Breeding Ground for Suicide

My dad was coming in hot, not just from the warm, humid coastal air, but because I interrupted whatever he was working on; that’s all it took to make him angry. Or, was it because I was wasting gasoline by letting the mower run after I had finished? Who knows? Everything made him angry.

The lawnmower I used to cut the grass at our bay house was loud and I had to shout over it to get his attention. I couldn’t turn it off. I had just finished cutting the grass and there was no way to turn it off; it had no off switch. 

Being both depression-era cheap and a super-skilled handyman, my dad cobbled things together well-enough to work, though they might lack certain “luxuries,” such as a lawnmower having an off switch. 

He approached me almost running, with large impatient steps. How do I turn it off? I shouted again over the aggressive noise of the mower I stood behind. My dad came in close and jerked the handle away from me. He then turned the mower and shoved the whole thing into some high grass a few feet away, killing it immediately. 

Geez. I didn’t think of that. Why didn’t I think of that? I was 13 and already accustomed to my dad’s incredible ability to be impatient. But it still came as a shock to me every single time. Okay, I didn’t think of that, but why does my dad have to get so mad? Why can’t he just be a father? If that’s what it means to be a father, then I don’t ever want to be one. 

And so it was. In that moment, on that day, standing next to the junky lawnmower with no off switch…. I made my decision. I would never be a father.


No House of Horrors

Since beginning this blog I have visited my childhood home on Creekwood many times. I’ve comfortably tucked myself underneath the baby-grand piano in the formal living room as my father ran through the playlist of songs his fingers had memorized. He never learned to read music, but somehow possessed the ability to “play-by-ear.” He said he picked it up while in the Air Force, stationed in England during WWII. I could never comprehend the concept of playing by ear. You mean you just hear a song and then sit down and play it? Yes, I know it’s a little more than that; nonetheless, this is not a gift he passed along to me. 

I don’t think he knew how many times I crawled underneath that piano while he played, and marvelled at the little velvet hammers as they pounced upon the long steel strings inside its belly. It’s a lovely childhood memory. I wish I had more of them.

What’s amazing to me is just how relatively close to center my early upbringing was. There were no alcohol-fueled episodes of physical abuse, no child molestation, no cages, no torture chambers, no material for a future Netflix documentary. The dysfunction in my childhood home was the product of two parents living inside their own blind spots. My dad couldn’t see that his burst of anger went off like stun-grenades at our feet. My mother never figured out why her second marriage (to my dad) looked so similar to her first. I mean, I suppose it was an improvement….. my dad never physically abused her. 

Figuring out my dad’s explosive anger had few clues. I once asked my aunt (his sister), why he was like that. She said their mother was a “pushover” and whenever little Bobby didn’t get his way, he would throw a tantrum. It would seem he had great success with this strategy as a boy and kept up the behavior into adulthood. I readily admit this is pop-psy 101-level analysis, but it’s all I’ve got.

I might never have recognized how the angry, controlling nature of my dad was like a toddler’s temper tantrum, were it not for one particular incident. I was 23 when I lucked into purchasing a small house only a few miles north of downtown Austin. The simple 2-1 house built in the 50’s had been hastily painted white with yellow trim. I later re-painted it a color closer to periwinkle. The house didn’t cost much, mostly because it sat directly beneath the flightpath of every plane that landed at the old Austin airport. Believe me, it was a day of quiet celebration when Mueller was relocated to Austin-Bergstrom International and the bone-rattling roar of planes flying over my house stopped for good. 

The house didn’t come with a garage, which was so dilapidated the city required it to be torn down before the property could be sold. Building a new detached garage myself was the first major solo handyman project I’d ever taken on. Growing up, I was put to work on many of my Dad’s projects, and paid whatever the going child-labor rate was at that time. But this project was my own. One weekend, my dad drove from Houston to Austin to visit and to give me a little help on constructing the garage, which at that point was about 90% completed. We ended-up in a disagreement about where to add a side door. Yo! This was my garage, my project; I could put the door wherever I wanted. Though, I did have totally valid reasons for wanting to put it along the east wall. My dad simply disagreed for his own set of reasons. 

Once he knew he wasn’t getting his way, my dad released one final expression of his frustration and anger by quickly throwing something that wasn’t there at the ground with both arms. He didn’t crinkle up and start crying, but something about his quick and jerky movements reminded me of the temper tantrum you might see from a 3 year old. Now when I think back to all the hundreds of times my dad stormed out the back door after fighting with my mom, slamming it loudly behind him, I see a child unaccustomed to not getting his way. 

One time he slammed the door as our cat was crossing from outside to in. The final two inches of Towie’s tail was severed in the exchange. I am thankful this incident with the cat occurred prior to my birth. Towie, with the oddly shortened tail, was the cat I grew up with. He was my earliest best friend and the comfort I sorely needed to counterbalance a house too often filled with turmoil and tension.  

You Knew Who He Was Talking To

As hard as I try, I simply cannot figure out how my dad ended up so horrendously bad at parenting. He was a smart guy. How did this happen? I have to conclude he must have become the parent his own father was- stern, no nonsense, sit-up straight, no-elbows-on-the-table, and it’s May I, not Can I. In one of the few reflective conversations I ever had with my father, relatively near the end of his life, I asked him what his father used to call him when he was a kid. Was it Bobby, Bob, Robert, Rob, Robby, or some other endearing nickname, like Bobberino? My dad thought for a moment and said he didn’t remember his father calling him anything in particular. “When he looked at you…” my dad mimicked a serious face, like a bird of prey spotting a field mouse, “…you knew who he was talking to.” 

My dad almost never talked about his father. That tiny glimpse into my grandfather’s personality was all I had to go on. However, if the apple indeed doesn’t fall far from the tree, I grew up seeing much more of my grandfather than I ever deserved.

Patty Ann and Nancy 

One solid clue to my mom’s permanently broken heart came out quite randomly when I once asked her to name the one person in her life (besides her mother) she’s been closest to. She responded with a name I’d never heard her say before in my life- Nancy McFaddin. Super-puzzled, I asked, Who’s Nancy McFaddin? My mom tells me that her and Nancy were best friends from between about 8 and 12 years old. That’s all she said. It took me a couple of years to piece together the bigger picture. Here it is….

At 13 years old, my mom (known then as Patty Ann) left for school one morning… without a clue she would never see her own mother again. When she came home that afternoon, strangers were going in and out of her house. She was told her amazing mother, the closest, dearest, most loving person ever in my mom’s young life, had died suddenly….of a brain aneurysm, she learned later. The strangers helped my mom gather up a few belongings before sending her to live with an aunt. [I told that story previously as part of an excellent earlier post, Smoke ‘em If You Want to Live. It’s relevance here is even greater.] 

Patty Ann had her heart crushed at 13 by her mother’s sudden death, putting the axiom things happen for a reason on extremely thin ice. For what possible reason would that have been? It was a random twist of fate with consequences that would echo loudly into the next generation. And, if the abrupt loss of her own mother wasn’t enough for young Patty Ann to bear, she also lost her best friend that same day. As the authorities whisked my mother away to live with her Aunt Lou across town, Patty Ann Nichols never saw Nancy McFaddin again. 

Imagine my mother’s state of mind that night. I picture her as a 13 year old girl, spending her first night at the cousins’ house; she probably had to share the bed with one or two. When bedtime came around and the lights went out, I see my mother staring ahead into this strange new darkness, too filled with shock and bewilderment to close her eyes. Her body might have felt numb on the outside while boiling with alarm on the inside. In her head, beneath her red curls, the part of the brain that functions as “protector” delivers a new set of instructions to her entire nervous system. Those instructions tell her subconscious and all its minions, whatever you do, don’t allow Patty Ann to get close to anyone ever again….because that’s dangerous.

This incident from my mother’s past explains why I don’t remember tears coming from her eyes after Tommy, her 19 year old first born son, committed suicide in the garage of our house on Creekwood. I didn’t see any tears either when her second-born son committed suicide 40 years later. And if I had died before her, not a single tear would have been shed for me either. For all her life she remained numb on the outside, numb on the inside.    

Patricia Breaux was the best mom she knew how to be and she did a million things right. I also have no doubt she loved me…as much as her heart would allow before needing to hold back enough to keep safe from harm. 

If I describe my mother as “disconnected,” now you will understand. And if the true meaning of love has been a mystery to me these first 55 years and remains a mystery for whatever’s left, now you will understand that too. 

I Was The Witness

The avocado green clock on the kitchen wall says 7:22. The little hand went past the 7, and the big hand is on those little marks past the 20, looks like two of them. It’s 7:22. Not that hard. For my brother Bill, despite being almost a full 2 years older, it was hard….practically everything was hard. But this is not the story of how my brother was dumb, or even slow. It is the story of my dad’s goddam inability to have an ounce of empathy for his own son and what that lacking did to him. The anguish in my brother’s face when he tried to say what time it was but didn’t quite get it right, was something my day had no patience for. 

As I write this blog, my mind is going back in time, back to that lime green and avocado late 60’s kitchen with the formica countertop, back to the breakfast table where we typically ate as a family, back to the memory of us little boys, probably 4 and 6… learning to tell time. Me, with my strawberry blonde crew cut and my brother with the same in light brown. I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to zoom inside my father’s head, to be him as he “teaches” his son to read the face of a clock. I just can’t fathom it. Trying to put myself in my father’s shoes isn’t working. My brother couldn’t read the face of a clock, but my father couldn’t read the face of his own son.

My brother is clearly distressed at not getting it. My father, caught up in his own impatience and frustration, the man who intuitively played the piano by ear, will not stop the emotional abuse until Bill runs from the room crying. I am left as the witness. The feeling within me is smug satisfaction and a touch of confidence to be able to pick up on things so quickly. Honestly, I find my brother’s inability to get it unrelatable, but mostly….I feel grateful for not being the one in the line of fire. 

I received my dad’s harsh treatment at other times, but had one clear advantage my brother didn’t; I was an observant learner. Not for the piano, unfortunately. But for other things. My mom told me how as a toddler I would stand in my playpen and quietly watch the room. Not fussing, not playing with my toys, just observing. There is no doubt my brother had equal ability to learn as I did. What he lacked was someone to help him learn in a way that was a fit for him. 

There is a perilous and (I think) dubious story my mom once told my brother. I didn’t hear it first hand; he relayed it to me later. She said Bill was a happy baby. But around 18 months old he got sick and had a high fever for a couple of days. After that, he was never quite the same. Even if the story is true, based on everything I know… I highly doubt it was the fever. Those were the days of, Don’t baby him. And, Let him cry himself to sleep. Worst baby-book advice EVER!!!  When a child is in pain, comfort them. Let them know they are safe and cared for. Doing the opposite breeds a child (and later an adult), who sees the world through a lens of negativity and mistrust. 

Take this premium-add advice from the man who has no children- if your child is in pain, comfort them. Please… comfort them to their core.

Reasonably Tolerable

When a child is abused it is always unjust. Always, always. It is a universal injustice. By this I mean anyone of any age can see it and feel it. It can even be acknowledged by the abuser, but they first must escape the cell walls of their own abuse in order to see it. My brother Bill was not granted an ounce of empathy from his father for simply being a regular little knuckleheaded boy- no hitting was required for this most insidious form of abuse. The impatience of my father led to Bill being scolded, belittled, and yelled at from a very early age. The injustice made Bill angry inside. Then this anger was given its own target. Me. 

On nearly every front, we were the typical white American family. We lived in a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood on the southwest side of Houston. We lived in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath brick house on Creekwood, and enjoyed such luxuries as both a formal living room and a family room. We ate evening dinner together as a family, sometimes went on family bike rides afterwards, and from time to time played some pretty typical family games. We had a pool table that converted to a ping-pong table in the garage and sometimes played badminton or croquet in the backyard. 

Being two years apart in age, Bill and I often played games against each other. For whatever magical reasons of fate, I tended to be a little more skilled than my brother at almost everything. I had no understanding at the time about how this must have reinforced the conditioning my brother was receiving in spades from my dad; to feel inferior, stupid.

This could be an unnecessary aside, but I feel compelled to tell you that for all his angry parenting, (aside from 2 or 3 spankings with a belt) my father never physically hit us in a moment of anger. He also never called us names to put us down. These were lines he would not cross. Between being impatient and angry, he was a reasonably tolerable and occasionally charming man. [I have deliberately worked in the phrase “reasonably tolerable” because that was my dad’s favorite way to respond when anyone asked him how he was doing. He was always, “reasonably tolerable.” Sounds as though he was perpetually damning himself with faint praise.]

Through the Croquet Wicket and Into the Swimming Pool

At 5 years old to my brother’s 7, we sometimes played croquet in the backyard. It always seemed I was a step ahead of him. His temper flared whenever he would miss a shot and his wooden ball would not go through the wicket he intended. However, something more was revealed by the rubber-tipped mallets and colorfully painted wooden balls. There’s a play in croquet where if your ball strikes your opponent’s, you get the chance to knock it away in any direction you want. I distinctly remember that whenever Bill got the opportunity to drive his saintly little brother’s ball to kingdom come, he would relish it and knock me away with all the fury he was physically capable of unloading. 

I was so young, and yet to this very day I can easily recall the anger bred into my brother’s nature by circumstance. Even at 5, I was becoming scared of him already. If I touched his croquet ball with mine and had equal opportunity to slam it to the far reaches of the yard, I would not give it my all. Seeing Bill get even more frustrated and angry wasn’t the game I wanted to play. I knew it would only be turned back upon me later. I was intimidated.  

Years later, Bill and I, along with several other kids around our 12-14 year age range, were splashing around one evening in an above-ground swimming pool at the house of a friend to my mother. We were jumping in and out of the pool, throwing nerf footballs around, playing Marco Polo, the usual kids stuff. Even after dark we continued playing. A mercury-vapor outdoor lamp provided plenty-enough light for us to keep swimming into the night.

At some point I was in the pool horsing around with Bill and he pushed me underwater. There would be no story here if he had pushed me under and then let me freely bounce back up. But this is not what happened. With his greater size and strength, he pushed me down but then held me there, keeping my head underwater. My butt was at the pool’s bottom and I wasn’t able to get my legs underneath me to push upwards against the pressure of his body weight. I cannot say how long he held me down or how near I was to literally sucking water into my lungs, but I can tell you I was nearing panic mode. I had experienced my brother’s dark side since the days we used to play croquet in the backyard. From back then to this moment years later in the swimming pool, I had endured my brother’s wicked bullying. But never before did I feel my life was being threatened.

When he finally let up and I thrust into the air, I was choking and coughing out water. My sinuses were burning from the chlorine that had entered. Why did you do that?! I yelled towards him. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! I demanded. My brother backed his body away from me towards the other side of the pool and never said a word. His eyes looked left and then swung right, never towards me. Not a single word.

The Sultan of Darkness

On my world travels in 2014 I visited a real-life Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta on the island of Java, Indonesia. Sections of the palace were open to the public for tours. One grand hall we walked through contained much older paintings, then black ‘n white portraits, and then more modern-era color photographs of the line of Sultans that had ruled the region for generations. 

Not a single Sultan throughout the ages was depicted with even the slightest hint of a smile. I asked the guide why that was. She explained that, as rulers of their people, the Sultan had to maintain an air of seriousness. A smile could be interpreted as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. 

Find any photograph of my brother Bill from about 10 years old and on, and you will not find a smile. My brother was not a Sultan in Indonesia. His motivations for not showing the world a happy face were not to demonstrate his confident power but rather his feelings of powerlessness. A smile could be interpreted as a sign of strength or invincibility….or worse yet, happiness. Bill possessed none of the above.

The light within a person shines outwardly through their smile. My poor brother Bill had no light to shine. 

No Escape Without Scars

The various stories I bring to you in this blog intertwine and overlap, just as they are within my psyche. You have learned that I once had two brothers, and that now both are gone by their own hand. If the thought, How did Gary turn out so “normal?” …ever crossed your mind, it may not cross your mind a second time after reading this blog. You see, the suicides you have read about [t] [b] are not the story. The toxic conditions within that seemingly ordinary brick house on Creekwood were a breeding ground for suicide. That’s the story. So how did I escape?

Perhaps through the luck-of-the-draw I escaped any predisposition towards suicide myself. However, my own wounds from the breeding ground are now the scars I wear behind my eyes. I am discomfortable in relationships. I am alone in this world without a single family member alive. I don’t know what love is. I am not sad, not depressed (which has to be a good thing, right?), but I am surely missing out on something. The person I could have been is still in there somewhere, and I’m running short on time to find him.  

Psychedelic-assisted freaky-ass voodoo somatic therapy is up next. Don’t move a muscle.

Life as Compost

The next day Bill drove back to his dirty apartment in Houston. By phone, we had what turned out to be our last conversation. His impending suicide looks like a forgone conclusion in hindsight.

Bill told me about an incident that took place when he was six years old and in the 1st grade. It was the start of the new school year. Mrs Maddox stood at the front of the room and instructed everyone to get out their Big Chief tablets and a pencil, turn to the first page, and write their names at the top. While all the other kids began moving in unison, little Bill froze. This fragile child was paralyzed by anxiety from head to toe. What makes a child of six have their first panic attack? Bill was overwhelmed, scared, not getting it quickly enough. Surely someone would soon be yelling at him. If he didn’t cry out loud, he cried inside.

And no one was there for him. No one was ever there for him.

He knew it was our last conversation and this was the story he wanted me to hear. Bill felt that moment in the first grade set the tone for his whole life…and so it did.

The uniformed police officer came out of Bill’s Houston apartment wearing his stoic and somber face. He avoided making eye contact with me as he approached. Once close enough to respectfully give me the news, he spoke in low tones without ever seeming to open his mouth. My brother Bill was in there, on the couch, dead from a bullet to the head. The officer asked me if I wished to come inside and see the body. I shook my head no. My eyes didn’t need to see a second brother dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. My much older brother Tommy had taken his own life with a shotgun 40 years earlier…when I was just six years old. Now my brother Bill has done the same; this time with a handgun.    

About five days before pulling the trigger, Bill came to Austin to visit our mother– one final time as it turned out. She lived in the little periwinkle house I’d purchased many years before. At this time I was living with my girlfriend in a different house about 1 ¼ miles away. My only interaction with Bill that weekend came when I dropped by to get a lawnmower from the garage. He came out of the house wearing his ever-present yellow tank. We stood together mid-way up the driveway under the partial shade of a persimmon tree. 

He was physically bigger than me, but on this day he looked small. He told me he was in pretty bad shape. Bill squinted with one eye when the sunlight found gaps between the leaves. He asked me if he could come to Austin…to live at my house. I reflected for only a moment. I both knew and didn’t know how bad off he was. My head told me if he moved from Houston to Austin his sad struggles would only move with him. That was my head; my heart wasn’t there. I was honest with him, “I don’t know, man. I don’t think that would really do anything. How would things be any different if you came here?” He didn’t disagree. and then shrank a little more.

The conclusion to his lifetime of angst was near. That day in the driveway, underneath the persimmon tree, Bill summed up how it was to be him, “I just wish I could take all of this,” gesturing towards his whole body, “…and just get it off me!” With that last part he lifted his left hand to his right arm, grimaced his face, and made a scraping motion from his shoulder down to his tensely splayed fingers. He was removing the layer of shit he was born without, but was placed upon him while growing up in that house on Creekwood. He then quickly did the same motion on his left side to say again. …just get it off me!

Berated by a father who had no business becoming one, cared for but never truly loved by a mother who’s own heart was dismantled at 13. He had fingernails that were bitten to nothing. He was molested by a pervy neighbor in his teens. He was trauma laiden, self-loathing, socially inept…. Bill lived 46 years of pain. He even had year-round allergies that rarely allowed him to breath like he wanted to….like a normal person. Now he was out of money, out of motivation, and out of options. He wanted the shit gone; all of it, all at once. 

After Bill’s body was placed in a bag and rolled out of his dingy apartment on a gurney, I sat on some steps nearby, soaking in sadness but not crying. One of the other policemen on the scene was hispanic. From where I sat I could overhear him talking with a neighbor named “Kiko.” It was clear that Kiko knew my brother; they were neighbors but also friends. The officer spoke to Kiko in Spanish. Bill had been really depressed lately, Kiko told the officer. He went to see his family in Austin last weekend, and…, there was a slight hesitation before Kiko finished his sentence, “…aun su familia no le quiere.” 

I wasn’t sitting very far away. My Spanish is pretty good. Kiko told the officer, Even his family doesn’t want him. 

No one was there for him. No one was ever there for him. I wasn’t there for him.  


A Tantalizing Tangent

Whoa, I was not expecting to encounter a chapter devoted to psychedelics embedded two-thirds of the way through the book I was reading– Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan. I talk some about the book (a.k.a. The Debbie Downer Book) in a previous post and make clear how impactful I found the book’s basic premise- that the modern lives we lead are largely at odds with our evolved human nature. Information in the book about our past, present, and potential use of psychedelics was an unexpected but tantalizing tangent. 

As the book explains, psychedelics have been a meaningful part of the human experience for thousands upon thousands of pre-civilized generations. Now that we are (supposedly) more civilized than ever, we have criminalized its usage and propagandized against it for multiple generations. The book makes a seriously strong case that much has been lost in our fervor to demonize any drug that doesn’t come from a pharmacist. The good news is that the tide appears to be slowly turning and psychedelics are once again becoming part of the human conversation. 

What exactly is meant by psychedelics? LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Ayahuasca, Peyote, Salvia, DMT, and the list goes on. Basically, it’s any of the class of chemical compounds capable of profoundly altering human consciousness. Alcohol alters consciousness, too. And in even smaller ways, so does coffee and cigarettes, (even energy drinks!), but to say they do so in a profound way would be a stretch. Marijuana certainly moves in that direction also, and one would not be wrong to consider it a psychedelic. However, for the sake of my conversation with you, I will keep cannabis and the list of classic psychedelics in distinct buckets.

Barely Legal Gary Plans a Trip

One reason I was particularly intrigued by Civilized to Death’s chapter on psychedelics is because [in a twist almost no one saw coming] I have some direct experience with it. I did LSD about a half-dozen times when I was 18-19 years old. Here’s how that came about.

In the intro to my Puzzle of a Thousand Pieces post, I retell the story of how, at six years old, I found my much older half-brother named Tommy in the gut-wrenching moments after he’d shot himself in the head with a shotgun. There was another brother I grew up with named Bill, twenty-two months older than me. 

Older brothers typically have an influence on their younger siblings, especially if the age difference is small. Overall, this influence was minimal in my case. I was the happy, straight-laced, goody-two-shoes brother, while Bill went in the opposite direction. At 18 and 20 years of age, respectively, we hadn’t lived under the same roof for at least the last 5 years. Our relationship was always strained and never close. For reasons I will explain in a later post, I had lots of reasons to dislike him. 

I’m not sure when or how Bill got introduced to LSD, but once he did, he became highly motivated to get me to try it. 

Reading Between the Lines

I eventually did experience LSD…but not before doing my own amatuer brand of due diligence. First, I went to the Houston Public Library and checked-out a book on it. I don’t remember it being an evangelical summation of the drug, but more of the textbook explanation I was looking for. The second thing I did was approach this one particular teacher at school, a substitute teacher whose name was Dean. If nothing else… Dean was “cool.” He was around 30, owned only one sport-coat, and wore his straight brown hair somewhere between surfer and hippie. One afternoon immediately after the day’s final bell, I found Dean by himself in a classroom. 

With reasonable caution, I tell Dean I’m thinking about doing LSD and want to get his opinion. He seems totally unprepared for my inquiry and is visibly uncomfortable even talking about this topic under the fluorescent lights of a classroom. As I recall the scene now, I did most of the talking and he said precious little. What he does say in the end can be summarized as follows: I’m not telling you to do it….  

I was 18 years old and savvy enough to finish his thought without requiring him say it out loud: 

but I’m not telling you not to.


In those days my thoughts on alcohol and drugs were not that complicated. If I had assessed them to have a net positive impact on life, they were given the okay. If not, banned for life. At 18 years old, I wasn’t aware of all the deep-rooted, childhood mental conditioning Christianity had “blessed” me with. In my mind, I was simply taking a logical approach to right and wrong. In the case of LSD, I rationalized it into the Okay column because, based on my own “extensive” research, it seemed as though LSD’s positive effects far outweighed any negative ones. In fact, there really didn’t seem to be any downside. [The huge caveat to this is that folks who may be predisposed to schizophrenia or other psychotic breaks, based on their personal family history, are strongly advised to steer clear of LSD as a precaution.]   

After all my amatuer preparation, which included taking two multivitamins that morning, my brother and I went to the sprawling Bear Creek Park in Houston early one Saturday. We found a semi-secluded spot, sat down in a couple of lawn chairs around my boom box (yes, this was in the 80’s), and let the trip begin. One of the first things I noticed were the “traces” trailing anything that moved. Then I noticed how the clouds began to move and change…their edges lifting off to form patterns.

I might use different words to convey the effects of LSD today, but at the time the one-word description I would use to describe its effects was simply MORE. Everything that is… becomes more. When you see green, red, blue, they are somehow more green, more red, and more blue. Clouds move, but now they move more. Songs that sound good, sound great. You hear more of the sound, with more clarity and more brilliance. When feeling anything, you feel more of it. I have a memory of reaching into my pocket for a quarter, and being fascinated to feel the finely etched raised rim, just inside the gear-toothed outer circumference. 

While I only did LSD about 5 additional times in all, the experiences were highly valuable for giving me a glimpse into an enhanced state of mind, and also for my understanding of how drugs might fit into a person’s life. I still wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t smoke pot, I had zero interest in the obvious waste-of-time drugs like cocaine, speed, heroin, etc. But LSD enriched my life in an important way. I don’t regard it as life-changing; I hadn’t lived enough life yet. But it was nonetheless, most definitely, unequivocally, highly valuable.

In retrospect, the LSD trips I had with my brother Bill were the only positive life-experiences we ever shared as brothers. Prior to our first trip together that day in Bear Creek Park, Bill told me about being on previous LSD trips and hearing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. It made him wish I was there with him, with him on his fantastical journeys. He craved for someone in his life, especially someone that he loved as a brother, to experience this amazing world as a window into his own. In retrospect, it’s the one time I was there for him. 


One clear picture that emerges after learning about psychedelics…there is a chasm of difference between doing these substances recreationally as a young person, and doing them later in life. There is so much more to be gained after one has lived. James Fadiman, author of the Explorer’s Guide to Psychedelics, put it this way: Psychedelics use your own life experience as compost….in order for new things to grow. 

Next up, we go even deeper down the rabbit hole.

The Puzzle of a Thousand Pieces

I cannot remember my brother’s face. I was six the very last time I saw it, and blood was everywhere.

The garage was always creepy to me anyway. Too many times we’d walked into the garage of my family home and seen a rat or two running for cover. My dad tried to rid them with poison and traps, but they always came back. Any time I entered the garage alone, I did it slowly.

“Tommy?” my little voice called. I couldn’t see him right away, my line of sight was protected by the pool table, but I heard his breathing. It was rough, gurgling. For a split second it sounded like snoring, like they do in the cartoons, loud, exaggerated, and with the line of Z’s vibrating above. I relaxed a bit. I’d found Tommy and he was sleeping in the garage.

But he wasn’t sleeping. He wasn’t snoring. These were my brother’s last breaths.

Because I was only as tall as the pool table then, I couldn’t see him lying face up on the thin green layer of AstroTurf that covered our garage floor, until taking one additional step around the pool table’s angled corner. The visual memory of what I witnessed is barely inside my head today. I saw Tommy. I saw the red blood all about his head and how brightly it contrasted against the green of the AstroTurf. I never saw the gun.

Instantly, I turned and ran for help. I have no memory of why my mom wasn’t home at that moment, but she wasn’t. There was no need calling for her. I raced to a neighbor’s house in tears, distressed and sobbing to the point it was difficult for adults to make out what I was saying. To the first neighbor that answered their door, I pleaded, “Something happened. Something happened to Tommy… I think he got bit by a rat.” That’s how my little mind put two and two together. I had no concept of suicide, no understanding of what it was like to be 19 years old and hopeless. I was six. I knew rats were scary and had big teeth.

Tommy left behind a note for my mother. It said, “I owe Stewart $10. Please pay him back for me.”


I’d already done a lot of contemplating about where I wanted to live and work. Yet, there was another, even bigger, puzzle I needed to solve. This would turn out to be the biggest puzzle of them all. 

I have 25 years to live. What am I going to do?

It’s now July of 2020 as I begin telling you the story of how this grand puzzle gets solved. As if it were a physical jigsaw puzzle to be dumped from its box onto a table, I’m giving this puzzle the name: 1 More World. Look on the side of the box, this puzzle has 1,000 interlocking pieces. As I share this particular story with you, bear in mind, it will not be completed in one post, just as any puzzle of a 1,000 pieces would not be finished in one evening. I will tackle different sections of the puzzle individually until enough of it is finished for you to see the same picture that was revealed to me. Even though parts of it remain unfinished today, I know what the 1 More World puzzle is showing me. 

I expect all of the pieces to be found and dropped into place over the course of the next 6 to 12 months. For now, I will take you back to the end of last year when I was finally ready to be selfish…. in the best possible way.

Re-thinking Selfish

Ah, your immediate reaction is probably to question whether selfishness could ever be a good thing. I assure you it can. The word “selfish” most certainly gets a bad rap. If we’re talking about people who struggle with the concept of sharing, then I’m totally on board. But if it is a person taking time to reflect on what they want out of life, I will be the first to come to their defense. Call me selfish and I will thank you for the compliment.

Unfortunately, most people never have the opportunity to truly be selfish. Or, they weren’t selfish enough when the opportunity was there. Once one enters adulthood, life’s immediate challenges of money, job, relationships, family, house, holidays, etc., always seem to take precedence and the best of selfishness gets no attention.

After a year of me living in Denver… life was, for the most part, pretty good. I’d made a few good friends. My job was tough, but I felt good about it. The biggest frustration I had at home was my struggle getting a consistent water temperature out of the shower. The house I lived in was 120 years old and its original claw-footed tub and shower faucet couldn’t hold a steady temp, even with the rubber bands we tried to strategically stretch around the handles.

Joy and happiness have always been elusive concepts to me, And my new life in Denver hadn’t changed that. However, stability and certainty were at their highest levels ever in my life. I had no fires to put out, and no fish to fry (being a vegetarian and all). And finally, I was sitting on more life experiences than at any other point. 

My table top was cleared. Let’s work this puzzle.

Debbie Downer Rocks My World

One of the best media outlets I’ve found is an online news show called, The Young Turks (a.k.a. TYT) – the largest and longest-running news show on the Internet. If you have never heard of them before, they are totally worth checking out. I think most people learn about them through their YouTube channel, but their show is also televised on Roku, Pluto and many other platforms. Their news is founded on journalistic integrity and facts, but it’s the outspoken commentary of the hosts that really makes the show unique and often fun even when the news depresses. The core of The Young Turks is a daily 2 hour long “main show,” but they also offer additional content for $10/mo subscribers (like me). One of those “extra content” shows is the Friday Post Game. The show’s three co-hosts talked about starting up a book club. Their first chosen book was, Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan. Not wanting to be left out of the club, I read it.

Holy Mother of Thor! Talk about pulling back the curtain on everything! Civilized to Death is a point-by-point takedown of the universally accepted idea that we are far better off now as a species than at any other time in our human history. In some narrow ways, mostly related to specific advances in medicine, we are surely better off. But there are many measures by which we fall short. 

The book’s core message is that humans evolved over millions of years to live one way and that the advent of civilization swept us off in a direction we’re not really suited for. If you want the details, take my recommendation and read Civilized to Death.

That Sounds Awesome!

As I was reading the book, I would tell my friend Vanessa about all the ways the book says ‘we suck.’ Well, Vanessa….being the stay positive person she is, didn’t really enjoy hearing me recount the fall of mankind; so, pretty soon she starts referring to the book as ‘The Debbie Downer Book.’ I can’t say she’s wrong, either. 

Like any good book, The Debbie Downer Book makes you think. And when I did my thinking, I wondered how I could live my life more in-line with my true evolved nature. [As you can tell, I bought the book’s premise.] Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The book makes a compelling case that prior to “civilization” people used to “work” an average of 3 – 4 hours a day. So I’m thinking, Man, that sounds awesome!  And I have “work” in quotes because prior to civilization, the concept of “a job” as we experience it, did not exist..

I read the book and just took this information in. Nothing in my life abruptly changed as a result. However, in terms of my puzzle analogy, that book did a great job of helping me to connect a whole lot of pieces together. It wasn’t nearly enough for me to know what 1 More World was showing me, but the puzzle was one step closer to being solved. 


Regarding stories from my past, like the one I share with you at the top of this post, these too will fill in significant sections of my puzzle. These are the broken pieces… and the ones that appear to have gone missing altogether. I am finding them now. I am making a few repairs. All of the pieces of my life will have their place. 

Next up, I will introduce you to Jesus. And it will all make sense.