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  • Ain’t it foggy outside? All the planes have been grounded
    Ain’t the fire inside? Let’s all go stand around it
    Funny, I’ve been there, and you’ve been here
    And we ain’t had no time to drink that beer

    ‘Cause I understand you’ve been running from the man
    Who goes by the name of the Sandman
    He flies the sky like an eagle in the eye
    Of a hurricane that’s abandoned

    Ain’t the years gone by fast? I suppose you have missed them
    Oh, I almost forgot to ask – did you hear of my enlistment?
    Funny, I’ve been there, and you’ve been here
    And we ain’t had no time to drink that beer

    - By Dewey Bunnel, America, “Sandman”
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some songs just always define a time, a relationship, and/or both. For me, this song perfectly fit my relationship with my brother Ken, and a period from the time we sat beneath Bishop Berkeley’s Rock (image shown) until we both found ourselves struggling out of our respective addictions into recovery, years later.

    It was towards the end of an idyllic period, those first couple of months after we moved to Connecticut. Dad was struggling to find his place in the home office of Traveler’s Insurance Company (He, like me, hated the politics and the slippery ethics of some of the higher-ups in his organization). Meanwhile, Mom, Ken, Mary and I had become this wandering band of explorers, roaming all about New England on numerous day trips to places like Walden Pond, Concord, Sturbridge Village, Old Mystic, Newport, and had unexpectedly bonded with each other.

    Ken and I had especially found a common bond for the first time. Up until then, I’d always been into sports, the outdoors, and more recently, women,booze and drugs – lots of all three. I’d always seen Ken as an egghead intellectual whose nose always buried in the books, very opinionated and easily agitated. He used to be fun to fuck with, but I didn’t have much respect for him, nor could I relate to him, and vice versa. But, since being turned onto Thoreau, and the light of metaphysics and the brave new intellectual world I was discovering, suddenly Ken became fascinating to me. He knew about this world. He was a virtual walking encyclopedia, full of fascinating anecdotes and information that suddenly made sense to me.
  • So, after a day of exploring the mansions of Newport, and an evening meal together in a quaint little Tavern, while Mom and Mary retired to their room, Ken and I went out to Bishop Berkeley’s rock, and sat beneath it, drinking a couple of beers and gazing out onto the ocean, talking about all kinds of things. I suddenly had a connection with this brother that I’d never had before, and found him to be absolutely fascinating to talk to. He knew all about Berkeley, an 18th century philosopher, and the legend of the rock, which I don’t even remember what it was. I just remember feeling really special, sitting there under it, gazing out at the same view this great philosopher once sat in the same spot doing, reveling in this new relationship with a brother I never expected to happen. He was equally fascinated and pleased with my sudden emergence out of my “let’s party, dude” phase into someone with a brain and an interest in things intellectual.

    That was one of our last trips together around New England. Several weeks later, we’d get a phone call from Ken that he was off to the Air Force – just like that, one day he was here, part of this tight little band of explorers in this brave new world, and the next he was gone, enlisted in the service – just like that! He had signed some papers, not realizing they were committing him, and had changed his mind about joining. He thought he could just go down there and back out of it.

    They told him, no son, that would be desertion. We own you now! And, off he went into the unfriendly skies of the Air Force. It was the pulling out of the final pillar in a rapidly crumbling wall of my own confidence, as I found myself staring into the abyss of a summer-long depression. Mary and I didn’t know what to do without Ken in our chain of command between us and our parents. We were all just a bit lost without Ken, as everyone had come to depend on him, probably too much so, in this new venture we were on together. He had seemed like the rock of the family those few months. It was a devastating shock when he just left like that.

    A year later, after many adventures of my own in that new land, I also enlisted, in the Navy. Mine, at least, came with a little more warning. Folks knew for a good 2 or 3 weeks before I left. Ken seemed to be getting on fine in the Air Force, and I’d always planned to go into the Navy, before I discovered the wonders of education right before high school graduation, deciding to give it the old college try. That didn’t exactly turn out as I’d planned, so I stowed away in the Navy.

    He showed up for my Boot Camp graduation and spent a weekend with me in San Diego before I embarked on the rest of my Navy career. He showed up on Treasure Island when my career was coming to an end, shortly after his Air Force career had ended. He showed me a way out of hell, joining AA years before I was ready for recovery myself, but was instrumental in my making a commitment to give recovery a try. He was eventually my Best Man in my wedding. We became the very best of friends.

    We both always remembered that night at Bishop Berkeley’s rock with those beers, when we discovered each other as more than just brothers, and a lifelong friendship was forged. That song always brings it back to me.

    Pictured – (1) an artist’s rendition of Berkeley’s Rock; (2) the merry band of wanderers many years later, in Key West – Mom, Ken, Mary and me in 2011; (3)Ken with Mom a year ago at brother Jim’s wedding
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