Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bruce Townsend Memorial Run--A Tradition Since 1988.

            Today I had my solitary Bruce Townsend Memorial Run on a beach unusually crowded with Boomers and their descendants visiting grandparents and great grandparents who make up the population of Morro Bay. The beach was split halfway to the dunes by a series of lagoons, as it has been for several days, and near the water there were little rivulets to jump. The beach should have been ashamed of itself, with all guests there.
            In 1987 on New Year's Day in Wilmington I started on a run about the time Bruce Townsend, a muscular young man (25? 30?) who rented an apartment near us, was leaving on his run, so we went on together. Diary: “Ran 5 miles—Bruce Townsend (out of shape) with me, very slow, to Old Salem Church.” I did not really know him but I had often seen him out with his bicycle, and in the summer he had helped me carry in a new toilet when I was renovating a little washroom myself. In the fall I had seen him at a meeting but diffidently had not spoken to him.  Outside the Old Salem Church we talked a bit before heading back. He said he was not sure he could live without alcohol and I said I was grimly holding on after just surviving a sodden Modern Language Meeting. Grim is the word: Michael M. had stopped me on a street in Manhattan and asked me whom I had just murdered. I did not see Bruce right away after the run, but it was terribly cold and I was working night and day on the LOG. I was becoming less grim because I was learning to ask “What do you do when?” questions of the old-timers. I kept not seeing Bruce but not thinking to ask about him. Finally in June I asked where Bruce was, and was told. On Tuesday 3 February he dressed in a suit and trench coat and walked three blocks north to the Brandywine River into one of the excrement-dotted brick huts in the trees and shot himself to death. So every New Year's Day I do a Bruce Townsend Memorial Run to remind me what addiction is and how many people, even handsome athletic-looking young men, decide to die grimly for alcohol instead of learning to live joyously without it.

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