July 22nd, 1981
Tonight I went with Chuck, a man I met at the Tuesday Night East Village Group, to an AA meeting at a detoxification center uptown near Roosevelt Hospital. The building is a huge, dark Spanish style structure that looks like a fortress. We rang a bell to be admitted and entered into what looks like may have been a school at one time. It is an odd combination of impressions. The first is that of a hospital.
There is a quiet, a professional hush that I associate with hospitals. But it is also dark inside, poorly lit and not quite cleaned. The floors are stained and there is an odor of cooking in the hallways. I think of a dormitory. We are led upstairs by the attendant who admitted us. Chuck identified us as being from AA. At the end of a hallway we enter a lounge area, perhaps twenty people in pajamas are lying on sofas, sprawling in chairs, a couple of men play cards, a television set is on low volume in the center of the room. A few people watch us distractedly. We sit at a table together and wait for a few minutes. It is not quite 8:00. When it is time, an attendant walks into the room and turns off the television and announces it is time for AA. Chuck and Frank and myself carry straight back chairs into the center of the room. Chuck stands and addresses the people. He tells them that we are from AA. He reads the AA preamble and introduces Frank who beings to speak. Frank’s qualification is powerful and compassionate. I stare at my boots and feel tears forming in my eyes. It will not do to cry here. Occasionally I look up and scan the faces about me. Worn, hard-lined tough faces. Eyes blank with pain. I have seen that pain in my own eyes. I know it well. Frank’s talk is eloquent and emotional. He talks of his years of drinking and the pain and fear and despair of his life. This marvelous healthy man whose very presence exudes well-being and strength tells of his own slow death, and of his recovery through the grace of god and the fellowship of AA. It is a round robin discussion when he finishes speaking. A few people speak. I pray to God that I will see their faces again, out of detox and in meetings. I spoke also. This is only the second or third time I have spoken up. When the meeting was over, we stood and said the Lord’s Prayer. I was greatly moved to see these battered men and women standing with bowed heads reciting aloud this invocation to God. “Give us this day…”
After the meeting, we went for coffee. I like Frank immensely. He is gay and formerly a high powered advertising executive. Now he works for GSO– the administrative, service arm of AA. A remarkable man. I hoped he liked me. He was riding a bike, and walked Chuck and I to our subway stop. We shook hands and he said he hoped our paths would cross. So do I.
At home, I had a nice talk with Jim and a long nice talk with with Joanne. Allan is asleep and I am in the living room with Johnny Carson and Rona Barrett talking about Audrey Hepburn. Walking Sadie tonight I had water thrown at me by a man in a rage in the building next door who was ranting at all the people walking dogs on Gay Street that this was not a dog run. New York is a disturbed city.
This peace is internal.