The Marina Dock Newsletter April 2004
The goods new about
the last month or so, is that people are concerned about our financial
stress and apparently they are talking about it. It would be nice
if that concern were translated into something tangible like a
donation. We are however grateful for small mercies. Last month
a number of individuals came through and saved the day. In fact,
without their support last month we would be in dire straits.
The bigger question of course, is how can we get more people to
contribute. We have over a thousand on our mailing list. Of course
it's unrealistic to expect everyone on the list to contribute
every month, bearing in mind that some people have made a one
time donation or became one or two year members. In case you are
wondering why our newsletter last month sounded more like an economic
forecast on Romania, it's because in January and February, the
first two months of this year, our income was down about 25% over
January and February of last year (2003). Don't get me wrong.
Anyone who even commiserates with us on our plight - whether it
translates into a donation or not is greatly appreciated - for
at least knowing we are just like the rest of the world, in need
Bad Chili With The Right Message
About two weeks ago
I happened to find myself once more at a popular San Francisco
diner (which shall remain nameless). It does however happen to
be the home of the worst chili this side of the Rio Grande. Sitting
there feeling sorry for myself for having gone back on my pledge
never to eat chili at this establishment again. Chili that tasted
like it was made around the time Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were
heroically defending The Alamo. Then I spotted my old friend "Big
Tom the Teamster" from the early Dry Dock days, sitting by
the counter. On his way out he spotted me and ambled over. We
reminisced about the old room in the back where we used to have
meetings before we acquired the East Room. "We were all nuts
in those days" Tom recounted, "but you know what? That
place saved my ass, many, many times, and I don't forgit it."
And with that he sticks his hand in his pocket and pulls out a
couple of Jackson's and a Hamilton. "Here he muttered",
almost apologetically, "It's not a lot, but I know you guys
are hurting." Minutes earlier, I had decided the whole world
sucks. You can't even get a decent bowl of chili in this town
anymore. The economy is in the toilet. America's favorite pastime
is under the gun. Everyone is broke and depressed. What's the
The Point is you dummy
that " we are willing to grow along spiritual lines"!
What a concept. Reflecting on this, I thought. Instead of harboring
deranged homicidal ideation against every bad food experience,
I have had over the last half century, why don't you just chill
dude, and "let go and let God." Just because the food
is consistently lousy here doesn't mean God has boycotted the
place. God is everywhere. Remember? That's right. I forgot. I
was too wrapped up in myself again. Oop's sorry. Tom, the big
burly Teamster tapped on the window from outside on his way to
his truck, his huge frame causing a partial obscuring of The Inner
Richmond. His big friendly face etched with lunar-like fissures
from years on the waterfront, cracking a slight grin he gave me
a thumbs up. That Tom! The son of a gun he knows what I am thinking.
He's reading my mind.
Ours is not to question
It is these random acts
of kindness that restores our faith in the human propensity for
universal egalitarianism. Why do I sometimes lose faith in the
power of God? I should never question it, or try to figure it
out. Then I promptly proceeded to find some hidden transcendental
meaning or message in Tom's magnanimous gesture. I started to
think about how this whole thing started out with a not unexpected
bowl of bad "chili". Then the divine intervention of
Tom, suggesting that "I chill out", which in turn, led
me to reflect on one of the most poignant and compelling pieces
of reading in AA literature. "As we became subjects of King
Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor
that is loneliness settled down." Isn't that the truth? We
can all relate to that one.
How many times did I
stumble aimlessly along a crowded noontime city street, a street
bustling with humanity, the deafening sound of traffic, the laughter
of schoolchildren dashing in and out of doorways? The midday sun
relentlessly beating down on my ravaged body, as I make my way
back to the relative safety of a dingy Tenderloin hotel room.
Sweat oozing from every pore and a head throbbing with a hangover
from hell, as I desperately try to recall the events of the previous
3 or 4 days. The darkness of the flophouse lobby, the familiar
stench of stale tobacco, and the odor of unwashed bodies are a
welcome relief to this shivering denizen. Then the reentry, waking
up about 14 hours later, trembling and confused, to the sounds
of creaky elevator gates opening and closing, and slum landlords
with heavy accents, banging on doors demanding last month's rent.
That, for me, is when the "chilling vapor of loneliness settles
We have come a long
Yeah we have and "I
don't forgit it." There is a great story about Brendan Behan
(1923-1964), the boisterous Irish Playwright and raconteur extraordinaire.
Behan liked to imbibe and had a reputation for being generous
when under the influence. He did however have little tolerance
for sham or deception, especially dossers (freeloaders). One time
Brendan is bar hopping in Dublin, when a dosser approached him
on the street and asked him for money. Behan told him to take
a hike (he phrased it a little differently). "Jaysus"
said the bum, "I remember you, Behan, when you had nothing."
Behan turned, and shot back venomously "not near as well
as I do."
I had so much business to discuss,
but alas, I got carried away. Maybe there are a few people out
there who have a few extra bucks to spend, compliments of Uncle
Sam. If you do and need a write off, we could certainly use it.
If you are tapped out and need an orange, a banana, a cup of coffee,
or a meeting at midnight, then The Marina Dock on Friday and Saturday
night is a good bet. We deliver. With your help of course.
Anthony T. Murray