"Hot Coffee & Cold Beer."

     THE RAVEN came into being in 1994, but it was the act of writing that came into my life at full bore in about 1983. Since the late 1970s, early 80s, I had been writing letters to family and friends back in Iowa and learned later that some of those people had kept my epic letters as keepsakes. I also learned many years later, that other people had read those letters and retold those stories to other friends and others in their families. Remarkably, one such friend was Tom, a Jamestown, ND Charlie Daniels look-a-like, I met when my wife and I walked the Pembina Trail, from Pembina, North Dakota to Saint Paul, Minnesota, beside a Holstein ox named Pum and two-wheel ox cart for Minnesota's sesquicentennial birthday in 2008. His brother-in-law told a deer hunting story I wrote, Tom discovered, every year as part of their hunting season tradition. We both were astounded to say the least.
    In college I made a name for myself in English Composition and Speech class. Being a 'student-older-than-average,' I could draw on experiences the other younger students did not have and became a hit with the teachers and fellow students who awaited my next assignment with at least a little anticipation. After an uproarious speech about house flies, during a November class during which I released a few hundred reconstituted flies into the classroom and then passed around homemade "Kill 'em Yourself," flyswatters as part of the solution, my college speech teacher, excitedly stood up, pointed at me and declared "Now he's a writer!" A proud day for me to be sure, but what did I do with it in the long term?
   I began writing as a way to cope with isolation and the inactivity related to it. Coping after divorce, during one of those first early lay-off winters in far northwestern Minnesota, I holed-up on my farm and lived a hermit's existence on a 24-hour basis. I started a journal I titled, "Hot Coffee & Cold Beer," and began writing in-depth about my life, writing everything that came to mind from depravity to beauty, hatred to admiration, dark to light, I tried to leave no stone unturned. I'd write for eight hours at a time--and these 3500+ pages were all handwritten pages--as this era was before email or computer-anything in my life; or I'd write at three in the morning, just whenever my mind was too active to sleep. It consumed me, I consumed it---and may have wrote myself sane. Maybe.
   Writing all that winter helped my state of mind although I was drinking heavily too. I didn't do drugs to speak of, although I did try to get high one evening with little success I thought. After visiting a local gentleman in a tiny apartment above a small town laundramat, he suggested we mosey up to the American Legion for a few beers, and it was there I realized, to my great concern, I was without legs nor any visible means of physical support that would get me to and from the mens room from where I, stood?
   That was my last experience with pot. But it was also during that winter that I realized that should I continue down this drinking path I'd become a serious alcoholic, a phenomenon that haunts both sides of my family tree and stalks the unsuspecting. I enjoyed beer and occasionally getting drunk with friends, but I didn't like the loss of control that joint or the abuse of alcohol inured upon me. I never cared for that. Or maybe it was the hang-overs, for I never puked afterward. I just had tremendous headaches. When I learned that the local boys, who had started drinking before they were teenagers, thought it glorious and, "Party til you puke--then drink some more!" was their mantra, I knew I was separate from them in that respect. I hated the pain and loss of control that I associated with heavy drinking. That repeated, self-induced pain, didn't make any sense to me after awhile. Those nights of not remembering when I got home or how, or the realization how I did, and the possible consequences of my actions blinded by alcohol, took me aside one painful morning or afternoon, after the fact and said, "You don't wanna be a drunk. You gotta stop this shit or it'll kill ya." 
   So I quit for awhile.
   I still enjoy a couple beers every day. But my primary addiction is the impulse, the drive, to write and is, probably, the single behavior that sets me apart from my co-workers at the toy factory- -  and probably saved my life. 

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