Mea Culpa, Brad Ladner—And Let Those Panties Drop

I’ve always been a smart ass—no surprise to anyone who’s read this column—but I’ve tried to be a gentle smart ass, punching up not down. As part of my recovery path, I’ve learned the importance of apologizing when I’ve been in the wrong. Because my life is filled with mistakes, this ability to say I’m sorry has been honed to a fine edge.

I am sorry, Brad Ladner.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column called My Personal World Records, a bit of fluff with the conceit that I’d done some simply amazing things that the folks at Guinness should enshrine. For example, I kissed a girl when I was seven while “talking” on a wooden block to Kitty Carlisle, a TV guest star of the 1960s. I thought I deserved an award for being named my summer camp’s most improved camper one year, then getting fired from a counselor job at the same camp two years later. It was all tongue in cheek, I thought, for who could possibly believe the Guinness Book of World Records would recognize my accomplishments.

Brad Ladner, apparently, and that’s why I owe him an apology.

You see, as an intro to the piece, I talked about how every man wants to be remembered for his uniqueness, and included comments about three genuine Guinness world-record holders. Among them was—you guessed it—Brad Ladner, who owns the world’s largest collection of Batman collectibles. Here is the quote:

Finally, when Brad Ladner bought his first Batman collectible 30 years ago, he likely did so as girl-repellent. Now, he’s a record holder with a total of 8,226 Batman dolls. (I can hear him from seven states away, “They’re not dolls, they’re ACTION FIGURES! Jeez!” Of course, Brad. They’re figures that prevent you from ever getting any action.)

I am sorry, Brad. I really am.

My comments about Brad were ill-advised and unkind. Although designed to amuse rather than provoke, they upset Brad Ladner enough to write me a lengthy and impassioned response. Because I don’t want to misrepresent Brad’s comments, I’m reproducing them in full:

So freakin weird. First off, if you are any kind of a good man, you don’t want renown for your kindness and acclaim for your good acts. I do plenty of good things for the world, none of which I will list because to list them, well, would make me an asshole. If you do good just to get a pat on the back, how truly good is it? Do you hold onto the $20 bill before letting the homeless have it till he says ‘thank you?’ What you are discussing is pride. If you are religious, pride a sin; and if you aren’t religious, then pride is just pathetic. Yes, I have the world’s largest Batman collection, and you know what, some of them are barbie dolls. And it’s more than 8226 now, it is past 13,000. But it is just a hobby, and I got the Guinness record by applying, not by having Guinness seek me out. They don’t do that. I applied for the fun, and I don’t swing it around like a big dick on a porn shoot. I have it and that’s that. Didn’t ask to be in the book, not going around trying to get any type of fame for owning stuff. Having a collection isn’t really a special feat in the journey of life, it’s just buying shit and not throwing it away. I don’t try to make myself out to be anything of importance because of it, and if I did, how truly pathetic would my life be. As far as women, I never made it to triple digits, but I’m happy with my numbers. And the collection, total panty dropper. Good luck with your broad generalizations and uninformed assumptions of people you don’t know anything. If you want to go for the Guinness World Record for stereotyping strangers and mischaracterizing and insulting people so you can pick yourself up, I’d gladly sign as a witness to the marvel of your attempt.

So, Brad Ladner (, I am sorry to have hurt your feelings, stereotyped Batman collectible archivists in particular and collectors in general and offering broad generalizations of people I don’t know anything about. In the future, I will go to a subject’s websites to learn more about them and their lives before attempting to be humorous. I encourage all readers to visit Brad’s website noted above, from which Brad’s photo is drawn, and take a look at Brad’s very impressive collection of Batman Stuff in the video below.

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.



Grateful for Your Recovery? Open Your Wallet!

Nobody comes into recovery on a winning streak. I’ve yet to meet an addict or alcoholic who decided, while on top of the world, to walk away from a substance that works. Despite the downsides—hangovers, jonesing for product, shame, self-hatred—if alcohol and drugs are working no one walks away from them. Drunks and junkies only try recovery when the shit that used to work doesn’t work anymore. It’s shattered men and women who walk into church basements.

I entered recovery a broken and hollow man.

(Please forgive the narrative break, but T.S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” is one of my 12 favorite poems of all time and Daniel Amos is one of my 12 favorite bands of all time. The two come together here as the latter covers the former.  Really and for true. It may be the greatest marriage of high art and pop music in the history of the whole human rat race.)

(Please forgive the rerouting of the previous narrative break, but I know certain readers will want to know some of my other favorite poems. In no order: “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost, “Power” by Adrienne Rich, “The Journey of the Magi” by Eliot, “The Second Coming” by Yeats and almost anything by A.E. Housman or Ron Koertge. )

To remind you. I entered recovery a broken and hollow man.

Today, my life’s breaks have knit, and I am filled with gratitude. It’s this latter notion I’d like to explore a bit today. As regular readers may remember, my first sobriety mentor made many useful suggestions: “Go to a variety of meetings,” “Sit in the front and pay attention,” “Hold off on dating for the first year of sobriety” and “Don’t drink.” The slogan that has stayed deepest in my consciousness, though, is simple and, for me at least, absolutely 100% true:

“A grateful heart will never drink.”

Life is balanced when I focus on what the universe has given me instead of what I’ve been denied. Interestingly, gratitude implies at least two separate notions—I am thankful and something outside me has met my needs. Whether that something is God or god, Universe or universe, he, she or it doesn’t really matter. My thankfulness is directed outward, also acting as wind to blow resentment away. In short, the feeling of gratitude as an emotional high colonic on the crap that builds up inside my soul.

I used the phrase “feeling of gratitude” above, and that’s probably correct. Unfortunately, feelings are not facts, and they flee with the turn of my head. Instead, I need to express my gratitude, which brings me to a sermon of sorts to those who have been saved through sobriety.

The Preacher clears his throat and begins.


Every single one of us whose life has been improved by recovery has reason to overflow with gratitude. While November is Gratitude Month for all, those of us who have been saved from ourselves and our self-destructive behavior must demonstrate our thankfulness, and that demonstration must include putting our money where our mouths and hearts are. In other words, I’m calling for all of us in recovery to look unflinchingly at our earning power today versus when we got sober and to give 10% of our income to charity.


That’s right, I believe us folks who used to daily find the money to keep us in our substance of choice should tithe to charities we believe in. While folks who belong to churches that emphasize tithing as a spiritual practice should probably begin there, my experience has been that recovering men and women are less likely to say, for instance, “I’m an active member of my local Presbyterian (or Catholic or Pentecostal or LDS or Jewish or Muslim or any other damn thing) worship community. Instead, we say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Great! Now spread your spiritual experience by opening your wallet.

I’ve never put this in print before, and have told only a few people, but for the last three years I’ve tithed to local and national nonprofits, charities focused on veterans causes, recovery and protection of our constitutional rights. As part of full disclosure, I’ll say I’m currently tithing to Hope for NH Recovery and to Shower Them. I’m employed by the former and sit on the board of directors of the latter. More important, though, is my faith in them as organizations with goals that align with mine.

I don’t care where you give your money; I just want every man or woman who’s today making significantly more money than we were when drinking or drugging to find a cause that matters and to write out a check or click on a donate button. Ten percent of what you make. Immediately. Turn that feeling of gratitude into an expression of progress.

End of sermon. Now a brief return to the inspired jackassery you’re used to from me.

Please don’t forget Angry Haiku this Tuesday at 6 pm at Manchester Hope for NH Recovery.

Call me for directions.

Or a description.

Or to brag about how you’ve started tithing.
























































My Personal World Records

Every man, I think, wants renown, wants to be known for his uniqueness, the thing that sets him apart from his mates. The Guinness Book of World Records is filled with people like Mike Carmichael, who’s added 17,994 coats of paint to a baseball, starting in 1977. The baseball, which began approximately baseball sized, now has a circumference or more than 9 feet. If used in a game, according to Carmichael, it would be impossible not to pitch a strike. Likewise, Cherry Yoshitake may like apples and may like holding his head under water, but it was a desire for immortality that led him to bob for 37 apples in one minute. Finally, when Brad Ladner bought his first Batman collectible 30 years ago, he likely did so as girl-repellent. Now, he’s a record holder with a total of 8,226 Batman dolls. (I can hear him from seven states away, “They’re not dolls, they’re ACTION FIGURES! Jeez!” Of course, Brad. They’re figures that prevent you from ever getting any action.)

While Guinness has never approached me for proof of any of them, I lay claim to more than a few world records of my own. In fact, more than a few, quite a lot actually. Enough, in fact, that I may hold the record for number of Mundane World Records© held. For example:

  • At the age of seven, I kissed Sheila Draves while talking on a walkie-talkie with Kitty Carlisle. The walkie-talkie was cleverly disguised as a scrap of 2×4, and I don’t believe I ever had even a brief conversation with Sheila again, despite the fact she was my next-door neighbor. For you sticklers, the record includes first kiss and (fictional) encounter with a nearly-fictional celebrity.
  • The fastest climbing of a crab-apple tree near the house where I grew up. To my knowledge, no one else ever climbed that tree. If they did, I don’t believe they ever timed themselves. Regardless, the tree has long since been cut down, preventing any further challenges. My record climb? It took the time it takes to sing “Mr. Dunderbeck” twice with all three verses and the chorus in between each.
  • I was the first boy in Camp Mi-Te-Na history to be named Most Improved Camper and be fired from the camp as a counselor two years later! The Most Improved award came about because I went from being shy and nervous my first year at camp to loud and obnoxious my second. The firing was the result of bad breaks against me and misunderstandings of my behavior. There is an innocent explanation for why, on my first night off as a counselor, I led three other counselors to hitchhike into Alton Bay (the town, not the water), get big kids to buy us a case of beer, drink it and end up jumping off a ladder-less pier into Lake Winnipesaukee. The coup de firing was being picked up in a police boat and driven back to camp by the cops.
  • I am the only boy in the long and glorious history of the Newington Mall Orange Julius to be fired for dropping acid 30 minutes before my shift. More honestly, the complaints brought to mall management were not about interior chemicals but outward behavior. Although I was the only employee working, I refused to wait on anyone, choosing instead to laugh at the idea they would stand on line for sugary orange juice with vanilla milk. By the time my cheeks were sore from laughing and smiling, security had already frog-marched me to the parking lot and watched me drive away. Which brings us to:
  • While tripping on acid, I believe I have logged the most miles driving a 1968 Chevy Malibu. While the Malibu was a member of the Chevelle family, and not armored, I can swear to its ability to change size and color while going over 60 mph and to protect the driver from recently-opened holes in the highway and vicious razor-toothed birds swooping from the sky. Also, it can be a portal into heaven when playing an 8-track of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery.”

I realize, looking back at this list, that all my records are self-centered, self-destructive or both. I do wish at least one of them showed me in a positive light. I mean, every man, I think, wants renown for his kindness, wants acclaim for his unique good acts, the things that set him apart from his mates. In many ways, all men deserve that. Except, apparently, me.

Another record!