Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phew! Glad that's over!

Pasta party was a success. They came, they ate, they left. My foyer was filled with smelly sneakers. Another mother came to help and my husband did the cleanup. I had soooooo much food left over. We'll be eating pasta for a week. But even more than that, I called a woman from my morning meeting, a single mom, struggling, with 3 boys and the neighborhood hangout. I was able to bring her a tray of Baked Ziti and a pot of Chicken & Broccoli with Cavetelli. That felt good. She recently started working again but they are taking so much out for insurance and stuff that her take home is nothing. She'll be fine in January but while they play catchup she's going to fall behind. But she brought it to the meeting and because the fellowship is what it is...she's getting the help she needs. I love that.

Did my speaker gig this morning. Brought one of my sponsees with me. ( I love saying that but it feels so wierd. I've got sponsees?) So got to hear more of her story. She said something funny at the meeting. She was an addict and had 3 1/2 years clean, so that means she's not an alcoholic. Yeah, I wasn't an alcoholic because I didn't go to AA. We know where that goes. Anyway I told my story..gosh I had butterflies and the room was big...I got a beautiful introduction from the chairperson who I met through my blog...seems she credits me with getting to AA....and we all know it wasn't was something much Higher..She got me all choked up but I started and of course I went on way too long...but its hard to get everything in to explain where I was and how I got here. But what I wanted to share here is how much this forum helped me. On that first day of sobriety, I spent the day on the internet, trying to figure out how I was going to do this. I had surrendered. Complete and utter defeat to alcohol, but still thought I could fix it. As I surfed the net I came upon Red Headed Gal's blog. She hasn't posted in awhile and she will always be in my prayers. I read her blog from her first post and identified with everything. Stopping and starting again. Am I an alcoholic? Life circumstances. Everything. That led me to the rest of you. Decided to start my own blog on Day 2. Journaling had never been something I did. Wanted to, started one many times, never followed through. I guess the keyboard method works well for me. Judith I think was one of the first to find me as well as Irish Friend and johno. They encouraged me and gave me direction. Scout, who I miss and also pray for, is the one who after my writing for 2 weeks, about the program I was creating for myself, a little of this, a little of that, said.."Do you even go to meetings?" And nope, I didn't. I thought I'd take a teaspoon of AA, a dash of Smart Recovery, a tablespoon of journaling, read my yahoo group (of course, not actually participate), read blogs, and read the book Living Sober and that would be enough. I didn't want to actually talk to people, live and in person. Didn't want them to see me. That helped me not drink for about 2 weeks and then somehow I found myself at an AA meeting and thankfully to real sobriety. I met a woman there who directed me to the next meeting. I have been listening and following directions ever since. I didn't do 90 in 90. I did 180 in 90. And kept going. I read the Big Book. I found a sponser. I shared. I reached out my hand. Did roundups, retreats and above all as I went through the steps, had a spiritual awakening and learned that I had a Higher Power who is with me every day. Just like it says in the Big Book. Imagine that?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm so busy doing things I'm Getting nothing done

This has been what I've been saying when people aske me how I am and I need to stop. I am busy, yes. But I am getting things done, just perhaps not to my own, flawed satisfaction. And even as I write, I was about to go into a litany of things I've done since I last wrote to prove that I'm busy all the while thinking about what's ahead of me. I'll spare you.

I will say this, one thing that I did accomplish was come to the realization that I need to do more than just a living amends as they call it to my children. Up to now, it was enough to just not be drinking and to share my milestones with them. I thought about the amends, sort of like a drive by. In the car, maybe I'd tell them I was sorry for not being the mother they deserved and for the pain and embarrassment I am sure I caused them. But the time never seemed right. But out of the blue, after talking to another alcoholic about her family, it occurred to me that I need to take each one out to lunch and make my amends and give them the opportunity to share how my drinking made them feel. So that's the plan. I will do the same thing with my husband. I've been postponing that one because I'm not sure I can make amends for everything. Still deciding if one particular behavior of mine will cause him harm or if I'm just being self serving. But I can still move forward and begin the amends and let God decide.

And being a sponser or I should say trying to be a sponser is a tough job but it is true, it has its rewards. And I do want to be that person that walks the talk so I will stick with it. I've given both my sponsees a set of Joe and Charlie CDs I made. I listened to them constantly early on and they helped me to understand and take the steps. I'm listening to them again. Found a speaker set on sponsership itself from Chris & Myer. Listened to the first one and it sounds like I should download the rest. They talked alot about old time sponsership and how it is getting away from the fellowship now.

Right now I'm just trying to be available to them, getting them to meetings and encouraging them to make other contacts in AA so that they have someone to talk to when I am not available. I have seen both of them do that which was exciting to see someone actually listen to you. And I listen and try to point out the step where they seem to be and how they can get to the next step. But to formally sit down and do them, is not how I did them with my sponser with the exception of Step 5 and I dont' want to shortchange them. I was a very motivated student. I kind of did the step myself and then after the fact would talk to my sponser about it and she'd point out what I might be missing or encourage me further. I'm not sure that would be enough for these girls.

Miss AddictedtoLove seems to be too wrapped up in her relationship to focus on sobriety though she's progressing. And MissKeepsComingBack is still trying to figure out if she's doing this for herself or to get past the next Court hurdle. I'm torn between trying to help them with life 101 and just simply getting through the steps. One of my defects is to become too empathetic to the point of losing myself. So I guess its all about balance. Work in progress.

Anyway, the 2 big things ahead of me is a pasta party on Wednesday for the varsity soccer team. Last game of the regular season. They made it to the playoffs and the parents gave my son, the keeper, a standing ovation when he came off the field last night. Very nice but he didn't even see it. He's a focused boy. This party would have been an occasion for huge quantities of alcohol for me. I would have popped a few while prepping with the thought that the boys would never notice. Maybe have a glass tucked away somewhere, worrying all the time whether another parent would show up. Then once they leave, which is pretty quick, the swoop the food, play a video game and go home, I would have downed quite a bit to recover from the "stress" of putting it all together. I am not that person anymore.

Thursday I get to speak at a meeting in another town. Scared to death of course, but I'm happy to do it. I think it will be a better way to recover from the pasta party than anything I used to do.
Have a great day!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

500 Days

WOW! Who'd a thunk it? Not me.
Seems like a milestone. 500 very different but sober filled days. 500 reasons to be grateful.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Letting Go

Last night, just before I fell asleep, I heard my father say my name. I haven't heard his voice for 10 years and it was clear as day to me. It was comforting yet at the same time disconcerting. As I shared about it this morning I realized that I don't need to read anything more into than what it father who is always with me. After he died my mother kept his voice on the answering machine and I used to call it when I knew she wasn't there to hear him. I don't have to call the answering machine anymore.

I gave up buying the coffee supplies for my morning meeting. I realized that the reason I jump in to do EVERYTHING is because of my EGO. If I don't do it noone will. If someone else does it they won't do it right. I am expected to do it. This is all stuff in my own head. So I raised my hand yesterday and offered the job up...I already chair Fridays and update the members list for that group not to mention the other groups I'm involve in. I had a few people in mind that I thought could use the job..but lo and behold...this one guy (kind of a whack job, but no judgement) offered and my first reaction was "anyone but you!". And I said it out loud! Geeesh! Talk about putting your defects out on the carpet for everyone to see. But I'll let it go..its going to be tough. And I think I'll stop at Dunkin Donuts before the meeting from now on.

And I took on another sponsee. I can't say no when someone is looking for help. But as my sponser reminded me, I don't have to sponser her in the same way I sponser the other girl. And I really need to set my boundries with both of them. I have trouble with that. It is easy for me to put someone else before myself and my husband wishes it were him. I'm a work in progress. I'll get there. And it is amazing how sponsering another alcoholic really comes back to you. I am getting more and more grounded. It is becoming more clear to me what Steps 1, 2 and 3 mean. All that stuff you hear in meetings is really true...freaky.

The AWOL, well, its not bad but I'm not sure its going to be right for me. Last night we had to go around the room and share what we hoped to get out of the AWOL. Since I dont' even really know what an AWOL is, that was hard to do. I shared that I felt like I was at my first AA meeting. Everyone seems to know everyone else and I don't know anyone. I don't know what I'm in for. But that I'm looking for confirmation that I'm on the right path as far as the steps go and that I thought I could use more structure and I thought I might find it here. I also think it will help me as I begin to sponser others. A lot of people there had done this before, the facilitator had done 13....they all talked about how wonderful it close they became to the people in the was magical. I don't really want that experience. I have become very close to the people in my AA groups and I don't think I have room for more. I'm not looking for magic, just clarity. Anyway, I will remain open, honest and willing.

One of the reasons I think my head is swirling around with this stuff is that I haven't taken the time to write here recently. Yes I tried to post the other day and that got wiped out and it has made me feel disconnected. I am very grateful for this forum that allows me to share and work out my feelings in a way that we can't always do in the time we have to share at a meeting. And when I work it out here I can better share at a meeting because I've organized my thoughts. Anyway...

Let Go and Let God is my mantra for the day. xo

Monday, October 20, 2008

Really Annoying

I wrote a whole post this morning with video and everything. About how I'm just a Girl who can't say NO. And it has disappeared..except for the title. Probably has something to do with youtube but anyway, I'm not going to drink over it. I guess that's all that matters.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Running on Empty

It's been a crazy week. Well not crazy really but busy. I've been working several newcomers including my sponsee. Actually they are not so new, they are in and out and could be considered chronic relapsers. Tough crowd. And then there's me. They know more about the program of AA than I do in terms of what the Big Book says and prinicples. The difference is that once I got here I have stayed (so far), I live it. I don't think these gals have ever really lived it. Its a fine line between being accesible and helping and getting manipulated. I'm trying to learn where that line is with the help of my sponser and other women in the program. Thank God for them. I am learning that there are alot of screwed up people out there and regardless of their length of sobriety or what they say at meetings they live lives that are spiritually corrupt. I''m not naive but you leave yourself vulnerable when you are open and honest and we want to feel safe and that everyone is on the same plane but the fact is we are not. And when a struggling alcoholic comes across one of these people its doomsday. I had to essentially extract an alcoholic from one of these situations. I wanted to scream at the offending party who's got like 18 years or something and should know better and then I realized that while he may have the physical part of this disease down, the emotional, mental and spiritual are lost right now and he is just as sick as the woman who is still drinking. Thankfully I was able to help in that moment. But I have to know that it is not within my grasp to "fix" it. I can just be there with my hand out. But I do have to be really careful not to let this consume me. Not to allow my family to take a back seat or my responsibilities or program. This is a part of it but so is prayer and meditation and my family and I must admit I'm struggling there.

And Hank tagged me with regards to Step 1 and that is amazing in and of itself because I've talking about Step 1 all week. It seems to me that many of us when we get here have admitted that we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives have become unmanageable. That's why we look for help, things are out of control and we don't know what to do. We learn through trial and error that we cannot seem to quit by ourselves. Being powerless over alcohol to me meant that I was drinking without my permission. No matter how determined I was one minute, the next minute I was drinking. I could rationalize my way to a bottle at any moment. I woke up every morning, sick, hungover, shaking yet by the afternoon I was drinkiing again and not stopping at one. My behavior was inconsistant with who I claimed to be, with my values. But it didn't matter I still drank. My life was unmanageable because of that. I was not in control of situations, plans anything because alcohol was ruling the day. One of the women I'm working with said that she didn't think I was a real alcoholic. I couldn't be in her eyes because I got sober and I'm happy. But once I shared some of my "escapades" she could understand. They seem so far away now. I am so grateful for that.

And to carry it futher....

So it occurred to me that if we can admit we are powerless then what we are left with is a choice (oldtimers correct me if you see it differently). If we don't have the power then our choice becomes where the power lies. Does it lie with King Alcohol or does it lie elsewhere? And if you can agree to choose that the power lies elsewhere then you have come to believe in a power greater than yourself and alcohol. Now that can be AA, the group, or better yet a God of your understanding. To me they are one in the same because the God of my understanding lives in people. Then the second part of that step is came to believe that the power can restore you to sanity. If you have chosen King Alcohol as your power then, sadly I would have to say, no it won't. But if you choose otherwise then remember that it says CAN restore you to sanity. It doesn't necessarily say WILL. So if you have doubts about what that Higher Power can do, can't you at least give it a shot and see what happens? The rest of the steps explain how you WILL be restored.

So please share your thoughts on Step 1: I'm taggin' everyone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

God Works With Joy

From Oct 12th, Around the Year with Emmett Fox:

"Don't pray or meditate as a duty. Realize that prayer is a visit with God and should be joyous.

Neither must you pursue your secular activities as necessities to be gotten over, that you may return to your prayer. In the light of Truth, there are no secular activities.

You must have regular recreation or you will become stale. Recreation, also, is to be enjoyed-as an expression of God-and not as a task to prepare yourself to pray better. An understanding joy in living is the highest prayer of all. thy presence is fullness of joy.....(Psalm 16:11)"

If you ever have a chance to see Carrie Fischer's "Wishful Drinking" go. She is in Boston until October 26th and I went with a few girls from the program last night. I cannot even describe how much fun we had. Carrie was hysterical in only the way that a 52 yr old daughter of celebrities and a star in her own right who is also an alcoholic,& addict (which she says is like saying you are from Boston and Massachusetts) who suffers from bipolar disease, has had ECT therapy and was forced to wear this hairsyle can be.
I woke up this morning with a terrible headache which I can only attribute to laughing so hard. It started with our 11th step mediation meeting when my friend called me a smart ass and continued until we were wandering around the North End of Boston at midnight trying to find the pastry shop laughing at the silliest things. At least three of us were. One of my friends was more like Debbie Downer and I must admit that it got on my nerves a bit. From the penny pinching as we paid tabs and parking to her straight faced response as she was asked if she was enjoying the show: Oh yes she is very pure deadpan. Because she has become a friend I think I understand where she is coming from and can empathize but itis hard to include her when she's sort of a joykill. But yet is the reading from Daily Reflections to remind me of how I must handle situations such as these.
"Being fairminded and tolerant is a goal toward which I must work daily. I ask God, as I understand Him, to help me to be loving and tolerant to my loved ones and to those with whom I am in close contact. I ask for guidance to curb my speech when I am agitated, and I take a moment to reflect on the emotional upheaval my words may cause, not only to someone else, but also to myself. Prayer, meditation and inventories are the key to sound thinking and postive action for me."
I am grateful I didn't express some of my agitation in words but I am afraid it may have reflected in my face at times though I tried hard not to let it. But I think a few exchanged glances may have been perceived and a cause of hurt feelings. And that I do not want to be responsible for. So I will probably need to make an amends to this person. But maybe she just needs more of these experiences in fellowship with other women to let the joy come out. At least that is what I will pray for.
Anyway, it was a blast, so if you can, do something joyful today. Make sure you laugh.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life is Good

The weather around here is gorgeous. Just a beautiful New England autumn day. Sunny, warm but not hot, cool evenings but not cold.

My boss is away today so I can get some things done (in between blogging).

Tonight one of my girlfriends is having a burn so we'll sit around the fire and chat. These are my book club gals. They changed our monthly meeting date so I can still go. I was going to have to drop out because of my AWOL but they changed the day. That is just so nice. I think they just want me for the numbers. We are a politically mixed group and apparantly the conversation got a bit heated surrounding Sarah Palin. I'm not sure if they want me back to mediate or add to the liberal numbers.

My sponsee is coming home today. I know she wants me to take her to a meeting tonight but I'm going to stick with my plans. I don't want her to get too dependent on me and I can see that happening. I thought I would listen to the Joe and Charlie tapes with her to help us discuss the steps. I learned so much from those guys.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to catching up on my paperwork at home with all the windows open. Then I'll have my meditation meeting, then Centering Prayer workshop and then a group of us are heading into Boston to see Carrie Fischer's one woman show "Wishful Drinking". We'll grab a bit to eat too. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Then the rest of the weekend just holds promise...beautiful weather, maybe some kayaking, maybe some yardwork, maybe just simply sittin' on my porch with a good book. We'll see. It's grand to be sober and have choices again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

11 months

Not me....I guess about 11 months ago, maybe longer, I met a woman at our Friday night women's meeting. It was her first meeting and we were the only ones there, it was a bit early. I remember in all my 3 months or so, welcoming her and telling her a little of what AA was and what it had done for me so far. She was very scared and you could smell the alcohol on her. She didn't think she was an alcoholic but had been arrested for DUI so had to come. She would introduce herself but not say she was an alcoholic. I gave her my number too but she never used it. Saw her around a few meetings but not often and not regularly. We had an email exchange once or twice. she had heard me tell my story and that a certain woman had talked to me at my first meeting and how much that had meant to me. She wrote to tell me I had done that for her. It was really nice to hear. Anyway, I've seen her at meetings but we haven't really talked. I did notice that if there for the introductions she now identified herself as an alcoholic. She usually sits in the back, doesn't raise her hand...that kind of thing.

Anyway, I had a chance to speak with her yesterday after the meeting. She told me she will have 11 months on Monday. She feels good, she is happy, she never thought she would still be here. How awesome is that! I don't know if she has a sponser, is working the steps or what. But I know she has been sober for 11 months and I got to be there for the first day and will be there for the three hundred and thirty fifth day. We talked about the hand of AA this morning. I am so grateful that I could be one of the hands. I remember the hands that came to me. At my first meeting and the welcome, my first 24 hour chip and the first time I said I was an alcoholic, the first time I read the preamble and the understanding when I cried from either gratitude or fear. My sponser...just so many. And the people who maybe aren't ready to reach out a hand yet but are willing to share their experience at a meeting. That's enough too. How much it helps. How much of a difference we can make in each other's lives. Blessings.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I started an AWOL last night. I know there is controversary regarding this in some areas. It's not an AA approved program. They don't announce it in meetings nor is it listed in meeting books. You have to learn about it through word of mouth and so its tough to find out about. It stands for AA Way of Life and is a "meeting" or "class" where you must committ to attend for 26 weeks and you go through the steps in a group. It's pretty popular around here. This particular group uses the Big Book and the 12 x 12 so I thought that was good. Its attended by only alcoholics and facilitated by alcoholics. I talked to my sponser about it and she said I'd already "done" the steps so I didn't need it for that but I think this might help me to better live the steps. She was introduced to the steps through an AWOl back in the day. Its certainly not going to hurt to take a deeper look, at least that was our feeling. The facilitators said there are two reasons to attend, to learn about the steps and to do the steps. Both acceptable but one perhaps more rewarding than the other. I guess I'm just looking for more confirmation that I'm doing the steps the "right" way or maybe I'm just looking for more structure. I don't know why I have to do this all the time. Always seeking to be the "A" student. I'm still wanting to check off those boxes. Thing is, I have found I need to check those boxes every day. Yup, still powerless over alcohol, check. Yup, I believe I can be restored to sanity, check. Yup, turned my will over, check, etc., etc. Anyway, I really don't know what it is. And I'm staying open. Kind of freaked me out that many people were there for the second, third, fourth and even 13th time. I asked about that. There are several reasons. Some people don't complete the full 26 weeks and come back. Imagine that, huge drop off rate around the 4th and 5th step. And then I guess what happens is that working the steps this way becomes a way of life, hence the name. My preconcieved notion is that I've got meetings for that. I've had to give up my Tuesday night meeting for this and I am sad about that but as one woman said, we will be here when you get back. I think maybe some people object to this because there is a danger that some may try to replace their meetings with this but I have no intention of doing that. My meeting schedule will remain the same. I've heard of one in NH that actually sells shirts and hats and stuff, and is in a sense competing with AA. Not cool. This does not appear to be that. So I'll give it a try. I think its similar to reading outside literature, like the Augusten Burroughs book Dry, or Heather King's Parched. Just an enhancement not a replacement. Sort of like going to church. Won't keep you sober but it could help if that is how you understand your Higher Power.

I was going to do this with my sponsee but due to her circumstances she could not go last night. In all honesty, I think I was suggesting it to her because then I wouldn't have to take her through the steps myself, just be with her. Cop out, isn't it? It sounded like she could still go but I don't think I will encourage that and my sponser thinks that is a good idea. Both for her and for me. It doesn't seem like a way to GET sober, and that is what she needs right now. What it may do is give me a better understanding of how I can sponser her and help her through the steps. And having her there may inhibit me. It seemed to me that she wanted to participate because I was not because she wanted

Still can't believe this is me. But I'm sober and that is the bottom line.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Did I Say That??

I found myself at a new meeting last night. It was at a local hosp that specializes in mental health and substance abuse. Our morning group does commitments there the first Saturday of the month so I was familiar. I got a call from someone there who was looking for support and its a public meeting. Great meeting actually. Locals as well as patients. A good mix of old and new. There were a lot of war stories told...and one guy shared that he tries not to get too involved in the stories (drunkalogues) because he could find himself trying to top it. I remember the first commitment I did there at 30 day sober and I told them I didn't know what my story was at that time. I was still figuring it out. Then I cried. It occured to me that I have a new story now. It doesn't matter how I got here but my story now is how I got sober. Through the program of Alcoholics Annonymous which I jumped into with both feet, without holding my nose and without looking down or back. The old it works if you work it. And basically, if you stayed sober today, you worked it.

At the meeting, I shared a little of this because I wanted those patients to know there was hope. It could be done. And I wanted them to know that faith could lead them there. Faith in whatever, AA, God, as it says a Power Greater Than Ourselves. They just had to have faith in something besides their own thinking. Rely on the opposite of Fear which I've been told is Faith. AA led me to Faith and I am very very grateful. So there I was, talking about being sober, AA, God of our understanding. The whole way home I couldn't believe that this was me. Not that I didn't have faith before, I did but it wasn't an integral part of my life. It was just something out there, it existed, I acknowledged it but didn't want to know it. As my spiritual advisor likes to say, either God is Everything or He is Nothing. So I guess God was nothing and now He is Everything. And around and around I go. This is usually when I stop thinking about it and just let it be. It's good to be sober.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Whew! Glad that's over. Threw a 50th birthday party for my husband this weekend. It turned out really nice. We grew up in another state so that is where most of his friends are. I had to delegate a lot of stuff and wasn't sure how it would come out. One of them has a wonderful yard so offered it up for a bonfire and cookout. Someone else took care of getting the word out. His buddy took care of the beer and so on and so on. I had to buy the hard liquor which amazingly enough did not bother me. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about how a shot would do me, woo hoo!.. but it passed. This is a drinking crew and I learned something this weekend especially at my Saturday morning meeting when someone shared when he took his employees out to lunch. He said they had drinks and he wanted them to. And I took that with me. He understood that while he's an alcoholic and cannot drink, that doesn't mean that everyone can't drink. This was a party for my husband and his friends. They drink and they enjoy it. Most of them do not have a problem. I could throw a party and let everyone let loose in whatever way worked for them. For me it does not involve alcohol. I could be there for my husband while he enjoyed his friends. I did not throw up, I did not soil myself, I did nothing to regret, I did not lose my temper, I did not ramble on and on slurring my words, I did not become disshelveled, I was not wild and crazy, I did not hurt anyone, I did nothing to regret. He did not have to worry about cleaning up after me and he could relax knowing that he would not have to drive. It was a good time. Lots of laughs and stories. Lots of memories. Some not so good but I could let it be known that I was not that person anymore. And that felt great! sponsee is doing the next right thing and I am very grateful that I could be there for her.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Paul Newman taught me how to eat a cucumber by Maureen Dowd @ NYTimes

My eating habits were so bad for many years that I didn’t actually know the intricacies of making a salad. So when the man who has made $250 million for charity with Newman’s Own dressings and sauces asked me to help him make a salad in 1986, while I was writing a profile of him for The Times Magazine, I mangled my cucumber so thoroughly that he snatched it away and showed me how to do it.

At a moment when America feels angry and betrayed, when our leaders have forfeited our trust and jeopardized our future, we lost an American icon who stood for traits that have been in short supply in the Bush administration: shrewdness, humility, decency, generosity, class.

When I asked W. in 1999 if he identified with any literary heroes, he said no, but he was drawn to Paul Newman’s defiance in “Cool Hand Luke.” The Texan cast himself as an anti-hero and rebel. But as president, he knew how to strut only in photo-ops, not when actual calamities loomed or hit.

Newman was a rare liberal who loved the label; he made it onto Nixon’s enemies list for supporting Eugene McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam run. In 1997, I called him when he began writing a bit for The Nation (where he was an investor). He ranted about right-wingers “popping out of rat holes” but also faulted the Clintons. “Everything is about what’s winnable, not about the morality of the issues,” he told me. In politics, as in racing cars, he said: “You can do anything if you are prepared to deal with the consequences.”

I was nervous the first time I met the star, because he’d been a teenage crush — along with William F. Buckley Jr. (I loved Buckley’s sesquipedalian dexterity — a lost art in the anti-intellectual conservative set of W. and Sarah Palin.)
We met at a restaurant on the Upper East Side, where he proceeded to interview me.

Newman: “What do you know about nuclear disarmament?”

Dowd: “Ummm.”

Newman: “How can you justify The Times’s editorial position on the moratorium?”

Dowd: “Ummm.”

He was deeply uncomfortable at getting adulation for playacting, acknowledging that “there’s something very corrupting about being an actor. It places a terrible premium on appearance.” With a Butch Cassidy grin, he told me that he pictured his epitaph being: “Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.”

He did not want to talk about his movies; he wanted to talk throw-weights. He liked Bach and Budweiser and playing goofy practical jokes. (Once, when we were driving, he began high-speed bumping the car in front of us, driven by his friend.) He was bored by fashion and embarrassed by women who brazenly flirted with him or asked him to take off his sunglasses to show his blue eyes.

Once, when he was handing out punch at a Westport charity event, a dowager asked him to stir her drink with his finger.“I’d be glad to,” Newman replied, “but I just took it out of a cyanide bottle.”

He recalled how utterly flummoxed he was the time a stunning call girl approached him on Fifth Avenue and offered to dispense with her fee. “You want to send her off with something classy and stylish, the way Cary Grant would, or Clint Eastwood,” he said. “You think, how would Hombre handle this? And when this woman came up to me — the guy who played Hud — what comes through? Laurel and Hardy. Both of them.”
He said he was not like his sultry, flamboyant characters: “You don’t always have Tennessee Williams around to write glorious lines for you.”

He and his wife were reputed to have one of the happiest marriages in Hollywood, but the outspoken Joanne Woodward admitted that it took a lot of therapy to cope with the fact that, even though she got an Oscar first, he was able to stay a leading man for four decades. She told a magazine that she was always “uncomfortable and even angry” that “Paul was so much bigger than I was ... Because he was living my fantasy” to be a star. She would not talk to me for The Times’s profile that her husband did to promote “The Color of Money” — even just on the topic of his role as the director of five movies that she had starred in. She said she did interviews only solo or jointly with him — not about him. That byzantine deal reflected the rivalry that threaded through their romance.

He said that he appreciated her, as he looked around his elegant Fifth Avenue apartment, observing dryly: “If anyone had ever told me 20 years ago I’d be sitting in a room with peach walls, I would have told them to take a nap in a urinal.”

He was my favorite.