Monster Slayers, Changing Woman who turns winter into spring, and Coyote, the trickster.

Navajo healing chants are beautiful - they are called "sings" and may last for several days. Here is a bit from the 4th day of the night chant, first introduced to the white world by writer M. Scott Momaday:


Tse`gíhi.
House made of the dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.
Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high up on it.

Hastsébaka!
Your offering I make.
I have prepared a smoke for you.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
Restore my voice for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.
Your spell remove for me.
You have taken it away for me.
Far off it has gone...

As it used to be long ago, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Happily with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.

May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.


The Night Chant is sometimes used for the cure of alcoholism, BTW.
Momaday titled one of his books "House Made of Dawn after that phrase from the Night Chant. Great book - worth a read.

Finally, here are some dancers from a pow wow I attended a while back. BTW, everyone there was sober that I could see, and the dances were beautiful and intricate. These two pics are of young women twirling around in the shawl dance. (quality sucky due to being uploaded from the Bates dinosaur of a computer)
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Old 01-28-2012, 02:31 PM   #10
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AA doesn't work for everyone.

It doesn't really work for me. I use other methods to steer clear.

Some people act like meetings are akin to vaccinations - or like taking antibiotics. They say, "I'm having a tough week so I"m gonna double up on my meetings!" like that will PREVENT them from the drink. Never prevented me from drinking if i wanted to. I have left meetings and gone directly to the liquor store.

that said, whatever works.
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Old 01-28-2012, 02:47 PM   #11
Sundae
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AA horrified the atheist in me.

Despite assurances it was open to anyone regardless of race, creed, colour or belief, it started and ended with a prayer.

I had to sit through stories about how God put a chocolate wrapper in someone's path, so they knew that thet had to sober up for their 7 year old child.
Nice one God.
Guess you were just busy for 7 years.

Or how a white feather or a penny on the street or not stepping in a dogturd or all that and everything was what mattered.
And how you can only help yourself with God's help.
And how you need to give up yourself before you can acheive self control. It's not your fault but it's all your fault.
You have to do it yourself, but you can't do it without God.

Huh.

Alcohol might sometimes speak to me.
But God certainly doesn't.
Alcohol would encourage me to go to AA meetings, just so it could laugh afterwards at how disassociated I felt.
God probably ignores me because I don't have any children to sacrifice.

I'm typed out.
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Old 01-28-2012, 03:01 PM   #12
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Substitute "higher power" for god.
Substitute Successful You for higher power.
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Old 01-28-2012, 03:08 PM   #13
Sundae
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I tried, Jim.
For someone who already has low self esteem it simply doesn't work.
I asked in two different groups if there was an atheist sponsor I could talk to and there wasn't.

It's a moot point now. My closest meeting is 20 miles away.
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Old 01-28-2012, 03:55 PM   #14
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Difference between a drunk and an alcoholic?

Alcoholics have to go to those fucking meetings!


I hear ya, sundae. That was an issue when I went to those OA meetings.

12 step programs are clearly successful, but there are other ways. abdicating responsibility for your actions and placing your faith in fsm to save you ....meh.
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:47 PM   #15
SamIam
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Difference between a drunk and an alcoholic?

Alcoholics have to go to those fucking meetings!


I hear ya, sundae. That was an issue when I went to those OA meetings.

12 step programs are clearly successful, but there are other ways. abdicating responsibility for your actions and placing your faith in fsm to save you ....meh.
You know, I agree with you and with just about everyone else who commented on AA. I could never get the god thing. I've had some interesting things happen to me that make me wonder about synchronicity and Buddhist philosophy and stuff, but god? No. I go to meetings mainly to hang out with other people who are trying to stay sober. I need that camaraderie - especially in this part of the world. I met my closest friend in this town through AA and he smokes just about the most pot I've ever seen anyone indulge in. A big AA no-no, of course. I, on the other hand, keep the local pharmacy in business with all the meds my docs have prescribed me. Also, an AA no no. Any drug whether prescribed or not, is an invention of the devil and is to be avoided at all costs. So, I guess I'm a black sheep but at least I have another black sheep to keep me company. We both don't want to drink again, so in the end, its all good.
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