Tomorrow  

Two days ago, “Rose” barely made it up my steps. Her legs buckled as she stepped onto the deck. She swung the bag she was carrying off her shoulders and it landed with a thud against the wooden deck. 
 

“I just don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m so tired and scared out here. Suddenly I’m all alone.”

She wiped  the tears off of her boney face. She was losing weight again. When she was off the streets last year, she was eating and she was almost looking healthy when her life began to unravel.

Harmony House got her off the street after a tough year on the streets. Heroin and meth took her down slowly the last decade. 
 

After she got the apartment, things began to look up.  But she began using again. Her apartment was always busy and her and her family was screaming….a lot. The neighbors began to complain. 
 

Then last fall, things really began to get worse….she came home to find out her brother found their mother dead in their bathroom. The death was ruled an overdose. 
 

The roads of people got worse. Rose had too big of a heart to turn people away. She had been on the street and knew how it felt to have nowhere to go. 
 

Then this Summer…she arrived at rock bottom. She lost her apartment and her cousin the same week. Her cousin had always been there for her. She could count on her for a meal or to get out of the cold when things got bad. 
 

Her cousin was also lost to drug use. Her death rocked Rose immensely. 
 

Two weeks later her brother was arrested. His bail for all of his charges was $96,000. Rose says he is facing thirty years. Rose cries, “He was all I had left. He always had my back. Without him, I am out here all alone.”

I know people have to be ready for recovery. She has been stopping by when she sees me on the deck. I quietly remind her there is a way out.  She looks at me and wipes away a tear. She says, “I know. Winter will be here soon. I need get into recovery.”  She stares down on Fourth Avenue. Looking into the distance she adds, “Maybe tomorrow.”

Tonight, I stand on my deck looking over 4th Avenue  After hitting 90 degrees yesterday, there is a chill in the wind tonight  it is the first day of Fall and the cold breeze reminds us Winter will soon be here  

i haven’t seen Rose in two days  I pray that yesterday or today was tomorrow  

 


 

 

Rocks 

Last weekend was my 59th birthday. AJ Dawg and I hit The Mothman Festival early and scrambled around Huntington a bit. We then settled in to face the evening. 
 

A dark night was facing me. It was going to be a night of sitting in my chair waiting on my best friend and partner to walk through the door. She wasn’t going to come though…she passed away a couple of weeks ago. 
 

when she passed, another great female friend of mine messaged me her condolences  she said I was Betty’s rock Betty knew for over thirty years that no matter what I’d be there for her  

Those Words meant much to me  I’ve played them over and over in my mind  

With the darkness closing in on my birthday, out  of nowhere I got a message on Facebook. It was from another great friend from the past. We hadn’t drank a beer together in over ten years. But there was a time 25 years ago that if you saw one of us….you saw the other one. 
 

Steve and I survived three companies together. We’ve been to Myrtle Beach, Canada, and even a Slayer concert in Columbus. 
 

He didn’t let me give any excuses. He was out front. He was buying me a beer. 
 

He saved me from the dark night that was coming for me. 
 

There are people we meet in our lives. Some people we think are our friends. We meet them, work with them, live next to them…but years later we barely recall their names and shoot them a casual wave in passing on the street. 
 

Then there are the rocks. The friends that are there and may not even realize. 
 

The evening Betty passed, I got a call out of the blue. It was Damon from Cumberland, Md. We were best friends from 70 to 76. We have seen each other a handful of times over the years. The last time was twenty years ago. He doesn’t have Facebook so we rarely talked. 
 

He was passing through Huntington on his way from Kentucky to Maryland. He had no idea what the night would hold for me. But he was there to give me strength. It was like someone somewhere knew. It was like he was sent there. 
 

I have met a lot of people in my life. Many people I have called friends. I am very fortunate to have rocks. Rocks like Jeff, Tim, and Jimmie. Friends of over 50 years. I don’t see them a lot but they are there. John from way down in North Carolina called me both when Betty died and on my birthday. There are some solid rocks in my life. I don’t want to slight anyone by leaving a name out.
 

They are there. I am here too. For if they truly need me….I will be there.  
 

More than friends…..rocks. 

9/11 

GATOR REFLECTIONS  
“911” 

It was September 11, 2001.  I was a route sales supervisor for Mister Bee Potato Chips.  I was training a new route salesman.  I just remember  his name was Rick. We walked into Kanaha City Kroger and everyone was listening in the backroom on the radio.  

There was complete silence in the back room. I heard New York mentioned on the radio. This made me nervous because my brother Gary lived my by the United Nations Building and worked close to The Twin Towers.  

I looked at the back door receiver. “What happened?”  I asked.  

He kept looking at the radio. “A plane hit one of the Twin Towers buildings.  

I tried to call my brother and could not get ahold of him. We did not have a radio in the truck.   

Our next stop was Marmet Kroger.  Again, Kroger employees were listening.  By then, it was obvious it was terrorism.  As we continued on our route, each store got emptier and quieter and eventually they started shutting down. It was a weird day I'll never forget and it links me forever with Mister Bee. 

I was talking to my mom and my friend Becky on the phone as the day unfolded.  It took a couple of hours for my mom to make contact with my brother. 

That evening was the strangest evening ever...even the major television networks signed off of the air.  The country was scared and sad...but it pulled us together as a nation.  Even though it broke our hearts, it was the single most unifying event I had ever seen. 

For several nights, people did not go out.  They stayed at home with their families and were traditional families again.  I do not think it was as much fright as just realizing what was important.  It made us remember our good old American values as God, family, and work. 

I sat over at the old Davis' Place in Huntington a few nights because my friend Becky was a bartender there.  There were very few customers do I stayed there with her. 

It was the saddest time in our country in my lifetime but it brought us together and brought back patriotism.  We had American pride. 

It is now twenty-one years later. The world is a very dangerous place. At times it seems like World War 3 is just ahead.  

We are divided by several factors….the last few years have been hard.  

But if someone fires a missile  our way or attacks our fellow Americans……..The United States will unite and come together. We do some fighting amongst ourselves but when it matters most….The United States of America stands together.

The change 


Living in a valley of death, really gets me down….. 

Tonight AJ Dawg and I were sitting outside of Jimmy John’s. This muscular long black haired man with a long dark beard walked up to me.  

He said, “Are you Bre’s dad?”  I stared at him with my mind backtracking quickly. I had no clue who he was.  

He told me his name. I was stunned. He was a little teenager with short-hair when we lived on Scott Drive  in Proctorville.  

He came over and saw Bre a lot when Bre was there after my mom died in 2014. His dad even was interested in buying our house when we sold it.  

He, like some of the kids Bre ran with, struggled with drugs at the time. They were good kids from good homes but OxyContin was spreading quickly.  

He offered his condolences on Betty dying. I was so proud of him and happy to see he made it out of that alive and has a family, house, and good home.  

There were time I resented some of those kids because I knew they were young and doing drugs.  

It’s been about 12 years but I just wanted to hug him and tell him I am proud of him.  

So many of those kid’s didn’t make out. That period of 2008 was a hard time for kids to grow up. It is now, too.  

I hadn’t thought of that boy in several years. For him any of his friends that struggled and beat drugs that see this…… Please know I’m proud of. I know very little about addiction back then.  

Watching the struggling then inspired to learn more about it and to help people.  

I read many mean things today on my threads about Narcan. You see, people like the man I saw tonight have struggled with drugs. He didn’t deserve to die and I don’t think anyone does.  

He walked through the storm and came out alive. He is someone’s father and husband. People helped him. Now, he is a good man.  

There are some that say “let them die.”  If they realized that so many of the successful people they know that were once “them”, they wouldn’t say that.  

If you see this ——-. Congratulations. I am proud of you.  

I am sure it doesn’t bother him that Narcan is given out free. Because he totally knows that people DO change.

Beauty 

The sky was a beautiful light blue with streaks of amber and gray.  

When things look bad and I feel like quitting, something magical appears.  

Something in nature steps forward or beauty appears in the sky.  

A message from above that someone is above us. They are watching down and they want us to know that everything will be alright.  

Someone or something is up there.  They don’t show themselves but they send us a sign.  

Working in mental health, I talk to people everyday who are struggling.  Despair and gloom hangs over them.  We open their eyes to beauty. Teach them skills to find the rainbow in the darkness.  

Death has been around me lately. At times it is overwhelming….at times I feel I will be swallowed by the shadows.  

Out of nowhere, there will be a sign. A reason to have faith…..a reason to keep putting one foot after another.  

And that’s why we keep plodding ahead…moving forward. After the harshest of storms come the most exotic rainbows.   So keep moving ahead even when it hurts….and look to the sky….someone might be sending you a sign that everything is going to be alright.
 

Cruising  

GATOR REFLECTIONS  

They cruised 4th Avenue like it was 1988. Chairs were lined up. People stood against cars. The rain couldn’t even stop them.  

There were Camaro, Chevelles, Mustangs, old trucks, hot rods and even a couple of “Bandit’s” black Trans Ams and Herbie the Volkswagen Love Bug.  

Old friends came from all over. Hugs and handshakes from the 80s and COVID era fist bumps filled the air. Engines revved and stories and legends of old times were spread.  

It was a reunion from innocent times. Cruise Avenue….the 80’s…when gas was 99 cents a gallon and we had big hair.  

Of course there was always cars on Cruise Avenue, but Cruise Avenue wasn’t always about cars. It was a place to see friends and meet new friends. There was music, beer, and yes….cars.  

But mostly Cruise Avenue was about friends. It was people taking a break from school, work, or their routine lives and celebrating friendship.  

In the 80s, we socialized in many places. There was the boat docks and old parking lots. My Big Bear buddies and I drank beer in Big Bear’s parking lots.  

Wherever friends could meet…we did. Times have changed, because of the COVID pandemic and drug epidemic, the internet is safer. Social media is our new Cruise Avenue.  

Don’t get me wrong….Cruise Avenue wasn’t the Yellowbrick Road. There were fights, robberies, and a friend of mine got raped. But, today……no…. Today, Cruise Avenue couldn’t exist on a weekly basis.  

But, Huntington has the right idea. The Pullman Square Concerts, 9th Street Live, and events at Ritter Park and Heritage Station are good attempts to get people out of their houses and social media and do some some good old fashioned socializing. Face to face….. 

Kudos to Senator Maynard, Mayor Steve, and everyone who worked to get everyone together.  

We need more face to face conversations. We need more handshakes and fist bumps. We certainly need more hugs.

The Healing Things 

No one ever fully recovers from a death. A great loss is carried with us the rest of our lives. We do heal enough to go on with our lives, though. 
 

A woman died last week, that most people didn’t think much of when they saw her. Those who really knew her knew they were blessed. That is usually the way it is with death. People die everyday and take with them a quiet greatness that many will ever knew. 
 

We have to heal. We have to recover. Healing is a long process. We all have our ways of dealing with grief….both good and bad. 
 

Healing is always best done with love. I saw healing things around me this weekend…both big and small. 
 

I saw the growth of a young lady. A girl who just a few years ago struggled with addiction. In the face of her mother’s death to addiction she blossomed into a strong women. 
 

She planned the funeral and is finding ways to pay for the expense. She made sure her brother and sister were safe. They are both battling addiction themselves. She made sure they didn’t relapse. 
 

with her whole world crumbling, she put on a brave face and showed strength to those around her. She sat with those hurting and felt her grief even though she had her own grief. 
 

Then, there was her sister….this young lady laid on a by for two weeks just weeks ago with the same illnesses that killed her mother. She went through 28 days at OVP and is now in a recovery home 2 and a half hours. 
 

She made the difficult but correct decision to watch the service on zoom. Her instinct was to be there but she wisely recognized her recovery was not strong enough. Handling the grief head on and being back in the environment she did drugs in put her at risk. She wisely admitted, “ If I come back, I will do meth.”

The son went to the funeral but made the wise choice to return and continue his rehab. 
 

I saw small things that help healing so much. There were beautiful testaments posted about Betty’s inner beauty that few knew. A young girl posted how she would have froze or starved if it wasn’t for Betty’s beauty. 
 

There was a beautiful effort from a nice lady who I only knew from online. The woman suffers from Sleroderma and suffers daily pain. She heard I was sick and didn’t feel well and surprised me with chicken noodle soup, Gatorade, and treats for AJ Dawg. 
 

Seeing people step up when other people are experiencing sorrow gives me hope for us all. I realize all we have is each other and we can lose everything else so quick. 
 

On the day of her funeral, Gator Haters who hang on every word tried to attack me online while they thought I was down hoping I was vulnerable.  The strength of those suffering around me and the kindness of people who barely know me kept me strong and I fended them off easily. 
 

As I walked Downtown, people I only know from my writing, offered me sincere condolences and told me they love my writing. 

And folks that is how love heals. We go on because love let’s us lean on it when stepping forward is tough. 
 

And when I see pain….I too will quietly step up and offer a shoulder..

And folks….that is how we get through this thing called life together. 
 

 

Not Goodbye 

Betty will be buried today. Her family and friends will say goodbye out 775 in Proctorville where she spent a lot of her younger days. She will be laid to rest next to family in Miller, Ohio.  

This is one of those few times that I am lost for words. She had her issues. Addiction changed her and ultimately broke her.  

But,God as my witness, I never met a kinder soul in the 35 years I knew her.  She was an addict but she was better than me. She couldn’t stand to see someone suffer. She hated fights and violence.  

When it was cold, she let her homeless friends in. She would give her last food to the hungry. She would give what little she had to those in need.  

She judged no one.  

She was a beautiful woman until the drugs wore her down. She had been in seven rehabs and was waiting on a bed when she died.  

She didn’t die of overdose. The drugs wore down her organs over time. Her lungs, liver, kidneys, and other parts were giving out.  

Her body had almost forty years of abuse. She started drinking as a teenager. She followed the gateway drugs all the way to fentanyl. Alcohol, Xanax, Cocaine, Percocets….then finally OxyContin to Heroin to Fentanyl and Meth along the way. She had pain that would never cease.  

I was one of the few that knew the beauty of her soul. I knew the kindness the pain and addiction hid. I could never give up on her.  

Now….of course…it is over.  

She has taught me a lot. The grace she hid from many inspires.  

To many of you, she was a junkie.  
To me…she was and will be forever, my inspiration for getting drugs off the street.  

I couldn’t save Betty….in fact in the end, I was an enabler as I just couldn’t stand to see her in pain.  

But, she is the reason I strive to be better. I strive to share the kindness that so few realized was in her.  

This isn’t goodbye, Betty. I will carry your kindness in me forever…for you taught me so much. 

The picture was from 2008. I carry it in my wallet.

The Ride? 

GATOR REFLECTIONS  

Every morning AJ Dawg and I have the ritual of going to Speedway on Hal Greer. I get a Little Debbie and a drink and AJ gets a glass of ice water and ham, Vienna Saussages, or beef jerky. We have breakfast…but more importantly, we watch.  

She was a woman in her upper forties or fifties. She walked up to a man getting in his truck. “Sir, can you drop me off on 9th Avenue?  It is just a few blocks but my feet hurt.” 

The man politely declined. She was noticeably frustrated and hurt. She didn’t realize what she was asking. She thought she was asking for a ride.  

She went and leaned against the wall by the ice machine smoking a cigarette until another man came out. She tried the same line. She got the same results.  

And that’s the world we live in. Two different thoughts.  

She is standing there thinking. “Why won’t anyone help me?  I just want a ride three blocks. “.  

She doesn’t see the whole picture.  

Then, there are the two men. They do not have ill will against her. They would probably be happy to help in other ways. But a ride, although to some people seems like nothing, is a big deal. People get robbed, people scream rape… people even get their pictures taken with another woman in their car and have it posted online.  

AJ and I stood against the wall. I know she just didn’t understand but sometimes it is just easier to walk the three blocks even if your feet hurt. It’s a different world now.  Things are just different these days.

Saying Goodbye  


I was 25 when I met her. Just a young, dumb boy with a lot to learn. Over the next 34 years I would learn so much. She believed in me. She taught me to believe in myself.  

She helped me say goodbye to my mom and dad. Now, as I sit in her room with her daughter Bre…it is time to say goodbye to Betty.  

I don’t know if it’s really ever goodbye. My mom and dad are still in my heart. Betty will too.  

I walked into her room tonight at 9. She looked at me scared. She said , “ Please help me.”  

I asked “ What’s wrong?” 

She said, “I can’t breathe.”  I got the nurses. The long goodbye began.  

Bre came and that point I had to go as only one person allowed up after visiting hours. I went home and somehow got to sleep. After 3, the phone rang. The last time my phone rang was five years ago. It was Brady’s daughter telling me my friend and writing partner, the Pig, had passed.  

Phone calls at 3 am are never good.  I must say over the years Betty called me many times after 3. Tonight, it was Bre.  

Betty’s heart stopped. They brought her back. I got up and walked down here.  Her son is on the way over and a pastor. We are saying goodbye.  

Thanks everyone for all of the prayers . I saw a miracle. It just didn’t last. We got another week. She was conscious and we got to spend more time. Always fight for life and never quit believing. There are  miracles.  

But…with that said…there is a time to let go. It’s tough and all we can do is ask for guidance and pray that we make the right decision.  

With that…. thanks again for your prayers.