Thursday, January 28, 2010


December, 1985 + Waterville, Maine

I was all decked-out in my highly-flammable, brand-new $79 pure polyester three piece suit. This ridiculous outfit, that made Mister Drudge's look like a well tailored Italian suit could stand by itself in the corner indefinitely. My ensemble included a red and blue wide-angel tie that was one half step above a garbage bag in the pure petroleum cycle from pure grade Pennsylvania crude to animal feed.

I was a dead ringer for a newly-arrived fresh off some low-budget tramp steamer from Starvation Island. I had that, "Hey, Eddie, come get a look at this guy" appearance written all over me. I was headed to Augusta for yet another job interview, this one for a lawyer position at the Attorney General's Office. This was no bean-counter job; this was the real deal.

I just had to get over this time. I had been out of work a year. This twelve month ordeal included losing my first post-law school legal job, marriage, and family. During this period I suffered unrelenting low self-esteem and complete loss of confidence. I thought I could never practice law again and fought endless battles with the conviction I was chronically unemployable.

I couldn't take much more without some sign I was OK or some success somewhere. This job would be it. I could get it all back, once and for all. I put myself squarely under the gun. It was a partly sunny day; the sky would clear in fits and starts, now overcast, now sunny. It was cold, but not bitter. There was little wind and no snow or rain. It was a decent Maine winter day. I mustered all the 'I'm OK' optimism and 'Win-Win' self assurance I could and headed out the door and into my van. Woe was me, my ride looked like I struggled not to feel. My trusted van looked seedy, drab, and unkempt. I shook off a strong sense of apprehension and a shudder of forbodding, chalking them up to nerves. I told myself, "Everything is fine, timing is right, and you look good. Take deep breaths, today's the day you begin to live again". The van started right up, hitting on all cylinders. I was definitely on my way.

I had to make one quick stop for breath mints at a local Waterville store in a perfectly forgettable small town, low rent mini-mall. These mints were anxiety quellers and halitosis helpers. Dragon breath up close is a certified, never-fails job killer. What with the suit, the pressure, and the history, I didn't need THAT to be the deciding factor. I had enough to worry about.

I parked at the mall and got out of the van onto the clean concrete sidewalk. I was careful not to touch anything that might dirty my gloveless hands. If that happened, I'd pretty much be shit out of luck. I was alone and on a tight schedule and would have to go as I was. Mt manual wheelchair was clean, for once. Even the inflatable, deep-tread outdoor tires looked good. These tires had protruding rubber knobbies that consistently picked up whatever filthy mess was around, such as mud. I was as ready to impress as I could be. I had puled out all the stops. Of course I couldn't open the stainless steel and glass door of the store by myself, so I had to knock several times on the glass. The few people there looked around bewildered, as if encountering an unexpected enigma. Someone eventually grasped the situation and let me in.

I bought the mints after a short, nervous chat with the young, slender, and attractive brown-eyed clerk. (Most men notice, no matter what). It was natural to ask her to open the door so I could leave. She did so, and I gave a strong push to get over the shiny metal threshold. I silently grunted and forcefully launched myself over this impediment and out the door onto the hitherto spotless sidewalk.

Before I could even see it, I immediately ran smack-dab into a gigantic pile of hot and steaming DOG SHIT!! By the time I was able to stop by grabbing my tires, I had dog shit all over me. There was canine poop all over my right front and rear tires and ditto on my right hand and forearm. It was halfway up my right arm. My suit was an unspeakable mess; I was a mess. I couldn't move without making matters worse. I had a situation here, one that inextricably horrible.

There was at that moment an Assistant Attorney general in Augusta in a nice clean building in a spic-and-span office wearing an expensive, tasteful suit, fragrant with cologne. This impeccable lawyer, I thought, was preparing to be his/ suddenly shitful interviewee.

Have you grasped the situation in all its wretchedness? Do you appreciate my dilemma? What was i to do? Was I figuratively and literally up shit creek? What would you do? I didn't have time or help to change; I couldn't not go to the interview. That was absolutely taboo. Could I call to postpone? Sure I could. It would go something like this:

Me: "I'm sorry I can't make the interview.
It's a long story, but the short of it
is I'm covered in fresh dog shit from
ankle to elbow. I'm sure you understand".
"Mister Gill, What do you take me for? I've
been doing this for a long time and I
have never heard anything close to your
absurd excuse. If you want to be considered
for this position, you had better be here,
on time".

Well, there you have it. I can be dogged at times, Like my Dad. When I get my teeth into something, I go into pit bull mode. I wasn't about to give in or up. If I wasn't going to get that job, someone would, at least have to deal with me, suit, stink, and all.

Mustering all my shamelessness, which admittedly is quite a bit, I asked a kindly looking middle-aged woman for help. I could never have asked a male, for manly reasons. How many Saint Guys could there be? She was a true-blue Maine Yankee who was undaunted by the canine fecals. Lacking water, soap, washcloth, disinfectant, antiseptic, towel, cologne, or if all else failed gasoline, she very kindly did what she could with some tissues she carried. It wasn't much, just more than nothing.

I've given a lot of thought to this episode over the years, most of which runs like this:

When I headed into that store, there was no dog in sight, anywhere. Now for one dog to have deposited that much poop he/she must have been pony sized, like a huge, full grown 250 pound St. Bernard. There was no such poop anywhere when I went into the store, which was very small. I was one of a few customers. The entire transaction couldn't have taken over three minutes. I saw no dog up or down the sidewalk after I came out.

This huge dog had to appear, do his nasty business, and disappear, all in three minutes. Not just anywhere. Oh, no. This canine sociopath dropped his smart bomb in precisely the right place on this sidewalk that was at least one hundred feet long.

Six inches to the left or right or up or down the walk or anywhere else and all, I say, would have been well. Then it would have been someone else's problem. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. OK, so I'm lying about that. None of these deserving victims was interviewing in Augusta within the hour.

Exactly the right time within three minutes, precisely the right place within six inches, on this very day I was going to an interview for a job which I had lain myself squarely on the line. The odds against this event being random are overwhelming. Fido's Revenge could not have been an unknowable quantum event. There were just too many variables.

No, this cries out for the argument from intelligence, like the papverine stories to come. There had to be some purpose behind this. Did the universe require a metaphoric pound of flesh from me? Was some re-alignment needed in the Karmic Canine Quadrant? Was I condemned to Camus' endless, pointless toil? Was my job search a stand-in for the boulder Sisyphus eternally rolled up that hill?

Those philosophical musings notwithstanding, I went into undeterred trooper mode. I fired up the van and sped to the AG office building. My jaw was set, my resolve was intact, and my desperation was on the shelf, at least for the time being. Dog shit? Who cares? I was determined.

I was seated in a small waiting room by the ubiquitous be-speckled administrative assistant in the rather severe office/business attire.

Back on planet Earth. I was fully aware I stunk up the place. I sat there internally pacing and anxiously fidgeting. The receptionist, too, was fidgeting. She was obviously experiencing a great deal of olfactory discomfort and took every opportunity to discover something else to do that got her away from the source of her queasiness.

At this point I asked myself, did I think that it mattered, this interview? Did I actually believe I had a chance? Hope in this situation was the proverbial Bitch Goddess and desert mirage, in one. Yet hope I had. Waiting there was a bit like waiting in line at the Guillotine; maybe I would be reprieved at the last minute.

I was eventually led into a small, cramped, airless room (of course). A very dubious, hasty handshake began the proceedings. I felt like Fecal Freddie touching Mister Clean jeans. I tried to stay as far away as possible from the well-dressed, thirty-something, immaculate white male interviewer/attorney. He had to wonder why I stunk so bad and whether I bathed. I was unable to artfully work Fido's Revenge into the conversation. Neither of us acted like we noticed that the elephant in the room had been very, very naughty. I suppose that would have violated some unwritten code of civilized behavior. Mister jeans rushed through the Q and A session, like he was in a hurry to get the fuck out of there. It was mutual. We skipped the ritual handshake on the way out. Can you imagine this guy's next phone call?!

"Hello, Tom, do you know a guy named Ray Gill,
a lawyer. Yeah, he's crippled. You do? Tell me,
does that poor bastard live in a kennel?"

I'm pretty sure why I was less than impressive. It wasn't the super cheap polyester suit that crinkled when I moved. It wasn't my sub-par interview performance. It wasn't my resume. It wasn't something I said. It wasn't my confusion when I momentarily mixed up fungible springing revisions with perpetual shifting remainders. Nobody knows the difference between them. At any rate, there are more answers than lawyers, the law being as it is. Perhaps Mr. Cleanliness was so shortsighted or so squeamish that he blackballed me simply because I smelled like the local dog pound in July.

Whatever the reason. I didn't get that job either. This limerick captures the day:

"Fresh off the boat looking ray,
Interviewed for a law job that way,
but he just didn't fit,
'Cause he smelled like dog shit,
Making Clean jeans say 'No Way, Jose."

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I'm sure you have noticed this pattern by now: The way my Dad prefaces or prepares us for tragedy or mishap with the explanation and disclaimer, "I was in a hurry, rushing, rushing, my mind already completing next week's chores..." We've all (I'm assuming) sliced our fingers when rushing to prepare dinner, mind on something else. I certainly have numerous tiny scars all over my hands.

This pattern is interesting to me because, well, if I could distill my Dad's personal philosophy into just a few words it would read (to borrow from Ram Dass) BE HERE NOW. He loved the Buddhist and Zen teachings, Krishnamurti and the power of presence. But my Dad was pretty driven, pretty ambitious and it seems the pressures to preform, whatever task, to keep moving forward, drew him out of the present and into peril, over and over and over again. All this is especially relevant for me as the tendencies of my Dad's mentioned above have found fertile soil in my character and I need to remind myself, over and over, to BE HERE NOW.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


July, 1984 + Portland, Maine

"Quandry: A state of uncertainty or perplexity as requiring a choice between two unfavorable options."

This quadriplegia business can really be a bitch, as we've seen. From time to time, I find myself at the boundary between dire need and "Come on now, you can't ask someone to do THAT!" What am I to do? I have to stretch the social fabric to extricate myself from a bona fide quandry, like this:

Asking perfect strangers for minor help, like opening a door or handing me something is usually not too difficult. Like my Dad, I have always been defiantly independant. "No thank you Pal, I'll do it myself or it won't get done." The injury changed all that. The predicaments, quagmires, and quandaries i encounter require me to ask some people for outrageous things. Some balk: "Sure buddy I'll push your wheelchair up hat ramp, but I'm sure as hell not messing with any tubes or bodily fluids."

A lot of people must think I'm retarded anyway, by how they react: "Why, now, listen to that poor mental crippled boy, you'd almost think he knows what he's saying. It's marveluos what they can do for these poor souls." Every now and then I come upon a gem. I am forced to rethink my dim view of the human family. Take this story, for instance. Imagine yourself in the following situation that goes WAY beyond the pale. Ask yourself, 'What would i do?'

It was around noon on a warm, muggy, and overcast summer day. I was leaving a Bar Exam review class at the University of Southern Maine. The summer was 1984 and I was living alone and preparing to take Maine's bar Exam. I was dedicated, driven, and dead serious. I was under a lot of pressure. If I failed the exam, I would have no job, no prospects, nothing to do, and probably no marriage.

Nothing was going to keep me from my 16-hour a day schedule. I took books to bed with me. I could then study at 3:00 AM when I restlessly awoke, like I did every night. My brain swirled with sui generis, quantum meruit, littoral rights, hue and cry, and accessories before, during, and after the fact. I had a very bad case of exam anxiety. I was a mediocre test-taker, at best.

Of course, on this day I was rushing, always rushing, ahead of myself in thought, already home, studying, preparing, and worrying. I got into my van to head straight home and hunker down for the entire day and evening. Hardly aware of what I was doing, reflexively, I reached down to check how much urine was in my leg bag. There was none. I was immediately brought up short and plunged headlong into the moment.

I had a very big problem. With my stomach sinking, sick and tightening, I realized one of two possibilities existed: (1) I had wet myself and was sitting in piss or (2) the quart or so of urine from early morning to noon was somewhere else, sitting between me and the bag.

After rapidly checking, I saw I was not wet. Good, so far. Next, I looked down and, sure enough the condom catheter that was hooked by a rubber tube to the leg bag had a bubble full of that wretched uric acid liquid at the end of my dick the size of a softball. It was just sitting there, mocking me and my bar exam plans. If it broke (which it was bound to do, and soon), I would be up piss creek, in a manner of speaking.

I couldn't fix it by myself. I was, as always, myself alone. I didn't want to sit in piss, obviously. That would ruin my whole schedule, like an accurate granade thrown into my bathroom while I was... Well, I'm sure you can imagine the rest. I had two choices and only two: get help or get wet. Time was of the essence. I was just a little frantic.

I got down out of the van very carefully, wondering how in the hell I was going to resolve this quandary. After about five highly anxious minutes, I noticed two male university maintenance workers, each in his forties or so. I had never met either of them, though one I had seen around the campus. They were both dressed in USM uniforms and looked masculine, if you know what I mean. They had short hair, were clean-shaven, looked rugged, and wore work boots. They had that, "Hey boys, lets have a few cold ones and watch the game" look about them.

I had to ask one of these strangers to come into my van, unzip my pants, open the fly, reach in, and (somehow) release the bubble. I had no rubber gloves, no towels, no antiseptic, or anything to make it easier. As I played this out in my head, it was all just too crazy. "SAY WHAT?" "You want me to reach WHERE and do WHAT?" I had to do something or I would be sitting in urine all day.

I did a quick benefit-cost analysis. Benefit: I got the situation resolved, thank my newly minted piss buddies, go home dry and happy, study all day and into the night, pass the bar exam, and save my job, my sanity, and my marriage. Cost: These guys think (1) I'm lying, (2) I'm plain lazy, or (3) I'm a trolling drag queen with brass balls looking for action and they (A) walk away enraged, (B) go to a shrink, (C) beat me up, (D) call the police, or (E) try to take me up on the drag queen thing. There just weren't any good options here.

I was never much of a bullet biter; I'd take the morphine every time. Here I was, between a good beating and a better day. So, bite the bullet I did. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Listen, Guys, you don't know me but I've seen you around
and you seem like decent guys and i need a big favor and
I'm not lying or crazy or gay or anything. I mean I'm a
student and I have to go home and study or I'll lose every-
thing, bit I've got a piss bubble at the end of my pecker
that's like a grapefruit and I need one of you to come
into my van with me and reach into my pants and release
the bubble so the piss can go into the bag on my leg right
"Oh, sure" I was thinking, "That makes a lot of sense. " I prepared myself to take the beating.

Saint Guy: "Sure, I'll do it. Just show me what to do."

With that, this diamond in the deep rough followed me up into the van, did everything I asked, jumped down, said, "Let me know if I can ever help you again", and walked away. I could hardly find the words to give him the 'Thank You' he deserved. I miss Maine. A whole lot of good, solid, and funky folk live there.

I studied all that day, evening and night, passed the exam, saved my job, my sanity (I guess), and my marriage (for awhile, anyway). Thanks, at least in part, to Saint Guy the Great, to whom I dedicate this limerick:

"In my pants sat a softball-sized bubble,
That had to be fixed on the double,
Then along came Saint Guy,
Who opened my fly,
And released me from all my piss trouble"

Monday, January 18, 2010


August, 1982 + Waterville, Maine

It was a very hot day, for Maine. I was between my first and second years of law school. I worked in Skowhegan as a part-time assistant in the prosecutor's office. On the day in question, I was scheduled to work in the afternoon. I was dressed in attorney clothes, suit and tie and new, shiny brown leather shoes. As usual, I hurried about, preparing myself for a half-day with my friend the assistant prosecutor.

My apartment at that time was the same where Jean and Connie would make their salacious debuts later in this book. This apartment, which will be described more completely as we go on, was small, with two tiny bedrooms and a bathroom about the size of a walk-in closet. This bathroom was of a sickly pale blue-green pastel hue that seemed to neither absorb nor reflect light. It was just there. The room was a cramped version of a one person jail cell, cold and comfortless. The ceiling appeared lifeless and close. I felt claustrophobic and ill at ease there. This bathroom was hidden away at the very back of the apartment. A person there had to yell to be heard.

I had neighbors I hardly ever saw and definiitly didn't know. There were three apartments in that building. We all kept our distance one from another. If I hadn't caught glimpses of my neighbors every now and then, I could easily have believed I lived in that place alone. (I am not a particularly neighborly neighbor). When in the bathroom, I was more alone than ever and more so when I was at the toilet, which was stuck in the back corner. I would then be at the greatest distance from anyone in the two story building.

I had been alone for about five hours. I knew my leg bag would have to be emptied before I left. There was no way i was going to drip piss on my friend's carpeted floor. That would be a very hard sell to his boss, the District Attorney who was tough to please on the best of days. I headed into my bathroom, which seemed on that day more like Cell # 28549 at the County lock up than ever. I didn't much care for this leg bag buisness anyway, but I had no choice. The whole thing would take about five unpleasant minutes. Then I would exit, pronto, and be off to Skowhegan, about fifteen miles away.

I leaned over in my chair to check. I was well aware I had to either empty the bag now or it would burst later. I steeled myself to just do it. With this injury, a whole lot of things are decided for you, some of which are listed above, some hereafter. At any rate, I knew I had to suck it up and do it now.

I overcame my resistance, sidled up to the left side of the toilet facing the far wall, and hoisted my right foot onto the toilet bowl. I forgot to lift the toilet seat. ("Raymond, always remember to raise the seat before you pee"). This meant I had to lift my foot higher, increasing the risk of some foul outcome. After lifting and groaning, I finally got my foot up onto the lid. I had sucessfully navigated these waters something like a thousand times. Though unpleasant, it was no huge undertaking.

So far, so good. So far, that is. I emptied about a quart of freshly minted urine into the bowl. The unmistakable odor of piss spread through the bathroom. All had gone according to plan. Given my brand of quadriplegia and my limited mobility and dexterity, the most trivial deviation from what had worked in the past could lead to disaster in the present.

You will recall that I had left the toilet lid where it was, rather than taking the trouble to lift it out of my way, as I had been taught when I was very young. You will also recall that I was in a hurry. This combination of factors led inevitably to what follows:

I closed the metal leg bag clamp and reached over with my right hand under my knee to take my leg off the lid. In a more kindly world, I would then have set my foot back onto my footrest, moved up to flush, and been on my way. Yeah. That's how it would go. When I had reached the maximum extension of my right arm, my foot slipped off the lid into the bowl.

Well, that had happened before. All I had to do was lift my foot out and go. I would then call my friend who would understand and prepare something or other so I could work. Or at least be there. I would take the heat from the boss, if need be. What's the worst he could say, "Gill, you're stinking up my office, go home. You're fired. And I'll personally see to it you never practice law in this state." That was a long shot. More than likely he'd say, "Open a window, this office smells like a hooker bar bathroom."

Resigned once again to the lose-lose scenario, like so may times before and after, I gathered my resources to do what I had to do. This injury not only limits mobility and dexterity, it also limits choices. As in, there is one choice: get the fuckin' foot out of the bowl. I stretched over to do this, grabbed my right leg...and yanked it up, or so the plan went.

No. I had left the lid on, so my foot, shoe and all had lodged under the toilet seat. They would not come out of the piss, no matter what I did or how much effort I put into it. In fact, the harder I pulled, the stucker I got.

There I sat, in my lawyer outfit in my spiffy shoes in the apartment in the bathroom in the bowl in the piss. There was one way out. I had to set aside another huge dose of dignity, take the humiliation, and yell myself hoarse calling for help. Here I was once again, in an impossible situation, needing help, and having to holler into thin air for I didn't know whom.

I yelled, hollered, called, begged, pleaded, and yelled some more for probably an hour. Then there came a knock at my door.

She: "Hello in there, do you need help?"
Me: "Yes, my foot is caught in the toilet and I can't get it out."
She: "Huh?"
Me: "My foot's in the toilet and I need help."
She: "WHAT?"
Me: "Yes, I need help."

Warily, my sixty or thereabouts neighbor I had seen once or twice from a distance followed my voice, walked into my bathroom, and stared in utter amazement. I think this was her first time seeing a grown man in this exact predicament. I mean, drunken men on their knees hugging a bowl face first maybe, but not this. I gently asked her to get my foot out of the toilet. I didn't want to hear, "Hell with you, you can stay like this for all I give a shit." No, she was quite sympathetic.

She was a large, strong-looking, low-budget Yankee. For all that, she had a hell of a time getting me out of the bowl. I asked her to put an absorbant pad under stinking foot. She did. I thanked her over and over, but it just didn't seem to be enough.

I swung back into buisiness mode, called my friend, and explained. He never missed a beat: "You can come in if you want; we'll figure out something", he said. You have to love your friends, especially when you smell like a gas station urinal and he's treating it like mismatched socks.

He said things were slow and he was just sitting around. I grappled with my options. My Father's stern voice spoke, "You go to work, whether you smell like an outhouse in July or not, or else you're half a man."

The Voice of Reason spoke: "What's the point? You're late already, you drip and stink, George doesn't care on way or the other. The Boss would be very pissed, so to speak, and you'll live to fight another day."

"Sorry, Dad, you lose this one. Besides you'll never know", I thought. With that I made the call and settled back for a very long day. Not surprisingly, the odor got worse and worse, until it took over the apartment and ruined supper. It is hard to eat in an outhouse.

I dedicate this limerick to all piss-problem people:

"Being crippled can take quite a toll,
Like the day there was piss in the bowl,
My shoe, it got caught,
Though I fought and I fought,
I just couldn't get out, on my soul"